Thursday, December 31, 2015

2015 in a nutshell

2015 turned out to be quite a unique year. Here are some of the highlights that made the year interesting for me...

Bill Gates visits IRRI. It was a mostly a surprise to many of us at IRRI headquarters. I learned about his visit when my cousins started bugging me, asking for confirmation. Since I wasn't part of the very small group of people who he conversed with, I didn't know that he was already touring the facilities. In short, he was there but I didn't meet him.

Charlie Hebdo shooting. Staff at this French satirical magazine were gunned down by three people, who eventually were killed while fighting authorities. The killings have produced such a clamor since the people were allegedly killed by Islamic extremists who were offended by the satirical images the magazine publishes. It, indeed, raises the question about press freedom. It also reminds us that the freedom of expression that we have a right to has an equivalent responsibility. It is our responsibility to make sure that nobody threatens that freedom to choose to say what we want to say; and the freedom to choose what not to say, if we deem them inappropriate. What a way to herald 2015, right?!?

The Pope visits the Philippines. This is certainly a highlight for 2015. I won't be going to Manila to attend a Mass he was celebrating, though. Too many people. I'd rather watch the television coverage so I could see him close up. I do know, however, that being in the presence of a Pope is still different from seeing him on the telly.

The Philippines' bravest die in battle. In the continuous flight to defend the country, 44 brave Filipinos died in combat. It naturally happens when people on both sides have guns, yes, but media releases showed that the people who killed these members of the SAF had no respect for the dead at all. What kind of individuals would mutilate bodies of dead enemies? Wait... right... they're nothing short of the Orcs of Mordor.

Space explorers sign up for a one-way trip to Mars. Looks like there are people crazy enough and without anyone to go home to to decide that it's worth the risk to fly out to Mars and never return to Earth. Sounds so much like the movie "Interstellar"... except that there wouldn't be any rescue mission to pick up the people who land in Mars. But wait! NASA says there's water in Mars (how they learned that through the data coming from the probe, I don't know) and so there's a chance that people can survive there! If only the atmosphere had oxygen and there are plants...

A Filipina on death row in Indonesia receives a stay on her execution at the 11th hour. Miracles do happen! I was asking a schoolmate who now practises law what will happen to this Filipina? Is she free to go or is she still imprisoned while waiting further instructions? I'm sure that the media coverage will keep her in the loop though her story might be buried when more sensational news play out in the future.

A male northern white rhino receives better security than most humans because it's the last known one in the world. I bumped into an article about this lucky rhino at some point in the year. I admire the dedication of the game keepers who make sure that this rhino remains safe and untouchable to poachers who are only interested in trophies and in ivory. 

Same-sex marriage is made legal in the United States of America. I am up for basic human rights. And I knew that this was forthcoming. But that doesn't mean I support it. I come from the more traditional view that a family is built by a man and a woman who decided and vowed to live together (and bring forth children, if they are so blessed). Legalising same-sex marriage may have been a giant step forward in terms of equal rights for people with all possible orientations, but it is still not approved by the Church I belong to. Before anyone bashes my line of thinking, though, let me put it this way: people who support such marriages are free to say their piece. I don't see why I can't express my disagreement. 

Iran nuclear weapons deal. Looks like world peace will become a reality with this development. I hope that this is something that develops on the long term and will last longer than the current governments that closed the deal. Interestingly, I just finished reading Tom Clancy's "The Sum of All Fears", in which a peace accord was also finalised, leading (theoretically) to improved solidarity among nations. Fiction (excluding the rest of the thriller novel, of course) imitating real life?

A rocket ship finally reached Pluto. The first images released by NASA showed a silhouette on Pluto that looks like the profile of Snoopy. Sorry, no matter how I look at it, I'm not convinced that it's Pluto's (the dog) silhouette I see. But aside from that, another interesting photograph featured Pluto's satellite... It has a crater that makes it look like a Death Star (and I am NOT exaggerating).

The Presidential campaigns have begun. The first campaign radio ad I heard is Ping Lacson's. It is all about how the Philippine National Police's stellar performance during his time as its chief. "Bawal ang kotong," it says. But bribery is never really allowed, no matter who's in charge, isn't it? So I don't get the point of this ad. Then there are the testimonies from people who were kidnap victims rescued through Ping Lacson's leadership... and one from someone whose life made a 180-degree turn away from drugs because he was caught during Ping Lacson's campaign against drugs. One question though: Is Ping really running? Or are his supporters trying to convince him to run for President? I only know of Vice President Jejomar Binay's and Secretary Mar Roxas' intentions to run for office, as of August 2015. And then there's Grace Poe and Miriam Santiago getting into the mix. I don't know of their plans and platforms yet since nobody's really started with campaigns. The presidential elections next year will prove to be a colourful one. Equally interesting are the candidates for Vice-President: Bongbong Marcos and Leni Robredo seem to be the most noticeable candidates. We'll see how these go.

In the US, on the other hand, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are two of the biggest names in the campaign trail for the Presidency (at least in international news bits that reach me). If these two go head-to-head, I am betting that Hillary will win. Donald Trump's statements may be powerful but these are blatantly American-biased and are very undiplomatic... characteristics in a US President that the international community may probably not valuing. Hillary Clinton, on the other hand, has been on a diplomatic career track, what with the Secretary of State position previously. But then, she's also having trouble for certain actions she's taken as Secretary of State. Let's see how these campaigns progress.

A claim that "fake" rice was being sold in the Philippines has been debunked. There was growing social media concern about the presence of what complainants called "fake" rice in the markets. The National Food Authority (NFA) led an inter-agency investigation to probe into this inquiry. IRRI's Grain Quality and Nutrition Centre analysed the samples provided by the NFA and was on-board during the press conference declaring the assessments of different institutions on the samples provided by the NFA's Food and Development Centre (FDC).

Russia starts attacks into Syria. But I don't understand yet why Russia became involved into the fight. I must have missed something while reading the news. Time will tell...

Laglag Bala. The constant news feed about innocent people whose baggage were planted with bullets from who knows jolted the activists in social media into action first. Come on, the constant appearance of bullets in people's bags? That cannot be a hundred or so people not knowing that it's illegal to carry firearms. These incidents at the x-ray machines most probably have something to do with corrupt employees looking to bribe people of their money. However, it is also possible that airport personnel have nothing to do with these bullet-plantings and some other people, with more sinister plans, are doing this to tarnish the hard-earned removal of the Philippines' NAIA from the world's worst airports list. Tsk. Crab mentality.


Paris had to face terror one more time. As the year enters the fourth quarter, violence strikes France yet again! ISIS has claimed responsibility for the bombings, hostage-takings, and killings done that dark evening in Paris on November 13th, a Friday... Initial news reports suggest that some of the identified perpetrators used the current refugee crisis to gain access to France. The scary thing about this is that these criminals chose to conduct their crimes in populated places for maximum impact: a football stadium, a concert hall, restaurants... but they seem to forget one thing (or they even might have factored this in): France was already in heightened security because of the Charlie Hebdo shootings and the upcoming COP21 summit. What came to mind while I was watching the news unfold was The Dark Knight Rises. Sorry for the movie reference, but I think that the perpetrators want to have chaos. Unfortunately, the French didn't give them that.

The next stage of IRRI is unfolding. Dr Bob Zeigler has retired on a high note, as the Director General of IRRI. We bid him farewell and welcomed Dr. Matthew Morell as the new DG on December 11th. And because Matthew is taking on the top spot, IRRI began searching for the next Deputy Director General for Research. On December 17th, Matthew formally announced that Dr Jackie Hughes has taken on the challenge for leading the research team of IRRI. She begins work in IRRI in April.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

A taste of Denmark in California. :)

My mom has been bugging all of us about going to Solvang, California for a year now. So when I went to visit them over the holidays, it automatically made it to our to-visit list. And so on the third day of our road trip, we took some time to explore the city.

And I was wowed. It's this quaint little city whose buildings (along the main streets anyway) have been built with strong Danish architectural influences. Many of the building façades feature timber framing (but most likely with panels that are typical in the USA rather than in Denmark) and many of the roofs are artificially thatched. The place felt like a theme park (like Main Street, USA in Disneyland) to me because although the buildings looked really Danish, the stores were very American. During the tour (we road a horse-drawn carriage pulled by the biggest horses I've seen), the guide mentioned that Solvang is not Disneyland. People do reside in the city (away from the main thoroughfares, of course)... I just wonder if the houses are also of the same architectural vibe. Also, I didn't hear music blaring through speakers installed on lampposts (there are no speakers on lampposts) so it really must be a real-life city and not a theme park.

Here's a video clip of the tour we did around Solvang:


Aside from Danish architecture, I got introduced to Danish-American cuisine during this trip. We had breakfast at Olsen's Danish Village Bakery along Mission Drive. Here, we had pastries, bread, jam, and cheese for breakfast. It's way too heavy for my stomach so early in the day but I just had to try the food... it's so delicious! It did make me feel full the whole day so I can't remember eating lunch.


 Instead, we had Danish ice cream at the Solvang Trolley Ice Cream Parlour... yes, in winter!

And then we just had to visit the spots dedicated to icons of Denmark: the Hans Christian Andersen Museum on the second floor of the Book Loft and a replica of the Little Mermaid statue. I particularly liked the museum because it featured some of my favourite fairy tales and princess stories... particularly "The Princess and the Pea". 


These whetted my curiosity even more so off we went to Copenhagen House to see a bit more Danish culture. I'm glad I went in because I got introduced to Danish modern aesthetics (beyond my go-to watch brand, Skagen) while getting acquainted with bits and pieces of the origins of Denmark.

All in all, it was a good experience. Next time, I want to go to and visit the real Denmark...

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

kun-fused.

Mommy, Daddy, and I were deciding where to eat brunch in Pismo Beach when a restaurant called Kunfusion caught our attention. What a catchy name, we thought... and so we trooped over to see what the restaurant had to offer.

As we barraged the server with questions, we found out that Kunfusion started out as a food truck (yes, Biboy has not yet taken me to a food truck), a product of the genius that is Lori Nunes. Honestly, the menu was a headache-inducing selection of food... in a good way, of course. For first-timers like us, we had to ask for help from our server because it was the strangest menu we had seen: tempeh and tofu could substitute for meats and seafood while Asian and American culinary traditions were mixed into utter confusion.

But when the food came out, the dishes were absolutely wonderful. I had the F tacos, with tempeh in lieu of tilapia. It was so good! My mom had a salad while my dad had the naked shrimp tacos. They were also very happy with their food.

If ever I find myself again in Pismo Beach, I'm going back for a dose of Kunfusion. :)

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Back to the future (or is it the past?) twice!

One of the most fascinating things (for me) about flying to different countries is the time difference... and the real possibility of time travel. On several occasions, for instance, I found myself leaving the Philippines, flying for hours on end, and then landing at the destination as if I've only been in the plane for a short time. On my recent trip to visit my family in the USA, however, "time traveling" took on an extreme turn... Yes, it was made possible because of the timings of the United Airlines flights I took.

I left Manila at 11:59pm on December 22nd. Before flying, I already had dinner in Los Baños. Then, I arrived in Guam early on December 23rd. A few hours later, I was again in the plane, going to Honolulu this time... still December 23rd. But because I crossed the International Date Line while flying, I actually moved a day backwards! Hence, I found myself eating my second December 22nd dinner at a bench in the Honolulu International Airport at roughly the same time as I had my first December 22nd dinner. The funny thing about this is that since I didn't finish my first December 22nd dinner, I had it packed and continued eating it a second time in Honolulu! Then, I continued on my trip, flying towards San Francisco. I arrived there on my second 5:00am December 23rd... about the same time I was queued at the immigrations area of Guam's airport during my first December 23rd. Confusing, right?

Naturally, I was positively flummoxed at this point. For the first time in my traveling history, I lived two days twice! I can't begin putting my head around having the same dinner at the same time twice but in different places, and being in line at immigrations twice on the same day at roughly the same time but at different airports... Amazing! It's definitely not deja vu but it's more like time travel. Not sure if I traveled to the past or to the future though.

Promise, Professor McGonagall has never passed on Hermione's Time-Turner to me.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Steak can be reasonably priced?!

Man showed me around UP Town Centre one evening. It's ironic because I've passed this mall so many times when I still teaching at the Ateneo but I never stopped over for lunch there (I was always had to drive straight to Laguna after class).

There were a lot of options for dinner. But we ended up where we had to wait to be seated: Mad Mark's Creamery and Good Eats. For me, the major attraction was the long queue. A long line of people willing to wait for atable is ALWAYS a good sign that the resto is a good one. And as we waited outside, out popped two of my college classmates: Manuel Delfin, Jr and Sharon Madriñan (she's married now but I don't know her married surname)! It was such a random thing, to see my friends from back in the day there! They highly recommended the ice cream. I was sold.

Then, there's the steak. Mad Mark's cooks it's Signature Steak the way I like it: medium well USDA steak and with a generouse helping of vegetables on the side. The meat was so tender and was so tasty. Whatever secret recipe Mad Mark's has for its steaks... it's a winner. The veggies were prepared to perfection. I felt like I was eating hotel-resto-level food! But sans the hotel-resto atmosphere. Normally, I'd expect my wallet to be wiped out by the cost of the steak. But at Mad Mark's, it was quite affordable. Still too expensive for everyday consumption but it didn't break the bank. The atmosphere at Mad Mark's felt like a regular family diner, where kids were talking animatedly with their parents and friends were having a good time eating either a main meal or their ice creams. None of the high class formal feel in places serving food at the same quality calibre.

Now, if Mad Mark's has a branch closer to home, I just might be able to eat there more often to tryits other offerings. Thanks, Man, for showing me around UPTC and discovering Mad Mark's with me. See you again soon, Shawie and Manny.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Star Wars VII: Revéille de la Force

Spoiler alert. If you haven't watched the movie, read at your own risk. You have been warned. I'm posting my thoughts on it now since the movie's been around for a few weeks already.


Matty and I waited for a year to see the seventh episode in the Star Wars space opera. So when the advanced screening presented itself and both of us were willing to pay to be some of the first to see the movie, we trooped to the movie house to see The Force Awakens.

After seeing the movie, I can say this: aesthetically, it was consistent with Episodes 4–6 but the special effects were much better. And the storyline was good... I'd say, however, that Kylo Ren's build-up to the part akin to the "Luke, I am your father" scene in The Empire Strikes Back wasn't as dramatic because I was already expecting such a twist to come up earlier on (and there were no spoilers yet at that time). As expected also, women tended to be princesses in this episode... despite Leia taking on the general title and Rey's last name and social status being a mystery for the meantime. However, Rey's princess was more Fiona than damsel-in-distress... in fact, the Force was strong in this one that I'm starting to think that Jedi powers and skills are not limited to males... only, males were supposed to take on the lightsaber (at least before Rey's time). Then there were the droids. R2-D2 and C3PO were there again, making us fans connected to the present storyline. BB-8 was a welcome addition to the robotic cast, particularly since he's such a cute droid. He was carrying out a mission, just like R2-D2 was in A New Hope. He succeeded in delivering a message that led to the victory of Princess/General Leia's troops in this episode. C3PO still had the gift of the gab as he acted as translator across living organisms and droids. So what became of the three men? Apparently, Luke was the last of the Jedis and he vanished into thin air... his teammates were looking for him. Han Solo went back to his "trading business" across galaxies and in his trouble-filled ways. Chewbacca remained faithfully at his side. Both of them were pulled into the effort since the team needed to find Luke.

Filipinos tended to be some of the toughest audiences. But while watching this movie, I've been in the company of some of the most enthusiastic audiences ever! Just as the lights were dimming, Matty asked about the cinema culture of Filipinos and if I'd rather see the movie on the big screen or on the telly. As soon as the crawling introduction scrolled in, people started cheering and clapping... I told him that this was the reason why it is best to watch Star Wars on the big screen. Then, as the story was unraveling, old characters and objects kept popping up... people were just lapping it up! We have been in such a long Star Wars drought that the audiences were so excited to see familiar faces! I'm sure that if Yoda were still alive, people will start saying, "Yoda Man!"

The movie ended on a high note, literally. What an intriguing ending! I'll certainly line up for the next leg of the Star Wars saga.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

the show must go on

Seeing Man onstage as one of the hosts during IRRI's year-end party reminded me of Queen's song "The Show Must Go On". Man was aptly dressed as a classy Peter Pan, in my opinion, because he faced the audience with his jolly face on despite losing his father to cancer a few days before the party. 

Inside my heart is breaking
My make-up may be flaking
But my smile still stays on.

I don't know how he does this. During Lola Estay's necrological services, I had a very difficult time delivering my eulogy for her. I was choking up my words and was trying to keep the tears from falling. But in Man's case, he seemed happy as ever.

My soul is painted like the wings of butterflies
Fairytales of yesterday will grow but never die
I can fly, my friends

Maybe, part of the joy is because his father is finally at peace and is no longer battling the cancer. Perhaps, his heart has been filled with positivity and support provided by family and friends. After all, when the news broke out, his friends from Los Baños braved the horrible Manila traffic to visit him and his relatives at the wake. His Manila-based friends visited him as well. But somehow, I think that what Jim Hutton said of Freddie Mercury applied to Man too: "He [Freddie] never grumbled to anyone or sought sympathy of any kind. It was his battle and no one else's..."

I have to find the will to carry on
On with the show

Condolences, Man. Manuel, Sr is now watching you from up above, made whole again. 

Monday, December 14, 2015

IRRI ends the year in style!

This year-end celebration was special because it marked the last day of Dr Bob Zeigler as the director general of IRRI. He had passed on the baton to Dr Matthew Morell earlier in the day and so this was the institute's way of saying farewell to the man who led IRRI for the past ten years.

Walking over to the venue got me thinking about the many changes that my group, the Grain Quality and Nutrition Centre, has gone through throughout the years. We used to be called the Grain Quality and Nutrition Research Centre when I first came on-board (as a researcher). Melissa was the head of the centre then. Vito and I didn't have graduate degrees then. The GQNRC was housed in the NC Brady Lab building back then... and our office space (if it can be called that) was so cramped that we didn't even have any leg room. Soon after, Vito and I went to graduate school, finished off with PhD degrees, and are now qualified to compete with international candidates for job openings. The GQNRC then is now GQNC. The research focus of the team has a stronger genomics flavour to it because the lab is now headed by Nese. And the centre is now spread out on two floors of the Hemmi building: research staff are mainly on the first floor while the GQNSL (the service lab) is in what was formerly the Analytical Services Laboratory. 

Of course, the faces have changed. Definitely. With the multiple changing of the guards came the ebb and flow of students and staff who, after they left, have pursued new heights. I watch, honoured, that the lab I'm working in has contributed to their career growth... and to the improvement of science, in one way or another.



But despite the many changes, the group has remained solid; our team spirit is alive and kicking. Need proof? Try this: we (except the boss) all came in costume as cats... and won second place for best costume (group category)!! This reminds me of when we joined all contests leading up to the IRRI-wide Christmas party many years ago... we lost but we didn't lose hope... and then won the dance contest!!

Enough with the reminiscing and back to the more recent past... aka December 11th.

It's not just us that came dressed... the girls at the Postharvest Unit, who used to be with us when the lab was still called Grain Quality, Nutrition, and Postharvest Centre, also came in costume! However, they came in 1920s Prohibition-era attire (aka as the Great Gatsby era flapper girls). 


The 1920s appeared to be a popular choice among those who attended the party because there were a lot of flappers... and a lot of dapper men. Think male actor in Chicago or in any musical based on the same period. They're in shirts, pants, and suspenders... plus their signature hats worn askew. Perfect example: The guys who played one of Bob's favourite songs, "Moondance" by Van Morrison. With the exception of Ruud (who came in more modern attire), the band (Tony, Matty, and Chris) embodied the jazz lounge act to a T.


The party was truly a fitting farewell party for Bob, who's retired this year. And as everyone tipped their hats off to Bob for a job well done, I couldn't help but thinking I didn't have a hat. I had a headband shaped like cat's ears. Oh well, a hat wouldn't fit my costume anyway... unless I came as Dr. Seuss' Cat with the Hat. 


The biggest surprise for everyone was the appearance of Dr Achim Dobermann, who is a former deputy director general for research at IRRI. Back in the day, he's described as one of the rock stars of IRRI (and not just because he sang Country Road during IRRI Duets) and IRRI's Steve Jobs. Apparently, he flew to the Philippines to see Bob's send off. Not even sure if he's still around and talking with IRRI staff or if he's flown off again.


But before calling it the end of the party, Achim just had to give me a piece of valuable advice, something that I have always looked forward to from this high-level scientist who once took on a fledgling post-doc fellow to watch over way back then (because Melissa had left and Nese hadn't arrived yet). This time, though, my comedic timing was spot on and even Bob found my faux pas funny. Haha!

Friday, December 4, 2015

Popoy and Basha... Again?!

Yes, they just had to not let my two least favourite characters rest. But who can blame them? People were lapping up anything Popoy and Basha... all they had to do was milk this unhappy love story for all its got and make a second movie out of it.

Popoy and Basha's story, the first one, was supposedly about how a long-term relationship ends. And it ended all right, complete with all the crying, the screaming, and the well-meaning friends supporting the two. Frankly, at this point, I felt bad for the two because they've been airing their dirty laundry to their public (and to the audience!). I was happy to see it end with the two protagonists moving on with their lives without resentment about the other. But wait... There's more! The movie just had to have a postscript suggesting that they're willing to give each other one more chance.

*Groan*

Seriously!

And since Krishna and Jojie had it next on our movie list, we trooped to the cinema to watch what happened after their happily-ever-after bubble popped. 

The second movie began well enough. Popoy and Basha got married and had big dreams about their future family and their careers. However, real life caught up with them on both fronts. And at the root of the issue (I think) was their wishful thinking that they could have it all quickly. So fast that they'd driven themselves ragged at the cost of what would have been their firstborn. Things went downhill from there... even their reputations were damaged. Popoy did this almost single-handedly by taking a bite bigger than he could chew at work. Basha was also partly to blame because she didn't keep track of their company (even if it had her name on it) as she played housewife. Nothing wrong with being a housewife, mind; but since she had a stake in their business venture, she should have been visiting the office once in a while to be updated. Basically, they didn't work as a team, which was how they succeeded before. But after (once again) publicly dealing with their relationship issues, they worked together to solve their career issues (with Basha at the lead this time). The movie ended with them still together but no longer unscathed. Did they stay together because they're married (albeit unhappily) or did they stay together because the storm they passed through strengthened their bond? Frankly, I'm not sure... 

I was too stressed out with all the drama that how the movie ended wasn't remarkable to me anymore.
Krishna and Jojie were also stressed out. I don't think I'd like to see this movie again... even on cable.


Thursday, December 3, 2015

Happy 36th wedding anniversary, Mommy and Daddy!!

I was looking for the photo but since I couldn't find it (maybe it's with you out there), I shared a photo from the photo album itself. :)


A photo posted by Rochie Cuevas (@rochiecuevas) on

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Parlez-vous français?

I finally committed to learning how to communicate in French... not Spanish, as I had promised myself eight years ago. I'm currently studying in Alliance Française de Manille (I'm in my second session now) to decipher what people say is a language I would have difficulty to learn. There are a few reasons why I opted to learn French over other languages but the turning point for me was my trip to Switzerland. I thought that since I'd be in Europe, English would be the language used throughout. Oh how wrong I was! My Lonely Planet phrasebook was a great help for asking questions but I couldn't understand their answers... so I struggled, even to buy food! And I did go to Thonon-les-Bains, France on that same trip, with a few Nestle Fellows, without thinking that I'd have difficulty in communication. Plus, I've been put in situations in which the ability to converse in French is important

So now, I'm in school. The shock came on my first day of my first eight-class session. Our teacher started talking in French. Seriously! I felt like I was back in nursery school, but this time learning to count and learning the alphabet in French. I couldn't read the Victor Hugo (Les Miserables) or even the classic children story Le Petit Prince by Antoine Saint-Exupery, both of which I can understand in English. Yes, I'm back to nursery rhymes (pomme de reinette et pomme d'api) and reading Les Trois Petit Cochon (The Three Little Pigs) and Boucles d'Or (Goldilocks). It takes me an hour to go through one story!

Another shock came when I first entered the first class of my second eight-class session. We had the same teacher. When she started speaking in French, I could actually understand what she was saying! I certainly couldn't answer in fluent French but I could decipher what she's asking already!! That was so COOL!! Back in the first session, my classmates and I (except those who were taking the classes to supplement their French class in university) could only answer in words or phrases, with the rest of the messages conveyed by body language; but now, we could construct sentences! There's still body language, of course, but we've gone way beyond where we started off a few months ago. I'm amazed!

And here's the biggest shock for me: When Matty, Val, and Sylvestre conversed in French, I could already understand bits and pieces of the conversation. I'd respond in English still (because my French vocab is still very limited and I speak French too slowly) but I've surprised them quite a few times already... in one day. I surprised myself as well! And when I reverted to reading French text aloud (just like what I did as a kid for English), Matty kept saying that my pronunciation was already acceptable... the /air/ sound of the letter R is still bugging me, but it's okay... for now. 

Looking forward to session 3. :D Let's do this!!

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Mas Mabigat ang Liwanag sa Kalungkutan

Ate Bing, Sonia, and I were walking in UP Diliman when we passed by the Dalisay Aldaba Recital Hall. It looked like there was a show that was about to start so we went in and bought tickets... just at random. As I sat down, I didn't know what to expect. It turned out that I was in for one of the most serious plays I have ever watched. It's called "Mas Mabigat ang Liwanag sa Kalungkutan" (Light is Heavier than Sorrow). It tackled a heavy topic in a way that touched both heart and mind.

The play was set during the time of then-President Estrada's all-out campaign against the secessionists who believe that they are better off as separate from the Philippines. The issue was widely covered by journalists. But what was not heard a lot were the voices of the people who were caught in the cross-fire of this battle for identity and nationhood; students, teachers, elders... the characters in the play dream of peace for their hometown but the violent circumstances had forced them to learn how to fight with weapons. Their stories took centre stage in this play.

Some of my thoughts about the characters in this emotional and intellectual reflection of people's conflicts from the point-of-view of someone who is ignorant and wants to understand and help in my own little way...

One thing that struck me throughout the play is the characters' seeming lack of self-esteem. One character was dreaming of going back to the idyllic times when the area was still a farming community. He totally rejected the urbanisation of his area because the more-educated northerners kept displacing him and his family. The same character espoused the idea that lack of education does not mean ignorance... but it does! These thoughts are very dangerous because the sense of entitlement caused by feelings of unfair treatment leads to anger, hate, and then (as Yoda puts it), the dark side. The character, seemingly, did not think that sometimes, the fight for survival does not mean taking up arms... it's always about competing and bettering oneself to get ahead of the race.

Then there's the student who had the brightest future because he was given the opportunity to see the situation from afar and to use such view to gain an understanding of what's happening in his hometown... and then contribute to its development. But did he take that opportunity? Did he follow his professor's example to go the distance? No. He fully understood that what's happening in his hometown was at the fringes of social discussions at the university but he gave up when his efforts to raise his issues failed. Naturally, other students would diss at him; he was talking of real-life struggles in front of idealist students who didn't have a clue what's going on outside the university (based on the concerns that they wanted raised during a student meeting). If he were built of stronger stuff, like the trainer at the camp of the secessionists, he would have had a better chance of being heard.

A group of students remaining in their hometown decided to join the training camp to learn how to fight. It looks like they did. But to these kids, their hometown was their world... it's so small. Naturally, their opinions and their belief systems would be as narrow and limited because they hadn't been exposed to anything else. They remained educated only in the world view of their teachers, whose anger and resentment directed at the government pushed them to take revenge or to take a more pacifist, academe-oriented approach.

Yes, the story about their struggle (based on how I understood the characters) was never about obtaining nationhood, freedom, independence. These appeared to be abstract terms alien to the characters' situations. Rather, the story was always about defending oneself and getting revenge for wrongs done to them. That is why the light at the end of the tunnel was always heavier than their sorrow. Statehood (their light at the end of all their struggles) was too far and seemingly unreachable that they'd settled for their comfort zone: unending sorrow. Because once they finally figure out that peace and self-identity (the real light at the end of the tunnel) can be reached using a different and less painful way, they would never think that it's all that difficult.

The lesson here really is this: There is always a choice. There is always another path. Choose to stick to the most obvious but difficult one and suffer. I think, to see this more elusive, yet easier path, one has to follow what the elder woman said to her grandson (one of the kids who went to the training camp):

"Huwag lalayo nang malayong malayo. Huwag lalapit nang malapit na malapit."

To our Moro brothers and sisters, there is always another way to peace in Mindanao aside from armed struggle. Never lose sight of the light.

I hope that this play gets a wider audience... to be staged in a venue bigger than UP Diliman's Aldaba Hall. I think that it's a story worth telling and worth sharing.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

the mystery of the bent timepiece

One of my favourite animated movies is Alice in Wonderland. It got me started with dry and absurd humour. And for some strange reason, it introduced me to Salvador Dali's brand of surrealism. It all started with this Instagram post of Tom Trandt. The photos below shows a weird looking timepiece because it looks misshapen.


Indeed, it is misshapen. At first, it looked like a snail (sans the shell) climbing up the side of the wooden table... like a mountaineer crawling through that last assault to reach the summit... Obviously, I haven't gotten over Everest yet. And then, after I looked at it a bit more, I thought that the timepiece looked like something that would have fallen down the rabbit hole... might even be the White Rabbit's own watch!

Perhaps, the photo showed physical manifestations of someone's dream... just like in Inception... Time is bent in space in such a way that the sense of it is distorted. This was getting into surrealistic territory, I thought. This must be originally a surrealism work. And so I Googled about bent watches and clocks... and bumped into Salvador Dali's work: The Persistence of Memory, a painting which featured three bent watch faces.

I've heard of Salvador Dali's work of course. But I've never been a huge fan of surreal art... I'm more into Impressionists because their painting evoke the dreamy feel of going through fog (for me at least). But I'm quite sure that Dali's work must have the same influences as the artwork featured in Monty Python and the Flying Circus. On the other hand, if Dali painted bent watch faces, he must have worked on surreal themes similar to what's in Alice in Wonderland, right?

A few more clicks on the Web browser and I found something: Salvador Dali did paint a few pieces with Alice in Wonderland as a theme in 1969! The William Bennett Gallery (New York) had, on exhibit, a 12-piece suite of Alice in Wonderland-themed paintings, said to be some of the rarest Dali suite in the world. 

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

A weekend of firsts

On October 23–26, I was stationed at Robinsons Supermarket at Forum Robinsons (in Mandaluyong) as a member of an experimental auction team (with a sensory evaluation component in it). This activity, a component of a brainchild hatched by Matty and me last year (when I was still a postdoc fellow) finally started becoming a reality in the Philippines! We had first tested the idea purely through sensory evaluation activities during Madrid Fusìon Manila. What made the latest activity doubly exciting was that this was our first experiment in an urban shopping mall (our sincerest and most heartfelt thanks to Robinsons Malls for partnering with us on this) and our first test of a novel variation of the Becker-DeGroot-Marschak auction (devised by Matty)... and one more thing, this was the first time that I acted as animator in an experimental auction! 

Members of the team who made this experimental auction possible was Anna de Guia, a MSc student in UPLB whose research topic was about the "non-use value" of heirloom rice... and she did the liaising work with Robinsons; Lucy Samadio, a technician at the Grain Quality and Nutrition Centre who's been assigned to assist me in my experiments; Mike Guay, a MSc graduate from McGill University and whose expertise is in crunching data from experimental auctions; and Xel Ancheta, who's into development communications in UPLB. 

October 22nd

We started "backstage", well, the receiving dock for our materials. We brought the Market Research Team's booth, several kilograms of rice, and the Market Research Team's copy of the Sensory Evaluation Team's traveling circus kit: rice cookers, extension cords, travel boxes, cups, spoons, scoops, plates, bowls... 


 The staff at Robinsons Supermarket kindly helped us unload the stuff from the van and deliver them to the bundling area where our stuff would be put in storage for the rest of the weekend. 


On the shop floor, we had help from our driver, Kuya Dennis, in reconstructing the booth by the health and wellness section of the supermarket. With so many hands on deck, I found myself with nothing to do but take photos. I had never felt so lazy in preparing for an event! Honestly, I wasn't used to having such a big team there to get organised. Back in the day, Lenie and I set up the rice tasting area by ourselves in Eastwood (International Rice Festival) and at the Asian Development Bank (World Food Day) because the others were prepping the other bits of the IRRI exhibits. Then, in Asia Society's event where I did the rice tasting activity, Chill and I were assisted by staff from Asia Society in getting the IRRI booth set up. During the International Rice Congress in Bangkok, I did the rice tasting booth prep, the cooking, the clean-up all by myself... with Communications staff helping me out if they're not occupied by their assignments. Therefore, watching the others do all the prep made me feel like a useless member of the group.


October 23rd

I still found myself with nothing much to do because Ate Lucy took care of mise-en-place. Xel and Anna took charge of prepping the booth. Matty and Mike went off to buy an extra table for the post-auction survey transactions. I found myself just standing or walking around, checking if the booth wasn't cluttered or going through the questionnaire to check if we might have missed questions (as if we could do anything about it at that point). 

I never expected that this weekend would prove to be one of the most tiring work weekends I've had in recent times... right up there with the International Rice Congress...


As soon as the rice started cooking, it was just a waiting game for us. The time that we've practised long and hard for (and the cause of nausea for the two unfortunate iPhone 6's from all those endowment simulations) was rapidly approaching... and I drew the short end of the stick. I got first dibs at being animator. A task that we prepared for because Matty was flying off to India in the middle of the experiment and he wanted someone with, what he describes as, a "strong" personality to handle the animation as Plan B... Which became Plan A. 




Three hours after we began the experimental auctions, we realised that we were going through a learning curve: Mike's recruiting skills were starting to get honed; my animation skills were getting a lot of practice. We realised quickly that the words that we used had to be carefully chosen and repeated across respondents to avoid results being affected by the variations of what we said. If a plan didn't work out, we needed to approach it in a different way. It was good that Matty and I went through several scenarios during months of rehearsals because I wanted to understand how the auction works, and to know how far the stories could be changed and what to do when certain responses came up. On the other hand, we also had to learn how to use a vacuum sealer... They learned how to operate it. I never had a chance to use it.


The first day of the experimental auctions ended ten hours after we've begun. We interviewed 30 shoppers that day... if I'm not mistaken, I was averaging 15 minutes per auction. We were all well-rested over the lunch break. Not bad, I thought. But to get to our target number of respondents, we had to up our game. 

October 24th

We aimed to have shorter auctions (I was doing it at 11 minutes by the end of the second day, I think) and faster recruiting times. We did get 36 respondents. Good job! we all thought. However, I was starting to feel exhausted from standing and talking THE WHOLE DAY. Mike's recruiting skills were getting so good that right after I've handed off a respondent to Xel for the post-auction survey, I'd turn around and see Mike's next recruit! There was minimal lag time and so I only had a few seconds to rest my voice. By then, Mike placed me on constant supply of throat lozenges, thank goodness! All I wanted to do, by the time we called it a day, was find a chair and take my weight off my feet for a few minutes. Matty, on the other hand, came better prepared as the documentations guy. The GoPro Session was placed in strategic spots to capture the auctions... and then I got nudged and pushed here and there to keep me within view of the camera. Tsk.

October 25th

By this day, we were all in the groove, so to speak. Matty, Mike, and I still had to iron out tweaks in the animator's and recruiter's scripts... Matty was flying out at noon so we had to squeeze as many insights from him as possible that would help us improve the experimental auctions. I was only able to slash 1 minute off my average auction time... my overworked throat was forcing me to become more efficient in doing the animation but I couldn't shorten my spiel any further without cutting out major parts of the survey. I knew that my voice was approaching its limits and I had to save whatever's left if I wanted the auction team to finish strong. Anna acted as timekeeper and so we were able to conduct 42 (yes, 42!) auctions by the time the supermarket closed. Still short of the 44 auctions that we were aiming for, but it was the best that we could do.


October 26th

The last day. It was the If-I-wasn't-doing-the-auction,-I-wasn't-talking day. We had a slow start, methinks, because it was a slow day for the supermarket. The other merchandisers had told us about it previously so we were expecting it. However, we never expected to encounter two (to put it kindly) strange respondents. The first strange respondent didn't finish the auction, as he stormed off in the middle of the sensory evaluation. I had a feeling that he didn't like being a participant in an experiment in which he had to follow instructions, so he opted to explode and then move off. I was actually thankful that he did that because he wouldn't like the auction if he didn't like the rice tasting segment. And so with a smile, I bid him good day and thanked him for participating. The second strange respondent had more of a distracted air around her. She found a friend of hers shopping at the same time and so stopped responding to the survey questions to talk with her friend. After a few minutes, I asked politely if she was still interested in participating in the market study... if I was less polite, I would have told her to bugger off so that the next respondent could start.

By lunch time, I really needed to rest my feet and my throat. I asked (implicitly) if we could take a longer break because I was just ready to drop. I was granted that wish but the Starbucks choco frap was definitely NOT a good idea. If anything, it just accelerated the worsening of my voice. 

Not a problem though because the group opted to stop early, after respondent number 28th: we interviewed more people than we originally planned! At last, I could sit down and rest my feet. I was about to talk and then realised that my voice had left the building! Oh no! No matter how many throat lozenges I'd take, my voice wouldn't go back. I really had to rest my throat. But at least my voice faded out after the last auction. Whew!

Packing up proved to be a breeze for me because Mike, Anna, and Ate Lucy did all the heavy lifting (with the help from the supermarket staff). I just sat and kept quiet. I felt, once again, that I was a useless member of the team. But what could I do, right? I was way too exhausted for words.


And that's my work weekend of firsts. It was a good activity: we developed a partnership with one of the major supermarkets in the metro and the lab rat learned a lot about people skills through practice. Now, I'm excited with the results. I'm expecting that we got good results from this experiment. I am keeping my fingers and toes crossed. 

Job well done, A(uction)-team!

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Sighted two "new" islands

Here we go again with my habit of pointing at things. My mom keeps saying it invites bad fortune but I keep doing it anyway, asking what this and that are...

And so, while boating on Saturday, I kept pointing to two islands we have never seen before. These are Balahibongmanoc Island and Bonito Island off the eastern coast of Maricaban Island. Unfortunately, the waves were too high to go any closer to any of these islands.


At some point, I thought while we were attempting to reach it, I'd like to visit Balahibongmanoc Island because there are hot springs under the water out there! But I guess I need to get a diver's license first to do that. And then there's Bonito Island, which I wanted to see as well... But after I learned that sharks actually lay eggs around that area, I lost interest in visiting the island. Maybe someday, I'll revisit the idea of diving and getting close to sharks. Note: SOMEDAY!!

As we were being swished back and forth on the jet-boat by the strong currents, with Puerto Galera right in front of us, we opted to turn back, back to the safety of Maricaban Island's supposedly gentler currents. Unfortunately, the sea was still too rough for boating and so we retreated to the lee side of the island, boating the whole length of it and then back across the sea towards the Mabini coastline.

Sea-1; Matty and Rochie-0. We just had to go back some other day.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

exploring the Philippines, a few islands at a time

Thanks to wakeboarding, I've started having an appreciation for watercraft and water forms. This, particularly since I've always loved to explore new places (hello, 16-hour drive to Ilocandia!). And so whenever we end up in Mabini, Batangas, I have the tendency to point at spots I've never visited before. And that, for me, marked the beginning of our exploration of the islands around Calumpang Peninsula. 

So, as of today, we have visited quite a few islands. Southwest of the Calumpang Pensinsula, we've driven past Sombrero Island, wakeboarded along the westward coast of Maricaban Island (from Sepoc Point all the way to Bunjar Island, if I'm not mistaken) and in between Maricaban and Caban Islands. Along Balayan Bay, on the other hand, we've gone boating around Ligpo Island (where Matty might have had a turtle sighting), wakeboarded from Anilao Beach Club towards Le Chèvrerie to the southwest of the Calumpang Peninsula and up northwest to the coast of San Luis, Batangas. 

But what kept bugging me was that we were unable to say exactly where we've been because we were not familiar with the landmarks and the names of the places we've been going to. So, I took it upon myself to study the area a bit more in-depth. One, out of curiosity. Two, because just in case of emergency, I would like to know how to state locations for search and rescue purposes. Once, my enough-to-be-dangerous navigational skills were put to the test already, involving a GoPro falling overboard and sinking into the abyss. Three, because I like tracking where we go on maps. 

I started out learning the lay of the land, so to speak, via Google Maps. But then I found out that it probably would be a good idea as well to study dive maps. That was useful because the residents always referred to diving areas; if we didn't know where these were, we wouldn't know what the the residents were talking about.

More recently, since I've been searching for a watch anyway, I opted to get a GPS watch (the Garmin Vivoactive)... now, I can actually track where we went! Last weekend, for example, because I forgot to turn the tracking off, I was able to record where Josh, Soc, and Matty went wakeboarding into the sunset and where I got reef rash earlier in the day... I was the swimming wounded... hehe.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Happy birthday, Anna!! :)

Anna celebrated her birthday this year in Sta Cruz, Laguna. We ended up in Jookin's Cafe... where the saxophonist and the keyboardist were playing standards for the crowd's enjoyment. It was a celebration with the cousins, the nephews, the nieces, the aunts, and the Ates. Family bonding at its best.

Happy birthday, Anna! :)

A photo posted by Rochie Cuevas (@rochiecuevas) on

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Contributing to SansRival

Back when I didn't know how to handle a chef's knife and I was deathly afraid of cooking oil, I thought to myself: what did I get myself into? when I attended my first cooking class. Little did I know that I'd continue keeping in touch with classmates (and now friends) after graduating from the culinary arts courses I took. 

One such example is my continued association with Ige Ramos, who happens to be the editor-in-chief of SansRival. This is Rustan's Supermarket's magazine/product catalogue that comes out every quarter (I think). I've collaborated with him two years ago, when he featured rice in his column, Bandehado, in Philippine Daily Inquirer's Bandera. This year, we've worked together again but for SansRival this time. Again, it's on rice. But this time, Matty got involved in writing the article, providing a more international flavour to the nature of rice as a staple.


It was a fun article to write. And I do hope that non-scientists will find it easy to read. Here, have a closer look:

https://www.researchgate.net/publication/281831003_Rice_an_international_staple

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Everest (2015)

Mount Everest, tallest mountain above sea level. I knew that Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay were the first to summit Everest. But that's about what history teachers said about the mountain. What they had failed to teach me (and my classmates) at that time was that it's one very dangerous climb: for every 10 people reaching the summit, it is said that one dies trying. But it is more rarely mentioned that the descent is even more dangerous than the assault to the peak.

So many people have died on the slopes of Mount Everest and one would think that they've been given proper burials. But no. Most of their bodies are still there, perfectly preserved where they died... unless if the wind and the earthquakes have moved them, of course. It must be a macabre experience to sit and then notice that the person beside you is actually a dead climber!

Obviously, I'm still reeling after watching the disaster movie, Everest. I didn't know what it was all about at the onset. In fact, I thought it was going to be an adventure movie! It really was. the cinematography was top-notch. The landscapes and the scenery were just so beautiful! It felt like going back in time, to a different culture.

I just didn't know that the movie would end that way... after all, Everest (the movie) was all about the mountaineers who attempted to climb Everest (the mountain) when nature had a grand tantrum in May 1996: a blizzard blew as climbers were descending from the summit. Fifteen mountaineers, including two lead guides, died from exposure to the harsh conditions, falls, exhaustion, injuries, and lack of supplemental oxygen. See, these people went where no human should even be in: 8,000 m above sea level. That's what mountaineers call the "death zone", an area so high up that atmospheric pressure is only a third of what it's like at sea level. This is where the human body shuts down because of lack of oxygen (if the climbers are not using supplementary oxygen) and where many of the deaths up Everest had occurred.

In the movie, the climbers were asked why they wanted to reach the top of Everest. I didn't find any of the answers to be memorable. But what I did find chilling (and this probably is why I still haven't gotten over the movie) is that the mountaineers just left the injured up there to die. I do understand why though: it is already dangerous to climb up and go down; it is even more dangerous to bring along someone with an injury. After all, it is said that climbers attempting Mount Everest sign waivers in case they do not return.

I think I need to watch a comedy next time.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Heneral Luna (2015)

There are movies and books about heroes. But what makes some stand out is the willingness of the masterminds of these works of art to let go of the kid gloves and to discuss the heroes as if they were human too... because they were. One such mastermind, and I am a big fan of him, is Ambeth Ocampo; especially with how he treated Jose Rizal and the Luna brothers. He made them look like ordinary Filipinos without discounting that they've led extraordinary lives.

And speaking of the Luna brothers, a movie called Heneral Luna showed up in my must-watch movies this year. So I trooped to the mall with my aunt and uncle to watch it.


It was a movie that tugged on so many emotions. I had a laughing fit seeing the men comically retreat as the enemies kept moving forward and as the General forced people to join the troops if they didn't want the "Heneral Artikulo Uno" enacted on them. I held my breath as the General charged towards enemy lines and thought that he was shot in the torso. I felt frustrated to see that the officials of the Philippine republic, led then by Emilio Aguinaldo, were fragmented and were easy to anger. And finally, my jaw dropped in shock to see how brutally the General was killed by Filipino soldiers who lost face and wanted their revenge.

At the end of the day, however, I ask myself: has anything changed in Philippine governance? The names of people in office certainly did; but did the values and the attitudes change?

Was it really that bad to be under a colonial ruler but with highly developed economy? Were Filipinos so focused on fighting off the Spaniards that they didn't see the bigger picture... or that they didn't realise that the colonisers were playing them for fools?

Filipinos tend to use the term "nationalism". But did they (in the early 20th century) and do we really know what that means? In the face of globalisation, is the nationalist view still relevant?

Tough questions, I know. Thank you, makers of Heneral Luna (the movie), for making us, Filipino movie-goers who saw the film, think and mull over tough questions. Heneral Luna (the movie) is really a welcome change from all the traditional takes on national heroes and certainly from the number of pop movies that dealt with spousal infidelity these days. 

Sunday, August 30, 2015

when Ambeth took off Rizal's overcoat

Back in college, I swore that I would watch Ambeth Ocampo (whatever it takes) when he lectures about Jose Rizal and his infamous overcoat. The chance for me to see his lecture live didn't happen when I was still teaching at the Ateneo de Manila University. It, however, came as August was ending. Man, who always comes along when I go on a history adventure, was with me. And along for the ride was Bert, an economics student doing his thesis in IRRI. 

Ambeth Ocampo basically led us through the more important details of his book "Rizal Without the Overcoat". This is my favourite textbook among those of my social sciences courses in college. And Ambeth's lecture style makes history come alive, as he entitled his lecture series. It was a major laugh trip to hear about the escapades of Jose Rizal, the Philippines' national hero, as a student in Europe... in the days long before the internet, social media, and computers. Ambeth showed the human side of a man who would be immortalised globally in stone monuments. Rizal had many girlfriends but for the one he loved as he approached death, Josephine Bracken, he asked his family to take care of her after his execution. As if anyone listened to the poor guy. This, and many of his request about what to do to his body after he was executed, was not followed. Hence, he lies in state under constant guard; there's a plaque about his heroism; some of his bones are on display in museums (or is it just in one?), and Josephine was left to fend for herself, forever in history books as the woman Jose left last. 

Ambeth also tackled the stories behind Rizal's novels. It appeared that he followed the trail of the Noli and the Fili... Well, the trail has long been roads now. But how fascinating can it be to actually walk where Rizal walked, where his characters treaded, right? 

I just had to meet Ambeth in person after his lecture. And so Man, Bert, and I joined the  queue to have our books signed. Yeah, by watching the lecture, we got free books! That's how enthusiastic the Ayala Museum is about educating people about Philippine history! Anyway, as he was signing our books, Ambeth asked us about ourselves. And when we answered that we're from the International Rice Research Institute, he said he's been invited to go over there and check out the Philippine traditional rice varieties. 

HOW COOLER CAN HE GET?!

Now we have something else to look forward to. Man, if he does visit, we will be prepared. Fanmode on!!

Friday, August 28, 2015

A Love Affair (2015)

Richard Gomez and Dawn Zulueta team up in a movie about a family that became stronger after trying times threatened its dissolution.

Of course, that's not how the movie was marketed. The teasers just highlighted the involvement of Bea Alonzo's character as a homewrecker and Dawn's character as the martyr wife trying to save her marriage. And that brought people to the cinema.

One evening, Krishna, Jojie, and I trooped to the cinema to watch it. I knew I was in for a really good movie (although I am not into drama) because it's top-billed by three of the most bankable actors in the Philippine movie industry. And I was right!

What I really liked about the movie was how well-developed and believable the character were. The husband and the wife were on shaky ground because one of their children died and they never had closure: the wife blamed the husband for the death and buried herself in her business ventures while the husband never got around to forgiving himself. So although they were showing the image of a happy couple (Stepford wife-ish to a T, even), their marriage was about to crack.

And crack it did when the husband met a young woman who also was facing her demons. They found a kindred spirit in each other and decided to be in a relationship, albeit the young woman knowing fully well that the man was already married. But as the cliché goes, the husband always went home to the wife even if the marriage was on the rocks... And this drove the young woman to act crazy because of all the mixed signals emitted by the husband. The wife eventually confronted the young woman with such class and poise that the audience felt so sorry for the young woman and cheered on for the wife. She even confronted the husband with grace and generosity that could break even the coldest of hearts. Realising what he could lose in the process, the husband manned up and the couple worked to solidify their relationship. The young woman found catharsis in the end as well.

I enjoyed watching the film despite the drama and the stress it caused because the actors played their roles so beautifully. In fact, I thought that the Bea-Dawn confrontation scene is well up there with the Pinoy movie classic: Sharon and Cherie's copycat scene. However, I'm not sure that I thoroughly liked what I saw about "real life" through the lens of the filmmakers. For instance:

- The husband, though in the centre of this sordid mess, acted like a puppet pushed and pulled by the throes of emotion of two women. I felt that the movie didn't put fault on the guy for takin on another woman. Yes, he was villified for the child who died. But it seemed to me that the story implied it was perfectly okay for him to cheat on his wife. 
- It's okay for the husband to have a mistress but the wife was punished for having her own life, her own friends, and her own source of income. I felt that this was highly unfair. The wife wasn't allowed (or didn't take the chance) to grow professionally because the husband (cheater that he was) was jealous of one of her colleagues... Enough to prevent the wife from going on a business trip. What, she's expected to let her life revolve around her family and her husband only? And then she, in a most expected move, had to play the martyr and let the husband go... kindly. It reflected on how much the husband valued the wife (not much) and how much she grew to value herself (from almost zero to a more dignified level). I feel that this was the redeeming part of the movie. She came to value herself.
- The mistress in this movie was played to the stereotypical hilt. She came into the picture knowing full well that the guy was married and she had the gall to claim him as hers. What, she's playing emotional tug-o-war with the wife? And the crazy moves she did... Those were just plain scary. I was so happy to see her put in her place by the wife. 

The movie was a good one. But I hope that this is the last on mistresses. Probably to find another angle about husbands and wives, moviemakers put on films, one after another, about third parties, other women, cheating spouses. Because they sell. Seriously. At the risk of influencing the younger audience. How can children get positive values if Filipino movies with themes like this keep popping up? Or if kids see the tv teasers and billboards of these movies?