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. 


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? 

Monday, August 24, 2015

Inside Out (2015)


I've always wanted to see Disney Pixar's Inside Out since I saw the first teaser trailer a few months ago... and it's finally showing here!!!

It's basically a story about going inside one's head and figuring out how one's emotions play a role in determining his/her behaviour. There are five main characters inside Riley's head (she's the girl protagonist in this story): Joy, Sadness, Disgust, Fear, and Anger. I found it interesting that Joy leads the pack in Riley's head but it's Sadness in her mom's and Anger in her dad's... Is it because her mom nurtures and comforts Riley when she's down and Sadness allows her to be sensitive to Riley? Is it because her dad is quite a risk-taker and Anger is a manifestation of his aggressiveness? Is it because Riley's had a generally happy eleven years of existence and Joy is the overarching emotion during those years?

The emotional rollercoaster was unleashed when the family moved cities because of Riley's dad's career. The adjustment was visibly hard for Riley since each happy memory that she had was turning into a sad memory, each time Sadness got a hold of them. Maybe she was feeling a sense of loss. Or maybe, we were seeing the beginnings of puberty... I'm not sure. But whatever it was, she was surely moving away from childhood and into the next stage of her life. Her imaginary friend found itself vanishing gradually, to prove a point.

As I watched the movie, I saw myself in Joy; not because I'm such a two-dimensional character, but because she mostly had endless positive vibes to share even at the worst moments. Many of my friends often ask me where I get all my energy from: they're already dragging their feet (like Sadness) but I'm still up for another adventure (like Joy). Don't get me wrong. I have my quiet moments too... but very rarely in front of my friends.

A friend who understands what mental illness is all about also saw the movie and remarked that Inside Out was just like Psych 101 for a young audience. However, I think that this movie can also cater to people who don't know so much about the inner workings of our mind. In other words, we who aren't psychologists.  

So far, Inside Out has been the most emotional movie I've seen in 2015. :) Get it? :D

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Jyas and Benjo get married!!

My high school barkada rarely see each other these days because we're pretty much spread out. I'm based in Los Banos, the others are based on Manila, while the others are based in other countries. The last time we were together was during Grace and TJ's wedding last year. 

The wedding reflected Jyas' personality: simple, elegant, and relaxed. The reception was held at Dalcielo's Restaurant where family and friends had breakfast. Typically, people are in a hurry to leave after the wedding reception, specially if there's a program. But because this wedding did NOT have a program, no one was in such a hurry to leave! 

Congratulations, Benjo and best wishes, Jyas!! 

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Little Boy (2015)

Purely by coincidence, Anna and I watched Little Boy on the 70th anniversary of the US dropping the atomic bomb on Nagasaki towards the end of World War II. I say it's purely coincidental because the movie was all about how a family lived while the father was fighting the war, and eventually became a prisoner-of-war, in the Philippines. 

It was told from the point of view of the younger son; he wasn't as tall as his classmates, earning him the nickname "Little Boy". He was bullied by the meanest and biggest boy in his class, whose behaviour was left unchecked by his father, a doctor. The doctor, on the other hand, was too busy wooing Little Boy's mother (he's a widower). Little Boy's older brother, London, was angry most of the time because he wasn't qualified to be in the Army (which is why the father went) and didn't know how to convert his anger to productive energy. He was thrust into the role of breadwinner way before he was ready. The mother was quite a strong woman, who kept her family together throughout the ordeal (of not knowing if her husband was alive or not).

She was also the epitome of faith, the quiet type. She held on long enough to the belief that her husband would come home. Little Boy's faith was much simpler and more literal... Fitting for a kid. He was ready to believe and to do anything just to get his father back.

"If you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you can move mountains."

At first, he believed that a magician can bring his father back because Little Boy was able to move a bottle, as a volunteer, during the magic show. But the parish priest explained it to him quite differently: Little Boy wanted to move the bottle so badly that the priest was convinced to move the bottle for him. That's how prayers worked, the priest explained: ask in good faith; if the Lord wills it, He gives it to you.

That childlike expressions of faith moved a mountain (literally because of an earthquake) and coincided with the atomic bomb attack in Japan (purely because he kept at it long enough). It also moved a lot of hearts. He became friends with another victim of bullying and discrimination, Hashimoto, a man of Japanese origin, who the Caucasians wanted to hurt or to kick out of the village because he was seen as the enemy (even if he was living in the US for 42 years). Through Hashimoto's help, Little Boy fed the hungry, clothed the naked, buried the dead, sheltered the homeless... He literally followed a list given to him by the parish priest, with the hope that through doing good deeds, he could bring his dad home.

His father did arrive home, alive, but not before a case of mistaken identity that lead to his apparent demise.

It was such a beautiful movie. 

Thursday, August 6, 2015

My first press briefing

Most of the time, a scientist discusses his/her team's findings in scientific fora, either as posters or as oral presentations. But there are times, the rarer ones, when scientists are thrust in front of cameras to talk about interpretations of data to the media (who will then paraphrase these for the lay audience).

I was tasked to such an assignment scheduled earlier today. It was my very first press briefing. It's challenging to share technical developments because the message can really be lost in the translation. Case in point: a professor's comments at a conference was vastly misunderstood and was printed on the front page of a national newspaper. I came across that article and felt sorry for the professor. I also felt bad for the journalist because issuance of an erratum is like a smear to one's reputation (and questions one's capacity to provide accurate news). Yeah, I was in journalism class in high school

I was scared for myself. If I did well, I would deliver the message and nobody's going to grossly misquote me. If I made a mess out of this... I didn't even want to think of that happening. Clearly, I needed help in making sure that the message was journalist-ready. I prepped with lots of help from Leah, Lem, Tony, and Bruce. Plus, the previous media skills training I received came in handy. Basta 'wag fuchsia daw. Hehehe. 

The event itself, though, was an entirely different experience. It was intimidating! One, I was starstruck because I was surrounded by famous people; you know: those who I normally only see on the telly. Good thing I dressed a bit more formally; I blended in a bit better. Two, all cameras, the giant network news ones, were trained at the people speaking at the press briefing! I felt like I was a target of a firing squad! Every fidget I'd make would be caught on cam, I thought. But the experts at being camera subjects talked with me while waiting for the briefing to start so I was able to relax a bit.

Funny thing is, I normally watch such events on the telly or I'd be behind the press corps. So as a habit, I went behind them before the presentation began... Until someone pointed to me that I was supposed to be at panel, in front of the camera... Seated behind my name plate.

(I was in the company of Atty Ann Coronel and Administrator Renan Dalisay of the National Food Authority, Presidential Assistant for Food Security and Agricultural Modernisation Kiko Pangilinan, and Dr Joyce Sales of the Food Development Centre. Photo credit: Bev Natividad:

An hour later, the press briefing ended. It went relatively well because the news was a good one. I wasn't fielded questions; most of the inquiries were directed to the other panelists. One led the discussion on the technical aspects. One talked about the history of the issue. One reiterated the good news and rehashed the scientific conclusions. Another reassured the public that work is being continued to assure food safety and quality. 

So basically, I said my one statement and then sat through the rest of the press briefing, listening to the other panelists. Not too bad. Nobody saw me wringing my dress under the table, my version of Ralph Fiennes' paper clip from Maid in Manhattan. 

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Mission Impossible (2015)

One afternoon, my sister asked over instant messaging, "What are you doing?". I replied, "I'm going to watch Mission Impossible." She, incredulous, asked, "There's another one?!?"

Yep, there is. And it did not go too exotic this time (because Ghost Protocol had the audiences watch Tom Cruise cross glass windows in Dubai and drive that fancy BMW i8 hybrid-electric car on the streets of Mumbai) as the plot mostly kept the action in Europe. The story did venture into Morocco as well... 

Anyway, I had thought previously that Ghost Protocol might be the last of the series because how could that movie be topped, right? But no. Rogue Nation upped the ante even more. Ethan Hunt was no longer just suspended by rope to gain access to some impossible location. This time, he actually dove underwater without a breathing apparatus! He also flew outside an airplane, hanging on to dear life, mind. 

And then there's William Brandt (who wasn't just an analyst anymore). Between the two movies, he moved up in rank and was directing field operations during Rogue Nation. He had some humorous scenes with Alan Hunley (who eventually led the whole IMF organisation)... those scenes actually reminded me of the last James bond movie I saw... it's the one where M was questioned by some committee and was later driven to James Bond's remote hideaway after some people tried to kill her. 

But of all the characters, I think Benji was the one who changed the most. He went to Austria to watch an opera ALONE! And he went there covertly too.

I enjoyed watching Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation. Will there be a next one? That is always possible.