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.