Sunday, July 16, 2017

Remembering the 1990 Luzon earthquake

July 16, 1990.

It was after school then. My friends, my sister, and I were playing on one of the grassy fields fronting Maquiling School Inc. in the UPLB campus. We were playing tag then, I think, and so we were running around and reaching the line of royal palm trees that the campus is known for.

And then the ground shook...

The driver of the school bus got irked at us because we typically rocked the vehicle until he got dizzy; this time, though, as he turned around to scold us, he saw that the passenger section was empty. And then he realised that an earthquake was happening.

Meanwhile, we didn't even realise that the world was trembling beneath us and the trees were swaying above us until we all stopped running. As kids, we didn't know what was going on so we didn't have much to think about until the driver told us that there was an earthquake.

While the earthquake was happening, my brother was already at home, from kindergarten school. He was having a nap on the living room sofa. The ground shook, the appliances in the house moved, a lantern above his head swayed violently, and the nanny had a panic attack. But my brother slept throughout the whole episode.

My parents, I suppose, were at work. Oddly, I don't remember them talking about this earthquake, which was one of the worst to hit Luzon so far... more than 1,600 people died in this earthquake. I remember how much news was being broadcast about the aftermath of this earthquake, particularly in the Cordillera region. There, the earthquake damage was compounded by the continuous rain and the landslides. Baguio was cut off from the rest of the country when the roads and the airport were damaged.

Recently, I was in Baguio on a day trip with Daddy, Tita Ising, and Tito Sibing. The city was so congested! There were so many cars along the roads surrounding Burnham Park that traffic ground to a halt. There were so many buildings that appeared fragile and old amid more modern-looking facilities. And there was also heavy foot traffic, thanks to the presence of new shopping malls and arcades... I couldn't even see the park anymore!

And my mind kept flashing back to images of rubble and ruin from the 1990 earthquake. This is how far the city has progressed since then. It's been 28 years, if my math serves me right. But looking at the present construction projects by the cliffs and on the sides of the mountains, I kept wondering: will these survive earthquakes that strong? 


Sunday, July 9, 2017

Rochie's 2017 birthday celebration :)

Nope, there were no dinosaurs this year. There's no basketball neither. Instead, Daddy's here to celebrate my birthday with me! It's been 13 years since the last time we celebrated our birthday together. It's been too long since we did this together.

On Sunday, we all trooped to Lola's house to have a joint celebration. There was so much food! Richelle, Mary Ann, Anna, and Riza did a superb job of preparing lunch for all the guests... and the menu included Daddy's fave, vegetable salad, and my fave, pork sinigang. I got two Japanese cheesecakes from Hiraya Bakery while Tito Tony and Tita Ching, and Val and Zia brought Red Ribbon cakes; hence we had four cakes! Aside from the cakes, we also got sapin-sapin from Kuya Mitchie and Che, and pichi-pichi from Tito Boy Morelos.

But that's before my birthday. On my birthday itself, I spent the day in Manila with Anna and Daddy, eating McDonald's... it was almost a letdown. However, it couldn't be helped because I was having my medical that day and I only had 30 minutes to eat in between tests (yeah, the queue was very long).

The GQNC staff were kind enough to surprise me with Mernel's chocolate yema cake on Friday afternoon. And then in the evening, we had dinner at The Pig Pen. As always, it was good company with good food. After dinner, we had milkshakes and cake at Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf, with discounts courtesy of coupons that came with my daily planner.

Did I over-celebrate this year? Probably not. It was a quieter way of celebrating with friends but I spent a lot of time with family this time around. Indeed, Krishna said it best when she greeted me, "Happy birthweek!" because my annual celebration is never concluded in just a day... at least it hasn't been that way since a few years ago.

Thank you everyone for helping me welcome my new year in a special way.

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Film Talks with Nick de Ocampo. Part 3: Documentary

Professor Nick de Ocampo is featured in Ayala Museum's trilogy lecture series on film. I'm not a film buff nor a film-maker but I wanted to spend my Saturday afternoons educating myself culturally. So I ended up taking a seat in his film lecture series.

Because I learned a lot during Nick de Ocampo's lecture about the horror genre, I decided that I'd watch the last of the trilogy of his lecture series. This one is about his cinema of choice: the documentary. He defines it as a genre composed of films that represent reality to record (or reenact) history, to educate, or to share narratives about one's experiences.

This lecture really allowed him to showcase his work. He is, after all, commissioned to make movies on how climate change affects communities living near it. He's also been selected to showcase his work in various film festivals. I'm not familiar with his work because I'm more of a tv documentary watcher... I'm a big fan of the PROBE Team, for instance. And I like National Geographic... a lot. 

What I learned this time is about how difficult it is to develop the documentary; it is so technical! I thought that it was just a matter of switching on the camera and letting life passing by get recorded. Apparently, (and the director and the producer of a documentary called Sunday Beauty Queen attested to as well) it is one of the most difficult genres to work in because of many uncontrollable factors. Nevertheless, people looking into this genre must do their homework even before going into the shoot: research on the topic of the documentary, write the script, and visualise scenes via a storyboard.

It sounds so much like creating a Presentation Zen slide deck, if I may say so. 

After everything under the director's control are prepared, God takes control, as Nick says... all the director can do is not get rattled when the story takes an unexpected turn. This was his experience while working on a documentary about Leandro Alejandro, a leading activist during the Martial Law years. He was murdered; thus, Nick lost the subject of his documentary in a snap. This was also what he experienced while working on a documentary called Private Wars, a story chronicling his search for his father. While filming, he went to the place where his father was last seen a day after his father was there. However, he couldn't return for one reason or another. Hence, it's as if God has conjured obstacles to ensure that the the father and the son wouldn't meet at that occasion.

How could a director continue making a film if his subject is out of reach? That is the challenge of the documentary. The director must be quick on his/her toes to make an alternative approach.

What I saw in this lecture is a filmmaker who has shown his vulnerability to move the boundaries of his craft. It was so obvious that he has put his heart and soul into this genre that it is so difficult not to be curious about his films... because he has somehow put a part of him in them (but not in a horcrux kind of way). The sentiment and the personal attachment were apparent here; the energy he exuded in the documentary lecture was not there when he talked about comedy and horror. 

This last lecture was a wow moment for me.

And now, I resolve to find his historical films and watch them... plus the comedy films he featured. I opt not to see the horror films.

Saturday, July 1, 2017

On graduations and history

The road blocks on Freedom Park and the appearance of the tent and the chairs marked the beginning of the end of another academic year in UPLB (and in the other UP campuses): the senior class of the university was going to march and to receive their diplomas in front of friends and family. A joyous occasion, definitely; but what made this year's commencement exercises remarkable for me is the presence of an Aeta, the first Aeta to finish college in UP (UP Manila), being part of this year's graduating class. 

His name is Norman King. Norman received his BSc Behavioural Sciences degree. As he walked up the stage, I am sure that he knew that he was making history. By no means is he the first Aeta who graduates from college; there are many Aetas finishing their degrees in Pampanga. But Norman made UP history be being the first of the Aetas to graduate from the top-ranked university in the Philippines. His story is inspiring because he has not allowed his culture to limit his potential. I was also happy to read that he did not experience discrimination for being different; in fact, he felt that UP embraced students from cultural minorities.

I look forward to see how his accomplishment will encourage other Aetas to compete for posts in UP and get the best education that they can get there.