Whining does not get better with age

I remember being in the Inquirer office—I must have been in my late teens or early 20s—and I was being my usual, noisy self when Ma’m Chelo, then Inquirer Lifestyle editor, turned her chair to me and loudly admonished: “You are so whiny!”

That shut me up.

Since then I’ve been self-conscious about my complaining because I do agree that I could be irritatingly whiny most of, if not all, the time. I thought I have tempered that side of me—this is one of those bad traits so deeply ingrained that I lack the self-awareness to catch myself 100-percent of the time—but I’ve become increasingly aware (again) of my whining since I started attending CrossFit.

I still wince at the thought of how during our introductory week, I proclaimed that “I hate yoga” as we were stretching and doing our cool downs. For context, it was a few weeks after I did try yoga, so it came from experience. Nevertheless, while it elicited laughs in the class, the coach had to gently explain the benefits of stretching, and I felt so juvenile for having made the comment in the first place.

Or when after one of those numbing workouts, the coach would ask the class how we’re feeling and we’d all reply simultaneously and I would be the lone person to say, “brutal” as everyone else chirps in, “great,” “awesome,” et cetera. I’ve learned to bite my tongue more judiciously, until last week, when we had to hold our squats repeatedly in time with this song—it was about 3 or 4 minutes long and I kept cursing under my breath. By the end of that, I let out a loud “worst song ever,” while the rest were giving themselves high fives. Yikes.

Needless to say, I have a lot more work to do. I’m also aware that it takes more than holding back my comments. I need to re-wire my thinking and learn to think positively.

While I’ve been thinking about this, two films I saw on Netflix last night reinforced this idea. The first is Be Here Now, a documentary on Spartacus: Blood and Sand star Andy Whitfield, who battled lymphoma for almost two years. I have a general idea of Andy’s story, having watched the first season of his gladiator TV show, but wow—still, that docu reduced me to a puddle of tears. Here was a Welsh actor with a beautiful family, who finally made it into Hollywood, and boom, cancer. (And by the way, he was extremely beautiful-looking, easily one of God’s perfect creations—to Christians who feel compelled to nitpick on that statement, see aardvark. Or this. You get the point.)

Be Here Now Andy Whitfield

Photo: TUGG / Be Here Now Productions

What got me the most was when he was talking to the camera after he learned that the chemotherapy was not working. “And people are complaining about zits; I have cancer,” he says and the fact that he’s done EVERYTHING—chemo, radiotherapy, alternative medicine, yoga, meditation therapy—to battle the disease makes every little complaint we have so minute and trivial.

The second is Amy Schumer: The Leather Special, where toward the end, she discusses her weight and how the media point out how fat she is. She responds that her father has multiple sclerosis and is on a wheelchair, and the fact the she can mooove and feel sexy and healthy is a cause for celebration itself. Of course, she delivers it so funnily.

Amy Schumer The Leather Special

Photo: Marcus Price / Netflix

PS: There are two opposing schools of thought on this: The Year of Conquering Negative Thinking:

“But constant negativity can also get in the way of happiness, add to our stress and worry level and ultimately damage our health.”

and The Problem with Positive Thinking:

“Why doesn’t positive thinking work the way you might assume? As my colleagues and I have discovered, dreaming about the future calms you down, measurably reducing systolic blood pressure, but it also can drain you of the energy you need to take action in pursuit of your goals.”

My February stats

Number of Starbucks drinks: 3
Uber rides: 6
Money spent on dining out/takeout food: P7,159
Purchases for myself: 1 – a super cute extra small gym bag 😍 (in photo)
Savings from my personal allowance: P1,322.14
Trips to the doctor: 2
Preseptal cellulitis secondary to cannalicutis and internal hordeolum: 1
External hordeolum: 2
Total # of styes: 3 adidas-3-stripes-performance-team-bag-xs
Eyes wide shut: 1
Number of times I was the butt of naninilip jokes: 3
Number of days I was on sick leave: 4
Number of days I was actually sick: 14 days
Cost of stye turned major eye infection: P1,772.75
Number of teammates who resigned: 1
Number of applicants I interviewed: 3
Number of millennials who flaked out: 7,894 😑
Weight: 172lbs 😑
Height: 5’9″, according to my annual physical exam at Aventus Makati 🙄
Missed WODs: 4
Penalty burpees for not following instructions: still undetermined ✌️️
Weekend getaways: 1
Valentine: 1 😍

How I got tested at LoveYourself PH

I wrote this about two years ago—below, I cite a disheartening statistic that 500 new HIV cases are reported in a month. As of December 2016, that figure is now up to 750 or 24 new cases a day. Get yourself tested and always practice safe sex.

PS: Of course, ang tagal ng na-break ang promise ko, haha.

* * * *

I was at low risk and still, I broke out in cold sweat. I was in a small receiving room along with another guy on one couch and a counselor on the other. The air-conditioning felt like it was at full blast—minutes later, I was shivering due to the low temperature, but also most likely due to my anxiety.

loveyourself-phI was at LoveYourself in Shaw Boulevard for an HIV testing.  I like the positivity that the name suggests though I wish it had been better: On my visit, I had an awkward exchange with the building’s security guard when he asked me for my business and I said, “Love yourself.”

I was there because of an encounter I had with a guy more than six months ago. There was no intercourse, but there was ‘frotting’ and then some. My research, aka Google, suggested the possibility of infection was next to none, but what drove me crazy was the fact there was a tiny percentage I may have gotten infected.

The very next week, I was down with fever, which was unusual for me since I started getting yearly flu shots. When I itch, I’d look closer at my skin and compare it to Google images of rashes on people with HIV. The symptoms listed for HIV infection did not help: fever, migraine, cold, rashes—I experience any of these on any given day, even all at the same time. However, since HIV tests are only reliable three to six months after infection, I could not do anything but wait even as I grew more and more paranoid.

So six months later, I arrived for my test at an otherwise nondescript building, save for its yellow color. On the third level, where the clinic is, the windows were all shut and there was not a single soul on the floor. It was a depressing sight—at least until I knocked on the door and led myself in.

Music was blaring in the reception room: when I entered, it was Beyoncé, later to be succeeded by Rihanna, Sia, and Nicki Minaj. The lobby was fully packed. The attendant, who will later turn out to be my counselor, immediately handed me a form—no inquisitions, except to ask if I had been tested before.

Filling out the form became my first emotional moment at the clinic: as I wrote my father’s and mother’s names, it pained me to imagine their reaction in case I had to tell them a bad news. (Though confidential, details are required to activate one’s Philhealth in case the result is positive, I was told.) Writing down my birthday made me think of my childhood years, when one of the most pressing problems I had was how to tell my mother I accidentally released the birthday balloons she gave me up in the air.

It was also then that I was assigned my ‘number’—a lengthy alphanumeric series which I figured would conceal my identity in case I am HIV positive. “This is it,” I thought. “I’m being reduced to anonymity.”  Even before my visit, I’ve been aware of the strong HIV/AIDS stigma not only in the country but internationally.

There was a pre-counseling session where I found myself in the freezing room with another guy. The counselor had a pragmatic approach to the entire experience, which actually made me feel better: HIV is not a death sentence. You can die anytime, no matter how healthy or sickly you are. Being HIV positive (or reactive is how they put it) would require certain lifestyle changes, but in no way should it prevent you from enjoying a quality life.

The counselor left to arrange our blood test and one-on-one counseling. There was an awkward silence between me and the other guy so I asked him how worried he was. It turned out I opened a floodgate: he told me his story and his symptoms all under three minutes. I began to worry for him, too. It sounded like he’d be lucky if he didn’t turn out reactive.

The one-on-one session allows you to tell all. It’s like a confessional, albeit you reveal every juicy detail about your sex life. In my case, he confirmed that I truly was a low risk, but that unfortunately, I was still at risk. The counselor also helps plan for either reactive/non-reactive scenario by asking for my thoughts on both. If I were negative, I told him, I’m avoiding any sexual contact nevertheless. The counselor appealed in behalf of my libido: “You don’t have to swear it off completely,” he said. But the months-long stress I had been through wasn’t worth it. (It’s not just the HIV—one can get sexually transmitted diseases even through oral sex, no matter if you’re the giver or recipient.)

The result is known in two hours, which I imagined would be a hellish eternity. There’s a living room setup for those who prefer to wait in the clinic rather than leave and return for the result. I plopped myself on the sofa. On TV was The Time Traveler’s Wife, where Eric Bana kept leaping onscreen shirtless, his rippled body mocking the celibacy promise I made to myself minutes earlier.

People came in steadily, a mix of men and women. Some were hot. Others were extremely hot. A couple of days before, I read a report which said that new cases were up 500 that month.

My two hours, as it turned out, went by quickly—I’ve never been as comfortable in a clinic as in LoveYourself, and I’ve been to a few good hospitals. And it’s all free. It was literally a haven, especially for such an anxiety-ridden person like I was at the time.

When I was handed my envelope in a private room and saw my result, I said a prayer of thanks and ate my first proper meal in days. I cannot thank the founder/s and staff of LoveYourself enough.

LoveYourself has three testing locations. The one in Shaw Blvd is located at Anglo Building, near the Shaw flyover. 

For more details, visit www.loveyourself.ph

What I’m watching: Terrace House

terrace-house

I got a little bored with Netflix after having seen The Crown (a show which I loved, by the way) and nothing else interested me (as in pinatulan ko na yung Trollhunters lol, though maganda naman and nadala ng pangalan ni Guillermo del Toro) so I was contemplating on ending my subscription when the latest season of Terrace House, the one set in Hawaii, showed up under new arrivals. Terrace House is sort of an international sleeper hit and I only learned about it from the cool kids I follow on Twitter, and later, in articles on The Verge and Wired. Anyway, Terrace House is a Japanese reality TV show, which is sort of like Big Brother in that the cast lives in one house and is followed by cameras everywhere, but the huge difference is that everyone is free to live their lives in the outside world (i.e., they still go to school, hold down jobs, go on mini breaks). They are also free to leave the show for good any time they want, in which case, someone replaces them in the house immediately.

In each episode, in between the “story” arcs (in quotes because the show stresses that it is unscripted), a group of titos and titas provide comic relief with their commentaries as titos and titas do in real life, but their collective wisdom is also highlighted as they provide insight down to the nonverbal cues of the housemates.

terrace-house-2

The titos and titas, plus a token teenager. That guy in the glasses is soo funny.

The show almost serves as a dating show in that the cast members are all straight, mostly single, no more than a decade in age apart, and are almost always equally divided between girls and boys. There’s a missed opportunity to tackle more controversial subjects outside your usual boy-girl problems, but I suppose that’s where the appeal is: it’s almost like a palate cleanser to all the reality shows we’ve been consuming in the last decade when there is hardly any drama or shockers or sexual content in it. Even the latter is treated in a matter-of-fact way, such that it’s no big deal when someone outside the show asks her younger sister, who is part of the cast, if she’s done it with her new boyfriend. (And the answer is yes, and older sister barely batted an eyelash.) But things did get exciting in the Terrace Houses’ first Netflix season (Girls and Boy in the City) and some topics remain up to debate for me. (Like, I still have a problem with the Meat Crime incident—I’m absolutely with Uchi on that one.) So far, there are no such crises in Aloha State (I’m done watching all eight episodes and now just waiting for the second batch), but the people are beautiful to watch, especially Lauren, and the vibe is just as laid back as the Hawaiian coastline.

January stats

For January, I had a total of two Starbucks drinks. I took seven Uber rides, all of which were necessary (I could have resorted to a regular taxi but why). I read zero books—I bought a collection of short stories in late December and I’ve only managed to read one story so far.

Fucks I gave the Miss Universe competition: 26 tweets. Number of times I lamented the speaking skills of our candidate to friends: too many to count.

I went to the gym 13 times equivalent to 13 hours of intensive exercise. I drank 20lbs of mass gainer, but only gained 1 or 2lbs. I don’t know where it went. I’ve budgeted and tracked my money down to the last peso. I spent P8,514 on food alone and the priciest restaurants I went to were Pancake House and Songkran. I was able to save P1,600 from my allowance, the money I budget for my personal expenses, which include entertainment. I only went to the mall twice: the first to see Sunday Beauty Queen with my mother and the second to buy a light bulb. I didn’t buy any material stuff for myself.

I attended a floral watercolor workshop, but produced no floral painting so far. I was able to complete a portrait of Emma Stone, but one of Amy Adams is still in progress. I didn’t see any friends outside of work. I went out of town a total of three times, but only saw my parents at their home once.

Journal entries written: zero. Instagram selfies: zero. Camera phone selfies: 64 (lol). Boyfriend: one. 🙂

Film review: Die Beautiful

Die Beautiful is one of the most original films to have come out recently, which seems ironic at first considering the following storyline: Patrick (Paolo Ballesteros) grows up as a young boy who is a fan of beauty pageants. He clashes with his father (Joel Torre), who does not agree with his identity and who later evicts him out of the house. Patrick then becomes Trisha Echevarria, and along with BFF Barbs (Christian Bables), she makes a living as a beauty pageant contestant. Hardly anything new as far as LGBTs’ lives are concerned.

die-beautifulBut the film goes way beyond those bullet points: there may be a common story among LGBTs, a template of pain and suffering, if you will, but it’s the details that need to be told. Director Jun Lana and screenwriter Rody Vera flesh them out tenderly, not only in flashbacks, but also in a non-linear way; after all, layers aren’t always peeled in the correct order. As the film remained deftly edited—not once did I get lost in the plot despite the alternating timelines—I thought it was a well-maneuvered approach to the typical coming-of-age story.

It is after all, Trisha’s coming-of-age story. I normally dislike the phrase, thinking it’s a cop out for teenage movies which gratuitously feature sex and drugs, but in Die Beautiful, Paolo’s Trisha is treated with such respect that despite the ugliest scenario, she remains… well, beautiful. If there were anything gratuitous in the film, they were the “beaucon” jokes and I hope they’re not what the viewer came to see the movie for. That’s why it’s interesting how Lana takes the unsuspecting viewer for a ride: the beaucons and Paolo’s makeup transformations are nothing compared to what awaits the audience, a semi-Stockholm syndrome which Lana never quite resolves (intendedly), leaving us to wonder whether she should have indeed walked out of or stayed for true love. And isn’t that a beautiful metaphor for LGBT rights in the country?

Film rating: 4.5/5

Film review: Vince and Kath and James

I’m more than a decade past the market of Vince and Kath and James; watching this almost seemed like a social science experiment, when you had to do something out of your comfort zone. And so I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed this movie. There are ridiculously syrupy lines—there were times I pulled my hair and screamed internally—and I barely survived the ending, but in total, it’s a story which serves some pretty good lessons for tweens, especially for girls.

vince-and-kath-and-james

I absolutely loved the feminist angle given to Kath (Julia Barretto): her feminism isn’t angry or loud or in your face, but rather, she just is. Kath unapologetically joins a beauty pageant for money and at home, tinkers around the house as the handyman. An engineering student, she, along with the other female students, are relegated to admin work at their internship, but she later volunteers to do heavy labor because the desk job bored her out of her wits. She calls out Vince for body shaming her when he remarked about her weight. And although her fat cheeks remained the butt of Vince’s (Joshua Garcia) joke throughout the movie, by then you know it comes from a place of love, not bullying, unlike earlier in the story.

But I thought it was Joshua who truly shined in the role—he reminds me of a young Aga Muhlach (Mitzi offered John Lloyd Cruz instead)—and there’s a confidence in him, whether he’s in full-on pranskter-heartthrob role or being dramatic; he did have the meatiest role, thanks to a backstory involving her mother, played earnestly by Ina Raymundo. I think he’s someone to watch out for.

I have a couple of minor problems with the plot, but since they are spoilers, I would be happy to discuss them in the comments instead, if you like. But overall, the storytelling remained tight and very engaging; the character and story arcs give depth without losing focus of the heart of this film. Congratulations to the writers Daisy Cayanan, Kim Noromor and Anjanette Haw.

Film rating: 4.5/5

My notes on Saving Sally

saving-sally

  • I’m hard-pressed to name a local mainstream actor who could pull off a role in English. It’s not the English per se (accent or pronunciation), but the dialogue delivery of a native speaker. (Think Lea Salonga: perfect English, but the delivery seems too polished.) Contrary to what I’ve read somewhere, I think Rhian Ramos is actually a brilliant actress in a Tagalog-speaking role; in English, though, I felt that she suffered the Lea Salonga problem. Hirap ako i-pinpoint yung issue ko sa kanya, actually. But I thought she was charming and definitely someone guys would fall head over heels in love for.
  • Enzo Marcos (Marty), in all aspects, is perfect.
  • TJ Trinidad (Nick) was also perfect for the role.
  • By the way, why is this an English movie? ‘La naman kaso, curious lang ako.
  • Production value is outstanding—the film can stand alongside international films. I hope this opens the door to more Filipino animated films; it’s about time we provide Filipino graphic artists their own platform here in the country. It’s beautiful to see Pinoy pop culture and our urban landscape depicted like so on the big screen.
  • I wished they pushed the writing further. As I told my friend PJ, steady lang sya. Yung emotional range didn’t change much—it didn’t bring me to the highs or lows. But there were so, so many opportunities when they could have gone darker and therefore, more interesting, e .g. yung semi-animated scene between Sally and Nick; yung clinic scene—I thought something sinister was going to happen; a grittier backstory behind Sally and her family—BUT I think I can understand their case against doing so. GV lang talaga yung movie, kung baga.
  • Again, re: pushing the writing further, napa-facepalm ako sa ending. Ayun na eh.

too-close

  • Brilliant heartbreak scene (this is not a spoiler, right?)—ganda nung transition nung wall art into a shroud of Sally posters, tapos yung drowning sequence—galing ng concept, art, and execution! Ramdam ko eh.
  • Kuya Bodjie is ❤

My rating: 4/5 for the playfulness, aesthetics, and technical merits

Film review: Ang Babae sa Septic Tank 2: #ForeverisNotEnough

My review for the first Ang Babae sa Septic Tank (first published in my blog, and later, in PDI) couldn’t be more glowing—I found it way too short. For this sequel, I found myself looking at my watch and preparing to sleep, except the old dude behind me had beaten me to it and started snoring.

ang-babae-sa-septic-tank-2

Photo: Quantum Films

Eugene, who plays herself with what we assume are artistic exaggerations, had barely enough screen time to satiate our appetite for her perfect comic timing and wit.

This time, it was all Eugene. Unfortunately, the screenplay left her with nothing to do except rattle off formulaic suggestions to what was supposed to be a “serious” romantic film penned and to be directed by Ranier (Kean Cipriano). Thus, one-third of the film is devoted to torturing the audience with local romantic comedy banalities that the filmmakers are supposedly railing against.

And this was so boring. Whereas the first movie commented on the state of indie filmmaking and the inclination to exploit the poor (poverty porn), romcoms are hardly anything to be angry about especially compared to the larger issues in the country today.

This self-mockery is what makes “Ang Babae” both comical and enlightening: where does one draw the line between exposing and exploiting the truth? How do you present this truth in an honest way? And why not a musical?

And maybe, because there’s ultimately nothing to rage about romcoms (walang panghuhugutan), there wasn’t enough motivation to seek this truth. (Translation: 1.5 hours would be too long to make a competent commentary on local romcoms and writer Chris Martinez knew that.) It was only during the last 20 minutes of the film when Eugene, in a stunning turn of serious acting (because prior to this scene, all she had been doing were sketches), and Kean began to engage in a debate about this “truth” that my brain kicked into first gear and started thinking, but their conversation lasted only for 5 minutes and that was that.

Without leaving a spoiler, I loved the cameos toward the end; I thought how self-assured of them to take on their roles.

My rating: skip this in the MMFF lineup. After this and the Kimmy Dora sequels, Chris has Here Comes the Bride left to botch. I hope he leaves it as it is.