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.

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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.

My 2017 resolutions

First, a look back on last year’s.

Keep calm and watercolor: Failed. I actually started getting more commissions this year, but the more I got one, the more I became saddled with insecurity and anxiety. So at some point, I stopped painting completely. Then, I started to get into CrossFit, which solidified my excuse because now, I simply don’t have enough time.

There’s clearly something wrong with me.

Meditate: So-so. I’m not able to do it daily, but I would say, at least once or twice a week. It helps me fall asleep.

Stay fit: Passed, albeit with new a development in my health. More below.

Take more selfies: So-so. My Instagram feed is a healthy mix of food, selfies, watercolor, and places. There are times when I still get so self-conscious about posting my selfie, so I think there’s a lot more I can improve on with this one.

Entirely liquid emergency fund: Failed. I didn’t see a lot of improvement from 2015 and with the low-record stock market that we have, even my investments have taken a hit. So I’m hoping to bounce back in 2017.

 

Now, for my resolutions next year:img_5563A month ago, I’ve taken to documenting all my cash inflow and outflow to the point that I count the coins in my wallet. I was aghast to learn how much of my budget goes to a) food, and b) Uber and Starbucks. They were such a waste when I could have commuted or brewed my own coffee. I’m willing to make an exception especially for Uber, for safety and utmost convenience’s stake, but otherwise, I’ll use public transportation. (I only drive on weekends.) I am definitely avoiding Starbucks or any other coffee chain, unless it’s for socializing, i.e., meeting up friends.img_5564In August, I was diagnosed with hypertension, which was such a huge personal blow that I got a little depressed for over a month. While all medical tests cleared me of heart problems—it’s likely due to genes and diet—I now have maintenance drugs. I know I’m getting old each year, but there’s nothing like having maintenance meds to drill the point. (Also, my cardiologist addresses me with “po.”)

Since the diagnosis, I’ve drank a serving a Coke less than 10 times; I’ve eaten popcorn once; and I’ve never eaten chips. For the first month, I limited my rice intake and ate mostly fish and veggies, but then I lost more than 10lbs (even without exercise), which alarmed me, so I have been a lot more indulgent since. I’ve enrolled in CrossFit for the last three months—never missed my 3x a week classes, even when I was in Boracay (there’s a box there by the beach)—and I have gained back those 10lbs (I’m about 15lbs underweight.) So aside from eating healthy, I hope to become fitter so that I may at least finish in the middle of my CrossFit class after every workout. (I’m almost always last/second to the last.)img_5565I’m not proud of how I wasn’t able to read books this year. I now struggle with reading: I find myself repeating sentences over and over again, and my attention span is worse than before.

This will be a difficult resolution to keep—with CrossFit, I simply don’t have enough time to read. Even without my other extra-curricular activity, such as watercolor, I’m struggling to have 8 hours of sleep during the weekday. So, to gain that time, I must…img_5566I’ve remained off Facebook since my post about it. My account is still active because I sometimes need it for work and, as I immediately discovered, for Tinder, but otherwise, I haven’t read my timeline or posted on it.

The disadvantage though is I’ve been remiss in my fraternal duties. For example, I belatedly learned that an acquaintance’s dad had passed away and that a dear friend’s dad had to be confined in the hospital. (On a more superficial level, I’ve missed out on shopping deals, too.) I’ve simply been out of the loop, which goes to show how we’ve all been so dependent on Facebook.img_5567Once in a while, I look back at my old blog entries and realize I enjoy the process a lot. (Note that I enjoy the process, not necessarily the writings because those could be painful to read.) If I continue this path of neglecting my blog, then there will be years when I’d be left with nothing to look back on, i.e., 2015-2016.

I started bringing my digital camera along with me again. The photo quality is way better than my iPhone, especially for group and wide shots. So maybe, this resolution is not necessarily restricted to blogging but to documenting my life in general.

(Not so blind) Date: ‘He wanted to check if I was sweaty’

What were you hoping for?
That we’d click as we did online; that we’ll be more engaged in conversation than we do online

First impressions?
He’s got charming dance moves.

What did you talk about?
A lot—it was about five hours of talking about politics, national heroes, theater, our respective careers, and family life

Any awkward moments?
Between us, no, but we had a good laugh about the scary-funny Uber driver who was supposed to drive me home but was not only literally all over the map but seemed spaced out (so I cancelled).

Good table manners?
Impeccable and refined

Best thing about him?
He offered to walk with me for 3kms and tour me around places I’ve never been to before

Would you introduce him to your friends?
Yes, I think they’ll like him very much.

Describe him in three words.
Smart, cute and likes long walks

What do you think he made of you?
A recluse who likes short walks

Did you go on somewhere?
Yes, we made three stops in total—four, if I include our meeting place

And… did you kiss?
The best I got was a pat on the back and only because he wanted to check if I was sweaty

If you could change one thing about the evening, what would it be?
I wouldn’t have worn leather shoes.

Marks out of 10?
9

Would you meet again?
Yes

Mabining Mandirigma holds up a mirror to present politics

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I went to see Mabining Mandirigma by Tanghalang Pilipino on Sunday at The Little Theater in CCP having already figured out my review in my head: it’s a retelling of our problems as a nation during post-colonial Spain, problems which have endured for more than a century to exist as the same problems we have today. True enough, the musical did take me on a roller coaster ride of emotions—mainly frustration—because as with Noli and El Fili, the Rosales Saga, and even Heneral Luna the film, selfishness, greed, and impunity have all been deeply embedded in our government leaders’ DNA.

Mabining Mandirigma is about the life of Apolinario Mabini, particularly his role in the uprising against the Americans after we gained “independence” from Spain. (In quotes because the Philippines was sold by Spain to the US in the Treaty of Paris.)

I know little about Mabini prior to seeing the musical, and I can’t say I know more about him after. As the chief adviser to the revolutionary council, and later to Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo, the turning point of the plot was the choice to accept a P50-million loan from a group of illustrados to fund the cash-strapped Filipino government and the war against the Americans. Mabini says no, because the loan effectively places the Philippines under the hands of the elite—if it were him, he would have provided the funds for free; Aguinaldo says rejecting the offer might send the illustrados away and support the Americans instead.

It was a no-win situation.

Aguinaldo accepts the loan and the elites grow in power; they effectively have Aguinaldo by his collar. Mabini resents the elites—portrayed garishly and grotesquely by the production itself (“Oooh, is this a pro-Duterte play?” I asked myself)—and eventually quits Aguinaldo’s cabinet, after 1) Aguinaldo coddles his fellow Caviteño, Pedro Janolino, who refused to aid Gen. Antonio Luna in the Battle of Caloocan; and later, 2) Aguinaldo acquiesces to the demands of the elites who, after all, have contributed to his war kitty. (“Ay, shades of Duterte.”). Despite that, Mabini and Aguinaldo remain friends, until the former learns that Aguinaldo had Luna assassinated. (“Ay, extra-judicial killing.”)

Mabini was eventually arrested by the Americans and having refused to pledge allegiance to their flag, he was exiled in Guam. He later gave up American resistance and was welcomed back in the Philippines. It was at this point that I felt dejected even if the musical tried its best to salvage his legacy. 1

That is until the lights dimmed and the cast came out one by one in their black t-shirts and each actor started speaking out against the Marcos burial and extra judicial killings in the country. I thought it was a brilliant call to action. For those first two hours, I had been examining Mabini’s life from a distance and got very judgmental in the process, then suddenly, in the epilogue, the spotlight was on us: the same problems from a century ago still exist today: what are you doing about it?

 

Mabining Mandirigma has an 8 p.m. show on December 16; 3 p.m. and 8 p.m. shows on December 17; and a 3 p.m. show on December 18 at the CCP.


  1. Until now, I remain unconvinced about his legacy, so I did a quick research (for now). Ambeth Ocampo in this column, writes about how Mabini is reduced to the titles “Sublime Paralytic” and “Brains of the Revolution,” then proceeds with nary an argument about the weight of Mabini’s contribution to Philippine history. 

Blind Date: ‘He seemed zealous about guarding his entrée’

I live for The Guardian’s Blind Date column, especially if they are featuring two guys and/or a couple most likely to date again. Of course, it’s not all peachy: there are the heartbreakers, when one person would answer that they’d like to meet up again, but the other says maybe not. Comments are not allowed—these features are likely to attract trolls—but one time, the site failed to close the comments section, and people WERE ALL OVER IT and in a good way. Like they were virtual cheerleaders and wished the couple all the best. The next day, the comments were gone again. (See, I’m an avid reader.)

Below is a pretty good match-up: David is obviously interested, but a little insecure. But then, Marco, as it turned out, is also interested. So yaaaay! Somewhere, a unicorn grew a rainbow tail.

One thing I’ve noticed in their answers, and I don’t know if this is a British thing, is that offering to share your food is marked as a good table manner. I generally do not offer my plate unless the dish is meant for sharing—for one, I consider using my utensils on someone else’s plate (that or taking a sip in someone else’s glass) as unhygienic, and therefore, bad table manners. I don’t mind if it’s the other way around though (their spoon on my food), but just to avoid any awkwardness, I don’t offer (and rarely accept) single-serving dishes to taste.

I haven’t been nervous about a date since two years ago. It was with a guy whom I’ve had the longest crush on. Like, imagine your dream guy asking you out on a date—that’s the guy. When I got his invite, I was a huge mess—my hands were literally trembling—and it was a minor miracle that I managed to go out and see him after all. Anyway, after the date, I kept receiving mixed signals from him, and having read He’s Just Not That Into You, I had a feeling I had been “friendzoned” for good. (My rule has always been: if a guy likes you, you’ll know a guy likes you; there is zero room for ambiguity.) A year later (he works overseas), he invited me out again, and yes, I was once again a nervous wreck. This time, however, there were no mixed signals: it was pretty clear we were just friends.

Some unicorns don’t get their rainbow tail.

So maybe that’s the appeal of this Blind Date column for me. (Wow, ang layo ng segue, hahaha!) I have yet to be convinced about the soundness of not seeing a photo of your date before a meet up, but maybe we should be nervous-excited about dates once in a while.

 

I will have what Phil’s having

I chanced upon this show while I was channel surfing. First impressions were: a) who is this? and b) no, not another food show. As it turned out, he’s Phil Rosenthal, creator of Everybody Loves Raymond; and no, it’s not another food show: five minutes in, I was smiling and completely charmed by his self-deprecating humor and his (sarcastic) lack of affection for his kids. (“I love demons, they remind me of my kids.” “I have three pictures of my children [in my phone] and 50,000 photos of what I ate.”)

The opening montage quickly explains how he went from growing up knowing nothing about food to how Everybody gave him the opportunity to travel and learn about different cuisines from around the world. Hence, the title of the show: I’ll Have What Phil’s Having, indicating how his background and taste are a lot more accessible to you and me. Sure, he’s traveling around the world, but the locations so far have been very mainstream: Tokyo, Hong Kong, Italy, Paris, Barcelona, and Los Angeles.

Ok, perhaps, he can’t get more relatable than this: he’s the only food host I’ve seen take pictures of his plate. So food-porn fanatics should feel no shame.

I got to see the Tokyo episode which, as it turned out, is the first of the six-part series. It was breathtaking to watch, particularly his experience at the Narisawa restaurant that boasts The Most Beautiful Meal in the World™ (at least, that’s what I’ll caption my Instagram post when I get to eat here), which looks like this:

It could have been ludicrous, really—the wood tablet came with wireless speakers that was livestreaming the sounds of a forest in Japan—but the theatricality and grandeur of the plating and the entire experience were simply too majestic for Phil, or me, as an outside viewer, to ridicule. The visuals and sound were that great.

Aside from featuring food, each episode also films him in a Skype conversation with his parents as he updates them on what he’s been up to in the city; and his parents are just as hilarious in the most endearing way possible.

DO WATCH THIS SHOW!

After having learned how bad I am at running (I question my life at 400m and am pretty much wiped out at 800m), I learned I am now one to start liking marathon photos.

I will miss Looking

I wished Looking had stretched into many more seasons. Until it got the ax, I felt it was the only gay-themed series that intelligently and realistically portrayed what’s it like to be gay AND an adult. (No, Ru Paul’s Drag Race does not count 😄). These guys didn’t necessarily have enviable lifestyles or well-cut abs, and the navel gazing could be annoying sometimes, but again, it’s a good representation of real life and its struggles.

I never fully got into Queer as Folk; I’m not sure about the succeeding episodes, but the first few centered around the hedonistic lifestyle of this super rich protagonist who basically gets away with being a douchebag. I think the appeal for me then was that it was the only gay-themed TV series I know of—plus, the sex scenes were nothing like I’ve seen on TV before—but eventually, I grew tired of the characters as one would tire of Grindr profiles and their sex invites.

Looking the movie isn’t as heart-wrenchingly good as I hoped or expected: it felt like an abrupt season-ender.

I know that it’s not supposed to stand on its own merit—one needs to appreciate the movie as part of the collective Looking experience—but I felt that it required another entire season to resolve the traumas of the previous, and still existing, conflicts. The movie had the awkwardness of a reunion episode wherein previous characters are introduced, literally, one by one; like it was Sesame Street and problems get solved from one neighbor to the next. Despite the validity of the characters’ gathering, it all felt too staged and it might as well have been an hours-long dream sequence for Patrick (Jonathan Groff). (In case Looking returns, can we pretend that the movie was all but a dream?)

Without sounding ungrateful (though I’m afraid I already have), Looking did end on a sweet note. I’m happy for all the characters (and Brady, LOL). Thanks, Looking, for that extremely satisfying ride.

Mindfulness in the time of conflict

After a friend’s clinical diagnosis, I’ve never used the word lightly, but since Friday, I can say that I’ve been feeling depressed about current events. Having cut myself off Facebook and local news may have been a step in the right direction, according to this article, A Buddhist monk explains mindfulness for times of conflict, on Vox.

“Take care of those emotions first; it’s the priority. Because anything that comes from a place of fear and anxiety and anger will only make the fire worse. Come back and find a place of calm and peace to cool the flame of emotion down.”

Other choice quotes:

  • Engage in protest, but not from a place of anger. You need to express your opinion, and you need to go out there and say this is wrong. But don’t do it by saying hateful things.
  • Compassion is not sitting in your room; it’s actually very active and engaging.
  • Go take refuge in nature, and find a cause where your heart doesn’t feel inactive and in despair. This is the medicine. We go out and we help.
  • Community practice is crucial at this time. It’s crucial not to be alone in front of the computer, reading media. That makes the world dark for you. Find flesh. There are still wonderful things happening.

I don’t necessarily agree 100-percent. I certainly cannot just bite my tongue or “find the good qualities” of a racist person (and maybe I’ll never find the clarity in that), but it’s a good, if not important, read.