Mabining Mandirigma holds up a mirror to present politics


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.


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.

Apparently, we have entered the age of loneliness

Corollary to my post yesterday, I do feel that my being online the whole time contributes a whole lot to what I’m feeling as of late. I think being on social media in these times has a way of compounding a lot of the noise and the vitriol, and it doesn’t necessarily make us more social, but resentful and vindictive.

The following article doesn’t necessarily point to my feelings above–it talks more about competition and individualism–but it has a bit about how television in fact aggravates feelings of loneliness (though more because of unrealistic aspirations set by media), but I think there’s a parallelism to be drawn for the Internet bubble I was talking about.

Yes, factories have closed, people travel by car instead of buses, use YouTube rather than the cinema. But these shifts alone fail to explain the speed of our social collapse. These structural changes have been accompanied by a life-denying ideology, which enforces and celebrates our social isolation. The war of every man against every man – competition and individualism, in other words – is the religion of our time, justified by a mythology of lone rangers, sole traders, self-starters, self-made men and women, going it alone. For the most social of creatures, who cannot prosper without love, there is no such thing as society, only heroic individualism. What counts is to win. The rest is collateral damage.

The age of loneliness is killing us

* * * *

Before publishing this entry, I saw that the quoted article links to another one which focuses on how the Internet contributes to loneliness, but again, the conclusion is more about how one compares oneself to an online brand or personality, whose glossy version of themselves may not necessarily reflect real life.

I’m on retreat from Facebook

I’ve finally deactivated my Facebook. It was a decision I’ve been trying to make for several months because I sometimes use it for work and that’s how I receive the latest news from businesses I patronize. But earlier I realized I’ve had enough–that the benefit of not having Facebook exceeds that of having one.

I think I’ll retreat in a bubble, one that’s removed from the online, much larger world (and yes, I had to stop for a few seconds as I realize the irony of typing those words in this blog). I’ll focus on my work and my personal interactions, on what I see, on me.

It’s not only the severely flawed logic, false information, and post-truths that are killing me–it’s also the apathy. That’s a realization I had on Friday, when I had to go to the Marcos burial protest in Ayala Triangle Gardens alone. I had no friends or colleagues to go with. None. At the rally, the huge crowd watching the Christmas lights show couldn’t be bothered to stop and join us. During breaks, they’d look at our group from afar, taking photos for Instagram, maybe. Even cars couldn’t be bothered to honk for us, as if lifting, sliding those hands from the steering wheel to the center was such a huge effort, or with the new world order, an affront to their principles. I looked at all the buildings surrounding Makati CBD: here is a rally right in front of your doorstep and no one could be bothered. When Miss Universe paraded down Ayala Avenue, people lined the streets; that Friday night, we were a handful. We weren’t just a minority; we were misfits.

I cannot fight for those who do not wish any change. I’ll let things be.

Review: Bridget Jones’s Baby

It feels good to welcome back Bridget Jones—anyone who grew up reading the book and watching the first film will surely be pleased by the third installment and how well the beloved character is treated.

It doesn’t quite hit the highs of Bridget Jones’s Diary—everything was just right about that first movie—but what Bridget Jones’s Baby offers is a consistently funny, albeit mellow, journey for Bridget.



If you think about it, Bridget Jones is now 43, so gone are the hilariously stupid mistakes that made Diary a gem, such as the book launch speech, with the amazing cameo by Salman Rushdie; or emotionally gripping arcs, such as Daniel Cleaver’s infidelity toilet scene. Bridget is now a respected news producer and she won’t take crap from any one—any man—just like that. So the writers Helen Fielding, Dan Mazer, and Emma Thompson are left with just a small opening for the film’s signature British slapstick humor, and in Baby, that gap comes in the form of the generation divide.

But even millennial jokes are hardly exploited here; their presumed takeover in the workplace barely registered as a threat. Maybe the film’s problem is that it’s become too respectful, too politically correct, that when Bridget’s weight suddenly bubbled up as the joke in a particular scene, I could only embrace it—and so did the audience; the theater roared with laughter.

The writers seemed to have only scratched the surface, careful not to provoke or fall back into stereotypes, effectively shielding Bridget from feminist criticism. She doesn’t go the far end of feminism either—there are no politics here. The slapstick comedy largely falls into the hands of her new friend and colleague, the hilarious Miranda (Sarah Solemani). Bridget’s three original friends only make cameo appearances, and even that shift, the sadness in how the dynamics in that friendship has changed, is barely given attention.

Bridget Jones is, after all, also about the guys. Patrick Dempsey’s character is written like a Prince Charming caricature; he could have been annoying, but the handsome devil gets away with it—the sighs I kept hearing from the audience mean he sure is charming. Colin Firth has gotten his Mark Darcy down pat and here, he cranks up the cranky tito factor even more.

It’s Emma Thompson as Dr. Rawling, who almost steals the show. She has little screen time, but she relishes each second, releasing zingers and just the slightest indignance with her arched eyebrows and pursed lips.

Renee Zellweger is criticized as being dead in the eyes by The Hollywood Reporter; I get that, but again, I look at this whole film as an affectionate nod to a mellower, grown-up—but not dark—Bridget1.


Bridget Jones’s Baby opens in Manila on September 14.

  1. I’m glad she hasn’t ended up a widower in this universe as in the second book.