What I’m watching: Terrace House

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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.

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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 which almost always contain drama or shockers or sexual content in them. The topic of sex in Terrace House (either in Aloha State or in its first Netflix season, Boys and Girls in the City or BGC) 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 do get exciting in Terrace House (particularly in BGC) 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.

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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

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  • 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.

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  • 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.

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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.