Sunday, December 08, 2013

Hail to the Redskins! Maybe Next Year...

The Redskins, plagued by a flurry of controversies, injuries and sheer bad luck, is now officially out of the playoff race with a 3-10 win-loss record as of this writing. They will be playing their last three games of 2013-14 season against the Falcons, Cowboys, and Giants. I was privileged to be able to watch football at the Fedex Field for the first time today, as they lost to the Kansas City Chiefs, 45-10. Here's a tribute photo for the Redskins' sub-par season. Better luck next year, Skins!

Back to the Playbook
December 8, 2013, FedEx Field, Landover, MD
Taken using Nikon D3100; Edited using GIMP

Monday, November 25, 2013

Five Points I Learned from Haiyan

Almost a month after the strong typhoon Haiyan hit Central Philippines, a lot of key lessons have unraveled as the country faces the challenges of relief and rebuilding, and for some government officials, revival of their tarnished image. From the Facebook and Twitter exchanges, local and international news reports and observations, I will list down below what I think are five things we Filipinos learned about the Haiyan experience: 

5. Climate Change is NOW - This could be a convolution of several factors, but scientists have confirmed that human actions contribute a lot to changing climate. Pretty soon we will see snow in Philippines or dryer summers if we don't give our fair share of helping the environment cool down. Though it is not very obvious considering we know what is happening within our country, we are not a very big contributor to atmosphere's heat-up. Big countries like China, the US, and Russia should help us by helping themselves reduce carbon footprint and other factors contributing to Earth's "perspiration." We are strategically locationed for disaster as the world heats up. We'll see stronger storms if they or we don't act now. 

4. Social media is an effective unifier and, sadly, divider. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram... Thank them for mobilizing the people to quickly respond to calls for rescue, relief and rehabilitation. Big thanks to those widely used hashtags like #yolandaph and #bangonph. They surely helped keep us informed and vigilant. At the same time, social media helped polarize the populace both by call for crticism and support for the current administration. Thanks to the apparent delay in response from both local and national government units, Filipinos in the social-mediaverse have put in writing their frustrations, angst, calls for more help, dismay. People who called for sobriety called the critics "haters," while those "haters" called back at their critics as "blind followers." And of course, our dear "Ambassador" CNN correspondent Anderson Cooper was caught in the crossfire. At the end of word-slinging, there is still these millions of Filipinos not having enough food to eat, less medical supplies and no place to stay. My side in this polarized conversations? I'd still say, let's reserve our criticisms and battle axes for tomorrow, as there is much work to be done to bring Visayas back on their feet. 

3. Power of the media. As expected, the strongest recorded typhoon in history brought about the best and the brightest in the field of journalism. CNN's Anderson Cooper landed in Tacloban much faster than any efforts for rehabilitation and relief arrive Tacloban City. How did he do it? Definitely not how we expected the relief and rescue efforts should have mobilized. But to be fair with our national government, we have to admit that it is in the nature of journalists to be in the middlle of the most burning news, so they will try their best, even in the most difficult, shady way, to be ion the middle of the news as they happen. It's their job. The government's job is to react quickly to disaster, but at the same time, perform a balancing act on who goes where and how. Sadly, it was what Cooper and other journalists saw. That's is precisely what they will report on. I can't blame them for putting a bad reputation to the local and national government. that is just what they saw. That was what they witnessed. And special thanks to Korina Sanchez's word wars with Anderson Cooper, it just painted a more grim picture of the Presidency and its people's lackluster performance.  

2. We desperately need a strategic, well-thought of crisis management plan. I was expecting that Ondoy was a wake-up call for the government to be more proactive in disaster and crisis management. Sadly, we never learn from these tragedies. After Ondoy, came Pablo, Habagat (not a storm but it brought rains and floods), and now Yolanda. When will we wake up?? I think we're still in denial that we are indeed in the forefront of the changing climate. It's time that our Executive and Legislative branches to sit together and agree for a comprehensive disaster and crisis management plan. Since we won't see a resolution for a total elimination of the pork barrel, or PDAF, Congress and the Senate should allot at least half of their funds to buy their districts the needed boats, whistles, flashlights, etc. that could help their people in case another Yolanda strikes. And please, if you want to build basketball courts, make it a good one so people if may evacuate to these places necessary. 

1. We are loved. The outflowing of support for the Philippines is overwhelming. The world conspired to bring us back on our feet. Governments, private institutions, NGOs, even athletes and artists have all pledged and given their time, money and well wishes for the Philippines. It's been a month now and I could still hear over local radio in DC and Virginia calls for help and donations. Everytime I hear the stories of help and support, I can't help but drop a tear of joy. We are loved, Pilipinas. It's time we start loving one another and ourselves. 

Bangon Pilipinas. Kaya Natin 'To. 

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Terrible Two

This is definitely not a good year for my home country, the Philippines. First there was the 7.2 magnitude earthquake in Central Visayas, Bohol and Cebu that struck in the morning of October 15th; then there is this gargantuan category 5 hurricane Haiyan, a.k.a. Yolanda.

There have been a lot of write-ups about these already so all i can say about this for now is I pray that my kababayans back home will surpass these tragedies. You are all in my prayers.

Babangon tayo, Pilipinas.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Thank you Ekstra, On the Job!

I don't normally go out to watch a movie here in the US for two reasons: 1) The Mrs. is not a big fan of watching movies, and b) Movie theater tickets here are relatively more expensive compared to the most posh cinema theater in the Philippines. I so miss Eastwood, Trinoma or Gateway's reclining seats, and great legroom. 

But just last month, I was compelled to watch two Pinoy movies: Vilma Santos' Ekstra, and Papa P's On the Job. I got interested with these two movies following a rash of positive remarks over social media. Thanks to Star Cinema and ABS-CBN, the movies had their privilege to be shown in various theaters around the US. I was lucky to be near the cinema theater where the movies were shown. 

The two movies give you a portrayal of the two faces of show business, comedy and tragedy. Although I must say both have shown those two faces at specific points of the movie. 

The first movie I watched was the Cinemalaya masterpiece Ekstra, a "tragicomedy" starring Governor Vi and directed by the critically-acclaimed Jeffrey Jeturian. Ekstra revolves around the story of Loida Malabanan (Vilma Santos), a regularly irregular ekstra, or a bit player who strives hard to make ends meet and carry on as a solo-parent to a college-student daughter. I called it a tragicomedy as the plot clearly identifies the movie as a comedy as it will definitely give you a doze of Pinoy laughter at its finest, many thanks to the Associate Director's tactless lines and Ate Vi's astounding performance (or non-performance -- she is an Ekstra!). It's also a tragedy of sorts as towards the end, when Loida was given this big break to make it big, stutters and nervousness took the best of her leaving her with... status quo. From an ekstra, to an ekstra. I so loved how this movie took us to the other side of the movie/tv set: the side that no viewer sees, with people that no viewers remember, or even care about. One specifically striking line that Loida said to the other ekstras was "Kung walang Ekstra, walang bida. Sa tingin mo ba makatotohanan ang bukid na walang magsasaka? (There are no lead roles if there are not bit players. Can you portray a farm without farmers?)" Ekstra is some sort of a special tribute to those people. 

From that feel-good type of a movie in Ekstra, the following week I went to watch On The Job, which had an all-star roster starting from Gerald Anderson and Piolo Pascual, supported by the acting prowess of movie vets like the great Joel Torre, Michael de Mesa, Joey Marquez, Leo Martinez, among others. On the Job takes you to the country's underground organized crime system, which incidentally couples with dirty politics. "On the Job" refers to two rookies, Gerald Anderson and Piolo Pascual, in training under two professionals in two opposite ends of the crime spectrum. Gerald is being trained by professional killer Mario Maghari (Joel Torre), who are both prisoners in a city jail in Manila. On the other hand, Piolo is a freshman NBI agent married to a daughter of a prominent politician. What more can I say about this movie? Critics have praised it, while scores a whopping 100% tomatoes for this movie. It gives you a bit of a "Infernal Affairs-The Departed" feel, but its distinct Filipino flavor will make you say that it is a league of its own. My wife and I so loved this movie we couldn't stop talking about it until a day after. It became a subject of our breakfast conversation, and to some extent a topic for debate. I have nothing bad to say about how this movie was done except for the fact that Piolo was way too handsome and clean-looking for the role. But maybe you can also debate that it was intended to be that way as he portrays a "clean" NBI agent only to be tainted by his beloved Father-in-law. 

These two movies just made me realize that the new breed of filmmakers, directors, writers, cinematographers and producers are now ready to take the risk to make more seriously thought of movie plots outside the usual risk-free teeny-bopper or Mano Po/ Enteng Kabisote/ Panday/ Shake Rattle and Roll sequel. We are now on the crossroads of going back to professional filmmaking. Looks like we'll be seeing new Brockas, Bernals, Diaz-Abayas, or Lamangans in the coming years. 

I specifically thank the Filipino independent film industry for reintroducing these new breed of films and filmmakers. Ekstra is an independent movie and On the Job is commercial, but I am sure the latter was much influenced by the craft created by these new independent filmmakers. With that, I salute and thank you. 

I was so proud of these two movies and I hope to see more of this calibre of filmmaking in the near future. 

Mabuhay ang Pelikulang Pilipino! 

Saturday, March 30, 2013