Saturday, December 29, 2012

57 Hours Before 2013

 Full moon, Dec 28, 2012.

Last night, we were told via Facebook that the research presentation originally scheduled for January 4 has been moved to a later date, owing to a unanimous decision by the group leaders and the activity head. Wow. Just wow. See, this is the kind of disrespect the College of Medicine showers upon its students who come from provinces that require a 10-hour bus ride or a plane ride to get to. Behold, even the best medical school in the country can have f*cked up principles.

I had a mini-French film festival yesterday, with "The Intouchables," France's submission to the foreign language film category of the upcoming Oscars, and "Holy Motors," which the English-language critics have showered with overflowing love. The former is a touching two-man drama involving down-on-his-luck black guy and rich tetraplegic white guy, and how they change each other's lives. The latter, about a man who works as a... performance artist (?), complete with (fake) dick exposure from Denis Lavant, is insane. Ah, you gotta love the French.

Thursday afternoon, I visited grandma. She fed me kiwi and grapes and chiffon cake and a brownie. Also, we ended up watching a TLC show where Americans attempted to make (and lo, they succeeded) a 31-patty burger oozing with commercialized cheese. And another show where they replicated life during 19th-century America. I learned how skimmed milk comes about. 

Wednesday morning, I saw "The Perks of Being a Wallflower." Allow me to shamelessly admit that I sort of welled up in the end. I think I'm gonna watch this again before Christmas break ends.

Christmas Day, we watched "Sossy Problems" - one of two GMA entries to this year's MMFF. What a fun movie. Different narrators for the beginning and the end. Also, as the end credits rolled, we couldn't quite figure out what we'd just watched. The verdict: It's so, so, so terrible, it's funny. Watch this, I dare you, if you have the guts. Just remember, movies like this exist to remind us that there are worse things in life. "Don't panic, it's organic!"  

On Christmas Eve mass, the commentator forgot to ask everyone to rise during the processional, even as the cross was already halfway down the aisle. An excommunication is called for.     

It's late, but still... Merry Christmas!

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Yes, I Survived 12-21-12

Nasty little joke, those Mayans pulled on us. Now roll in your Mexican-earth graves. Nostradamus is so 20th century. But preparing an underground hideout in the case of an apocalypse wasn't what prevented me from writing. Renal happened, TRP happened - soon, I found myself on a plane bound for Iloilo, in dire need of wintry escape. The weather here's pleasantly chilly; the house, with the windows opened, feels like it's on centralized air-conditioning.

The King and I
(November 30, 7PM)

This Resorts World Manila production directed by Freddie Santos was recently named Best Musical by the Philippine Daily Inquirer. No surprise there - this and Repertory Philippines' Jekyll and Hyde were undoubtedly the two best English-language musical productions of the year. Monique Wilson looked frail, barely nailed "Shall I Tell You What I Think of You?"; overall, a tired but well-acted Anna Leonowens. Leo Valdez as The King and Gina Respall as Lady Thiang delivered solid work (Respall, in particular, with a haunting "Something Wonderful"), but in our opinion, it was Tanya Manalang who turned in the most captivating performance. Crystal-voiced and gregariously poised, Manalang shimmered in the role of Burmese slave Tuptim, a bravura "My Lord and Master" transforming the ballad into a blazing display of soaring artistry. By then, all doubts were effortlessly wiped out: Miss Saigon West End 2014 has found a legit Kim. The technical aspect of the production is various elements of regal spectacle come together - at its pinnacle, the life-sized elephant discreetly giving The Phantom of the Opera the finger. We can't wait to see this again next year with Menchu Lauchengco-Yulo as Anna.

Say hello to my first ever illegal show photo. As posted in Instagram, "The white silhouettes are Leo Valdez (in bed) and Monique Wilson in Resorts World's 'The King and I' - highly entertaining, spectacularly designed." 
(December 1, 2PM)

What a mess of a book (Poor K-La Rivera had to make do with a vastly underdeveloped Jasmine)! Despite that - and some questionable choices in choreography (too much going on in the Act I opener "Arabian Nights"; too little for a supposedly grand parade in Act II's "Prince Ali") - this Atlantis Productions season ender proved quite entertaining and a more cohesive show than last year's The Little Mermaid. Thanks, no less, to an almost perfect cast (Jimmy Marquez's Iago - what exactly was he, to put it vaguely?) and overflowing technical inventiveness - lush costumes, Ceejay Javier's golden musical direction. Tom Rodriguez was quite the theatrical revelation in the title role, while Aiza Seguerra as Genie virtually lit up the stage whenever she romped on it. The cherry on top, of course, was "A Whole New World" - a poignant rendition that freewheeled across uncharted borders of 21st-century theater, no doubt flooding the unsuspecting audience, as the song goes, with indescribable feelings. In true Disney fashion, magical
This photo (from - one of those theatrical moments we'll remember for quite some time.

The UP Medicine Class of 2016 Theater Club, feat. (L-R) yours truly, Crissy the Kafka-esque, Tricia the Ninja, and Jenn the eternally gorgeous new member. Marky of Loveland, Terence of Hong Kong, and Carmela of Hillsborough were missed.

SEE ALSO: Our review of Resorts World's The Sound of Music and Atlantis' The Little Mermaid.

The von Trapp Children
(December 5, 8PM)

Four young singing sensations in the Newport Performing Arts Theater (that cavernous space too damn wide to be proper enough for a real-deal Broadway show). The concert didn't sell out, but whatever. Never mind, as well, that the singing occasionally trod on ground far breathier than desirable. The von Trapp Singers - once a traveling family choir, now reduced to a youthful quartet - proved that they are indeed the musical family. Pristine, clear tones all around! Highlights of the 1.5-hour concert included the Appalachian song "Down to the River to Pray," the Rwandan national anthem "Rwanda Nziza," and the beloved title tune and "Edelweiss" from The Sound of Music

L-R: Melanie, Justin, and Amanda von Trapp, with their prominent Muon-tien-na accents.

TRP 39
(December 13, 7PM) 

Earlier this year, I was elected the UP Meridian TRP head. As a refresher, UP Meridian is the UP College of Medicine's Filipino-Chinese organization (for all students of Asian descent, I must emphasize); TRP - Tao Rin Pala - is the college's annual cultural celebration featuring performances from the various classes, organizations, and departments. Our color-theme for this year was blue-peace. So, to a medley of tunes from the film Memoirs of a Geisha, I staged a full-blown production number depicting an Asian farming village visited by a sort-of-goddess. We had farmers, market vendors, sash and fan dancers, flag men. Best part of all: The stage was awash with confetti and metallic paper by the end. Definitely one of my proudest moments in med school.

Snapshot of UP Meridian's performance. Still too lazy to transfer the full video.

Books and Films

Oscars season is heating up! The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, at almost three hours, will prove quite the cinematic challenge to anyone who enters the theater not 100% invested in watching it. Otherwise, we really don't get all the hate - this is a triumphant, fulfilled work layered with lush visuals and a richness in story-telling. The Deep Blue Sea at times feels forced as a film translation of the play, but the luminous Rachel Weisz, Tom Hiddleston, and especially Simon Russell Beale (with expert command of language and thespian sensibilities) make this worth a second watch. Ted, to echo Ebert, has the funniest film character of the year in its vulgar titular bear. End of Watch is a sensitive, unabashed depiction of police work and the consequences it entails and is sure to make our Oscarthon's top ten list - not a choice most American critics have made. Safety Not Guaranteed won the Indiana Film Journalists Association's best film citation for the season - and we're having slight trouble seeing why.

David Mitchell's "Cloud Atlas" - definitely one of the best reading experiences of my life. As I said in Twitter, "a work of breathtaking literary ambition."

The F*cking Radio Commentator
(December 21, Lunchtime)

A mother was found to have murdered her kids in their home in the distant municipality of Badiangan, Iloilo. Reporters were swarming over her like flies by noon. The following is a non-verbatim transcript in English.

Commentator (C): So mother, why did you kill your children?

Mother (M): I heard a voice in my head telling me to kill them.

C: A voice in your head that only you could hear?

M: Yes.

C: And other than that voice in your head, you are pretty much healthy?

M: That appears to be the case.

C: (addressing the listeners and his fellow commentator) So here we have a woman who distinctly heard a voice ordering her to slay her own kids. She's quite healthy - this can't possibly be a sort of mental illness now. If you ask me, ladies and gentlemen, I'd say it's the work of a demon.


UP Medicine Class of 2016 performs "Para Sa Mag-aaral ng Medisina" - winning the Best Performance Award for TRP 39 Chorale Competition, and 1st runner-up overall (as 50% of the score was for the contest piece, prejudged by a separate panel).

Miss Universe 2012
My grandmother is a Miss Universe genius. She can correctly predict the winner with only the Top 16's swimsuit competition. While everyone else was going gaga over Miss Philippines, she was seated composed on her throne, across her face a knowing smile that said, "No, my offspring, not this year." My predictions were almost five-for-five. Brazil (who curiously looks way, way older) and Australia (champion of obese people, enemy of endocrinologists, dieticians, and gym trainers) were the easy ones. Had Venezuela - for me, easily the most beautiful of the five - answered in her native tongue instead of that rambling ode to surfing, she'd have won. And so we have two: In retrospect, the timeliness of USA's answer (and how natural she appeared and sounded) flew the crown straight to her head and - dare I utter this heresy - made Miss Philippines sound generic. I think the LadyMed committee ought to make me judge in next year's pageant. 

Miss Venezuela (right), why???

Friday, November 30, 2012

If Only the Tooth Fairy Got Raped

We saw Rise of the Guardians yesterday. If it wins over Wreck-It Ralph for Best Animated Feature in the Oscars next year, I won't be jumping up and down.

1. This film must be a headache to watch in 3D, what with the too-intricate gliding and flying sequences.

2. Jack Frost looks like some anime teenager, only fluent in English.

3. The scenery is marvelous. Shanghai, Moscow, Manhattan - you rarely see these places in animated films, much less portrayed as how they are in real life.
4. Worse things could have happened. Pitch could have raped the tooth fairy, who is such a flirt-in-denial.

5. We initially thought Jamie's pet dog is a goat.
6. Why is the Easter bunny so busy?! I'm pretty sure not all Christians go snooping around the neighborhood park for hidden eggs during Easter.

7. The message of this film is that American kids nowadays are so - have incredibly colorful imaginations, most of them believe in Santa Claus, the tooth fairy, sandman, and Easter bunny as much as they believe in the existence of the sun.

8. The ending is just plain terrible. Like, that was it?
Overall, this film is loads of fun, makes deliciously outstanding use of animation (the colors are just glorious, the attention to shape and form impeccable). But I'm still for Wreck-It Ralph.

The sandman channels Dumbledore in Half-Blood Prince.

*    *    *    *    *

... Still pissed off about Life of Pi being pushed back to January next year. 

... We're finally done with endocrinology. The next two weeks (last two for the year) will be devoted to nephrology. Here comes urine.

... Did you hear? I finally got published in the Philippine Daily Inquirer. Oh happy days.

... Every time I hear Jose Mari Chan's Perfect Christmas, I feel like tearing up. 

... Happy Bonifacio Day long weekend!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

PDI Review: 'Stageshow' by Tanghalang Pilipino; 'William' by PETA

The Philippine Daily Inquirer has started a stand-alone theater section, which comes out every Saturday. The Gibbs Cadiz is now the editor and has invited me to be part of his pool of writers. My first piece (originally a simple blog entry) comes out this Saturday: omnibus reviews of "Stageshow" and "William" - the shows I saw during the 4th National Theater Festival at the CCP. [UPDATE: Online version of my article here

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'William' and 'Stageshow'--rerun please

"Stageshow" by Mario O'Hara is first and foremost a Broadway show for the Filipino. Yet, during its initial run last month, it had the misfortune of competing with "The Phantom of the Opera," which played to packed houses night after night right above it.

How fate bitchily makes use of its metaphors. For had the audience of "Phantom" also paid as much attention to this player at the CCP Little Theater, they would have been treated to a dazzlingly coherent act of acts, a melange of overflowing artistry that all the more made sense as a whole.

There's straight drama, melancholy and flashy musical numbers, dance routines, even a radio drama (utilized to enchanting effect). One can very well call this O'Hara's farewell gift to local theater.

Shamaine Buencamino left not a single emotion untapped in her virtuoso turn as Ester (in some distant way, it might as well be her "Sophie's Choice"), but an even more fiery star burned in husband Nonie Buencamino, who flirted, tap-danced, philandered, and died his way to dizzying actorly heights, culminating in an explosive redefinition of "performance" in "I'm Gonna Live Till I Die."


"William," meanwhile, a play that makes adroit use of rap to tackle Shakespeare in the public school classroom, was a charmer from start to finish. In transposing Shakespeare's stratospheric English to commonplace Filipino, to the tongue of the ordinary Manila pedestrian, the sidewalk hagglers, the manangs who run the market stalls, the play successfully delivered the Bard and his works to the plate of its hormonal teenagers in fresher, less complicated fashion.

The ingenious set: Chairs. They become school lockers, other forms of furniture, even entrance/exit archways. A student enters, the teacher says to him: "Ay wala nang upuan. Sige, pitas ka na lang diyan." If money can't grow on trees, at least chairs can.        

Five central performances, each personality as distinct as the color-coded costumes, anchored by Meann Espinosa's teacher - an insanely brilliant ball of comic sensibility - and Jojo Atienza's shape-shifting turn as the four fathers. Plus, a delightful lesbian in Happy Constantino's Strawberry Shortcake ("'Beh, for short").

For these two productions - rerun please!    

Future doctors from the UP College of Medicine with the indefatigable Meann Espinosa. From my Instagram (username: vincengyu).

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Friday night, we watched Revolution - De La Salle Innersoul's 15th anniversary concert. Well, I was actually required to watch - it was our friend Rika's final concert with the org (she graduated last month). It must be said that alumni of this org include Gian Magdangal (who was one of the night's special guests), Fredison Lo, and Johann dela Fuente - stars of 9 Works' recent staging of Rent (my review).

I'd say the concert was somewhere between Maroon 5 (where people are shouting and jumping and singing along) and Lea Salonga (prim and proper, one-woman theatrical show). Songs included the Aria winner "You're the Voice" (originally recorded by John Farnham), "Sowing the Seeds of Love" (Tears for Fears), and "Love Is a Battlefield," which was Rika's solo. One definite downer, however, was the sound system. I don't know how to describe the mechanisms or whatever, except that it was inappropriately, annoyingly (in the technical sense)... LOUD.

The Yuchengco Auditorium is now the most beautiful venue fit for a theatrical production in Manila that I've stepped foot on. Big but not cavernous, with excellent sightlines. They might as well make this the next Meralco Theater (which really needs major fixing).

The ubiquity of microphones... is something you'll never see in UP.   

Lastly, I finally met the La Sallian Iloilo-Bacolod circle. Went home at two in the morning.

Rika's photo (and abs), borrowed from Facebook without her knowledge.

*    *    *    *    *    *


The older version of "Cafe Comforts" is one of nineteen poems published in this year's Waywaya, the literary folio of the Manila Collegian, released within the past couple of weeks.

For the record, this is an unsatisfactorily edited folio. There's - yet again - a 't' in my name. Really now, I don't know where editors get the idea that a contributor misspells his or her name. In this modern age, a responsible editor can surely spare some time to query the writer through whatever electronic means. But the (overlooked) errors extend beyond authorship. Take this, from "Curtains and Tales," for example:

movies never to be enjoyed,
fowers never to be given

Given that it took a ridiculously long time to release this folio (deadline of submissions was late March)... I rest my case. After all, part of our tuition goes to the publication, does it not? In my final year in high school, we worked on and released our publication's premiere literary folio in just three months - with a core working group of less than ten people. Just saying. 

Monday, November 5, 2012

Sembreak 2012: A Short Retrospective

1. A wedding took place. It involved lanterns ala Tangled. But most of them just ended up unlit on the outdoor hotel pool (the lighting took place in the surrounding area). One actually made brief contact with a female guest's hair, but it was nothing (spectacularly) serious. 

It was rather entertaining watching the lanterns rise and fall.

2. Comelec registration was hell. Next year's national elections will see me voting for the first time. But I repeat, Comelec registration was hell. Let me say that a thousand times, add an expletive or two - or two thousand.

3. Halloween (or the Eve of All Hallows - what most of us know as All Saint's Day), I again went to the cousins' subdivision for their annual celebration. One of the kids dressed up as Captain America. Sexy Red Riding Hood (formerly Alice in Wonderland) was now transfigured into Cheerleader. And a cousin was Minnie Mouse, which, in my humble opinion, should have won Costume of the Night or something. Then we went to see A Secret Affair, which raised two important issues: One, the dubbing was terrible, so terrible that whoever did it should be banned from film work; two, with the ubiquity of English language dialogue, it might as well have been a One Tree Hill episode.  

For Halloween, I walked around with a lightning scar on my forehead.

4. Books I finished: 2. I'm an embarrassment to the literary world. Anne Enright's The Gathering shouldn't even qualify because I started it way before the break began. So that leaves me with McEwan's On Chesil Beach - five chapters on the sexual turmoils of a newlywed couple, plus some stuff on Mozart and writing history books. Now reading: Milan Kundera's The Unbearable Lightness of Being.

5. Movies I saw: 15. That does not include multiple screenings (Looper and Argo) and those 'incompletely seen' (Paranormal Activity 3, Insidious - unexpectedly wicked ending, LOTR: The Return of the King, etc.). Pitch Perfect, Looper, Argo, Skyfall, Wreck-It Ralph  plus The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel - I suppose this makes up for my shortcoming in the reading front.

6. Harry Potter withdrawal. Marathoned the eight-part film series. Incredibly funny. Scenes revealing themselves, line readings taking new turns. Three of the most influential beings of my nine-to-nineteen-hood. I cried at the very end, and I'm proud to say so. (This is incoherent, so I shall save this for the future or when I'm ready.) Now addicted to

An A380 from Down Under greeted me upon my arrival this morning for the new semester. No big deal.

**Note: As in the previous post, an iPad 2 took the photos.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Iloilo Invaded, SemBreak 2012

My classmates Terence, Jim (who follows this blog with his fat heart - hello there), Jereel, and Jer came to pay me a royal visit, Oct 22-27. Here, in fifteen photos (because I'm too lazy to follow the original plan), we remember that glorious week. The original plan, you ask? One post per day. Nope, didn't happen. Not happening.

The belfry of Jaro Cathedral, but alas, it has not lore of a monstrous man ringing its bells. 

Maridel's, the dessert place-to-be in Iloilo City. The Frozen Lemon Meringue (top right) is a must - take this local's word for it.

The Lizares Mansion, Instagrammed. These days, though, the building is more known to locals as the representative image of Angelicum School of Iloilo.

The view from the peak of Balaan Bukid, Guimaras Island. Iloilo City and the rest of Panay across the strait. A lonely boat passing by.

"I'd rather be sailing, yes I would. On an open sea." 
-from A New Brain.

 A fiery Guimaras sunset, tricycle giving chase.

The Lacson Mansion, or The Ruins, just outside Bacolod City. In the final months of World War II, the Americans ordered all possible hiding places of the Japanese be burned, and so behold the fruit of Uncle Sam's labor.

The storm came. We were stranded in Bacolod. So we bought matching underwear and watched Argo.

 Fifteen cakes in 36 hours. One must never miss Calea when in Bacolod. The cheesecake, the one with the red sauce-like side on the bottom, is heaven-sent. 

Fish in formation in the famous Lagoon fronting the Negros Occidental Provincial Capitol, Bacolod City.
The facade of Miag-ao Church, one of the four Baroque churches in the Philippines classified as UNESCO World Heritage sites.

Experimenting with light gives you the most wondrous results - a UFO over Miag-ao Church, in this case.

 "Greatness inspires envy, envy engender spite, spite spawns lies." -Lord Voldemort, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
The Oblation at the University of the Philippines, Miag-ao campus.

 Only after 100+ steps down the hill can one arrive with an intact traveler's dignity on the beach of UP Miag-ao.

The Iloilo River Esplanade by night. "All the lights are misty in the river," so the Les Miserables song goes.

**Note: An iPad 2 was used to take these photos. 

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

'Café Comforts'

It’s out! My poem “Café Comforts” is part of Issue 15 (Autumn 2012) of Diverse Voices Quarterly, an American literary e-zine. The entire issue (which includes my somewhat self-indulgent author’s bio–sorry, am not yet used to capsule-writing about myself) can be downloaded for free through the link below.

*    *    *    *    *

The swirling of steam as it spirals to the ceiling
like a ballerina twirling in numberless pirouettes
gives life to the cup growing cold
in your bare rugged hands.

You whisper in the simmer,
through alternating sips and silence,
the stories pervading the cursory pathways
crafted on your skin.

In this meager setup,
you regale, I remember; you imply, I imagine;
and our cities of sorrow, callow shores, sunsets,
country sides, stars, communal settings –
rise with the smoke to the overhead chandelier.

Over the prancing and brazen glancing
of customers and cats on the sidewalk,
you become the idea and I,
your mural of childhood caricatures –
bursting with color beneath layers of dust.

But once more, the door opens to welcome
the newest buyer, and your eyes betray
a hunger for hours of solitude, for song
and symphonies and speech,
and so you slither back to your cheap comforts
and coffee.

*    *    *    *    *

Sembreak is finally here! I can feel it in the water, I can feel it in the air (channeling Galadriel here). Also, the other day, I finally received word from the editors of Philippine Speculative Fiction 8. End of story. But hey, that’s an email from the Alfars (which can mean nothing to someone else). As they say, you win some, you lose some–but you never stop writing.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Nine, The Seagull, and Other Matters

i. The Journey

1. Last Friday, friends and I watched Atlantis Productions' staging of Kopit and Yeston's Nine (which closed yesterday) at the Carlos P. Romulo Auditorium, RCBC Plaza, Makati City. How I got to the theater is already an epic in itself. In the spirit of good vibes, I shall not disclose my amazing journey here. In psychology, they call it repression. Sad to say, I missed the first one-and-a-half lines of the musical. And that Friday traffic will forever be a curse of Manila.

ii. The Musical

2. Probably the most elaborate set design the Romulo Auditorium will ever have. David Gallo is indisputably a master of his craft. Jay Aranda's lights only made it all the more impossible not to fall in love with the technicals of the show.

3. The singing was impeccable. "Lalalalalala..." is still stuck in my mind. The inconsistency in the accents of the cast, that was disturbing. Why weren't they able to settle on just one?

4. Cherie Gil as Liliane. Carla Guevara-Laforteza as Carla. These two gorgeous women inhabiting their roles with so much passion and dedication won't be leaving my memory anytime soon (or ever).

5. Menchu Lauchengco-Yulo, you are the definition of clarity. Can you do no wrong onstage? And a shout-out to Reg Claravall as the best gondolier in town.  

6. Eula Valdes was a stunning demi-goddess as Claudia - she could have been goddess, were it not for the imperfect top notes in Unusual Way

7. What to make, then, of a Nine whose weakest link is ultimately its Guido Contini? The role is one of the toughest in the gamut of musical theater leads, no doubt. But it still pains me to say that Jett Pangan's Guido was nowhere near his best (which was seen and should be seen again in Next to Normal - a heartbreaking turn as Dan Goodman). Where was genuine desperation? Where was internal destruction? In the end, the singing was soaring, the character, a caricature. (Bobby in Company, that's what Mr. Pangan ought to do next. Theater gods, hear this prayer.)

8. Did I enjoy Nine? Yes, though watching with friends probably had much to do with that.   

UP Med 2016 at Nine.

iii. The Stage Door

9. The only time I've "stagedoored" was during Cats with Lea Salonga. But Reg is a friend of one of us, so there. Never knew this could be so much fun, ambushing the actors.

10. Menchu, on whether she'll finally do Gypsy next year: "I want to!!!" (Grabs my shoulders and shakes me.)

11. Cherie Gil, on the possibility of ever doing Doubt again: "I don't know if that's possible, but I'd like to do another role. I'm doing The Graudate next year."

12. Ima Castro (Sarraghina), upon finding out we're from UP Med: "UP Med?! My gosh, UP Med!"

13. Jay Glorioso (Guido's mother) is the gentlest person ever.

iv. The Aftermath

14. We went to Mercato. Rafael Rosell was there. I intentionally passed by him, just so I can claim to have passed by him. Marina is still the 2nd best Filipino television soap for me (after Tayong Dalawa). This is not a discussion on local television soaps, so leave out the criticism.

v. The Next Day

15. Went to UP Diliman for the final English performance of Dulaang UP's The Seagull (by Anton Chekhov). Now where did I read (online) that the Guerrero Theater is in Palma Hall Annex? And to the woman in PhAn who compassionately told me to take an ikot to get to the theater, did you even hear which theater I was asking about?

16. There are so many things that could have gone right with this take on The Seagull. Focus was something the production could have given more work on.

17. Ana Abad Santos as Irina stole the entire show. They should have renamed this The Seagull, or the Ana Abad Santos show, featuring Jeremy Domingo. Mr. Domingo played Trigorin. Leo Rialp (Dorn), Stella Canete Balucas (Polina), Jaime Yambao (Shamraev), and Jacques Borlaza (Sorin) round out the list of six performers who actually delivered and gave justice to their roles. This is all the praise I have for the entire company of actors.

18. I just have to get this out of my system: The actor who played Konstantin was a warbling mess.

vi. The Publication

19. I'm finally getting published! "Cafe Comforts" will appear in the Fall issue of Diverse Voices Quarterly, an American online literary magazine. As the High School Musical tune goes, "It's the start of something new..."

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Notes on "The Mistress"

1. Finally got to see The Mistress, the it girl of local screens for the past three-and-a-half weeks – of course, word-of-mouth is ever the irresistible tool to get the hoi polloi to fill the cinemas to the brim and exit a couple of hours later bursting with satisfaction. 

2. (Above), plus a good old love team that nobody seems to tire of. But more on that later. In short, and in true Pinoy fashion, we simply had to find out what all the fuss was about. Who hasn’t curiously looked at the goings-on of a vehicular accident, anyway?

3. According to one of my friends, “Filipino cinema has finally matured with this film.” I’d have burst out in protestation were it not for my then lack of counter-evidence. Well now I can say to her with utmost confidence and Ebertian certainty, “Maturity my face.” 

4. It's amazing Sari (Bea Alonzo) isn't the least bit freaked out/ scandalized by the maniacal English-spurting stalker inhabiting the  body of JD (John Lloyd Cruz) in the National Book Store opening sequence.

5. The ubiquity of English language dialogue is sort of disturbing. One Tree Hill also had drama, sex, bitching, and infidelity.

6. My favorite character is Anita Linda as Alzheimer's-stricken granny, but then, the filmmakers intended for hers to be our favorite character. Old person plus mental disorders plus good-guy/girl disposition should never fail to win the audiences over. 

7. It's even more amazing, however, how the filmmakers equate a scar on the forehead signifying previous traumatic head injury as primary cause for the Alzheimer's.   

8. Hilda Koronel is love - has always been, ever since she taught me the word "pucha" in Crying Ladies (2003).

9. What's with Filipino films these days and taglines?!

10. "I live to disappoint you, father!" Now I'm no fan of Star Wars, but what's up with that?!

11. The last thirty minutes could have been cut out, and the result would have been a more superior film. I mean, cold patriarch gets an MI to cause a father-son reconciliation? Come on now.

The requisite morning-at-the-beach scene. Photo from the Philippine Daily Inquirer.

Monday, September 24, 2012

A Grand Welcome for the GI Module

How much longer 'til sembreak? Let us count the weeks...

(Lame attempt at Shakespeare right there.)

But to answer the question, it's three - all devoted to the gastrointestinal system. And right now, I'm having the best time starting off this new module - at home, with an upset stomach. Which is funny because right when we were about to start Pulmo in August, it was a respiratory glitch my body was experiencing. 

My epigastrium feels like it's in labor. (Sure I don't know how it feels to be in labor, or have dysmenorrhea, but I surmise this must be it, or somehow close to it.) Contract, relax, swirling bout of weird pain, relax, repeat cycle. 

Yesterday, I finished my fourth non-academic book since the start of school (but this statement is misleading because I haven't even finished any academic book since the start of med school). 

1. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins - Four months after seeing the (unfocused, romanticized) film, and I couldn't help picturing out the scenes as the pages went by.

2. A Spot of Bother by Mark Haddon - Domestic drama with a twist winningly set to words. Very, very readable and engaging, or as the cliche goes, "impossible to put down!" 

3. The Comfort of Strangers by Ian McEwan - The author is truly a master of language. Bow.

And now Walter Kirn's "Up in the Air," which is as bleak and dreary as a book on the recent American economic slump can get. I do, however, have to laud, and really, really laud, how the protagonist is written - honest, introspective. 

Oh, by the way, last Friday night was LadyMed 2012 (here's LadyMed 2011, where I played the part of sacrificial lamb for my class). The theme was "Divas," and the contestants were Lady Gaga, Katy Perry, Jennifer Lopez, Rihanna, and Madonna. Typing that just reminded me of how incredibly stupid and short-sighted the decision of the selection committee was. How on earth can you pit J-Lo against Lady Gaga, for instance?! Let me repeat that: Incredibly stupid and short-sighted. 

But I digress. Valentina had her final walk, and she was, suffice to say, still the prettiest of them all.

Photo by Leonardo Infante, whose ability to expertly capture moments in motion is in full display here.

Monday, September 10, 2012

To CPR, or not to CPR?

Last Friday during Art of Medicine class.

The topic was "pain, death, and dying" under adult medicine. An interview was conducted in front of the class between our lecturer and a patient with acute myeloid leukemia. That's AML for short, and it's notorious for relapse, so our lecturer said. In other words, it will drain you of money and resources, and the life if you're not lucky. 

But the more interesting part came after. We were presented with a real-life situation that our lecturer experienced some years ago. From the outset, it seemed to demand an answer based solely on ethical standards as provided by those declarations (like Geneva, for example). 

But. hell. NO. Gray areas are what we have in real-life, not some yes-or-no that one can easily jot down on exam papers. So goes.

The matriarch of one of the richest families in the Philippines is dying of cancer. But she doesn't know it. In fact, it's only she in the entire money-making clan who doesn't have a clue about the cancer (inside her). The family, with whom you've been friends for ten years, had requested you not to tell her, and you'd willingly and understandingly obliged.

You are called in on Saturday afternoon because suddenly, she developed pneumonia. Everyone, including yourself, did not see this coming; truth be told, you all thought she was getting by quite fine. Now you have a very old lady with cancer + pneumonia. Not, not, not good. Before everyone's eyes, she's deteriorating - and very, very fast.

The problem is, she hasn't legally passed on everything she owns because she never knew she's dying. She's now fallen into a coma. A thumbprint can be acquired and that would be enough - but only if, by 12:00AM of Monday, she still hasn't been proclaimed dead. Not sure about the exact time, but you get the gist. Why Monday? Because government offices are closed during weekends a.k.a. if she dies anytime during the weekend, the thumbprint, and in turn, the papers will be considered null and void because they were processed while government office was closed. Apparently, processed papers will only be considered legal if they are done while the person in question is still 'alive'.

What happens when everything she owns doesn't get legally transferred to her children? Inheritance Tax. More than half of her estate (so the lecturer said) goes to the government. The immensely, screwed-up Philippine f*cking government. And we're talking riches the scale of Henry Sy or Ayala. While she lived, she never wanted a single cent or acre of land to go to the govenrment. And all of you very well knows that even in death, she'd make sure nothing, not a single drop from her entire life's hard work, goes to the government.

So, keep her alive. By alive, we mean not legally proclaimed dead. And because doing a CPR on an arresting person means not proclaiming death, here's what the family asks you to do: If she goes into arrest anytime during the weekend (which you very well know she most likely will), four burly men will take turns doing CPR on her for as long as the weekend is not over. That means if she dies in the early hours of Sunday morning, you're looking at 16, 18 hours of nonstop CPR. On a body that's very well lifeless.

The question was phrased this way: 16 hours of CPR on a dead body, or no 16-hour CPR?   

It was a question that divided an entire class, 55-45(%). Even our lecturer admitted to never fully knowing whether or not he ever made the right decision.







Anyway, what happened was this: She arrested at around 4AM Sunday morning, and a 30-minute CPR was done to no avail. And yet, everything she once owned was successfully passed on to the heirs. The Inheritance Tax never came round in time, care of a couple of senators and some friends in government. 

As expected from this country.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

The Journey to an Ateneo-La Salle UAAP Game

I write this in the ungodly morning hours of Sunday with my mind still on Saturday; ergo, I shall refer to Saturday night as 'tonight' and Sunday night as 'tomorrow night'.

Tonight, the 2012 Palanca Awards were given out at The Peninsula Manila. By mentioning that, I am of course confirming that I did enter and lost. Perfectly excusable, since 1) it's my first time to join the adult categories, and 2) it's never not excusable to lose in the Palancas. 

It's like Viola Davis in The Help losing out to Meryl Streep in The Iron Lady - (riot alert! riot alert!) - I mean, Jessica Chastain in Take Shelter losing the nomination to Jessica Chastain in The Help - (RIOT ALERT! RIOT ALERT!) - I mean, Avatar losing to The Hurt Locker for Best Picture - (calm). 

Well, what I meant to say was, winning a Palanca is always the exception, so here's a warm and sincere congratulations to the winners, especially to that of Short Story in English. And for the curious, here's my Palanca win back in 2009, 2nd prize in Kabataan Essay in English.

Ergo, my day turned out quite fantastic. Eli - friend since 4 years old, classmate since nursery, best friend by whatever definition - is here in Manila. Again. (I say that because he doesn't even study here, yet he's here more often than either of my parents are.) Last night - Friday night - he was at the Araneta Coliseum for the Mixed Martial Arts thing (like the one in Warrior starring Tom Hardy, who's now colloquially known as Bane). The entire ordeal involved seven hours of standing, so he said.

Since he wanted to have lunch at some traditional Chinese restaurant that served 'good' oyster cake, I took him to Sincerity Restaurant along Yuchengco Street. I've been there only once, so I wasn't quite sure if it's really that good by expert culinary standards. Turned out to be not quite as good as its reputation paints it to be, but I actually don't care since I don't like venturing into the heartlands of Binondo in the first place. One, because it's always rowdy and overstuffed with people; two, because the horses and their carriages make the entire place reek faintly of horse manure. 

Eli pointed out that it's more or less the same case with every Chinatown, from Singapore to New York. I pointed out that this Chinatown is in the Philippines, where I live; therefore, its innate rowdiness and faint smell of horse manure are legal reasons for me to not enjoy walking down its narrow roads. 

After lunch, we walked from the restaurant all the way to the Carriedo station of LRT Line 1 (in Avenida, Sta. Cruz) and took the train to Vito Cruz station, or De La Salle University. The plan was to eat at Zark's Burgers, but he quickly realized the lunch had transiently left us with not enough space in our stomachs to contain the famed humongous burgers.

So we settled for hanging at Starbucks beside College of St. Benilde and summoning our dearest Iloilo classmate and friend Paopao to come to our side. She had class, then ran off to CCP for the matinee of The Phantom of the Opera. I like that word by the way - 'hanging', denoting the act of hanging out. Like how Americans or conio Filipinos say it: "Let's hang this Saturday," or "I, like, hanged with the barkada at Banapple along Katipunan."

Then, Zhou - Eli's South Korean friend who's currently having his OJT with Jeju Air - answered the summon. So it was, the three of us hanging at Starbucks like a trio of over-entitled elitist brats or med students who find it necessary to study in coffee shops. On a side note, Zhou earns way more in his OJT than most doctors in residency training in this country do.

Then, Eli decided it was time for Zark's. By the way, he'd been saying a lot about not having tickets to the afternoon's Ateneo-La Salle UAAP men's basketball game. So guess what, there and then, one of his contacts texted him saying she still had unsold tickets. He successfully bought them for P200 each. Thus, we found ourselves in a taxi, got off at Legarda station, took the LRT 2 all the way to Gateway Mall, ate a bit at Taco Bell, then got our tickets from a high school batchmate from another school in Iloilo. All that meant four 'firsts' for me: Starbucks in the La Salle area, taking the LRT at Legarda station, eating Taco Bell, and seeing a major UAAP game live.

After 3.25 years of staying in Manila, I finally got to watch a UAAP men's basketball game, and undoubtedly in its most exciting form. We were at the Ateneo side since our seller's an Atenean, but that's just about the amount of loyalty we have for Ateneo. In any case, it was loads of fun cheering the Ateneo cheers like a bunch of presumptious fake Ateneans that we were. 

Which made me realize how out-of-place a UP student/ alumni/ person would feel if he or she went to these games. The last (and first) time I watched a UAAP game, it was women's basketball - UP vs. Ateneo, and we won. But it was only because our PE class required us to watch at least one UAAP game (not in reference to why or how we won.)

We ended the night back at Zark's where Eli tried but failed to conquer the Jawbreaker challenge: 300g of fries, a glass of iced tea, and a half-pound burger - all for free if consumed within five minutes. I feel sick just thinking about it. Sadly, he lost, said he still has much practice to do. He shall return, Zark's.

1st year Intarmed students in the aftermath of a UP-Ateneo UAAP women's basketball game, September 2009.

My first photo using PicFrame.

 The monster. Zark's Burgers across De la Salle University, Manila.