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???