Tuesday, October 30, 2012

On bath houses in Manila

Recently, I blogged about the Manila heat. I wrote that the heat can be so terrible that it's enough to drive anyone mad. When I was in college, we studied about how the climate can affect one's temperament. People who live in cold climates are more hardworking, while those who live in the tropics tend to be more relaxed and lazy. It makes sense, though I have no idea how it relates to what I'm going to say.

Last Saturday, I went to Sta. Mesa to celebrate my editor's birthday. Vince, a DJ for Mellow 94.7, is also editor-in-chief for When In Manila, one of my writing gigs. It was a sort of meet-up for me because it was my first time to meet my co-writers and editors since I joined last month.

I was busy that day, as I was at SM-Southmall to watch Tiktik: The Aswang Chronicles and Alabang Town Center to pick up copies of The Philippine Star. I was given a new section called Supreme Picks, where I highlight the events and activities readers should be involved in during the weekend. I then dropped by the office (my day job's) to deposit the things I bought before going to Vince's party. I met Nikko and we commuted to Megamall to buy beer. By 8PM, we were in Vince's house, and my face was oily beyond repair.

I'm sure many people experience this problem. They leave the house fresh and dressed up, only to arrive at their destination looking like the best dressed in a Halloween party. I am a frequent victim of this, especially when I go to Makati or far-off places. I often arrive sweaty and oily. And for this, I have a proposal to senators.

Open a public bath house.

Just as there are restrooms in establishments and public urinals, I propose that the government should install public bath houses where commuters and Filipinos in general can wash up and recharge. In a tropical country such as ours, it only makes sense that water should be available in every major street corner, like the friendly neighborhood holdupper and a branch of Starbucks. In it, guests are allowed to shower. Towels can be rented, or for hygienic purposes, sold. Imagine how helpful this could be for the Filipino public. People would always be fresh. I imagine it would make people less grouchy, too, as prickly heat leads to prickly personalities. And most importantly, body odor will completely be eliminated.

Of course, it does have its potential problems. The male bath houses could become hotspots for cruising if left unattended. But attendants could cockblock any pair who are too cheap to go to a motel. Putting condoms in vending machines along with shower caps and soaps is out of the question, it will just enable horndogs and really, what am I talking about? As if pro-lifers would allow such a thing.

My other concern would be smell. I'm very particular with scent, especially in public restrooms. Not everyone is a meticulous bather, and it could result in a disgusting stench that will repel possible customers. I just pray to God that whoever is in charge of cleaning would take the job seriously.

Other than that, I think public bath houses in Metro Manila is a great idea. It's reminiscent of the Roman baths, who elevated it to an art form and added pools, game rooms, gardens, libraries, and theaters. Ours don't have to be as complex, and can be as simple as little granite boxes in minimalist tones and a number of stalls. They could even add an open area for adventurous bathers, which Sentosa has done in Singapore (I had a gay old time there if you know what I mean). Conservatives would argue that this would be the end of the times and bring up the Roman downfall as an example, but they had a jolly good time before their decline.

I think we deserve a jolly good time, too.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Tiktik: The Aswang Chronicles

Tiktik: The Aswang Chronicles makes me hopeful for Philippine cinema. The story's good and the sequences are amazing, but what sets this film apart is the special effects. As you may know, everything in this movie is shot on green screen, resulting in gorgeous shots that took my breath away. Trust me, everything was beautiful.

The premise is simple enough: a city boy (Dingdong Dantes) visits his pregnant ex-amour (Lovi Poe) in the province. His arrogance sets off a family of tiktiks (supernatural creatures that devour fetuses) to go after him and his Lovi's family, including her unborn child.

It is Dingdong's performance as Makoy that stole the show. I started noticing his acting chops last year in Joyce Bernal's Segunda Mano, and his portrayal of Makoy in Tiktik was equal parts annoying, funny, pitiful, and amazing. He had a wide range of emotions, and his fight scenes with the buntot ng pagi (tail of stingray used to fight aswangs) was brilliant. Janice de Belen and Joey Marquez also gave unforgettable performances as Lovi's parents. Janice was ingratiating and while Joey was a pushover, he became a fighter. He was believable in both roles. Ramon Bautista was funny, but when Dingdong manages to be funnier, you know there's more to him than his sexy body.

And my favorite Lovi scene? The one where she grabs a machine gun while about to give birth and shoots at a tiktik. Very grindhouse.

My only concern is the timing. I'm talking about those moments when protagonists are given ample chance to defeat the villain, only to ruin it by talking too much or hesitating. In Tiktik, it's curious how the characters are standing in a salt bed and with buckets of the stuff and not use it to ward off the monster when it has them cornered. But I guess it's symptomatic of all action movies to add drama (and frustration) to the story.

I enjoyed Tiktik. The CGI was brilliant, and it's because Peter Collias, the guy who designed Moulin Rouge and The Matrix, was in charge of constructing the house and several environments. But the thing is, the lush mise-en-scène doesn't overpower the actors and the story. Even if the effects were of the Shake, Rattle, and Roll variety, the film could still pull crowds.

Future Filipino movies have pretty big shoes to fill.

Watch the trailer below:

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

From The Memoirs of a Non-Enemy Combatant

Author Alex Gilvarry, photo from here

I found From The Memoirs of a Non-Enemy Combatant the same way protagonist Boy Hernandez found himself in jail: by accident - or maybe by fate. I snuck in the recent Manila International Book Fair while entertaining family friends, and while hurriedly browsing the racks in National Bookstore, a loudspeaker announced that the author, Alex Gilvarry, will be signing copies that day. I've seen his pictures, so I immediately grabbed a copy and fell in line without paying for it - defying store protocol. I was stopped by the lady handing out numbers for the signing, but I managed to charm my way.

I quickly re-touched my face to make sure I looked halfway human, and elegantly (meaning I didn't trip or make funny noises) made my way towards him. My opening line was:

"I'm also a writer, but I write for a broadsheet," mentioning The Philippine Star.

Such a fucking namedropper. He was polite enough and we spent a few minutes talking about the newspaper, his book, and his participation in Rogue's September feature on Bryanboy, the notorious fashion blogger.

Alex Gilvarry's note on my copy

The last thing I said to him was: "I hope I meet you again." Such a fucking flirt.

Anyway, the book. The book is about Boyet Hernandez, a Filipino fashion designer who tries to make a name for himself in New York, only to find himself connected to a terrorist ring. He is dubbed as a fashion terrorist and is detained, possibly illegally, at a detention camp.

I was attracted to the idea of a fashion terrorist, but the book is more terrorist than fashion. I found the premise fascinating, but I'm not well-read or interested in national security. I much preferred the times when he would talk about Boy's fashion life, which sadly, wasn't much. Of course, the title is Non-Enemy Combatant, not Womenswear Designer.

Perhaps other people would enjoy it, but I thought it was okay. At least it didn't cash in on the poverty porn prevalent in Western works set in the Philippines.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Summer on steroids.

It's unnaturally hot.

I first noticed the unusual heat last Thursday when I was in Greenbelt for the launch of TOMS eyewear. I made the stupid mistake of wearing a blazer, knowing full well that the launch was in the park. I don't usually have problems wearing jackets outside, but the infernal heat was too much that I had to take it off and duck into Seattle's Best to refresh. I was tempted to dip my face in the iced tea, but I had to meet my friend Edrick. After cooling down, we headed back to the launch. It was still humid.

On Saturday, I met with Nikko to celebrate his upcoming birthday. He had to review two restaurants for When In Manila, and I joined him on both events. The first was for Lia's Cakes in Season, a bakeshop along Kapitolyo in Pasig City. It's a small joint that specializes in avocado cake, but I personally liked their calamansi tea cake and their meals. The cream dory is just divine.

I could feel the heat throughout our trip to Pasig that when we got to the bakeshop, I was in dire need of a shower. Luckily for everyone, the place was airconditioned, or else Pasig would have gotten a taste of my fierce bitch realness, which is twice as zesty as Lia's calamansi tea cake.

Going to BGC was twice as bad. We met up with our friend Jan (who recently won an award from the Embassy of Chile), and the summer season seemed to decide to have an extended stay. I practically bathed in the restroom of High Street, swathing my chest and even my armpits with wet tissue and washing my face. To my horror, the minute I stepped out, I started perspiring again.

I was so sticky that I was afraid to bump into anyone because they might not be able to extract themselves off me. I wouldn't mind if it was a hot guy, but what are the odds of that? I hate sweating and that slimy feeling you get when it dries. I hate feeling oily, sticky, and itchy. I read somewhere that jeans aren't appropriate for the Philippine climate, but I was already wearing shorts!

I was never a beach person. I never had that uncontrollable urge to fly to the beach and dive in murky waters whenever the summer season strikes. I'd rather stay home in controlled temperatures, or go to malls. I guess it took a trip to Boracay last year that changed that. Then again, I didn't sweat as much.

We had our snacks at The Stock Market in High Street. The place is beautiful - it reminds one of a summer villa or a plantation, and the pineapple logo extended itself to the floor and the hand soap. Turns out, the logo is a pineapple because the owner is Del Monte. We had a lovely salad and a filling sandwich, plus two interesting desserts, one featuring a huge slab of pineapple.

And it was still hot. I knew it wasn't just me because while one of the restaurant's representatives was asking about our meal, I noticed beads of sweat on her forehead. What is happening to the Philippine weather? Could it be climate change? Could it be the approaching end of the world? Why does it have to be so damn hot?

Yesterday, I was reading Jessica Zafra's Book IV: The Twisted Menace. There was one essay where the protagonist rode a cab with Plate Tectonics as its name. The cab driver explained that he read that we were once a huge island that broke apart and separated, and we would eventually re-join again. When that happens, I hope we connect with Antarctica. That way, I can incorporate fur in my wardrobe.

Also, I'm part of the When In Manila team!

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Fashion will save the world.

In cities like Paris, Milan, London, and New York, fashion plays a crucial role in the local economy. The cities have established themselves as design capitals, with the best designers holding court in their boutiques and flagship stores. The locals take clothing seriously and hold events that the world anticipate. Case in point, Fashion Week. But in recent years, a new storm has taken over the global fashion scene. It's called Fashion's Night Out.

Conceptualized in 2009 by Anna Wintour, Vogue, the Council of Fashion Designers of America, and NY & Company, Fashion's Night Out aims to resuscitate the economy by urging the people to spend. By inviting Hollywood celebrities and fashion royalty, consumers are drawn to the one-night celebration filled with music, champagne, limited edition merchandise, activities, and the promise of a great new handbag by the end of the night. What started out as a one-night event in New York has stretched to a three-week extravaganza held every September in over 19 countries.

"It was clear that something needed to happen to get people comfortable with shopping again and to remind them that their purchases were helping to support the economy and the lives of those around them that worked in fashion," says Susan Portnoy, vice president of Condé Nast. At the success of the worldwide event, we wonder: could we pull off a Fashion's Night Out in the Philippines and save our economy?

It’s no secret that a large chunk of the money we make is through remittances made by OFWs, with a recent report by the National Economic and Development Authority claiming that we cannot be completely independent from it. But what would happen in case the demand for OFWs slows down? Where would that leave us?

An event like FNO could be the answer. The clothing industry is a key player in the global economy, and can affect the country involved. If you think that the business of suiting up is best left for the rich, consider that in New York alone, the industry provides 100,000 jobs and has $14 billion in earnings. In 2008, the global community spent $192 billion on clothing, a healthy sum that can buy the entire Louis Vuitton S/S 2013 collection and a Rajo Laurel dress. In the Philippines, apparel is one of the biggest exports, rivaling that of the computer chip and the OFW.

But can fashion really save the Philippines? The thought of having FNO Manila seems like a long shot, considering how Filipinos aren’t as committed to fashion. Being in a third world country, most have bigger priorities such as food and shelter. An event as frivolous as an all-night party with designers and models doesn’t sit well for most Filipinos. The cultural divide is palpable, the dominant side a group that doesn’t care for heelless shoes and slouchy chic.

Established blogger and fashion star Cecile Zamora-Van Straten isn’t impressed, too. “I witnessed it in Tokyo last year. I was in a cab with my friend and we saw these fashion blogger-types lined up outside stores and I couldn’t be bothered or be excited to join them,” she says.

But fashion designer Santi Obcena offers a more positive view. “The concept of Fashion’s Night Out is indeed a great way to showcase up-and-coming brands from young designers and companies. God knows how hard it is for Pinoy brands, small or big, to compete with cheaper imports from other countries nowadays.”

Burgeoning shoe designer Joco Comendador has a few ideas on how the industry could help the country. Comendador, whose latest project is dressing up the models of the recent Bench Universe shows, is known for his killer heels. “The fashion industry can save the economy by maximizing locally produced raw materials such as fabric and leather, and hiring skilled workers locally instead of importing materials.” Involving everyone, from designers to mass retailers can encourage everyone from all economic backgrounds to join in the fun.

"The challenge for the Filipino market isn't convincing them to buy, it's basically to buy Filipino goods. Why aren't we buying our own? I guess a Pinoy Fashion Night Out would be a great way to edit that perspective and probably bring the whole fashion community closer, hitting so many fashionable birds with one glamorous stone," Obcena concludes.

Let’s admit it, the Filipino is becoming stylish. We’re not there yet, but the talents of our local designers are proof that we are ready for an international market. And the smizing Filipino public is hungry for more. A revolution is starting, and the best-dressed will lead the way. Dress appropriately.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Oh hell no.

The Philippines is abuzz, and ironically, we're supposed to keep quiet. The recent political brouhaha involves the Republic Act 10175 or the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012. Like everything political that happens in our country, a huge storm followed, with the public crying e-Martial Law. And yet, I find myself agreeing with the Anti-Cybercrime Law. Now, now, there's no need to doubt that it's me. No one is holding a gun to my head as I type this - I am expressing my own personal thoughts on the matter. 

Perhaps the most controversial aspect of the bill is the libel clause. In a nutshell, netizens will now be liable for what they say online, and may be charged for libel, an act that may get them jailed for up to 12 years. Frankly, I don't understand why people are making a big deal out of it. Libel exists in the publishing world and now that blogs and social networking sites are becoming legitimate forms of writing, it makes sense that the government should regulate it.

The point of libel is to protect people from unfounded claims that injure a reputation. And at the rate people bully others online, it's high time we need it. People seem to think that they can just say whatever they want and hide behind the veil of Anonymous, but sometimes, their comments hurt and are completely out of context.

Maybe people are just exaggerating their fears. They seem to think that with the Anti-Cybercrime law, they are no longer allowed to say what they really feel. That they will no longer be able to rant about their insensitive boyfriends and domineering bosses. I don't know if the elements of online libel will be the same as libel in print, but libel in print must have the following(a) imputation of a discreditable act or condition to another; (b) publication of the imputation; (c) identity of the person defamed; and, (d) existence of malice. I doubt that you will be jailed for simply disagreeing with another's opinion. If we are to base the libel clause on libel in print, a charge must meet all four elements and must include due process.

I've been a writer for quite some time, therefore I'm somewhat familiar with the grounds of libel. There's a way of criticizing someone's beliefs without hitting below the belt. After all, one mustn't stray from the issue and call a person ugly because he doesn't share your beliefs. We should be accountable for what we say, regardless of where we say it. We can't just call people names and expect to get away with it. We're looking at you, The Varsitarian. I'm glad that while UST is with you for supporting the RH Bill, they do not tolerate you calling Atenean and Lasallian professors "intellectual pretenders and interlopers."

What people are worried about is the possible abuse of people in power. After all, the people who signed the Cybercrime Bill are those who are regularly ridiculed or talked about online, so there has to be a personal angle to their signatures. It can be scary. By giving them the power to control what we say, it's easy to connect the bill to an e-Martial Law. There is a fear of excluding due process, much like what happens to other crimes. For reference, please watch Give Up Tomorrow, a powerful documentary about the case of Paco 
Larrañaga and the Chiong sisters. I watched it today after renewing my passport and I was emotionally drained.

Last Thursday, I was at Opus for the launch of Book Below Zero, the country's first online hotel booking website. I met Bingo, an SEO specialist and he shared his thoughts on the bill. He was more worried about the economic impact of the bill, but that's because of his line of work. For me, I was more concerned about libel.

Bills aren't bad, people are. In fact, the clause on libel is just this: "the unlawful or prohibited acts of libel as defined in Article 355 of the Revised Penal Code, as amended, committed through a computer system or any other similar means which may be devised in the future." And for reference, Article 355 of the Revised Penal Code states that: a
 libel is public and malicious imputation of a crime, or of a vice or defect, real or imaginary, or any act, omission, condition, status, or circumstance tending to cause the dishonor, discredit, or contempt of a natural or juridical person, or to blacken the memory of one who is dead.

As far as I can remember, no one has ever complained about that.

Libel has been around for years but it only affected journalists. However, you don't see them raising hell. I met one journalist from The Philippine Daily Inquirer who proudly told me that he has received over 30 cases of libel. And Lolit Solis? She must have them for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and during cocktail hour.

So there's no need to worry. They can barely catch criminals in broad daylight. What more the intricate universe of the world wide web? 

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Twisted II: Spawn of Twisted

I finally got around to buying a semi-complete set of Jessica Zafra's books. I was first introduced to Zafra (her works, at least) in 2007 by an ex-boyfriend, and I was immediately hooked by her first Twisted. It was witty, sarcastic, and irreverent. It seemed to have its own writing style, by just saying what it wants, regardless of its point. Perhaps it's the frequency of its first publication in Today, or maybe Zafra just doesn't care what anyone else thinks.

During the recent Manila International Book Fair, I was fortunate enough to have bought Twisted 2, 4, 5, 6, 7, and Twisted Travels, along with Alex Gilvarry's debut novel From The Memoirs of a Non-Enemy Combatant (which I got signed). For all seven books, I only spent a few hundreds above P,1000.

As for Twisted II: Spawn of Twisted, I was reminded again of why I fell in love with Zafra. She is still snarky and insightful, and her sense of humor is just as refreshing. What I did find hard to believe are her essays on love. I have no memory of her talking about her love life in the first and third books, so I was pretty surprised. The future dominatrix still has time to fall in love.

My favorite essay of the bunch is The Vulcan Mind and Cheese Meld, where she discusses a phone call from someone attempting suicide. Given Zafra's cynical approach, I expected her to antagonize the caller. Instead, she referenced Albert Camus' The Myth of Sisyphus, and said that "in the face of incredible, insane odds," Sisyphus kept going. She closed the essay with "This sick world is trying to break you. By sticking around, you annoy the hell out of it," which is typical for Zafra, thus making the article sincere.

Her other essays are just as enjoyable, and surprisingly timely. There were pieces on censorship, the futility of elections, and more importantly, notes on Tito Sotto. You might want to read it now.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Liquid sexuality.

A new breed of man has emerged. Gone are the days of overly masculine men, who defined their sexuality with the women they bed, the muscles they flex, and the guns they tote. Also gone are the metrosexuals and dandies, those men who picked moisturizers instead of fights, and had a growing appreciation of clothes. Today, the new man is.... undefinable.

The new man is hard to describe. They're in touch with their feminine sides, much like metrosexuals, but they are a little too in touch with it, almost bordering on gay. They freely use gay language, actually know who Alexander Wang is, and isn't afraid to shout to the world that he's a Gleek. He's still very much into fashion, but his tastes have evolved: he now wears leopard-print loafers.

The already blurry line between heterosexuality and homosexuality has seemingly faded. Jeans are skinnier, shirts are tighter, and the only thing sure about them is their constricted breathing. Case in point: I have a friend, who shall remain nameless and genderless. Nameless because I am afraid he might sue me in light of the new Cybercrime law, and genderless because I have no idea what his sexual orientation is. He says he's straight, but he is unusually affectionate towards me, has an obsession with girl-oriented shows like America's Next Top Model, and has this habit of sprinkling his sentences with baklese. Once, while we were gleefully talking about Twitter, he mentioned following a gay porn star, and admitted to watching gay porn. And in the same conversation, he told me about his undying love for this one girl.

Apparently, today's straight man watches gay porn and keeps the girl.

To be fair, gay men and women have also fifty shades of variations, from the mini-skirt wearing to the overly muscular, which we Filipinos call (and pursue) borta. I was in Cubao X last Saturday for the Bloom Arts Festival, and I saw many of my online friends appreciating the hard rock music playing amidst the fine pieces of local art. The thing is, a lot of them are gay.

Now, I'm a firm believer in the sexual revolution. I believe that a man's sexuality shouldn't be based on anything other than his preference. I long to live in a world where a heterosexual man can wear a dress without being called anything but beautiful. After all, one's sexuality shouldn't be based on the type of clothes he wears or the way he flips his hair. I don't even like to put a label on myself because I feel it limits me. Frankly, the only label I'd feel comfortable putting around myself is Comme des Garçons.

However, this liberation has come at the price of confusion. With everyone bending their genders, one can't easily tell if one is gay or just effeminate. Perhaps it's just me, but I miss those times when men were men and women were women. I miss the icons of masculinity and femininity - James Dean and Audrey Hepburn. If they were alive today, Dean would probably be telling me I look fierce and Hepburn would be a muay thai fighter. I agree that life shouldn't be monochromatic and we shouldn't live in black-and-white. But the expansive choice of color is dizzying, and call me sexist, but I'd appreciate a little stability in the sexual arena.

Another reason why we need real men: so I know which one to hit on.

Photo is of Andrej Pejic, the male model who was voted as FHM's 98th sexiest woman in 2011.  
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