Wednesday, January 16, 2013

The year that was: 2012

2012 wasn't as productive as my 2011, which was a year of many firsts. I appeared on TV, in a magazine, and I started work for a national broadsheet. Perhaps the lack of excitement for 2012 was because I got a day job, and I spent most of my time in the office, becoming a corporate slave. I resent the idea of locking myself to a desk, but I have to pay the bills - bills being my passions, luxuries, and extravagances.

So yes, it wasn't as exciting, but I'm here, about to regale you with the year that was, and all its memorable events. I'm hoping 2013 will be  a year of more firsts, more risks, and more fun.

1. My day job. I'm now a recruitment assistant for a call center in Alabang where I handle the complete recruitment process from application to orientation. Getting a day job was my mom's idea, who couldn't get used to my freelance writing gig. She wanted me to get a regular job, and in a way she was right. I was gaining a lot of weight, and getting a regular job meant a credit card. My journey towards becoming a corporate slave began when I applied to become an HR staff for Zara (which I mentioned but did not name).  I think they liked me, because they refused to accept my application as HR staff and were asking me to get an assistant manager post for Massimo Dutti, a more upscale label. I didn't want to work weekends and I wanted to also focus on Star, so I turned down the offer, even though it was extremely tempting.

I also applied at C3, a call center in BGC. I really wanted to work in the Fort because it's becoming the center of the social scene. I went through one interview and was instantly offered a job (HR assistant). However, since the company is still building its brand, the department is working overdrive to get the needed manpower. And they had work on Saturdays. The recruitment manager decided to cut Saturdays off my schedule but I still turned down the offer because of my commitment to the Star.

Right now I'm here at American Data Exchange I was recently regularized, and I love it here. I get to maintain my section at Star, add another writing gig to my plate, and still manage to go out. The hours are long, but the people are great and it gives me a sense of purpose. I made a lot of friends and even briefly participate in the Fun Committee, a group composed of managers that aims to make employees stay longer.

I had a lot of business opportunities this year but no matter how hard I try, I couldn't add more. Now, I'm pretty much happy with my three jobs. I think it's more than enough. But I'm about to start a small business with Nikko and I'm hoping it goes well.

2. My social life. Because of my three jobs, I couldn't get into more projects that would require too much attention. But I still did get to go out and have fun. In fact, I went out every weekend in 2012. I went to art shows and exhibits, musical plays, film festivals, seminars, premieres, launches, and parties. Some of my favorites were seeing Picasso's works at the Met, Art in the Park (which I wrote for the Star here), Carlos Celdran's Livin' La Vida Imelda, Gay Pride, Cinemalaya, the launch of The Manila Review, the Manila International Book Fair (where I got to buy most of Jessica Zafra's books and got to meet Alex Gilvarry who wrote From The Memoirs of a Non-Enemy Combatant), the Bloom Arts Festival, and seeing Mamma Mia!, Battalia Royale (on its first production!), and Bona.

Photo from Calme de Gracia Calmerin

3. Erratum. Two years ago, I started Erratum, the annual journalism seminar of the student publication in my alma mater. It was a success, and I was happy to hear that the next editorial board decided to make it better. And they did. They got a bigger venue and more established speakers (my favorite being Rogue's Raymond Ang). I am proud to say that the second run was a lot better than the first, and I was touched that they tapped me to give the "inspirational speech." My message was that you don't need to come from a big school to get into publishing, but that it helps if you know people in the industry. As much as I wanted to inspire future journalists, I didn't want to baby them. I'm not sure if I did well, but I got a shirt and some money, which I blew off the following day.

4. Writing gigs. I'm still with the Star, and I celebrated my one-year anniversary last November. I have a new section called Supreme Picks, where I highlight the events people should be going to during the weekend. I have a new writing gig for When In Manila, the online magazine. I'm not as active as I want to be because of my two other jobs but I've gone to several fun events, such as the launch of Book Below Zero, a TOMS event, Miss Resorts World Manila, the launch of SM Accessories' new line, the launch of Parker's new collection, the launch of Ingersoll's new line, a MUNI event, and on several critiquing trips with Nikko to some restaurants.

I also managed to get myself into Fantastic Filipino Fiction, a collection of horror stories to be published by Dean Alfar and Kenneth Yu. My story was about cannibalism.

5. Thailand, Baguio, Ilocos, Subic. My year wouldn't be complete without travel, and this year, I was able to complete my goal of going to four cities. I went to Thailand with the folks, and it was such a magnificent experience that I vowed to visit every year. Bangkok is a city steeped in culture with touches of modernity that it's fun to explore the contradiction. Plus the shopping is intensely cheap and fun. So far, it is my favorite foreign city.

Of course, the one picture that had to survive was an unflattering one. Taken from Nikko's Instagram

On a whim, Nikko and I went to Baguio for the weekend in June. We really didn't do much, just walk around and check out bookstores and shops then go home and eat. We spent much of the weekend just eating and shopping. But one of the highlights of our trip was visiting the BenCab Museum, which was in itself a work of art. Gorgeous, gorgeous. I didn't blog about my trip because sadly, I lost my camera a week after at Enchanted Kingdom.

I was slated to go to Capiz in late October but cancelled because of the fear of aswangs (I wasn't afraid, but people pressured me not to go). I was disappointed so imagine my joy when Nikko invited me to an all-expense paid trip to Ilocos. It was for a feature for When In Manila and he tagged me along. Ilocos has been one of my dream destinations and I got to see Laoag (empanada!), Paoay (sand dunes!), Pagudpud (beaches!) and Vigan (longganisa!) I had a great weekend just disconnecting from the real world through historic and nature trips and early nights in.

My last out-of-town trip was Subic with the folks. We checked in at this beach hotel for two days and spent the time gorging on delicious seafood we prepared ourselves. The beach was pretty standard but the company (and the food) was absolutely divine.

Photo from here

6. The Born This Way Ball. I was one of the first few people who found out Gaga was performing here (the perks of working in a newspaper - I also got news of One Direction endorsing Penshoppe months before it came out) and I was really excited to catch the show. I didn't catch The Fame Ball Tour in 2009, but she'll be promoting a lot of songs for The Born This Way Ball so it was an opportunity I couldn't miss. I watched with Nikko and it was such an experience. I felt that Gaga finally stepped out of Madonna's shadow and is making her individual mark in the industry. The show was dark, a little strange, but original and full of energy. I found myself dancing to many of the songs - my favorites were Born This WaySchei├če, and Marry The Night. I screamed myself hoarse that night, but it was exhilarating. In true Gaga form, she empowered the outcasts, the gay community, and those who ever felt different. You can feel the sincerity in her cause, and it made me proud to be who I am, flaws and all.

7. My love life, or lack thereof. Like last year, my love life hasn't been exciting. This is my third year to be single, and I don't feel bad about it. I once had a feeling that I wouldn't have time for boyfriends as soon as I graduate from college and I was right. I'm busy with my three jobs that I don't even think about entering a relationship. I go out on dates, have fun, hook up, but nothing else. Sometimes I feel lonely and wish I was in a relationship, but I haven't met the one guy who will sweep me off my feet and make me go gaga.

8. Getting an iPhone. I'm not really a gadget person and was really happy with my beat-up Nokia phone. I thought about getting an iPhone but quickly dismissed it, thinking I would eventually get bored with the apps. I'm happy with whatever that can text and make calls, so I never got one. That is, until my mom got me an iPhone 4 as a Christmas gift. I think she didn't tell me she was going to get me one because she knew I was going to say no, after what happened when she offered me an iPad for my birthday this year.

I'm addicted to it. I can't get enough of the apps, which has one for absolutely everything. I love Viber, Grindr, iBooks, and the apps for Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Tumblr, and Blogger. My current addiction is the TED app, where I can have access to all the talks. I must admit, life has become easier and more convenient with the iPhone, and I can't believe it took me this long to get on the bandwagon.

9. Relatives coming over from the US. This year was extra special because my relatives came over from the US to celebrate Christmas. In September, my grandmother and my cousin arrived; my grandmother will be staying here permanently, while my my cousin stayed for three weeks for his break. His family arrived for Christmas and stayed for two weeks, where we shuttled from our house, Katipunan (aunt's house), and Antipolo (uncle's house). It was a pleasant kind of pandemonium having our family semi-complete (the only one missing is an uncle who didn't come home from the US due to work), and the Christmas and New Year's parties were beyond awesome. They haven't been here for five years, and I'm hoping it won't take another five years for us to meet again.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013


Last Saturday, I was at Ateneo for the first ever TEDxADMU. TED, or Technology, Entertainment, and Design, is a series of global conferences that began in Long Beach, California of "ideas worth spreading" through inspirational talks. The talks don't have a specific theme and may range from various topics, from introversion to prejudice and terrorism. TEDx events are independent, meaning anyone can form a TED event in his local community as long as he follows certain guidelines. Today, there are over five TEDx events held each day in over 133 countries, with a total of 16,000 TEDx talks.

This year's TEDxADMU was exciting because it was my first time to attend. I didn't know what to expect, but based on the speakers, I knew I was in for something great. The speakers were Eddie Calasanz, Pepe Diokno, Chris Lao, Alex Hornstein, and Sabrina Ongkiko. The theme was I grow the nation, and I ignite the nation through nation building or ignation. The event was hosted by Boy Abunda and Lia Cruz.

Eddie Calasanz kicked off the event by talking about a student who asked him his purpose in life. Calasanz is  Ateneo's "master" of the Office of the Associate Dean for Academic Affairs, and talked about the philosophical meaning of ambition and greatness. He stressed the importance of dreaming big but starting small, and that you must start with yourself before you start with the world. It takes time, even a lifetime.

I was very inspired by his talk, especially now that there's so many things I want to do but feel like there's not enough time. I feel like channeling my inner hedonist and just let things go and enjoy the ride. It made me remember this quote from the home of every modern philosopher: Twitter. You don't have to be great when you start, but you have to start to be great.

Pepe Diokno talked about film (of course) and about who killed Philippine cinema. Pepe, who is an award-winning director and my editor for The Philippine Star, lamented on the sorry state of our film. He cited the importance of cinema, which is a country's records of its culture and identity. According to him, the Philippines has a weird identity because we keep projecting ourselves on Hollywood and its different culture. More importantly, cinema is good for the economy.

So who killed Philippine cinema? According to Pepe, budgets killed it. Costly expenses and bleak earnings discourage filmmakers, but he remains hopeful that our industry will be like that of Korea's, which allots budgets for filmmakers. As a result, the Korean film industry has taken the world by storm, encouraging tourism and support of Korean products. He claims that our films and TV shows are making the rounds of the world but we should also support our own, which is one of the world's oldest. I think most people should stop being pretentious by only watching foreign movies, because there are a lot of great Filipino movies.

Chris Lao focused on the negative effects of bullying, which he experienced when a viral clip of him ranting about no one informing him about a flooded part of Quezon City hit the web. He recounted his experiences, from the hate mail and mean Facebook pages to his suicide attempt. He was unusually cheerful about it, which he credits to a life-changing trip to Chiang Mai, Thailand. He then shared stories of teen suicides, which is the third leading cause of death among young people, claiming 4,000 lives a year. Heartbreaking.

Chris's final message was that happiness is a choice.

I wanted to share my experiences being bullied in high school, but chickened out. I wanted to share how little and different I felt as a kid, but was loved and accepted by a liberal household. My mom was very supportive and never made me feel like a freak. I wanted to share how you only need to surround yourself with people that love you to make you feel special, but I was afraid I'd have a mini-breakdown.

Alex Hornstein, co- founder of The Solar Pocket Factory, talked about the benefits of using solar panels as an alternative form of energy. His talk had a lot of jargon and I didn't get what he said, but I knew where he was coming from and admired his efforts. His dream is for more people to turn to solar energy, which will be much cheaper in the long run. He also hopes for locally-made panels to decrease cost.

Tito Boy wasn't afraid to announce that he didn't get what Hornstein said, so he went up on stage to clarify things for everyone's benefit. We got a smidgen of Hornstein's talk, which was good enough for me.

Sabrina Ongkiko closed the conference, and rightly so. Out of all the speakers, she was the only one who got a standing ovation. Ongkiko is an Ateneo alumnus who gave up a future in medicine to pursue public teaching. People have said that it was the wrong decision, her father even asking what the return of investment was.

She was inspiring because she seemed so jolly and passionate, totally different from what we hear from stories about public schools. She hates the public school teacher stereotype, claiming there are more good teachers than bad ones. The media only chooses to publicize the worst of the lot while the hardworking ones quietly work.

Because of her pedigreed educational background, she is constantly asked if has given up on public school students but she is still happily doing her job. She claimed to have learned a lot from her students, who she loves and has made her a better teacher and person. It takes a lot of faith and according to her, with students from the public school system, to believe is to see.

She recounts the story of Darwin, one of her students from Culiat who regularly accompanies her to her talks in ADMU. On one of his visits, he was amazed at the size of the field and ran around, vowing he will study there one day. Today, he is an honor student at Ateneo. And that, she says, is the return of her investment.

All in all, the organizers came up with a great conference, and I'm looking forward to attending their second event next year. The P300 door charge was well worth hearing some really great ideas and being introduced to the TED community. An app is available for download with all the talks around the world.

Also, Moonleaf Teashop was one of the sponsors so I got to see Tita Thysz Estrada, the amazing and gorgeous marketing director. May I nominate her to speak next year?

I commuted to Ateneo, and it was my first time to do so alone. I rode the LRT 2 from Cubao to Katipunan, and I was amazed at the cleanliness and efficiency (compared to LRT1 and MRT) of the train system. It was surprisingly empty and reminded me of NAIA in the early morning. It was very peaceful and I enjoyed the commute. And then I was faced with the riot that is the MRT and was brought back to reality.

Why don't we start with changing the train system?

Monday, January 7, 2013


Surprisingly, I wanted to watch Sisterakas because I wanted to, not because I was forced to or dragged to by a well-meaning but terribly misinformed friend. Frankly, I wanted to see it out of morbid fascination. I knew it was going to one of those movies, the ones that would capitalize on the stars involved and slapstick humor, which I do not find funny.

I was right.

Sisterakas is one of the contenders for this year's Metro Manila Film Festival, and in the recent awards night, won Best Supporting Actress for Wilma Doesnt and 3rd Best Picture. The story revolves around the rivalry between Bernice (Vice Ganda) and Detty (Ai-Ai Delas Alas), which began in childhood when Detty's mom discovers that her husband is sleeping with Bernice's mom, the maid. Bernice rises to become owner of a successful line of apparel called Ponytale and Detty falls on harder times. She unwittingly applies as Bernice's executive assistant and goes through grueling tasks under the terror boss, who knows her identity and is planning his revenge. Then there is Roselle Hermoso (Kris Aquino), who runs La Yondelle, Ponytale's fiercest competitor.

Sisterakas heavily relies on the fame and style of its leads: Vice Ganda, Ai Ai Delas Alas, and Kris Aquino. There is Kris's over-the-top kolehiyala aura, Ai-Ai's self-deprecating facial expressions (and those tired jokes about her chin), and Vice's trademark sarcasm. It was funny in Praybeyt Benjamin, but he pushed it in This Guy's In Love With U, Mare! and it got really stale.

The movie had its moments. While everyone was guffawing over Vice's retorts, I found Kris to be the real star. To me, she carried the entire film as Roselle, the raving lunatic. She was believable and I think the realism lies in the role being a parody of the real Kris, making it easier for her to act. I see her more effective in comedy than in horror, where she looks so... controlled. And then there are her costumes, and the references to her personal life. This movie wouldn't be possible without Kris as a large chunk of its appeal is the satire on Kris's filmography and marriage to James Yap. Case in point, Bernice's assistant James, who responds with "Yup?" when called and Roselle's first line: That was worse than a Kris Aquino horror movie experience.

In spite of Kris's endearing acting, it does not save the movie. Overall, Sisterakas feels half-finished, rushed. Character development is scarce, and the only one I saw was for Vice, who as a child felt obligated to be more bongga because of what happened to his mother. There is no clear explanation as to why Ai-Ai ended up becoming poor. In fact, the only explanation was that she separated from her husband. Kris's character appears out of nowhere and serves only to upstage Ponytale.

Perhaps the clearest example of the rushed quality of the film is the Daniel Padilla-Kathryn Bernardo love tandem. One minute they get introduced to each other, there are at least two instances of Daniel wooing Kathryn, then Daniel saves her from a requisite accident. We assume that she falls for him because she smiles when he cracks another one of his tired pick-up lines, then in the next scene, they're breaking up. And oh, during the final scenes, you can see Daniel laughing at what was otherwise a "dramatic" scene.

The movie had its shining moments, but those moments are isolated and are usually on the lines delivered, not on the story itself. In short, the scenes worked around the humor, instead of the other way around.

Sisterakas isn't exactly on a purist's priorities to watch, but it's the kind of movie that doesn't require you to analyze or ponder on anything. It's a shallow watch but it's worth seeing for Kris.
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