Thursday, February 28, 2013

Magnum Presents: Azealia Banks in Manila

When I first heard about Azealia Banks coming to Manila, I was pleasantly surprised. I'm not really a fan but it's nice to know that more acts are coming to the country, especially the lesser-known ones. We have Stars, How To Dress Well, and Grimes. It's comforting to know that there are people who are taking the effort to bring our indie favorites to the Philippines.

But then I found out that the concert is by invite-only, as dictated by the Magnum team (the ice cream) that brought her here for their one-year anniversary. I thought it was off - flaunting her concert all over Twitter only to say that it's "ultra-exclusive." It's kind of like waving a glass of water at a thirsty man's face. Of course the uproar was there. Fans of Banks who didn't have the right connections couldn't watch, even if they could afford to buy tickets.

The ice cream has become very controversial. It began as a status symbol, with people announcing to the world that they can afford to eat Magnum. I once saw a collage online of a girl eating the ice cream and one picture showed her holding the receipt. Yes, it's delicious, but it's not exactly gold.

And now it has come to this. The high-society image of the snack (to many, that is) has become even more exclusive, with an invite-only party to one of the burgeoning musicians of our time. To fans of Azealia Banks, it's not exactly good for the Magnum image. And from my experience, the fans are the ones who hold a particular dislike for the popularity of the ice cream. But like I said, I only like 212 so it didn't really matter.

Somehow, Nikko managed to get us invites. I have to admit I was psyched. A concert is a concert, and a free one at that, and the possibility of hoarding the new flavors of Magnum bars was extremely tempting.

The mini-concert was great. It was held at the gardens of this house in Forbes Park. Azealia was great, and I found myself dancing even if I only knew two songs. People went wild over Harlem Shake but when she closed the show with 212, I went absolutely nuts. The energy was something else but I suspected that only a few were true fans, most were there to support their celebrity friends - or ogle at them. It would have been crazy if everyone who came loved her music.

I feel guilty for attending the show, knowing that there are bigger fans who could probably rap along Azealia's songs. Nikko and I still believe that the Magnum team should hold an intimate gathering with the singer, then have a bigger, more inclusive concert the following night. But I'm still thankful that the team extended an invite. I wish I could have tried the new flavors - I was about to bite into one when Azealia popped into the stage, greeting us in English, minus the standard mabuhay.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Art Fair Philippines 2013

Last Sunday, I was in The Link for the first ever Art Fair Philippines. The event is a project of Trickie Lopa and Lisa Ongpin Periquet, the duo that organizes the annual Art in the Park. I was very excited because my interest in art has been steadily growing and I wanted to see what's in store for Philippine contemporary art.

Art Fair Philippines was held from February 7-10 at the carpark of The Link in Makati, a conscious choice by the organizers who felt that it enhances the presence of Philippine contemporary art in a global setting, which uses unconventional settings and non-traditional spaces. But the layout was carefully selected, with the help of Kenneth Cobonpue and Leando V. Locsin Partners, which facilitated the flow of viewing. The 24 galleries were personally handpicked by the organizers, and none of them disappointed.

According to Trickie, "We’re so excited about the inroads Philippine art has achieved within the worldwide contemporary arts community. One goal is to make sure Filipinos are aware that we have this exciting arts scene that we should all be proud of and fully support."

The 24 galleries and art groups involved were: Altro Mondo; Art Cube; Art Informal; Avellana Gallery; Bureau of Artistic Rehab (BAR); Blanc; Boston Gallery; Center for Art, New Ventures and Sustainable Development (Canvas); The Drawing Room; Finale Art File; Galleria Duemila; Light and Space Contemporary; Liongoren Gallery; Manila Contemporary; Mo Space; Now Gallery; Pablo; Paseo Gallery; PMAP Philippine Art Awards; Salcedo Auctions; Secret Fresh; Silverlens; Tin-Aw; and West Gallery. The participating groups and artists were given freedom to put out what they want, as long as the pieces had a message to communicate.

According to a friend, the arrival of AFP is a direct response to last year's Manilart. Some have criticized Manilart, with Silvana Diaz of Galleria Duemila blaming the darkness and the loud music that made it hard to appreciate the pieces. Isa Lorenzo of Silverlens chose to participate in AFP instead of Manilart because the AFP organizers "are more in touch with international art fairs and the level of organization and professionalism involved." Despite the surface rivalry, Trickie remains ambivalent and says "I hope this isn’t built into some sort of rivalry because there’s room for everyone. We should be so lucky that our visual arts scene is getting so many alternative venues these days," in an interview with Business World.

I feel happy that more and more events like this are sprouting, because it offers a venue for artists to have a bigger audience and for viewers to see that Philippine art is quite competitive and isn't limited to oil paintings of barrios and sarimanok. Today's artist is as diverse as those found in more established art scenes, and it won't be surprising if we would have our own biennale. With Ronald Ventura's staggering $1.1 million bid at Sotheby's, breaking the record for the most expensive contemporary Southeast Asian painting, it makes me hope that our other artists will get the recognition that is due them.

Because there were so many galleries, I didn't get the chance to really appreciate the works. Call it Stendhal Syndrome or a short attention span, but even though I spent a good few hours strolling around with Nikko, I was overwhelmed so much of it was a blur. There's always a gallery next door, an undiscovered talent that it was a mad rush to take it all in. But I did have some favorite works. Perhaps my biggest mistake of the night was not getting the names of the piece and the artist. The biggest sin.

I saw some of my amigas, who were also checking out the local art scene. There was Raf Mirafuente of Extrapolation, my latest jazz obsession; Chui Chuidan, whose boyfriend Zean Cabangis has an artwork, and who was profiled as one of the six young artists to invest in now by Rogue, and whose solo exhibit I wrote about for Star; Don Jaucian, and Stefan Punongbayan, who was with his awesome mom, who asked him if he saw all the artworks.

That night, Nikko and I dropped by the Manila Polo Club for the Fila Polo Cup. We made it in time for the festivities, and I saw more of my amigas: My boss Tim who hosted the event, Joedan Reyes, whose brother was in my batch in high school, and James Donovan and Carol Esguerra, the president and CFO of the company I work for during the weekdays. I didn't get to see Queenie Rehman, who I went to high school with and was the Philippine representative for the Miss World competition. I got a pair of really nice running shoes from Fila.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Why I think the single, fabulous you is bullshit

I have been single for almost three years.

It used to not bother me, but as old age is creeping in, I am beginning to notice the signs of depressive singledom. It used to be little; I would miss having someone listen to me even if he didn't want to, someone I could confide my murderous thoughts, and of course, the regular sex. Then it just became an unrelenting sense of loneliness and jealousy as Valentine's came knocking.

Valentine's. It's funny how as a poster child for promiscuity, I've never had an actual Valentine. Sure, I've received flowers and expensive gifts on regular days and going out on dates is very frequent. People assume I score guys because of my terrific personality (which I don't contest), but I believe it's because I have a steady supply of chloroform and silk scarves. But for some reason, I always found myself alone on the wretched day of hearts and this year won't be different.

It used to not bother me, but my growing melancholia has magnified the universe's attempt to make me suffer as the people around me go on dates and eat each other alive in public. It sounds very narcissistic to assume that the universe would focus its attention to torturing me, but it's depressing the shit out of me.

I have been single for almost three years. That's roughly around the time I graduated from school. I had this theory that once I get out of college, I'd be single for a long while. I would be too busy with my career to focus on a boyfriend, who I felt would just drag me down. I thought of the world as my oyster, and I intended to make the most out of it.

My career flourished and I slowly lost interest in having a relationship. I think I even lost the ability to have actual emotions because I could not relate to any of those tragic films/songs/books/TV shows. I couldn't understand what Adele was singing and though I got what she was trying to say, I couldn't relate. At all. I was happy. I had a stable career. I had an active social life. I did not deny myself anything, I bought everything the hell I wanted.

Chalk it up to quarter-life crisis, but I became unsatisfied with my life. Suddenly I had no idea what I was doing or where I was headed. Even while I was surrounded by so many people, I felt so alone. I began questioning my decisions and my very existence. Was I really happy? What is happening to my life? Then my "depression" began.

It's not really depression, but I knew I was heading there if I didn't do something. To be quite honest, I've had this feeling for quite some time. And by some time, I mean years. I don't want to call it suicidal tendencies, but I felt very tired of life and all its complexities. I have so many insecurities that I was certain I would either die of stress.... or suicide. Fortunately, I've gotten rid of those disturbing thoughts but those feelings of loneliness are still there.

And then I realized that this choice is a conscious one. Or an unconscious one. Either way, it is a choice. I've lost the ability to trust people, and while I can clearly remember who did this and why it happened, I chose to distance myself from people and live in voluntary seclusion.

I have it all. Except human connection. I realized that to be truly happy, I needed to connect emotionally to my friends and family. I realized that financial stability and a successful career does not equate a happy life. What's the point of being on top if you have no one to share it with? And more importantly, who do you drink with when you're at the lowest point?

One night, I decided to invite Nikko and Jan to my house for dinner. There, I began the daunting task of sharing my feelings, and happily, they weren't overwhelmed with three years worth of pent-up emotions. It felt really good, and I felt lighter. More importantly, I felt happier.

I promised myself that I will open up more, take more risks, and start trusting people. The only reason I've been successful is because I've been playing it safe. It's about time that I put myself out there to experience hurt, pain, and rejection. A life half-lived is as bad as a life not lived at all, and I want to feel everything life has to offer, from the good to the bad.

Some people may say that you don't need relationships. They say that you can be your single, fabulous self and lead a successful career and have girlfriends and you will never be unhappy. I agree. I have some of the best friends in the world who get me and can tolerate all my political and sexual incorrectness. Same goes with my family, who accept me and love me even if I haven't showered in days. But friendship and familial ties can only go so far, what with their own personal relationships and awkwardness in discussing your sex life with your mother. There is a deeper security and intimacy, not necessarily sexual, that you can get from a boyfriend.

Like all my past Valentine's, I didn't have a date, but I did spend the night with someone. Not someone I particularly cared for, but a guy whose face was enough for me to forget my neuroses. It was a one-night stand and the feeling of being wanted, lusted after, made me feel infinitely better.

I feel that I am now ready for a relationship. I've done my experimentation and while I'm not closing off the idea of one-night stands, I'm ready to face life with a partner. I hope this doesn't come off as desperate. I wouldn't be one of those guys who would literally pounce at the next guy who shows interest, liking the idea of having a boyfriend more than the boyfriend. Just because I'm depressed doesn't mean my milkshake stopped bringing the boys to the yard, honey.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Are bloggers too united?

These days, it isn't surprising to see bloggers sitting in front row seats at fashion shows, gracing magazine covers, or appearing in mainstream media as legit forms of celebrity and influencer. Case in point: Bryanboy. The self-styled Filipino blogger now has a judging stint at America’s Next Top Model, among other projects I’m sure you have heard countless of times.

I myself am a blogger and find this idea democratizing. You don't need to write a book, carry a hit single, or act in a big-budget movie to make yourself famous. All you need is a decent bandwidth, a shameless ability to promote yourself, and some haters. Wit is optional.

A subspecies of this breed, and perhaps the most popular, is the fashion blogger. This type is gaining momentum as one of the fashion industry's darlings. Flip to any page of Vogue and you’re bound to see them posing in their trademark pose. In the Philippines, quite a number of them began endorsing SM. I think fashion bloggers are put on a pedestal because of the organic appeal of their style – their clothes are wearable and aren’t like what we see on the runways, which is a carefully curated look. Fashion bloggers are real, and wear what they want. But why is it that these bloggers are beginning to look the same?

Blogs used to be a very personal thing. It reflects the things, tastes, and thoughts of the writer. Each blog is unique in its perspective and style. But browse through some of the more popular sites and you’ll see these girls (and guys) wearing the same things in the same styles from the same stores. Then there is the blogger pose: looking down, feet facing each other, hair down, one hand on hip and the other playing with a lock of hair.

You begin to wonder if these bloggers have the same tastes or are copying each other. You also wonder if the sameness of everything is a result of clever PR folks who see the golden opportunity in bloggers and their readers. Gone are the days when you’d read entries about their crushes (or cats) and their latest vintage find at the Cubao ukay. Today, most blogs read like catalogues of advertisements. Today it’s about retweet this, hashtag that, and can you please, please, please hype this look on Lookbook?

Blogs are beginning to look the same. What used to be an alternative space for unique voices is now an army of well-dressed clones. Well-dressed, yes, but isn’t running into someone with the same exact outfit a major fashion faux pas? What happened to that rule?

It's funny how the blogosphere is a microcosm of real life. The more established bloggers are supported by sponsors, endorsement deals, and the power to influence. Unfortunately, some of these are the bloggers in question, to whom originality is not put to a premium. Like real life, we have the small independent bloggers who silently relay their thoughts and #ootd, many of which are highly entertaining and great.

I'm not saying that these bloggers should change styles. I’m a live and let live kind of guy and I’m a big fan of floral prints myself. I love color and leopard prints. If I had more time, I think I would venture into the business of fashion blogging and would fit in with these bloggers.

What we need are bloggers who are original, who have a unique approach to fashion and who dare go against the grain. We demand people who have cute shoes and original points of view, not bloggers who beg for hypes and end up with endorsements with makeup brands and online stores. All I’m saying is, stop being a vehicle for promotions and post some original content. I mean, how many satchel bags and wedges do we really need to see before it becomes ironic?

On our part as readers, we should ask for more. There are styles beyond peplum skirts, skyscraper-high heels, and bangs. Let our tastes evolve. Explore the interwebs and you will see a wide variety of bloggers that you can associate yourself with better. Or find a real blogger who actually posts content. Being invited to cover an event is one thing, but copying and pasting the press release is another thing altogether.

Bryanboy is perhaps the best example of a fashion blogger. He has lived the life even before fashion blogging became a cultural and glamorous phenomenon. Stories have circulated about his checkered past, but he has succeeded because he refused to fit into a stereotype. His clothes were often trashy, but they were original. If I see another bag being modeled in 10 blogs, I think I’m going to die.
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