Tuesday, April 28, 2009


One of my favorite English expressions is “stop and smell the roses.” It basically means you have to slow down and pay attention to the things around you. Another is “don’t rest on your laurels” which means you shouldn’t rely on past achievements to get along. What is it about the English language and idioms? It’s almost like it was meant to confuse people. After all, what good would smelling flowers do to someone who is very busy? If you really wanted to rest on something, wouldn’t you be more comfy in a fluffy chair?

Hold on. Before anyone reacts, I just want to make two things clear: (1) I know expressions are not meant to be taken literally and (2) I also know that laurels were these things used for recognition back in Ancient Greece. (I have a point here somewhere. I just need a little time to get to it.) If you think about it, these expressions are there for a reason. It got me a little confused. Which one should I follow? Should I keep running for that goal or should I take time to appreciate the things that I’ve accomplished so far?

I must say that today was a good day as far as Mondays go. The work load wasn’t as heavy as the past few weeks and they put me on the mid shift which means I can walk home without losing half the water in my body. Minutes before I logged out, something interesting happened. I was helping this friend of mine carry a couple of heavy workbooks to class when a trainee suddenly asked me a question.

“How old are you?” she asked.

Uh oh. Not again*, I gulped.

“That’s not a very polite question.” said their trainer.

“No. It’s just that I’ve seen you around and honestly, you look eighteen. How old are you?”

I was a little tired and I didn’t really care anymore about losing my credibility and stuff so I returned the question to her. “How old are you?


“We’re the same age then.”

When I got a moment alone, I looked in the mirror and wondered what exactly tipped me off this time. Most days, I feel like an imposter, trying to fit in with the rest of the world. Maybe it’s my hair or how I didn’t tuck my shirt in today. Maybe it’s all the sleep I got last night or the fact that I’m getting a little fat. Maybe (just maybe) it was the fact that yes, I am only 22.

I brushed it off, logged out and walked home. The street was dimly lit but not too dark to notice something moving, err leaping near my foot. It was a huge toad about the size of my fist and it was trying to get to this plant box where all the yummy flies were (or whatever it is toads leap for at midnight). The problem is it kept falling down because the plant box was pretty high. The poor thing just kept hitting the wall. If he had only paced a little further, he would’ve seen a little mound of cement that he could used to boost himself up. As I walked away, he was still at it- trying to get to higher ground but instead, falling flat on his face.

I was almost home when it suddenly hit me. I should stop fighting my youth. I know I’ve strongly expressed my desire to grow up immediately* but at the same time, I already am. Every day, I’m inching closer to 23. Years from now, when I look back to this part of my life, I don’t want to remember how I hated myself for being young. Hello world. I’m 22. Deal with it.

Being said that I am 22, I asked myself which expression I should imbibe. Should I rest on my laurels or stop and smell the roses? I realized that it should be a healthy mix of both. I need to acknowledge that yes, I do have laurels. It’s not as big or as plenty as the next guy’s but I still have them. I fully intend to smell the roses until I sneeze from all the pollen. The roses are oh so sweet and come to think of it, I worked hard for them. Hopefully, the toad in me will stop jumping at that damn wall in time to find that the cement mound is right around the corner. There’s no need to rush. Time is on my side.

Semi-update. I finally got to go to the beach and I’m happy to report that a little provincial air actually did me some good. The beach wasn’t exactly swim-mable but my work friends and I had fun in our pseudo-team building anyway. We took tons of pictures (this one was from my phone’s camera so the color’s aren’t that nice) which I’ll post real soon. The writing’s coming along pretty well, too and I’m going to post a story snippet just as soon as I get some outside perspective on it. This was definitely a gold star day!*

Monday, April 27, 2009

Review: Breakfast at Tiffany's

Breakfast at Tiffany's
Released: October 5, 1961
Rating: ♥♥♥♥♥
[official website] [wiki] [imdb]

There’s a scene towards the end of Breakfast at Tiffany’s that almost made me dismiss the whole thing as a waste of time and money. I was thiiiiiis close to ripping the damn disc out of the player when I decided to endure the last five minutes. It’s raining (as most dramatic Hollywood scenes of this era are wont to do). Holly and Paul aka Fred are inside a cab and are debating whether or not she should go to Brazil- this despite the fact that Paul has moved mountains to be with this crazy woman. He has placed his entire life on hold to protect and care for a woman who does not even call him by his real name and who, let’s be honest, was very unladylike throughout the movie. He tells her he loves her, proposes marriage and delivers a heart-wrenching speech. She just sits there, indifferent, smoking a cigarette. I could say I’m pretty jaded but I still felt a little hurt for the guy. I wanted to hit her in the head with that damn cigarette holder but then she wises up, chases after him in the rain, and they lived happily ever after. As the end credits rolled, I sighed a breath of relief and finally understood why this movie has been a fan-favorite for all these years.

There are only four reasons why a person would not know even a little about Breakfast at Tiffany’s:
  1. You’ve lived under a rock for the past fifty years or so.
  2. You detest everything about American culture, including cinema, music and literature.
  3. Your parents are wildly religious and are against movies that show any of the following: drinking, kissing, stealing and smoking.
  4. You consider Krystala to be your entertainment benchmark.
If you agree with any of the statements above, I suggest you do yourself a favor and pick up a copy of this movie now. It’s a film full of iconic images that have come to shape the idea that most people have of love and of New York City. Everyone from Gossip Girl to Dmitri from Paris has paid some sort of homage to the film. I remember my mom used to sing the movie's Academy Award winning theme Moon River to me as a lullaby and that I wept openly when my sister sang it when my mom started working in the States. This movie has been embedded into my system despite the fact that I was 22 when I first saw it.

Audrey Hepburn plays Holly Golightly, a New York socialite who’s always made up regardless of the hour, has a thing for Tiffany’s and is hell-bent on marrying a millionaire. She meets Paul Varjak played by George Peppard, a struggling writer who hasn’t written anything in ages but still manages to live in a posh New York apartment. After a few minutes, it settles in. Holly is a modern-day geisha while Paul is a kept man. It has been said that because of ancient censorship, the producers had to downplay this a little. They go through all sorts of crap together, including a very public incarceration and a brief bout with shoplifting. Until the very end of the film, I still wasn't sure if they should be together or not and it's that kind of stress and confusion that makes this film really good.

Paul Varjak was the perfect leading man. He saw past the fact that Holly was either drunk or hung over and saw a woman worthy to be loved. He’s got that ancient machismo thing that films these days no longer have. Most romantic films these days show sensitive, artsy-fartsy types who would write you a poem or dedicate a sonata for you and it was refreshing to see one of the oldest and best known examples of the macho male archetype on film at work.

One thing that bears mentioning was how they got Mickey Rooney, a white man, to play the stereotypical annoying Asian neighbor with matching yellow make-up, prosthetic teeth and fake glasses. I thought the humor was very slapstick-y and the character, aside from being a long and elaborate racist joke, was quite unnecessary. The aging actor in a 2008 interview said that he was really heartbroken about all the criticism he got. Perhaps the film's producers wanted to gain a few laughs but in fact many Asians to this day still have not made peace with this movie. (But then again that’s just one little thing to look past and if I were to be honest, I'm not really that offended and so let’s continue.)

It’s funny how prior to seeing this film, I thought of Audrey Hepburn as this really posh woman. In the film’s opening and arguably most famous scene, she is seen walking in a black Givenchy dress, all made-up and stuff, eating a croissant in front of Tiffany’s. She was glamorous all up to this point. For the most parts of the remaining 110 minutes of the film, you get to see Ms. Hepburn's messier side. She’s a little tactless and annoying and drunk but then she turns around, kisses your boo boo and makes everything go away. There was a moment in the movie where I just wanted to shake her and scream schizo! but after some time, I realized that most female heroines have to be a little flawed to be really loved. Despite being rude and drunk all the time, you get the feeling that you want to save her and that brief glimmer of vulnerability makes Hepburn’s performance in this film so remarkable.

It’s a movie that all cinema lovers should see. I guess films back then were really different. There’s a sort of romanticism in the covert, a form of sexiness in the clothed. Back then, rain actually meant something and you could tell that people meant it when they said I love you. Three hours ago, I never understood what the fuss about this movie was all about. Now that I’ve seen it, allow me to borrow some words from Paul Varjak. These words were also heavily sampled in the Dmitri From Paris song, Une Very Stylish Fille. It’s from the scene where Holly and Paul first meet. Holly asks “How do I look?” and along with Paul, all I can say is “Very good. I must say I’m amazed.”

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Review: La Mala Educación

I know I'm supposed to be on a blogging hiatus and everything but because of the goals that I set for myself this year, I had to take a little break to talk about some movies I saw. In my idle time, I was counting how many films I've seen since my last review* and I realized I had to start writing or else I might have to post fifty reviews all at once. So anyway, here's me breaking away from my little hiatus to bring you a couple of movie reviews.

La Mala Educación (Bad Education)
Released: March 19, 2004 (Spain), September 5, 2004 (US)
Rating: ♥♥♥♥
[official website] [wiki] [imdb] 

I first heard of Bad Education back in 2005* and I ultimately dismissed it as yet another gay European film. I posted a picture of the lead actor, Gael García Bernal, in drag and back then, I didn't feel like it was a serious movie so I didn't bother looking for it. Four years later, a friend lends me his copy and I finally get the chance to see it. I was surprised to see that there's more to the story than just gay Europeans flailing about. It tells the story of Enrique and Ignacio, two boys who met and fell in love in school only to be separated by a gay priest. Seems like a mouthful but considering that the movie was ambitious enough to include several controversial themes such as gay priests, drug abuse, transexuality, betrayal, blackmail, child abuse in the Catholic church and murder, the last statement barely scratched the surface.

Bernal is a great actor, that much is clear. Anyone who's seen Y Tu Mamá También, El Crimen del Padre Amaro or the Che Guevarra biopic Motorcycle Diaries can attest to that. I just never saw how brilliant he truly is until I saw this movie. He plays Juan, an ambitious actor who will stop at nothing to get what he wants. The character was actually patterned after Tom Ripley who was extremely evil but had an angelic face. He really stretches his acting muscles in this movie, proving to everyone just how flexible an actor he can be.

As my first Almodóvar film, I must admit I expected a lot. He is known as one of the most succesful Spanish filmmakers and just like Madonna, he's so cool he only needs one name. Many cinema freaks swear by him as much as I love Wong Kar Wai. I was amazed at how brilliantly he was able to execute the movie despite the fact that it was very complicated and that he usually works with a predominantly female cast (this movie was a first for him because most of the characters were men). He worked on this story for an entire decade and anyone who sees this movie can attest that those years were not spent in vain.

It's a story that will have you hooked from beginning to end. The film in itself is very suspenseful and thought-provoking. If you're a fan of foreign cinema or murder mysteries, this is definitely a worthy see. 4/5.

Monsters vs. Aliens. I saw this movie alone (because no one wants to watch cartoons anymore. Boo.) and I can honestly say I thoroughly enjoyed it. The characters were extremely adorable and the plot had me hooked from the first frame. My favorite monster has got to be B.O.B. (voiced by Seth Rogen of Knocked Up fame), a huge Jell-o figure that was created when a genetically-altered tomato was injected with this weird salad dressing. He was so adorable, I think I might just see this again when it comes out on DVD.

Forgetting Sarah Marshall. I'm not a huge fan of How I Met Your Mother but I must admit that whenever I catch it on TV, I find myself hooked. This movie was written and starred by Jason Segel (who plays Marshall in HIMYM) and tells the story of a guy who just lost his girlfriend of five years to an annoying British rock star. It was pretty funny although I was a bit disturbed by the large amount of male nudity in the film. It's almost like Segel flashed the audience every chance he got. There's a scene at the end of the film where authentic Muppets act and sing out Dracula's story. In the DVD's special features, it is revealed that Segel came up with the concept when he was in his early twenties. Talk about screwed up. That scene alone is well worth the price of admission.

 Fast & Furious. This is the fourth movie of the Fast and the Furious franchise and supposedly takes place between the second and third movie. I was a little curious because it's pretty rare to see a movie's original cast all coming back to reprise their roles (especially when they weren't part of the other sequels). I remember I really liked the first movie. It was like this generation's version of The Godfather. The fourth installment was incredibly disappointing. The scenes seemed forced, the car scenes barely exhilarating and the plot mundane and a bit preposterous. You can't pay me to see this movie again.

Beauty Shop. Disclaimer: I did not set out to watch this movie. I was watching Velvet and it suddenly came on and before I knew it, the end credits were rolling. I actually sat through the whole thing! Queen Latifah is always a pleasure onscreen although it must be said that it wasn't the story that got me hooked. It was the fact that they were trying so hard to send out a message that African Americans are strong and hard-working and all that but at the same time, they engaged in racial stereotypes and at certain points seemed a little racist (to the white characters). The movie's not going to win any Oscars soon but seeing Alicia Silverstone with a fake southern accent dropping it like 'it's hot' is enough to keep you in stitches for weeks (for all the wrong reasons, of course).

The Amazing Truth About Queen Raquela. Carlo made me see this movie and I initially thought it was a quirky little indie film about a tranny (or a gay Ai-Ai film). Much to my surprise, the film was actually a documentary. They say the best movies are the ones that take you on a journey and this movie does that and more. You get to walk in the (fierce) shoes of Queen Raquela, a tranny from Cebu as she sees the world in search for her ever beloved Paris. The film won many awards and I must say they really deserved it. Not only did it show such a unique Filipino sub-culture, it also explored the economics and emotions that go into the webcam flesh trade.

So that's all for today. I'm quite tired. I'm currently stuck in the procrastination phase of my writing so once I finish cleaning my room and sorting my clothes, I'll probably post something fresh here.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

do you remember

I finally got to see my college friends eight months since we last hung out. We used to see each other monthly, exchanging updates and secrets. At times, if I closed my eyes it almost felt like I was back in college in my old rose barong hanging out at Coffee Bean in Gateway. Deadlines, schedule conflicts and other things that suck prevented us from our monthly dose of each other.

It’s been so long since we last saw each other. I started giving them updates – true and false – just to check how well they still knew me- I love my job (true), I loathe my job (true), I got a tattoo (techinically true), I started singing in a pop reggae band (false but they totally bought it), I shaved all my hair off (half-true). It was a nice way to catch up with each other as well as a good reminder of how far we’ve come. Gone are the days when I would scrimp on lunch just so we could all watch the latest Ai-Ai de las Alas movie. We were talking about something silly when we suddenly got serious. I looked around and realized it was that part of the night when we would question our intentions and evaluate each other’s accomplishments.

Di mo ba nami-miss?” asked one of my first friends in the group.

Ang alin?

Mag-turo. Sayang ka eh.

Nagtu-turo naman ako ah. Iba nga lang.

Hindi. Yung totoong pagtu-turo. Yung bang sa classroom tapos puro bata kaharap mo.

Di naman. Nakakatamad din kasi mag-gawa ng class records at lesson plans.”

Sayang ka kasi eh.

It was clear what she was implying. Out of everyone in our little group, I was the only one who did not pursue a full-time teaching career. I was the corporate sell-out. Was it worth it? I sipped my macchiato and remembered the days when I couldn’t even afford coffee. The answer was simple. I was tired of not being able to afford the things I wanted. Is it so wrong to want a better life?

I suppose they would never really understand why I chose this life instead of theirs. They’ve always had a clear idea of what they wanted in life and they did everything they could to find their happiness. Looking back, I had about a handful of events that changed my life- flunking the UPCAT, taking up Education, trading in my diploma for a headset, switching companies, applying for a promotion. If I had changed any of these variables, I would probably be in a different place right now. I could’ve been a teacher at a public school convincing myself that money is overrated. I could’ve been a starving artist, peddling stories for food or money. I could’ve been so many things. Why was I here? Am I happy?

I’m here because I made lemons out of lemonade. I’m here because I learned to accept the gap between what I want and what the world has for someone like me. I’m here because despite wanting to believe that I am a victim of my circumstances, I know that I chose this life. Am I happy? That’s debatable. Most days, I’m alright. Everyone has good and bad days. Sometimes people have good weeks, good months, even good years. I’ve had a good couple of months and I really have no reason to complain. Now that I’m finding more bad days than good, I gotta learn to suck it up and be a man about it. I’ve stopped sulking, in case you guys were wondering. I finally understood that I wouldn’t be so burnt out if I took better care of myself. Patience is a virtue, they say. I still have plenty of things to learn. Until I’ve learned all my lessons, I shouldn’t be in such a hurry for things to speed up.

Di naman sayang. Masaya naman ako sa ginagawa ko eh. Siguro kung milyonaryo lang ako, nag-turo na ako sa totoong school. Eh kaso hindi eh.

She nodded in agreement and decided that that was the end of that. That’s what I love about friends. They make you realize the strangest things at the strangest moments. I’m not really sure when we’ll see each other again. All I can do is just sit and wait in fervent anticipation for the conversations and epiphanies in our next night out.

BRB. In completely unrelated news, I’ve decided to take a break from heavy blogging. I’ve recently reacquainted with my first love- fiction. I finally finished writing a story (two years after I wrote my last story) plus I’ve got a few buns in the oven just waiting to be written. Like most infants, they need all the attention they can get and so to do that, I decided to limit my blogging. *hangs up Do Not Disturb sign* See you in a few weeks (hopefully with something good)!