Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Life is a MasterCard ad

Someone tried to sell me insurance today. I get very uncomfortable when an acquaintance gives me a sales pitch for something I have no intention of buying. I nod my head while she’s talking but all the while inside my head I’m formulating polite ways of saying, “No thanks, I’d rather spend the money on a vacation, preferably in a place with no pushy salespeople.” It’s always easy to brush off someone you don’t know, but you can’t tell a friend of your parents to sod off, can you?

While “listening” to the sales talk about how my important it is to have myself insured, I got to thinking, how much is my life worth exactly? Can you put a price tag on someone’s life? Who’s to say I am worth several thousand pesos more than the next person? Sure, I don’t tame circus animals or clean the windows of Makati skyscrapers for a living, but that’s not to say a lion-tamer or a window-washer’s life is not as valuable as mine (the insurance company merely refuses to risk as much money on theirs).

Certainly we can’t assign monetary amounts to individual lives (who was it that said that if you bottle up all the chemical components of the human body, it would come pretty cheap?). Personally, I prefer to measure my life in terms of years than pesos. The insurance agent said that the average person lives up to 65. I tried taking stock of the years I’ve lived so far and what I’ve done with them, and here’s what I came up with:

1 year of nursery in Mother Goose (the Age of Innocence)
2 years of kindergarten in Uno (the beginning of the Reign of Terror)
6 years of grade school in Uno (the Dark Ages)
4 years of high school in Jubilee (the Renaissance)
4 years of college in Ateneo (the Age of Enlightenment)
9 months as a Management Associate in Philamlife (the Age of Exploration)
7 months as a foreign student in Beijing (the Restoration Period)
2 years as a high school English teacher in ICA (the Golden Years)
3 months as Assistant Vice President of our family corporation (the Age of Reason)
Total: 24 and a half years

So what are those 24 and a half years worth? I like how the song from the musical Rent puts it: measure a year in seasons of love. If we apply that, then my life is actually worth quite a bundle, if my family, friends and students have anything to say about it. And I expect it to appreciate even further over the next 40 and a half years. Try putting a premium on that.

Monday, June 27, 2005

Standouts and letdowns

The H2G2 movie was a dismal disappointment. It did not come close to capturing the zany wit and satirical humor of the book, and the changes in the plot (shockingly, sanctioned by Douglas Adams himself before he kicked the bucket at the beginning of production) were baffling, even detestable. The only bright spot was the adorable Marvin (the Paranoid Android) voiced by the marvelously morose Alan Rickman.

H2G2 is the latest addition to my growing list of film flops for 2005... movies that didn’t necessarily suck outright, but fell short of the hype surrounding them. Other notable titles on my shit list are:

  • Mr. & Mrs. Smith - watchable only because of the lead actors’ impossibly stunning looks
  • Madagascar - Shrek it’s not
  • Sideways - wine-tasting and golf = barrels of fun, ha-ha-ha, kill me now
  • Closer – soulless art-film poseur ripping off Sex, Lies and Videotape (see my comparative review)
  • The Aviator - a massive disaster that deserved to bomb miserably at the Oscars
  • Oceans Twelve - again, palatable only because the cast was composed of cuties
  • Meet the Fockers - sequels of DeNiro comedies just seem to generate less laughs than their predecessors (anyone remember Analyze That?)

But the year had its share of movies that exceeded my expectations as well, some of which I have already raved about in previous posts. The winners are:

  • Batman Begins – holy franchise resurrection, Batman!
  • Sin City – to borrow Jo’s line once more, “an ogler’s delight
  • Star Wars Episode III – all good things must come to an end
  • Before Sunset – how a real love story should be told
  • Ray – Jamie Foxx shows his acting clout in one of the best biopics ever made

Coming attractions that I am looking forward to with eager anticipation/wary skepticism:

  • Bewitched, because I think Nicole Kidman is a wonderful actress and Will Ferrell is a hilarious comedian, but the movie has received bad ratings from critics in the US
  • The Pink Panther, because the trailer still gives me the giggles after having seen it a dozen times, but I'm scared it might turn out to be one of those all-the-good-gags-are-already-in-the-trailer duds... and Beyonce "Bootylicious" Knowles is in it (after Goldmember, I'm still unconvinced of her acting prowess)
  • Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, because the last time Johnny Depp was in a movie about chocolate, my seratonin levels went through the roof, but he-- and the candy-- don't look as delicious in this one

Friday, June 24, 2005

Smells like team spirit

Detroit didn't win. Bummer.

Not to take anything away from the Spurs, who have players with unquestionably great talent (the likes of Duncan and Ginobili), but the Pistons are more than just a bunch of talented players-- they're an outstanding team. There's an almost warm, fuzzy feeling you get from watching them play together, because they're like a well-oiled machine of several sturdy components that work unbelievably well as a unit. There are no certified superstars a la Kobe or Shaq (thus no superstar egos either), no ball-hogging, no finger-pointing, no prima donna hysterics. Plus, they are a joy to watch at both ends of the court (I usually don't pay attention to the defense but when it's Detroit, watching them defend is as satisfying as witnessing a monster slam dunk).

If only they gave out trophies for Best Ensemble Performance.

Footnote: Thanks to my friend and favorite driver Inigo for keeping me updated with quarterly scores. :)

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Batman Begins... and how!

(WARNING: plot spoilers ahead! do not read this if you haven't seen the movie!)

The best part of Batman Begins was its ending... and I'm not being sarcastic. As I was watching the last scene of the movie, I wanted to jump out of my seat and cheer when Jim Gordon handed Batman the Joker playing card. It's been a while since I reacted with such glee at the promise of a sequel (usually it's more of, "hay nako, may part two pa yan!").

Yes, the movie was that good. Without question this is the best Batman movie ever made. Finally we have a film adaptation that shows the essence of who Batman is: not a superhero, but an ordinary guy (as ordinary as a billionaire playboy can be) doing extraordinary things in the name of justice. This is what sets Batman apart from all the Supermans and Spidermans out there (and what makes him my favorite comic book hero of all time): he is human, so very human, which makes him, and his fight for right, all the more real. That, and his perennial angst, which I can totally relate to. Haha.

I wish I could meet director Chris Nolan so I could shake his hand for rescuing the Batman franchise from its shlock purgatory that was Schumacher-Land. Hats (and cowls) off to underappreciated actor Christian Bale, who filled in the Batsuit quite nicely (and his gravelly Batman voice was spot on!), but more importantly, he gave both Bruce Wayne and Batman true character. And of course I also applaud the excellent supporting cast of acting greats: Liam Neeson shows that he's not just wise old mentor material (the twist at the end surprised and impressed me-- who would have thunk it? Ra's al Ghul is IRISH!:p), Michael Caine shows why he's the obvious and really only choice to play wry, reliable Alfred, Morgan Freeman shows how an understated, classy performance can be memorable, and Gary Oldman shows an entirely new (at least new to me) facet of his acting prowess by turning in what I think is the real breakthrough performance in the movie. It was kind of freaky seeing someone who usually plays scary, psycho villains transform into gruff, kindly, future-commissioner Gordon.

My only complaint about Batman Begins is that Katie Holmes is in it. Every time I see that infuriatingly irritating smirk on her face I want to slap her silly. I hated her as early as her Dawson's Creek days, and I hate her even more now that she and that jackass Tom what's-his-name are shoving their icky May-December romance in our faces. His jumping-on-couches theatrics make me want to gag, just as her acting-- if you can call it that-- in this movie does. But like my brother said, the rest of the cast is so good, you hardly notice her anyway.

Batman Begins is a rarity, a blockbuster that lives up to all expectations: satisfying Batman fans by remaining faithful to the original story while adding fresh nuances, pleasing audiences as an entertaining drama-cum-action flick, and appeasing critics as a well-made piece of modern cinema. And to think this is only the beginning. *grins like a maniac*

Send in the clown!

Sunday, June 19, 2005

Manila girl in Manhattan

I composed all my blog entries from June 13-19 on my PDA, then transferred them to my PC and did some editing, so this will be a very long (even longer than usual) but hopefully entertaining entry. I broke it down into sub-entries for easier reading, hope that helps. Enjoy!


Whenever I travel, I tend to develop a heightened wariness with a touch of paranoia: Did I forget to pack something? Will the airline lose my luggage? Will I leave a valuable personal possession behind on my trip? Will anything/everything go wrong?

I also get separation anxiety, particularly when I am not traveling with my siblings. As I mentioned in a previous post, I don't like being away from them for extended periods of time, and even when I'm enjoying myself on my travels, I keep on wishing they were with me to share in the experience.

The paranoia and separation anxiety combine to make me a very edgy traveler... and not the most compatible traveling companion for my dad, who is a paranoid and panicky traveler in his own way and needs someone patient and stable enough to help him along. We were stuck with each other for a week, but we managed to make the most out of the situation.

City of Angels

There are no white people in Los Angeles. That was one of the first thoughts that crossed my mind when we arrived at LAX. Everywhere I looked were Asians, African-Americans, Latinos... but very few Caucasians. So who's the real minority here, huh?

We had a four-hour layover before our flight to NY, so Dad had arranged for one of his former students (Pa was a table tennis coach in his twenties; he was a player for the national team too) who lives in LA to come to the airport and take us to dinner. Ahia Michael picked us up and brought us to Beverly Hills. All the shops along Rodeo Drive were closed at that time of the evening, but Dad enjoyed looking at the show windows and picking up ideas for our own store displays. We ate at The Cheesecake Factory, and I had a slice of the richest, most sinful cheesecake I have ever eaten in my life: chocolate-peanut butter-cookie dough. I would have died a very happy pig right then and there.

Who says TV isn't educational?

I couldn't sleep on the plane from LA to New York, so I alternated between dozing fitfully and reading the book I had brought. It's an interesting book called "Everything I Know I Learned from TV" by Mark Rolands, who uses popular TV series like Friends, Sex and the City, and Seinfeld to explain the philosophical concepts of Aristotle, Sarte, Nietzsche, and other deep dudes we took up in our college Philo classes. Anyone who hated studying Philo back then will enjoy this book and come to appreciate what our profs were actually blathering about.

Weird weather

We were surprised by the cool temperature that greeted us in LA, so we expected more or less the same thing for New York. We were even more surprised when we got there, because it was unseasonably warm, and I'm talking Philippine-summer, buckets-of-sweat-producing warm. Newscasters were calling it "August in June." I wished I had packed shorts instead of the jeans I wore on the one free day we had. But then I took the sentiment back the following day, when it suddenly turned brisk and cool, just as it had been in LA... and of course I had to step outide wearing a sleeveless blouse of thin material. The weather gods were bent on torturing me.

Luxury hotel, my ass!

The international Arrow licensees were billeted at the Parker Meridien Hotel on West 57th Street. After lunch on our first day, my dad and I were going back up to our hotel room when we got stuck in the elevator. It stopped on the third floor where someone got off, then the doors closed and the elevator refused to budge (at that moment I remembered-- and regretted-- laughing at Tarin for getting stuck in a bathroom cubicle in Europe). We were trapped with a man who spoke English with a Spanish accent, and he took charge and pressed the alarm button and used the phone to call maintenance. We waited for around five tense, stuffy minutes until the elevator lurched back to life and deposited us back at the lobby level. Stupid hotel staff didn't even bother to call us to apologize. I vowed to fill up the guest comments card in our room with scathing remarks about the incident.

Getting down to business

The Arrow conference kicked off with a breakfast buffet where I met some of the other international licensees. My dad knew the delegations from Thailand, China, Singapore, France and Portugal, and I got introduced over and over again as his "daughter who just joined the company last April." I liked the Thailand group, they spoke decent English (with their distinct Thai accents) and were fun to talk to (the only woman in the group, a former Ms.Thailand, has a Fil-Am father). I guess there's a certain comfort hanging around people who come from the same region, an affinity that comes naturally to people of the same background, funny accents aside.

The presidents of Arrow Portugal and Singapore brought their sons along, so I wasn't the only C.O.O. there. The Singapore son looked like the fifth member F4 kicked out. The Portugese guy was cute, but his English wasn't that good, although he did the translating for his father. As I sat in the dimmed conference room admiring his chiseled profile and impeccable fashion sense, I realized that no matter how hot/smart/rich/nice a guy is, if I can't communicate with him in perfect English, it's not going to fly (even if he has nice hands... I like guys with nice hands, and when I shook his hand it was my type of hand ;p).

The conference was, as expected, just a bunch of corporate people in suits blabbing from behind a lectern, aided by their flashy PowerPoint slides. Nothing worth writing home about, and nothing worth writing about here. There was a buffet lunch, then some more talking suits, and then we got the rest of the afternoon off. We had cocktails and dinner that evening, and all the mingling and small talk were taking their toll on my meager social skills. I don't like hobnobbing, it requires too many pleasantries, and I'm not the most pleasant of people (besides, I didn't get to talk to the Portuguese guy all night, hmph). The following day we had a couple of meetings with the Arrow licensors, and that more or less took care of all the "business" we had to conduct in New York.

When in Rome...

The rest of the time we didn't have to "work," Dad and I walked around the city sight-seeing and shopping. As much as possible, I try not to look like a tourist when I'm walking around in a foreign city. I read somewhere that if you walk quickly with a small scowl on your face, chances are people, including muggers, will leave you alone. I think I do it even without intending to, especially in fast-paced, crowded cities, and New York definitely fits that category. My dad kept on telling me to slow down and relax. Whenever we stopped to snap pictures, I did not like dawdling because nothing screams "tourist" like taking photos of everything. Unfortunately for me, Dad likes to take his time with the camera, so we might as well have had "tourist" stamped on our foreheads.

At least I didn't sound like a tourist. I love being in a country the language of which I am completely fluent in (as opposed to China, where I look like I belong, but sound like a waiguo ren). I like seeing the look of surprise on American faces when they hear a stream of straight American English coming from me. Some of the Arrow licensees asked if I ever studied in the US, and when I told them no, they asked how my English got so good. I laughed and told them that I had American TV to thank for it. Chalk up another one for television.

Speaking of television...

Whenever we were back in our hotel room resting, we switched on the TV and channel-surfed. I love American sitcoms, and a lot of the channels were showing reruns of some classics like The Cosby Show and The Golden Girls. One day they were also showing a rerun of a Stanley Cup finals game between my two favorites teams, the New York Rangers and the New Jersey Devils, in what was my favorite NHL season (I think few of my readers know that hockey is my favorite spectator sport; I hate it that ESPN and Star Sports in the Philippines don't air any NHL games). I harbor no illusions (or is it delusions?) about improving the quality of Philippine TV programs, but at least I wish we could have more access to good American shows.

Land of the free

I have always had conflicting feelings about the US of A, and these feelings were reinforced on this trip to New York. I love and hate so many things about America and Americans, but what I love/hate most is the awesome freedom they offer. The sense of freedom that permeates everything American both exhilarates and terrifies. It's refreshing to have the liberty to be/do/say anything I want, but at the same time I don't want to think about the kind of things I'd dare do living in such a liberated environment. I have never been a loose cannon, but I am fully capable of doing some very stupid things (my closest friends know what I'm talking about), and that's given the rigid Chinese-Filipino background I came from. What more if I were to live in New York for a year or so? I don't trust myself enough to not screw up my life in spectacular fashion if I moved to the US.

Besides, there's no place like home. Humidity, pollution, crime rates, ultra-conservative social norms and all. At least I don't have to shell out 100 pesos for a bottle of soda.


We were in a cab on our way to Ground Zero when we passed by the TRL studio in Times Square. In the street surrounding the building there was a sizeable mob of fans, mostly female, gazing upward and waving and screaming at someone. I looked up and saw the Backstreet Boys standing at the TRL window, waving back at their devotees. I wish it had been someone worth jumping out of the cab for (like Rob Thomas, who to my delight kept on popping up everywhere I looked: magazines,television, posters, even a huge billboard along 7th avenue, which I took a pic of especially for Karen ;p).

Sacred ground

Our cab dropped us off right in front of the WTC site, and as soon as I stepped onto the curb I was struck by how eerily quiet the area was. In one of the noisiest, busiest cities in the world, in the middle of its bustling financial district, here was a place that seemed protected from the metropolitan madness by an invisible bubble of sacredness. There were dozens of tourists milling around, but the mood was markedly subdued. Everyone stood there in a somber silence, peering through the fence, or reading the posted storyboards about that fateful day in September. Even those taking pictures seemed to be doing it with a certain reverence. I saw a woman in front of me wiping tears away.

The name Ground Zero took on a new significance for me that day, because there it was, right in front of me, this big, gaping hole of... nothing. Where once had stood one of the tallest structures on the planet, where thousands had worked-- where thousands had died-- there was now nothing. Zero.

And yet, despite the emptiness, there was something... full about being there. To be on hallowed ground, to share in the collective compassion of those gathered there to remember, honor, and mourn, to see pride that was broken made stronger than ever... it was beautiful in its bleakness.

Before I left Manila I was joking with my mom that I'd be going to the WTC site to laugh at the biggest blemish on the bloated American ego. But when I actually got there, I never got around to my planned derision. Instead I found myself awed by the magnitude of not only the tragedy of 9/11, but the passionate patriotism it fired up in Americans, New Yorkers in particular. That's one quality Americans have that I admire, even envy. Would that we Filipinos feel that kind of intense loyalty and love for our tragedy of a nation.

Service with a smile... and then some

Overly effusive, abnormally chipper waiters/store clerks/hotel staff freak me out. I imagine it takes staggering amounts of caffeine to fuel a perpetually perky workforce (no wonder Coke and Starbucks are such American institutions). I am by no means a cranky customer, and I'm never rude unless provoked, but I like to be left alone until I'm good and ready to order/buy/ask for something. In other words, don't call me, I'll call you (and if you ask me one more time how I'm doing today I will cheerfully stuff your tip up your nostril). Give me inattentive, aloof, inept and agonizingly slow Pinoy service anyday.

Restaurant reviews

Prior to leaving Manila, I chose the places we would eat in with the help of restaurant reviews I read on the Internet. I am considering writing and sending some reviews of my own now that I have personally dined at the restaurants (isn't that such a dream job? to be a restaurant critic?). For this entry, I will only name the places and give short comments as to the quality of the food, service and ambience.

Burger Joint - tiny hole in the wall hidden behind a curtain in one corner of our hotel lobby (they call it their "best-kept secret"); serves great cheeseburgers at only $6 (for a hotel that's a steal); orders take a while to be served but the burger's definitely worth the wait

Arte Cafe - lovely, cozy Italian place on the Upper East side; serves excellent pasta at reasonable prices (the set lunches are around $9 and come with a soup or salad); my dad loved the linguine vongole and I loved the chicken parmigiana; capuccinos are huge, frothy and yummy; service is fast and friendly

Michael Jordan's The Steakhouse - location is a bit odd, right inside the train station on Vanderbilt Avenue; the air-conditioning was weak, almost non-existent, and given the weather that day it diminished our dining pleasure considerably; the prime rib and side dish sampler are excellent (best mac and cheese I've had in a while) and predictably, the prices are on the high end; service is efficient but the waiters don't seem to get along because we overheard them arguing; overall, not bad for a place that has a basketball superstar's name attached to it

Norma's - coffee shop of our hotel; famous for its scrumptious breakfasts; the prices are on the steep side but the portions are generous (and delicious) so you get your money's worth; Pa had the egg-white omelet with shrimp, I had Norma's eggs Benedict, which was divine; coffee wasn't very good, and overpriced; service was unobtrusive (the way I like it) and a bit on the slow side, but with food that good I barely noticed

Serendipity - only place we went to that was based on a personal recommendation (thank you Tangsoc!); my dad and I had their Frrrozen Hot Chocolates (see pic below), which were huge and yummy and worth waiting 45 minutes for a table for; receptionists were snappish (the long line of impatient patrons must have peeved them) but the waiters were friendly, not to mention cute :p

More to see than can ever be seen

We managed to get partial view seats for the Broadway musical The Lion King, and the show was well worth the 80-dollar tix (we got our own private box right beside the percussions, which weren't ear-splittingly loud, thankfully). The Lion King is my favorite Disney full-length feature, and let me tell anyone who has seen and loved the animated film that the musical gives the story a wonderful new magic. Never mind if the singing and acting were not quite Tony-caliber; the cast was an entertaining enough ensemble who obviously put a lot of heart into their performance. The real star of the show was director/designer/lyricist Julie Taymor. I salute her creative genius (or as Pumbaa says, I "gravel" at her feet); the sets were breath-taking, the costumes dazzling, the props ingenious, and the puppetry brilliant. My eyes kept on darting around to take in every inch of the spectacle unfolding onstage-- every tiny detail, down to the ethnic prints on the fabric that made up the animals' skins. The stampede scene, where Mufasa comes to Simba's rescue, blew me away (my dear old dad slept right through it), and I could imagine how much more awesome the impact would have been from the better seats in the theater. I would gladly spend another 80 dollars to see this show again, partial view or full.

Boys in blue

Walking along Broadway on our way to and from the theater, we saw several NYPD cops stationed at street corners, some on horseback. And I must say, New York has some fiiine police officers. Who knew law enforcement could look so good? You certainly can't tell from the members of the PNP. Shudder.

Here's a pic of Times Square (minus the cute cops, although there's a squad car in the shot):

Shopping list

Wincing every time I multiplied prices by P55, I was Scrooge-stingy with my budget and only purchased some items I wanted badly enough. I got a copy of Douglas Adams' Mostly Harmless, the fifth and last book in his H2G2 trilogy, which is impossible to find in even the best of our local bookstores (futile as it is to wish for better book vendors here in Manila, I wish Borders or Barnes and Noble would open a branch here, with the same extensive selections they have over there). I also bought three Nike Lance Armstrong "Live Strong" wristbands (one each for me, Hanks, and Bens), an I [heart] NY pin, a New York Mafia license plate for my sister the mobster buff, a Lion King souvenir program, some Lion King plastic folders for my mom, and a Lion King notebook. My most expensive purchase was a Coach purse, which I almost did not get if it were not for my dad's "you-know-you-want-it" devil-on-the-shoulder routine. It took me a day to reconsider and then we went back to the shop, which was providentially near our hotel. I felt a bit guilty (and scared that my mom would scold me) for splurging but was assuaged when I later found out that Coach prices are cheaper in the US than here in Manila.

Manila in the morning

I can’t recall if I’ve ever arrived on a flight home as early as I did this morning (a bit past 5). As the plane started its descent towards NAIA, we were treated to a beautiful view of Manila, street lights still glowing in the dawn light. It was so still and serene, it was nice to imagine that at that moment, not a single soul in the city was stirring, and no one was doing anything criminal, cruel, immoral, or stupid.

Then I stepped foot into the chaos and confusion of the NAIA terminal and the bubble was burst. Oh well. Home sweet home.

Monday, June 13, 2005

If I can make it there...

I'm off to New York tonight, will be back in blogging action next week. Try not to miss me too much. ;p

Friday, June 10, 2005

sex, lies and videotape

Last Sunday, I was going through our extensive (pirated) DVD collection and none of the newer titles were appealing to my movie mood. I rummaged around in the "oldies" section and came across Stephen Soderbergh's award-winning indie classic sex, lies and videotape. Something compelled me to pop it into the DVD player, and I was glad I did, because the movie was such a revelation. For one thing, I discovered that before Soderbergh started churning out commercial crowd-pleasers like Oceans 11 and pretentious Oscar fodder like Erin Brokovich (not to mention some major flops like Solaris), he directed, wrote, and edited a film that won him a Palm d'Or Award at Cannes and the Independent Spirit Award for Best Director. I also discovered that James Spader is a brilliant actor; his performance was so subtle yet incredibly powerful (not surprisingly, he won Best Actor at Cannes). I have never seen anyone capable of conveying such raw, tortured emotion with a blank expression on his face. And yes, he is hot (I know, I know, I am such a sucker for these brooding types. Tsk.). Now, if only because of him, I can't wait for Star World to start airing the last season of The Practice.

But my most startling realization after watching the film was, hey, wait a minute, I've seen this movie before! But it was a glitzier, dirtier, more modern, less riveting version. sex, lies and videotape seems to be the blueprint for Mike Nichols' overhyped, Oscar-bait-disguised-as-an-art-film Closer. Both movies featured 1) a plot that revolved around four main characters (two male and two female), 2) adultery and varied sexual activity, and 3) the intertwined, screwed-up lives of the protagonists. However, while Closer left me cold (and considering both Jude Law and Clive Owen were in it, that's saying something), sex, lies and videotape was so full of subdued vitality and repressed passion that I found myself empathizing with all four characters, even the asshole husband (Peter Gallagher, he of the lush eyebrows). Don't let the title of the movie mislead you, because despite dealing with a lurid subject, sex, lies and videotape is actually a beautiful, stirring story that comes closer to capturing the pathos of human relationships than its clone Closer does.

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Giving ICA and ICAns a good name

For two years, I had the privilege of teaching some of the finest students ICA has produced. I appreciated having really smart students in my class, and some exceptionally talented writers, but the ones that make me most proud are the kids who know how to show their gratitude. One of my Zephyr students, Jennifer Yu, fits all three descriptions. She had an article printed in the Inquirer's Youngblood section last Tuesday talking about ICA and what the school has done for her. I was so happy to see her work published, and even happier to read what she had written.

Everyone talks about how teachers get crappy wages. Well, this is how we teachers are really paid in full.

Here's the link:

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Tag teams

Last night I had dinner with Margaux and two of our Cyrenz students, Jo and Chars, best friends and alpha women extraordinaire (according to Jo's boyfriend the self-confessed pansy :p). Jo and Chars are two of the most intelligent people I've ever met... so smart, it scares me how I can carry on a thoroughly engaging adult conversation with two 18-year-old girls. I have had people tell me Jo reminds them of me or I remind them of Jo, while others claim Chars is a less nasty, more girly version of me. I take those as very high compliments indeed.

My sister came home from Hong Kong last night. She was gone for only three days but I missed her. We've been roomies for 22 years, and I'm so used to having her around I get disoriented when I don't see her within 24 hours. I don't know how I managed to survive living in Beijing for half a year without her (the day I left I was crying when I hugged her goodbye; I never got homesick but I did miss my siblings terribly the whole time we were apart). I don't want to think about the separation anxiety I'll have when one of us leaves the house for good (whoever goes first; fair contest as of now, haha).

Next week I'll be accompanying my dad to New York to attend the annual Arrow global conference. I'm so excited. I've only been to New York once, on tour, but I've always liked the city (been brainwashed by all the TV shows that create this cool image of the Big Apple, hehe). My dad promises to go wherever I want to go on our free day (I feel like a spoiled five-year-old). Tangsoc recommended we go to Serendipty (yes, the same cafe in the movie of the same name) and have their frozen hot chocolate (my mouth was already watering when she mentioned it). I also want to see The Lion King on Broadway. I only wish my sister were going with us. Sniff. Here I go again.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

The "f" word

In the course of the 2 years I was a teacher, I managed to observe and take note of the qualities students dislike in their teachers. One popular (or should I say unpopular?) choice is “favoritism,” or when a teacher plays favorites. I tried recalling whether this was one of the things I had disliked in my own teachers back when I was still a student, and it wasn’t. I hated classmates who were teacher’s pets, yes, but I did not really care much if a teacher had a favorite student, no matter how blatant he or she was about showing it. Blatant stupidity and close-mindedness I could not pardon; a little favoritism was forgivable.

I do understand why students hate it when a teacher plays favorites, especially in extreme cases where the less favored ones obviously get the short end of the stick. However, I also believe it is unavoidable for a teacher to have favorites; they are, after all, only human, regardless of what their students think (Lynn a.k.a. Ms. Gutierrez calls it the mother of all myths about teachers, that they are infallible, all-knowing androids with no character flaws whatsoever). A teacher is allowed to have favorites—a teacher cannot help but have favorites—and she should not be blamed for it, provided that she does not let it directly affect her teaching and skew her judgment as a teacher. In other words, no matter how much a teacher loves a student, a wrong answer is a wrong answer, a bad essay is a bad essay, an infraction is an infraction, and a sanction is a sanction. No special treatment, no exceptions, no singling out.

Even if a teacher does bend the rules a bit for a certain student, or goes out of the way to be extra nice to a kid, it shouldn’t be taken against her immediately. Some of the best teachers I know would come dangerously close to breaking rules and committing unethical practices, as long as they know it’s in the best interests of not just the student concerned, but of all her students, favorites or not. In other words, a good teacher, even while having her favorites, will always take into consideration the feelings and welfare of every single one of her students.

Did I have my favorites? Of course I did. Did I let it show? I tried not to, but I have found that students can invariably tell if a teacher is particularly fond of a student. Did my students resent me for it? I don't think so, but I have also found that teachers are not always aware of what students really feel, so I could be wrong. Haha.

It's not a crime to have favorites, it's human nature. When parents say they love their children equally, I scoff. I don't doubt they love all their kids, I just have a hard time believing they don't have their favorite among them. It doesn't make them bad parents, unless they dote excessively on the one kid and neglect the others. My best friend and I once had a discussion about if there is such a thing as pure objectivity. We agreed that humans do not have the capacity to be absolutely objective, and in the same vein, no one can claim they do not have their favorites, whether it's a child or a student or a class or a teacher, a basketball team, a TV show, a pair of jeans, a flavor of ice cream...

Monday, June 06, 2005

First day blues

AP-Annex said it was weird not having me around on the first day of school. I felt a bit sad not being there too, but it wasn't as bad as I thought I would be feeling. For one thing, I was kept preoccupied at the office-- Mondays are always manic, and I had no time to sit around moping. For another, I am actually enjoying my work more and more, even the manic moments. Besides, I still feel as if I'm right there in the faculty room because my faithful eyes and ears keep me updated through text, calls, and YM messages (you know who you are, hehe). My students also text and YM me constantly so I know a lot about what's going on from their point of view (no texting during class hours though, or I'll be obliged to report you to Ms.Tan ;p). I still wish that I was there to personally experience everything and be right there for my students, but at the same time I love the luxury of being "in" on everything while not being pressured to prepare and perform as a teacher anymore. You win some, you lose some.

Have a great school year AP-Annex, and have a great senior year, Fyrinx! Keep me posted. ;)

Sunday, June 05, 2005

Pau and Pao

Our dearest Paula was wed to her dearest Paolo yesterday at Mary the Queen. The ceremonies were followed by a lovely reception at the Wack Wack Country Club. The wet weather (rain on a wedding day = blessings from heaven, according to Elyse at leaast ;p) did not stop us from having a great time celebrating the union of the goddess of AP-Annex and her beloved. The bride looked radiant in her elegant gown; the groom, looking like the happiest man alive, was grinning from ear to ear; the speeches from family and friends were eloquent and touching; the bride's sister (my amazingly talented student Laura) performed two songs and was brilliant as always; there was no bouquet-throwing (I love you Pau!); and AP-Annex (with some ICA Debate Team members and alums at the next table) thoroughly enjoyed the yummy dinner, each other's company and the night's festivities.

I wish Pau and Pao all the best in their life together, and I'm sure their marriage will be one of inspiring and enduring love.

Some snapshots of the happy event from Margaux's camera:

This is how you remind me...

Friday night I had dinner with 12 of my Wisdom students, and I was reminded of the following:

1. how much noise a dozen Wisdom students can create - It should be a law of physics or something, that when two or more Wisdom people get within 6 feet of each other, the decibel level breaks the sound barrier. I'm relieved we got a table outside Bizu, where we could raise a ruckus without scandalizing the other patrons peacefully eating their desserts. But make no mistake, I speak of this with the kind of wry fondness only Wisdom teachers can understand, for Wisdom's infamous talent for producing pandemonium is only a sign of the terrific friendships and fantastic collective camaraderie in the class. I'm very proud of this strong bond, and it's always nice to see them together (and even hear them, within limits).

2. how much fun it is to be a teenager - When my mom found out I was going out with my students again, she laughed at how my friends are becoming younger and younger. I told her they're not that much younger. Only 7 years separate us in age (get that, Tiff? only 7, or in your case, 6 :p), although admittedly I was still clearly the "adult" in the group. I still marvel over how students can make a teacher feel young and old at the same time. It's awfully tempting to just kick back and let loose completely, but I still can't help but feel responsible for them. I call it my teacher hangover. Maybe I'll snap out of it soon.

3. how much love I have for these kids - They know it, and I hope they never forget it. Though they will officially be graduating Sobriety, they'll always be Wisdom to me.

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Why I'm getting the DVD

My student Jo (who's home from Boston where she's attending university, yay) called Sin City "an ogler's delight." Ever since I saw that phrase in her YM status message, it stuck in my head, and it kept on popping up as I watched the movie tonight. She was right-- it is a visually delicious movie, and your eyes just devour what's on the screen, whether it's haunting or titillating, disturbing or thrilling, disgusting or dazzling. Frank Miller took his graphic novel and (pardon the cliche) brought it to life, with the help of directing mavericks Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino. It was like watching a comic book being flipped insanely fast that the characters were transformed into moving figures on the page. And thanks to the most star-studded cast in recent memory, the citizens of Sin City-- in all their bloody, brutal, beautiful black-and-white glory-- truly became human, in all senses of the word.

However, my viewing pleasure was dampened because some freakin' dumbass censor cut more than a handful of scenes (presumably "offensive" scenes, i.e. the good stuff). You simply cannot delete scenes from a movie like this!! I mean, come on, who's actually listening to the absurd dialogue? I paid over a hundred bucks to see, really see, this movie. I'm guessing the bonehead butchers did so in order to give the movie an R-13 rating, which would allow a wider audience to watch the movie, thereby letting the film distributors rake in more at the box office (third key concept of media in action, niiice). Capitalism murders art once more, conveniently and sanctimoniously disguised as moral righteousness. As far as I'm concerned, that's the real sin here.

P.S. I'm liking Clive Owen more and more. I always dig these intense brooding thespian types. And it helps that he's hot.