Saturday, August 29, 2009

For Rachel Lim, on her 21st birthday

Last month, my student and fellow TRAK star Rach asked me to compose her college yearbook write-up for her. I was bowled over. Rach and I are pretty close, sure, but she's got so many good friends in her life, people who have known her since forever, that I was surprised and honored she picked me, her former high school English teacher, out of all of them.

Today, Rach celebrates her 21st birthday. And as a tribute and a note of thanks to the girl who has given me so many happy birthdays of my own, I'm posting the yearbook write-up I penned for her. Because even people who won't be getting a copy of the Aegis should know just how awesome Rach is, and just how much I adore her.

Her name is Rachel, and she’s a shoe addict.

But Rach is so much more than her Imeldific footwear collection. Not only is she a fierce fashionista, she’s also an up-and-coming young entrepreneur. The success of online brand Poisonberry was the fruit of her flair for fashion, enterprising spirit, and enduring friendships with her business partner, models, photographers, and customers.

And perhaps that, above all, is what defines Rach: not the dozens of killer heels in her closet, but the legions of friends she has in her life. Unswervingly loyal and unstintingly devoted, Rach always finds enough time and energy to nurture her relationships with the people who matter to her. From throwing surprise parties to organizing class reunions to supporting her friends’ events and activities—it all speaks of her enormous capacity for generosity and love.

Her name is Rachel, and she’s a shoe addict. But what she’s got on her feet has nothing on what she’s got in her heart. Don’t judge a girl by her stilettos.

Happy Birthday Rach!Love, Ms. Lim

Saturday, August 22, 2009

High marks for Up

Prior to watching Up, I read a review of it that began like this:

If you haven't seen Up yet, stop reading right now and run to your nearest 3D cinema and watch it. Go! Now! Wait, bring your friends, your parents, your lolo and lola, your best friend. Better yet, bring the love of your life, that one you're going to marry, that one you're going to propose to soon, that someone you've been pining for since you met but haven't got the chance or the courage to do so. Bring them. I guarantee you, this is one movie watching experience you want to do with them.

I was puzzled by the second half of that passage, because as far as I knew, Up was an animated film about a grumpy old man who hitches his house to a gazillion balloons and flies off, inadvertently taking a rotund boy scout along for the ride. How exactly is that something you'd want to see with "the love of your life"? Adding to my mystification was my brother's report from his friends who have seen Up that it's "a love story". A love story from Pixar, riiiiight.

But it all made perfect sense to me barely 15 minutes into the movie, as tears were already trickling down my face (and I would cry several more times after that). By golly, Up WAS a love story, and a very beautiful one at that. I won't go into details lest I spoil the impact for anyone; suffice it to say I was truly moved by this unexpected facet of this brilliant gem of a film.

And its other facets were just as flawless. As a cartoon, it was a visual treat (or I SHOULD say "delight", hehe)-- the colors were candy-coating vibrant and really popped (no, that wasn't a balloon pun), the characters were just cute, cute, cuuuuute as heck, and the backdrops and props were rendered in painstaking, breath-taking detail. As a comedy, it was laugh-out-loud funny, with the right balance of well-timed physical comicality and smart verbal humor. As a story with a message, it was inspiring and heart-warming without being sappy, delivering the normally trite themes of "pursuing your dreams" and "life as an adventure" with a refreshing guilelessness-- no preachiness, no melodrama, no hard-sell, just a simplicity, an innocence, and a purity, almost, that were far more effective, and paradoxically, far more powerful.

Ultimately (and no pun intended again), Up is a joyfully buoyant movie. It will appeal to the young because of its spirit, and it will appeal to the not-as-young with its soul. It will make the young ponder their old age, and it will make the not-as-young reflect on their youth. And regardless of the age, it will tug on the heart, and lift it up, up, up. And that's why I cried so many times throughout. And that's why, as Tatot wrote, you should watch it with someone special.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

The better and the best of us

Last Sunday night, I made it a point to watch the rerun of the Ateneo-La Salle Round 2 game because that afternoon I had arrived late at Araneta and missed a good chunk of the 1st half. And since my friends and I had been up in the nosebleed section anyway, it was only on TV that I saw the sweet shot Blue Eagle Eric Salamat made sometime in the 2nd quarter, after which he acknowledged the Ateneo crowd with a grin and a snappy salute. Mere seconds later, everyone's favorite Green Archer Joshua Webb made a shot as well, then promptly turned to the Ateneo gallery with his signature smirk, and threw them a mocking salute. It would actually have been a nice angas move... IF La Salle hadn't been down by about, what, 20 points?

It's that kind of uncalled for behavior that makes Webb arguably the most detested DLSU player this season (and apparently, not just on the blue side of things). After he kicked Bacon Austria in the Round 1 match, my already low opinion of him plummeted even further.
A La Sallian friend of mine tried to mollify me by saying, "It happens to the best of us." But that statement didn't sit well with me. I know what my friend meant, that even the best of us screw up sometimes; that when pushed, we lash out in anger or act rashly or stupidly. However, I don't think we should use "It happens to the best of us" to excuse deplorable actions, particularly of violence, regardless of whether malice was involved or not. Because I believe "the best of us" would never resort to that. There have been basketball players, more skilled than Webb will ever be, who have never thrown a punch or cussed at a referee or kicked an opponent. There are young people from less prominent, less monied families, from less prominent, less elite schools, who show more breeding and comport themselves like educated individuals, not brutish thugs. Those class acts are the ones who deserve to be called "the best of us". Joshua Webb, definitely not.

On the other hand, while I revile Webb as much as the next Atenean (or even La Sallian), I also readily admit the kid is pretty damn good, not only in basketball, but in getting under our collective Atenean skin. His cocky manner, his smug smirk, his aggressive drives to the basket-- Webb excels at pissing us off, and occasionally sending our players' tempers flaring as well, to the detriment of the team's focus.
For one guy to get the better of us that easily says something not only about him, but about us as well. I confess I'm still wishing for someone to "accidentally" step on Webb's face (or for Bacon to sit on it), but I acknowledge I shouldn't stoop to any juvenile or barbaric level everyone else sinks to. While the arrogance and the antagonism are all part of the game-- an ugly part, yes, but there's really no getting rid of it-- someone should at least try to rise above them. And THAT would be "the best of us".

Saturday, August 15, 2009


The song "Insensitive" by Jann Arden never fails to remind my best friend of me, and for that reason, it never fails to bring a rueful smile to my face. It's become a running joke, originating from our high school days when she'd often call me out for being, well, insensitive. When she began associating the aptly titled song with me, I couldn't exactly protest, because I acknowledge that when it comes to other people's feelings, I tend to be quite slow on the uptake. Back then I attributed it to low EQ more than anything, an inability (or at least incompetence) to process and respond to emotions. But I have grown up a lot since high school, and I'd like to think that since then, my lapses in sensitivity have decreased in both frequency and gravity. I'd also like to think that it's leaning more toward sheer density now, a mere cluelessness rather than a cold disregard for others' feelings.

However, I do admit that there is still a part of me that neglects to take others' feelings into account, and I make no excuses for that. I was never naturally good at interpersonal relations; I have to work at it and make a conscious effort to be a good sister/daughter/friend/colleague/teacher/boss. Despite best efforts though, I still occasionally mess up and end up inadvertently offending or hurting someone. I was recently reminded of this, and even though I initially bristled at how my good intentions were misinterpreted, I ultimately took it as a welcome wake-up call that perhaps I'm slipping back into my insensitive ways again. Time to recalibrate my sensors and give my EQ a tune-up. And time to get Jann Arden out of my head.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Lifestyles of the rich and heinous

I know someone who balks at eating at restaurants he deems overpriced. The way he sees it, P300 spent on one entree can just as easily be spent feeding 10 homeless kids. And to him, it's unconscionable to pay so much for a single meal while so many people are going hungry. It's what our Theology teachers in Ateneo taught us to identify as "social sin", and while my inherently capitalistic nature can't entirely reconcile with this concept (and I still happily shell out P300 for a burger at Chili's), I do understand and, to a certain extent, appreciate the spirit behind it.

Social sin was one of the things that immediately came to my mind upon learning of the now infamous $20,000 dinner
President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and her Entourage of Evil enjoyed at swanky New York restaurant Le Cirque. But social sin does not even begin to cover the sordidness of it all. It's one thing for me to shell out 300 bucks out of my own pocket for a burger; it's quite another for elected public officials to blow a million pesos in ill-gotten gains (and OF COURSE it's all ill-gotten) on fancy food and wine. For chrissake, does ANYone swallow the bullshit the GMA spin doctors are force-feeding us that Congressman Martin Romualdez footed the bill with his own money? What, did the generous Representative from Leyte shoulder the travel expenses for the whole junket too (because that's all this trip to the US really was, another junket for GMA and her lapdogs)?

But let's give the bastards and their Queen Bitch the benefit of the doubt and assume that Romualdez actually paid for the Le Cirque dinner (which Romualdez though, hmm? get your stories straight, morons). Somehow that doesn't make it any less outrageous. It's simply BAD ETHICS and POOR TASTE for government leaders of a Third World nation to be indulging in a ridiculously expensive meal while millions of their consitituents back home lead hand-to-mouth existences. Whenever I travel, especially to the US, I always avoid spending more than what I should, given the already astronomical costs of airfare and accommodations, but I admit I have no qualms about treating myself to at least one good, if overpriced, meal. But I'm NOT President of a country drowning in debt and strangled by poverty. I'm NOT accountable to the taxpayers, whose hard-earned wages subsidize politicians' supposedly paltry salaries. And I certainly did NOT take an oath to be an upstanding public servant-- SERVANT, you hear that, asswipes? You're supposed to be serving us, not robbing us blind and stuffing your fat faces with caviar and champagne.

According to new reports coming out now, apparently GMA and company also racked up a hefty bill ($15,000) at a steakhouse in Washington DC after their meet-and-greet with US President Barack Obama. Also, a source from the Philippine embassy in New York says Gang Greed dined at Le Cirque not just once but twice, and they were chauffered to the restaurant in stretch limos (snazzy!). Moreover, their rooms at the Waldorf-Astoria cost a pretty penny... all charged to the consulate.

I can justify the tendency to commit social sin, as I am frequently "guilty" of it myself. But what GMA and the leeches around her are guilty of is not only the Catholic concept of social sin-- they are guilty of violating the public trust, betraying the most basic of ethical standards, AND committing crimes against their country, if not through malfeasance,
then through sheer bad taste. Even pleading poor judgment makes it no less inexcusable and unpardonable. This brazen display of extravagance communicates a complete disregard for the welfare of the people they serve, and the cavalier attitude the Arroyo administration is adopting in answer to the backlash speaks not only of the kind of government officials, but the kind of human beings they are: devoid of social, civic, and moral conscience.

I guess a little Cirquemspection is too much to ask of these corrupt clowns.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Props and pans: ADMU vs DLSU in review

Yesterday's humdinger of an Ateneo-La Salle match showcased the best and the worst from both schools, as always tends to happen when the 2 rival universities go head-to-head. Allow me to rip off Stephen Colbert's "Tip of the Hat/Wag of the Finger" segment and commend/condemn the following classy and unclassy acts:

  • Tip of the Hat to everyone from both schools who wore yellow in honor of Tita Cory
  • Wag of the Finger to the very loud, very annoying, very palengkera young Atenean seated in the same row as us in Gen Ad
  • Tip of the Hat to Bro. Bernie Oca of DLSU for using St. Ignatius' Prayer for Generosity in his portion of the opening prayer, very nice touch
  • Wag of the Finger to the jackass in the DLSU gallery for bellowing "GO LA SALLE!" half-a-second after Bro. Oca finished speaking, even before the solemn ceremony for Cory was done
  • Tip of the Hat to the Green Archers for raising the laban sign while "Bayan Ko" was being played
  • Wag of the Finger to Rabeh Al-Hussaini for playing like a shadow of the MVP from last season (yes, even the best players have their off days, but Rabeh was obviously playing tentatively, if not half-heartedly)
  • Tip of the Hat to the DLSU cheering squad for not doing their usual "La Salle Spelling" move where they turn around to face and goad the Ateneo crowd
  • Wag of the Finger to Green Archer Joshua Webb for kicking Blue Eagle Bacon Austria (Webb played well, but then had to pull that stupid stunt that broke his team's momentum and possibly cost them the game)
  • Tip of the Hat to Eric Salamat, Nonoy Baclao, Ryan Buenafe, Nico Salva, AND Bacon Austria (!!) for maintaining their composure and focus in the end game and for... well, bringing home the bacon (it HAD to be said)

Friday, August 07, 2009

End of an era

Tita Cory has passed away, a slick, souped-up G.I. Joe is in cinemas, and now John Hughes is gone.

The 80s are officially dead.

"Will you recognize me?
Call my name or walk on by
Rain keeps falling, rain keeps falling
Down, down, down, down...

Don't you forget about me...."
-Simple Minds

John Hughes, 1950-2009

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Not your regular Joes

When the previews for G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra first came out, I was concerned that they didn't seem to bode well for the beloved cartoon series I grew up watching in the 80s. Nothing seemed RIGHT (except perhaps the casting of Dennis Quaid as General Hawk) and I was really afraid the movie would suck, AND suck all the joy out of my childhood memories.

My fears were mostly unfounded, as there were few sacrilegious changes (some liberties taken with the characters' histories actually made for interesting twists) and more than sufficient entertainment value to appease me. I even found myself getting annoyed with the girl sitting next to me in the cinema, who kept reacting to some admittedly lame plot points with intermittent derisive snorts of laughter. C'mon, it's G.I. Joe (good guys kick the crap out of the bad guys, the end), who expects a plausible plot?? What we 80s babies remember and love about the cartoon was how frickin' cool the Joes were, from Duke to Scarlet to Snake Eyes (don't ask me why, but I've always had the hots for the silent ninja), and in this film adaptation, they were pretty frickin' cool. Not only did their personalities come through, the addition of high-tech gadgetry and weaponry made them more badass. TROC also had some terrific action sequences: the fight scenes between Snake Eyes and Storm Shadow were especially awesome (those alone prompted me to give the movie 4 stars instead of 3), and a crazy car chase through the streets of Paris was surprisingly well-executed and made for a neat adrenaline rush.

And I know I'm such a girl for saying this, but I must make special mention of the fabulous costume design in TROC. Everything was impeccable, from Storm Shadow's stunning white ensembles to the snazzy black leather jacket Ripcord wore in one scene to the killer latex bodysuits hugging the enviable frames of Scarlett and the Baroness (is it me or are Sienna Miller's legs way too skinny?). In a movie driven by a mix of jet fuel and testosterone, it was refreshing to see fashion was not sacrificed at all.

I couldn't complain about TROC's casting (there was one weird but welcome cameo); however I did find myself wishing they had introduced more characters, especially on the Joe side of things. Maybe we'll get to see Flint, Gung-ho, Shipwreck, Roadblock, Lady Jaye and other favorites in the sequel (you know there's gonna be a sequel). The filmmakers just better make sure they don't screw up the second movie a la Transformers. I suspect the disappointing ROTF might have had something to do with why I enjoyed TROC more than expected (the latter being much better in comparison), but even discounting that, I'm just glad it didn't desecrate my childhood.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Last woman standing

"Look at the stars,
Look how they shine for you,
And everything you do,
Yeah, they were all yellow."

As I continue to watch TV news coverage of former President Corazon Aquino's wake, and the staggering response to her death from the people of the Philippines, it hits me that our country has lost perhaps our last true Filipino icon (no, Manny Pacquiao does NOT count).

Tita Cory may not have been the most competent president our nation has had, but she was an outstanding leader in every other sense, from her unstinting fortitude to her unwavering faith to her unquestioned integrity. She inspired people to believe in the values of truth, freedom and democracy, and she tried as best she could to lead by example. In the political arena where playing dirty is not only tolerated but expected, Cory was the woman warrior who remained clean and fought the good fight. In an interview with TV Patrol, a contrite Rex Robles (who led one of the several military coups that marred the Aquino administration) said that even though Cory made mistakes during her term, they were "honest mistakes". Honest. Now there's a word we don't use to describe anyone in government anymore.

Even after her presidency, Cory Aquino stood as a symbol of hope and patriotism, and the spirit of People Power lived in her. It is indeed cause for sorrow that she is now gone, but it would be even more tragic if we allow that same spirit that she ignited in us to be extinguished with her passing. The best way to honor Tita Cory's legacy is to keep the faith alive, continue the fight against corruption and greed and all the insidious forces that threaten our nation from within, and uphold everything that is good and decent and proud about the Filipino.

She loved us that much. We owe her, and ourselves, that much.
Tuloy ang laban.

Corazon Aquino, 1933-2009

Saturday, August 01, 2009

If my blog could talk

Dear Ailee:

I realize you've been crazy busy the past month, what with shouldering the workload of one of your company's managers who's on a month-long leave, going on a business trip, entertaining out-of-town guests, and meeting your social butterfly obligations (so many dinners and lunches and coffees!). I know the UAAP season has kicked off, so your mental faculties are addled by your annual Ateneo fan fervor. I also gather that Yahoo Messenger and that accursed Twitter have been keeping you occupied online as of late.

In spite of all that though, I hope you haven't entirely forgotten about me.

I am aware there are important things going on in your life right now that take precedence over exercising your writing muscles. Never mind if I suspect there's some laziness behind the lack of new posts (or is it a problem of inspiration?). But I understand your priorities, I do. I really don't mind if you don't update me as often as before; you of all people know I've matured so much in the past 4 years. I won't take it against you. I'm just saying it would be nice if you could spare me a wee bit of your time and attention. After all, we've been through so much together. I don't want to fade into a mere afterthought of yours, when you used to turn to me whenever you were depressed, excited, outraged, ecstatic and all sorts of extreme emotional states over even the most trivial of topics.

A couple of months ago, on my birthday, you made a promise that you will take care of me for many more years to come. I'd like to think that I can still hold you to that promise. I guess I'll have to trust that you will come back to me when you're good and ready. Until then, I miss you, and I'll be right here if you need me.

Yours always,