Monday, March 31, 2008

Sad, sad life

Yesterday, I picked up a graphic novel by Marjane Satrapi, whose memoirs I enjoyed reading. It's called, as you can see, Chicken with Plums, and no it's not a piece of culinary writing. It's about the life and times of an Iranian musician, a real great artist, called Nasser Ali Khan.

It's mostly set in Nasser Ali's room, where he lay down for eight days and never got up again. Satrapi chronicles the eight days (seven, actually, because he was goners by the eighth) and moves forward and backward in time to tell the story in the way only the graphic form (and maybe John Irving) can pull off.

What's so sad about this character is not only had he lost the two greatest loves in his life (the woman he loved [Irane] and the music he spent his whole life playing) but he also just gave up on life altogether. Even the Angel of Death came up to him and told him, "You know, it's not your time yet, but it's too late to go back now."

Tragic hero? Perhaps. But though this book shows the great passion of one man, it also expresses the great loss of a life given up...just because one got too tired to live it. People have their reasons for jumping the ship and these are reasons most won't ever understand. But this just goes to show that more compassion should be given to them, and less complaints. No life means less than any great love lost.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

On 'The Bishop's Place'

I have been pondering on Rina Jimenez-David's article about why Catholic leaders seemingly keep mum about the corruption going on in the country but "meddle" with the private affairs of couples, and by default, women's "rights" over their own body. It's a challenging piece, in the sense that it attacks the Church's choice of, shall I say, battle. But, overall, I find myself disagreeing with her. Here's why.

In the article, David retorts: "The world is not going to end because teenagers are taught to use the condom or because women learn how to pop pills." That the world would "end" is obviously an exaggeration; of course the world won't end because of those reasons, but something else certainly will: the institution of the family.

Seems too far-fetched, but let me explain. You know that the family is composed of a father, a mother, and their kids--and the thing that most binds them together is the bond of love. It's love that brought the parents together, and it's that love that brought the kids into the world, as cheesy as it sounds. What does this wonderful concept of family mean in a society where sex can be so easily accessible outside marriage and contraceptives/abortifacients dictate who gets to live?

What the bishops are doing is not attacking "women's rights" (more on that later) but defending the institution of the family (of which women's true rights are obviously a part). They're defending society's most basic unit...and at a most urgent time, too--we're living at a time when, David herself points out, "one or any religion ceases to dictate the norms and rules by which government operates, and at the same time protects the right of individuals to dissent from religious doctrines and 'norms and values that were imposed based on that doctrine.'"

We're living at a time where practically anything goes. There are so many choices; we decide for ourselves. We are left to our own devices. Norms and values? Why espouse them when you can be free? But of course, the meaning of freedom is obscured, too: "Thus, writes Blancarte: '(T)he ability of women to buy contraceptive pills at the corner pharmacy, to divorce and get remarried or to end an undesired pregnancy goes hand in hand with the existence of a lay state that guarantees that freedom of conscience and the acts that consequently derive from that freedom.'"

What freedom? Is a woman ever free when she continuously buys drugs made to screw up her body's natural sexual process? Where's the freedom in killing one's own unborn child? Did anyone ask the child if he wanted to be born? What about the freedom of the family in the midst of divorce? Who owns the choices there?

I've heard of the use of the term "women's rights" or "women's reproductive rights" to mean "the right of the woman to her own body," hence, "the right to use contraception and abortifacients, and to abort unwanted pregnancies." This is not a right! It is a twisted philosophy at best, disguised as something ideally good (rights).

As far as I know, human beings don't have the right to hurt themselves and others--so why use euphemisms? Call them by their real names and stop hiding them under the word "rights."

Women have every right to bear children and raise a happy and whole family with their husband. I cannot accept a cultural mindset that promotes otherwise. If contraceptives are so good, and divorce is so good, and abortion is so good that they must be urgently filed under "women's rights," then why must women put their health on the line?

The bishops are not meddling with a private affair. The family unit that they're protecting might be a very tiny part of society, nevertheless it's a very crucial little part. To destroy the meaning of family is to strike the nation at its very heart--a very figurative end to the world we're all hoping to build better.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Geek discovery!

It takes a little exploring to find wonderful stuff right in your neighborhood, and I'm ashamed to say I only discovered this now: there's a really cool store in Eastwood Cyber and Fashion Mall--it has all sorts of comic books and geeky novelty items (by geeky I mean the comicbook-geek type of geek) from the DC and Marvel stuff to the Manga offerings. There're boxes and boxes of Batman Black and White figurines (if you're that type of fan), and of course there's the "serious" graphic novel-type publications, for people who care more about the art than the pop culture significance.

Did I just forget to give the name of the store? No need for it, the names's in the first picture above. Comic Odyssey is probably the most well-stocked comic book store since CCHQ in Katipunan. That's my sister in the picture: we haven't been comic geeks since high school, but entering this store gave us the butterflies! the nostalgia! the I never imagined how much of my time used to be spent on reading these things and copying these illustrations!

Kept thinking, this is so cool, this is so cool! And yeah, it is. Nothing beats that very clean, seemingly empty rack in the middle: it's chock-full of individual comic digests to warm a collector's heart. And properly labeled too:

I'm no collector, but imagine the glee a collector would feel if even a non-collector would get excited over this! All I can say is: I shall return!

Wednesday, March 19, 2008


Been interested in one of these -Ology books since they came out with the Wizardology, Dragonology and Piratology ones (and right on time too--they appeared just when the Potter craze and Pirates of the Caribbean craze hit the theaters), but I never really got my hands on one until my uncle offered to buy it for me. We chose Egyptology because my sister's name is Isis, so obviously, Egypt it is.

This is probably the truest "science" among the lot, considering it's about actual history and archeological findings. What I liked about it is it's scrapbook-style layout. It reminded me of one of those activities I would do in high school; ones requiring us to make a full-blown fashion magazine using science concepts as articles, or those Balagtas-related literary terms presented in a medical pamphlet format.

This book is actually a fact book meticulously rearranged to follow a narrative about a woman amateur explorer on the lookout for Osiris' lost tomb. Emily Sands, the "author" of the scrapbook, travels with her co-explorers around Egypt. She compiles bits and pieces of their trip, from "actual" drawings of the marketplaces, modes of travel and small problems that arose during their journey, to "actual" letters she sent and received, tokens and boardgame instructions. She also writes down everything she learned from scholars and experts she met along the way.

No ending spoilers here, though. The book is a fun, relaxing read. It's really good to give to kids who have short attention spans, enjoy art and history. Though the last is probably not too important; the book might just be the missing piece to spark an interest in history, for all we know. I used to fail all my history classes, but, for someone who hated dates and funny names, I had quite a number of Egypt-related books listed in my grade school library card.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Walking rights

Just a few weeks ago, my dad and I were together in the car snaking our way through Teacher's Village in Diliman. We were about to turn a corner just when a Fortuner made for the same road space, so my dad stopped to let the hulking thing pass before he took his left turn. I asked, "Did you just let him pass because he's a Fortuner?" And he nonchalantly replied, "No, because he had the right of way."

Not one to know any driving terms (because I'm not allowed to drive until I get a hearing aid), I asked him to explain it to me. "Right of way" is a driver's right to the road he's on, and anyone wanting to get in the road from another road has to let all those other guys on the target road to pass before they make any disruptions (i.e. get on the road or cross it). It's a first-come-first-serve policy version for the road, which makes a lot of sense.

What doesn't make sense is whether this right of way policy really truly absolutely (...even?) extends to pedestrians on pedestrian lanes. Look at the picture below: how's that for an example?
Image from

Why do you need to put a reminder for motorists to give way to pedestrians on the small slices of road alloted for them? I don't own a car, so I know how it feels to cross a road on a pedestrian lane: it's like that scene in The Lion King, with the stampede at the gorge. Minus the tree and Mufasa.

Of course, not all roads are that crazy. But, I've heard my mom say once that the difference between the Philippines and the US is that, in the US, step on Ped Xing territory and the cars slow down. Over at the Pearls of the Orient, they do the exact opposite.

I wonder what power the thrill of the road gives motorists. Have they just completely forgotten what it's like to cross a road whose pedestrian lane means absolutely nothing? Or are they all just in a hurry all the time?

True: crossing pedestrians slacken traffic. But, like all the makes and models of cars out there, a pair of road worn shoes still deserves its "right of way" on those white stripes. After all, the road doesn't only belong to those who have the cars.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Experience Opera for a Cause!

See Donizetti's opera "Don Pasquale" performed by talented voice majors from the UP College of Music---and help send UP students to school!

Our NGO, Ex Libris Philippines, a nonstock, nonprofit, SEC-certified organization for book enthusiasts, is raising funds in order to help send UP students to school. Last March 7, 2007, our NGO held a special screening of the movie "300" in Rockwell Powerplant, and the funds from this movie screening sent two UP students (Gerico Punzalan of CAL and Hanna Garcia of Industrial Engineering) to school.

As this year's fundraising activity for our NGO's Scholarship Project, we are holding an opera production of "Don Pasquale", with a cast of UP College of Music voice majors and UP alumni.

All the funds to be raised from ticket sales will go to the Ex Libris Philippines Scholarship Fund and help send UP students to school.

For the price of 2 venti drinks at Starbucks, watch a great opera performed LIVE by fantastic performers, AND help change lives! Please buy tickets and help us in our cause. With your help, we can send UP students to school. =)



an opera production of



For the benefit of the Ex Libris Philippines Scholarship Project.

6 p.m. 04 April 2008. Engineering Theater, Melchor Hall, University of the Philippines

Tickets at Php 350.00 each.

For ticket reservations please contact

Nicole @ 0916-341-3366

Or any Ex Libris Philippines member you know!

For more information about Ex Libris Philippines and our Scholarship Project, please visit our NGO's site:

See you there!

Friday, March 7, 2008

Papet Pasyon

I've learned so much from puppeteering with Teatrong Mulat ng Pilipinas: there are the numerous lessons on puppetry and stageplay, there's the giganormous one on teamwork and dedication, and finally there's the sincere belief of being able to open the eyes of the youth to the beauties of our own culture (and the many remarkable abilities of motivated people!), which is actually more like a virus you catch from Amelia Lapena-Bonifacio and her daughter Ami Bonifacio-Ramolete.

L-R: Felipe, Tomas, Juan, Jesus, Pedro, and Judas.

Right now, we're all busy with rehearsing for our annual Palm Sunday show, Papet Pasyon, which is a retelling of the passion and life of Christ in the form of puppetry. The photo above shows what is left of the original 12 apostles. The show has been running since 1984, and through the years the puppets have gotten worn out and replaced, and some got removed from the scenes, because as a trained-volunteer-dependent organization, we can't just turn up puppeteers in mid-air.

The good news is, we're more than ever this year, as some old puppeteers who have "graduated" have made a reappearance. We're working towards doing a complete Pasyon next year, and hopefully it pushes through. How nice it would be to begin the story from Creation!

Papet Pasyon and Mulat are featured this March in Baby Magazine, the first parenting magazine in the Philippines! I got these photos from the images we took for the magazine; Ditas Bermudez was behind the lens. Catch Papet Pasyon on Palm Sunday, March 16, at 3pm and 5:30pm, in Tita Amel's Children's Theater (TACT), 64 Mapagkawanggawa St., Teacher's Village East, Diliman, Quezon City.

Cheer up

What doesn't kill you only makes you stronger =)

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Goblins in books and movies!

I recently saw an 80s flick called Labyrinth, which has Jim Henson's trademark stamped all over it. It was pretty cool, very 80s, and littered here and there with puppets that are so ugly, they're cute. Starring Jennifer Connelly as Sarah and David Bowie as Jareth the Goblin King (can you say weird combination?), the film's got the good 80s music there and also a dose of Jennifer's early bad acting. And get a load of Jareth's hair!

What I like about the film, besides the use of puppets and the general look and feel of it, is the sheer courage that made the whiny heroine take the long journey (and make weird friends along the way). The story itself reminds me of a book written by Maurice Sendak. It's probably one of the creepiest-looking books of all time--you hardly see Sendak illustrate THAT realistically!

The book, called Outside Over There, is about a girl losing her little sister to the goblins. And, just like in Labyrinth, she takes a long and tedious journey to get the baby back. Why go through all that hassle for a baby? It's not only the fact that they're going to get in trouble if they don't bring the baby back (although they sure will!), but no matter how annoyed big sisters are of their younger siblings, there's still that love between them that perhaps only siblings share. I guess it's that love that makes even the most complicated labyrinth easier to overcome. That, and the help of the oddest sort of friends, in the person of Jim Henson's puppets.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

"Your baby has fingernails!"

Juno, a quirky and heartwarming film about a teenager (Ellen Page) who got pregnant, carried her baby through nine months, and gave it to a woman (Jennifer Garner) who waited so long to have a baby (okay, that was long), turned out to be really funny and cute (in the present sense of the word).

But I'm not here to scrutinize the Oscar-winning screenplay. There's one scene in the film that I found really funny but also really true: when Juno found out she was pregnant, she first decided to abort the baby. She went into an abortion clinic where, of all people, one of her classmates in school was staging a one-man rally against, uh, killing babies.

It looks so ironic: one young Asian girl holding a sign that says something against abortion, and throughout the whole desolate lot around the abortion clinic, only her voice can be heard. And then right before Juno steps into the clinic, her classmate, in a last-ditch effort to convince her against abortion, goes, "Your baby has fingernails!"

It takes something very ordinary to humanize a baby in a womb--and that's because the baby is already human to begin with. They don't only have fingernails; babies at 20 weeks in the womb are able to hiccup, have their own unique finger prints and have a perfectly working circulatory system--that little person can make his own blood!

Needless to say, Juno decided not to have the abortion (partly also because she got scared--who wouldn't get scared?). That lone rallyist outside the clinic has done her part--and it proves you don't have to be a multitude to make a small difference in the world we live in.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Movies that get here late (better late than never)

Before 2008 began, one of my friends was already bubbling (?) with excitement about a certain film called Across the Universe, to the point that we found ourselves out on a Thursday night looking for the DVD in stores. As I've never heard of it before then, I assumed it was some old 60s flick with Beatles music in it.

But no.

It was so new, it apparently just came out...everywhere else but HERE. I'm guessing the movie board decided to postpone showing this film to make way for the Metro Manila Film Fest. Ok. I respect the fact that we're moving some foreign films back in favor of showcasing our homegrown talent. But I really wish it's not almost half a year late!

Across the Universe will be out in (some) theaters tomorrow, March 5. I'm excited to see how they put all the songs together into one movie. It's more like an art film, or so I heard. One of the actresses there, TV Carpio, is Fil-Am, and hopefully she wears her heritage with pride. (But that's another story.)

One more day! It won't be long! (Yeah)