Sunday, March 23, 2008

My daughter, My self.

Was rummaging through old pfotos when I saw these.
At left, myself as a flowergirl at 3 years old.
At right, Sandra at 2.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Again, another Rally...

I am at my desk, mentally preparing for a video conference to a client in Hong Kong, and occassionally distracted by the horde of rallyists traversing Ayala Avenue below.

Some of them might have their hearts in the right place. And yes, corrupt people should be brought down... No, shot instantly, he he... But right now, I think of this bungled schedule of mine, the work that needs to be done, and Sandra's school bus tied up in some traffic somewhere.

The Philippines is the poster boy for democracy in the hands of people who can't handle it well. We are too quick to table our cries on the streets and expect a political reform after. Sure, it worked in 1986. Twenty two years later, I don't think so.

Getting up from my desk to get coffee, the TV blared on about tanks rolling in Metro Manila, sort of the President's way to get more security. She and her administration have cried of an assassination plot by the insurgents. Well, what does she expect? The country is in worse shape and her family has supposedly pocketed too much money from this Broadband deal. I look at the traffic, I look at my life, working my ass off at this hour and I think hey, I can kill someone too with all the inconvenience caused. Ha ha.

I am so politically apathetic. LOL.

Meanwhile below is the breaking news from

Anti-Arroyo protesters swell, start march in Makati

By Cathy Miranda, Abigail Kwok
First Posted 14:45:00 02/15/2008

MANILA, Philippines – (UPDATE 2) At least 3,000 anti-Arroyo rallyists have started to gather in Makati City, representing various militant, civil society and Church groups.

About 100 law policemen from the city were deployed although there were those who were sent from Las Piñas and Parañaque, officials on the ground told

They also said that the rally was expected to last until 8 p.m., based on the permit that was issued by the local government.

A mass is scheduled at 4 p.m., they said.

The protesters, who are expected to converge at Paseo de Roxas, near the monument of Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino Jr., are demanding the resignation of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo over the national broadband network controversy that has linked her husband and some of her allies to allegations of corruption.

Police have closed Ayala Avenue to traffic and only members of media were allowed to park their vehicles along the road. Radio and television reports added that Paseo de Roxas and Buendia were no longer passable to vehicles.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Billiards with Dad

Once in a while, I am my father's son.

Last weekend, while every single male member of the clan opted to swim in the pool or tinker with the videoke machine (mind you, i wouldn't dare get caught with that one), I got the cue and played old fashioned 8-ball with my old man.

Growing up, I was a dutiful daughter. But more than that, I was his partner in a lot of things. We went fishing together, and I am his only offspring (yes, more than my brothers) who learned how to hold a worm, or gut a fish. He taught me how to scrub an oyster, and shuck it after. He taught me how to hold a rifle and kill a monitor lizard before it kills one of the ducks (we had a farm once). He also let me go with him to the barbershop, where barbers would lash out their own political opinions and I would hear my Dad in a heated debate. That in essence, shaped the way I am now. A girly-girl with old man insight and subtlety.

And if there's one thing I learned with him about men, is never sit them down when I want to talk about something important. Always say news "in passing", like when I'm handing popcorn during a commercial break. Or in this situation, over a game of 8-ball.

ME: I heard cousin ____ is doing well in Ireland.

DAD: (while managing to land one of the balls in the corner pocket) Yeah, she's doing great. Earning serious money.

ME: What if I get to do that? What if I venture out of Manila?

DAD: (Puts chalk on his cuestick) What do you mean? Be an expat?

ME: Not necessarily. I have this start-up idea which will involve a lot of travel. I might be gone every month, like a nomad. But I want to be based here.

DAD: (grunts) hmp.

ME: Anyway, it's just an idea.

DAD: Which countries?

ME: Some parts of Europe, and Middle East.

DAD: (misses a ball) there's something wrong with this cuestick... So you're resigning?

Not until I'm sure about it.

DAD: We can always take care of Sandra while you're gone. I'm more concerned about this travel thing. You're a girl.

ME: I'm waayyy over 30, Dad.
(i then hit the 5th ball into the middle pocket)

He sighs and fumbles with the chalk again. And then he goes:

DAD: When you travel, do you ride in Business class?

I guess that's my Dad's way of saying, I hope you'd be well taken care of.

And then, distracted as he was, he won the game.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Everyday, Sweet Sunshine

Another Coke ad, quite upbeat and positive, albeit not as moving as the one in last month's post. Directed by Ken Chung and colourgraded/post produced in Hong Kong.

Monday, February 4, 2008

...of an Old, Beautiful Time

I love the charm of provinces, with simple folk showing much respect for old things passed on to them by their grandparents' grandparents. I love seeing hand-carved furniture or hand-blown glass meticulously cared for by next generations. I don't consider this materialism, more like sentimentality and remembrance of family history.

This romance for old things has died, unfortunately. The rise of IKEA (I call them fast-furniture, lol) has killed this respect for lovely, old bric-a-bracks. I am guilty of this too, I'd be quick to let go of anything old or worn-out. It seems practical to just buy a new one than maintaining something special.

Anyway, when work beckoned us to find a picturesque rural neighborhood (and no beach communities included, darn!) we chanced upon these lovely archaic houses, about 200 years old. And because this government of ours is too poor to declare the houses of historical significance (meaning shell out money for maintenance), the 21st century descendants have taken it upon themselves to salvage what's left.

We didn't intend to shoot the houses, just the streets and alleyways around them. But the pretty little details of these homes seduced me into venturing inside. And armed with just an old Nokia phone, these pictures don't really do them any justice.

I loved the four-poster bed, intended for a señorita, set near her wide french-lace curtained window where she was once serenaded, or presumably seduced. I loved the glass door knob on her bedroom door, which could've trained her to handle things delicately, and not to bang it if she ever got upset (I would do a lot of door slamming if I weren't allowed out of the house).

There were small washed out watercolour portraits, a far cry from the lush acrylic or oil paintings that hung in the homes of the old rich. The portraits may be small, but quite tasteful. Whoever the old ancestor was (an 18th century Chinese immigrant, the one in the picture above, next to the mirror) was modest, considering his home was huge. The mirror in itself is also a conversation piece. A letter from his son was etched on the glass. "To my dearest father, the master of this home", it said.

I was also peeking -- alright, rummaging -- around the house, looking for little clues of their personalities. And in one old drawer, I found this. A stack of crumbling documents. This one is a last will and testament, dated 1865 and written in Spanish, the Philippines' mother tongue in the colonial days. The paper was literally deteriorating in my hands (O, God forgive me for holding them). I hate being this curious and nosey, but I was drawn to the beauty of the script. The way his pen swirled revealed his education and genteel nature. And that in his last days, he bequeathed this lovely house to his younger sister. It was not a very special story, but this paper, this house, is like stepping into someone's diary. Ordinary made extraordinary by time and care given by the succeeding generations. And with that, I said my apologies to the spirits and put the documents back where I found them.

A superstitious camera crewman said there were ghosts in the place. I didn't feel that at all. The house is not haunted for me. It was loved, and that is why it felt so inviting. In fact, if I was lucky enough to see a ghost, I'd probably say "Good day, Sir. You have a lovely home".

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Potipot Island

In a country with 7,101 islands, there are about over 30,000 beaches here, some more popular than others. I've ventured into the popular ones and I am not impressed with the commercialism of Boracay, Palawan or Puerto Galera. I like secluded beaches more, so I cajoled my college buddies to go with us to Potipot Island.

It was a 6-hour drive (we got trapped in Holiday Traffic) to Uacon, the mainland that faces Potipot. Uacon is a sleepy town with very modest accommodations. There isn't even cable TV within miles. And the sand is very soft and fine, though very dark as well, almost black that when you're swimming in it, it feels like you're swimming in mud.

Sandra had a great time though, she played with the sand and made "mud pies". I guess I need to be thankful for her ability to make do with what's available, since TV nor toys were not at her disposal.

But at least Potipot island is just a kilometer by boat. In fact, it's within view from this beach.

So we took a P400 (about US$10) boat ride to the island. The boat is a rickety thing made from plywood and bamboo. I didn't take any chances and insisted that Sandra wear a life vest. The vest was something I brought along. Life vests and safety gear ARE NOT AVAILABLE in this province. Case in point, we are literally hanging on the boat with our butts because there were no proper seating and we just leaned on the banca's edge.

Potipot is a stark contrast to Uacon. Take note that it's just a kilometer away, but the sand here is pristine white. On the background is the banca that we rode on, and the mainland of Uacon, Candelaria.

There is absolutely nothing in Potipot. No resorts, no electricity, not even a bathroom. It's just a secluded mushroom -shaped island of misplaced trees and white sand. It is serenely isolated, which made the 280km trip from Makati worthwhile. Unlike Boracay, no one will try to sell me stuff while I'm on the beach, and there aren't any giggly honeymooners either. Just perfect.

One of the few pictures of me and the girls together. In reality, we took a second to pose and then just ignored each other the rest of the time. Everyone had a thing. Trish wanted to bake herself in the sun. Vecs wanted to explore inside the island. Sandra wanted to build castles, catch hermit crabs or snorkel. I just wanted to breathe it all in. Oh the blue ring right at the edge of the water is where the sand disappears and one just drops to infinity.

Surprisingly, Sandra took to the water immediately. I expected her to chicken out when we saw that it was too deep, but with the vest and a wakeboard, she seemed very confident. I didn't take chances though. I was swimming close to her like a mama whale next to a calf.

Though the bad thing about playing mama whale is having this for a constant view -- Sandra's side. There's really nothing much to see down there, since I may need scuba gear and a diving torch if I really wanted to see what's in that blue abyss. Besides, in this deep water, Sandra safely swimming is a much better view to me.

I'm really glad we made that trip. But I sort of regret taking this picture. Because now, I really do wish I was there.

Christmas Madonna

This is a retro post, since I didn't have much time to blog around Christmas time.

The Christmas party at the office as usual, had production numbers with high expectations. I guess that's natural when you have production designers at your disposal. Anyway, the gays at the office wanted to do Madonna drag but didn't have enough gays to portray Madonna in all the stages of her transformation. With the lack of drag queens around, they turned to the next best thing, the "fag hags" such as myself. I got the part to perform 2-stanzas of Holiday from Madonna's Blonde Ambition Japan tour. And not to sound biased, I did look the part, though I looked more like I came from Yokohama than she did. LOL.

Getting "adopted" for New Year's Eve

It was my first new year without Sandra and family. I would've wanted to just troop down to Ayala avenue and just get lost in the street party crowd all by myself. But I decided against that and accepted an invitation from the neighbors to watch the fireworks from their penthouse.

It's 2008. I'm a big girl now, and if I still go on with my being introvert, nothing would ever happen to me. So for the first time, I attended a party where I knew nobody but the host (and not very well at that). The host was a mis-transplanted Aussie who didn't have a family here. Come to think of it, most of the people who attended didn't have families. So we were like adopted misfits, warmly welcomed to his home to partake of spaghetti, sausages, grilled chicken and booze.

My co-adoptees were also a mix of characters. Engineers, stock brokers, IT geeks, a Harley biker, housewives and provincial natives, and ehem, bargirls. All of us had nothing in common, except for the fact that we were all alone. I came in a proper suit dress, and was surprised to see some girls wearing revealing tube tops with their breasts almost spilling out. One girl looked at me oddly and I looked at her back oddly, but decided... oh what the hell. We exchanged hugs and greeted each other happy new year. Just for this day, I suspended all judgment.

And from the penthouse, we had a 180 degree view of fireworks from Ayala and the rest of Manila. And for someone whose lonely, it wasn't such a bad place to be in.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

My Christmas TV Ad

Whoever said that truth is stranger than fiction must have led a pretty interesting life.

Several months back, we were tasked to create a Christmas campaign. I've then fumbled into making about 20 storyboards, all of which got disapproved or deemed too cluttered or usual and just ended up as yesterday's recycled paper. But on the last stretch of presentations, I just asked myself what was Christmas supposed to be...

I reviewed my life the past year, and wrote it down. Told my boss, "here, this was MY Christmas." It wasn't entirely sad, but not happy either. They loved it. The clients loved it. People around the region loved it. And for a country/society that shies away from the thought of divorce or separation, I'm quite relieved that there was good feedback.

So guys, here's a semblance to my autobiography.

By the way, this is the project that had post-production in Sydney. Directed by multi-awarded Aussie director Kriv Stenders.

DOWNSIDE: At the office, I got either really odd, sympathetic looks or eyeball-rolling and comments like "get over it already!"

UPSIDE: This spot actually made Sandra feel good. It made me feel good as well. It also got the highest scores in consumer research. After the hours of overtime work, I just got a pat on the back.

Friday, November 30, 2007

More Political Melodrama

Except for snow, this country has seen it all. Yesterday was the biggest staging of military hysterics, with Senator/soldier Trillanes demanding the madame president to step down and asking the people to come join his cause. With the bloody rain and tons of work, does he actually think (even if the rumors of Arroyo's shady dealings are true) that I'm gonna go out there and rally for his cause? Geez, what was he thinking? I've met a lot of gay people, but this guy is definitely the biggest drama queen as of yet.

To make matters worse, an equally melodramatic president retaliated by gassing and pouring bullets on my favorite hotel (yeah, that was really necessary to capture two people). And as a show of her control, she imposed a curfew to make sure there would be no public gatherings in support of Trillanes.

Let's get this straight, the people are so f*ckin' tired of rallies. (I've been doing them since 1983, waayy before I got my period). They can't expect people to join an Nth coup d'etat! We Filipinos are finally making sense of putting this country forward, by taking care of real business and leaving politicians to yap endlessly by themselves. The Makati business community didn't even budge when the military trucks and tank (singular) rolled in. We now realize that if there's anything this country needs, it's a semblance of progress. And this never-ending banter about who should stay in power is embarrassingly childish.

Preparations for the next presidential elections are under way, can't you guys just wait instead? Whether Gloria Arroyo is corrupt or not, is beside the point (I expect all presidents to be corrupt anyway). The point is, political hysterics and a negative business atmosphere create more damage to this country. You guys just unnecessarily shredded Manila Peninsula Hotel, let's keep it at that.

Meanwhile, this is a picture from of Singaporean tourists, posing with the bullet-riddled Manila Pen at the background. Geez, they're all-smiles like they just visited a circus... and the sad part is, that's what it is.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

The Ad Congress Parade

Last week, we all trooped to Subic for the 20th Philippine Advertising Congress. So aside from the conventions and the awards, the highlight of the event is the PARADE OF AGENCIES. Each agency represented an endangered specie or medium in this changing world. I got "volunteered" to be one of the mannequins for our presentation.
DOWNSIDE: I was forced to wear a white cat suit for the parade, and I couldn't refuse.
UPSIDE: My undies never showed, We won first prize, and when I showed this to my daughter, she thought I was pretty cool.

Here are some of the parade participants:

THEME: Death of Radio

THEME: Death of the Landline

THEME: Death of Snail Mail

THEME: Death of Asian Culture

THEME: Death of Haute Couture
CREDITS: Monica of McCann

Us performing on stage. In case anyone's wondering, I'm the second girl from the left.

The winning pose! I'm on the furthest left.

After the parade, posing with the giant cheque prize, which isn't so giant considering it got covered by someone's head dress.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Sleepless in Sydney

After 21 storyboards and three months of working overtime, there are perks to my job. Post production in Sydney! After a gruelling 12 hour overnight trip (there was a stopover at Brisbane) we arrived just before 7am. And my colleagues and I figured, oh it's a nice spring morning, why waste it catching sleep? So we headed off to the Sydney Opera House (yeah, I'm soooo much like a tourist). Never mind that I haven't slept a wink in my claustrophobic economy seat. This is a celebration of my project finally seeing itself through. The half smile-grimace comes with the embarrassment of posing like this, you know, for posterity's sake. (Hi, Mom!)

And oh, the birds. They're definitely not shy. They virtually attacked us as we sat down to have lunch in one of those al fresco cafes in Circular Quay. I asked the waitress what kind of birds were they and she replied with thick Ukranian accent "Duh? Seagulls?" Gee, I thought seagulls were bigger, and cuter. (Pardon my ignoramusness but my only reference was the cartoon Finding Nemo. These critters don't exist in SEAsia). And if my memory serves me right, I think their diet consist of fish. So how come they were stealing my french fries?

On our first night, we headed out near The Rocks in search of dinner. Our client was looking for a certain seafood restaurant called Doyle's. It was supposedly a great reasonably-priced restaurant. But we ended up in a place called Peter Doyle @ the Quay and we assumed it was the same thing. Let me tell you, the oysters were excellent, sweet and fresh; the lobster had a melt-in-your-mouth texture; the scallops were to die for. The view was top-notch, with luxury cruisers and yachts passing by the illuminated opera house backdrop -- And the bill was over $600. That's the only time I realized we were at the high-end Doyle restaurant. (I was told the original Doyle restaurant only charges $20 for a bucket of prawns so imagine my dismay!) Anyway I'm so glad the supplier paid for it. Now that's a real company treat.

Of course, we had to work sometime. The post production facility was right smack in Oxford street, which happens to be home to the biggest gay mardi gras parade. Anyway, there was a glitch in the film encoding and we wasted time staring at nothing. This pose (we pretended to stare at the monitor) was proof of the lull time. And just in case anyone noticed, the crossed arm pose had been constant for me the whole time I was in Sydney. That's because I was shivering. I can't withstand temps below 15 deg Celsius!

Walking down the street from the office, there were a lot of interesting shops. Let's see... Optometrist... Adult shop... adult show... Fetish paraphernalia... Me definitely not in Kansas!

Trivia: not all Asians love videoke, but we definitely love the camera. No matter how embarrassed we are and how inappropriate it may seem, we just need to snap something for posterity (I once attacked Imelda Marcos with my phonecam, but that's a different story). Anyway, in a place seemingly ordinary to the native Australian, we decided to pose yet again, but in a less eager manner. Simple controlled grins, no V-signs on the fingers. Just pretend we're blending in the background kind of pose. After which, a guy suddenly approached me and said "wow, it's amazing how you mates just walk in different stages and look back at the cam. Perfect blocking!" All I could respond was... "Moshi! Moshi!"

On our last few days there, we went to the Sydney Aquarium, which connects right to the open sea. I would think Ocean Park In Hong Kong is a lot more impressive, but the species in SA are much more varied and interesting. Lots of sharks. Didn't find Nemo, but I got to meet Bruce!

As a parting shot, here's me holding for dear life in a ferry on the way to Tarronga Zoo. The wind was chilly, it was drizzling, the kangaroos and the koalas were practically hibernating when we got there. But all in all, it was a fun week. So fun, it made me sad that I couldn't bring Sandra along. Oh well, my visa's valid until next year. Who knows? :-)

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Halloween @ Work

DOWNSIDE: The Halloween theme for this year is Video Games. I decided to come as Chun Li from Streetfighter, but because I couldn't find a blue cheongsam and white boots, I made do with what's available. So I ended up looking like a hooker from Miss Saigon the Musical.

UPSIDE: I looked like a damn good-looking hooker from Miss Saigon the Musical.

(I bought a pink wig in Hong Kong about 5 years ago and never really knew what to do with it. Its now put into good (?) use when I lent it to my boss who is dressed in drag, pretending to be the character in "Alias".)

Halloween is a BIG event at the office. Bigger than Christmas. I suppose it's because Christmas is spent with families and is a more solemn occasion. But Halloween is when we're given license to be a little silly and be a spectacle to clients as well as other companies in the same building.

Here are some characters at work. From Left: Velma from Scooby Doo, A character from Harry Potter, Winx, me, Darth Vader, a Jedi from Starwars snuggling up to the Mushroom of Mario Brothers, a witch, a medieval video game character whose name escapes me, and the nerdy girl-character in GhostBusters.

Sandra also came for trick-or-treating dressed as Sabrina the Witch, but she refused to pose normally for the camera, saying that camera flashes would kill her. One click and she croaked. Oh what fun. Sigh.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

BOMBING IN MAKATI, and what really hurts

From my desk, I have a great view of the Makati Skyline, including Makati Medical Center. And at about 2:15 pm I saw rows of ambulances heading to the ER receiving area, with a sizeable crowd milling about. Heard the faint sound of sirens and I knew something must have happened.

Then we got a text message. Bombing at Glorietta. Oh God. Not again.

I've always thought bombing is a cheater's way to waging war. Childhood memories of water bombs being thrown at me when I least expected it didn't seem to be a fair way to conquer the playground. And now, it's a lot more treacherous when the intent is to instill fear on unsuspecting people.

The wreckage is big but not something so big it can't be repaired in a month. The casualties involved 9 dead -- That's still small compared to the bomb that exploded in Pakistan which involved over 100 deaths. I was monitoring the news and the Philippines didn't even make the headlines on CNN and BBC. Not that I'd like us to compete for most bombed city, but you get what I mean. This country is not that bad.

I guess what really hurts is that the Philippines has great people, has progressive thinkers, and we are on the verge of fast-tracking development and globalization. The Philippine peso has strengthened against the dollar at P44. Things are starting to look up. And then shit happens. The rest of the world (which may be ignorant to the woes of this country) will just dismiss us as a volatile nation. Investors will pull out. And we may go back to square one.

And at dinner last night with the Coke team and the Aussie film guys, the joke was they can't wait to get back to Sydney because they don't want to be here when the country implodes. Gee, thanks.

There's a lot of speculation happening now on who did it. The finger-pointing is surreal. Did the terrorists do it? Did Gloria order it? Nobody is making a claim. Goddammit, I thought bombing a place is all about making a political statement. At least the Al-Qaeda claimed responsibility for 9-11. But what happened yesterday was all about making people scared of no one in particular. The news feed from Inquirer (where I got this photo from) and Star were so depressing, I had to stop watching or reading the news.

But I simply can't shut it out of my mind. This is my neighborhood. Doing groceries will now be a task filled with paranoia. Everytime I'd remember Kids at work (the daycare that collapsed in Gloretta) I'll always have that chilling thought of injured kids. The next time I'd sit at my cubicle at work, I'd remember the rushing ambulances with victims who never made it to the emergency room.

And while everything on Monday will be business as usual, peace of mind will not be what it used to be.

ADDENDUM 10/29/2007: Police says it's a diesel leak accident, blaming the explosion on Ayala. Ayala says the diesel tank is intact (if it was the source, then it should've discombooberated) and that something or someone may have triggered the explosion. Lots of finger pointing happening now. Meanwhile, is it safe to do some shopping?

Thursday, October 11, 2007

My Favorite TV Ad

Still brings me the giggles... :-)