Thousands of kilometers away from the ruins of Tacloban, in the high, glass buildings and sprawling villas of Makati, the devastation is viewed through wide LCD screens and swivel monitors. There is shock and pity, but hardly any understanding. To wade through deep floods, to be cramped into unsanitary shelters, to have everything you own be whisked away in the wind—all are alien experiences to the well-heeled. They will shake their heads and write their checks. But they will carry on aboard their fleet of sedans and SUVs, crowding the streets and sending toxic gases to the atmosphere.  “Resilient” is what they will say about the survivors. But silent is what they will be about the harder questions.

The Kings of Summer (2013)


Another long weekend is upon us and I know we all can’t wait to sleep like the dead. But in between snoozing and pigging out you may want to do other equally, uh, satisfying activities, like maybe catch up on your favorite shows. While picking your toenails.

If you want to watch something new, I recommend Kings of Summer, a highly escapist coming-of-age American comedy-drama that premiered in Sundance this year. It’s a beautifully shot film that makes you wanna turn into a cat and lie on a foot rug under the sun all day long.


Joe’s (Nick Robinson) adolescent angst, chiefly directed towards his single father (Nick Offerman), is all too relatable. You probably didn’t take too long in the shower and scatter cream all over the bathroom floor to make it look like you had just masturbated, but most of Joe’s other attempts to piss of his father will remind you of your old, teenage self!


You will cheer him on as he drags his best friend Patrick (Gabriel Basso) on a quest to build a house deep in the woods. It’s preposterous, but they manage to build a ramshackle hut from scraps of wood and metal. Together with the outcast Biaggio (Moises Arias), they lose themselves in their dreamy, I-make-my-own-rules world, frolicking under the sun and attempting to hunt for food (but often end up “cheating” by shopping in the town supermarket). It’s a preppy version of Lord of the Flies, with a lot of twenty-first-century idiosyncrasies.


There will be a girl (and a snake), and they will soon find that they are still bound to the civilization they left behind. In the woods, they are kings,  but back in suburbia, they are just teenagers caught in that bittersweet lull between childhood and adulthood.


It’s worth taking an hour and a half off your afternoon siesta. And Biaggio, with his absurd one-liners (“The other day I met a dog who taught me how to die”), is an endearing character.

A Disease of the Mind

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When, every once in a while, my mind takes a life of its own and gallops out of control, I become a nutcase and lose all hope in the world. My bouts of overthinking and anxiety are longer and graver than most people’s, and many times my otherwise mundane problems have become exacerbated by futile over-analysis and problematization.

In the past, I’ve obsessed over a wide range of concerns: ambiguous romantic relationships, failed applications for other degree programs, and fundraising for alumni homecoming galas. I look back on those times with fondness, glad that they’re over and that I’m sane again. But sometimes I also remember them with dread, because I know how crazy I can be and how anxiety can consume me to the point of depression.

Now my latest episode is over an incurable disease. I am actually sick right now, and every time I sneeze I feel little bits of my life tear from me. Every bump, every undulation on my skin feels suspect. Every time I go online to read about it I almost immediately find symptoms on myself.

It offers no consolation that I actually need to wait before I can see someone about it. It’s a disease that waits, that never really shows itself, that, when you’ve finally calmed down and forgotten about it, pulls a fast one on you with a wide, malicious grin of a grotesque clown.

I don’t want to see that clown. I’m scared of him. But I think about him just the same. All the time.

I mean to read about the earthquake in Bohol, really. Already my newsfeed is filled with speculation–did the Chocolate Hills crumble? what could have happened if it struck Metro Manila instead? As I aimlessly click on the links however, I find my whole screen dissolving into your Facebook profile. It is hard not to go away from your wall and your photos. Yes, I have seen them, but I can’t resist ogling some more. Your beach photos are my favorite: you wearing so little and flaunting so much. I almost wince–smile?–as the familiar tremors begin to creep up my body. With a sigh, I topple from my swivel chair into the frothy depths of midweek delusions. I know you aren’t two hours away, in the city built over a fault line, oblivious to my devastation.

Things That Matter


I sang along to Joey Ayala’s “illegal” rendition of the national anthem, then laughed as Justice Marvic Leonen threatened to sue us all for singing it wrong. I welled up at Marina Cruz-Garcia’s adoption story, and marveled as Don Salubayba created complex shadow images out of a piece of paper and water bottle. I sat enthralled during the whole three sessions, braingasm after braingasm washing over me as I listened to the speakers talk about their passions–from sea charts and maps to books and indigenous music instruments. I was nodding wildly all throughout Professor Rica Bolipata Santos’ talk as she stressed why it was important for us to read, and to read Philippine literature more than anything else. Like everybody else in the room, I burst into applause as Reina Reyes, a Pisay graduate who proved Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity on her doctorate at Princeton, declared she is staying in the country to help foster the love of inquiry among our youth. At the end of it all I was feeling buoyant, sure that one day I’d be up on the same stage giving my own TED talk!

“Purok 7” and “Gaydar”

Since I missed this year’s Cinemalaya, I decided to catch some of the entries’ reruns last Saturday at the Quezon City Film Festival. I wouldn’t have known about it had my friend not invited me to go. It looked like it was extensively promoted only in Quezon City’s schools, since the crowd comprised mostly of chirpy grade school and high school students.

I enormously liked Purok 7 (“Purok Siyete”) because of its honest depiction of rural life. I love everything small-town, so I liked seeing on the screen the glowing sunsets and dusty farm roads. I liked the opening scene of the fiesta with the boisterous cheers and the smiling brown faces.

The film’s real gems, however, were its child actors. Whether it’s Diana (Krystle Valentino) daydreaming about her tisoy childhood crush, or Julian (Miggs Cuaderno) timidly asking his neighbors to buy the frogs he’d caught, every scene put a smile on my face. They were the sort of characters that really grew on you, and it was hard not to empathize with them.


Miggs Cuaderno is a promising child actor.

While we often see onscreen the classic interweaving of the innocence of childhood and troubled family dynamics, the film nonetheless offered a very fresh lens, propping the plot against the idyll of a dirt-poor farming town. The film made me want to visit my grandparents in Santa Maria.

I wanted to stay for the screening of Transit. but my college friends were getting together in Maginhawa, so I decided to have dinner with them before catching the nine p.m. screening of Alvin Yapan’s Gaydar, whose only redeeming factor was the cute soundtrack sung by Kaleidoscope Eyes.

I don’t know if it was the very misleading synopsis on the film fest’s programme, or Pauleen Luna endlessly yapping about gay men, but the film fell short of my expectations. I hadn’t seen Ang Pagdadalaga ni Fe and Debosyon, but I’d heard favorable reviews about them and liked Ang Sayaw ng Dalawang Kaliwang Paa enough to have expected something witty and funny and cute about Alvin Yapan’s latest project.

Gaydar was not so much about gaydar as it was about ambiguous characterizations and incredulous FX service arrangements. It would’ve been alright if Nick (Rafael Rosell) was actually gay, but it turned out he was just another sensitive, fashionable guy who helplessly fell in love with his office bff, Tina (Luna).

Tina, meanwhile, had always fallen for men who turned out to be silahis, so when she met Richard (Tom Rodriguez), the handsome driver of her new FX service, she took no chances and asked Nick to help her sniff Richard out.

What followed was an incoherent plot peppered with noisy dialogues. It also tried very hard to add depth to the plot by injecting it with Nick’s frequent asides about the “class divide” between him and Tina, as if he didn’t work in the same company and wore fashionable outfits every single day. And Richard pretending to be a poor driver when he actually owned the whole FX fleet in the terminal? Come on.

Everybody seemed to like the film anyway. I suspect most of them were still hung over Rodriguez, who, before the screening began, walked down the line to greet the screaming fans.

Monday Mania

I come to in the middle of my morning train ride, someone’s elbow jutting against the small of my back. Someone’s sweaty forearm brushes against my forehead, reaching  for the hand rail. I try to wipe my brow, but my right hand is stuck between someone’s backpack and someone’s beer gut. My left hand is on the wrong pocket, my phone is on the right. I feel it vibrate, and I think about who it could be–certainly not my boss, whose favorite time to call is in the wee hours of the morning; maybe it’s Baker Boy, who’s always inviting me to their place. He says his mother takes sleeping pills, so everything’s going to be fine. The train rumbles (in approval? disagreement?) and I try to summon the weekend back in my head–burritos with my best friends, Insidious 2 with my sister, the late-night Downton Abbey marathon. I look at everyone’s napes around me, at all the hair, at all the pudgy noses. I sigh, but nobody hears it, not even me. My own breath is lost among my thoughts, and the nearby chatter about the country’s latest beauty queen.