Monday, March 31, 2008

Slipped Disc @ Goethe-Institut Manila

In times where you can be downsized faster than you can photocopy, the spine quickly becomes a very expendable part of the body

Ingrid Lausund's Slipped Disc: A Study of the Upright Walk, staged by Dramatis Personae for the Goethe-Institut Manila, is a look at life in the corporate jungle that is at times funny, serious and absurd. "Hopefully it will de-stress you and de-toxify you and make you walk more upright tonight," said director Lito Casaje. Often, the humor comes from the familiarity of the situations in the play. The play is self-aware; the characters often break the fourth wall. This is theater not as an escape, but rather as a vehicle forcing you to face your own demons in an intimate setting.

Casaje assembled an impressive cast of respected actors: Richard Cunanan (Hufschmidt), Mailes Kanapi (Schmitt), Jake Macapagal (Kretzky), Jeffrey Quizon (Kruse), and Lynn Sherman (Kristensen). The characters initially come off as stereotypes which are gradually fleshed out in 3D and could be real Makati office people. Fitting, then, that they chose to perform the show in the CBD. It's like holding up a mirror to the workers in the opposite building in their least guarded moments.

It is impossible not to feel sympathy for Quizon's Kruse, who is subjected to Schmitt's undeserved assault, but he could pick up his pace in his monologues. In his dialogue with Macapagal, they are intense and high in energy but sadly not in clarity.

Although the first act had a fair share of comic brilliance, the play lost steam in the second act. Without the support of the ensemble, the series of monologues sounded as if the actors were re-writing the monologues on the spot. An exception was Cunanan, who was engaging in his reverie with musical tea leaves. Could it be that the tentative-ness was intentional, as Lausand hinted in the final scene where the lines sounded as if she was talking to herself? I don't think I'll ever find out.

The play ends on a high note, a lovely (if warm and fuzzy) finish that picks everyone and everything up with its hopeful message unusually devoid of sarcasm. Top dog or underdog, we are still human after all.

The experimental style of the play makes a commercial run risky, which is why it is such a treat that admission is free. I hope this support for the arts will continue, especially for material not often produced locally.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

The other birthday girl

I know at least five people who share my birthday with me. One of them is my grandma on my mom's side, Mommy Ted.

In the morning, she crosses the street and goes to 7-11 to have a chicken sandwich and coffee. "This is my vitamin," she says to me, referring to her sugar-free black coffee. The blood pressure of whoever she stays with goes up, because of her diet. She loves pork. I doubt she'd enjoy being our house because we eat mainly fish and veggies.

Mommy, as we call her, is as feisty and stubborn as a reed-thin figure at 80 as she was at 13 when she started smoking. It was the Japanese occupation then and she smoked cigarettes to escape the smells of the farm. Now she smokes to kill time. She prefers Fortune because it is cheap. "I'm not fond of Philip or Marlboro. Mahal."

We seem poles apart. Siopao is one of the few things we agree on. But she's my lola and she's unique.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Older again

"Thoughts on turning 26 this month?" Jme asked via YM two weeks ago. Easy. Today I can no longer get £5 seats at the RSC or Youth Tickets on Eurail, all because I'm a year older.
I'm grateful for my old IXUS 65 and IXUS 800 IS. Without them, I would have forgotten the past year of my life,the best and most memorable one by far.

My 25th year, in 58 seconds:

Music: "Sitting and Standing" by Carnival Kids

#1 That I can get funding for further study and research
#2 That my photos get an additional year in their virtual home [Flickr Pro]
#3 That someone can play the music of JRB/Guettel OR choreograph and dance for videos I want to make
#4 That people turn off their lights, not necessarily tonight at 8pm (which might cause a power surge later), but also whenever they can throughout their lives

Spreading the word

Matthew, Mark, Luke, Juan and Abraham will be in town for the Manila leg of the Raise the Praise tour. A Christian boyband in concert--that does sound like a fun premise for a musical comedy. These singing and dancing sacristans call themselves the Altar Boyz. "The z gives it away," they say.

At the risk looking like a fangirl, I gave in to the temptation of remixing one of their greatest hits.

"The genius of the writing of the show is that it really allows you to cross all sorts of faith, religion, spiritual boundaries...There's nothing heavy-handed and preachy about it," director Chari Arespacochaga said during the preview. It's a throwback to the BSB-N Sync era, with universal messages of friendship, tolerance and acceptance.

Altarboyz is one of the two reasons I got a Rep season ticket year (the other being Hamlet). Since I saw a hilarous in-character interview of the original off-Broadway cast, I thought it would be a blast to stage it in a Catholic country like the Philippines. But then there's the danger that some people might take it seriously or take offense. You could have a hit in your hands if you market this to girls's schools (yes, they do tours) ...if you can convince the nuns to say amen. Let's call it the Kundirana effect.

More on the show after I watch it next weekend.

Altar Boyz
Onstage Greenbelt
All Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays of April
I just realized what a Rep kid I am.My parents used to watch dress rehearsals at Insular Life and took me to see Annie at Rizal Theater when I was a toddler. Half a lifetime ago, I was one of Robbie Guevara's summer workshoppers. We were subscribers for several seasons until Rep had to leave the William J. Shaw Theater.

I didn't know which was worse: talking with a painfully sore throat or being such a ditz around fellow bloggers. Still, I was happy to meet Gibbs (salamat sa invite!), Lorna, Fritz, AJ, Karla, and Hogi. Hope to see you again soon.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Halo-halo on a budget

It's scorching hot in the city-- even if you're indoors and you keep still, you will sweat. If there's no Razon's nearby and you need a cheap cooler, hop over to a fastfood chain for halo-halo ("mix-mix", a Filipino dessert with an assortment of ingredients over shaved ice). It's pretty impossible to fail with halo-halo, but some are better than others. To narrow down the choices, I looked into the P30-40 price category.

Tropical Hut Halo-halo, P39
Also available with one scoop of ice cream for P49, P59 for two scoops
The cup is too tall and gets in the way of presentation because you can't see the ingredients so well. The sweetness is just right and it gets milkier the deeper you go. The ice is pretty solid.

Chowking Halo-halo Half Dozen with one scoop ice cream, P39, and Petite (pictured), P39
Also available Half Dozen without ice cream, P29 and P59 for Grande size. Add P10 for ice cream.
Half Dozen plus one scoop is satisfying, and in my opinion better than Petite without ice cream. Good ice consistency either way.

McDonalds Sundae Ice Mix, Halo-halo, P35
It was a bit hard to tell what I was eating because the ingredients didn't seem solid. Clumpy ice. . Contained too many pineapple chunks.

Winner, hands-down: Chowking Half Dozen with ice cream. Best price, ice texture and taste.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Ayala Museum

On a whim, I went to Ayala Museum at Greenbelt 4. I had gone to the old Ayala Museum near the current site many, many years ago and wondered how much different it was.

The first exhibit I saw had works of four Filipino artists: Damian Domingo, Fernando Amorsolo, Juan Luna and Fernando Zobel. Zobel seemed like a person I would have wanted to meet. A recreation of his studio made me want a studio with white walls and floors, and his sketches made me want to visit Cuenca, Spain.

The 60 dioramas made by Paete wood artists were still the same. I suppose there's a guide or a leaflet for schoolgroups, but having none, I was a bit lost. Perhaps the dioramas were meant to stand alone, like the catechism through art in cathedrals. But a foreigner would have missed the context because there were no explanations.

It's also interesting to know that I'm taller than Rizal and midway between Aguinaldo and Bonifacio. Of course, people were shorter in those days.

What I liked most: the boat gallery.

The biggest question for me is how to make the museum kid-friendly, which, given the sophisticated design and materials of the structure, is a real challenge.

Idol worship

Dear David Cook,

Since I came back from London, American Idol is the only show I've been watching on TV. (Then again, it's the only program I've been watching religiously since Season 4.)

When the Top 24 contestants were announced, my favorites were, in ascending order: David Archuleta, David Hernandez, you, Michael Johns. Now I don't think my fondness for you Davids stems from my Biblical namesake's being married to King David. I simply thought you guys were good.

Then in the Top 12, Hernandez got booted out and you raised your game, overtaking Johns in my book. Nevermind that your baby photos aren't cute or that you've got a combover. What I like about you is that you don't hide behind your guitar. You're smart in choosing covers with great arrangements. You spin songs I don't like listening to into fantastic songs that could be played over the airwaves right now. And being a word geek helps, too. "Optimistically pessimistic"? You must've been reading my college yearbook writeup. [Updated March 29] Apparently, West Side Story is not the only musical he's appeared in. He says he can't dance, but he can do mean cartwheels. Check out his pre-Idol stuff with Axium on Weaker Side's YouTube channel.

If you do make it to the finals, you must credit the rockers before you, Bo Bice and Chris Daughtry, for priming the public for talent like yours (oh, you already did). No matter what happens, I'm buying your album. And if it's any additional consolation, my brother will gladly download your songs.

Cook on YouTube:
Living On A Prayer
Everything I Do
Happy Together
All Right Now
Eleanor Rigby
Billie Jean

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Document Freedom Day

[This post started out as a message for the Team RP group.]

Today is Document Freedom Day. I'm going to post about a different kind of document freedom. Below is a video of journalist Fernando Rodrigues talking about Brazil and Internet efforts related to governance at the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard Law School. It's pretty long, but if you've thought of the potential of the Internet for public information outside of government websites, this should be interesting for you.

Brazil ranks 13th in Brown University's 2007 E-Government Country Rankings. The Philippines is 96th. We could learn a thing or two from a third-world country with 186 million people and fully computerized elections for the past ten years.

More than computerizing the government, the possibility of informing people via online non-government initiatives seems do-able given the many Pinoys in IT. Of course, the information has to be available first. Compiling all that should be quite challenging as well.

Fast forward to 36:25 for something that sounds very familiar. We do get these stories from the PCIJ, but perhaps we've become desensitized.

"No initiative would be successful without... massive public support or...the various actors of that particular society involved, truly involved and committed to do something like that."

Document Freedom Day
Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ)
Transparency International
Investigative Reporters and Editors (IRE)

Random irony

On the road

It was the first time I saw this:
Dominion Bus Lines "A bus line that is heaven sent, guarded by angel"
Ironically, it was stalled by the roadside

In Subic

Spanish Gate Japanese Foods

On the way to my brother's office

Pork Barrel Grill & Restaurant VIP & KTV Rooms
I hear the people there wear barongs

old building dilapidated brights Help!
droplets window after rain opposite shore

I probably underestimated how many businesses Koreans are putting up (through dummy corporations, perhaps?) until I saw the Korean signages across Diosdado Macapagal International Airport in Clark and all around Subic. I don't mind that they invest in the Philippines; it makes me happy that they think it is worth doing business here. According to my dad's theory, the Filipino upper classes are leaving and being replaced by the Korean middle classes. I just hope they don't ghetto-ize themselves.

MA dissertation final update

Crossed the finish line! Bound, sealed, delivered to London. This is by no means the end for my dissertation. I hope to give it a second (and maybe even a third) life soon.

Just loosening up

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Buffet breakfasts

We didn't have enough free breakfasts for the four of us, so we could go further afield. Actually, not so much further, just next door. Here's a comparison between breakfast at The Lighthouse(see post below) and at Vista Marina.

Marista@Vista Marina, P250
  • Oatmeal and three types of cereal (including Koko Krunch and Froot Loops--better for kids),
  • Omelettes on demand, pancakes, toast and fruit
  • Garlic rice and different bangus dishes (it was Good Friday)
  • Coffee, mango juice and (too sweet) orange juice
The staff were overwhelmed with the turnout of guests that day. Since the food was cooked in small batches, there was often nothing but fried rice, toast and pineapples to eat, unless you watched the buffet table for new arrivals.

Sands@The Lighthouse, P350
  • Oatmeal and three kinds of cereal (technically two, rice puffs and corn flakes, and muesli--none colorful or sweet)
  • Omelettes (paler but tastes the same as VM's) and waffles on demand, pancakes (larger but not as good as VM's), toast (white and wheat bread) and fruit
  • Fried rice, mashed potatoes (tastes good though not light and fluffy), chicken sausage, corned beef and Spanish sardines
  • Coffee, pandan water that is not as good as plain water, and exactly the same orange juice as VM's
  • Salad bar with mixed greens and one or two dressings, plus different add-ons
  • Bite-sized pudding (very good)

To be fair, I took a look at the buffet items for Easter Sunday. Here's how they compare.
Marista: sausage, ham, bola-bola, sweet and sour fish, green gulaman, champorado
Sands: pork & beans, chicken tocino, beef franks, bacon, fruit salad and roasted vegetable salad, arroz caldo

We ended up at Sands, where the Waldorf salad and chocolate mousse were excellent. Essentially, the main difference between the two hotel restaurants, other than price, is that Sands offers more choices and a more international fare versus the more Filipino fare of Marista. Other differences that justify the higher price of Sands: labels on the food so you know what you're eating, better food presentation in a smaller space, better views, a choice between indoor and al fresco dining, and waiters who are quick to clear your table every time you plate becomes empty. And their irregularly shaped plates are quite sophisticated. Details, details.

The Lighthouse

boardwalk panorama
On the far end of the Subic Boardwalk stands The Lighthouse, comparable to price and quality to Hong Kong Disneyland Hollywood Hotel on all counts and the most expensive hotel on the strip. The furnishings are first-rate and it has the little extras you'd expect for the price, but the resolution of the large flatscreen TV isn't so good. Although it is a great place, it is a letdown that Internet access is not free when other less expensive places offer that.

the lighthouse framing shot sun behind lighthouse the lighthouse

Monday, March 24, 2008

Holy Week + R&R

Mixing R&R and the spiritual on Holy Week is possible. It's all up to you.

Sometimes, no effort is involved. The procession of carrozas followed by a brass band could pass you by in the street. But most of the time, you will have to put some effort into it. I had never seen a salubong before (where images of the risen Christ and a veiled Mary meet before dawn on Easter Sunday), so I woke up very early in the morning to catch it.

Among the methods of "creative evangelization" in Subic was a short musical play entitled "Lord, I'm Not Worthy", with Ricky Davao as the Roman centurion whose servant was healed by Jesus. The first thing I thought of was Jesus Christ Superstar but the melodies were reminiscent of Trumpets shows. The second thing I thought of was the komedya. The staging was very simple: few pieces, triumphal arch as backdrop.

It is hard to doubt the sincerity of the performers. I loved the voice of the actress who played Hannah and I wondered what happened to Barrabas, who was shown as a hero and Marcus, who was supposed to be a villain. But professional or not, the actors had such conviction that you could not possibly be nasty towards them. The show was directed by Veda BaƱez (I suddenly understood why Altaire was there) and organized by Bethesda Healing Ministry and Mary's Army (this makes me think of Dumbledore), with the help of the Subic tourism office. For a free show on the Boardwalk, it was ok, but the sound system could be better and maybe next time they could cut down on the speeches because they felt longer than the show itself and robbed it of the chance to work its magic.

Karylle was also present for the meditation after the show.

Then we had the rest of the weekend to take photos.