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Wednesday, November 29, 2006

TV Garbage

Living a sedentary life after office hours in recent months, I really had not much choice but to wallow in TVland. With tens of cable broadcasts simply within the remote control's becking, just doing channel hopping is enough to lull me to sleep.

But when my cable connection got the ire of Edward Scissorhands a few days ago (walang pambayad, he he), I had to content myself with local TV fare.

And I realized it’s a good thing I still do some exercise (like lifting 125 ml bottles). For without such, I would have been easy prey to high blood pressure, given the disappointing results of my surfing.

Take these for example:

  • A debate on Charter Change was featured on one channel involving St. Theresa’s College and Southridge School. Aside from the irritating tone of STC’s lady debaters (they seem to have equated shouting and rapid talking with quality reasoning), what was more assaulting to my fragile brain was the resulting “ battle of the you-know-whats”.

    The first debater argued this way: “The problem with so much checks and balances is, you know what, blah blah blah. But you know what, blah blah blah, and then, you know what, blah blah blah. There must have been about ten you know whats within the two minute time allotment.

    I thought the inanities were over, but you know what? The opposing side also talked with the same you know whats spicing his every paragragh. And so did the other debaters. Is “you-know-what” the thought-filler of the new generation? Enough! Next channel, please.

  • Pinoy Dream Academy encourages its “scholars” to compose songs. No arguments there. But since these are supposed to be students, they should at least be guided in the proper structure of their pieces. Listen to the winning composition which became the show’s theme song: “Nais naming marating, tuktok ng mga bituin.”

    Paano yun? Pagkatapos nilang marating ang mga bituin, hahanapin pa nila ang tuktok, ala Mt. Everest? Napakasadista namang contest nyan! :-)
  • Advertisements already take much of our viewing time and to avoid abuse, I know there are rules setting specific limits to the amount of commercial spots that can be accommodated per program. But ABS-CBN blatantly skirts the rules by placing advertisements right within the program!

  • On PDA the other night, a beauty company endorsed its products via a supposed session on skin care for the would-be celebrities. But it was of course clear that they were talking directly to the viewers. Dencio’s, another sponsor, had its menu lavishly discussed in the segment where the contestants paid the restaurant a visit.

    And on Crazy for You, Dennis Padilla is supposed to have gotten work at Globe. So every time he’s at work, he gets to discuss the features of various Globe services. Even his wife joined the fray as she does auto-loading at home. And to complete the package, shots of the Globe banner are made to occupy bigger space on screen than the characters.

This is crass, shameless commercialism. No wonder, ABS-CBN is now earning.

Monday, November 27, 2006

A True Idol Show

That describes last night’s Philippine Idol show. It came out with so much class that it placed itself way above all other singing contests on TV. I am convinced that given the appropriate musical pieces, all four are now ready to conquer the professional music scene.
I enjoyed last night's show. Forgive the old soul in me, but last night’s big band theme did not just trigger melancholia, but nostalgia as well. It felt like listening to standards on Sunday AM radio during siesta time in the province.

The show’s final four gripped the audience from the opening number. Well, Michael Buble’ has already reintroduced standards back into the mainstream market so it was inevitable that “Fever” would be clearly familiar to the audience.

First to sing was JAN NIETO who did "Beyond The Sea" and "The Way You Look Tonight". Boy, he was cool! No more awkward movements. He seemed to have fully overpowered the regular goose bumps that he looked quite comfortable onstage this time.

MIGUEL MENDOZA sang "True" and "I’ve Got You Under My Skin". To the disappointment of Miguel-bashers (he he, kasama ba ko dun?), he did pretty well. His rendition proved he is indeed a singer on his right, but I maintain, not Philippine Idol quality yet. But he cried last night. Probably out of the fact that for the first time, his efforts (and talent?) were at last appreciated. It was a sincere show of emotion that it got me worried. Those tears may just deliver the votes. :-)

MAU MARCELO’s "My Funny Valentine" sounded pitchy to me. I guess the audience saw it the same way since the applause was quite tame. But she dropped the bomb with her version of "Waray Waray". It showcased the real, comic Mau, spiced with the touch of class she acquired via PI. I guess, she’s still on track to being the first Philippine Idol.

The night however, belonged to GIAN MAGDANGAL. His "They Can’t Take That Away From Me" and "The Very Thought Of You" convinced everyone that he’s a shoo-in to the title. He truly is someone who could competently represent the Philippines in the international arena. And since he too cried, I'd surmise that was enough to counter the impact of Miguel’s silent tears. I hope I am right not to get worried. :-)

Finally, let me just answer the quip as to why we take our singing contests seriously. First, it is culturally-imbedded in us Filipinos. No fiesta is ever complete without the battle of crooners. And no party is ever alive without impromptu karaoke wars. Naturally, the graduates of the backyard school for wailing would have to go some place; and where else but in singing contests? Second, many of us are frustrated singers (including this writer :-)). Because we may no longer live our dreams, we place our shoes in those who have already gotten beyond our threshold. With them we pursue our dream, and unfortunately, we can be truly unforgiving if our dreams gets dashed by those who we feel are lesser qualified. Now you get it. On with the voting! :-)
(Note: Miguel finally bid goodbye to Philippine Idol last night. In deference to his grieving supporters, I’m not saying anything further on the subject. I already got my wish. It’s now back to square one for the “big three” and it will be their individual performances on finals night that will spell the difference. For Idol-watchers, it’s time to just sit back, relax and enjoy the show.)

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Low Batt ... Musings of a Drained Bar Candidate

8:36:32 p.m Sunday: September 24, 2006. At home. My brain conked out. From the minutest energy left of it, all it could muster was a faint drone, and then …blank…

For those not in the know, September 24 was the last day for this year’s bar examinations. For law graduates like me, this was the day when we ran the final dash to the last pitstop, our final stab at glory.

After the 8th bar subject, I went out of De La Salle dazed - amidst the noise and raucous fun. I felt an overwhelming sense of relief. And exhaustion. I almost fell on my knees, weakened by a battering only a seasoned warrior would have endured. And of course, joy! Just reaching that moment was bliss enough.

It felt like being part of a battalion of soldiers returning home from a hard-fought war, only that nobody knew who won as of yet. It felt great to finally reach home, but the celebration can only be muted. Reality check: the agony is not over, but that’s another story.

Fast Rewind

The days from April to September were like no other in an examinees’ life. Mine caused a complete overhaul of my routines. For once, there was just but one goal to pursue. I had to leave work. No distractions allowed.

All of us recognized that the key to survival was discipline. And the crux of the game was reading, analyzing, memorizing, reading, reading and more reading.

And read we all did, like crazy. I have not read as many materials in my entire life. Some books I even had to read twice or three times over. That, hoping in vain, that repetition would cause full mastery of the law.

The study of law, I am convinced, is most challenging in this part of the world. I’ve been to graduate school, and I swear, it was peanuts compared to the discipline, dedication and toughness required by law school.

The usual hazing in the classroom is hell enough, but the review period and the actual exam were worse.

It was geek period all through out. From daybreak to midnight, we flooded our brains with hundreds of laws, commentaries, jurisprudence and everything else remotely affiliated with the law. Listening to lectures was rest period. The rest was marathon reading.

There seemed at the time, an endless flow of must-reads. Everywhere I looked, co-candidates read books other than what I hold. And all professed that their authors teach better law than mine. Result: the photocopiers just loved me. I just can’t resist the temptation to secure a copy of each.

September was when the mental torture rose. Despite five months of rigorous reading, I still felt like I was not learning enough. While my friends seemed gaining confidence, mine somersaults every time I can’t answer certain questions.

The idea is to leave no stone unturned. In the review, every topic is deemed important. To avoid over-stretching ourselves, our mentors tell us not to explore the law to the deepest abyss. But one just can’t help getting rattled when his seatmate seemed to know things he has not even dreamed of before.

The Real Battle

The call to arms on the first Sunday of September came early; time for the first set of exams.

I was a total wreck. I did not get any decent sleep since the week before. There were just too many more things to comprehend and be confidently familiar with that sleep became nothing but luxury. No amount of valium, ativan or stilnox could tame a brain running wild. Besides, I was afraid I’d not wake up in time for the exams, so I did not push the issue.

And of course, there was always the mythical leak on the questions that kept me on nervous guard for most of the time. With the SMS technology on full blast, I received a stream of “tips” supposedly coming from the most reliable of sources (Globe and Smart must have been very happy). Add the topics floated around to my own list of musts, and what results is unimaginable chaos.

I reached the all-too familiar bar site quite early. When we were still in the lower years, this was one place for fun time. We get to chat for hours along Taft Avenue and ogle at the wandering eye-candies. It was a picnic, to say the least. Drinking is prohibited, but trust law students to find ways to circumvent regulations.

But this time, being ourselves the examinees, the festive mood just fueled the tension. While one gets tempted to dance to the gongs of the cordillera universities, there was always the fear that even the slightest movement will shake your brain and lose everything in it.

This I want to tell law students: it’s eerie the moment one’s inside the examination room. Every examinee has his own last minute ritual. Mine was a constant rush to the CR. Honestly, I didn’t know what hit me. I have always thought I was a veteran of examinations, more seasoned than most of those who went straight to law school from college. But we were equals after all. Or maybe yet, I was even more horrified. The uncontrollable churning of my insides attested to that.

Maintaining composure was a challenge. All I could do was sing in my mind (lest my seatmate freaks out if I suddenly burst in a song). “ Yahweh, I know you are here. Standing always at my side”. Yes, even agnostics become religious at the time of the bar exams.

It was pretty much the same torturous routine for the other three Sundays. No sleep, restless cell phone bearing the “reliable” tips, last minute readings. Praying.

But the degree of frustration rose to crazy heights every week. A lot of the questions seemed like they were meant for the bar exams in Mars. What happened to all that we have read? For most of the time, it was plain massacre. The examiners simply know where to hit us the hardest. Or how.

A single stray question could already send one’s battered mind to panic kingdom. To my dismay, there were just so many of them in this batch that sustaining sanity became the ultimate challenge. One law professor commented that it was really meant to separate the initiated from the neophytes. I’m not sure if I could agree.

Crying they say, is the biggest comforter in times of distress and deep disappointment. Indeed, a deluge of tears relieved the stress out of some of us. Many examinees silently wept at Starbucks Vito Cruz and Seattle’s Best Harrison Plaza. Me? I must have shed a tear or two. Alone.

But just like everything, the torture (at least for that phase of the journey) ended. But not the side effects. They remain.

Now, the waiting

After the bar, I dreaded seeing, more so reading, my law books and review materials. When I surf the net, I cannot get past the home page of the Supreme Court and Lawphil. The questions are available in both sites but I can’t muster the courage to even take a peek. My brain is still recuperating. Any discussion on the law is taboo. Ask me anything about certiorari, habeas corpus, people’s initiative and any other legal concept, and you’ll receive nothing but a blank stare.

There was nothing short of a shut down here. Until now, my mind cannot seem to process anything that has legal implication.

Is this what they call trauma? I guess so. And the best therapy I was told for this type of pain is never to go through the same experience again.

That I cry to high heavens for. I beg that I won’t pass the same exhausting, demanding trail again. I wish I’d later see my name in the passers’ list. I hope.

But this is not really time for worries. My fate is no longer in my hands. For now, my biggest concern is trying to nourish my mind back. I hope writing for this blog will help me exercise my tired brain. And so would other activities that I passed upon while going through law school.

The agony of waiting doesn’t help, but it has become part of the equation. I have to live with it because soon enough the waiting will end.

For you who will be reading this, do spare me a prayer too. Or if you are likewise an examinee, allow me to wish you good luck and may we see each other at the PICC come oath-taking time.

Should that time come, with victory in hand, our batteries will have been fully recharged and ready to meet the trials of the new world that awaits us.

Buenos Suerte!

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Saving Philippine Idol

Seeing Gian and Mau safe, I knew I was in for a good night. No arguments; that was the appropriate bottom three.

When Jan followed, I applauded. Finally, sanity ruled!

But pfffft!…. The bubble burst. Naknampatatas! Miguel’s still there? How on earth …?!!!

Well, all wishes just can’t come true. I’d have to be happy with small blessings.

I understand what happened. People were just too determined to save Gian and Mau, they forgot about Pow. This wasn’t free voting after all. People were forced to make wise use of their money.

Miguel’s kamag-anak votes remain constant. Notice he’s been sliding from the usual top spot as support for the other contestants swelled. It’s just too bad Pow’s total wasn’t enough to dislodge him.

Next week’s votes must set things right. Those who voted for Mau and Gian should continue the crusade. Pow’s supporters must now transfer support to either of the two. Jan’s fans must step up. Miguel’s blind minions seem hell-bent on sabotaging Philippine Idol that it’s expected they’d pour more money to generate votes. If Jan’s votes stay as is, he’d be next to get the boot.

In the end, it should be battle royale between Mau and Gian. My take? I’d go for Gian anytime. I am convinced that Mau is slightly ahead in the vocals category, but I concede PI is more than vocals. My apologies if that sounds discriminating, but that’s the reality in Philippine entertainment.

Remember Frenchie Dy? She was a vocal powerhouse, arguably the best even among the Star in A Million champions. But where is she now? She is not even included in the regular features on the competition’s harvest.

Mau is excellent. Fortunately, Gian is not far behind, talent-wise. As to the other requisites of pop musicville, he leads by miles. Therefore, if the Philippine Idol franchise were to survive, Gian must win. No arguments.

Monday, November 20, 2006

That Wonderful Sound

I was right. I dig music better.

I had my reservations going to Greenbelt last Saturday night as I was more inclined to watching Pinoy Dream Academy (a friend calls this scraping the bottom of the barrel, he he). The performance theme I heard, was Christmas and I would have loved getting mushy all night long.

But after watching Repertory Philippines’ Sound of Music, nursing regrets would be last in my mind. I was happy with the decision. As I got out of the theater, I can’t help but be proud being Filipino. We have world-class theater right at our backyard.

I know I have no license nor skill to make a review, but my ears are no strangers to good music. So, the verdict? Superb musicality. It was Philippine theater at its best (at least from the point of view of someone like me with a limited exposure on the art form). Yes, the songs in the play have become all too familiar, but they were delivered with such sincerity that it triggered more than nostalgia.

The entire cast was competent. Monique Wilson as Maria, was so natural one gets tempted to think he is watching a foreign film. Her singing was flawless, a confirmation of an internationally-acclaimed talent. Cherrie Gil was just herself, she with a commanding sophisticated presence. Think of Lavinia Arguelles as a baroness, and you’ll see what I mean. Audie Gemora was expectedly good, although he looked nowhere near the Capt. Von Trapp we all know (I was very much willing to suspend disbelief though). And the nuns! Awesome is insufficient a word to describe them (Camille Lopez-Molina, et al.)

Basta, the entire cast was great. Too bad I didn’t really know most of them. Apologies, apologies. I promise I’ll try to enjoy more theater from hereon. Mukhang maililibre pa rin naman ako ng kaibigan ko from Inquirer, he he.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Un-Cultured Me

For the first time in my life, I watched full-length ballet last night at the CCP. You heard it right, ballet!

While I had known the dance during my high school days (in the island where I came from), I knew that was nowhere near authentic ballet. It was at best an approximation, a futile attempt to imitate the movements, a result of the blind being led by the blind. Am quite sure that the trainer of my schoolmates knew nothing better than what she saw on TV or some fiesta extravaganza somewhere.

I thus had the highest of expectations as I was to see the real McCoy. But after the initial awe, everything else became a boring lot.

Maybe it was a normal reaction from the uninitiated like me. Not all firsts, one gets to like.

Or maybe it was just the show. Aside from the scenic stage and the exquisite solos and pas de deux (duets), I really saw nothing more that drew inspiration. Or awe. For just how many ways can a person contort his/her body? Seeing a person doing pirouettes, high leaps ( jetés, etc. ), doing body-breaking twists and acrobatic moves over and over doesn’t seem to have created a lasting impact on me.

I was actually looking forward to the group dances, hoping that they would be like Olympic synchronized swimming. Unfortunately, complete unity escaped the dancers. More practice, perhaps?

But trust me to enjoy the moment, even if it’s the dullest. Last night, I re-lived my youth by joining the restless students make mock applause. And boy! We were an active audience. Even the lifting of the curtains drew very long cheers, he he.

It was also fun watching the audience. My friends and I were particularly delighted with the boys and girls who found reason to re-use their prom night outfits. We also enjoyed watching the senior citizens display their gowns and suits, with almost all the women sporting sturdy imeldific hairdos. We laughed our hearts out to the person at our back who clapped at almost every move of whoever he was rooting for, too loudly that we’re sure his hands got sore. But I think the highlight of our night was disparaging a matronly woman as a walking Christmas tree, only to realize she was the wife of a former senator. We were rude, bwahaha.

Anyway, I admit I still have to immerse myself immensely with “high society” to acquire the taste for legitimate art. Or maybe it’s too late in the day. Hindi talaga yata ako bagay maging sosyal.

But try I will. Tonight, a friend invited me to watch Sound of Music. This I would probably dig. Music has always been closer to my heart. But is this not supposed to be of the classical type? Patay!

But just the same, I will enjoy it the best way I can. Trust me.

Friday, November 17, 2006

"Our Father" in Inabaknon

To give you a sampling of how our dialect sounds,
here is a translation of the Lord's Prayer:

Tatay kami’ nga awinan si Langit,
Baraan i arun mo
Palandungon kami si paghadi mo
Patumanon I pagdalum mo
Ato si kalibutan
sigon si pagpatuman mo aro si Langit.

Buwanin kami’ si karakanon kami’
para si allaw allaw.
Pasayluhon kami’ si mga sala’ kami’,
pariho si pagpasaylo kami’
si dimu’an makasala’ si kami’
Dakaw kami agbawahun si mga tentasyon
Kundi patalahon kami’ si dimuan karat'an.


The Summer Institute of Linguistics has its own version,
but I do not fully agree with the conversion of the phrases, thus, this.

"My" Island

Yes, I am a certified islander, or as some would derisively call us, a “taga-puro”. The term usually means being backward, insinuating that we belong to a lesser civilization. But who cares? We are proud of our roots and there is no stopping us from introducing to the world our version of paradise.

Remember this name: Capul, Northern Samar.

This is the place where my youth was spent, where my dreams were built and where I shall always return at the end of all my journeys. Yup, it is where home is.

It is located between the southern-most tip of Luzon and mainland Samar. For those of you who have traveled in these areas, you’ll see it as your ferry goes out of Matnog, Sorsogon. A lighthouse adorns its tip.

It’s a small island, composed of just one town and a little more than 10,000 residents. The people speak Inabaknon, a unique dialect which the Summer Institute of Linguistics has traced to be part of the Sama family of dialects prevalent in the Sulu islands. How the dialect got there (note that inhabitants of the islands surrounding us speak Waray, Bicolano and Cebuano) somehow gives the myth about the Sulu King lost at sea and later settled in the island, a semblance of reality.

Facing the Pacific, the island is no stranger to wild waves and destructive typhoons. Going home and getting out, specially during the “amihan” months usually means going through a roller coaster of killer waves or drifting through heavy rain with nothing on sight but thick fog. Combine both and you’ll have one exciting ride!

Capuleños are proud of their heritage, and who wouldn’t be? Take a look at these trivia and you’ll see what I mean:

1. The name Capul is a shortened version of Acapulco. Remember the Galleon trade between Mexico and Manila? At the time, ships plying the route enter Philippine territory through San Bernardino Strait where the island juts out. The Spaniards must have christened the island in honor of their beloved port from the other side of the globe, but the natives found the name quite long, thus the abridged version.

2 The town is one of the oldest in the country, being one of the bastions of early Christianity in the Philippines. The town church, about a decade ago, marked its 400th year.

3. The island, due to its strategic location, also played a pivotal role during World War II. I remember that there used to be old cannons lying somewhere near our municipal hall and there were also small man-made caves carved at the foot of a mountain supposedly used as hideouts by Japanese soldiers. It’s a pity that these were not preserved for today’s generation.

More on “my” island in later blogs.