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Saturday, September 30, 2017

Our Class Night at Falcon Crest!

The first Class Night of my life was in 1995 when I became the babysitter of the sophomore class of UPIS.
That night also happened to be Janet Jackson's first concert here in Manila, and I was not in a very good mood. (The year before, she released her hit "That's The Way Love Goes" and the amazing Velvet Rope album - and I was very excited to see her - but it wasn't meant to be huhu)
The kids though were very sweet - and it was a fun night and their class president, with the whole class, gave me this very thoughtful token.
Fast forward to 2017, and this weekend naman was Class Night for my senior's class and we headed off to this modest but huge outdoors resort somewhere in Norzagaray, Bulacan.
To those 80s soap opera diehards, it was surprisingly named, 'Falcon Crest'! I'm sure the parents of the current owner were fans of that TV show!
The place was up there in the hills, in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by this lush forest. It felt like we were encroaching on the environment.
A spider and a snake even made it into our rooms, much to the screaming horror of the girls!

Friday, September 22, 2017

It's Shaping Out to be a Very Crowded 2018 Oscar Best Actress Race

The 2018 Oscars is still a few months away but the race for the Best Actress award has been one of the most competitive in recent memory.
I mean, how can a no-name actress possibly get a nomination this year when the perennial nominees, the heavyweights and today's current A-listers have released movies with amazing stories and great performances.
In this list alone, all these women have either won, or have been nominated before.
Emma Stone won the award earlier this year and she continues the buzz with a great role as tennis legend, Billie Jean King.
Judi Dench, who has won as Queen Elizabeth, and has been nominated as Queen Victoria, may finally win as Queen Victoria, this time around!
Frances McDormand already won for Fargo and may win again for a kick-ass performance as a mother whose daughter is murdered.
Annette Benning plays a Hollywood movie star who transplants herself to Liverpool.
And my bet, is Sally Hawkins, already a nominee herself, as the mute lover in The Shape of Water.
And Jessica Chastain, Saoirse Ronan, Michelle Williams, and even Margot Robbie are in the mix as well. And of course, the queen of them all, Meryl Streep, is coming out in a Steven Spielberg movie later this year.
Spielberg's movies are a perennial Oscar nominee so let's see if Meryl gets in the list.
Grabe, it's so freaking crowded I wonder how all the award-giving bodies are going to vote!

In the Pursuit of Scholastic Excellence: Anxiety Attacks and Hyperventilation

Today, one of my students hyperventilated and had an anxiety attack, feeling pain in her tummy She had to go home and when asked why she was feeling this way, she said she was overwhelmed by all the school deadlines she had to meet.
This is the second time one of my students felt this way. Last year, one of my best students, a cheerful boy, suddenly became withdrawn in class. He was doing very well in my subject, being a good writer and is capable of analyzing things, so the sudden shutting down was difficult to watch.
I was really puzzled because he was consistently getting A* in my subject but in the last term - he kinda became a catatonic zombie, He just withdrew into his shell and decided not to finish the schoolyear anymore.
He is now being home schooled.
I don't know what is in the Mental Health Act but I believe that the stress of school work plus all the other extraneous factors - traffic, pollution, problems at home, problems with parents, problems with peers - and the need to excel and get high grades - can push these young people to the brink.
Both of my students were very good in my subject and based on feedback from other teachers, are just as capable of getting 90++ in their other subjects.
So it is disquieting to see them crumble in the face of all this school pressure.
I think what adds to the pressure is that with the advent of social media and camera phones, a student can easily know the score of another student, and because most of them are part of their own Messenger or Viber groups, it would be very easy to make fun of classmates who don't do well - adding to the anxiety and the pressure to do well always!
And of course there are the helicopter parents - always on the prowl of their children's grades. As if getting a B once in a while would be the death of their children's academic life!
I hope to see this girl student of mine on Monday, happy and well.

The Breathtaking Nomadic Towns of Zagora and Merzouga

Thanks to one of my co-teachers, I get to practice my French because of an app she introduced me to.
Knowing how naughty I am, 90% of the people I chat with in French are all good-looking men and one of the more interesting guys I've talked to is this Moroccan guy who is well-educated but comes from a nomadic tribe.
My brother and the kids' mom have been to Morocco and they did visit the desert, but since they were there as guests of a family friend, they missed going to the nomadic towns of Zagora and Merzouga, which my chatmate friend, Simo, is talking about.
He showed me these breathtaking pictures of these towns and they're just south of Marrakech.
Going to the desert is not really in my bucket list since I have zero survival skills just in case an accident happens and a desert can be a very scary place to get lost in. With my stupidity, I am pretty sure I will die very easily!
However, it would be nice to visit these towns right at the edge of the vast Sahara desert, and meet all these nomads.
I also posted his pictures here, which is in his thread in the chat. He's quite cute and very respectful when he chats.
I think French is not his first language (mais, bien sur!) because like me, he is very formal in using it.
By the way, we don't need a visa to visit Morocco, so go if you have the extra money! It should be a very interesting place to visit, and if you can speak a little French, that would be helpful too!

Friday, September 8, 2017

The Quiet and Relaxing Estancia Mall

I did not know of the existence of Estancia Mall until a few weeks ago.
Going around it gives you the impression that you are not in Manila, because of the wide open space around you.
Of course, for how long they can maintain that, is a big question mark.

Unfortunately, without any public jeepneys to ferry in the masa, the mall was almost empty, and I was there on a holiday.
I guess, it also has something to do with the mix of the stores and shops. I went around and most of the shops were expensive so I had to think twice before whipping out my wallet.
However, it is a cool place to just hang out since wala masyadong tao and is a welcome alternative to an SM mall, especially if you're not in the mood to be shoved, to queue or to just have so many people in your face!

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Movie Review: Felt So Joyful After Watching Joy!

There is a scene in the movie 'Joy' which I'm sure many stressed and harassed Pinoys can relate to.
After Joy, played by Jennifer Lawrence, learns that she has to take a second mortgage on her house to raise US250,000, she goes out of her Dad's office, into their firing range, and politely asks a patron, if she could do a few rounds on his rifle.
And she fires away! And the audience can sense the relief she feels after each shot she makes.
I want to do that to, some days, just to release some steam!
I came to love David O. Russell's work after watching 'The Fighter'. I hate movies about boxing but after watching his movie, I was left in tears, caring for the characters in the story, who where working class Americans on the other side of the fence.
As my brother said, that's how the real America looks like - not the glossy, shiny people you see in MTV videos. That's how ugly they really are he said, LOL! I don't think he meant ugly, I think he meant, realistic.
However, in 'Joy', in a similar cast Russell has worked with in Silver Linings Playbook and American Hustle, Jennifer Lawrence, once again, grabs the character by the neck and plays it with such gusto and vibrancy, I wanted to be her - to have that positive attitude and gung-ho spirit, despite all the odds stacked in my favor.
Especially if those odds are cause by your own family members!
I guess that's the chord that really struck me in the movie.
I started business at 18 and always, my nemesis would be Mama and then my lola, and other family members, always wanting a piece of the pie. I was just lucky I had Vic by my side and I guess together, we made things happen.
So I could really relate to Joy's predicaments and how she carefully balances her family relations, and making her dreams come true. There is no fierce adversary than your own family members.
Other s***heads who are not family, I can deal with easily, and I don't give a damn about them, but when family members are causing you the pain, hay Diyos ko, tulungan mo ako!
The movie goes through a roller coaster ride of emotions that's why I was crying quietly for joy for Joy in the end. I was so happy for her.
And I understood where all her magnanimity comes from.
It's a pity I am teaching now and not in the world of business.
This movie is so inspiring for anyone who wants to start a business.

Book Review: The Ostentatious Craziness of the Very Rich Can Leave A Smile on Your Face

Our schoolyear has just started and I've already borrowed my first book from my school library.
And I finished reading all of it today.
Our very own Kris Aquino will star in the Hollywood-adaptation of Kevin Kwan's first book Crazy Rich Asians, and this book, China Rich Girlfriend, they say, is the follow-up, and the protagonist in the first novel, Rachel Chu, is also here.
I wonder which role Kris plays though in the first book because although there are many Filipinos mentioned in this second book, only one character belongs to the elite and her lineage is not Chinese. So that means this character is not in the first book and Kris Aquino's may not be in the second book.
Or she may not be playing a Filipino-Chinese.
Yes, as usual, we Filipinos are the maids and the drivers and the bartenders in the book, which in a way, mirrors real life, especially in Singapore and Hong Kong, but we are written well into the story and there is no condescension, just the reality of the work our OFWs do abroad.
Anyhow, I thought initially that I would be bored with this book, that Kevin Kwan, the writer, would just be some bored society columnist turned amateur novelist, and I have read several local books on high society life in Manila and they are not quite as interesting as how Kevin writes about his characters.
Unfortunately, like in real life, especially in the Philippines, the very rich are immune from paying for the consequences of their actions, and I guess, the same vibe happens in Singapore and Hong Kong, and maybe China, that the very rich can get away with things normal people like us can't.
But this is fiction, and stories of how the high society lives is well-chronicled in the Western world, that even NBA superstar basketball players are attracted to TV shows like Downton Abbey.
I guess because the very rich sort of live in a weird fantasy bubble and their snobbery and haughtiness amuses us, especially those whose two feet are firmly on the ground.
There are so many humorous scenes in this book - and crazy does not even begin to describe many of the actions of the characters here.
I just enjoyed it like how I enjoyed watching the US soap operas Dynasty, Dallas and Falcon Crest in the 80s. Just let these loose cannons off the hook and laugh or shake your head at their unbelievable excesses.
That's the reason why I had to finish it today, I could not put down the book. For some strange reason, I could relate to two characters in the story - Nicholas Young and his fabulous cousin Astrid Leong. I could be Astrid Leong now, har har har, if I were a woman, and Nick, if I were a red-blooded male.
So while I was reading the book, I felt like I was in it, and I was watching all these characters crash and burn spectacularly, in front of me.
Anyhow, I am now very eager to read the first book, Crazy Rich Asians, and find out if Nick and Astrid are still there (I am sure they are!) Medyo nagkamali ako, I read the second book, before the first installment, but don't you worry.
This book can stand alone on its own even without you knowing what they had done before.
I just hope we have a copy of Crazy Rich Asians in our library, otherwise, I may have to buy it.
Nothing like the excesses of the rich to transport you to another world on a long wet weekend.

Dorothy Parker and Her Remarkable Wit

No wonder 1920s America revered Dorothy Parker's wit.
We are currently discussing opinions and making opinions, in my class. I wonder how my students would react to this, her witticism.
"If you want to know what God thinks of money, just look at the people he gave it to." - Dorothy Parker

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

January Jones plays the Sexy Assassin in 'Unknown'

I actually heard first of January Jones because of this fabulous red Versace dress she wore in this year's Golden Globe Awards.  Everyone was just raving about how sexy she looked in it - and I even included her in my best dressed list for that night.

The weird thing is, I don't even know why she was there - but she was there in that awards show - to present an award! 

The next time I saw her was tonight, as she plays the wife of Liam Neeson's character in the thriller 'Unknown'.  It turns out that she is not really who she is and you only get to learn about it as the movie climaxes.  She also wears another sexy gown in this movie and with her playing a sexy assassin, she could easily charm the people that she needs to dispose of. 

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January Jones - My #3 Most Favorite Look in this Year's Golden Globes

In my opinion, the most dangerous dress to wear in last night's show, yet January Jones pulls it off really, really well!  It is tres sexy but could've resulted in a wardrobe malfunction.  However, I'm sure Versace made sure everything here will stick and cover what should be covered, and make it reveal just enough for the eyes to feast on!

Restaurant Review: Dohtonburi Has Delicious Gyudon

After watching Kita Kita, it was but fitting to eat in a Japanese restaurant and my friends chose Dohtonburi in SM MOA.  It was my first time to eat in the place and my friends ordered Okonomiyaki, which looked like an omelette with a lot of spices and some meat.  It tasted ok.

I chose to eat Gyudon though and it was very tasty!  It was also an experience having the okonomiyaki cooked right before us!

Definitely going back here again soon!

Monday, July 24, 2017

Movie Review: 'Kita Kita' Is Intimate and Endearing


There was a sizable audience tonight when we watched a screening of Kita Kita at SM MOA. It is always great news for local cinema when an indie-produced film makes a breakthrough in the box-office through sheer word-of-mouth only.

While I was watching it, it reminded me of the American movie, Lost in Translation, released in 2003, which had a similar thread to this movie - its simplicity, the surprising unaffected chemistry of the two leads, the blossoming of the romantic possibilities, and the way it showcases the beauty and uniqueness of Japan, as seen through the eyes of the female directors (Sofia Coppola, Sigrid Andrea Bernardo) of these movies.

I highly suggest that you watch both movies one after the other, and explore the complexities of human relationships as the directors present isolation and heartbreak.

One is set in the tranquil (well, that's the way it looked to me) city of Sapporo in the lovely island of Hokkaido, in northern Japan, while the other is set in the frenetic city of Tokyo, amidst the sheen of Park Hyatt Tokyo, and the craziness of Shibuya and Shinjuku.

They are both beautifully photographed, with a tender musical score that would make you want to book a trip to Japan, right here, right now, and follow the leads of both movies, as they visit the delightful sites of both cities.

Well, back to the story.

As both leads find each other, we revel at the connection that they make with each other, even though from face value, they may not seem the most likely of couples. Alessandra looks lovely but is depressed, and so is Scarlet's character, maybe not too depressed but is ignored by her husband.

Come to the rescue, Bill Murray and Empoy Marquez, who are both comedians so they don't exactly have matinee idol looks. Surprisingly, there is a bubbling chemistry that you can feel they have with their beautiful leading ladies. There is no corniness in their facial expressions and you can feel their earnestness to connect with the two women.

I saw that kilig in English is to gush (Kita Kita had subtitles - and you can bring a Japanese-speaking friend along since a good percentage of the movie is in Japanese) - and I won't be surprised if many, especially the millennials, would be able to identify with Alessandra and Empoy.

I was wistful as I left the theatre after watching Lost in Translation and you will too, after watching Kita Kita. The circumstances of how both movies end are not the same, but they tap at the same vein of what might have been.

The third movie that you can bookmark with these two movies is Atonement, with Keira Knightley and James McAvoy, but you'd need too much tissue paper already.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Revisiting Cafe Breton in Greenbelt 5

It has been awhile since we last ate in Cafe Breton in Greenbelt 5.  We were actually looking for a dinner place and we were tired of walking already, so we ended up there.  Most of their menu are their famous crepes but they do have 'heavy food' so we ended up ordering spaghetti for the kids and burgers and salads for us adults.

The burgers were tender and juicy and the salad was delicious as well.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Only people who have never traveled the world think they are better than everyone else

Unlike most of my friends who pride themselves for visiting as many countries in the globe that they can cover, my family is a bit weird, as we prefer to visit the same cities again and again, especially if we had an enjoyable time there.
We were already departing Brunei this time, but the funny thing was we were already planning our next trip to it - this time - hoping to bring the kids along!
I think it's important that they experience the Istana royal family visit so that they can shake hands with the Sultan and his gracious family, and experience the post-Ramadan open house celebrations of the Muslims, as it is a totally different cultural experience that would give them an appreciation that it is not only a Christian world.

Also, nothing like real world experiences to teach them how to behave properly in a different culture, practice the proper etiquette and develop their interest in food, fashion and interior design, which is not always Western in context.
Ignorance is often the source of all the intolerance in the world so when I encounter people who make stupid racist remarks (whether they be white, Filipino, Chinoy or whatever), I just say to myself, this person has never been anywhere in the world.
Only people who have never traveled the world think they are better than everyone else.