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Showing posts from November, 2015

The test of travel

(A chunk of my interview with host Janet Hsieh regarding her Fun Taiwan wedding special. It's quite an eye-opening chat for someone like me who obsesses about privacy. Full article on GIST.PH.)

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Has it always been the plan — get married in Antarctica and shoot the wedding for Fun Taiwan?

JANET HSIEH: (George and I were) talking about the dream destination and Antarctica was it. I started inviting my friends, family, and my producer — he loves adventure and we thought, “We should film it, it’ll be fun.” Then I told George, “Hey your parents are gonna be there and my parents are gonna be there.” And he made a joke: “Why don’t we just get married,” and I was like, “That’s a good idea.”

Traveling with your partner and getting married are very intimate affairs. How does it feel to have a camera and a crew following you around every step of the way?

For me it’s quite natural because for the past ten years, working with TLC, every time I travel somewhere, I have the camera with me. Yes you…

Stuck in a room with wasted kids

There’s nothing funny about drugs, robbery, and running away. At least not if you had engaged in all these and are now looking at your transgressions from a comfortable distance. Kenneth Lonergan’s This is Our Youth seems to be that retrospective narrative of a time long gone and one could no longer imagine returning to, except to laugh at it.

Twenty-something Dennis Ziegler is lounging about in his Manhattan apartment (which is paid for by his parents) when his almost-twenty friend Warren Straub drops by with his backpack and suitcase. Warren ran away after a fight with his dad, and before leaving had stolen $15,000 from him. Together the two friends face a huge problem: how to spend the money.

Spent the night in Dennis Ziegler's room. #RedTurnipTheater #ThisIsOurYouth #theater A photo posted by Razel Estrella (@fishpeep) on Nov 7, 2015 at 3:00pm PST

If the premise sounds exaggerated, like a springboard for a wild adventure, it isn’t. Dennis and Warren are no ordinary kids looking …

Laughter and danger

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Remember playing in the kitchen when you were young? No, not experimenting with food but making a mess. And making musical instruments out of pots, pans, and ladles, only what came out wasn’t music but noise. Or maybe you still do it now that you’re all grown up. You sauté mushrooms while wiggling to techno beats. You tap the spoon on a glass while waiting for the oven ding!

What you do spontaneously at home, a group of Korean artists has turned into an hour and a half of performance art. Cookin’ Nanta, as presented at the start of the show, is a top tourist attraction in Korea and has toured around the world since its 1997 premiere. In Manila, the show continues its first and limited run until Nov. 15 (Sun.) at The Theatre, Solaire.

There’s barely any cooking in Cookin’ Nanta. It’s essentially a percussion show mixed with comedy and circus acts. That there’s a story — no matter how flimsy — holding the performances together, makes the five people onstage more endearing than they alr…

On that ugly word, ‘staycation’

I first heard the word “staycation” in 2011 when I wrote for a travel magazine. What came to mind was, during long weekends, holidays and summer breaks, instead of going out, one would simply stay at home and indulge in things like baking, movie marathons, hot baths, or engaging in the high art of doing nothing. Not until I read ads and articles about staycation deals and “Things to Do on a Staycation.” They obviously talked about leaving the house.

So what is a staycation?

In a 2008 article, Salon described the term as an “economy-based euphemism.” Times were (still are?) tough in the US economy-wise and people were “too broke to go anywhere.” The online magazine cited earlier use of the word, but underscored that it only became a buzzword that year. Another site, Skift, noted how staycation was picked up as an effective marketing idiom.

So what does one do on a staycation?

If you browse through “Staycation Ideas” listicles, a staycation may involve activities such as visiting a muse…

Not for nostalgia but knowledge

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One thing that undersecretary Manolo Quezon III reiterated during his lecture on the opening day of “Defining Quirino,” a commemorative exhibit at the Ayala Museum, was: “Today began yesterday.” These words he borrowed from writer Leon Maria Guerrero.

Part of the Philippines’ yesterday included Quirino, whose legacy the nation enjoys today — minimum wage, eight-hour work laws, the social security system, and standardization of teachers’ salaries. The unfortunate fact is not many are aware of who Quirino is beyond being a former president of the republic, a reason that the President Elpidio Quirino Foundation, Inc. came up with the exhibit.



Quezon presented to the audience a Quirino who is at his core a broken human being just like you and me. We heard his voice and saw him in his trunks, about to dive into a pool. We saw photos of him soon after he was informed of then president Manuel Roxas’ death. Quirino was a vision of a leader in control of the situation. Not until the next photo…

Rooting for Rafa

It is a sports storyline that turns casual spectators into invested fans. New tennis talent comes in to shock everyone by winning a grand slam on his first attempt at age 19, then proves the feat is no fluke by bagging the title for four consecutive years. This is of course Spain’s Rafael Nadal, who practically owns the French Open and is hailed “King of Clay” for being almost unbeatable in the court.

But a sports superstar shines brightest against a rival. And every sporting event yearns for a rivalry. On grass court, the most prestigious one among them no less, Switzerland’s Roger Federer rules. His skills and discipline are somehow overshadowed by his poetic grace: Federer is not the Greatest of All Time (G.O.A.T.) — he is a god.

When the two clashed at the Wimbledon Gentlemen’s Singles Finals in 2008, they wrote a tale that bears repeating. Nadal pushed the reigning champion into five sets, into tie-breaks, into over four hours of playing before finally taking match point and the …

To those who won’t pay for Gary Mullen tickets because he’s no Freddie Mercury

Maybe it was the cushioned chairs, maybe it was the low temperature. Or maybe it was not knowing what to make of this guy who looked, acted and sounded like Freddie Mercury — were we amazed, amused, or disappointed?

The band played Another One Bites the Dust and still the audience appeared as if they were watching a Shakespeare tragedy. Except for a boy on the third row, who stood up and allowed his tiny frame be taken over by the music.

The guy holding the microphone, sweating like a pig as he did his best Freddie Mercury impression, took notice: “Are your bottoms glued to seat?” he asked the crowd, then gave a shout out to the boy who knew how to rock and roll. When the band performed I Want To Break Free, the same boy jumped up and down to the beat, his arms raised to form a V throughout song.

Queen frontman and songwriter Freddie Mercury passed away in 1991, way before that kid was born. And to that young concert-goer, as well as to those who sat comfortably at Solaire Theater las…

500 days of solitude on Mars

In Ridley Scott’s The Martian, astronaut Mark Watney (Matt Damon) woke up on Mars alone. After a storm hit them, his team of space travellers mistook him for dead and continued with their mission without him.

Watney figured how to survive on the red planet one day at a time, by sciencing the shit out of it. He rationed available food, managed to grow potatoes, and found means to communicate with NASA. Rummaging through the abandoned spacecraft for whatever tools he may use, he dug up his commander’s music collection, entirely composed of disco classics. Sucks to be him. “No, I will not turn the beat around,” Watney vented.

Music inspires, no question about it, but you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone. Consider this playlist a 21st century version of “What CD will you bring when you get stuck on an island?” You are on your own. On Mars. Help — if it ever comes — may arrive 900 days later, more or less. What songs will keep you alive?

A little bit of everything, don’t you think…