Friday, December 25, 2009

Christmas in Neverland

I have a deadline.

To post my Christmas entry right before Christmas ends and the way it’s going on now, I feel like I’m rushing to edit a TV segment, airing live in five, four, three, to one…

Ho-hum! Just one of the things I love about blogging, though. I can write whatever the hell I want. It’s my space, my words, at my own pace and time. Yet it feels fun imposing pressure. Writing’s nature is half of that, I suppose.

Now what to write? I can jot down my 12 days of Christmas; or upload pictures of our noche buena; or will an essay entitled “My Christmas Vacation”, ala-grade-school-english-assignment do? Maybe something political, touching on the oppressive consumerist aspects of Christmas, and how capitalists use the season to make us – the common men— shop 'til we drop, buy now, buy more! (, such an ugly word, don't you think?)

Instead, I decided to write down the smallest, simplest things that make me happy. In Peter Pan’s world, these are “happy thoughts” that make Wendy and her brothers float and fly into Neverland. I guess I’ve come to a point when Christmas doesn’t mean festivities and gift-giving, lights and lanterns, sparkles and peace signs passed around. It’s a state of mind, a state of being, a line of thought.

This Christmas, my gift for myself is not the coveted full body massage or diamond peel, or a purple cute sandals I've been visiting in Shoe Salon for a year now, earning suspicious glances from the sales ladies. Instead, I give myself this— a list of precious, priceless memories and thoughts I can go back to, time and again, just to remind myself how blessed I am to have been created by Jesus and be surrounded by so much love.

1. The smell of my mom' dusters. I loved to sniff them when I was a kid every time mom was away for a business trip. It made bearing her absence much easier. Mom never used perfume. She has an innate scent, a combination of dough, mint, jasmine - it beats all CK and Cool Water and all those famous perfumes. I used to fall asleep, hugging her duster.

2. My sister running, throwing herself in front of me, to save me from a hearty beating from Dad. I believe I have the greatest ate in the world. I used to ruin her birthdays, snatch her gifts, bite her, scratch her, even ruin her solo pictures, by inserting my hand or foot just when the camera clicks. I've done the meanest, cruelest things to her when we were kids. But ate was just altogether a different species. I thank her for teaching me what it really means to love.

3. Back in grade 3, as we were heading home in our school service, I just couldn't keep still. I knew it was the day we were going to have our new car! I was too anxious to get home that I even shared this fact to my bus mates. Around 3 blocks from home, a run-down, dirty silver owner-type jeep passed by and honked. The owner was just halfway done. It did not even have a roof and the engine was out there, naked. My brother honked again. I swallowed a little. Then, chin up, I stepped out of our service and sat next to my kuya and beamed back to my bus mates.

4. Dancing "Ice Ice Baby" with my grade 3 buddies Tiudy and Ida.

5. Auditioning for a slot in our Drama Club and landing it with my very own rendition of Katya Santos in Ang TV. Plus I also imitated the "Flintstone" commercial, where little sister keeps pestering big sister why she's wearing a dress, putting on make-up, etc. And ate keeps answering "Because!!!!"

6. Sneaking out of school during mornings. This was a private, all-girls, nun-administered high school and we weren't allowed to leave the school's premises. That would be like cutting classes, right? But often, we snuck in a friend's car and hid at the back to have breakfast in Mc Donald's, St. Francis. I hated the pancakes, but was just in love with the thrill of getting caught! Luckily, we weren't.

7. Ranking 3rd in a carbonara-eating contest in college, organized by the student council. Competing with THREE hungry boys, and a starbucks GC at stake, I bid poise goodbye and chomped away.

8. The first time I sang in front of a crowd. It was for a freshmen orientation and our org UP UGAT was presenting. I sang "Here's Where the Story Ends" by The Sundays (with partner Adam David). While singing, I just felt the whole auditorium listening, really listening. After the performance, a girl from the next band introduced herself and said she liked my voice. I was in bliss!

9. And hmmm....I remember Fete de la Musique in Podium. I was with K4 and some of my orgmates in UP CAST. Something was already going on between me and Sam, but we weren't official yet.

That whole night, Sam and I weren't together. But during the Cynthia Alexander gig, finally, we had time alone. It was the first time he wrapped his arms around me from the back (spooning, in short!). I felt goosebumps all over! My head was light, and my cheeks were on fire! The crowd, the heat, the sweat, the rush of people moving here and there made me feel dizzy. I held on to his arms just to keep from fainting. I also knew then that I was falling in love.

10. My pamangkin Andeng's sweet, impish, mischievous smile. Ang pinaka-pilyang bata! She totally changed me. Before, I didn't understand why people go gaga over kids. For me, they looked all the same, just...well, kids. But when Andeng came, I finally understood why.'s past midnight already. And I'm already sleepy.... hope you're not though! My buzzer beater greetings to all, keep those happy thoughts coming, Merry Christmas! Tata, I'm off to fly fly fly in a faraway land, in the secret pockets of my dreams! Goodnight everybody!

Sunday, December 6, 2009

On Christmas and Crisis: You can never be too cheap when it's about the spirit, after all!

With the global crisis and skyrocketing prices of gas, vegetables, and practically everything one has to pay for, what's a girl and guy to do?

So today, Sam and I have officially said goodbye to road trips in Tagaytay, weekly splurges on foodie-fact finding missions in posh restaurants and expensive movie dates.

Hello cheap, but nonetheless fun and thrill-filled dates!

For our first stop: Greenhills Shopping Center.

Every night, from 7: 00 to 10: 40 pm, masa people troop to Greenhills to watch a Christmas show staged in a life-sized manger, while enjoying cheap, but great food and strolling the night market.

The food binger in me relished in the abundance of Philippines' best cuisine. Street food, what else? From everything inihaw (corn, squid, isaw, bangus, betamax) to
Oriental (siopao, noodles, congee and siomai) to Pinoy's favorite Christmas staples like suman, bibingka and puto-bumbong. Chairs and tables are available for those who want to eat, while watching the show.

And while you're at it, why not squeeze in a bit of shopping? The place is filled with tiangges, where cheap finds and thrills are sure to be discovered. Plus, you can ask for bargain prices with a little bit of prodding
and charm. In other words, make "TAWAD!!!!!"

The looped Christmas show might not be music to the ears once you've heard it for the nth time, but the throng of people coming in, not to mention the sights and smells, might just provide variety and ample entertainment.

For me, just imbibing the Christmas spirit is worth it. I remember feeling so much awe when I watched the show the first time in COD, Cubao, when I was six years old. They transferred the show to Greenhills around three years ago, I think. But every year, I make it a point to watch, just to remember how it feels when I was kid. When Christmas was all the magic and happiness I've known it to be.

The night ended with our stomaches bloated from too much food, and yet our wallets and budgets intact. Best of all, blue, green, red and yellow lights blinked on our faces as we kissed good night. Without words, we knew it was the best pre-Christmas date we ever had.


Commute to Greenhills: P22 (two persons)
Entrance Fee: None
Ferino's Bibingka: P95
Gulaman: P20 (two persons)
Rice with 3 pieces isaw: P69
Inihaw na Mais: P20
Fishballs: P30 (two orders)
Siomai with noodles: P25


Monday, November 30, 2009

My Mom, The Author.

I used to joke Mommy, with hurt in my voice, “why didn’t you give me your payat genes?” I was referring to her special gift of gobbling sweets and carbohydrates without gaining an inch on her waist. Whereas I, her bratty bonch, have accepted my fate of diet pills, crash diets and gym sessions just to keep insecurities away. I learned to accept eventually that I was going to be chubby all my life. Tough luck, huh?

But this doesn’t mean I didn’t inherit anything good from her. In fact, I have a lot to thank her genes for. I got her unflinching “work before play” attitude; her go-getter stamina, a zest and passion for life and...according to her, a creative flair for words.

My mom writes like she breathes and eats. She conjures words and phrases like she stirs and throws ingredients in a pot of stew.

And I’ve got to admit, growing up with a writer for a mom made my life “more interesting” in school. Hey, don’t get me wrong, she didn’t write anything for me. She wanted me to sweat it out like the rest of my classmates. That’s how great a mom she is! Well…let’s just say she edited me and edited my essays well, making masterpieces out of relatively “ho-hum” compositions.

But in college, I started attending more scriptwriting classes than creative writing ones. Perhaps, it was a conscious or subconscious effort, knowing that I could never measure up to my mom as a creative, feature and technical writer. I carved my own niche, but I realize I wouldn’t be a great TV Writer now if not for my mom’s merciless editing and bashing, her gift for finding better words and syntaxes, which still amazes me to this day.

Knowing all these all this time though, didn’t prepare me for the wealth of emotions I felt the day my mom launched her first book—IN ANOTHER DRESS last November 27 in UP, Diliman. Under the pseudonym AnnaManila, also the namesake of her blog, my mom wrote mostly about retirement jitters, the pains and joys of growing old, always with a dash of humor and a relentless quirky tone that can topple any top magazine editor-in-chief.

The night before my mom’s launch, and as I read on, page after page of my mom’s stories in chapter two (Whimpering, Simpering, Blundering Youth), I realized that even though my mom and I are very close, as in girlfriends/BFF-kind-of-close, there are still so many parts of her I didn’t know.

I knew her only as my mother— the working mom, the caring mom, the worrier mom. She told me she came from Tondo, sported pigtails in high school and liked eating Horlicks. But I never saw this shy, insecure girl, who pined for her father’s approval and her sister’s recognition. I never ever saw my mom as a struggling colegiala, who wanted to gain new friends and be “ensconced in college society”. Never imagined my mom, my dear, loving mom, grieving over childish mistakes.

I never imagined what my mom went through, living in Tondo, raised in a lower middle class home, studying and working at the same time, raising a brood of 6 while balancing a career-- what my mom had to go through just to be the strong and talented woman she is now. To be my mother that she is now.

As I continued to leaf through the pages, I felt a surge of emotion overcoming me. The night before the launch, mom was in full panic mode.

What if they hate my book?

I hate my book!

I hate my hair!

What if too few people attend? What if there’s too many?

What if I stutter, what if I fall, what if--!!!!

I knew I wouldn’t be able to control myself any longer, even as I planned to prepare a small speech at the launch. There was no better time than this, I thought to myself.

Tears started to well in my eyes as I told her, “Ma, this is a great book. I’m so proud of you.”

Mommy replied with a tight embrace. “Now, I don’t feel so nervous about the launch anymore. Thank you my bonch.”

Stripping myself of biases, being a book-lover and my mom’s toughest critic as well, I can honestly and with all sincerity say that AnnaManila wrote a great book. Any reader, regardless of age, class, gender and status will surely cry, laugh, sigh and daydream with AnnaManila. For in four chapters, and forty-eight stories, AnnaManila succeeds to “undress” herself, and speak from the heart. In the end, it’s “another dress” we’d fit over and over again, and never get tired of.

As for the daughter in me, I thank my mom for always being there to edit not only my words, but also the work in progress that is me.

Monday, November 2, 2009

The First Day of Christmas Project

Exactly four years ago, I watched a documentary film entitled Bunso. It was about juvenile delinquents locked in jails in provinces, and it touched me so much that I was inspired to organize an outreach for them. I started out in Pasig City Jail. It was tough to do since I had to ask permission from DOJ and all the red tape I had to go through. But they were very supportive and together with my friends and orgmates in college, we gave the kids a very memorable Christmas.

Today when I received an email from Miss Jaedee regarding the First Day of Christmas Project, I felt not an ounce of hesitation. My immediately said yes.

And since I cannot explain the project better than the blog site itself, please feel free to click on this link to find out more about the project:

If you're interested, kindly email me (my email is found above) or you can contact Jaedee directly at

Advanced Merry Christmas everyone!

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Behold my mighty, shinin', spanking new planner!

So there I was, walking straight to the school supplies section. My steps were small but quick. I was eager to hold and turn the cover, smell the fresh pages and dip my hands on clean texts of dates and months.

I was elated when I saw a a whole shelf of planners, brimming with colors. There were big leathery planners that were too expensive for my taste (and budget..yeah, but mostly budget!), small ones with a few pages with colorful covers to make up for its thinness, and other medium-sized ones that were either brown or black, like no-nonsense, comely secretaries with round-rimmed glasses and stiff freshly-starched skirts, ready for business and eager to organize its next master's life.

And I was the most willing, over anxious master.

But then all of the planners had one glaring defect-- it all had the year 2010 stamped on them. I felt my hope waning.

I approached a National Book store sales lady near the area and asked if there were any 2009 versions left.

"Ay, phased out na po Ma'am yung 2009!" (Translation: Hibang ka ba, magtu-2010 na! Siyempre wala na davah?)

Well, of course it is! I know because my naughty kid neighbors have been letting loose their fireworks as early as now. Yes, it's just two months before the Happy New Year of 2010 arrives. But because my 2009 planner (my 2 beautiful 2009 planners -- from Starbucks and Skin Food) floated in murky and did I mention stinky flood waters of Ondoy (which submerged our entire home last September 26, oh that ill-fated day!), and since this November, I will be taking my Masters and working as TV/NGO Writer/Producer at the same time, not to mention doing voice overs and writing for Hinge Inquirer magazines, I need, am in desperate and in dire need of a planner!

Anyway, just as I was about to turn around, my shoulders hunched, about to give up my fate to writing my life plans on my Jollibee Kids notebook (which managed to survive since I brought it with me when I was in Ateneo for the's funny how the old things survived Ondoy, the ones we often reject and almost laugh at, like our old car that managed to be wreck and mud-free from it all), Sam (my bestfriend and my boyfriend-- yes I'm lucky to have found both in one guy)pointed out a lane of organizers, hiding in the dark part of the book store.

And there it was-- black and small and cheap. It is sensitive enough to include 2009 in its roster of years (it has until 2013 I think). It has sections for weekly, monthly and even hourly planning. I grabbed the lone organizer and squeezed it between my arms.

Today, I opened my new planner. It might just be a planner, that's all. Just an organizer, no big deal. But for me, it was so much more. After Ondoy, my plans in life suddenly changed, as if my world stopped.

But then, here I am, clutching a new planner, starting anew, taking off from where I was before Ondoy.

And I'm so excited to fill it up with my messy handwriting. And get elated over the special dates where I have to do some stunts just to get over the day.

Hello, new planner, are you ready for my schedule and my calligraphy handwriting? I'll try my best to get you dry this time! But I can't do anything about my handwriting, sorry.

Friday, October 30, 2009

In Another Dress by AnnaManila

When she's not nagging me and texting me "Wtu?" (her acronym for what time uwi mo?)
she's cooking and baking, reading her favorite Anne Tyler book, shopping in the afternoon or taking short walks in the neighborhood.

Elsewhere, she's at home, updating her blog and amusing (and touching) hundreds of the readers of -- with the tagline "the best is yet to be." She's AnnaManila, a 66-year old amazing woman. And she's my mom.

With her first book entitled IN ANOTHER DRESS, AnnaManila tells the stories of a young Anna, who pined for her father's love; how an awkward kolehiyala loses the friendship of a special girl; and about the quirks of a paranoid mother whose ways can be outlandish, but often times endearing.

But mostly, she shows how life at sixty plus can be a fresh beginning and an adventure at discovering who you really are and finding deeper and more profound love in the world.

A cross between chic flick, essay collection sans autobiography, IN ANOTHER DRESS is the first book in the Philippines to feature a blog space, centering on life at old age.

And yes, did I mention that my mom facebooks, twitters, plurks, YM chats, and plants, ploughs and harvests in FarmTown?

Can you believe she even has more Facebook friends than me?

Really, I'm one proud daughter.

In Another Dress will be launched this end of November at UPISSI, Diliman. The book is published by Extempo Publishing House.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Kate Winslet Fandom

More than ten years ago (I must have been in grade school back then), I was surfing the channels (all free TV, there was no luxury of cable then) and I happened to stop by Channel 9.

Back then, Channel 9 was government-owned and believe it or not, it was a better channel than ABS and GMA that time. They had a roster of kick-ass series like Mc Gyver, Alley Mc Beal, The Simpsons, Doogie Houser and a whole lot more.

They also featured movies and that particular night, the movie caught my attention. It was called Heavenly Creatures.

The story goes like this: two adolescent girls Pauline and Juliet come from entirely different worlds. Juliet is an upper-class, spoiled girl, whose A-list mother hardly gives a damn about her. Pauline lives with her mother in a ramshackle house-- her poverty making her shy and reclusive. When Pauline and Juliet meet in class, they were magnets that formed a friendship no one can understand. When they're together, it's as if they have their own imaginary world, where no parent, no teacher, no class bully can enter.

The movie becomes weirder though, when Pauline suddenly becomes possessive of Juliet. Their relationship turns from a platonic friendship to a dangerous obsession. When their parents realize this, they try to separate the girls. But Pauline and Juliet have come too far in their imaginary world-- where fantasies are easily turned into nightmares.

They then set out to plan a perfect murder, believing it can lead to a happily-ever-after for them.

I remembered the film recently and I found out, much to my surprise, that Kate Winslet played the role of Juliet!

And what's more shocking is that Heavenly Creatures was based from a true story.

Kate Winslet is among my favorite actresses in Hollywood. Her roster of films are impressive- The Reader, Little Children, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Finding Neverland, Sense and Sensibility, among others. She has proven she's a flexible actress. And with a director for a husband (Sam Mendes), who directed her in Revolutionary Road, I believe Kate can go a long way. She can be the next Meryl Streep.

As early as now, she has wowed critics and audience with her astounding performances. And it's not surprising because at the early age of thirteen (age to be confirmed), she's been taking on challenging roles such as Juliet in Heavenly Creatures.

I'm looking forward to her films this coming 2010.

Monday, October 26, 2009

I'm nervous but I liked the film so I'm doing it!

Written, Produced and Directed by Armando Lao

I know what happens next. I will feel jitters. The moment I feel my hair tingling, then I’d know I’m inches away from chickening out.

Can you blame me for being scared? After all, I’m just a student, so can you say I’m wrong for feeling this way, frightened at the thought of punching another letter in my keyboard, when I’m about to write a review, a reaction paper at the least, about my scriptwriting mentor Armando “Bing” Lao’s directorial debut?

And it doesn’t help that I have yet to finish the course, and still feeling my way around what Sir Bing calls epiphanies and trying to grasp the principles of “real time”.

For those who are not familiar with Pinoy film industry, Armando Lao is a well-respected and highly accomplished screenplay writer and creative producer. He has written numerous screenplays for mainstream cinema like Minsan Pa (2004), La Vida Rosa (2001), Tuhog (2001). Sana Pagibig Na (1998), Pila-Balde (1999), among others in a long list. But starting 2006, Armando Lao u-turned to independent cinema and his creative genius paved the way to international acclaim, with films like Kubrador (2006), Serbis (2008) and Kinatay (2009), which won the 62nd Cannes Film Festival Best Director award for Brillante Mendoza, a director who was mentored by Bing Lao himself.

Not the usual screenplay writer who finishes the script and lets the director do all the interpretation, perhaps visits the shooting a day or two, Armando Lao is in for the long overhaul—he does the research, he writes, he executive produces and sits down with the editor and director. “It’s a partnership between the writer and director,” Sir Bing stresses in class. He believes both Writer and Director are the filmmakers. But in cases when the Director and Writer is the same person, then he or she is called an Auteur Filmmaker.

And a few years shy from 2010, Sir Bing Lao decided to complete his creative process. After all, he's been a filmmaker all these years now. So when his good friend Atty. Joji Alonso read the script and told him, "You should direct this, Bing!", it was the natural thing to do--to be an auteur filmmaker himself.

The whole story of Biyaheng Lupa (English title: Soliloquy) takes place inside a bus bound from Manila to Bicol, a bus ride most of us Pinoys are familiar with. There's the boredom of a 12-hour ride-- if we're not sleeping and watching a movie, we entertain ourselves with looking at our co-passengers, curious where they're going, what kinds of person they are, etc.

And it is this curiosity that keeps the film going.

Bing Lao gathers a motley crew of passengers, each with his/her own story, destination, with his or her own quirk. And some, with deep secrets. One old woman is an ex-convict, who used to be a drug-pusher. Helen (Jaclyn Jose) is a married woman having an affair. Smitten by the bus conductor, Lillia (Angel Aquino) is a town gossip searching for true love. Alex is a thriving virgin coconut oil salesman. Then there’s Irene (Eugene Domningo), who is about to leave her son for a menial job abroad; Mickie, a handsome deaf-mute who visits his dead mother's tomb; and Obet, a young man who turns aways from filial duty to start a new life in Bicol.

All the characters form a certain chemistry, inflicting drama, suspense and even humor. Put together, these individuals are about to find out they're in for the ride of their lives, as inner demons are revealed, hearts are broken and mended, and the thin line between fate and destiny is challenged.

Unforgettable in Biyaheng Lupa is the use of the bus door device. When the door is open, real time mode is used, where we hear the passengers and even peddlers and civilians outside communicating in the normal way. But once the door is closed, I am immediately enclosed in a claustrophobic, four-cornered bus, where my mind floats from one person's thoughts to the next. In this "mode", gestures and observations are crucial to understanding the film, as well as the thoughts that we hear constantly buzzing in our ears.

Though using "poetic time" mode, the stories and the characters are realistic, each jump from one character to the next seamless. At first, the film showed an ending for each passenger that reached their destination. Thinking that this will be pursued for all of the characters, I was disappointed when some of them just disappeared like thin air, just like Eugene Domingo's role.

Technical glitches aside, Biyaheng Lupa is a bus ride I'd gladly take for the second time, perhaps with some u-turns and more screeching brakes, where characters can collide more in a jolting manner. And yes, watching the film was like being in the UFO workshop, where I point out in my head every device Sir has taught us. But to tell you what are these "devices" would not be appropriate. Why? Cause I'll be giving out confidential matters. And I wouldn't want to risk being kicked out of Sir's mentoring as if it's not enough I decided to blog about this, you know. :-)

Friday, September 25, 2009

Look Who's Talking!

The Unseen Faces Behind the Mic
By Maria Alina Co

(Published in Manila Bulletin Lifestyle, September 20, 2009)

Without voices, it must be an awfully dull world. Can you imagine Naruto fighting Sasuke without dialogue, or endless static on your favorite radio station?

That would be such a bummer, right?

That’s because voice gives emotion, color, and spark to what we see on the screen. They render clarity to the story unfolding before us. However the voice-over talents in cartoons and radio are often faceless and nameless. They hide in the dark, in a manner of speaking.

That’s why we’re putting the finest voice actors in the limelight this time. And guess what, they’re not only talented and already making waves in the industry, but they’re also very young and personable.

Playing while working

At only 13 yrs. old, Kat-Kat Tolentino has voice-acted and dubbed for over nine TV programs.

She was only eight when she auditioned for the first time. “I used to tag along my Dad in ABS-CBN for his dubbing sessions. It was fun watching the shows on TV, so I told Papa I wanted to try it out.” Her father, Neil Tolentino, is a Dubbing Writer and Director for Hero TV. “My first audition, I cried. My Papa said I wasn’t good enough. I flunked.”

The next year Kat-Kat landed a lead role as Shahaku in the anime Three-Eyed One. “Among all the shows I dubbed, this is my favorite. It was my lucky project since I had more after it. Plus it was very challenging since Shahaku was a little boy.”

Sweet and girly, it’s hard to imagine Kat-Kat as a young magical boy with a third eye. But she does it by being in character. Dreaming of taking Theater Arts or Music someday, Kat-Kat manages to juggle her school and dubbing career. “It’s really fun because it’s just like playing with your friends and making voices. The best part is you get to earn money at the same time. Like me, I’m only 13 but I bought my own cell phone and I get to help out in the family budget.”

Dubbing Contest Champions

For Jill Fernandez and Ed Jaluag, it took talent and a lot of guts to join dubbing contests like Hataw Hanep Hero.

“Imagine dubbing in front of a huge crowd! It was an exhilarating experience,” quipped 18-year old Jill. Luckily, she bested 600 contestants and bagged the prize—a scholarship in Creativoices where she honed her voice-acting skills.

After graduation, Creativoices Owner and the Voice Master Pocholo Gonzales cast Jill as leads for Bokura Ga Ita and Negima, both anime series that aired on Hero TV. The rest is history. Currently, she is the voice behind Lemon Angels’ Tomo on Hero and Boys Over Flowers’ Ha Jae Gyeong on ABS-CBN. “I enjoy what I’m doing. I like the shows and the bonds I form with my fellow dubbers.”

For Ed, a 24-year old Video Editor, winning the fourth Hataw Hanep Hero saved him from resigning his job. “I was into Theater in high school. At work, I got bored not being able to express myself.”

A toy-collector and a cosplayer, Ed was naturally drawn to dubbing. After finishing the workshop, Ed landed one of the lead roles and a total of 25 minor roles in ABS-CBN’s KimPossible.

A Nice Voice

“People used to always say I had a nice voice, and so I thought I was a natural to get into the voice-acting industry.”

But it was only when Albert joined the workshop that he realized he still had so much to learn. 20-year old Albert is a student DJ in RX 93.1’s Radio1. He is also the President of the Society of Young Voice Artists of the Philippines (SYVAP), an organization that aims to promote voice acting as an art and career. Jill and Ed are among the 200 members of SYVAP.

“I continue to learn in SYVAP and realized there’s much more to voice acting-- from dubbing to DJ-ing, hosting events, reciting poetry, storytelling and radio dramas. A voice actor is anyone who expresses himself creatively through his voice.”

Founded by Pocholo Gonzales, SYVAP serves as a venue for aspiring voice artists to hone their craft through volunteerism and teamwork.

“The secret to being a good voice actor is to treat it as an art. Then if you’re good, the money will just come,” Gonzales said.

Living Their Dreams

Voice acting is a tough craft, but a lot of fun, especially when you’re passionate about it.

“When I dub, I forget all about my problems because I’m not myself but rather the character I am dubbing. I can become an anime, a super hero or a beautiful Korean, whatever the role requires,” Jill shared.

For Albert, one just has to believe in himself. “Being a voice actor really boosted my self esteem. I have become self-confident. I just love being heard and I want to share this to others.”

Ed added, “I love dubbing. I can do this every day of my life and will never feel like I’ve worked a day.”

*To know more about SYVAP, email for more details.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Loving It UP!

UP in the Ratings and in my Top Film Faves
Directed by: Pete Docter & Bob Peterson

Article By Maria Alina Co

I’m not much a fan of animations, never have been. I’m the type who goes for drama, suspense, horror, or light-hearted comedies or romances, shot in live action. But once in a while, when I catch an animation movie trailer with a promising storyline, I make it a point to watch it in the big screen, all the more to appreciate the colors and the 3D motion graphics.

Shrek II’s ironic parallelism between the medieval age and contemporary culture made it a cinematic gem. Coraline, a story about a girl who finds an eerily familiar world through a small door, is on my list simply because I love Neil Gaiman’s dark children’s story novel. I laud Wall-E’s director and producers for coming up with a futuristic story for the first time.

But after watching Walt Disney and Pixar’s latest feature film, for me, I would have to say UP takes home the grand prize. Hands down to the filmmakers of UP!

Like most commercial animation films, UP follows the formula—protagonist is a loser who suffer from a loss, despair or insecurity, but after protagonist meets one friend after another, most of the time reluctant of the friendship at first but eventually gains or earns the friend’s confidence, protagonist realizes his/her wrongdoings and overcomes his/her obstacles. In the end, together they fight the forces of evil and get his/her happy ending.

We all love losers, yes? For why would you root for someone who appears to be content and flawless? That would be a boring film, right?

In UP, Carl is a grumpy 78-year old widower, living in a conservative house in the middle of a commercially developing, bustling street. Lonely for the company of his love, his late wife Ellie, Carl stubbornly refuses to sell his property to the real estate giants and surrender to living in a retirement home. Instead, Carl chooses to fulfill his and Ellie’s lifelong dream—to live in a lost land called Paradise Falls.

Reminiscent of the cartoon TV series Flying House, without the time-warping effect and minus the gospel stories, Carl ties thousands of balloons to his house and flies up up and away to have the greatest adventure of his life. But he discovers all too late that his biggest nightmare accidentally hitches a ride— the chubby Wilderness Explorer boy named Russell. Together, the most unlikely pair embarks on a journey to South America, where they find truth and discover friendship in a lost world.

Like any animation film, humor plays a significant part in its success and you’d find UP not lacking in comic antics and banters. Russell’s innocent and bubbly ways would win any kid or adult’s heart. He is clumsy, awkward, but ultimately as loveable and honest as any kid we know. On the other hand, Carl is just like our wrinkled and grouchy grandpas, irritable to kids’ restless ways and yet ironically funny.

But take away all the comic banters, talking dogs, even the colorful animation fest, we are left with a simple story about an old man who takes a second wind at life. I applaud the makers of UP who, their general audience being kids, dare to tackle the aged life. Kids and young adults can certainly learn lessons from our old folks.

When he and Ellie were younger, they dreamed of being wilderness explorers, living great adventures. But as reality’s daily grind sunk in, they lost hold of that dream, like a hand letting go of a balloon, floating away, disappearing behind the mist of clouds. How many of us adults have let our dreams go? Never mind if it was intentional, or perhaps, just for the moment, keeping them like pressed flowers on scrapbooks and diaries, hiding them in dusty shelves? While we eternally hope to get back on them once we're done with our mundane duties.

Like Carl, some of us open these scrapbooks and realize it might not be too late. Take another shot. Begin a new adventure. Go for your dream.

Even if it means doing a radical and unimaginable thing such as tying balloons to a house and flying away. And it is this simple, yet honest premise that won my love for UP.

UP is reminiscent of the rainy day I went home after watching Amelie in UP Film Center. A light-hearted feeling, a renewed vigor, where I see the world in a more colorful, albeit hopeful perspective.

Friday, August 21, 2009

The Old Man and the Stolen Jar

Word polaroids by Maria Alina Co

The Spark

Lolo Atoy stared straight ahead. His left hand on his chin, sitting on a tattered chair, he looked out the window overlooking the street like a painter eyeing a blank canvas. But unlike a painter who’d see a throng of kids playing kickball under a hot summer sun, Lolo Atoy saw a blanket of nothingness. He did not even notice an eight-year old kid, eyeing him curiously and was inching closer each second. He did not even hear the minutest echo of the boy’s playmates and their incessant jeering.

To most residents of Dahlia street, Lolo Atoy lived like most men his age lived. With arthritic joints and weak spirits, they pressed their backs on the most comfortable beds and chairs, thinking of the past, knowing fully well they did not belong in the present, but fearing what lied ahead. But Nica, Lolo Atoy’s twenty-five year old daughter, knew better. He saw in her father’s tired eyes a hint of a spark, a speck of luminous light that she caught sight of in shadows, in the most unexpected moments, like a sudden reflection from an unknown object that vanishes when you look for its source. She saw in his father not a senile man, but a young boy waiting to be tagged in a hide-and-seek game.

Of course he hadn’t always been this way. There was a time when life flowed in his veins, when his deep chuckles were like ripples that reverberated throughout the town. Five years ago, he won first place at Brgy. Sta. Lucia’s LaLoLa Videoke Challenge, an event organized for senior citizens. His winning piece was Till There Was You sung by the Beatles.

“There were bells on a hill…no, I never heard them at all…’till there was you…”, Lolo Atoy would readily demonstrate his singing prowess to anyone who’d care to listen to his glory days.

“Of course, everyone was surprised to hear I have a great voice all this time. I mean my speaking voice isn’t exactly smooth and you hear me talk most of the time, right?”

Truth is, Lolo Atoy’s singing voice was hoarse and out of tune. But what made him bag the prize was the way he sung the Beatles song. From the stage, he trotted his way to the audience and wooed his wife Lola Felly, a naturally shy and meek lady. It was such a lovely sight as Lola Felly was blushing from ear to ear. At least, they took home a week’s grocery as their prize. That made Lola Felly forgive her husband.

Lolo Atoy was known to have a knack for winning contests. In the toothpaste factory, where he worked for most of his life until his retirement, he was famous for being the most active and participative worker. Why, almost all their appliances at home were just prizes he won from joining contests in company parties! The bread toaster was from his winning as Employee of the Year. The blue electric fan, the washing machine and the coffee maker were from winning raffles in Christmas parties. It was neither luck nor talent. It’s just that Lolo Atoy was game for anything.

But all of that changed when Lola Felly died. Lolo wept and refused to eat for days. He laid on the bed all day, praying and staring at the ceiling. When his sons and daughters went home and tried to talk to him, Lolo Atoy assured them he was okay. But Nica was worried. At night, in his sleep, her father moaned and whimpered over and over again, “Where’s the jar? WHERE IS MY JAR? I told you to keep my jar and now you tell me you forgot where you put it!”

Some nights his voice was clearer – “I’ll just put you in my jar so I will forget. I want to forget. Oh it hurts too much! Hurts like hell!”

Nica didn’t have any idea what jar he was talking about. Rumors spread that Lolo Atoy has money--or even gold—kept at a secret place at home, but unfortunately he forgot about when he turned crazy. Nica searched every nook and cranny of the house but found nothing.

As months passed by, Lolo Atoy’s nightmares and sleep talking episodes became less frequent and eventually stopped.

The Jar of Treasures

For a moment, Kenneth thought Lolo Atoy was looking right at him. Sweating profusely, Kenneth felt his heart jump when Jon-Jon nudged his elbow.

“Hey man, relax! If you want to back out now, you can say so. Only you’ll be branded from now on as an infectious chicken!,” Jon-Jon jeered, as the other kids joined in, laughing.

“No problem, man. I can do this. You sure nobody else is there?” Kenneth wiped the sweat off his forehead, taking a step closer to the house.

“I’m very sure. Ate Nica went off to the market. She won’t be back in an hour, man. Good luck,” Jon-Jon said as he ran back the home base for another round of kickball.

Kenneth just recovered from one whole week of flu. That afternoon he was looking forward to playing kickball and was dismayed to find out that Jon-Jon, the kid bully, had banned him from playing.

He yelled, “Lame losers not allowed here!” The others teased, “Yeah, mate, can’t afford to be infected!” But then his friends Sam and Arman worked out a compromise with the bully. Just a dare, one dare and Kenneth can join.

And so, Kenneth finds himself right at that spot, sneaking his way inside Lolo Atoy’s bungalow. He finds it stupid really. A hidden treasure! What is this, Hiraya Manawari, he thought, mocking the whole idea.

The living room reminded him of his own. It was almost bare, with a pale green linoleum flooring. The sofa did not look comfortable, as it was made of sturdy wood. Newspapers lay scattered on the floor, a half empty coffee cup on the table. Lolo Atoy remained sitting on one corner. Looks like he has nothing to worry about, Kenneth thought. Then he remembered he had no idea where to start looking.

As he tiptoed to the bedrooms though, Kenneth thought he saw a firefly zoom by. But that would be impossible, wouldn’t it? It was two in the afternoon.

There were three rooms ahead. He opened the first one on his right. It was neat, the bed made up, the curtains floral. He opened the door adjacent. Bingo, he thought. The room looked just like it belonged to an old man. Crumpled, dirty white sheets with coffee stains, a cabinet and a wooden chair in front of the window. As Kenneth went straight for the cabinet, it came again—a flash of light. But this time, the strip of light was reflected on his face, like it came from a shard of a mirror. Kenneth felt his hands grow cold, his hair rise as if he had seen a ghost.

The light moved from his face, passed the cabinet, the bare wall, down to the beam where the wall and floor met, and finally, rested on a single tile. Kenneth walked slowly, staring at the tile the light was reflecting. He tugged at the tile, the puffs of ceramics making him cough. Kenneth’s hands were shaking as he moved the tile aside. As he suspected, it was hollow.

Kenneth paused. He glanced at the door, afraid the loud drumming of his heart beat would drown out the sound of Nica’s footsteps. Assured the coast was clear, Kenneth reached inside the hole. He fished out a glass jar, a large and dusty mayonnaise jar. And as he wiped the dust off the jar, Kenneth felt his jaw drop as he saw not money or gold as was the rumor, but lots and lots of trinkets. Red and yellow matchboxes, colorful marbles, greeting cards and gift labels, letters, rubber bands and texts, stones and shells. Kenneth could not believe his eyes! He could only imagine what his friends would say when they find out. But when Kenneth opened the jar’s lid, Kenneth froze as a flash of blinding light overtook him. Was it the end of the world? Did he faint? But if he did, why is he floating in space—a giant lid in his face, except it had ripples and electric sparks. Kenneth screamed as he felt himself being sucked into the lid.

They say when you reach the end, your life flashes back in front of you. But if it Kenneth was indeed dead, then why was the flashback not his? Kenneth becomes Atoy, a thin, fair-skinned boy, playing dampa on the side-walk. He drops his rubber bands when he sees a pretty girl named Felly walking on the street with her mother. Outside a red gate, young Felly accepts a card from Atoy. Outside, Atoy’s friends tease, calling on Atoy to come and play marbles with them. Play first, playboy later! A whiff of floral scent, Atoy smells the pink letter Felly wrote for him—just him! Suddenly, large drops of rain fell. Kenneth was making out the words DEAR ATOY, I AM HAPPY YOU--- but all the words became wet blurs. Was it tears in Kenneth’s eyes or was it the rain? It made no difference as Kenneth breathed deeply for a final blow—he felt a strong tug as he was pulled into a dark hole.

The Boy Waiting to be Found

Nica walked as fast as she could. Holding four full bags of grocery was no easy feat for a girl her size. As she turned the corner to the gate, she almost dropped them when she collided with a kid named Kenneth.

“What are you doing here, boy?”

“Sorry, I—we—the ball fell here, I just got the b-ball,” Kenneth nervously explained, his hands clutching an inflated volleyball.

“All right. Go play!”

“I’d like to help you with those,” Kenneth offered. Nica handed him over all the bags.

In the living room, Nica kissed his father. “Hi Pop! How are you? How’s daydreaming? Been to Neverland?”

Lolo Atoy responded by turning his head and staring. Nica was pleasantly surprised, warm at the thought of her father finally recognizing or at the least acknowledging her. But then she realized her father wasn’t looking at her—he was staring right at Kenneth.

“Oh, it’s just Kenneth, Pop. He’s one of the kids playing outside, you know, the kids you’ve been staring at all day.”

Kenneth stared back, then regained his composure. “How are you, Lolo Atoy?” Lolo Atoy merely stared back in response, but Kenneth saw the slightest, disapproving frown.

Kenneth waved goodbye and went back to play kickball. It was his turn now. Jon-jon jeered, “Hey loser, you’re not supposed to play! You lost! You didn’t get the treasure!”

Kenneth looked at Jon-Jon sharply--“I score a home run, then I can pull your shorts down!”

“No way you’re going to do that, lame ass!”

Poised on the home base, Kenneth flexed his leg. He knew he could do this. He’d always won. Goodness, he knows how to kick the ball to the next village! Kenneth’s kick was so strong the ball flew all the way to Tramo, an eskinita perpendicular to their street.

“YEAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHH!,” Kenneth howled as he ran back to the home base. Sam and Arman started to tease, “Shorts down, Jon-Jon! Shorts down, Jon-Jon!” But the defeated kid bully suddenly ran away.

“Yeah, go home kiddo, cry to mommy!”

Lolo Atoy has never felt this free. It’s good to be back, he thought, as Sam and Arman gave him high fives. Here’s to winning again and again and again! And living life one more time!

Lolo Atoy glanced back at his former lifeless body, staring out the window. And he knew his daughter was right all along. The old man was not a senile man. Just a young boy waiting to be found.

(Notes from the author: this is my first draft. I will revise this asap! And include better pictures! Thanks for reading!)

Monday, August 17, 2009

No Reservations

Words by Maria Alina Co

What were three true-blooded Manilenas without any camping skills thinking when they decided to go to an island called Anawangin?

By word of mouth, the small, uninhabited island is fast becoming a camping Mecca for mountaineers. But for most city dwellers, they just could not resist Anawangin’s mystery. With no hotels, no electricity, no air-conditioning, no bars, no internet, novelty for them is the greatest adventure. Not knowing what to expect, three girls headed out to Zambales one Friday morning, with luggage fit for an airport’s. Will handsome Leonardo di Caprio appear and hand over a secret map to “The Beach”? Will they befriend a volleyball with eyes and mouth just like in “Castaway”? I assure you it was nothing like that. I should know, because I was one of them.

No Reservations

After four hours of dreamless sleep aboard an Iba Zambales bus, we were finally roused by the conductor’s yelling “San Antonio!” From there, we were to get a tricycle to Pundaquit, where we could rent a boat to Anawangin. Being the Boracay-going gals that we were, we felt excited, curious and nervous all at the same time. And then it hit us—all these were just improvisations. Just some instructions we got online from a blogger we don’t even know. Waves of doubt splashed our minds—come to think of it, we didn’t even have reservations!

But off we went to meet the waves and explore the sea. We were island hopping! For anyone who has taken a vacation in Pundaquit, Zambales, the locals offer island hopping in a small boat that can accommodate at least four people for only P800. The route covers three islands— Camara, Capones and Anawangin and is inclusive of a ride back to Pundaquit.

Camara, the nearest island from Pundaquit shores, is a very small isle with a rocky shore and white sand. There’s nothing much to do there but just lay down on a mattress and bask in the sun. It’s also perfect for picnic with friends and family. The next stop is Capones, where you can trek to the Spanish lighthouse. The walk is worth the sweat as the lighthouse is breathtaking. Try talking to the construction guys there and they’d lead you to the best and safest place to take pictures of the lighthouse. Plus they’d give you a healthy dose of travel tips and trivia.

The last stop, Anawangin was the biggest finale. When we arrived there at noon, the sun was high, the sand powdery white and the beach crystal clear blue. Around us were not coconut trees as was the usual, but pine trees! Lots and lots of them! The beauty of it all was too overwhelming that we didn’t notice right away that we were the only tourists there, aside from the caretakers who lived at the nearby nipa hut. After setting up our tent and stove, we ran around, explored and swam to our heart’s content! It was the most peaceful I’ve felt over the last few years. Dipping my head in the water, I told myself—this is the place to be, this island is ours.

That is, until the next day.

Anawangin Tips and Must- Haves

Mornings are pure paradisiacal, but evenings at Anawangin can be quite harsh. Especially when you’re amateur campers like us.

When the sun went down, the island was literally black, with just a speck of stars above. Our large heavy–duty flashlight might have come in handy, except that my friend found out it was on the whole time. It blinked for a second and then the charge was out. So we had to resort to scented candles my other friend brought.

Needless to say, bring lots of flashlights and batteries. Also, the mountain mosquitoes consider us a delicacy, so at nighttime, it’s a must to use a mosquito repellant.

The best about the island is the sense of peace and isolation. But Saturday morning, we woke up to the sound of around fifty people setting up their tents, some very close to ours. So I would recommend a weekday trip, instead of weekends to have the island all for your selves. You can choose between two sides of the island. They only charge entrance fees per day of your stay: on the left is P100 per head and on your right is P50 per head. All I know is that the on the P100 side, there are fewer campers and the restroom’s better.

To survive an over night stay or more in Anawangin, make sure you load up on all the essentials: food and water. For food, it’s best to bring a mini stove, a pot for rice and a pan for the dishes. The key word is canned goods: tuna, corned beef, spam, sardines, all kinds for more variety. For snacks, bring bread and spreads, biscuits and chips. In San Antonio, there are convenience stores where you can buy gallons of water and all the other needs you forgot to buy from the city.

Once you’re in the island, forget your cell phones. There’s not even half of a single signal there. So before you say goodbye to your boatman, tell him the exact date and time you plan to go home.

For you sanitary needs, water is pumped from a nearby poso. You can bring buckets of water to take a bath in a restroom made of bamboo sticks. There’s also a toilet and you can use the rooms to change clothes, if not your tent.

I’m a Survivor!

An adventure in Anawangin is not for the faint-hearted. If you plan to go there, be ready to get down and dirty.

Manilenas that we are, we’re proud to say we survived three days and two nights in a mysterious island, far away from civilization. And besides the island’s beauty, it’s the uncertainty, the journey to the unknown that made all the difference. Reservations are no good in Anawangin. Just pure guts and adventurism.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Somewhat Reddish, Rough on the Edges

Somewhat Reddish, Rough on the Edges
(word polaroids by Maria Alina Co)
(aimless writing collection)

Recently, for some unknown reason, a vision of a red table popped like a bubble inside my head.

It was somewhat like looking at a familiar face beaming at you in the middle of a crowd. You squint and stare, but couldn’t quite place the face. Or if you have one of those memory jars, where all sorts of memory things are cramped inside, swimming, waiting to be fished out.

I didn’t fish the table out. It managed to pop out of the lid and reveal itself in its full form.

Days before my eighth birthday, my eldest brother Kuya Ariel was cooking something up. I didn’t know for sure, but I knew it had something to do with one of his construction workers, a carpenter, who sneaked in and out of the back of our house.

Kuya was just a starting contractor then. He borrowed a lot of money from my Auntie Bebe, and then some from my Mother’s amigas to make his own construction company. I remember a lot of wood and metal scraps, small mounds of cement lying around our garage. I also remember hushed angry voices and painful tears echoing inside the four walls of our bungalow. It was the eighth time my daddy quit his job. And days before my birthday, when he swore he’ll never work a day again.

The day of my birthday, I had a small party. My guests were just three—Dorothy, my bus mate, Ida and Kathrina, my classroom buddies.

After I blew the birthday cake candles, Kuya took my hand and led me to my room (which I shared with mommy and ate). At the leftmost corner, leaning on a wall, was a large wooden study table, and scandalously red—thick red, with a rough texture. It’s the kind we doodled in drawing assignments in grade school. Rectangular, with four squat red legs. A red chair stood empty in front of the table, as if beckoning me to sit. Kuya’s chinky eyes were unusually large and misty. Beaming proudly, he kissed me on my forehead and said, “Ok ba Mylene?”

I sat on my new red chair and traced the edges of the table. Rough on the edges, it had wooden splinters that somehow escaped turning red. I nudged on the red drawer, which made an awful scraping sound.

“Diyan puwede ka maglagay ng books, notebooks, crayons, papel-- kasya lahat diyan,” Kuya explained.

I glanced at my three guests, who looked blankly at Kuya’s surprise. They weren’t impressed. I planted a quick kiss to Kuya’s cheek and uttered my thank you.

Over the next days, the red table stood empty, save for a picture frame my mom put there. I didn’t dare place my things inside the drawer. I was afraid the splinters would come alive and poke its spikes on my things.

Kuya checked on me almost every day. But most of the time, I was lying on our bed while doing my assignments. He’d say, “Kaya ko nga binigay sa’yo yan para diyaan ka mag-aaral.” I’d obey grudgingly.

Until one day, Kuya Ariel slammed our door open, his face red with anger. In his hand was my report card, line of sevens floating in red ink.

“Mylene, ano ‘to??? Paliwanag mo kung bakit ganito grades mo!” I blushed, but said coolly, “Bakit ka nagagalit? Si Mommy at Daddy nga hindi galit. Kuya lang naman kita ha.”

Wordlessly, Kuya grabbed all the books and notebooks on my bed and threw them on the ugliest piece of furniture in the room.

I was dazed and confused. Biting my lip, I began to weep.

When Kuya finally stormed out, I fixed the mess on the red table, muttering under my breath, “I hate you, you ugly thing!” I kicked the table with all the strength I had left, but I ended up hurting my foot instead. Besides being sore, splinters poked out of my toes. So the red table found a way to retaliate after all. I guess it hated me too.

At the end of the school year, the red table vanished. I think it must have been the middle of our fourth quarter periodical exams when one day, I went home to find our room suddenly spacious. The red table was gone.

I told you a while ago about my memory jar (which is large, glassy and transparent, like an old-fashioned mayonnaise container without the label). I put memories I’d rather forget inside this jar. I know now why I chose to forget the red table.

One day, mommy told me the truth. “Mylene, you should know, your dad no longer pays for your tuition, Si Kuya mo na nagbabayad, installments, since your daddy lost his job. So try to understand na lang why he’ s very concerned with your grades. He only wants the best for you.”

That moment, my heart must have stopped, the world must have turned dark. Guilt seeped in, wave after wave after wave. I would have placed myself inside my jar if I could, and wallowed in shame, together with my old forgotten things forever.

But there was only one thing I had to do. Repent. And so I did with all the love and kindness I could give. Every day, I thank God for blessing me such a wonderful, loving brother.

My Kuya paid for my education from grade school all the way to college. More than my school necessities, he provided my family a few luxurious things. He bought us a brand new PC, a car, a huge LCD TV. Yearly, he shopped new clothes for me. In high school, when Birkenstock was the “in” thing, he bought me an imitation in Itti (Birks was way too expensive). He bought me my very own Swatch, Sanrio things, Nike rubber shoes, my ball dress, Guess jeans, Giordano shirts, name it.

But never a rough-edged, red study table again.

I can only imagine now what happened to the red table. Perhaps, the construction worker chopped it in pieces and used it for a construction project.

Or made fire out of the table’s four legs.

Maybe Kuya gave it to a charity organization, where a kid used it to know her ABCs and 123s.

These days, its redness pales in my mind. But I can still feel it today—the rough edges of its rectangular glory. I trace it again and again, my fingers never bleeding, loving its roughness.

Maria Alina Co, 24, graduated magna cum laude and best thesis from the University of the Philippines, Diliman, with a Film and Audio-Visual Communication degree. She is now a TV Network Executive Producer and a part-time magazine writer and voice-over talent. This year, she is taking her Master’s degree in Media Studies in Ateneo.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Frank Oz and Bowfinger

When Bowfinger premiered way back in 1999, I must have been asleep, too busy, or just a sore plain loser. I never got the chance to watch this comedy.

It wasn't only until 10 years later, while my boyfriend and I were burying our heads in DVD racks in Metrowalk, that I was introduced to Bowfinger.

"Napanood mo na 'yan? Maganda 'yan," Sam recommended.

I wasn't that convinced so he bought the DVD for me. Looking at the tagline "The Con is On", I thought it was one of those Mafia-type comedy films I've grown tired of. Unenthusiastically, I poised myself on the sofa, as Sam pressed play and the usual opening title cards rolled on.

But at the start of the film, at the moment when Bobby Bowfinger set up a meeting with his two actors and said, "We are making a movie!", I knew I misjudged it.

Bobby Bowfinger, a small-time, almost non-existent filmmaker nearing forty, is desperate to make his feature film. So when an accountant-turned writer Akhmid pens "Chubby Rain", a science fiction script that ends with the protagonist screaming to the aliens above, "Gotcha Suckas!", Bowfinger gathered his team of small-time actors and crew to make his dreams come true.

The first and obvious thing to do is to convince a hot shot Hollywood Producer to produce the film and get a hot shot Hollywood actor in it. Expectedly, the Producer (Robert Downey Jr.) turned him down, and the egoistic top actor Kit Ramsey kicked him out of his car.

But Bowfinger had a brilliant idea-- shooting the film, without Kit Ramsey knowing he's in it! The ultimate guerilla shooting.

That easy?

What followed are a series of hilarious puns and antics. Kit Ramsey (played by Eddie Murphy) was sort of a wacko and did have fantasies of aliens and stuff. It was fun seeing Bowfinger's crew stalking him and following him around with a hidden camera.

Bowfinger also poked fun on Hollywood stereotypes. Heather Graham's character, for example, is portrayed as the quintessential naive girl from Ohio who arrives in Los Angeles, expecting to become a star over night, a girl who sleeps her way around to get to the top.

Kit Ramsey, the hot shot actor, is the typical Hollywood male star with a big ego.

And Bowfinger? Well, I just love his character here. He's a lovable loser. He's desperate, broke, not to mention a poor taste for scripts (I mean, Chubby Rain is a senseless, B movie!) But I feel for him. He just loves what he does and will do everything to finally make his movie. He's an underdog, but anyone will root for him. Yes, he lied to his crew, but he only did that, because he did not want to disappoint them.

Bowfinger was directed by Frank Oz, whom I find out, after googling, is actually a famous voice actor and puppeteer.

He's the voice of Miss Piggy, Grover, Fozzie Bear, Animal and Sam the Eagle in the Muppet Show. In Sesame Street, he gave life to Cookie Monster and Bert-- my favorite Sesame Street characters.

In Star Wars, he's loveable and wisdom-filled Yoda. And it was Oz's idea to reverse Yoda's grammatical sentences, from verb to subject (ex. Disappointed, you were!).

Frank Oz is also the Director of Indian in the Cupboard and the remake of Stepford Wives.

Frank Oz and Bowfinger- definitely two firsts for me. This is the first time I knew of a Film Director, who's also a Puppeteer and Voice Actor. And, my first time to mark a comedy film as one of my favorites (I'm the type that usually goes for drama and dark stories)

Anyone who hasn't watched this yet? You like hilarious laughs one after another? Or perhaps, you're like me, an independent small-time filmmaker desperate to make a movie. You'll love Bowfinger!

Monday, June 1, 2009


word polaroids by Maria Alina Co

It was twelve midnight when Sol started kissing me.

I know I cannot be precise, with all the alcohol that swirled in my head and the smoke that clung to the ceiling last night. But it just felt like twelve o’ clock.

And when he started tugging on my blouse, I was surprised to feel…well, surprised. As if it was my first time. Of course, it wasn’t. Sol and I, we’ve done it in 1993, thirty-two years ago, and I can be precise on this.

I had met him in an elevator in one of the few buildings in Ortigas, boasting of high tech doors, shiny windows and modern elevators. He had always pressed number 9, while I stayed behind for the 10th floor. He had the crispiest suite, the tidiest lump of thick hair held by a fragrant gel. His nose was as forward as his posture. But what I found sexiest was when he cleared his throat. He did this all the time, thrusting his flexed palm above his mouth, just before stepping out of ninth floor.

And exactly 6 o’ clock in the evening yesterday, I heard that same clearing of throat. Only it was gruff, husky, the kind an old man gets when he’s either too tired to smoke, or too much smoking made him tired.

I was one step out of the mall clutching two plastic bags of grocery, just enough for my week’s needs when, out of the corner of my eye, I saw the gesture. But the tight flexing wasn’t there any more. It was a weak, withered hand of a 60-year old man. Sol was one step into the mall when I shouted his name, “Solomon Cruz!”

I was happy to see him, of course. God, thirty-two years and I haven’t heard anything from him! The last time I heard he still worked in that damn advertising office, and rode that same elevator six days a week. And the last time he heard of me was that I had two new things or events in my life. I had a new boyfriend, who was a film director and a new job as Production Manager in a commercials production.

“You still look beautiful,” he told me this while I was about to drink from my cup in Willy’s coffee shop in Alimall. I was blushing terribly behind my cup--I drank a lot in one gulp. “You look good too,” I said, drinking in his now thinner and definitely whiter hair. Sol smiled, it hasn’t changed a bit. The same cute crumpling beside the edges of both eyes. He is an attractive old man, all right.

Then came the topic I always expected would be raised. I’m not irritated with it. It’s just that I’ve been through this question before, and I’m tired of saying my usual answer, which is exactly this: “Well, it just happened. Or rather, didn’t happen. I was happy with my life, skipping boyfriends as I would stones. Plus I had other things in my mind. My career, my dreams. And I was forgetting it, delaying it year after year, when suddenly I found myself like this: beautiful and single.” This statement is guaranteed to elicit light-hearted laughter from a listener. But this time, I was determined to respond differently.

“Why didn’t you,” I asked back. Sol’s eye crumples smoothed, lost in thought. Finally he answered, looking straight into my eyes, “Well, I met a woman who broke my heart. And I wasn’t able to get over.” I slapped him gently on his shoulder, “Oh Sol! The truth!”

Laughing, he said, “Ay I’m just too tired answering the truth. Well, I guess I delayed marrying one girl after another, until marriage passed me by. Sad truth noh? How about you?”

I struggled for an answer. Until finally from the farthest corner of my mind, I grabbed a line I must have gotten from a movie. “I guess it’s single-blessedness for me.” Sol smiled at this, content with my answer.

Our conversation was going well, really well. Turns out he’s still working part time in a car company as Sales Consultant. He quit his job in 9th floor shortly after I quit mine. He was surprised when I told him I just retired.

“Why? I don’t mean anything, Lucllle. It’s just that I saw you’re the type who wouldn’t stop working until you die,” he said, turning the corner to Kamias road. We were inside his car by this time after I invited him over for a decent dinner. I didn’t see any wrong in this. After all, we are already adults, and even way beyond that.

“I guess I got…tired. It was really hectic, the PM position. Before I left, the place was crawling with new graduates and young people with two years experience. Believe me, I was the oldest there!”

“So what do you do now?”

I told him I basically did what I wanted to do, what I thought I was left to do. I read all the books I didn’t read before – self-help books I never read while working, surreal, magical realist books, books about and for women, interior design books, the history books I skipped in college, even novels that I skipped in high school (I resorted to summary books). And yeah, I read and enjoy Harry Potter. When I paused, we were already sitting in my sala by this time, I looked at his expectant face. I resumed: I also write. What else? I take my time in everything, taking a bath, sipping my iced tea outside during a hot afternoon. My buying habits also changed. Like for example, in buying a new pan, it’d take me one week or more!

Sol was laughing, but it wasn’t tainted with mockery. Later, after a dinner of beef and mushroom and mashed potatoes, he confessed he laughed because he can relate with me. We were sharing a bottle when he spoke up. His tone was different, deep and smoky, as if it a strange sound bouncing on my living room’s walls.

“I know what you mean when you take time buying your pan.” I asked him how so.

“It’s like this. When we were young, we try to make things fast. We were all excited and hurrying to grow up, graduate, work, make money. We have hot asses from too much stress, too much…hurrying up. We wanted promotion, we wanted success, a new car, everything, we wanted all the pans!” Sol was gesturing with his hands, his right hand swinging, stressing words here and there. He didn’t have this gesture back in the 9th floor.

“…We hurry to have boyfriends, girlfriends. We wish to stretch the years automatically to get married. We wanted it all, successful families. But then, look at us now, suddenly things are just slow…we want them slow.”

And I couldn’t have agreed more. For a moment, he seemed as if he wanted to add something more. Instead, he searched for something in the pocket of his pants. It was a pack of cigarettes.

“Do you mind,” he asked. I said no, and asked for a stick as well.

Me and Sol, we didn’t run out of conversation. Yes, there were pauses, a second or two. But they never lasted. We always thought of something. Mostly, we talked about his and my former officemates in in 9th and 10th floors. What happened to Tina, a copywriter then, whom they secretly called Tinae for her shitty copies? Did Elaine and Bert marry? Is it true Mr. Jerome Remulla, a manager then, is a registered nurse now in the U.S.? Who are the deceased? Who “died” in the advertising industry?

By this time, I was dizzy. My eyesight was blurred both with tears from too much laughter and too much smoke. I hardly saw Sol sitting beside me, shaking with laughter. He was still in a shaking state when he posed the most serious question of the night, a question that poked me then and is still stinging me now.

“Lucille…don’t you get lonely sometimes?”

The clouds of tears blocking my view suddenly parted. I tried absorbing the question, which ended up a new version in my mind. Am I lonely?

“I am. I live alone. ‘Course I am.” Suddenly, I felt the cloud of tears forming again. My eyes hurt, and my chest welled up with a stinging pain that rose up to my throat and caused me to sob horribly. “I am, I am,” I said.

I told you before, I felt it was twelve midnight when he kissed me. It was dark in the living room, with only a single yellow lamp lighted beside me. The air tasted like twelve o’ clock. Sol planted at first a soft kiss on my cheek, then another, then another. I kissed him back, my wet face pressed into his. The pain in my chest welled. Suddenly, I thought of a house, a two-storey house, with me and Sol in the foreground. Sol kept on kissing my face, until my lips gravitated towards his. As if it’s the most natural thing in the world, he kissed me back. In my mind, there’s a kid on the porch, perhaps two. Two cars in the garage, three maids in uniforms. Sol’s embrace made me think of the interior of the house. It was warm, big and lonely at the same time. And perhaps old. Old. The word lingered in my mind as Sol pressed his body on top of me. He was surprisingly light, lighter than he was thirty-two years ago.

I was caressing his back as he tugged on my blouse. I felt awkward, tugging his shirt back. Instead, I touched his face. I was trying to get a grip of myself, wondering how sex at the age of fifty-eight would feel like my first time, when I felt a twisted pain on my back.

“Aaawwww….” I grimaced. Sol kept his body pressed on me, kissing my neck.

“Sol, Sol, I have a p-pain, cramps…”

Sol stopped, raised his head and looked at my face, contorted with pain. “I’m sorry, “ he muttered under his breath.

He stood up suddenly, smoothed the crumples of his shirt. His eye crumples was extra smooth as well, lost in deep thought. I massaged my aching back, whispering, “I’m sorry, Sol. I’m sorry.”

“It’s okay, Luce. Your back okay now?”

“Umm…hurts a bit.”

Sol took me in his arms and carried me. “Where to?” he asked. I pointed to an oak door ahead.

I smiled up to him, “thank you. You don’t have to do this.” He slowly placed me on my bed. Sol looked down on my miserable mass of a body, a former sex goddess-turned-old spinster. Oh…but his eyes were sweet, caring, I knew this in the back of my mind.

“Good night, Luce. I’ll call you tomorrow.” Before stepping out of the room, I heard it. The sexiest sound—Sol’s clearing of his throat.

Now that’s taking everything slow, even in this, I thought before dozing off to sweet slumber.