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iyamTo be fair, I wanted to watch Tuviera’s “Imagine You And Me” (2016) to follow up on what happened with the AlDub hype since it started a year ago (which all began, interestingly, a day after my birthday last year). Aldub’s media sensation took over the Philippines and many Filipino communities worldwide for a number of months until all the dust has settled, and we saw in Kalyeserye how hard Eat Bulaga tried to sustain the kilig and the magic of the series on TV. “Imagine You and Me” came out at a perfect time as a culmination of the accidental love team’s first year of success.

I didn’t really set a very high standard watching the film earlier today. I know that the film will bank on the success of the love team and the chemistry of the two that they even will not extend their arms to meet the demand of their characters. It was a pretty formulaic plot: a no-boyfriend-since-birth (NBSB) hopeless romantic girl falls in love with a guy who she met at a park after retrieving his mobile phone and stuff from a thief. Their backstories are not really that important to sustain a layered story: she being an OFW yet would have more time walking in the park and daydreaming that does not really give justice to the difficulties of living in a foreign country, much more to a province of Como; while he is a stepson of a widowed Filipino caregiver who was in the process of moving on and has decided to end his ‘waiting’ in Como. Honestly, you won’t really bother thinking about these plotholes too much as all these were smothered by all the kilig and comedic moments and the glossy portrayal of the city. The film also tried to inject two more twists in the story but then again, it happened so fast that the film neither has enough time to wrap around these loose knots nor provide a more substantial backstory of why these things happen. There was this one memorable scene of a long take, however, which I think was a good devise to put the theme of “destiny / coincidence” central to the story.

The turn of events of “Imagine You and Me” made me feel that it was too surreal to happen in real life. The filme was done too glossy that it felt escapist and too romanticised, contrary to how AlDub evolved on TV: its relatability, simplicity, and the ordinary-aspiring-artista-falling-in-love-with-a-celebrity formula was completely gone in the film. It did give justice to the sensation that is AlDub, but for someone who doesn’t follow the hype, the film feels a little rushed in terms of story development and there were few twists and turns that were like “how did that happen?”
220px-thatthingcalledtadhanaWhich makes me miss “That Thing Called Tadhana”. This 2014 popular-due-to-word-of-mouth film became such a hit not only because of its breakup hugot lines but also because it neither promises a romanticised ending nor a happy life ever after. It has its similar charm like that of “Imagine You and Me” and the centrality of the theme of destiny and tadhana are also present. Contrary to “Imagine”, “That Thing”‘s Baguio was a good plot devise to show the progression of moving on, and the film showed the gradual evolution of moving on and that subtle falling back to love. “Imagine” made us travel to Como, but it was not a plot devise: it was not even utilised well in the plot (SPOILER ALERT: Andrew proposed to his ex-girlfriend in Manila, so why Como?).

“Imagine You and Me” will be remembered by many fans as the film that cemented AlDub’s influence in popular Filipino media, but it’s not a film that will sufficiently trigger relatable events in someone’s life. They could have made the film more grounded, and more layered, so that it can last more than AlDub’s lifespan.

Ok, now where’s my DVD copy of “That Thing Called Tadhana”?

 

Listening to the Veneration Gospel during the Veneration of the Cross Mass this Good Friday afternoon, my attention was caught at the scriptures of how Peter denied his affiliation with Jesus thrice. I would understand how difficult and lethal it was to become one of Jesus’ disciples during His time as His mere existence was being condemned by the Jewish priests, hence Peter’s denial of his discipleship in order to save his life. On the contrary, Peter’s denial of Jesus shows his weakness in professing his faith, and raising his life and owing it up to the Lord.

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Denial of Peter (Caravaggio, 1610)

Peter’s denials show us the bitter end of being human, of how we can become vulnerable at times in contrast with how Jesus professes His faithfulness and faith in humanity that He has given up His life for us. But Peter is no exception as we all have become like him many times in our lives and has denied Jesus’ existence. We have denied our faith to Jesus and has succumbed to our fear due to uncertainty. Our faith became weak that it became easy for us to give up our faith.

I, too, has become Peter at some point in my life and denied Jesus. The first one was back in high school when I became very interested in Wicca. I became so bored with Catholicism that I wanted to try a new religion. Being young and curious back then, I just went and tried to do the spells and the rituals, but that put me farther away from God. I worshipped other gods and imagined myself being in a higher position — only to find out that I became weaker and less focused. Years later, I came back to the Lord.

The second was when I was struggling with my sexuality. It was very convincing for me as a young gay man to discount from believing in God because of the opposition and rejection that I get from the priests at every homily, the pressure from some of my friends who denied our sexualities and told us that being gay was wrong, and living in secrecy inside my home. It was tough to live and I would always question my faith, and so I thought leaving my religion was an easy way out. I was wrong — shifting from a believer to a non-believer was even more difficult. Every time I deny God, I experience this pain inside me like a red ant was pinching my heart, a regret that kept on haunting me. One day, I had a eureka moment — it was not really necessary for me to reconcile the irony between my religion and my sexuality; that despite the Catholic priests denouncing my existence, my faith in Jesus should be stronger. Jesus taught me to love God as I loved my neighbor, and while tolerance is not a good trait in being an activist, letting things be and traversing the difficult route and win the non-believers’ support by arguing within the same level of understanding of where they were coming from became my pathway towards enlightening other people.

The third time I denied God came from the pressure of my peers. As an activist, it is a rule of thumb to take things from a human rights perspective. Unfortunately, many people who do not believe in human rights come from the right wing who are most of the time, religious fanatics. It is very easy to get swayed and to denounce my faith, especially when you are asked to reconcile your faith with what you fight for. But then again, I realize that some things are better left as they are, and face their arguments one at a time.

Through these different experiences, I came to learn that denying my faith is denying my history, my values, and my heritage — the roots of my personhood. These things defined me, and has continued to define me, and denying my religion or making that drastic shift to be away from my religion is both unhealthy and unwise.

Similar to Peter, when Jesus came back from the dead, despite Peter’s fear of seeing Jesus again, he still went to see him. Same thing with life — we fall down, we fail, and we give up, but we must never give up our faith. We must never deny who we are and where we came from. Whether we believe in God or not, regardless of whether we are Catholic, Muslim, Jew, Wiccan, or belonging to any other religion, believing is not something that you force yourself into — you just let it happen.

Everybody wants to be accepted and to feel a sense of belonging. Living in a world that believes that you are defined by the people you are with, it really is difficult to find people who you can relate to and people who can understand your quirkiness or weird antics. It’s not always easy, and sometimes, you get stuck with people and you can’t do anything about it.

I have always been considered different and weird. Some of my peers would sometimes consider me nerd, or my thoughts would just come up with out-of-this-world ideas and concepts. I sensed this as early as seven: I was seen as atypical and few people would understood. I survived high school and college being like this, but I did not survive this being alone, albeit being introvert as I am. In high school, I was with a group of students who would always ace the class, and we would consider ourselves the ‘smart alecks’. During college, being a transferee that I was, I sticked with the other shiftees and transferees of my bloc, and we became a tight group. I admit, I have sometimes, if not most of the time, played the innocent/dumb card just to give people something to laugh at, and it works, because for me that was my way of making sure that I still have flaws. I was topping the class without a fuzz, so making fun of myself would make me “more human”.

But I guess that doesn’t work in other settings outside of school, where intellectual elitism draws the line between being taken seriously and being a laughingstock. That in the context of intellectual elitism, being different is not a call for people to understand where you are coming from, but puts a target on your back and be laughed at. Don’t get me wrong, I understand that there are some wrong things in the world that I grew up believing, things that I thought were true but were actually not, but I could use an ear with a little bit of patience and be heard. I could use some compassion and a kinder approach than be a center of insult. I guess that’s why a lot of people would rather commit suicide, because some people would come at you and tell you you’re wrong because they are more experienced in this world, they know more, or they just have the confidence to tell you that you are wrong.

If people can be a little kinder and will learn to extend a little compassion to understand where people are coming from, the world could have been a better place to live in for everyone.

 

Who counts as Filipino?

It’s our flight later this evening back to Bangkok. I’m a bit excited that I am going back to what I consider my second home (despite nursing this colds and cough). For more than a year now, Bangkok has been my home. My partner is now based there, my work is there, nd there are so many opportunities there. On the other hand, leaving the Philippines again makes me feeling a bit regretful. My family of orientation and my extended family all live here, and all my memories of growing up are here.

Watching iJuander on GMA News TV this morning suddenly made me think: for someone like me who’s technically not based here work-wise, do I still count as Filipino? IJuander has been showcasing very Filipino topics and issues, even social experiments that show typical Filipino traits. This makes me miss my life here in Manila. I wake up to my usual bed with the noise of my neighbors, I prepare to my work despite the heat, and I travel, albeit exhaustingly, to work, spending an hour of travel in a narrow seat for three with three other commuters going to downtown Metro Manila. Watching iJuander makes me think of an ideal “Filipino” – a seemingly aspirational, childhood-like dream of an imaginary place. But that is not how a Filipino is now, especially if one would compare it to Manila. The noise, the “electricity” as what my partner would always tell me, the ‘pulse’…it’s the chaos that defines the Filipino now.

Where does that put me, or my partner, or those living in Bangkok? I know they are Filipino too. We are. Heck, we even call ourselves “Pinoy Mafia” for being a community. A community of activists and of visionaries and of critiques. This group actually reminds me of La Liga Filipina, a group established by Filipino thinkers in Madrid during the Spanish colonization – Filipinos who, despite being far, would still fight for independence and would still long for Philippine liberty and sovereignity; but fast forward 2016, the country longs for common sense and a sense of order. 

Full circle. We do actually count as Filipino.

I am not sure if we’re coming back to the Philippines for good, or if we will ever be back here in Manila to work, given that we’ve found a lot more good opportunities outside of the country. But who knows. Thungs have changed since 2014. But as long as I know that the work still benefits the country, I’d still count as a Filipino.

It’s been almost a year already since I’ve been outside of Metro Manila and I miss am already missing that unique Filipino vibe. Apart from missing my home, my family, and my boyfriend, there’s nothing more fulfilling to get out of Manila and see the beauty that is the Philippines. Really, #itsmorefuninthePhilippines!

Thanks to this online map maker, http://forge.codedgraphic.com/lakbayan/, it was able to map out where I’ve been around my lovely native land. And it graded me a B! Looking at the map, I can’t believe I’ve been through most of the provinces. And I need to expand more!

Cheers to more travel in the Philippines!


My Lakbayan grade is B!

How much of the Philippines have you visited? Find out at Lakbayan!

Created by Eugene Villar.

I have just seen the film, “Fifty Shades of Grey” tonight with my boyfriend and my friend. I admit, when I first heard about the book, I was not really into it, despite the murmurs that the book was some sort of a spin-off or inspired by the Twilight series. I knew that the film was about BDSM and my knowledge to it was not new (and even to some extent, experience), but watching the film really made me sad about the story per se.

“Fifty Shades of Grey” tells about Anastasia Steele, a graduating English Literature college student who went to interview Mr. Christian Grey, a billionaire bachelor, for a college publication. She first met him when she proxied to do the interview with him for a college publication. That’s where their complicated story began.

Both the book and the film explores the world of BDSM and the conversations and ‘transactions’ that happens surrounds it. The key to it is consensus and agreements, but upon knowing Anastasia’s hesitation and conflicted feelings for Christian makes it just painful to watch. For someone who is as hopeless romantic as Anastasia, who believes in true love and values romance, having a whirlwind “relationship” with Christian who has a deep, dark baggage and exerts this through BDSM is heartbreaking. In the film, we can see that Anastasia is pushing herself to boundaries just to understand Christian, hoping that he would change and just be the usual couple. But Christian’s problematic past won’t open himself up to Anastasia, won’t open himself to romance and love.

I think the moral of the story is that it really takes a lot of time to really make sure that the one you are with is the person who you really love. It is easy to be drawn and be attracted to someone because of his physical features, or because of the way he treats you, or in the case of Anastasia and Christian, ‘brides’ you into agreeing to what he wants, but at the end of the day, to love is to really choose is the love we think we deserve. And if we think that we don’t deserve the love that we are experiencing, we can always choose to let go.

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The municipality of Dasol sits in the west-most part of Pangasinan and an almost six-hour trip from Manila. Based on the blog posts on how to get to Dasol, we took the 11:50pm bus to Alaminos from Victory Liner in Cubao, Quezon City. Although blog posts said that it will take us 5-6 hours to get to Alaminos, our trip to Alaminos only took us 3 and a half hours! We got to Alaminos at the bus terminal at 3:30am. From there, we waited for a bus that will take us to Burgos Market. After a while, an ordinary bus to Sta. Cruz arrived. We hopped on and rode the bus to Burgos Market.

 

Bus from Cubao to Alaminos: PhP394

Bus from Alaminos to Burgos Market: PhP30

 

Arriving Burgos Market at 4:30am is like arriving in a ghost town. We arrived so early that even the market is still closed, but there were tricycle drivers waiting at the waiting shed ready to take passengers to Tambobong Beach. We never asked for the price of their service though because one of my friends asked for the resort owner to pick us up at Burgos. We waited for a few minutes and the van arrived. Since it was still too early, the van took us to Ate Grace’s house, the owner of D’ Abella’s beach resort in Dasol. She was busy preparing for breakfast when we arrived. She was happy to accommodate us at such early in the day. As we ate, Ate Grace told us about the beach and the rest house-turned-resort where we would head next.

 

After breakfast, the van took us to Tambobong beach. It was an hour-long bumpy ride. It was a long dirt road among the hills and troughs with view of wide savannah on both sides of the road. At 45 minutes, we could already see the beach.

 

We arrived at D’Abella beach resort at quarter to 7AM and the fishermen were just pulling their banca to the beach after an overnight of fishing. The sight of the beach itself is just serene and lovely. From the road, which was a step away from the beach, I could already feel the powdery sand that has seemed to be naturally enveloped this small fishing community. I actually like it this way, having a fishing village at the beach, because I know that the beach is teeming with so much life and I know that they, the keepers of this beach, will take care of this beach.

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Van from Burgos to Tambobong Beach: PhP600

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We met Tito Boy, Ate Grace’s kin and resort owner and caretaker welcoming us into his humble abode. The place, I must say, is very homey. There were few rooms at the right side of the gate and a number of cottages on the left, and there in front of the gate is their huge rest house with a lot of rooms. There were two more huge houses inside the compound. We were taken to one of the huge rooms outside the main house where we would stay. It’s big enough for 9, I should say, with a wide loft made of bamboo. The room is complete with kitchen sink and a sofa.

 

Room rate: PhP3,500

 

The happiest part of our trip to Dasol was that we have the entire place for us because we were the only guests. Ate Beth, the caretaker of the house, told us that we were lucky because nobody was booked on that weekend. Apparently, they only take few guests to accommodate everyone and to keep the place peaceful. Because we were the only guests, we were available to use the facilities (except for the sleeping room, which was assigned to us), including their restrooms, the cottages, and dining room. They will also going to serve us our daily food for the next two days, which was a lovely idea since Ate Grace owns a catering service too. Little do we know that day that we are in for a wonderful everyday happy meal – probably one of the best meals I had on a vacation. And it’s lutong bahay (home-coooked)!

 

Budget for food per person: PhP500

 

We dropped our bags in the room and immediately prepared for island hopping so as not to waste time since it’s still early at 7am. After half an hour, we were already sailing to Colibra island, one of the two islands near Dasol.

 

Colibra was paradise. It is a small, uninhabited island 30 minutes away from Tambobong beach. The water is so clear that even at 10 feet, I could already see the bottom of the ocean. The island was so small too that one could go around the island in 10 minutes. It has different habitats too: there was part rocky, part cliffy, part, sandy, part grassy, part pebbly, but everything was just serene. According to stories, this island was teeming with sea snakes although it was pretty much uninhabited when we arrived. There were stories that sea snakes were nocturnal; thank God we were not staying overnight at the island.  There were few people in the island too when we get there but the island is big enough for us that we were able to find our own piece of heaven. Be sure to bring your malong to enjoy that happy sunshine and grab that must-have tan for summer. The island does not have any shade though so bring some umbrellas and lots of drinking water and some food.

 

After Colibra, it took us another 15 minutes to Crocodile island. Unlike Colibra, Crocodile island is teeming with so much marine life! Our boat docked in an area less than 500 meters away from the shore because of the low tide so we had to walk towards the island. Water was below the knee and because it was clear, I could see all the sea urchins and starfishes loitering this entire part of the island (make sure to bring sandals or aqua shoes to avoid getting pricked). Up the small hill was a beautiful plateau with black corals, which I assumed has probably been there for ages. On the other side were a cave and huge rock formations sitting on another living shore facing South China Sea. There was nothing much to do in this part of the island unless you wanted to check the cave and the beach, but be careful of sea snakes! We saw one hiding in the rock formation.

 

Our third destination was a small cove off to the left of Tambobong beach. The cove was privately owned, given some cottages on the beach. There was a small family hanging out on the shore when we arrived. It was not as exciting as either Colibra and Crocodile because the beach grows a lot of seaweeds that are knee-high, but this was still interesting to visit. Sand are still as powdery as the other islands, and the coconut trees make for a good shade while enjoying the peacefulness of this place. After about 4 hours or so of island hopping around Dasol, we decided to head back Tambobong to have lunch.

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Boat ride rental: PhP1,500

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Ate Beth and her crew were so hospitable because when we got back, our lunch was already ready. Some of my friends decided to watch TV after lunch while some of us went for a siesta. The entire beach strip was so quiet and peaceful, and the weather that time was very cozy that it can actually make for a great serene vacation, away from the noise of the city. People at Dasol were very friendly too (they speak an Ilocano dialect from the sound of their speaking) and would welcome small talks and conversations about their lifeways. There were also dogs around the beach running here and there, but they were so tamed that when I had my yoga practice the following morning, there was this old dog (from the look of its face) who went to my mat and asked if I could scratch his back. What a sweet bitch.

 

Ate Beth also asked if we would want to setup bonfire but because it costs around PhP400 to build one, we changed our minds and decided to hang out in one of the cottages and bum. You can also borrow videoke but because the town was defeaningly quiet at 8pm, we decided otherwise and just enjoyed the peace of night. We just played our iPhones/iPads and catch up, which was a good choice. We turned in at 9:30pm.

 

I woke up at 5:30AM and started my day with meditation and yoga at the beachfront. Sunrise breaks on the left side of the beach but colors spread through the entire horizon that it was still a colorful sight to behold. After breakfast, Ate Beth took us to this beautiful rock formations far left that could only be seen at low tide. It was a five-minute walk and the sight was outstanding. There was a cave that has freshwater spring and huge rock formations that are climbable. Make sure to bring your camera!

 

We spent the rest of the day hanging out at Tambobong beach swimming and sunbathing. The water is crystal clear and the crystal-like powdery sand was very inviting. The shore was not deep, which was to my advantage because I could swim around. We went back to the resort at lunch and never forget our siesta after.

 

We left the following day at 9AM and arrived in Manila at 5PM. It was a less-stressful ride because luckily, the local transports that we needed to take were already there!

 

The day was really slow and steady, which made me appreciate this vacation like no other. Dasol is a perfect vacation spot for those who prefer non-populous beaches hidden within fishing communities that actually take care of their habitat. And with the hospitality of Ate Beth, Tito Boy and the rest of their staff, it’s worth coming back.

 

Total amount of expenses: Do the math. 

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