Friday, December 28, 2007

Thursday, December 27, 2007

These are a few of my favorite things

My personal favorites from 2007.


1. The Sumilao farmers
2. The monks of Burma
3. You, you know who you are
4. Quentin Tarantino
5. Al Gore
6. Benazir Bhutto
7. Fr. Ed Panlilio
8. Amy Winehouse
9. Melinda Doolittle
10. KC Concepcion


1. Luciano Pavarotti
2. Ingmar Bergman / Michelangelo Antonioni
3. Rene Villanueva


1. Global warming
2. Suppression of freedom
3. Crooks not being brought to justice (or just being freed)


1. Trillanes' coup-lelat
2. Shitbomb in Glorietta
3. The Ruffa-Yilmaz marital violence issue - the media attention probably gave Kris Aquino sleepless nights; also, ensured Ruffa's continuous showbiz career


1. Namfrel Operation Quick Count 2007
2. Cinemalaya Film Festival 2007
3. Cinemanila International Film Festival 2007


1. Indian Thriller

2. Japanese prank shows

3. Prison Thriller


1. Multiply
2. Google
3. CNN

BLOGS (aside from mine)

1. Jessica Zafra's Jessica Rules The Universe
2. vintage vinyl audio blogs, like this and this and this and this
3. Sari-Saring Sineng Pinoy

MOVIES (2007)

There are still a lot of movies I've got to see and a ton of DVDs yet to be played. I'll come out with a list in a couple of months but here are my top 5 so far.

1. Pisay (Auraeus Solito)

2. Grindhouse: Planet Terror and Death Proof (Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino)

3. Ratatouille (Brad Bird and Jan Pinkava)

4. Zodiac (David Fincher)

5. 4 Months, 3 Weeks, and 2 Days (Cristian Mungiu)

MOVIES (Catalogue)

1. Fanny and Alexander (Ingmar Bergman)
2. Volver (Pedro Almodovar)
3. Riles (Ditsi Carolino)
4. Fellini's Roma (Federico Fellini)
5. Pink Flamingos (John Waters)


1. Saturday Night Live (syndicated)
2. Pinoy Big Brother Celebrity Edition 2 - hi hi hi (Go Gaby! Go Ruben!)
3. 30 Rock

SONGS (2007)

1. Amy Winehouse - REHAB

2. Rihanna feat. Jay-Z - UMBRELLA

3. Akon feat. Snoop Dogg - I WANNA LOVE YOU

SONGS (Catalogue)

1. Nais Ko - Basil Valdez
2. Una Kaya / Kahimanawari - Pinikpikan
3. S'werte S'werte Lang - Joel Navarro
4. Let's Do The Latin Hustle - Eddie Drennon & BBS Unlimited
5. Corazon de Melon - Rosemary Clooney & Perez Prado


1. Pinikpikan
2. Lakbay Lahi / Unitiima
3. Kadangyan


1. Carol Bello, Pinikpikan
2. Bhava Mitra, Kadangyan
3. Wawi Navarroza, The Late Isabel


1. The 3rd Backdoor Ventures Arts & Music Fest (SM Megatrade Hall, August 24-26)
2. Fete de la musique (Malate, June 23)
3. Pinikpikan in SaGuijo (September 1)


1. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - I still haven't read a single Harry Potter book!
2. Crocs - the ugliest shoes in the world, ever
3. Emo - perennial


1. SM Megamall pa rin talaga
2. TriNoMa
3. SM Mall of Asia - Do we really need a mall this big? Apparently, yes.


1. Quiapo and Binondo - perennial
2. A couple of stores in (location withheld) - nye-he-he
3. The Sikh temple in UN Avenue - for Bollywood CDs and DVDs (and also Indian classical music)
4. mag:net Cafe / other rock joints / some booths during university fairs - Pinoy indie music CDs


1. Extremely rare, near-mint Eraserheads 45rpm vinyl - for freaking 10 pesos!?!
2. Recycled bag from a booth at the UP Fair
3. The garlic buttered potatoes I shared with you, you know who you are
4. Vintage Califone 1010AV record player
5. Vinyl copy of Rosemary Clooney & Perez Prado's "A Touch of Tabasco"


1. The T-Shirt Project's Ang Bagong Barong series
2. Happy Days' artista shirts (Bella Flores, Ike Lozada, Rene Requiestas, etc.)
3. The T-Shirt Project's Malisya series


1. Still my favorite Indian grocery stores (Assad, Uncle Ed's, etc.) in UN Avenue for samosas and gulab jamun; Kashmir (now at Rustan's Makati supermarket!) for samosas and dal
2. Asian Delights at Robinsons Galleria supermarket
3. 'Yung maliit na restoran sa palengke ng San Juan na nagbebenta ng sobrang mamantikang adobo. Oh my god.
4. Ubiquitous deep-fried calamares stands - worthy successor to kwek-kwek
5. Baliwag chicken combo meals


1. Doing graduate studies in an Ivy League school
2. Seeing the peak of Mt. Everest outside plane window
3. Playing the djembe for a Pinoy band
4. Photo op with Quentin Tarantino
5. secret!


1. Unearthing dusty gems at my favorite secret store (which will remain nameless for now)
2. Climax of any Pinikpikan show
3. Those rare times with you, you know who you are


1. To finally be able to go back to school
2. More opportunities for travel
3. Hmmm...yes, 'yun.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Appreciation: Van McCoy's "The Hustle"

It's big revelation time. I listen to all kinds of music, most of them good (at least in my world), some are bad. I don't particularly care about genres; if it's good, then it's good, whether it's by Beethoven or The Clash or a one-hit wonder from the 80s. However, my favorite piece of music of all-time will probably not make it to anyone's Top 10 desert island records, or to many hipsters' MP3 player.

I'm talking about Van McCoy & The Soul City Symphony's immortal "The Hustle." Yep. There, I said it. I could probably listen to this song a million times and not hate it. When people hear The Hustle, they immediately think of the dance steps, or Dance Fever, or polyester pants and shirts. Well, I think of all those things too, but there's something very melancholic about the song that I truly love and which has put a lump in my throat many times. I also love the symmetry of the composition, much like how I feel when I listen to the 9-minute version of Underworld's "Born Slippy." If you listen carefully to it, The Hustle is a very uplifting single. It has a discernible climax that, unlike that of VST & Company's "Rock Baby Rock," is actually repeated several times throughout the song.

The song also connects me to my childhood, the earliest years of which I spent living in Pasay in an apartment along EDSA near the old BLTB bus station. I used to hear this song on the radio back then. It's melody brings back the smell of fumes long before talks of the ozone and global warming, and dusty sheets and floors and sofas covered in orange upholstery.

When I listen to it, I could also imagine a tragi-comic Pinoy movie set in the late 70s peopled with corrupt cops, desperate lovers and sexy dancers in a cabaret, like characters from a Bernal movie. If ever I make my own movie, I'll use The Hustle in its entirety as the music for the big finale, the big shebang.

And the late Van McCoy is one of the unheralded geniuses of pop music.

Putin is TIME's Person of The Year

Don't ask.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Asian idols

Anyone among the Idols from the Philippines, Malaysia, and Indonesia could have easily won in last weekend's first Asian Idol competition held in Jakarta, had the contest been judged based on merit. But since this is Idol, the winner was determined by text votes. Singapore Idol Hady Mirza shockingly won the title.

Everybody expected Indonesian Idol Mike Mohede to win. I thought so too. I was an observer in Indonesia for the Carter Center when the first Indonesian Idol happened, and the show was beyond popular; it was a force of nature. Everybody from Papua to Kalimantan was aware of it and watched it religiously, time differences and choppy satellite feeds be damned. And Mohede was a good singer and performer. In the show, he sang Mengejar Matahari (one of my favorite Indonesian pop songs) and I Believe I Can Fly, which I'm sure prompted 200 million Indonesians to reach for their ponsel. No less than President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono even watched the show live (he even sang karaoke to welcome the Idols to the palace, yikes.)

I really liked Malaysian Idol Jaclyn Victor. She looks very classy, like Motown-era Diana Ross, but with a better voice. She's supposedly a huge star now in Malaysia, and I can see why. But maybe she should stop joining international singing competitions, because a few months back she was beaten by Vina Morales at the Ikon Asean (Kjwan won for the group category).

Which brings us to Mau Marcelo, the Philippine Idol. She has the strongest voice among the contestants, and in a perfect world would have easily won the title. One of the judges though was right when he said that Mau didn't give her all. Her performance of Ako Ang Nasawi, Ako Ang Nagwagi came off as very studied and modulated, although she made up for it with her second song, Reach.

(Sidebar: The Philippine Idol franchise has been transferred to GMA-7, most probably because ABC-5 was not able to turn it into a huge hit. I thought ABC-5 did a competent-enough job with the show, and I fear GMA-7 will tweak it and make it baduy. GMA reportedly will change the title to Pinoy Idol -- maybe because they admire April Boy Regino too much -- and worse, they reportedly will not acknowledge the first show and its contestants and will not recognize Mau Marcelo as the first Philippine Idol. How fucking dare you, GMA-7.)

Singapore Idol Hady Mirza played his cards right by singing a song in Bahasa Malayu. Voting rules stated that texters should vote for two contestants, not just one, otherwise the vote would have been invalid. I think Mirza won by sheer luck: both the Malaysians and the Indonesians probably picked him as their second choice. Ok, to be honest, I also picked him as my second choice, because I figured he will never win because he had the lousiest voice and because of the fact that there are probably less Singaporeans than those who voted for Trillanes in the last election. I was dead wrong.

Did I actually just write a longish blog entry on Idol? Apparently this is a matter of great import. Here, enjoy my favorite performances:

Jaclyn Victor (Malaysian Idol) - For Once In My Life

Mike Mohede (Indonesian Idol) - Mengejar Matahari

Mike Mohede (Indonesian Idol) - I Believe I Can Fly

Mau Marcelo (Philippine Idol) - Ako Ang Nasawi, Ako Ang Nagwagi and Reach

Abhijeet Sawant (Indian Idol) - Junoon

Monday, December 17, 2007

Appreciation: A-Ha's "Take On Me" video

Many kids had Cinderella. Some had Hansel and Gretel. Others had The Ugly Duckling, Snow White, or Peter Pan. My parents never read fairy tales to me as a kid, but TV gave me something more potent: a music video.

A woman one day was having coffee at a diner. She was leafing through a comic book, about a biker who has just won a race. Suddenly, the biker winked at her, and reached out to her out of the page. She took his hand and was sucked into his world of white spaces and black lines. He showed her around. They fell in love. Then out of nowhere, the rival gang whom the guy just beat appeared to exact their revenge. Armed with monkey wrenches, they chased the couple until they came to a dead end. To save the girl, the guy made an opening through a blank wall and forced the girl to go in. The girl appeared at the diner's kitchen, beside a waste basket where the waitress had thrown the comic book after crumpling it out of anger because she thought the girl left without paying. The girl stood up, picked up the comic book and dashed for the door. Upon reaching home, she immediately leafed through the comic book to see what happened next. A monkey wrench went down. The guy was dead. The girl wept, and she looked up. The biker came back to life and struggled to get out of the comic book panels. The guy appeared in her room, looking exhausted after his ordeal. She was shocked. Their eyes locked. They went back to his world, and finally they kissed.

For many people this was silly, but for a 9-year old, it was something he hasn't seen before, an engaging wordless story soundtracked by a soaring anthem that has since etched itself in many people's mental time capsules. Along with Sesame Street and The Neverending Story (among a few others), watching A-Ha's groundbreaking "Take On Me" video over and over again was one of the defining moments of my childhood. It was fantasy. It was comics. It was pop music.

It was heaven.

Appreciation: Spandau Ballet's "Gold"

Listening to Spandau Ballet feels like home. Their sound was very smooth, laid back, with a hint of jazz (compared with Duran Duran whose concoctions were generally bombastic), and Tony Hadley's baritone truly complemented this sound. Spandau Ballet were extremely popular in the 80s (more so in the Philippines than in the US), but amazingly, I only got to know their most famous hit, "True," after P.M. Dawn incorporated its hook in their song "Set Adrift On Memory Bliss" in 1991.

I will forever associate the band though with their other huge hit, "Gold." I saw its video a lot back then, about this guy in this dusty location looking for a piece of a jigsaw puzzle made of gold. Never really understood it, even the lyrics, but every time I hear this song I become a 7-year old again, coming home from school at lunchtime to watch "MV2: The World of Music Videos" on BBC 2 (yes, that's what ABS-CBN was called during the last few years of the Marcoses). The song also reminds me of happy times in high school, when we danced the song's masterful 12-inch remix on stage, which would just be too embarrassing to recount here (it involved black leotards).

Spandau Ballet may be no more, but my heart will be shouting "Gold! (gold.)" until I die.

Time Magazine's Top 10 Web Videos for 2007

Jump to #5!

#10. Daft Hands

#9. Clark and Michael

#8. Dan Rather Collar Up

Can't Tase This

I Ran So Far

Prison Inmates' "Thriller" Video (live from the Cebu Provincial Detention and Rehabilitation Center!)

Hillary 1984

Miss South Carolina Teen USA

The Landlord

Leave Britney Alone!

See more Top 10 lists at

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Appreciation: Madonna

Madonna is cool because she does what she wants and she's usually successful. She's an artist who is totally in-charge of all aspects of her career, from her albums, to her videos, to her hairstyles and live concerts, and to her extremely calculated career moves (favorite: wearing a cowgirl outfit on the cover of a very Euro techno album, possibly to not alienate her middle American fans). She has pushed the boundaries of pop music so many times, and there's really no one else around who could write sturdy pop songs like her.

Appreciation: Prince

Prince is a genius and quite possibly the greatest live performer ever. He could play any instrument you throw at him. He could do a full split, scream like a banshee, and offer sex to his audience all in a split second while furiously fingering his keytar. He is also an obsessive, locking himself up and his musicians for days in his studio, creating a startling amount of music that his record company could not cope with his output. There was a time when the world's favourite color was purple. I enjoyed Prince's videos in the 80s, but it wasn't until college that I became a convert (hi Tina, wherever you are). The guy never really went away, releasing at least twenty albums in the 90s. He's been topping the charts again recently, showing upstart pretenders how it's done.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Meanwhile, the world toasts and sinks at the same time...

The United States is the biggest contributor to global warming but it seems to be the least willing to contribute to efforts to come up with solutions to this huge problem. Shame. The UN Climate Change Conference concludes today in Bali but no substantial conclusion could be arrived at because the US reportedly refuses to commit wholeheartedly. Why? When will the US government stop denying that global warming is indeed happening, and at an alarming speed? What are they waiting for, for Michael Moore to step in? (Although that may be a good idea. E-mail Michael Moore at

Know more about the UN Climate Change Conference HERE.

Read the 1997 Kyoto Protocol (which the US refused to ratify) HERE.

From CNN.Com
EU, U.S. in climate deal standoff

BALI, Indonesia (CNN) -- The United Nations climate change conference headed towards its conclusion Friday, with the United States and the European Union at an impasse over how developed nations should tackle global warming.

Negotiations over an agreement to replace the 10-year-old Kyoto Protocol, which expires in 2012, continued all night, officials told CNN, but disagreements remained.

The Europeans are pushing for an agreement that contains specific numbers for emissions cuts, but Washington wants to leave maneuvering room for future negotiations, including next month's U.S.-sponsored climate talks in Hawaii.

The EU delegation has balked at that stance, saying it would render January's major emitters meeting "meaningless."

"We are disappointed that having reached this stage of the negotiations we still haven't heard from the United States," said said Humberto Rosa, a member of the European delegation and Portuguese secretary of state for the environment.

"What is their exact level of ambition or of engagement in the Bali roadmap?"

Former U.S. Vice President Al Gore, fresh from accepting the Nobel peace prize for his work on climate change awareness, sided with the Europeans.

"My own country, the United States, is principally responsible for obstructing progress here in Bali. We all know that," he said. "But my country is not the only one that can take steps to ensure that we move forward in Bali with progress and with hope."

Gore accepted the Nobel peace prize on Monday, alongside the U.N.'s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

In an interview with CNN, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon leaned toward the United States' position, stressing that Bali negotiations have to be "based on realistic and practical assessment."

"Somewhere down the road, quantifiable targets on emissions reductions" would be discussed, he said, adding that "launching the process [is] very important."

Japan and Canada have taken positions in line with the United States, while Australia's position is uncertain.

Washington is balking at suggestions by the EU that any agreement to replace the Kyoto Protocol on global warming should require developed countries to cut their emissions by 25 to 40 percent of 1990 levels by 2020.

The Bush administration says Europe is moving too fast.

"The main effort here in Bali is to get all of the countries to agree, in concept, that they will collectively support a long-term global goal for reducing emissions," said James Connaughton, the chairman of the White House Council on Environmental Quality. "That's the first step before you can then sit down and work through the specifics of what that goal might be."

The shrill tone of Thursday's public statements indicated the behind-the-doors negotiations were difficult.

Rosa said the European delegation said it is not "blackmailing" Washington, but said it is "logic[al]" that if no deal is completed in Bali, it cannot be built upon in Hawaii.

The Kyoto Protocol was passed 10 years ago by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change with the goal of limiting greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere.

While 175 nations and the European Economic Community have ratified it, the United States has not.

Appreciation: Freddie Mercury

That voice. That bravado. That moustache. Those teeth. And that name: "Freddie Mercury." Wow. Though I don't understand why he had to change his name. Could there be a more rock star name than Farrokh Bulsara?

Freddie Mercury is my favorite rock star ever because he totally embraced his role as rock star, which was to inspire and uplift humanity by rocking. Even Kurt Cobain admired Mercury's ability to go up on stage and just bask at the adulation of literally a sea of people. Just watch Queen's 1985 Live Aid performance (once voted the greatest live gig ever), specifically during Radio Ga Ga, and be convinced that there probably won't ever be a bigger rock star than Mercury.

Okay, so it should really be Queen and not just Mercury. But I'm sure Brian May and company would agree that the Indian guy in the middle of the stage was the heart and soul of the band. And don't forget that the band attempted to find a successor to Mercury after his death. The nerve; nobody's worthy.

Appreciation: Michael Jackson

It's such a tragedy that Michael Jackson has turned into such a caricature that people seemed to have forgotten how great he was. There was a time when Michael was truly the biggest star in the world, I mean REALLY big, perhaps bigger than any religion. Kids nowadays will never understand because there hasn't been anybody who came close after that (combine the popularity of Britney, Justin, the Backstreet Boys, the freaking internet and the iPod, and you're still nowhere near). The 80s would have been unimaginable without him and his videos and music. When we were kids, me and my brother would even dance in front of our TV set when his videos would come on, attaching medals and other stuff on our shirts a la Michael. Whatever Michael does next to his face and to his reputation, he will still earn the respect of a lot of people because of his songs with the Jackson 5 and the early solo stuff especially from Off The Wall and Thriller.

Appreciation: Bjork

Bjork remains my favorite female artist because she has remained artistically exciting and relevant after all these years. Her albums are never boring because not only are the individual songs painstakingly crafted to her very high standards, she also tries to do things different with each album.

The casual Bjork listener doesn't exist, because with her it's either sink or swim. It's either you like her or not. Those who like her love her to death, and those who don't probably hate her for being "weird." Many people couldn't get past Bjork's image and are scared to listen to her (I was) because they think she's too avant garde or too out there for their tastes. But what's so surprising about her music is the more her music sounds experimental, the more naked and personal her lyrics become.

Bjork also has one of the greatest voices in music, and she uses it to blend or clash with her electronic blips and squeals and the occasional string quartet, to suit whatever she's trying to achieve. Her transportive and adventurous albums Post and Homogenic are modern classics, and her songs like Hyperballad, The Modern Things, Joga, Hunter and Pagan Poetry, are masterpieces. Required listening for the human race.


Further proof that it is indeed cool to be Filipino, Quentin Tarantino wore a barong when he announced the nominees for the Golden Globe Awards a few hours ago. Meanwhile, in the Philippines, Martin Nievera still can't speak Tagalog.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Support the Sumilao farmers


54 farmers from Sumilao, walking for 60 days, from Bukidnon to Manila, on October 10 to December 10, covering 1,700 kilometers, to ask President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo to distribute their ancestral lands to them under the agrarian reform program...

They have braved fatigue, heat, storm. They have endured being away from home, being in uncertain places, with uncertain outcomes. Most of all, they have suffered the callousness of people who took away their land and refuse to give them what is rightfully theirs. They have nothing but the solidarity and goodness of people, and the hope that, in the end, truth and social justice will prevail.

Let us support them in this struggle!

Click here to read about theSumilao case:

Click here to read the latest updates:

Sign the online petition here:

Click here to make a contribution to the fund-raising initiative of AB Development Students from Ateneo:

Click here for acknowledgements and list of supporters: