Thursday, October 30, 2008


And you say you're afraid of ghosts???

Friday, October 24, 2008

Iboto si Elsa!

Vote for Ishmael's Bernal's "Himala" as favorite Asia Pacific film of all-time, in the Asia Pacific Film Awards sponsored by CNN. Deadline for voting is on October 31.

Click here to vote:

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Band on fire!

It was probably the sweatiest and stickiest Pinikpikan show I've ever attended. A few weeks ago, vocalist Carol Bello posted a note inviting people to watch "Pinikpikan's last gig." Of course everybody was like OH MY GOD PINIKPIKAN IS BREAKING UP LET'S WATCH! And all of us descended on tiny 70's Bistro last Saturday for the band's farewell show. Once inside, I kept looking at the low, foam-lined ceiling and the small exit and kept thinking, "If a fire starts here, I'm going to DIE!" The turnout was huge, bigger than the usual Pinikpikan crowd, spilling over to the street.

Indeed, it was Pinikpikan's last gig, because after the first set, they discarded the name Piunikpikan. They are now known as KALAYO, meaning "fire," an appropriate name for the country's best live band. They now have a new recruit, in the person of Mark Escueta of Rivermaya. And the band never sounded better. They were truly on fire, playing their hits more intensely than usual, the crowd and the band feeding off of each other's energy. They played their first song as Kalayo, "Sumigla, Sumaya." Prior to that they gave away CDs of this song by asking people to sing lines from certain Pinikpikan songs. When Sammy Asuncion asked for somebody to sing a line from "Kahimanawari" (my favorite Pinikpikan song), Carol shoved the mic in my direction, and then I said, I don't know, the lyrics are not in Tagalog. And then I later realized that, shit, the song only has one word in it, the title repeated over and over again. Aaaargh! Sayang!

Looking forward to more fiery nights with Kalayo!

(Click any image to see more photos)
(Click any image to see more photos)

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Manila's new gem

The Manila Grand Opera Hotel sits on the site of the former Manila Grand Opera House. The Opera House, now almost a forgotten landmark of the past, opened in 1900 featuring the Russian Circus Troupe. It had since hosted performances by world class artists such as prima ballerina Anna Pavlova, violinist Jascha Heifetz, and guitarist Andres Segovia. For most Filipinos though, the venue was known for staging zarzuelas and vaudeville starring such icons of Philippine showbiz like Atang de la Rama, Katy de la Cruz, Jovita Fuentes, Sylvia La Torre, Dolphy, Cachupoy, Bayani Casimiro, Diomedes Maturan, Pilita Corrales, and German Moreno. The opera house also staged plays written by such luminaries as Wilfrido Ma. Guerrero and Lamberto Avellana.

The Manila Grand Opera House also played a part in history, where William Howard Taft got an early endorsement for the US presidential election. In 1906, it was also where the First Philippine Assembly was inaugurated.

During World War II, like much of Old Manila, the original Opera House burned down. It was reconstructed, again becoming a favorite venue for vaudeville, and later on becoming a movie theatre. And then not long after that it was demolished, with it the memories of this important landmark.

Ok, so I nicked all the historical stuff from an old magazine (read the full background info HERE.) To cut the story short, the Manila Grand Opera House is now the Manila Grand Opera Hotel, which opened on August 30. The hotel has about 250 rooms, and they are a steal! My brother said they got rooms for P1,500.00 (less than $40) a night. (Well, my brother's wedding entourage was the first one ever hosted by the hotel, so I don't know if there were discounts involved). The lobby is very tastefully done, short of fabulous, with touches of pre-war Philippine art deco and Chinese patterns, appropriately reflecting the site's history and its proximity to Chinatown. The hotel coffee shop features huge photos of performers and visitors past, including those of Gloria Romero, Dely Atay-Atayan, Elizabeth Ramsey, Shirley Maclaine!, Pugo and Togo, and of course, Kuya Germs! Upstairs there's a branch of probably the country's most well-renowned Chinese restaurant, President.

The only downside is the location (pssst, it's connected to the Doroteo Jose station of the LRT). If you're coming by train, easy. If you're coming by car, tough! If you miss a turn, you'll be driving in circles just to reach it. And the Sta. Cruz area has long ceased to be Manila's place to be seen.

Hmmm...Maybe the Manila Grand Opera Hotel can help change that.

(Click any image to see more photos)

(Click any image to see more photos)

Monday, October 20, 2008

Kasalan, kainan, tugtugan

My brother's wedding.

Date: October 18, 2008
Ceremony venue: Our Lady of Mount Carmel Shrine Parish, San Juan
Reception venue: Oasis Garden (kanto lang, walking distance)
The wedding singers: Ang Bandang Shirley!

Being the Best Man, I gave the toast (heavily edited na), which went:

"I've actually prepared a speech in which I'm supposed to lie and say that I did not prepare any speech. I don't really know how this is supposed to work. My only reference is Steve Buscemi's drunken speech in Adam Sandler's The Wedding Singer, and that didn't go too well.

"From what I hear, marriage is a beautiful thing, a blissful union of two wayward souls. I also hear that it can make couples feel hurt, jealous, anxious, psychologically deranged, and worst, extremely overweight. But enough about me. This night belongs to my uncharacteristically overdressed brother, and my newly-minted sister-in-law.

"Guys please stand up. Marriage is a serious matter. But I believe that if something doesn't even make you a bit nervous, then it is not worth doing. So let me propose a toast, for Pocholo and Lyra, for the love they share, and for a cool and funky married life."


(Click any image to see more photos)
(Click any image to see more photos)

Friday, October 17, 2008

Dekada Cinemanila

The 10th Cinemanila International Film Festival officially kicked off last night at the Gateway Cineplex, with Johnnie To's witty, if a bit twee, pickpocket movie "Sparrow" as opening film. A Brazilian short film, "Muro," from this year's Cannes Directors' Fortnight, was also screened with musical accompaniment from Pinikpikan. Familiar faces who graced the cocktails and the short program that preceded the screenings included National Artist for literature Bienvenido Lumbera, screenwriter Pete Lacaba, billboard guy of the moment Bayani Fernando, directors Raymond Red and Lav Diaz (fresh from his win at the Venice Film Festival), actors Jake Macapagal, John Arcilla, and Ana Capri, Ely Buendia, Marcus Adoro, Binibining Pilipinas beauties, members of the media and the diplomatic corps, and people like myself who wolfed down on the free grub from Cibo (medyo bitin). Lav Diaz was asked to do the invocation (!) during the program, and promptly prayed to God for the "abolition of the board of censors"!

However, in spite of an online petition and the prayers of Pinoy film buffs, Martin Scorsese will not be coming after all. Last year of course saw the attendance of Quentin Tarantino, and the first time ever that he had granted permission for a retrospective of all his films, including Death Proof. (Read more about my Tarantino experience HERE.)

This year's edition of the Festival seems very promising though, with over a hundred films to be screened from 35 countries. The line-up includes festival favorites such as The Band's Visit, Julian Schnabel's The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, Ten Canoes, the films of Brillante Mendoza, and Filipino classics such as Lino Brocka's Bayan Ko: Kapit Sa Patalim, Himala, Batch '81, and Kisapmata.

As of this writing, the schedule for the next few days is already posted in the Cinemanila website, but as usual it was very last minute. No info yet on whether they will issue festival passes for those who intend to watch many films. Last year, I forked out a significant amount for a festival pass because it was the only way to be able to get into the Tarantino session (unless you knew festival organizer Tikoy Aguiluz personally, and apparently, many do). After being waitlisted and finally securing a pass, I then queued early as soon as Gateway opened to be able to reserve a front row seat, which I got. I did all this only to be told inside the cinema by a bunch of freeloaders, who have comfortably parked themselves at the numbered seats we paid for, to just go sit at the back. (I'm referring to you, Cecile Guidote-Alvarez!) The seats beside her were actually empty, but there were things on top of them to sort of "reserve" them for their friends outside. Even Tarantino noticed us standing at the side and then sent his girlfiend, Fil-Am actress Tiffany Limos to ask why we're not taking our seats. Buti na lang nagmatigas kami. We refused to sit anywhere else because those seats at the back were also reserved, and we had to work hard to get our desired seats, not to mention that we were true Tarantino fans. Two minutes before the session with QT, Alvarez finally relented and gave us the seats that were ours in the first place!

No more glitches and hitches please Mr. Aguiluz, or we will throw Gateway's flavored popcorn at the audience during screenings, or recreate scenes from Taxi Driver in the aisles.

(Thanks to Ellaine Bandelaria of the Araneta Group for the invite).

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

50 going steady

Pioneering Filipino food company RFM Corporation celebrated its 50th anniversary last Monday with a bash at the NBC Tent in Fort Bonifacio. Namfrel staff members were invited, RFM stalwart Joe Concepcion being Namfrel's founding chairman (and the company's main office having served as Namfrel's headquarters for the longest time).

RFM of course was/is responsible for such brands as Selecta, Pop Cola, Sarsi, White King, Swift's, and has also brought Sunkist to the country. For nostalgia junkies like myself, RFM was also responsible for this memorable TV advertisement from the early 90s, a true classic:

During the event, the company gave recognition to some of its outstanding employees, including our friend and fellow film enthusiast Nora Baua, who has been serving as Mr. Concepcion's executive assistant for...a number of years. The occasion also marked the inaugural "Yes, The Filipino Can!" Awards, given to individuals "who helped uphold or have exhibited the Yes, The Filipino Can! values and principles." This year's honorees include former senators Juan Flavier and Santanina Rasul, and BBC World anchor (and Namfrel Singapore volunteer) Rico Hizon. Naturally, distinguished people from business, media, politics, and civil society turned up for the event.

I was prepared to just watch and eat during this celebration but I didn't expect that Gary Valenciano would be going to give us a mini concert! I've never seen Gary V. perform live in his 25 years in showbiz, and there he was a few inches from my face! His medley of 80s hits including "Growing Up," "Eto Na Naman," and "'Di Bale Na Lang" really drove us nuts. Other musical guests were Bituin Escalante, the Las PiƱas Boys Choir, and The New Minstrels.

Okay, so they flung Mr. Pure Energy and his two sons across the stage, but what really made my night was the performance of one of my ultimate favorite Pinoy bands, HOTDOG! It was a total shock, as if they just announced that The Beatles were in the house. And Hotdog, the purveyors of the "Manila sound," did not disappoint, playing their classic hits "Annie Batungbakal," "Ikaw Ang Miss Universe ng Buhay Ko," "Manila," and "Bongga Ka 'Day!" It could have ended there, but the crowd was treated to a couple more hours of disco ("Souvenirs," anyone?), but of course, it just made most of us happier.

(Click any image to see more photos)
(Click any image to see more photos)

Snapshots from the Namfrel national assembly

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(Click any image to see more photos)

Monday, October 13, 2008

Street cool

Graffiti somewhere along Ortigas Greenhills. This is so below-zero cool that I knew I just had to drag my butt to the site at six in the morning on a Sunday to take photos in this usually busy street. I do not know who were responsible for this but...more please! (Could it be these guys?) Certainly beats MMDA Art, "Gloria Resign" and "Presyo ng Langis...IROLVAC!" any day.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

That one

And if I were an American, I would certainly give my vote to that one. In the meantime, this one is going to spend the rest of his life contemplating why he even bothered to run against that one.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Biden and Palin slugfest

The winner: the "maverick" and "folksy" Saturday Night Live!