Monday, March 23, 2009

In the spirit of the season...

Take out the sandals, polish the headresses, wave the coconut leaves, and get set for the Lenten Costume Extravaganza movie marathon!

What you need:

1. Food and drinks - lots of them!
2. Tissue - for your tears (from laughter from watching some of the movies)
3. Medicine - for the inevitable headache
4. A good excuse - to not go to work after

(Joseph L. Mankiewicz, 1963)
The costumes! The gargantuan sets! The stupendous grand entrance to Rome! Elizabeth Taylor inside a carpet! I challenge you to sit through this movie with a straight face!

(Cecil B. DeMille, 1956)
"Get your stinking paws off me you damn, dirty..." oops, wrong movie. Moses parts the Red Sea. 'Nuff said!

(Stanley Kubrick, 1960)

(William Wyler, 1959)
The chariot race alone is worth the price of the admission.

(Norman Jewison, 1973)
In which a bunch of hippies get high on drugs then stage a musical in the desert.

(Terry Jones, 1979)
Classic romp from the Monty Python gang.

(Fred Niblo, et al, 1925)
A much better film than the 1959 version. But then again, it doesn't have Charlton Heston. (Watch the whole movie here:

(Mervyn LeRoy, Anthony Mann, 1951)

(Henry Koster, 1953)
"Victor Mature." That name is right up there with "Afrika Bambaataa" and "Iñigo Montoya."

(Ridley Scott, 2000)
Almost didn't make it for taking themselves too seriously. Whatever, Russel Crowe. You're in a skirt, dodging CGI tigers!

Suggested alternative Lenten/Holy Week/ summer movie marathon programs:

PROGRAM A: Himala / Itim / Kisapmata / Tinimbang Ka Ngunit Kulang / Nunal Sa Tubig / Maynila Sa Mga Kuko ng Liwanag / batch '81 / Moral / Sister Stella L. / Oro, Plata, Mata

PROGRAM B: Grease / My Girl / Stand By Me / Forrest Gump / Lost In Yonkers / The Royal Tenenbaums / Do The Right Thing / Lilo & Stitch / 50 First dates / Meatballs

Saturday, March 21, 2009



We stayed in Lumbini to do observation work in the district of Kapilvastu. We wanted to stay in Taulihawa, the center of the district, but there's just no suitable accommodation available. A local observer suggested that we rent a house instead, but we thought it's too much of a hassle since we'll be staying in the district for several days only. So we decided to just stay in the Hokke hotel, which is about 17 kms (45 minutes) away from Taulihawa.

Compared to Bhairahawa, Taulihawa looks very rural. There is a small commercial area where basic necessities are sold. There are also several shops selling traditional clothes. I bought myself a complete Madhesi get-up: a long-sleeved shirt that extends down to my knees, white drawstring long pants, and a white cotton scarf (which Fernanda really liked so I also bought her one). Air had a field day buying an armful of colorful dresses from a sidewalk stall, she attracted the attention of a crowd of guys of all ages. I noticed that people were selling by the gram powders of different colors. People usually use this for the tika (that red or yellow dot on the foreheads of Indians and Nepalis), but now they're buying it in bundles in preparation for a certain festival.

We also noticed this donkey in the town center. No, he doesn't do anything, he just stands there. Sometimes we see him in the shade, but still just standing there, with eyes closed. Very funny.

One of the funniest sights was a "school bus" being pulled by a rickshaw (or to be exact, a "school rickshaw"), which looked like a small cage, but with children inside instead of chickens!

Kapilvastu is also said to be a significant place for Buddhism because this was the Buddha's hometown, where he grew up before he got his calling. There are supposed to be archaeological sites near Taulihawa but we have not been able to look for them due to lack of time.

(Click on any image to see more photos.)

At peace in Hokke


The Lumbini Hokke Hotel is located right smack inside the Lumbini Development Zone, a huge, generously funded Buddhist complex (in Rupandehi, Nepal), which is (or will be) probably to Buddhism what the Holy See is to Catholicism. The hotel is in the northern part of the Zone, a stone's throw away from the World Peace Pagoda (more on the Development Zone in a later entry). A room in Hokke is not cheap, but since budget permits it, we took two rooms, one for Air, and one for us guys. We got a discounted price, the NGO price. Hokke has a strange pricing system: a room is priced less if more people will share it (Air's room, though smaller, is actually a bit more expensive); you pay less if you're a Buddhist pilgrim, but you pay more if you're from the US or Europe (which means you'll probably get the best deal if you're an Asian pilgrim with a group). Come to think of it, maybe all hotel rooms should be priced this way.

There are only 16 rooms in Hokke, which come in two styles: the Western style, and the Japanese style. Of course we took Japanese-style rooms. It was love at first sight. The rooms are immaculately designed, and very comfortable. In other words, you know where your money goes. My first reaction upon seeing our room was, where's my camera? Tatami floors, sliding paper panels, minimalistic furnishings. They even provide Japanese robes for all guests, and complimentary green tea. A Japanese bath is also available for free use by tour groups.

The grounds are well-kept, and the ambiance nothing short of tranquil, perfectly suited to Lumbini. There are ponds at one side, a prayer and meditation area at the back. Just outside the grounds is a crane sanctuary. Two beautiful peacocks roam freely in the grounds, especially in the morning when they make the strangest sound, like a cross between a truck horn and a really loud fart!

The hotel is also supposedly known for its Japanese dishes, but I've not tried them because they're probably very expensive. The fabulous complimentary continental breakfast is enough proof that they serve immaculate food. They even bake their own bread.

(The Hokke is my favorite hotel in Nepal, and the staff are some of my favorite people in the country.)

(Click on any image to see more photos.)


Another Facebook tag.


2. NAKAPASA KA BA OR WAITLISTED? sa kasamaang-palad, waitlisted (see no.4 and 5)

3. PAANO MO NALAMAN ANG ENTRANCE EXAM RESULT? sinabi sa akin ng pinsan ko who was already in UP. sa halip na matuwa, kinabahan ako dahil sa mga kuwento nya about UP ROTC!

4. ANO ANG FIRST CHOICE MO NA COURSE? Business Administration

5. SECOND CHOICE? Business Administration and Accountancy (I did not know what I was doing)

6. ANO COURSE NATAPOS MO? Tourism (or according to many, Turiiiiisiiiim.) But before that, English major ako. Frankly, medyo nagsisisi ako at sa Tourism ako nag-shift. I was 17, and at that time, I really did not know what to do with my life. I only realized what I really want to do nung nagtatrabaho na ako. I think I should have taken Political Science or Anthropology. If only I could go back in time...

7. NAG-SHIFT KA BA? see no.6. At that time, I was seriously considering taking up Film, pero nung time na yun, wala pang digital. We just couldn't afford that.

8. CHINITO/CHINITA KA BA? yes, if I squeeze my face enough

9. NAKAPAG-DORM KA BA? hindi! I wish I did. Sana na-experience ko hindi maligo dahil walang tubig sa Kalayaan!

10. NAKA UNO KA BA? yes, sa Thesis.

11. NAGKA-3? twice, sa Math 17 at Accounting! I got a 4, but I was able to turn it into a 2 by taking the subject again. But I never got a 5.

12. LAGI KA BANG PUMAPASOK SA KLASE? yes. Although sa likod ng notebook ko meron akong chart kung naka-ilang absent na ako per class. Di dapat lumampas ng tatlong beses. Umaabsent ako pag may magandang sine sa SM!



15. NANGARAP KA BANG MAGING CUM LAUDE? amazingly, hindi. I wish I did. At that time, wala sa akin yung magka-honor. One of the reasons why I want to go back to UP is to sort of correct that. I think I'm capable of doing a lot better.


17. FAVE PROF? Winnie Monsod sa Econ, Prof. Rodriguez sa AIT, and that really cool lady who made us listen to the Beatles sa Humanities

18. WORST TEACHER: I had this professor sa Kasaysayan. This old-ish guy who smoked a lot in class. Plus, our class was at 7am, and he had this really low voice. We just wanted to sleep!

19. FAVE SUBJECT: Humanities II, Economics

20. WORST SUBJECT: all the Math subjects, Chemistry, etc.

21. FAVE BUILDING: the Main Library

22. PABORITONG KAINAN: Beach House, and also that burger place sa Vinzons. Anybody still remember Green House? All the ulam there tasted the same dahil lahat "sinasabawan" ng gravy nila na nag-iisang klase. Second sem na nang nakapasok ako sa Casaa. Never ako nakakain sa Co-op.


24. LAGI KA BA SA LIBRARY? lagi. When I had free time, nandun ako, either Main Lib or AIT lib. Since elementary, close ako sa mga librarians, even when my classmates hated them for being too strict

25. NAGPUNTA KA BA SA CLINIC NUN? nung medical exam lang prior to entering UP. Ang sabi ng iba, hindi pa sila pumapasok ng UP, na-harass na sila, kasi pinaghubad at pinatuwad sila during the medical exam!

26. MAY CRUSH KA BA SA CAMPUS? yes, blockmate ko. ganda nya. she's now married.

27. ANU-ANO ANG MGA NAGING PE MO? Social dance, PE 1, bowling. I waited till my senior year para kunin ang marksmanship. In demand yun, at pag-senior ka, priority ka. Pucha, hindi in-offer nung graduating na ako, bumagsak ako sa Philippine games!

28. KAMUSTA NAMAN ANG BLOCK NYO? we got along well. English majors kami; many of them went on to become lawyers

29. MEMORIZE MO BA ANG ALMA MATER SONG? ngayon yung umpisa na lang



32. DITO KA BA NATUTONG UMINOM NG BEER? no. never hung out with anybody in UP while I was studying there. Pathetic no? Wala akong org (well, I had for a short time, before the org ceased to exist). I nearly joined Kontra-Gapi, but my blockmates did not show up para samahan ako. So I just went home that afternoon. Kainis!

33. NAHULI KA BANG NAKIKIPAGLAMPUNGAN SA SUNKEN GARDEN? no. Pero memorable syempre ang Sunken Garden, not just because of ROTC, but because dun lagi ako sa grandstand pumupunta noon para manigarilyo. I didn't want anybody to see me smoking. I felt really guilty.


35. ANONG BATTALION MO NUNG ROTC? Charlie, then Alpha, Infantry. Hated ROTC, but a day after our last day of training, na-miss ko sya. I still see some fellow former cadets every now and then, usually sa malls. (I see one on TV, another one plays in a band.) I don't know their names (except the popular ones), pero di ko malilimutan ang mga mukha nila. We shared a past, parang Vietnam veterans!

36. ANO PABORITO MONG MERYENDA SA UP? yung pritong lumpia na nilalako ng mga ale sa bilao



39. ANO ANG PINAKAGRABENG PILANG NAPUNTAHAN MO? there was a time na if you want to sign-up for a class, you had to be there either really early morning or the night before

40. KUNG MAY QUOTE KA PARA SA UP, ANO ITO? wala akong maisip

Saturday, March 14, 2009

The Best Movies: 2000-2009 (updated list)

The ‘10s and ‘20s are fondly remembered for Chaplin; German Expressionist films; other masterpieces of the silent era (from Murnau, Eisenstein, Griffith, Lang, Dreyer, Flaherty, etc.); the first Hollywood superstars such as Rudolph Valentino, Buster Keaton, Douglas Fairbanks Sr., Lon Chaney, and Lilian Gish; and the arrival of sound. The ‘30s for glittering Depression-era musicals, family films, screwball comedies, and Disney. The ‘40s for film noir, Westerns, WWII propaganda and morality tales. The ‘50s for Hitchcock, Kurosawa, Italian neorealism, the rise of other world cinema, and Cold War-paranoia sci-fi flicks. The ‘60s for Technicolor epics, youth-oriented pop films, and French New Wave. The ‘70s for its maverick directors (Altman, Allen, Scorsese, Polanski, Coppola, Spielberg, Lucas, Bertolucci, De Palma, Lumet, Pakula, etc.) The ‘80s for modern summer blockbusters and teen flicks. The ‘90s for indie filmmaking, East Asian cinema (Zhang Yimou, Wong Kar-Wai, Ang Lee, etc.), and the rise of CGI. What will this film decade be remembered for?

This is an update of an entry I originally posted three years ago. Below is a running list of movies in alphabetical order that I will eventually rank and post again around this time next year. Of course there are still a lot of great movies from this decade that I simply have not seen (example: the works of Lav Diaz), that's why they're not here. If there are some other movies you think are missing, hmmm, maybe I just didn't like them that much (A Beautiful who? Mystic what?). Eventually, I will also be providing a list of what I think were the best performances, memorable characters, scenes/sequences, and technical achievements.

I would like to think that this is a good starting point to appreciate the cinema of this decade. Pretentious! Watch, or re-watch, these movies and tell me what you think.

24-Hour Party People (Michael Winterbottom, 2002) Web:

28 Days Later (Danny Boyle, 2002) Web:

4 Months, 3 Weeks, and 2 Days (Cristian Mungiu, 2007) Web:

800 Balas
(Alex de la Iglesia, 2002) Web:

9/11 (James Hanlon, Rob Klug, Gedeon Naudet, Jules Naudet, 2002) Web:

A History of Violence (David Cronenberg, 2005) Web:

A.I. Artificial Intelligence (Steven Spielberg, 2001) Web:

Adaptation (Spike Jonze, 2002) Web:

Amelie (Jean-Pierre Jeunet, 2001) Web:

American Psycho (Mary Harron, 2000) Web:

American Splendor (Shari Springer Berman, Robert Pulcini, 2003) Web:

An Inconvenient Truth (Davis Guggenheim, 2006) Web:

Ang Pagdadalaga ni Maximo Oliveros (Aureus Solito, 2005) Web:;

Apocalypto (Mel Gibson, 2006) Web:

(Nia Di Nata, 2003) Web:

Atanarjuat (The Fast Runner) (Zacharias Kunuk, 2001) Web:

Avatar (James Cameron, 2009) Web:

Baadasssss! (Mario Van Peebles, 2003) Web:

Bad Education (Pedro Almodovar, 2004) Web:

Batman Begins (Christopher Nolan, 2005) Web:

Battle For Haditha (Nick Broomfield, 2007) Web:

Battle Royale
(Kinji Fukasaku, 2000) Web:

Before Sunset
(Richard Linklater, 2004) Web:

Belleville Rendezvous (The Triplets of Belleville) (Sylvain Chomet, 2003) Web:

Best In Show (Christopher Guest, 2000) Web:

Black Book (Paul Verhoeven, 2006) Web:

Bloody Sunday
(Paul Greengrass, 2002) Web:

Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan
(Larry Charles, 2006) Web:

Born Into Brothels (Zana Briski and Ross Kauffman, 2004) Web:

Bowling For Columbine
(Michael Moore, 2002) Web:

Brokeback Mountain
(Ang Lee, 2005) Web:

Bus 174
(Jose Padilha, Felipe Lacerda, 2002) Web:

Caché (Hidden)
(Michael Haneke, 2005) Web:

Camp (Todd Graff, 2003) Web:

Capturing The Friedmans (Andrew Jarecki, 2003) Web:

(John Lasseter, 2006) Web:

Casino Royale (Martin Campbell, 2006) Web:

Cast Away
(Robert Zemeckis, 2000) Web:

Catch Me If You Can (Steven Spielberg, 2002) Web:

Chicago (Rob Marshall, 2002) Web:

Chicken Run (Peter Lord, Nick Park, 2000) Web:

Children of Men (Alfonso Cuaron, 2006) Web:

Chunhyang (Im Kwon-taek, 2000) Web:

Cinderella Man (Ron Howard, 2005) Web:

City of God (Fernando Meirelles, Katia Lund, 2002) Web:

Curse of the Golden Flower (Zhang Yimou, 2006) Web:

Dark Days (Marc Singer, 2000) Web:

Dave Chapelle's Block Party (Michel Gondry, 2005) Web:

Deliver Us From Evil (Amy Berg, 2006) Web:

(Sanjay Leela Bhansali, 2002) Web:

District 9 (Neill Blomkamp, 2009) Web:

Dogtown and Z-Boys (Stacy Peralta, 2001) Web:

(Lars Von Trier, 2003) Web:

Donnie Darko (Richard Kelly, 2001) Web:

Downfall (Oliver Hirschbiegel, 2004) Web:

(Jon Favreau, 2003) Web:

Erin Brockovich
(Steven Soderbergh, 2000) Web:

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (Michel Gondry, 2004) Web:

Fahrenheit 9/11 (Michael Moore, 2004) Web:

Fantasia 2000 (Eric Goldberg, et al, 2000) Web:

Fantastic Mr. Fox (Wes Anderson, 2009) Web:

Far From Heaven (Todd Haynes, 2002) Web:

Finding Nemo (Andrew Stanton, Lee Unkrich, 2003) Web:

Frost/Nixon (Ron Howard, 2008) Web:

Gangs of New York
(Martin Scorsese, 2002) Web:

Ghost World (Terry Zwigoff, 2001) Web:

Gladiator (Ridley Scott, 2000) Web:

Gran Torino
(Clint Eastwood, 2008) Web:

: Planet Terror and Death Proof (Robert Rodriguez & Quentin Tarantino, 2007) Web:

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (Alfonso Cuaron, 2004) Web:

Hedwig and the Angry Inch (John Cameron Mitchell, 2001) Web:

Hellboy II: The Golden Army (Guillermo Del Toro, 2008) Web:

(Zhang Yimou, 2002) Web:

High Fidelity (Stephen Frears, 2000) Web:

Hot Fuzz (Edgar Wright, 2007) Web:

Hotel Rwanda
(Terry George, 2004) Web:

House of Sand and Fog (Vadim Perelman, 2003) Web:

Howl’s Moving Castle
(Hayao Miyazaki, 2004) Web:

I Am Legend (Francis Lawrence, 2007) Web:

In America
(Jim Sheridan, 2002) Web:

In the Mood for Love (Wong Kar-Wai, 2000) Web:

In This World (Michael Winterbottom, 2002) Web:

Infernal Affairs
(Wai Keung Laum Siu Fai Mak, 2002) Web:

Inglourious Basterds (Quentin Tarantino, 2009) Web:

Inland Empire (David Lynch, 2006) Web:

(Sam Mendes, 2005) Web:

Jay (Francis Xavier Pasion, 2008) Web:

(Mohsen Makhmalbaf, 2001) Web:

Kekexili (Mountain Patrol) (Chuan Lu, 2004) Web:

Kill Bill Vols. 1 & 2 (Quentin Tarantino, 2003-2004) Web:;

King Kong (Peter Jackson, 2005) Web:

Knocked Up (Judd Apatow, 2007) Web:

(Jeffrey Jeturian, 2006) Web:

Kung-Fu Hustle
(Stephen Chow, 2004) Web:

(Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne) Web:

(Ashutosh Gowariker, 2001) Web:

Let The Right One In (Tomas Alfredson, 2008) Web:

Letters From Iwo Jima
(Clint Eastwood, 2006) Web:

Lost In La Mancha
(Keith Fulton and Louis Pepe, 2002) Web:

Lost In Translation
(Sofia Coppola, 2003) Web:

Lupang Hinarang (Ditsi Carolino, 2009) Web:

Man On Wire
(James Marsh, 2008) Web:

March of the Penguins (Luc Jacquet, 2005) Web:

Maria Full of Grace (Joshua Marston, 2004) Web:

Marie Antoinette (Sofia Coppola, 2006) Web:

Marooned In Iraq (Bahman Ghobadi, 2002) Web:

Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World
(Peter Weir, 2003) Web:

Match Point
(Woody Allen, 2005) Web:

Mean Creek (Jacob Aaron Estes) Web:

Memento (Christopher Nolan, 2000) Web:

Metallica: Some Kind of Monster (Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky, 2004) Web:

(Gus Van Sant, 2008) Web:

Minority Report
(Steven Spielberg, 2002) Web:

Moolaadé (Ousmane Sembene, 2004) Web:

Moulin Rouge (Baz Luhrmann, 2001) Web:

Mulholland Drive (David Lynch, 2001) Web:

Munich (Steven Spielberg, 2005) Web:

Murderball (Henry Alex Rubin and Dana Adam Shapiro, 2005) Web:

My Winnipeg (Guy Maddin, 2007) Web:

No Country For Old Men (Joel and Ethan Coen, 2007) Web:

No End In Sight
(Charles Ferguson, 2007) Web:

No Man’s Land (Danis Tanovic, 2001) Web:

Ocean's Trilogy (Steven Soderbergh, 2001-2007) Web:

(Park Chan-Wook, 2003) Web:

Oliver Twist
(Roman Polanski, 2005) Web:

One Hour Photo (Mark Romanek, 2002) Web:

Osama (Siddiq Barmak, 2003) Web:

Pan's Labyrinth (Guillermo del Toro, 2006) Web:

Paradise Now (Hany Abu-Assad, 2005) Web:

Pauline & Paulette
(Lieven Debrauwer, 2001) Web:

Pisay (Auraeus Solito, 2007) Web:

Ponyo On The Cliff By The Sea
(Hayao Miyazaki, 2008) Web:

(Brad Bird, 2007) Web:

Requiem For A Dream (Darren Aronofsky, 2000) Web:

(Ditsi Carolino, 2003) Web:

Rize (David LaChapelle, 2005) Web:

Russian Ark
(Alexander Sokurov, 2002) Web:

Saraband (Ingmar Bergman, 2003) Web:

(Doug Pray, 2001) Web:

Secret Ballot
(Babak Payami, 2001) Web:

Sexy Beast
(Jonathan Glazer, 2000) Web:

Shattered Glass (Billy Ray, 2003) Web:

Shrek 2 (Andrew Adamson, Kelly Asbury, Conrad Vernon, 2004) Web:

Sideways (Alexander Payne, 2004) Web:

Sin City (Robert Rodriguez with Quentin Tarantino, 2005) Web:

Slumdog Millionaire (Danny Boyle, 2008) Web:

(Jeffrey Blitz, 2002) Web:

Spider-Man 2
(Sam Raimi, 2004) Web:

Spirited Away (Hayao Miyazaki, 2001) Web:

Standard Operating Procedure (Errol Morris, 2008) Web:

Star Wars Episode VI: The Revenge of the Sith
(George Lucas, 2005) Web:

Startup.Com (Chris Hagedus and Jehane Noujaim, 2001) Web:

A State of Mind
(Daniel Gordon, 2004) Web:

Super Size Me (Morgan Spurlock, 2004) Web:

Sympathy for Lady Vengeance (Park Chan-Wook, 2005) Web:

Syndromes and A Century (Apichatpong Weerasethakul, 2006) Web:

Synecdoche, New York
(Charlie Kaufman, 2008) Web:

Tae Guk Gi (The Brotherhood of War)
(Kang Je-gyu, 2004) Web:

Talk To Her (Pedro Almodovar, 2002) Web:

Tarnation (Jonathan Caouette, 2003) Web:

Taxi To The Dark Side
(Alex Gibney, 2007) Web:

Team America: World Police
(Trey Parker, 2004) Web:

The Best of Youth (Marco Tullio Giordana, 2003) Web:

The Bourne Trilogy (Doug Liman, Paul Greengrass, 2002-2007) Web:

The Constant Gardener
(Fernando Meirelles, 2005) Web:

The Count of Monte Cristo (Kevin Reynolds, 2002) Web:

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (David Fincher, 2008) Web:

The Dark Knight (Christopher Nolan, 2008) Web:

The Departed
(Martin Scorsese, 2006) Web:

The Diving Bell and the Butterfly (Julian Schnabel, 2007) Web:

The Fog of War
(Errol Morris, 2003) Web:

The Gleaners and I
(Agnes Varda, 2000) Web:

The Incredible Hulk
(Louis Leterrier, 2008) Web:

The Incredibles
(Brad Bird, 2005) Web: ;

The Lives of Others (Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck, 2006) Web:

The Lord of the Rings
(Peter Jackson, 2001-2003) Web:

The Man Without A Past (Aki Kaurismaki, 2002) Web:

The New World
(Terrence Malick, 2005) Web:

The Passion of the Christ (Mel Gibson, 2004) Web:

The Pianist (Roman Polanski, 2002) Web:

The Queen (Stephen Frears, 2006) Web:

The Revolution Will Not Be Televised (Kim Bartley and Donnacha O'Briain, 2003) Web:

The Road to Guantanamo (Michael Winterbottom, 2006) Web:

The Royal Tenenbaums (Wes Anderson, 2001) Web:

The School of Rock (Richard Linklater, 2003) Web:

The Syrian Bride (Eran Riklis, 2004) Web:

The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada
(Tommy Lee Jones, 2005) Web:

The War Tapes (Deborah Scranton, 2006) Web:

The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill (Judy Irving, 2003) Web:

The Wrestler (Darren Aronofsky, 2008) Web:

There Will Be Blood
(Paul Thomas Anderson, 2007) Web:

Tony Takitani
(Jun Ichikawa, 2004) Web:

Touching The Void
(Kevin Macdonald, 2003) Web:

(Steven Soderbergh, 2000) Web:

Tropa de Elite (Jose Padilha, 2007) Web:

(Jim Libiran, 2007) Web:

(Gavin Hood, 2005) Web:

Tuhog (Jeffrey Jeturian, 2001) Web:

Tulad ng Dati
(Mike Sandejas, 2006) Web:

Tulpan (Sergei Dvortsevoy, 2008) Web:

U-Carmen eKhayelitsha (Mark Dornford-May, 2005) Web:

Unbreakable (M. Night Shyamalan, 2000) Web:

Under The Sand (Francois Ozon, 2000) Web:

United 93 (Paul Greengrass, 2006) Web:

V For Vendetta (James McTeigue, 2006) Web:

Volver (Pedro Almodovar, 2006) Web:

Waking Life (Richard Linklater, 2001) Web:

Wall-E (Andrew Stanton, 2008) Web:

When The Levees Broke (Spike Lee, 2006) Web:

Wonder Boys
(Curtis Hanson, 2000) Web:

Y Tu Mama Tambien (Alfonso Cuaron, 2001) Web: ;

Yi Yi (A One and A Two...) (Edward Yang, 2000) Web:

(Takeshi Kitano, 2003) Web:

Zodiac (David Fincher, 2007) Web:

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

The hour that changed my life

The title above came from a regular feature that Manila's Pulp magazine used to have, in which musicians listed down the songs most special to them. Yes, albums are just half the story of our lives in music. Many great songs just weren't contained in great albums (best example: most Motown artists and most Filipino artists). And more than artistic creations, songs are time capsules that will always take us back to those moments that changed our lives, or at least made us appreciate our lives more.

Okay, that paragraph was waaay cornier that I expected it would be. Here are 20 of those songs in order of preference. They're here either because they're just simply great, or they make me emotional, or they remind me of specific really happy times, or all of the above. I'm surprised that most of them are Filipino songs; maybe they just mean more to me than the best of Dylan and Lennon-McCartney.

1. The Hustle - Van McCoy & The Soul City Symphony
2. Sa Ugoy ng Duyan - Lea Salonga
3. Manila - Hotdog
4. Heaven Give Me Words - Propaganda
5. Perfect - True Faith
6. Cry For Help - Rick Astley
7. Magsimula Ka - Leo Valdez
8. S'werte S'werte Lang - Joel Navarro
9. Gold (12-inch mix) - Spandau Ballet
10. Borderline - Madonna
11. Comfort In Your Strangeness - Cynthia Alexander (I die a little every time)
12. Pure Imagination - Gene Wilder (from "Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory")
13. Bongga Ka 'Day - Hotdog
14. Nais Ko - Basil Valdez
15. God Only Knows - The Beach Boys
16. Dancing In The Dark - Bruce Springsteen
17. Torpedo - Eraserheads
18. With A Smile - Eraserheads
19. Blue Jeans - Apo Hiking Society
20. Kahimanawari - Pinikpikan

The next hour

As - Stevie Wonder
Batang-Bata - Apo Hiking Society
Concrete Jungle - The Wailers
Daughter - Pearl Jam
Friend of Mine - Odette Quesada
Happiness - from "You're A Good Man, Charlie Brown!"
Here Comes The Sun - The Beatles
High School - Sharon Cuneta
I Heard It Through The Grapevine - Marvin Gaye
Kashmir - Led Zeppelin
Kay Ganda ng Ating Musika - Hajji Alejandro
Kuwentong Looban - Binky Lampano
Mad Mathematical World - The Jerks
Manggagawa - Rody Vera
Mercy Mercy Me (The Ecology) - Marvin Gaye
Nessun Dorma (1990) - Luciano Pavarotti
Ngayon at Kailanman - Basil Valdez
A Samba Song - Bong Peñera
Think - Aretha Franklin
'Wag Mo Na Sanang Isipin - Gary Valenciano

I'm pretty sure that's more than an hour (Kashmir, hello?)

Monday, March 9, 2009

Top 15 albums

Yet another Facebook meme that I couldn't resist!

"Think of 15 albums that had such a profound effect on you they changed your life or the way you looked at it. They sucked you in and took you over for days, weeks, months, years. These are the albums that you can use to identify time, places, people, emotions. These are the albums that no matter what they were thought of musically, shaped your world."

Now list down your own top 15 and tag people.

1. Circus - Eraserheads

2. Cutterpillow - Eraserheads

3. ultraelectromagneticpop! - Eraserheads

4. Mga Awit ng Tanod-Lupa - Joey Ayala at Ang Bagong Lumad

5. Cha-Cha In Motion - Anastacio Mamaril and His Orchestra

6. Non-Stop Dancing 1976 - James Last

7. A Touch of Tabasco - Rosemary Clooney & Perez Prado

8. Getz/Gilberto - Stan Getz, Joao Gilberto, Antonio Carlos Jobim, Astrud Gilberto

9. The Velvet Underground & Nico - The Velvet Underground & Nico

10. Jesus Christ Superstar

11. The Imaculate Collection - Madonna

12. Graceland - Paul Simon

13. Trans-Europe Express - Kraftwerk

14. What's Going On - Marvin Gaye

15. Pet Sounds - The Beach Boys

Rent (Original Broadway Cast); Purple Rain (Prince & The Revolution); Put3Ska (Put3Ska); Stars (Simply Red); 10 of Another Kind! (Various Artists); Tough Hits (Tito, Vic & Joey); Smokey Mountain (Smokey Mountain); Kind of Blue (Miles Davis)

Saturday, March 7, 2009

A passage to India


Nepal's most popular border crossing to India is in Bhairahawa, in the village of Sunauli about 10 minutes from the city center. We decided to go there on a lark late in the afternoon to check the area out, after a trip to Butwal, Rupandehi's biggest commercial area (more on Butwal later). Nepal shares a porous border with India, meaning citizens of both countries can come and go as they please without documents. This is the reason why the Terai is very India, because there are many Indians who have chosen to live here, plus the fact that the Terai used to be part of India, before Nepal became the nation that it is now. In fact, one can be forgiven to think that Nepal is still part of the subcontinent. Turn on the TV and you'll see Bollywood and Indian channels. Look at the people, their physical features, the way they dress. Most Nepalis can understand and speak Hindi. Indian currency is accepted in Nepal, and Nepalese currency accepted in certain parts of India. Hinduism. The caste system. The food, the cows and goats. And the current Indian Idol, Prashant Tamang, is Nepali.

The Terai has many problems unique to it because of its proximity to India. Several Indian terrorist groups sow fear in the Terai, and they reportedly operate from across the border. At least three of these groups have threatened to kill (or might have already done so) candidates and party members, and even observers for reasons I still don't know.

(Then there is the problem of the Madhes. The Madhesis claim to be the original inhabitants of the Terai, with strong ties to Indians. From what I've understood, they want the Terai to be a separate state, complaining that they have suffered discrimination from the hill peoples of Nepal who have descended on the Terai for greener pastures. The Terai is a strip of fertile flat land from east to west, where approximately 50% of Nepal's population currently reside. They started settling in the Terai some time in the 1950s if I'm not mistaken, when the area became a safe place to live in after the government did some serious fumigation to drive away malarial mosquitoes. Up to that point, most of the settlers in the area are the Tharus, a group of Southeast Asian-looking people who are said to have a natural immunity to malaria. They can still be found in some of the most rural of villages in the Terai, living in their traditional mud huts. We've met some of them, and it's actually quite cool inside them huts.)

Less than a kilometer from the border crossing, Mukti advised us to close the car windows, hide our cameras, and not to say anything. I think the idea was, if we would act natural, nobody would notice that we were actually foreigners. We can probably pass as Nepalis and cross the border without problem, but we did not want to take any chances and jeopardize our stature as international observers.

There's a big possibility that we won't be allowed to cross, but really, all I could think about was stepping on Indian soil, my dream country, visited on a lark one afternoon.

We parked the car a few meters from the border, just close enough to take a photo (sshh.) of the Welcome To India sign. Wow. Can I just run from here? Mukti got off the car and crossed the border to talk to the border police about the possibility of letting us in since we are international observers. Bless Mukti. He did it! He got permission for us to go in, but on two conditions: we can only go in for a short distance, and strictly no cameras.

Our car started to go in. The place was chaotic. Lots of trucks coming in and going out. Cars, vans, rickshaws packed with people and their belongings. Small shops everywhere selling Indian stuff: textile, food, newspapers, household goods, underwear! The noise. The density of people. I was loving every minute of it. I was really tempted to whip out my camera but Mukti kept reminding us that we were given a special favor, a privilege, so we better not break the rules. Sucks. We drove for a kilometer into India. (Into India!) How I wish we could drive further. A short distance from here, there's a bus that could take people to New Delhi in less than 24 hours. My fantasy was to make a side trip either to Tibet or to New Delhi after the mission, and also to visit Agra where the Taj Mahal is. But Tibet is an impossibility, and I read that it takes forever to get an Indian visa in Nepal. The best way to get a visa to India is to get it from one's own country, for bureucratic reasons. We were already far from the Indian police (whom I like to refer to as the Bollywood police with their big bellies, funny mustaches, and greenish brown uniforms, just like in the movies!), so I asked Mukti again if I can just take one picture; he agreed, and I managed to shoot a bajaj, proof that we did cross the border as there are no bajajs in Nepal.

At this point, all I could think about was to get off the car, plant my feet on Indian soil, and maybe kiss the ground. We went back to the border crossing, put on our observer IDs, and felt the ground on our feet. I'm in India! Let's shop. Air promptly disappeared into one of the textile shops. I hung around for a while in the shop but there was nothing for me there. In fact, it seems that all the shops here do not have traditional Indian stuff for guys. All the textile shops cater to women, with so many varieties of textile for saris, and accessories like bangles, bracelets, bindis, and the like. Finally, I saw a shop selling scarves similar to what the Indian men in their bicycles wear. I bought two. There was also a store selling Indian shoes. I've always wanted to have a pair of those Mughal-style shoes with curls at the toes. Yep, finally I got one, a little too big for me though, but it was the closest one and it's either I buy it or go back to Nepal with only two Indian scarves.

We were looking for Bhimji and the car and realized that he had parked at the Nepal side, so we started walking towards the gate. The prospect of just walking into another country thrilled me. Just before actually crossing, yep, I whipped out my camera with Mukti's approval and took photos of us under the Welcome To Nepal sign. (We also took photos of illegal Maoist campaign propaganda, but more on that later.)

And just like that, it was all over.

(More photos.)

Observing elections


So I'm here in Nepal to observe the parliamentary election. Before I left Manila, I already blogged about why people do it, but you may ask how it is done. Long before election day (1-3 months prior), the accredited international monitoring organizations, like the Asian Network For Free Elections (Anfrel), The Carter Center, and the European Union (EU) send long-term observers (LTOs) out to (if possible) all areas of the country. Let me backtrack a little. Take note of the word "accredited," as the election commission of the host country has to officially invite each organization. Once this is done, each organization then selects which people to invite as observers, based on experience and other qualifications. After that, the host election commission will then officially approve of and issue an ID for each international observer. Only upon approval by the election commission can the observer be certain that he/she can come to the country and do the job. For this election, Anfrel has 20 long-term observers. A week before election, more than 80 Anfrel short-term observers (STOs) will arrive, making the Anfrel delegation the biggest to observe Nepal's election, with more than a hundred observers and staff from about 30 countries.

Right. So during the pre-election period, LTOs, usually teamed in pairs and accompanied/assisted by local partners, will then go around all the areas assigned to them, interviewing people from the government, the political parties, candidates, teachers, the local media, community leaders, youth groups, and ordinary citizens, to get a sense of the pre-election environment. The goal of the LTOs at this stage is to come up with periodic reports about their areas, which will then be submitted to their headquarters in the capital for analysis and synthesis. The headquarters will then come out with periodic press statements leading up to election day. These statements are then picked up by news agencies like the AP and CNN, and reported to you at home in addition to what their reporters have gathered on their own. Since it is also the main goal of election monitoring organizations to assist the election commission of the host country to hold a free and fair election that will adhere to international standards, these press statements and reports will also contain recommendations for the government and political parties, which they will (hopefully) accept and follow.

For many stakeholders, the mere presence of international observers is enough. If people are aware that their activities are being observed by foreigners: a) they gain more confidence in the system and will be encouraged to go out on election day to vote; and b) in the case of potential troublemakers, they will think twice or suffer the indignity of being documented and perceived negatively by international organizations, especially in Asia where locals tend to give more importance to what international observers have to say.

About ten days before E-day, the STOs arrive. Prior to their arrival, the LTOs book their hotels, cars, interpreters, etc., anything to make their stay comfortable, as they don't really have time to do these things. Generally, in my observation, STOs tend to be older, the academic-types, or the too-young type with less experience in this sort of activity (I started out as an STO). STOs also tend to be less adventurous than LTOs, so LTOs see to it that they don't feel inconvenienced during their short stay out in the field, or else they'll be breaking down our necks, or worse, say negative things about their experience at the headquarters, even if unwarranted. (I should know. In a previous mission, one STO complained in the capital that the vehicle I booked was not a four-wheel drive. We were far from civilization. Near the jungles. And she was expecting a four-wheel drive.)

Anyway, the STOs -- also in pairs, or individuals paired with one LTO -- will then be assigned to their own specific areas. We are assigned to observe the Lumbini Zone, comprising six districts, so we expect at least five more STO teams to arrive here in our zone so that each district will have its own Anfrel team. The STOs will then do practically the same thing, hopefully interviewing more people than what the LTOs were able to cover during their stay in the area, and covering/documenting campaign rallies. This is essential because the situation can change a week or mere days before the election, especially right around the end of the campaign period. Each STO team will then come up with a report, so if the headquarters used to receive only 10 field reports, they will now be swamped with about 50, and have to analyze (decipher?) each and synthesize in record time (I'm glad I was never part of the staff), and then come up with a press statement a day or two before E-day, right when the political parties have (supposedly) stopped campaigning.

On election day, each team will go around their assigned area, observing the conduct of the election from when it opens at around 6:30am, to when ballot boxes are transported from the polling booths to the counting center (usually way after sundown). Since observers will only have a few hours to cover 10 to 20 polling booths, it is essential that the observers plan their route very carefully, choosing which booths to visit with the help of maps and in consultation with other foreign observer groups, and (this is very important) actually visiting each booth at least the day before. I had a nightmarish experience in Indonesia in 2004. The day before the election, my interpreter and I decided to change the route due to reports of irregularities in one area, so of course we didn't have time to do proper reconnaissance. On election day, our car got stuck in the mud for hours, near the forests of Papua (Irian Jaya) for crying out loud, notorious for armed separatists, not to mention possible wild animals and gigantic mosquitoes. No, that will never happen on this mission. On that historic day in Indonesia's history, we were able to cover a grand total of five polling booths. (Not for naught. Almost all of the five were incredibly interesting.)

So on election day, observers go around the area, with checklists in hand about whether the correct procedures are being followed, and other questions pertaining to the location of the polling booths, etc. After the polls have closed, the team will then summarize their findings, to be immediately passed on to the headquarters, who will then call the teams one by one (whew!) to confirm their report and get other information verbally, for the organization's election day report which will have to be released that same night.

Usually, STOs will have to fly back to the capital the very next day for de-briefing and assessment. The LTOs are then left to observe the counting. You may ask why the international observers leave just when the potentially more crucial part of the election has just begun. You see, this is where the local election monitoring organizations come in. They usually don't have enough resources to mobilize people prior to election day, but on E-day and thereafter, they are present in the polling booths and counting centers.

After the counting, ideally the LTOs (or at least some of them) will remain in their areas for up to a month or so more, going around their area once again and talking to some more people, to get a sense of how the process and the results are perceived/accepted by the people. This is also the time when the different stakeholders will complain (or sour-grape), depending on the performance of their party or organization in the polls.

Throughout this whole process, it is essential that the observers maintain their impartiality. Impartiality can be a big challenge, especially to local observer groups, since they will have to recruit as many volunteers as possible in a very short time, and infiltration by political parties is not unheard of.

So here we are, the Lumbini Zone LTO team:

a. Me, Paolo Maligaya from the Philippines. This is my third international election observation experience, after Sri Lanka in 2001 (with Anfrel) and Indonesia in 2004 (with the Carter Center);

b. Air (real name: Chompunut Chalieobun) from Thailand. This is her second election observation experience, after serving as interpreter in Thailand in December (with Anfrel);

c. Our interpreter, Mukti Nath Adhikari, who heads his own NGO in Kathmandu called Prosperous Nepal, is alligned with some other youth groups, and is also an accredited observer for NEMA (National Election Monitoring Alliance);

d. Our driver, Bhimraj Tamang, or Bhimji for short. He can't speak English. We'd love to talk to him, but can't; and

e. Our vehicle, a Toyota Qualis. If this thing breaks down, we won't know what to do (hire a rickshaw perhaps?)

(Team photos). (Our car).