Reliving SENIOR YEAR

I didn’t know what to expect from Senior Year. I’m not really a fan of mushy local movies.

The movie projectionist made a gaff by showing the UI of the digital projector. It looked a lot like one of those home DIV/X players. After several minutes of fiddling (with snarky comments about downloading the movie through torrents), they finally got the movie rolling.

SENIOR YEAR opens with a “10-years-later” high school reunion. We get introduced to the class valedictorian who’s sitting in his car really not wanting to go in. And amidst his angst, we get transported back to high school. We get to know his classmates and teachers and we get to know what led them to that high school reunion.

First off, it’s a beautiful movie. The digital HD format is Godsend to indie filmmakers. SENIOR YEAR was crystal clear where we saw it and it just helped to make those out-of-the-ordinary shots shine even more. The shots used in this movie are uncommon in local cinema. The big studios can learn a thing or two (or three) from these guys. I was struggling to find a similar local movie and the best I could come up with were the real-world sequences of RPG:Metanoia. They used establishing shots to set the mood of scenes. A few seconds seemingly wasted on a shot of the roof with clouds going by made a nice transition to a following poignant scene.

The film is cinema verité-ish in the sense that the audience feels that they are students casually mingling with the cast or some uzisero who’s just observing these characters live their lives.

Casting wise, they couldn’t have done better. The kids are so real. The teachers are so real. No big name stars though I recognized some PETA people whom we saw at CareDivas. Though i felt at times that the cast of characters was so large that I couldn’t keep track of everybody.

I like the fact that these guys didn’t idealize high school. They showed the pettiness, the pseudo-politics, the overall weirdness of that phase. (though that location where they shot this movie, That was a pretty school!)

This movie reminds me of a little known singaporean movie – “The Teenage Textbook Movie” shown back in the 1990’s. TTTM Almost has the same feel but was more comedic in tone. Where Senior Year makes it mark by being real, the Singaporean movie sometimes lapses into absurd comedy. Still a nice way to while away a couple of hours, TTTM should be floating around in YouTube somewhere.

Oh yeah, another similarity between The Teenage Textbook Movie and Senior Year is that they both have really nice soundtracks. Nothing wild or anything but nice poignant acoustic songs

SENIOR YEAR is triumph in local indie filmmaking. These guys have shown that indie need not be esoteric and unreachable.

Even if your high school experience was a memory better left forgotten, SENIOR YEAR makes remembering worthwhile.

My Personal Top Places To Eat

I define a favorite place to eat as somewhere I’d go back to again and again. It’s somewhere where I’d drag people to go particiularly if they’ve never been there. It’s that fine balance of price, taste, quality and quantity that earns it it’s place in this list. Will keep on adding if there are any noteworthy additions.

  • Som’s Noodle House (Rockwell Gilid) – Red Curry Tofu and Thai Iced Tea. Better taken out because it’s good for two and three. Any leftover curry can be serendiptized into red curry fried rice. The thai tea is remarkably potent too. You can water it down and will be good for at least three full glasses of tea.
  • Shwarma Snack Center (R. Salas, Manila)Garlic sauce so deadly you need industrial strength mouthwash the following day. Open 24 hours. Probably the only place I will order a Coke to go along with the food.
  • Man-Nang’s (MOA and Megamall) The Filipino sibling of Man-Hann. Tofu sisig rules! The Sinigang na Corned Beef Rocks too!
  • Superbowls of China (all over)I only get one thing here. Any of  the Super Solo meal with Veggie Fried Rice. Hits the spot for around about 130 bucks.
  • Chowking (all over)Halo-halo. ‘Nuff said.
  • Cowboy Grill Express (somewhere in BGC near Dunkin Donuts Café) – Angus Tapsilog for 110 bucks. You just have to make sure you tell the people at the counter you want your egg malasado. That state where you break the yolk on top of the rice to make it some sort of sauce.
  • Chicken Inato (T. Morato) – Much better than any of the other Inasal places. The chicken is a bit tastier and juicier. Unlimited rice, chicken oil and garlic is nice too. 😀
  • Charlie’s Wonton House (Somewhere near Shaw, Mandaluyong City) – Note that there are no “NO MSG” signs here. The Beef Wonton here is awesome! Usually order two at a time because I’m rarely in this area of town.
  • Aling Lucing’s (Riles, Pampanga) –  The place to go for cholesterol loading. I die a little when I eat here but I if do drop dead, I’m sure it’s gonna be  with a big goofy smile on my face.
  • Banana Leaf Café  (Rockwell, Robinson’s Place, SM The Block) Not to be confused with the non-Café version. The café version has solo servings (which are still pretty big) Hainanese Chicken Laksa FTW!

Running For The Land Of The Rising Sun

When GREENTENNIAL RUN announced the RUN FOR JAPAN, I just knew I was going to run in that event.

I was a photographer with the PIJazzFest crew when they did the JAM FOR JAPAN early April at the Ayala Museum. A benefit concert for our Japanese Kindred that raised 13Million Pesos. It was a cause  that was worthy of support.

I liked that RunnersRunner took on registration duties to help out the organizers making use of their system at no cost to the runners (except for delivery). I heard the response was overwhelming when they announced the run.

For 350 bucks, the organization was not bad. They ran out of singlet sizes early on. But then, this was a run for a cause. The singlet was more of a bonus than part of the race pack.

It was a bare bones run. No timing chip. No fancy schmanzy giveaways. But it worked. I thought they could use more hydration stations, but it was still ok.

One thing about Greentennial Run’s runs (duhh) is that they have certain gimmicks that make the races really their own. They had jump zones where runners do jump shots with waiting photographers. (they didn’t catch me though 🙁 ) I liked their Japanese post race backdrops where instead of having the distance and race route, they had the distance and Japanese scenery for runners. And that awesome COSPLAY contest where they had runners dressed like Ragnarok, Naruto and Tsubasa chronicles characters. Hats off to the peeps in the Tsubasa Chronicles outfits. Awesome!

It’s both a plus and a minus. But I liked that they didn’t shoo away the runners in front of the finish line taking group pictures. Was thinking that this was a cheap run and there were probably a lot of first timers getting their photo ops. The atmosphere in front of that finish line was nice. So nice that I didn’t mind weaving through the crowd to get to the finish line. The organizers might want to clear a lane or two for runners finishing though.

AFTERMATH:

I beat my PB by 3 minutes. The 10k was actually 9.75k which was done sub 1hr 20m. Considering that Condura was 1hr 29m. BIIIGG improvement.

I should NOT have jumped at the jump zone 1km from the finish. Instant cramps! I asked one of the organizers why the Jump Zones were at the end of the run instead of at the start or midway. Would have made more sense since runners were not too worn out. He said that it would be too dark and that the runners would be too clustered together and might make the jump zones more dangerous. Come to think of it, he’s right.

Overall, I enjoyed that run. Now where’d I put my Akatsuki cap?

Brooks Loomis, DTM: In Memoriam

Brooks During this 80th... errr.. 79th birthday

The following is an article (with some personal excerpts) I wrote for the 2011 District Convention souvenir program honoring the Makati Toastmasters beloved Mentor, Brooks Loomis.

Farewell, buddy. You will be remembered and you will be missed.


When I found out Brooks passed away, I tried to write a eulogy to mourn his death… but I couldn’t. How can one write something so sad about someone who not only lived loving what he was doing, but died sharing what he was most passionate about to the world?

My first encounter with Brooks was when I attended a Speechcraft seminar way back in 1995. I really didn’t expect to get anything out of Toastmasters. I thought I knew enough about communication. It took a lot of cajoling to get me to attend the first session. I really had no intention of going back. Then I met Brooks Loomis, and he made me realize that what I thought I knew about public speaking and presentations were sorely lacking.

It turns out that at that point, Brooks had been in Manila for some time and he had been a Toastmaster for much longer. His Toastmasters career began in the US Navy while he was stationed in Spain. He joined to improve his ability to represent the navy in public forums. His favorite story from this era was that he used to keep speeches around just in case nobody delivers. He would get his norms in record time this way.

Brooks always had a penchant for leadership. He retired as Master Chief Petty Officer from the US Navy. His retirement ceremony was one of the most well-attended ever in the history of the US Navy. His leadership style endeared him to peers and subordinates alike.

In the Toastmaster movement, he became District Governor of District 7, comprising the states of Maryland and Delaware.  His number one mentor was the late Past International President Ted Wood, DTM.

Brooks had an opportunity to be the Toastmasters International President. He was being groomed to be the first international president of the new millenium. However, a romantic twist of fate changed all that. He met Dinah Santos who was running for an international position back in the 1990s. They got married in 1992 in California and that’s when Brooks moved to the Philippines.

In his younger years, Brooks, together with Dinah, organized, sponsored and mentored at least 35 new clubs around Metro Manila. Several of those clubs have become inactive, but those that are active are still growing and benefit from the training Brooks and Dinah have imparted to them.

Brooks pushed for initiatives like the MIPIT (Most Important Person In Toastmasters) addition to the officers training sessions. This stressed the importance of the member as the most important cog in the Toastmasters machinery. He wanted this as a way to educated the members of the District.

He was constantly called on to be chief contest judge. Besides having encyclopedic knowledge and unquestioned integrity, Brooks’ wrath when it came to biased judging was legendary. Woe to any judge who dared cross him.

As a pillar of the Makati Toastmasters Club, he was a dear mentor, a member and a friend. Even in his late years, he would still make the effort to attend meetings, struggling through Manila’s nightmarish traffic. He wasn’t selfish about sharing his knowledge on public speaking, communication, leadership and everything else. His “STGO/Something To Grow On” evaluations are always encouraging and the style has trickled down to all of the clubs he’s supported.

But even with the lofty heights that Brooks has scaled, he was still a down-to-earth regular Joe. He didn’t mind being the target of the jokes. He laughed with us as we made fun of his age and his being the evaluator of the Loomis household (Dinah was the General Evaluator).

Brooks took this duty of excellence even outside the Toastmaster’s meeting room. He made the best pasta bolognese I’ve ever had claiming it to be a recipe by the great Italian opera singer, Enrico Caruso. He claimed that to make the sauce perfectly, one needed to simmer the sauce for hours to extract all the flavors from the ground beef and herbs.

He was a kick-ass mentor and he taught by example. I had a problem getting credentials from Toastmasters International. I was in hibernation for about ten years and I wanted to continue where I left off. He told me who to write to in California. When I got my certification done, he was one of the first people I broke the news to. And he texts back “Congratulations AC-B Jeeves. At the rate you’re going, I’ll probably be DEAD before you reach DTM.” (Note: DTM/Distinguished Toastmaster is the highest rank that can be achieved in the Toastmasters movement) You can bet that that was enough motivation for me to finish soon.

On January 30, 2011, the Makati Toastmasters Club threw a birthday bash in honor of what we thought was his 80th birthday. Turned out that it was just his 79th birthday and we were one year ahead. Barely a month later on March 12, 2011, Brooks Loomis passed away as he was being interviewed for a TV show about leadership and communication.

It was a noble death befitting a noble life lived by a noble man. His wake became a collection of happy moments where mourners came together to remember, celebrate and make fun of the man, the Toastmaster, and the friend that was R. Brooks Loomis. He leaves behind a family that loved him, a global community that respected him and friends that he infected with his love of Toastmasters to continue his great work.

And we say to R.Brooks Loomis, wherever he may be. “Go with fair winds and following seas, my friend. You will be missed.”

HYUNDAI RUN FOR A CAUSE 2011 – The Best Runs In Life Are Free!

You can’t get more inexpensive than the HYUNDAI Run. It was FREE! It was organized to celebrate Hyundai’s 10th year anniversary here in the Philippines. As expected, runners from all over joined in droves.

For a run with no entry fee, the organization was kick-ass. First, the singlet sizes were correct. Most runs would size their singlets one or even two sizes below. Thus an L would actually be an M or even S. (C’mon guys who the hell are you kidding?) They had a timing chip.

The organization on the day itself was impressive. Waved starts. Marshalls every 50 or so meters. Ever present first aid stations. Generous water stations with Hyundai Branded water bottles. Photographers everywhere. Unlimited water at the finish line.

I also liked the route. The 10k route started near the Quirino Grandstand. Right at Roxas Boulevard until EDSA than back through Luneta and back to the Grandstand.

One nitpick may be that the bottles were sealed and not opened for the runners and it was a hassle opening it for people who were chasing down a PB. The distance was a bit longer than the advertised 10k (about 11k). The extra couple of hundred meters was going through Luneta to go past Manila Hotel on the way to the Finish Line. The scenery was well worth the extra effort.

I’m not complaining. Again, this was a free run!

Some stats from a friend:

  • Over 24,000 runners
  • 3 waves of 10K runners
  • 5 waves of 5K runners
  •  100 Professional Medics
  • 50 Roving Medics
  • Mobile Clinic
  • 14 Medic Stations
  • 14 Ambulances
  • 5 K9s
  • 75 Metro Aides
  • 200 Start/Finish Line Personnel
  • 500 Route Marshals
  • 150 Police Traffic Enforcement Officers
  • 2 Fire Trucks with 12 Fire Fighters
  • 126,000 bottled Hyundai water
  • 100 Portalets

Activemoments.net did race photography and I was happy with the pictures that day.

AFTERMATH:

Personally, I didn’t do too well. I was up until 3am doing covering the Jam For Japan the previous night. I started near the start of my wave and eneded up going wayyy too fast in the first couple of km. And thus cramped during the last 3 km. Coulda been a DNF but powered on to a slow 11km.

But, I enjoyed myself immensely.

Runners really shouldn’t shoulder the expenses of companies using runs as a marketing initiative. I wouldn’t mind shelling out money if there was some cause attached to the run. But then again, the Hyundai Run was for the benefit of 3 charities. I think that besides the expenses to organize the event, they still donated an amount per runner. This makes that case against the skyrocketing prices of runs. This was a well organized event AND it was a run for a cause. Will rant some more later.

Anyway, Good Job Hyundai! I heard there’s going to be a part 2. Sign me up!