Lactobacilli Shirota Strain!

My uncle mentioned in passing that he saw that there was a Yakult run in the papers. I love Yakult. And so I set out to find more.

Turns out that the main event was a 10-mile run and it was NOT going to be held at Bonifacio Global City. After several runs in BGC, I desperately wanted a change of atmosphere. At this point, I was only running 10k and I thought that 10 miles/16.8 km was still beyond my powers. I joined the 5km event  instead.

I was pleasantly surprised. For a 350 buck run, they had water stations every 1km. They had a singlet and they had a finisher’s singlet. Organization, though bare-bones, was top-notch.

I enjoyed this run because of the uncluttered feel to it. There was only one sponsor YAKULT and there were really no gimmicks. It was nice refreshing change from BGC. My only complaint were the parking robbers, errr, attendants of Star City. They were charging 50 bucks for parking ON A PUBLIC STREET! I wouldn’t have minded as much if they opened their parking lots and charged for the use of that. But they didn’t.

AFTERMATH:

5k PB. It was a nice route and this was my first 5k in a while. Should do more 5ks for speedwork.

Kinetic Shakespeare

I was able to catch Anton Juan’s Screen: Macbeth this weekend and I wasn’t expecting much. It’s Shakespeare… It’s Macbeth… Now where’d I put my pillow?

I was really expecting a snoozefest given that I had yet to see a decent staging of a period drama hereabouts. I’m happy to say that not only did I not yawn or take a nap during the 3 hour running time. I was wide awake and had a blast.

Macbeth is a classic tale of ambition. Director Anton Juan’s wink, wink, nudge, nudge  touches all over the production showing pictures of Asian dictators (including GMA), religious imagery (I’m guessing that it has something to do about the Catholic Church strong arming it’s anti-RH agenda) and shoes being thrown all over the place on Lady Macbeth’s first appearance (perhaps an allusion to the Imeldific one) nicely ties in its relevance to the lamentable state of the nation.

The production is nothing like anything I’ve seen before. The stage is a big X. The audience occupies the spaces in between. The theater itself is walled by huge white sheets where backdrops are shown by digital projector. Since the backdrops are computer generated, animation and video are used to further immerse the audience into the dark world of Macbeth-ian Scotland. The effect is eerie and sometimes disturbing.

The whole production is a kinetic feast for the senses. There is just so much going on. Actors come down from the ceiling. Witches chant in various dialects and Loud Drunken Merrymaking in shadow from  behind the screens.  Audience members have to constantly sit up and look around where the action is taking place. Looking back, I think this is why it was impossible to get bored. The kinetic nature of the production just swept the audience in.

The director knows when to pull back during pivotal scenes like Lady Macbeth’s “Out Damn Spot” monologue where dramaturgist Judy Ick does this as water is dripping down from the ceiling onto her face. It’s a powerful scene made more compelling with jaw-dropping staging. The battle scenes are taken out of classic period war movies like Braveheart and the Last Of The Mohicans making  use of “Bullet Time” to show how the tide of battle shifts from Macbeth to Macduff. I like the nods to cosplay when it came to the costume designs. The weapons looked like they came from a period anime series.

Great performances all around. Macbeth was played by Teroy Guzman. I’ve never heard of him before seeing him here. He has all the trappings of a veteran thespian, giving his Macbeth gravitas and torment. The surprise for me was Romnick Sarmenta, best remembered as a teen idol decades ago. Great delivery of lines and nailed the Scottish accent. Jamie Wilson was spot-on as Macduff. Gruff, Barbaric and dangerous. I thought Earl Ignacio was the weakest of the cast. Rhythm was off and it was distracting.

A lot of local theater productions are flights of fancy and candy coated entertainment. Screen: Macbeth is defiantly not one of these. It’s powerful. It’s compelling, It’s disturbing.  Akin to a  punch in the gut. In this age of runaway corruption, perhaps this is just what we need.

Run United 1 2011 aka RunRio showing off

Runrio is the country’s premiere running organizer. Period. No Erase.

If there’s one thing that Run United 1 was, it was a showcase for RunRio’s bells and whistle that makes their runs totally stand out. World-Class even.

I almost forgot to register for this run. I ended up signing up on the last day and thus got stuck with a really small singlet. Even if this was going to be held in BGC, it would be my first 10k in that area.

Any runner who joins a runrio event has high expectations. A runner expects to be spoiled from registration to after crossing the finish line. Run United 1 did not only not disappoint, it exceeded my expectations that I was still going oooooh and aaaaah weeks after the event.

During the run, hydration and kilometer markers were aplenty. They were playing the runrio song which I kinda zoned out on preferring my own sounds. It was at the finish line where, if you weren’t too tired, you’d notice some interesting things.

It was nice that the announcer had a live feed to the finish line. Announcer would be shouting off encouragement to runners crossing the finish line like “Runner 4989 making a mad dash to the finish” or “Runner 1501, you can do it. Let’s finish strong.”  I also couldn’t miss the throng of paparazzi positioned before and after the finish line. (More on this later) There are usually photographers stationed here but not this many.

Claiming the loot bags was easy. No lines whatsoever. Then, conveniently from the lot bag claim area to the Unilab areas,  there were a bunch of people in runrio uniforms lugging around iPads. They approached me and nicely asked if I wanted to know my finish time and place. Wow. Immediately after the race. Asked for my Bib number and there were my race stats on the iPad.

Unilab events are kinda expensive but with all the freebies, they really make up for it. I specially like the post race areas where they’ve got people checking cholesterol (dammit, shouldn’t have had that Krispy Kreme burger!), bone density, diets and more. One another side of the post-race area are tents where professionals can advise  runners on proper running form, cross training, training for longer distances, etc. It’s a really nice experience where participants are given the tools and motivation to run their next race.

So that was supposed to be it right? Wrong.

Turns out that runrio had a couple more tricks for participants.

The first surprise was the bazusports site. Posting times and place in age groups is not that different. But posting pictures and video of a runner crossing the finish line was AWESOME. My guess is that they took the runner’s finish time and found a way to sort the pictures taken by the paparazzi at the finish line. They correlated the finish time to the pictture’s time stamp. Not too difficult to do but it was really smart of runrio to implement this. For the video, they took 10-second “slices” of video then posted a link to the “slice” corresponding to the runner’s finish time. Again, pretty easy to automate on a computer but it was genius for them to go the extra mile and give it to the runners. <SLOW CLAP>

The second surprise was publishing results in runpix.com. It’s for people who just geek out to numbers and statistics. Wanna know how many people you passed and passed you in the last kilometer? Wanna know where you were when the first placer finished? Wanna know where you were struggling on the route when the average runner finished? Well, good news because now you can find out!

RunPix was actually depressing for me seeing how much faster I need to be to become average. But, on another note, it showed how conditioned the runners who join runrio events are. I finished behind 76% of the 10k runners. In others, I’d be somewhere in the middle.

In fairness, we really don’t need this many bells and whistles to have a good run. However, for the extra cost a runner pays for runrio events. It’s just nice to know that runners get these extra along with additional cost. There are other more expensive runs out there where the participant pays more for less. As a matter of fact, I wanted to join another 10k that had exactly the same route but backed out due to the cost. Pretty singlet though.

Oh yeah, goes without saying. But sign me up for Run United 2 and 3. Just hope they tweak the route a bit.

AFTERMATH:

First 10k after that semi-disastrous Condura run. Shave 3 minutes off my time there. Was happy crossing the finish line. The pictures are proof of that 😀

Running On EDSA was too good to be true

Running on EDSA was too good to be true. Well, it was too good to be true. I thought that this run would run a significant length of EDSA. White Plains to Robinson’s Galeria is NOT a significant length of EDSA!!!!

But still, any route outside of Bonifacio Global City is worth investigating. It ended up being a fun route!

I almost didn’t make this run. I thought of running 10k here but i felt I was still too wasted after the Condura run. Had visions of collapsing on the Temple Run uphill after seeing the route. Just ran 5k instead.

Anyway, the run was at 5:30am. I woke up at 4:50am. I still decided to try to make it to the starting line. One of the nice things about this run was that they wisely got Robinson’s Galeria to open up their parking spots to runners. They also had electric jeepneys shuttle runners from Galeria to the starting line. Nice touch.

Despite the short stretch of EDSA. It was still a  nice route. That long Ortigas downhill from Meralco to Valle Verde was a hoot to run. Hydration was adequate. Of course, where there’s a killer downhill, there’s a killer uphill. The uphill from Valle Verde up to Corinthian was torture and I ended up walking instead of running. After the uphill though, it was nice dash down White Plains avenue to the Finish.

I personally did not like the booths at the end of the race. The sponsors underestimated the number of runners and ended up running out of giveaways. Having runners line up for water at the end was also not cool. Having a SINGLE line for all runners was definitely not cool.

The end program with Bam Aquino was cute. Nice trivia contest about the EDSA revolution. I flubbed the “What was the theme song of the revolution” question. Dammit. Coulda walked away with a Mizuno GC.

AFTERMATH:

5k PB by a couple of seconds. Still ok. I want to run this again next year. Will run the full 10k down to Libis if they don’t change the route.

Skyway! Ba-bleah!

I trained for the Condura run. I really did.

I was increasing mileage as early as December. I was supposed to run my first 10k in March of 2011. But then moved it up to Feb because I thought that a 10k Skyway run was going to be a very memorable first 10k. (Yes it was!)

I was not in tip-top condition for this. I had a really bad case of cough and cold the night before. So bad that i wasn’t even able to get some quality zzzzz’s the previous night. I was really tempted to just not run that day. It’s a good (or bad) thing this run was sooo expensive that I still ran even while feeling like crap.

It was a nice change for this race to have a different start/finish line. Started at Ayala Triangle then through to Rufino. Up the Skyway through Amorsolo, a U-Turn near Edsa, then left to Buendia on to BHS. It was dark going on to the Skyway. But mannn, the view upon turning left into the Skyway from Pasay Road. PRICELESS! All of the Skyway’s lights ablaze with the road littered with runners was a sight to behold.

I wanted my first 10k to be memorable. That WAS memorable!

Was really slow going from there. Really wanted to conserve energy and was paranoid because of the lack of sleep. Run-Walked through Buendia. Walked up the Buendia Flyover. Tried to continue running after hitting the bottom… only to have cramps on both legs 2 km before the finish. The route finishing past the seductive aromas of the cooking side of the Sunday market just made the last couple of hundred meters worse!

Still a sub 1hr 30minute ain’t bad for a first try for someone severely overweight. This was memorable partly also due to the 10k medal. My first ever running finishers medal.

I will run this again next year. Hopefully doing the half-mary.

That Pacq-ing book…

I got this book with the intention of passing it on to one of my uncles. My uncle is a devout fanatic of Congressman Pacquiao and I thought he’d get a kick out of the book (he did). I got a kick out of the book too.

The book, as told from Pacquiao’s perspective, chronicles his humble beginnings as a street urchin in the boondocks of Tango, his start as pugilist in the Philippines, his meteoric rise to godlike status in the international boxing world and concludes with a rather lengthy chapter on his political career. Besides the autobiographical passages, the book is interspersed with reportage from sports journalists and some first-person accounts from Jinkee, Manny’s Wife. Though some of the more controversial stories (like the botched Golden Boy/Top Rank contract negotiations) are mentioned, they’re merely treated as side stories and glossed past.

Once I got past the niggling “I-can’t-believe-he-wrote-this” feeling, it’s a rather entertaining (sometimes in the wrong way) read. The cast of supporting characters and behind-the-scenes vignettes are very compelling to someone like me who’s been following Pacman’s career since his Dela Hoya Match. The first-person blow-by-blow accounts of the fights are very brief but are still interesting as they expose insight as to how Pacman thinks inside the ring.

My little problem with the book is that I feel that the language is sort of flowery, long winded and at times preachy. A Timothy James is credited along with Manny Pacquiao on the title page, and I think he’s part of the problem. I think that James was translating what Pacquiao said, and may have embellished at times. Some of the non-quoted passages sound very familiar – A hodge-podge of HBO fight commentary and snippets from the HBO 24/7 pre-event specials

I felt that the book changed tone at the last chapter detailing Pacquiao’s political career. In contrast to previous chapters which were full of the warrior’s spirit, respect for opponents and praying for the health of his fallen foes, I felt this chapter was full of bluster and at times, arrogance. There was a sort of messianic vibe about the common Pac-man going about to rid his constituents from where he came from of corruption. The vibe soon dies a few paragraphs later where Pacman casually says something about “getting into his bullet-proof, bomb-proof Hummer.” [snicker] The conclusion of this chapter where he wins as Congressman of Sarangani, in my opinion, borderline slander, of the losing candidate, Chiongbian. Not only does Pacquiao gloat about his landslide victory but he also peppers the narrative with words like “corrupt businessman looking to line their own pockets”. You won already! No need to rub salt on Chiongbian’s wounds!

What’d I think about the book? I feel it’s what a Jerry Bruckheimer published book would read like. There’s a little “suspension of disbelief” and “leave your brain at the door” element to really enjoy the book. If you can believe that Manny really wrote the book, it’s a really entertaining read and a great gift for any fan of the “Pambansang Kamao”.

This book made me want to get my hands on that Freddie Roach biography. I’d also like to see a Tagalog version of this book that may have more masculine and direct language than the english (assumed) translation.

No doubt about it, Pacman’s a great fighter. The book is yet another testament to his guts and determination to get to a point where the world discovers his natural talent.

Let me wrap up with something from the last two paragraphs of the book.

“Now, I’m asked if my congressional seat is just one more stepping stone to someday becoming president of the Philippines. I won’t shut that door. I know I’ll never forget the moment Bob (Arum) burst into my room to tell me, ‘You won, Mr. Congressman!” He also did a nice little dance, which isn’t Bob’s way.

I guess this news stunned even him. Maybe one day, Bob will burst through my door and say, ‘Congratulations, Mr. President!'”

I admit I cringed when I read this. Only time will tell whether the reader should have approached this passage with delight… or dread.

A Love Letter To Philippine Geeks

Let’s get this out of the way.

The last time I really raved about a local movie the Juan Tamad/Mongolian Barbecue movie a long time ago. It was an under-appreciated satire on Philippine politics.  That was waaaayyyy back in college. Since then, nada. Some really minor blips, but that’s it. Been a long time since I was so floored by a local movie to even write about it.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bzIDObRbsQQ&w=560&h=315]

And so the trailer for RPG:Metanoia showed up a couple of months ago. I dismissed it as a rip-off to cash in on Toy Story 3’s or TRON: Legacy’s draw. Waved it off it as yet another local movie where the whole story was telegraphed in the trailer. Casted it out thinking it was going to be a dumbed down movie that will pander to the masses. And lastly, pooh-poohed it as another ATTEMPT.

There are days I’m ecstatic to suffer from foot-in-mouth disease. This is one of those days.

I did not read any reviews of this movie. Though it was available in 3D, I didn’t bother to watch it in 3D. Glorietta did not show it in a 3D theater and I felt (at the time) that it wasn’t worth it. Thus, I went into the theater with somewhat lowered expectations. It’s the first locally made CGI movie. As a geek, I was duty bound to support it.

Short review: I enjoyed this a lot more than TRON: Legacy. Now, go out and watch it!

Long-ish rave and some major rants:

Technically, the movie is several years behind PIXAR. The visual vibe kind of reminded me of Jimmy Neutron. Environments were a bit too sterile without the dirt and grime. However, if you look closely enough, you can see the passion of the filmmakers shining through the details.

The problem with CGI movies is that everything has to be built from scratch. It’s just way too easy to build a lifeless world. What these guys have succeeded in doing is building a living breathing world. And it’s because of the details. Often details that are on screen for several seconds but takes hours and days of rendering time to make.

Where to begin? Grains of rice on plate. “How’s My Driving? LTFRB Hotline” decal on a dead jeepney resting on hollow blocks. Softdrink decals. Detailed designs of characters which have only seconds of screen time. Tricycles, cars, and jeepneys whizzing by in the background. Clippings. Computer screens. Stitches and patterns on the mom’s duster. I could go on and on. It’s the little details that make the RPG: Metanoia’s world quite believable. It takes an amazing amount of OC-ness to get this done.

The other thing about RPG:M is that they got the character’s eyes right. Can’t say much but they weren’t dead.

But where this movie succeeds where I was underwhelmed by TRON:Legacy is the storytelling. Dare I say it but RPG:M had heart where TRON:Legacy had a digital soul. TRON:Legacy dazzled but RPG:M charmed. I think that they got a lot from the PIXAR playbook. Angles and supplementary scenes reminiscent of Toy Story and UP!

The movie had a message and it succeeded without being preachy about it.

Again, taking a cue from PIXAR. I think that the movie has something for everybody. If you’re a kid, the cartoony visuals will delight and entertain. For adults, the storytelling, the children’s games sequences will bring you back to your days of Teks and Touching Ball.

But for the d20 rolling, WASD abusing, DC/Marvel/Manga/Anime collecting,  the movie’s numerous winks and nods to geekdom increases the film’s charm a thousandfold. From Steampunk, to Mecha, to Naruto, to Avatar, to Grim Fandango. This film’s geek cred just oozes by the barrelful. The film avoids being a ripoff by just making these easter eggs and adding distinctly Filipino elements to make it their own. The Crisostomo Ibarra Mage and that Guardia Civil (yes, it’s Spanish but it’s still part of the our History) power armor just left me with a goofy smile when the film was done.

And now THE rant:

Sadly, a lot of people I know who will get a kick out of this movie WILL NOT WATCH THIS. Why? Because it’s a TAGALOG movie. There are some people whom I really had to restrain myself from knocking on the head. The mantra of  “I won’t watch it because it’s a Filipino movie” became very irritating.

The other laudable thing about this movie is that it assumes that the viewer is intelligent. It does not have to go on long and winding simplified expositions on viruses, subliminal messaging, artificial intelligence and MMORPGs.

For something as ground breaking as this, why was this not shown in the 3D theaters? And more tragically, why the heck did the MMFF awards snub this movie?

Peeps, you really owe it to yourself (and Philippine Cinema) to catch this on the big screen. On 3D if possible. It’s not perfect but it’s much much more than an attempt. It was crafted with loving OC-ness that only a geek can have. The times when local cinema comes up with  something geeks will watch are few and far between. Here’s hoping that RPG:Metanoia is a sign that times are soon a’changing.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Brrn8Kx8oGo&w=420&h=315]

“The Food Wars” is No “No Logo”

The blurb by Naomi Klein made me want to read this. I’m a big fan of “No Logo”, her shocksposé on the unethical practices in the third world of the leading consumer brands. I was expecting something akin to that book.

The Food Wars is not exactly like No Logo. No Logo, in some way, can appeal to the casual reader because of the wealth of human condition stories exposing the evils of globalization. Except for some stories about the peasant activists in the final chapter, The Food Wars is mired in figures, numbers and percentages that would probably make it daunting for the casual reader.

It’s written in a very academic fashion. Food crisis stories from Africa, China, the Philippines are written as case studies. Each chapter begins with a statement of the problem, progresses with LOTS of numbers, and percentages and wraps up with a neat conclusion at the end. The casual reader can actually get away with just reading the conclusions and still have a semblance of understanding as to what the book was about.

Buried within the numbers and the academese is a very frightening situationer of why the world is going hungry and possibly why it’s going to get worse. According to Bello, The root of the problem are the conditions behind the seemingly generous loans to third world countries. Behind these loans are “economic reengineering” conditions that stipulate that the country abandon agriculture for some “forward-economy” industry. Like call centers and BPOs (sound familiar)? Thus, because of these policies, government has to remove subsidies and tax breaks for farmers and reallocate them elsewhere. The rationale is that third world countries can earn more to buy “cheaper” food from first-world countries like the US. Unfortunately, this is not working according to the best-laid plans of the armchair economists in the World Bank. There is also an interesting chapter on BioFuels and their contribution to the global hunger problem. In a nutshell, corn and other grains are being allocated to feed fuel tanks than stomachs. Fuel is more profitable than food and thus a more lucrative product to produce than cheap food.

Books like these are meant to give the reader insight and maybe shock the the reader out of his comfortable reading chair. Insight, tons of em buried beneath facts and figures. Not enough shock of the lack of the human side of the problem. I’ d recommend watching the documentary “Food Inc.” as a companion to this book.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5eKYyD14d_0&w=560&h=315]
There are a few issues in “The Food Wars” which are mentioned assuming the reader has sufficient background to understand what Bello is talking about (e.g. The on-going Monsanto GMO seed controversy in the US). This also fleshes out the problem for those wanting a human side of the story.

The book concludes with a call to action to go back to peasant agriculture. That is, for each locale to produce its own food to cut down costs on transportation and dependence on first-world producers. The world has to shift the power of production from the armchair policy makers and give it back to people who till the fields and harvest the crops. Maybe then, this hunger problem will be swept off the table.”

15 Plays

Just felt like doing this after that  Facebook 15 Films meme. Consider this a self-indulgent way of sifting through memories NOT better left forgotten.

I cite these, not only for the plays themselves, but really for the whole experience of watching the live performance. To friends in the world of theater, thanks for some awesome nights of music, wit and after-performance dinner/coffee discussion fodder.

Just hope that this list pushes some of you to look em up on YouTube or Google (‘specially some of the more obscure ones) and to continue catching theater performances (even if they are a tad more expensive than movies)

Company – Stephen Sondheim – (Repertory Philippines, William J. Shaw Theater / Kookabura Theater Company, Theater Royal, Sydney) If there ever was a perfect night at the theater. This was when I saw this the first time at the Shangri-La. If there ever was an argument on why people should choose live theater over movies. This would be the experience I’d make ’em live through. I don’t know how he did it but the great Cocoy Laurel found a way to transmit emotion through his performance that night. This introduced me to Stephen Sondheim’s body of work through “Marry Me A Little”, “Being Alive” and the vocal nightmare of “Not Getting Married” (Lisa Infante! What ever happened to her?)

Saw this again in Sydney. Was sorta disappointed because the performances were nowhere near the caliber of the Manila Cast. “Not Getting Married” was SPOKEN instead of sung. The “moment” of the performance was during “Marry Me A Little” when the repetiteur went absolutely nuts on the piano, pounding on the keys matching Bobby’s angst on stage. Another good night courtesy of Mr. Sondheim.

Noises Off! –  (Repertory Philippines, William J. Shaw Theater) This is the connection to the 15 films meme. This is the play that got me wanting to watch Live Theater. I saw the movie (killer cast – Christopher Reeve, Michael Caine, Carol Burnett, Nicolette Sheridan, the late  John Ritter aka Jack Tripper, Mark Linn-Baker aka Cousin Larry From Perfect Strangers). Hilarious Movie! The second act of the movie involved turning the whole set around to show the backstage area, half of it done in silence and gestures. I really watched the play just to see if they would pull it off live. And they did! And I’ve been watching theater ever since. I do hope someone restages this in Manila.

Les Miserablés – Schonberg/Boublil (Repertory Philippines, MERALCO Theater <sniff!>) – The only play in this list that I didn’t actually get to watch. Got as far as the Meralco Theatre hoping there were still tickets… but alas… was not meant to be. The reason why this is on my list is that this is what really opened the door to my appreciating Musical Theater. Probably had one of the most heated arguments (who was the better Eponine? Lea or Kaho Shimada from the complete symphonic recordings) because of this. Also read that monster Les Miserables novel because of this only to find out that the play is just one small portion dug inside a lot of philosophical meanderings by M. Hugo.

Angels In America aka Perestroika/Millenium Approaches – Tony Kushner (New Voice, Music Museum) Before the great CarVer became a celebrity comic book artist, he was once a great theater actor. We as loyal friends trooped to watch this 7 HOUR play. (3.5 Hours for Perestroika and 3.5 Hours for Millenium Approaches). This was a pretty risky play to stage in Manila those days. But still, pretty well received. The HBO mini series with Al Pacino and Mary Louise Parker is also highly recommended. “The Great Work Begins!”

Once On This Island – Ahrens/Flaherty (Repertory Philippines, William J. Shaw Theater) I remember this as Maya Barredo’s last performance in Manila before leaving for Miss Saigon. Had this huge circular stage that extended three or four rows into the audience. My only beef with this is that most of the good songs were for the women. Fairytale/Romeo and Juliet mutation told in a Caribbean setting. IMHO, “Why We Tell The Story” has got to be one of the most poignant finales ever written. I get somewhat teary eyed when they get to the “You are Why” part of the song.

The Lottery – Shirley Jackson (Harlequin Theater Guild/TAP, DLSU Multi-Purpose Hall) The first of two forays performing on stage. Saw the movie version a coupla years back on the Hallmark Channel and did it bring back memories (sigh!). Can’t help but think that Suzanne Collins’ Hunger Games had it’s roots here. (That and the uber-violent and maybe unintentionally funny Japanese film “Battle Royale”)

Love Letters – A.R. Gurney (Free Performance, Eastwood) Beautiful play with just a cast of two (Michael Williams and Pinky Amador if I remember correctly) just reading letters to each other on stage. Story told with just the letters and the vocal affectations of the two actors.

Rent – Jonathan Larson (New Voice, Music Museum) – The first run of this had an awesome, amazing, powerful cast! Bituin Escalante killed that night as Mimi. I didn’t know what I was getting into when I watched this. By the time that double sucker-punch –  the optimistic “Another Day” and the haunting “Will I?” came in, I was hooked. There’s this side story of getting to watch the thing with a complete Rent-Head stranger, but that’s for another day. The reprise of “I’ll Cover You” is in my Most Romantic Songs Top Ten.

I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change – DiPietro/Roberts (Repertory Philippines, OnStage Greenbelt) This was an off-broadway gem that I never thought would get here. I watched this THREE times during the THREE stagings with three different groups of people! People know my obsession with the songs on this play. “Tear Jerk”, “Shouldn’t I Be Less In Love With You”, “I Can Live With That” are all awesome in their own right. Nice play that doesn’t sugar coat this whole relationship thingie. Though those last bits were poignant enough to make a believer out of a hard-core cynic… even just for a coupla minutes.

Fools – Neil Simon (Repertory Philippines, William J. Shaw Theater) – What happens when you send a smart professor to the village of Kolyanchakov, a village of fools to make em smart. One of Neil Simon’s lesser known works but still brimming with wit through parody and farce. I think seeing this play paved the way for my liking IDIOCRACY so much. I remember watching The Fugitive and this for a birthday outing soooo long ago.

Miss Saigon – Shonberg/Boublil (National Tour Production, Lyric Theater, Star City, Sydney) I saw the performance at CCP and it just didn’t connect with me. Maybe it was the lousy acoustics of the CCP or maybe it was just being dazzled by the sheer spectacle of the moving sets and that helicopter. Not a good sign when all you can say about seeing a play is “Wow! Great Special Effects”

Then I was sorta dragged to watch this again in Sydney. Really lousy seats in the uppermost back of the theater. But I enjoyed that performance a lot more than the one in Manila. By this time, Cameron Mackintosh relaxed some of his “MUST-HAVES” (gigantic statue of Ho Chi Minh, full scale helicopter landing on stage, etc.)  before anyone could mount a Miss Saigon production. This version was “raw-er” and the performances just connected with me. Loved the way they pulled off the helicopter by just projecting the image onto the stage. Using helicopter engine noises coupled with the venue’s superior sound system (a la THX)  to make the audience believe that the helicopter was circling over and around the theater was awesome!

Dong-Ao – F. Sionil Jose (PETA/Virgin Labgest, Tanghalang Huseng Batute CCP) This play in Filipino introduced me to F. Sionil’s works. Powerhouse cast with Bembol Roco and Tommy Abuel. Never thought that eulogies at a funeral could have me riveted to my seat. Affected me so much I couldn’t stop talking about the play afterwards. It was a side story to “Mass”, the final book in “The Rosales Saga” quintology I had to go and buy the 5 books the following day just to see the world of Dong-Ao. Looking forward to reading more of F. Sionil’s books because of this.

Avenue Q – R. Lopez/J. Marx (Atlantis Productions, RCBC Theater) First heard of this by someone pushing me to listen to “The Internet is For Porn”. I was somewhat chronically depressed when this hit. Could Soooooo relate to “It Sucks To Be Me” and “Schadenfreude”. I “pushed” this to a lot of unsuspecting friends. Which is a good thing because I was able to get a group discount when I bought the tickets three months early! Rachel Alejandro rocked as Kate Monster. I just had to stay after the performance just to say she really sounded like Stephanie D’Abruzzio from the Original Avenue Q Cast Recording.

Defending The Caveman (RCBC Theater) One Actor. Two Hours. No Intermission. ROTFLMAO romp through the history chronicling the battle of the Sexes. Whodathunk “Men Are Hunters, Women are Gatherers” could explain soooo much about the bliss (or lack of it) relationships bring to people.

Cats –  (CCP, RUTG Asia) Spectacle. ‘Nuff said. Though I would really like a copy of those Filipino “Memory” lyrics.

Honorable Mentions

Xanadu (Atlantis Productions, RCBC Theater) – Was nostalgic seeing Noel Trinidad perform on stage again after a looong absence.

Miong (Repertory Philippines, AFP Theater) – The folks from Rep wrote an original Filipino musical for the centennial celebrating the life of Emilio Aguinaldo. Felt that the music and book were greatly influenced by Les Miserablés. Had its moments but in the end, it was a spectacular try. Hope more original stuff gets produced soon.

Songs For A New World (9 Works Theatrical, RCBC Theater) – Was really curious about this because of lyricist/composer James Robert Brown. Big fan of “The Last 5 Years” Cast Recording (and never saw it so it doesn’t make it anywhere on this list). Ty Taylor from Rockstar INXS was part of the original cast recording. Very nice songs. Watched this from the Lodge section of RCBC with that annoying railing. Kinda diminished the experience a bit.

Enter Laughing (Repertory Philippines, William J. Shaw Theater) – Actually a dishonorable mention. Proof that great tragedy can come from mediocre comedy. Never saw that many people walk out in the middle of a performance. Wanted to just exit snoring. The play was sooo bad that I can still remember wanting to leave the theater to this day.

The Day I Shot The Dream King

This all started with a snarky comment on a friend’s FB status message. She said she was interviewing Neil Gaiman in person. I jokingly remarked “If you need a photographer, I’ll shoot for free.”

Last Monday, I was really surprised to get an SMS from Ida saying “Are you serious about shooting for free?” Thought about it for a bit thinking of SMS-ing, “I meant FREElance.” Sandman and Death-Fanboyism took over and texted back, “Hell Yeah!” (WUSS!)

And that was it. Borrowed a 50mm f/1.8 lens just to make sure I do justice to the King Of Dreams’ pictures. Unsuccessfully attempted to get all those Gaiman books of mine floating about back home for autographs. Ended up wayy to busy to go to the bookstore and get new ones. But still, was ready as I could be for the morning with the Dream King.

The morning came. Happily lugged my camera/s, phones and laptop and crawled to Rockwell. Thought I was late but wasn’t. Had a conversation with the Adobo peeps about the pictures and the interview started.

When it was my turn to be introduced, I told him what he wrote about Michael Moorcock. “I’m mostly your fault.” Weird/eclectic, geek/nerd meets high priest. Was too busy snapping away to actually listen to the interview. Couldn’t help but think that he does sound like Alan Rickman. Towards the end, there were a couple of minutes where we all chilled out.

“I thought this was for Adobo, not for Playboy.” As Morpheus chilled out on the couch and proceeded to pose. Dang light got in the way. Adobo Editor said something about all hell breaking lose when fanboys meet their idol. I proceeded to sputter something about “You have to be O-C when you meet your high priest.” which got an amused nod of approval from the interviewee. I said something about never being starstruck (and this was a rare thing for me to be starstruck). Mr. Gaiman immediately said that it was okay to be starstruck and he was the same when he did his first interview with another sci-fi writer. I didn’t get the name ‘coz I was busy packing up my gear. Did the obligatory pics. Had him autograph the only book I could find on my shelf. Snapped a couple more pics…. and that was it.

I later learned that Neil Gaiman sponsors the prize money for The Philippine Graphic/Fiction Awards. Amazing guy. He’s really an evangelist/high priest of alternative literature making sure that the message spreads as far as our little corner of the globe. Truly someone who’s passionate about something.

And so as I was looking over the pictures over mediocre pasta, I just thought that there ARE things like this where the task itself is its own great reward. There are so many things I spend time, blood, sweat, gas (as in fuel… oh wait a minute) and money on to feed a a starved soul. Sadly, there are some that are slowly becoming obligations and duty rather passion and pride. Musts and have-tos rather then wants and “hell-yeah-let’s-do-it”s. Still, could be helluva lot worse. At least, I can still count myself among the lucky ones that when opportunities like these to quench the spirit come up, I can simply stumble into ’em and hope for the best. Nooo pressure.

That’s one thing I can check off the bucket list  (Have a conversation with Neil Gaiman.) And that’s worth helluva lot more than any photographer’s fees I’d be able to charge (at this stage anyway. :D)

Moral of the story is: Don’t be afraid to post snarky comments on friends FB status-es. Who knows where you’ll end up.