librarianship, books, writing, movies, etc.

Monday, October 15, 2018

A Star is Born [movie reaction]

I first saw the trailer of A Star is Born when I watched Crazy Rich Asians (link to my review) in SM Aura last August. That trailer was so beautiful it made me cry. I usually dislike movie trailers with all their sound effects and flashiness to attract viewers. For me, most trailers are overdramatic and sometimes does not actually reflect the movie and often create expectations that disappoint. This film's trailer showed what the story will be about: an aspiring singer who has given up on herself and the established star who believes in her and helps her make her dreams come true. It took me a while to realize that the lead actress is Lady Gaga! She had no makeup, she dressed like a normal person and dyed her hair back to her natural color.

I like Lady Gaga and her music, but I haven't really caught up on it since her Born This Way era. As an artist, I really admire how she evolves and her music is different in every album. A Star is Born also has music, and it's very different from the usual Lady Gaga songs when we think of her. I think that's great because you hear Ally's music (her character), not Lady Gaga.

In this story, Ally (Lady Gaga) is a waitress who also sings on drag bars. Jackson Maine (Bradley Cooper), a famous rock star going around town after a concert looking for a drink, happens to go to the place where Ally sings. Jackson immediately likes her and they talk and get to know each other. Fans recognize Jackson and ask for pictures, which led to Ally punching a guy. Jackson asks her if she writes her own songs, and Ally reveals that she has tried but has given up. Ally sings a song she wrote for Jackson, which moves him. He invites Ally to his Arizona concert. Ally quits her job the same day and goes.

To her shock, Jackson plays her song "Shallow" and invites her to go onstage. Though initially nervous, Ally goes and sings her heart out. Shallow is a really beautiful song and it's the pivotal scene of the whole movie. Ally finally gets noticed, believes in herself again, and their relationship begins. Though they're off to a good start, personal problems start to creep in. Jackson is an alcoholic with a worsening hearing problem, and when Ally finally gets to be a solo artist and becomes more successful than him, he gets worse.

Ally, who used to write songs on the country/rock genre, is now marketed as a pop singer. Jackson reminds her that she has to 'dig deep' and be authentic to her audience. Soon, Ally and Jackson must separate for a short period because of tours. Ally has her own tour coming up and Jackson has his tour too, where Ally was supposed to go with him. Jackson wakes up drunk in a friend's garden. Ally follows him and Jackson proposes with an engagement ring he tied from a string of a guitar.

Maybe a proposal is an exciting thing, but when they got married I felt dread. Ally is showing signs of codependency on Jack. And I felt quite awful for Ally because they married just when Ally was in the brink of success - is Jack trying to jeopardize Ally's success somehow? Then Jack actually shows insecurity and jealousy at Ally's success and tries to bring her down by hitting on her insecurities. "You're so fucking ugly," he tells her once, and sure it hit Ally's buttons.

Ally gets nominated for the Grammy's, and on the event itself, Jack is wasted which led to the most embarrassing and cringe-worthy scene in the movie. Jack passes out and eventually has to go to rehab for his alcoholism.

Things look like they are improving. Jack leaves rehab, the couple moves to a new house with a cute dog. Ally dreams of touring with Jackson again, but her manager disagrees. Her manager soon confronts Jackson and tells him that he is a disgrace to Ally's career. This hurts Jackson, which leads to the movie's tragic ending.

I must say that all the actors were perfect for their roles, especially Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper. The other actor that stood out for me the most was Sam Elliott as Bobby, Jackson's older brother who raised him. Bobby's there for Jackson, even if Jackson hates it. Since Jackson has a hearing problem, Bobby almost always has to lean close to Jackson and touch his face to get his attention. Every scene with them together was powerful and heartbreaking. Jackson's parents died when he was very young, so his relationship with his brother is heavy. As for the other actors, I have no comments at all.

As for the story, I felt that the relationship between Ally and Jackson was quite rushed? Well, it's a 2-hour long movie and I get that sometimes you have to get it on right away so you have time to explore their relationship and the story. There was really no explanation why Ally suddenly transitioned to pop and not on the genre she usually writes songs on with Jackson. Ally's song "Why did you do that to me?" really is not the best song in the soundtrack. It sounds like something from Lady Gaga's Just Dance era.

As for the music, it is excellent. I'm listening to the soundtrack on Spotify and each song has a special energy and as Lady Gaga says, Bradley sings from his soul and he wrote some songs himself. The song I really like is "Diggin' my Grave" because their two voices complement well. "Always Remember Us This Way" is the Ally song that's also perfect for the story. It's great how the actors worked hard to create believable characters for the film.

Prepare to cry for the last scene of the movie where Ally sings a song Jackson wrote - "I'll Never Love Again." It sounds like something from Celine Dion or Whitney Houston, those really dramatic love songs but it is very appropriate for the story and how it ended.

When I think of the movie, the themes are complex. It talks about codependency, the price of fame, alcoholism, yet it also tackles inspiration, following your dreams, and having support as an artist. Jackson was in a sensitive position in his own healing, and the demands and expectations of the industry have taken a toll on him.

For me, I know that many people suffer from addiction and alcoholism, but this is also a dangerous stereotype. There's this notion that for artists to be great, they have to experience suffering and have a host of inner demons somehow. But I've realized that we can also have art from a place of joy, abundance, and happiness. Jackson is probably the epitome of the alcoholic artist.

I love how serious and sincere this movie is. We're so used to cynicism, and this is a very hard and truthful look at a relationship that isn't always good. It may be uncomfortable to see Jack struggle with his demons and Ally doing her best for her husband and her career too. Ally having her dreams come true and believing in her own talent is beautiful, but it also has a price. A Star is Born also leaves viewers with questions and rethink how we deal with the people we love most who are struggling. A Star is Born is an unforgettable movie with a timeless story.


Saturday, October 13, 2018

Venom [movie reaction]

When the trailer for Venom dropped months ago, you would not have expected the collective reaction of fans at the slimy Symbiote with a weird long tongue and scary teeth. Everyone had the hots for Venom and found the beast sexy. I really don't know whether to be amused or sigh at the human condition, but I get where it comes from. I just watched it and noticed that the movie critics were not so impressed but many fans loved it.

As for my opinion, I don't care what the critics say, Venom was fun. I thought I was going to see a man battling his identity and psychological-thriller level angst, but what I got was an unexpected gay romcom between Eddie and Venom. I do agree that there are some silly logical errors in the film, though.

Venom is actually one of the villains in the Spiderman stories and movies (which I admit I know close to nothing about though I've watched a few Avengers films), but this is a stand-alone film. Even if you know nothing of the original comics, you can still get the story.

What the hell seriously
I was anticipating this movie since there's Tom Hardy and I also want to see Riz Ahmed in another mainstream film. He played Bodhi Rook in Rogue One: a Star Wars story (read my review here), one of my favorite films ever.

The movie begins with a spaceship crashing in Malaysia. The body of an astronaut seems sick, and there is something like a parasite that invades the body and infects whoever touches it, then spreads. In the hidden labs of Life Foundation, they experiment on these 'parasites' to see if they can enhance the human body to make it survive in space. These alien parasites are known as 'symbiotes' can't survive without a human host, but so far all their experiments of joining a symbiote with a human body have failed.

Meanwhile, in America, Eddie Brock (Tom Hardy) is a gonzo news reporter. He was given the assignment to cover the company Life Foundation and it's shady CEO, Carlton Drake (Riz Ahmed). Life Foundation has some shady business going on, like testing on humans and getting them killed. Eddie pushes these questions to Drake during an interview, and he's escorted out. This caused him to lose his job and his girlfriend Anne (Michelle Williams) leaving him. Eddie had snooped around in her e-mail for information on Life Foundation which in turn makes her lose her own job.

When one of the scientists of Life Foundation can't take the practices of Drake, she calls on Eddie for help. She takes him to where they perform these experiments, and Eddie accidentally unleashes a symbiote which invades his body. Eddie doesn't die like the previous subjects of the experiments, so Drake goes after him.

At first, Eddie doesn't realize that a sentient symbiote has invaded his body. He spends some time sick, and when Drake's men are really after him he lets the symbiote take over his body. The symbiote saves him then introduces himself as "Venom" and claims Eddie as his own. Meanwhile, the symbiote from the crash in Malaysia somehow finds itself in the Life Foundation and possesses Drake. Now, Venom and Eddie must try to stop them from letting the symbiotes invade Earth.

The portrayal was okay. Tom Hardy as Eddie Brock was perfect, and it's interesting to see Riz Ahmed play a villain. The antagonist is somewhat like a mix of Mark Zuckerberg, Elon Musk, and Steve Jobs. He has a point, but the means he uses to get to his goal is questionable.

What really shines in the movie is the relationship between Eddie and Venom. It's amusing to note that it evolves like a courtship - Eddie hesitant at first, then accepts it, then they break apart for a while only to come back together again (this time for good). Venom starts to like Eddie and says that they're sorta the same. Eddie's a loser, Venom says, but Venom himself says that he 'kinda a loser' in his own planet. Venom and Eddie sharing the same body leads to some funny interior monologue. Eddie looks like he's talking to himself a lot and he's getting some odd looks on the street when he's just talking to Venom inside him.

His ex Anne seems to have moved on quickly from Eddie. Her new boyfriend even helps Eddie out by testing him in the hospital and trying to find out his 'sickness'. Anyway, it's one of the few portrayals in a popular film of a healthy breakup and you can't really feel bad about Eddie - he ended up with Venom after all.

As for the story, it really offers nothing new. The effects on Venom were very good, but it's still the same superhero story. Someone gets invaded with an alien object that gives him powers, he's hesitant at first but learns to accept it. Overall, it's a good, fun film. The mid-credit scene suggests that there's a sequel, and since there's Woody Harrelson I'll watch that too.

Friday, October 12, 2018

1st Iloilo Mega Book Fair this November!

This is one of the most exciting news of the year here in Iloilo City! On November 8-11, 2018 in Festive Walk Mall, Iloilo Business Park will be the 1st Iloilo Mega Book Festival (IMBF). This event's goal is to promote reading among Ilonggos and the rich local literature.

There will be various activities such as the 1st West Visayan Book Fair, which will feature 100 books by Ilonggo authors (both historical and contemporary). This aims to promote local literature and raise awareness of the great books by authors from Western Visayas. There will also be Art. Calligraphy, and Writing Workshops and an All Pinoy Bookfair. Last but not the least is the 5th Iloilo Zinefest in which I am one of the writers who will display and sell my own zines.

Me and Charlyn Mateo, one of my writer friends, will once again join the Zinefest. We both joined ZineZoned3 last year and you can read my experience here: #ZineZoned3: Iloilo Zinefest 2017 experience. Zines are short self-published works that could be about anything. I also posted a review of my zine haul last year: Reviews and Reactions: Zines from #Zinezoned3. See you there on November 10-11! We might also have "Poetry in the Moment" again, where you can 'buy poetry' - give us a subject and we'll write on it! My zine will be announced soon and my previous zine will also be available.

This festival is made possible by Book Latte, Kasingkasing Press, Hubon Manunulat, and the Book Development Association of the Philippines. For more information, you can check out and follow the following links and Facebook pages:
Here is the schedule of events for the Book Fair (this schedule is from their press release and may be subject to change):

November 8, 2018 (Thursday): Opening of the 1st West Visayan Book Fair @ Main Atrium of Festive Walk Mall
1:00 PM
Opening Program and Ribbon Cutting
Welcome Message from Festive Walk Mall

1:30 PM
Opening Remarks from Ms. Cristina Estorque of Book Latte

2:00 PM
LitTalk1: The State of Western Visayas Literature Book Publishing by Alex C. Delos Santos of Datu Lubay Center, Inc.

November 9, 2018 (Friday): Art and Writing Workshops 
(for more information about the artists and registration, please refer to this post on Facebook)
1:00 PM - 5:00 PM at MAMUSA Art Bistro
2nd Splashes and Strokes: Watercolor Workshop with Eru Villarta

Learn the essentials of watercolors and learn how to paint amazing landscapes (P500 workshop fee)

1:00 PM - 5:00 PM at Book Latte
The Beginners Calligraphy Workshop with Denise Marie Silva of Tigbato.Ph
Learning the Basics: Introduction to Copperplate Calligraphy (P500 workshop fee)

10:00 AM - 3:00 PM at Festive Walk Mall Megaworld
Poetry and Fiction Writing Workshop with Alex C. Delos Santos
Module on poetry and fiction writing (P500 workshop fee)

November 10, 2018 (Saturday): #ZineZoned5: Iloilo Zinefest @ Festive Walk Mall
Queer Shipping: What Makes Queer Fanfiction Attractive to Millenials
Ms. Katte Vergara, Writer

Panel 2: Literary Queer Talks and Identities with Emerging West Visayan Writers
Rei Hontanar, Kamil Estanislao Coo, Fourth Malaga, Leonard Francis Alcoran, Macky Magbanua Torrechilla

How and Why Start a Business: Guide for Startup Entrepreneurs
Ms. Christina Estorque, Book Latte

Kasingkasing Press Book Launching & Book Signing
Salamangka Artbook by Daniel Ledesma Tinagan
Food for the Crows by Aurelio Rico Lopez III
Creepy Ilonggo by Carlo Anton S. Borromeo

POETIKA: an evening of poetry and other expressions

Selling of zines will continue until Sunday, November 11.

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Ferj "#DokFerj" Biron shares his plans for Iloilo

Iloilo City - Today, Congressman of the 4th District of the Iloilo Province, Ferjenel Biron (also known as "Dok Ferj"), has filed his certificate of candidacy to run for Governor of Iloilo in the upcoming 2019 elections. He held a media conference to share his vision for the Province of Iloilo.

The Congressman shared his life story of growing up in poverty in Barotac and alleviating himself and his family towards a better life. He wants to set himself as an example and inspiration for the poor. He is a medical doctor and businessman prior to being a politician. His vision, of course, emphasizes health care and improving hospitals in the province. He also aims to focus on anti-corruption, education, and employment.

Sharing the llonggo vision for a winnable future: Dok Ferj Biron reveals plans for Iloilo's economic empowerment
Press Release by media.Xchange PR (October 11, 2018)

The man behind landmark bills in Congress is all set to implement policies that will transform Iloilo into an economically competitive province with the development of economic zones that will generate employment, provide greater opportunities for business, build more infrastructure, and improve access to health care and better education.

In a media conference held on the day he filed his certificate of candidacy for Iloilo's 2019 gubernatorial elections, Congressman Ferjenel Biron shared how his four terms as Iloilo 4th District Representative shaped his vision for the overall development of the province.

A self-made man who rose from the pits of poverty to finish his degree in medicine and put up his own pharmaceutical business, Dok Ferj Biron is known as the "working congressman' who authored significant bills such as the Cheaper Medicine Act of 2008, Food and Drug Administration Act, Gift Check Act, Ease of Doing Business Act, among many others.

According to Dok Ferj, it was a privilege for him to serve in Congress for four consecutive terms but he feels that he can better implement his plans and policies for Iloilo's development as its provincial governor. "My learnings in Congress gave me the wisdom which will eventually become the cornerstone of our future programs for the province of lloilo, most especially with regards to public
health. We have seen the deplorable conditions of overcrowded provincial hospitals. Aside from access to cheaper medicine, we need to address the lack of proper medical facilities in these hospitals," he explained.

In terms of ushering a financially stable future for the province, Dok Ferj identified key points in economic development that are geared towards poverty alleviation."In lloilo, we have so much human resource but we start losing them because there are hardly any opportunities for them here... We need to maximize our human resource by making our province attractive so that we can entice local and foreign stakeholders to invest in business infrastructures. This is exactly what we did in
Congress to promote our district's economic zones, most especially Dumanggas, Passi City, and the town of Barotac Nuevo. We are working on the improvement and expansion of the Dumanggas port as a functional international seaport that serves as the gateway to our economic zones."

With his notable track record as a four-term Iloilo 4th District congressman, Dok Ferj has shown his capability and competency in transforming Iloilo into an economically self-sustaining province that can truly live up to its status as the heart of the Visayas.

"We live life by example and give opportunities for people to educate and empower themselves. I myself came from a family that lived with very limited means, and I know how it is like to tackle the countless challenges of poverty to achieve the life I dreamed for myself and my family. But it's possible to rise from the throes of poverty, given the right opportunities. I believe this is the right time for me to give back with these right opportunities, and I wish to enlist the support of the Ilonggos so that we can all win the future for Iloilo as a progressive and economically empowered province," said Dok Ferj.

*Note: I was invited to cover the event, and this does not reflect my own political positions.

Sunday, October 7, 2018

Malaysia 2018: my first journey alone!

My trip to Malaysia alone was a surprise and a blessing. I qualified for a participation grant to attend the IFLA WLIC 2018 in Kuala  Lumpur which I wrote about in my last blog entry. Malaysia is the third country outside the Philippines that I've visited. The first was in Hong Kong in June 2017 with two relatives. The second country I went to is Taiwan from June-August 2018 (I will write three blog entries on that after this one), for a study program in a Buddhist monastery.

I was scared to go alone at first, but I dared to. I knew some pretty hardcore travelers in Taiwan, most of whom are traveling alone for quite a while. Though I don't have the personality of a backpacker, I admire their risk-taking, fearlessness, and adventurous spirit. I asked around about Malaysia, and most who have gone there encouraged me to go. So I went.

Malaysia's tagline is 'truly Asia', and it is a melting pot of major Asian cultures. There are the Muslim Malays, the Chinese, and the Hindus. There is an interesting cultural diversity and harmony you can find in the country. Though Islam is the state religion, it also coexists with the belief of other cultures present in the same place. Malaysia is also good for solo travelers since most people can speak English. Malaysia is one of the places I really want to go back to with friends and family next time. I didn't have any bad experience, the places are pretty easy to navigate, and the people I met were kind.

As for affordability, the price range of necessities such as food and transportation is quite the same as Manila. I think their transportation via monorail and train is cheap, and I love that there are free GoKL buses that go around the popular routes in Kuala Lumpur. Too bad that I didn't go to other places outside KL, though I did go to Malacca for a day trip.

One thing that surprised me is that many words in the Malay language are similar to Tagalog and even Hiligaynon! I saw words that sound and mean the same like pintu (door), balai (house in Ilonggo, which I understood as 'space' in Malay), batu (stone), jalan (means street, sounds like 'dalan' which also means the same thing in Ilonggo), bayaran (pay), and a lot more. The language also sounds pretty similar to Filipino languages, and my visit there made me want to learn it.

As for solo traveling, I really enjoyed my time alone in Malaysia. I lived with other people when I was in Taiwan, and sometimes you do have to go along with a group. In Malaysia, I had to rely on myself and it was a great experience. I actually felt like a grown-up. Though, if you're alone, you have to take extra precautions (I always use public transport and walk in crowded, well-lit places). It's something I would love to do again. As someone who is usually drained in social situations, it was perfect to recharge and have some alone time.

Here are some places I went to and thoughts about the food in Malaysia:


Saturday, October 6, 2018

My first International Librarians' Conference: IFLA WLIC 2018 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

When I received the notification on my e-mail that I qualified for a Participation Grant from the National Library of Malaysia to go to the International Federation of Library Associations, Inc. - World Library and Information Congress 2018 (IFLA WLIC 2018) in Kuala Lumpur, I was surprised. I was excited but also nervous about the possibility that I might have to go alone. For those who don't know, IFLA WLIC is the biggest and 'most international' librarians conference in the world, with delegates worldwide from various institutions, schools, libraries, and library associations.

There's a story behind this. Last year's IFLA WLIC was in Wroclaw, Poland. One of my good friends from CPU Library Science, Christian Acevedo, had gone and also toured in Europe. I was inspired by his IFLA experience, so when there was a call to apply for a participation grant for the 2018 conference, I just did so without really expecting anything. I figured that this year was in Malaysia so it would be a lot cheaper and nearer since it's still in Asia anyway. After a few months, they were already sending out their acceptance announcements to others who have qualified or the grant. Well, I figured out I might not have qualified so I just let it go. Then come the last week of July, I was in Taiwan for a short study program, people from the National Library of the Philippines (they were handling the grant processing) e-mailed me again that two people backed out and they were opening the two slots to other applicants.

They required me to fill out an application form, and I was so torn whether to still apply or not. I was about to reply that I might not be able to go. After a long debate with myself, I just sent out the filled-out form. I said to myself that this is a very rare opportunity. I can think about the logistics later if I do get accepted. July 31, I got the acceptance letter. The National Library of Malaysia would sponsor my registration (which is 500 euros) and the rest is my expense. But the amount of 500 euros, around $580 or 31,000 pesos, is still a big amount and would be a waste. I wouldn't have afforded the conference without the grant.

Even after I got accepted I was still stuck thinking if I should go or not. I asked some of my foreigner friends in Taiwan who have been to Malaysia, and they encouraged me to go. If not for the seasoned travelers I knew there, I wouldn't have the guts to go alone. They said that I wouldn't have a difficult time in Malaysia as almost everyone speaks English and it's generally affordable. I was in Taiwan then, and I had managed to go around Taipei on my own the last week I was there. So I said to myself, if I could get lost and find my way back here in Taipei, I can do it anywhere! I went back to the Philippines from Taiwan on August 8th (I was there since June), and on August 23rd I set off to Kuala Lumpur again.

I will write more about the traveling experience in Malaysia in detail on the next blog entry, but this blog is more about my IFLA experience in KL.

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

For Book Addicts: steps to recovery

I know that the blog title sounds cheesy, like something from a self-help book. Are you a book addict? Is your hobby buying too many books? I think that's good as long as you have the time, space, and it's something you genuinely enjoy and you can manage it well. But as with all sorts of hobbies and activities, too much of something is not always good.

However, I'm one of the worst kinds of 'book addict' and I'm on my way to recovery. I was addicted to buying books. I loved the thrill of finding a book, getting it, unpacking it, smelling it, and then it's just added to the unread pile, forgotten. It was not so much about the love of reading anymore but acquiring more stuff. Years passed and I was living in a dust-covered book fortress. In an attempt at minimalism, I started organizing my books and decided to get my act together. I want to go back to reading, not merely acquiring. I realized that so much money went into these books and I don't want to waste anymore just to feed an irrational and materialistic obsession.

Thanks to eReaders, eBooks, and reading apps, I have reduced buying physical books. I organized my collection, got rid of most, and made goals for what to get in the future. If you are like me, who struggles with buying more than reading the books, I suggest that we first enjoy and read the books we already own before going out to get more. Here are things that I am also trying to do:

Join a reading challenge.
I have a Goodreads page to keep track of the books I'm reading. They have book challenges like 'Read 30 books a year!' and I've surpassed that goal for 2018. I also have my own challenge to myself: #ProjectShelf. I will try to read those in my shelf that I haven't opened yet.

Have a no-buy.
Set a period of time to not buy books. When I do a no-buy, I don't even want to go inside bookstores because of the risk of being tempted to buy. I'm trying to not buy books until the year ends and I plan a whole year of not buying next year. Good luck to me!

Organize and clean your shelf and books.
Sometimes all it takes to motivate you to read your own books is to clean them and arrange them in a new way. Look at those neat shelves and straight spines! Next thing you know you've picked up an interesting book you've forgotten you had.

Donate books.
If you have books you want to get rid of, someone else or an organization might want your books. Schools and libraries often have book donation drives for outreach activities. Reach out to them and look out for those who are willing to receive books.

Join a Book Swap. 
Last year, I joined a book swap in the local cafe Book Latte. I traded some of my books and got amazing books in return. This is great if you have some books you're not really into, someone else might love them.

Sell books.
Looking for a little extra income? You might have books that you don't really love but are still in good condition. Thanks to technology, there are now many avenues to buy & sell. There's Facebook Marketplace, Carousell, and almost every social network is an opportunity to sell and it's easier for people looking for specific books to find a seller. I have a Carousell page for preloved books. It's also easier to receive payments and ship books. I usually receive payment through Palawan Express Pera Padala and ship through JRS (when I can, I use JRS since it's cheaper than LBC though LBC is much widely accessible).

Read samples before buying.
Also, thanks to technology, samples and excerpts of books are available for you to read before you decide to purchase a book. I usually search for books on Amazon and read the samples on the Kindle app. Sometimes the premise sounded good, but then the book doesn't suit your preferences in writing, story, and characters.

Use your library.
The best way to get books for free without busting your wallet is the local library. It may be your local public library or university library. I like libraries because they usually have catalogs where you can search by author or topic. You can browse the library shelves and get a great book by chance. You can return the books if you don't like them. Many great books I read, I borrowed from the library. Make good use of your library card!