Wednesday, August 15, 2018

PLAI-WVRLC Seminar Invitation: Librarians engage!

Updated invitation:
Online Registration:

The Philippine Librarians Association, Inc.—Western Visayas Region Librarians Council (PLAI-
WVRLC) in partnership with John B. Lacson Foundation Maritime University—Molo, Inc., and West Visayas State University is holding the PLAI-WVRLC Regional Conference and General Assembly 2018 with the theme “Librarians Engage! Moving Forward to Student-Centered Learning Initiatives” on September 6-8, 2018, at John B. Lacson Foundation Maritime University—Molo, Inc., M.H. del Pilar Street, Molo, Iloilo City. This conference has the following objectives:

  1. Upgrade librarians' skills and competencies towards student-centered learning initiatives.
  2. Train librarians to facilitate creative thinking and collaborative learning.
  3. Design information literacy learning experiences for diverse populations.
  4. Conduct the Regional Elimination for the National Book Week Celebration.
  5. Hold the General Assembly and Election of new PLAI-WVRLC officers for the Year 2019-2020.

In view of this, PLAI-WVRLC cordially invites you to participate in this event. Rates are as follows:

P1,500.00 – PLAI Members
P2,000.00 - Non-PLAI members/Paraprofessionals
P 500.00 - BLIS students

Registration fee is inclusive of 6 snacks, 3 lunches, kits, and certificates. For inquiries, please contact cellphone numbers: 09666688291/ 09509445394/09194506688. You may also email at or at The officers of PLAI-WVRLC do look forward to your coming to this event.

Sincerely yours,

Christian George F. Acevedo
PLAI-WVRLC President

Monday, June 11, 2018

Solo: a Star Wars Story [movie reaction]

I watched Solo... well, solo. I had been following Star Wars since The Force Awakens (I only watched the original trilogy after that, I know I'm late). In the first movie Star Wars: A New Hope, when the hero Luke Skywalker leaves his home planet Tatooine, he needed a fast ship. Here's when Luke and Obi-Wan Kenobi meets the charming smuggler Han Solo, an iconic role played by Harrison Ford. Han Solo, his ship the Millenium Falcon, and his loyal Wookie partner Chewbacca have been very popular among Star Wars fans.

Solo is the second of the Star Wars stand-alone movies, next to 2015's Rogue One. The movie tells the origin story of the young Han Solo before A New Hope, how he came to be a pilot and his relationship with his frenemy Lando Calrissian. In The Empire Strikes Back, it is implied that Lando and Han had a long history together and the Solo movie attempts to tell it. It tries to tell the story of what makes Han Solo: how he got his name, how he met Chewbacca, how he got the Millenium Falcon, and how he came to be the charming rebel/hero we know.

In my opinion, Han Solo is quite more iconic than the main hero Luke Skywalker. Where Luke is innocent in the beginning, Han is world-weary, experienced, cool, and neutral. He's a charming smuggler and constantly sneaks his way around deals. At first, Han looks like he's not on the good or bad side - he's in it for himself and for money and that's part of his appeal. Though beneath the surface, Han also has a good heart. I love how the movie also showed that.

The challenge for this movie was finding the ideal actor to play Han Solo. That's quite a big role to fill! Of course, most fans would prefer the original actor. Harrison Ford has become synonymous with his character Han Solo even if its a known fact that the actor himself detests Star Wars and was delighted when the character finally died in The Force Awakens. 

Alden Ehrenreich, the young actor who played Han, did his best. I like that he didn't try to make an impersonation of Harrison Ford's Han Solo but just did it in his own way. Sure, he doesn't look or sound like the Han in the trilogy but I think he got the eyes right (including the cute little smirk).

One of the best things from the movie The Empire Strikes Back is the amusing relationship between Lando Calrissian and Han Solo. I love that this new one got their chemistry right. Many critics have praised Donald Glover for his acting and in the movie, he quite outshines Alden! Woody Harrelson also plays Tobias Beckett, Han Solo's mentor. Tobias warns Han that in their line of work, the only thing to expect is that "everyone will betray you."

The movie begins with a young Han Solo in his home planet Correlia, trying to escape with his girlfriend then, Qi'ra (Emilia Clarke). Though Qi'ra gets left behind, and Han does what he can in the next three years to find her again, though fate has other plans for her. He joins the Imperial Troops but then joins Beckett's group. Somewhere along the way, he meets Dryden Vos (Paul Bettany), some sort of crime lord controlling some very expensive and very dangerous nuclear weapons. He finds Qi'ra working for Vos. Then, he meets Lando through Qi'ra.

The whole movie was certainly enjoyable and quick-paced, but in my opinion, the whole thing pales in comparison to the beauty and tragedy of Rogue One. For me, it was hard to follow in some parts and the sabacc games didn't hit right with me because I don't understand card games in the first place.

What I don't like is the romance between Han and Qi'ra which felt forced, and they lacked chemistry. Qi'ra is a very interesting character, a gorgeous femme fatale with a rough past and also has a self-serving agenda of her own. But there were too much kissing scenes between her and Han. It felt like the story relied too much on these scenes of physical intimacy to 'show' the romance between them. I prefer having them as past partners-in-crime or just best friends and not in a romantic relationship. I found myself cringing in my seat each time they kiss.

Also, I found it quite uncomfortable that in the few scenes between the female characters, they talk about the men mostly. There's a scene in the Millenium Falcon where the droid L3-37 talks to Qi'ra and it's the 'he likes ya, girl' conversation, which for me was totally unnecessary.

What I like is still the Lando/Han chemistry in the movie, and of course, Chewbacca. I love that Han just speaks Wookie when they meet and they're instantly best friends. There's also a gang of pirates called the Cloud Riders who turned out to be rebel forces, and the few scenes with the leader were also great... but they weren't fully explored in the movie. It was one of the few delightful scenes in the movie... along with the cameo of another iconic villain (clue: a Sith).

Overall, it was good but not so great but that's just my opinion. It was fun and fast, something like an exciting noir crime story taking place in space. It is something not to miss if you are a Star Wars or a Han Solo fan.

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

I quit Instagram

I quit Instagram. My profile is still up and I'm still getting regular e-mails about the pictures I've missed, but I have no desire to be back.

This is not a post preaching about the ills of social media and I'm not discouraging anyone from using Instagram, Facebook, or any social media platform. My point is that we must use the tools best for what we need and enjoy, and not just sign up for the latest craze just because it's trending.

Many people say that social media often makes people depressed than happy. We just see the best versions of people we know and the highlights of their lives. Social media has trained us to respond to attention and grow addicted to them. They have their advantages, but everything has a dark side when we use it too much. Facebook has come under scrutiny lately because of privacy issues, and I think more and more people are also being wary. This has been the decade of social media, but I think many more people are questioning it too.

Back to the topic of why I quit Instagram. I know that Instagram can be enjoyable for a lot of people. Pictures can be a simple and effective way of showing yourself and your interests, and share pictures. Many people have met others with similar interests through Instagram. However, no other social media platform is used to showcase an airbrushed life than Instagram. It's very easy to get insecure when you look at the pictures of others, very easy to compare your lives to theirs and feel bad about yourself.

In my opinion, we should use social media platforms that have a benefit to us. Of course, Instagram might be the preferred social network of many people because it is useful for them. But for me, I found myself wasting too much time arranging stuff so it can be a neat Instagram picture, busy linking my blog posts but the engagement is low anyway, and then I wanted to focus more on my blog and a Facebook page was the best way to promote it. I waste more than enough time on Facebook anyway, and using more social media will suck out my time. I knew I had to quit Instagram when I found myself wasting so much time choosing the right filter, for what? A few likes?

Like most millennials, a day can't pass without me checking social media at least five times. I've just realized that most of the time I spent idle and scrolling through an infinite feed has taken a toll on my health, my relationships, and my mind. Social media is a great tool, but we should be more mindful of how we use it. I'm still trying to find a good balance.

Monday, June 4, 2018

Learning Buddhist Living: HALA 2018

My first *official* job as a librarian was in Guang Ming College, a free college established in 2014 by Fo Guang Shan, a Chinese Buddhist organization in the Philippines. I have long been interested in Buddhism even before that, and one of the reasons I worked there is because I wanted to learn more about it. It's been two years since I left, and I still wanted to learn more. I read books, but I wanted to experience meditation and learn more about the teachings. The college is currently located in Mabuhay Temple in Manila but will eventually move to a new campus in Tagaytay, Cavite.

Fo Guang Shan Mabuhay Temple in Manila, Philippines has an annual program called Humanistic Academy of Life and Arts (a.k.a. 'HALA'), a free educational program lasting for 3 months. This program started in 2007 and we're now on Batch 13. I was interested since it includes a month-long retreat in Taiwan, which will be on July. I applied and fortunately, I got accepted. We started last May 1, and the program will last until early August. It wasn't that hard to adjust since I was already familiar with the culture, I know the people, and some were glad to see me again!

Basically, we learn about Buddhism in the program and try the minimalist Buddhist lifestyle. For those unfamiliar with Buddhism, it is a movement started by the 'Buddha' around 2,500 years ago. Siddhartha Gautama was a prince who renounced his worldly life to search for the solution to suffering. After six years, he attained 'enlightenment' and proceeded to teach what he knows to others. He taught the Four Noble Truths and the Noble Eight-fold Path. It is more complicated than that, but I think his most important teachings are on impermanence, emptiness, and non-attachment. Buddhist scriptures are called 'sutras' and Buddhist monks and nuns work to propagate the dharma or Buddha's teachings.

Everything here has a rigid schedule and you really learn discipline. Buddhists believe in 'no killing' and we are only allowed to eat vegetarian food, which is actually quite good and healthy! We have classes on various topics and have many varied activities. We have classes in Buddhist studies, Chinese culture, Buddhist scriptures, Vegetarian cooking, even singing and dance! There were originally seven of us (four from the Philippines, three foreign students) but we're down to six right now. By the end of this month, we will be in Taiwan until August and I am excited to visit another country again.

A Typical Day in the Temple:
We have to wake up early and put on our Hai Qing or robes. We have a morning prayer at 6:30 AM, and breakfast is at 7 AM. Everything is done in order and in silence, especially the meals. Everything has a specific order to how you arrange the plates and how you line up to go in or go out of the dining hall. After breakfast, we have exercise, usually Tai Chi. We time to do our chores, then we have classes before lunch again at 12 PM sharp. On the afternoon, we have a couple of classes and chores again. Dinner is at 6. We meditate at 8 PM and call it a day by 10 PM.

I will soon write a more detailed post of the deeper aspects of sitting meditation, working meditation, and the silent meal. I just wanted to write something here because I haven't written a blog in a long while and each day here is such a unique learning experience. I have learned a lot from the people I've met here and we're still planning many things to do together. We already have our visas and tickets for Taiwan and of course, I will write about that soon.

I know that the word 'Buddhism' might not be understood by some people. Since it's another 'religion', people tend to have a closed mind. But in my experience here, we are not being forced to convert and I view Buddha as just another great teacher philosopher similar to Socrates or Plato. If you keep an open mind, the teachings are meaningful, profound, and true. In essence, what it teaches complements the basic teachings of most major religions. I'm just here as a student to study it and learn more about it.

Anyway, I have a lot more to write about my experiences here in HALA so stay tuned!

Some photos:
Who says vegetarian food can't be good? Some dishes for our cooking class.

Our dorm rooms (girls)

Table arrangement

At the Main Shrine of Fo Guang Shan Mabuhay Temple with the White Jade Buddha from Myanmar

Sunday, April 29, 2018

Books I read: April 2018

Next month, I will be off on another journey! My free time will be limited so I might not be able to update this blog as often or even have time to read many books. I will write about that experience here, as well. I read seven books this month. I wrote two book reviews on this blog:
Here are my other book reactions, we'll start off with the fiction first:

Bloodline: a Star Wars novel by Claudia Grey
I’m a new fan of Star Wars since The Force Awakens, and I’ve also been reading novels set in the Star Wars Universe. So far, I have read the Rogue One novelization, Guardians of the Whills (links to my reviews), and Knights of the Old Republic: Revan.

This book centers on Princess Leia Organa and her political career in an unstable Senate. The Senators are divided into two popular parties, the Populists, and the Centrists. Leia is with the Populists, who have a more democratic approach to politics, while the Centrists prefer authoritarian methods. The Centrists have many Empire sympathizers, and there are some who want the Empire back. I thought it would be a boring political thriller, unlike Luke Skywalker's adventures, but the book is quite enjoyable. Even if it's set in a fictional universe, the politics and conflicts were well-written and the characters were fleshed out.

One character I like is Ransolm Casterfo, a young Centrist Senator. He's quite vain and cares a bit too much about his clothes (the author pictured him played by Tom Hiddleston). They both work together to investigate a gang leader who may be funded by an anonymous organization. Their relationship doesn't start out well, and it gets worse when Leia finds out that Ransolm collects historical artifacts from the Empire. I thought that he would be a villain at first, but I love how his character and their friendship developed.

Leia has kept the secret that she is Darth Vader's daughter, but this fact was found out by an enemy and was used against her. The 'reveal' is one of the most dramatic scenes in the book. The book's timeline is before the movie The Force Awakens, and if you like the sequel trilogy this story will give you more understanding of the shaky galactic politics that led the First Order to rise. This made me want to check out more of Claudia Grey's books.

Labyrinth: a novel based on the Jim Henson Film by A.C.H. Smith
For those who are not aware of it, The Labyrinth was a 1986 movie starring David Bowie and Jennifer Connelly. It was not a box-office hit but it became a cult classic. The story is about Sarah, a young girl who hates babysitting her half-brother, Toby. She wishes that he will be taken away by the Goblin King. Be careful what you wish for because Jareth the Goblin King grants her wish. Her brother gets taken away, but she wants him back. But for her to get him back, she must solve the Goblin King's Labyrinth and take Toby from his castle in thirteen hours.

She is 'spirited away' to the goblin world and she meets various friends along the way. I just watched the film recently and its one of my current favorites. It reminds me of fairy tales and stories I enjoyed as a child, like The Wizard of Oz and Alice in Wonderland. The movie is fun itself, and a masterpiece of puppetry (the goblins were mostly puppets). Beneath the adventure story, I think it is a coming-of-age story dressed in fairy tale imagery. Most would agree that the best part of the movie is David Bowie who was just perfect for the Goblin King role.

I watched the film three times and I still couldn't get enough of it, so I read the novelization.  If you really loved a movie and can’t get enough of it, a good novelization often immerses us into that world once again, with more additional content. What surprised me about this book is there is a more sexual something between Sarah and Jareth, things that are really shouldn’t be included in the kids’ movie. And in her dance with Jareth in the illusion, he almost kissed her but she ran from him and broke the spell.

I also like Jareth in the book, and it showed different sides of him that were not in the movie. Jareth is quite vain, obsessed with youthful looks, and is concerned with his aging. There’s a sentence on how ‘people used to sacrifice children to him’, which makes him some sort of ancient being/god.

This is My Letter to the World: the Omikuji Project cycle one by Catherynne M. Valente
Catherynne Valente was a huge inspiration to me when I first started writing. Her novel Deathless is still one of my favorites, and I love her striking language and beautiful imagery. She writes in a poetic language that just took my breath away. I even tried imitating her language and writing, and that is a natural part of a writer's life. We first try to be like the writers we love before evolving into our own style.

This book is composed of short stories that were originally monthly letters to her readers. Each piece is short, but not all got to me. The stories I liked best were: "Blue with Those Tears," about the people of Atlantis; "The Consultant," is about a 'fairy-tale consultant' who acts like a therapist for your fairy tale problems and needs; and "Reading Borges in Buenos Aires," which I liked because Jorge Luis Borges in one of my favorite writers.

Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis
This book has influenced me when I was just a new Christian. This is a collection of essays that were originally Lewis's words on radio in World War 2. The book is divided into four parts: Ethics, Christian belief, Christian behavior, and Christian theology. I read this first in college and I'm reading this again many years later. I find that Lewis here had quite an outdated view of women (it's just in his turns of phrase and examples) that I think most Christians would say "what." Though, the best thing about this book is the way it argues for Christianity. His argument starts slowly, in the most basic things about right and wrong, he doesn't even start with the concept of God and religion. An essay on the sin of pride, "The Great Sin" is the one that really made an impression on me when I first read it, and it still speaks to me now even years later.

"Each person’s pride is in competition with everyone else’s pride. It is because I wanted to be the big noise at the party that I am so annoyed at someone else being the big noise. Pride is essentially competitive – while the other vices are competitive only, so to speak, by accident. Pride gets no pleasure out of having something, only out of having more of it than the next man. We say that people are proud of being rich, or clever, or good-looking, but they are not. They are proud of being richer, or cleverer, or better looking than others. If everyone else became equally rich, or clever, or good-looking there would be nothing to be proud about. It is the comparison that makes you proud, the pleasure of being above the rest."

Friday, April 27, 2018

Avengers: Infinity War [movie reaction]

Avengers: Infinity War, directed by the Russo Brothers, started showing here last Wednesday. My sister and I have been semi-regularly following the MCU movies since Avengers in 2012. I have written my movie reactions to previous MCU movies in this blog: Thor: Ragnarok and Black Panther (which I still think is the best). The Russo Brothers also directed two Captain America movies, The Winter Soldier and Civil War. I loved both, so I also had high expectations for this one. I'm just your casual fan, I don't have any more detailed knowledge of MCU lore than the average fan of the movies.

Infinity War is the third Avengers movie, and they try to once again save the universe from a new enemy, Thanos. This movie also features characters from Guardians of the Galaxy, where Thanos was the main antagonist of the two films.

As I'm writing this, it's pretty difficult to explain it to non-fans of this franchise. If you just watch Infinity War without previous knowledge of the characters and their stories, you can get confused. Screen Junkies on Youtube posted a helpful video summarizing all the previous movies, "Every Marvel Movie Up To Infinity War - CRAM IT! (Avengers edition)." Even if I was familiar with the movies, I also had to watch that prior to this movie. The movie jumps right into the action and assumes that the viewer already knows what happened to them before.
The six Infinity Stones
The movie starts right after the end-credits scene of Thor: Ragnarok. Thanos is searching for the six Infinity Stones that have power over the universe: Power, Soul, Mind, Reality, Time, and Space. The spaceship of Asgardians led by Thor and company was attacked by Thanos who wants to get the Tesseract (Space stone). Once he completes all stones, Thanos will obtain absolute power and can destroy worlds and annihilate millions of beings with a snap of his fingers. He already has the Reality and Power stones, so he tries to find the remaining ones, some of which are in the possession of the Avengers. Loki has the Tesseract or the Space stone, Dr. Strange has the Time stone, Vision has the Mind stone, and the whereabouts of the Soul Stone is still unknown but will be shown in the movie.

Thanos sends his Black Order to obtain the stones. They are formidable and powerful, and our heroes battle them first before Thanos finally comes into the picture.

I like Proxima Midnight and Ebony Maw (those flanking Loki)
This is a huge crossover film with a big ensemble cast. I watched the film curious about how they will pull that one off. We find Thor with the Guardians of the Galaxy. Ironman, Spiderman, and Dr. Strange follow the ship of Thanos's Black Order to Titan, and they also meet the Guardians there. Captain America is with his buddies from Civil War. The best thing about this movie is the interactions between the cast. The backdrop is grim yet there are lines that will still make the audience laugh. There was the banter between Dr. Strange and Iron Man, Spiderman's dorkiness, and the expected personality clash between Peter Quill and Tony Stark.

Thor, Rocket, and Groot are on another quest to try to obtain a weapon strong enough to defeat Thanos. With the Mjolnir gone in Thor's previous movie, he travels to the place where it was forged.

I think Thanos is a very different villain from the previous films. The Russo Brothers had mentioned that this movie has a focus on Thanos. Thanos really does believe that it's his way that will right the universe. He is the villain, but he also has a compassionate side (even if how twisted that side is). He has a complicated relationship with his adopted daughter Gamora, which is interesting. Gamora resents him but loves him at the same time, but she also knows that he must be stopped. While the Guardians movies were fun, they weren't my favorites. I actually like the Guardians more in Infinity War. Thanos is the first villain that I felt they had totally no chance to win.

What I love most about this movie are the stunning visuals. Most scenes are set in outer space and the fictional planets were stunning, especially the planet Volmir.

Here are some of my favorite scenes without spoiling anything:
  • I was not a fan of the romance between Peter Quill and Gamora in the Guardians movies, but I liked it here. 
  • Gamora herself. The story shows her as a child and it makes me want to cry.
  • Peter Parker saving the day with his movie-nerd knowledge. I just watched the Alien films recently and Spiderman references that many times. Peter used it (effectively) to fight one of Thanos' henchmen.
  • I won't spoil it anymore, but prepare your tissues and wipes because this movie will make you cry. People in the theater around me cried. 
  • The last act of the battle occurs in Wakanda. Natasha, Okoye, and Wanda against Proxima Midnight was everything.
The movie ends with a cliffhanger and the story will continue in the yet untitled Avengers 4 movie. We still have a year left to wait for it, meanwhile, the next Marvel films will be Ant-Man and the Wasp this August and Captain Marvel next year. 

Anyway, overall it was an enjoyable movie. So many things are going on at once, but it didn't feel like the characters were all fighting for limited screen time. It's funny, but grim and somewhat depressing at the same time. I'm still hoping that the next movie will deliver a satisfying conclusion. The only thing I can predict is that I'm still throwing my money in Marvel's direction in the years to come.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Island Dreams [movie reaction]

Last Saturday, I decided to watch the 2013 film Island Dreams in Cinematheque Iloilo. There were only four people in the audience including me. I was attracted to the film's trailer, and I did like this movie. I'm not a big fan of the romance genre, but I'll read or watch a story if it's good. It has also won a few awards: it was included in the official selection in the 39th Metro Manila Film Festival under the New Wave Category and won the Most Gender-Sensitive Film Award.

Island Dreams tells the story of Zach (Alexis Petitprez), a foreign tourist in a vacation, and Julie (Louise Delos Reyes), a girl who tries to work as a tourist guide so she can earn some money to go to the city to audition for a reality show, so she can have a chance to chase her dreams to be a singer.

Julie lives with her blind mother, who always teases her about her love life. Julie cringes at the concept of love and is very cynical about it. The story starts when Julie tries to be a tourist guide, except that she's doing it illegally because you have to be accredited by the Department of Tourism to be a guide. Her first 'client' is the aloof foreigner Zach, who at first assumes that the 'services' she offers are different.

Things get to a rocky start when an inebriated Zach tries to make advances to the naive Julie. Nothing happens, but Zach tries to make it up to Julie by hiring her again (as a tourist guide, not anything else). But things are not actually what they seem. We first see Zach as a tourist just looking for a good time, while Julie is just another girl trying to chase her dreams. The story gradually unveils their real motivations and secrets.

Zach is trying to go to a place called "True Love's Peak", but this place reminds Julie of something painful from her past. Just as soon as they start a friendship, Julie and Zach have a huge disagreement again when Julie leads him to a different place entirely! In this, we are shown the real reasons behind Julie and Zach's actions. However, I felt that the way they showed Zach's past was more convincing than the way they showed Julie's past. Zach's past was shown with flashback scenes, while Julie just had a confrontation with her mother who revealed it. It felt like 'telling' rather than 'showing' what happened. I just wished it was shown more and not just revealed in a few sentences.

However, this movie also has its share of cliches. 'The couple tries to fight but ends up with their bodies falling on each other' cliche was here. The actor playing Zach was more convincing in his dramatic scenes than the scenes that are supposed to be comedic. It's Louise who really shines here. I love how her character just carries around a pair of arnis sticks for self-defense and she did use her fighting skills to fend off some NPA guards on a remote place. I didn't really feel the 'spark' or 'chemistry' between the two actors.

This movie is okay if you love the 'beach vacation romance' genre. The last time I watched something like this was the movie Siargao (link to my review), but I liked this movie more than Siargao. That movie feels like a long love letter to Siargao, while in Island Dreams the place was not the focus. It feels like any beach town in the Philippines, it could be anywhere. I think the focus was the characters, not the setting itself.
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