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.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

O'Layra: Princesa cang Dagat dance drama [reaction]

Last April 13, 2018, I watched the dance drama O'Layra: Princesa cang Dagat (in English, O'Layra: Princess of the Sea) live in UPV Auditorium. I saw the event advertised on Facebook and I was already interested in the poster and concept. At 150 pesos, I thought it would be a priceless experience. Their official Facebook page has more information and interviews with the key people of this production. A writer from Antique, Alex Delos Santos, posted a great review of this play. I'm writing my reaction as an ordinary viewer who just heard of the O'Layra legend.

I'm not really a theater enthusiast, but you know I love stories and mythology. That's why I keep writing about books and movies in this blog. What I like about theater plays and movies is the audience response - when you are part of the crowd, you can feel their energy and feelings about the story. In this play, the audience laughed, cheered, and expressed dismay at the sad parts of the story.

O'Layra was a famous radio show during the 1970's in the province of Antique, Panay Island, in Western Visayas. It was written and narrated by Russell Tordesillas. The story was about a tamawo (fairy/supernatural being) princess named O'Layra. Since her parents, the Emperor and Emperatris, wants descendants with souls, they send O'Layra to the world of the mortals where she can marry a human being. Since tamawo have no souls, the king and queen hopes that through O'Layra, the future generations of tamawo may have souls.

This is the stage adaptation of that popular radio show, but it's an entirely different approach. It doesn't only tell the story of O'Layra but also a creative/fictional narrative of Russell Tordesillas, the original writer and radio narrator of this story. O'Layra is not just a simple story. The radio play was inspired by these real stories and rumors were the writer himself had real encounters with the tamawo! People can still point to the exact tree where the infant O'Layra was found and she is also a part of myth and folklore in the province.

What's interesting about the play is that the writer himself is a character in the play. The real Russell Tordesillas has passed away, but Kevin Piamonte had the great idea to include him in the story. I love how the play portrayed the art of writing and creation. It had that postmodern element of blending fantasy and reality. In this play, Russell (the character) is portrayed as in love with O'Layra, but he's just a friend to her. In short, he's stuck in the friendzone with her. It seems that it is Russel who is the bida of this show.

The prominent feature of the stage design is the writer's table and radio booth where he narrates the story. The original music and songs were superb, as well as the dance choreography. The character of Russell has the most 'screen time' here and the actor was pretty good at it. He can sing, dance (quite), and his acting was also great judging by the enthusiastic audience response. The actress playing O'Layra was good as well. The characters of Prince Fitzgerald (O'Layra's love interest), Natalia (O'Layra's rival), and her human foster parents added a refreshing humor to the story. Even the nameless dancers could convey character and story through dance.

What I love best is that the play was in the Kinaray-a language of Antique. It's my first time to hear it on a stage play (out of the very few I go to) and it's just awesome to hear it. While I grew up in Iloilo City, my mother's side of the family spoke it. I learned a lot of new words in the play and had a renewed appreciation for the dialect. Overall, it was truly a priceless, one-of-a-kind experience.

O'Layra will be showing again in CAP Auditorium in San Jose, Antique on May 1. (Source)

The cast of O'Layra (photo from their Facebook page)
Writer/Director: Kevin Piamonte
Dance Choreography: Bobby Rodriguez
Musical Director/Composer: Crista Sianson-Huyong

Saturday, April 14, 2018

You are invited to the PLAI WVRLC Summer Conference! "Librarians in Action: Innovate & Collaborate"

Update: the seminar dates have changed to MAY 30-31, 2018


The Philippine Librarians Association, Inc. (PLAI-WVRLC) and Central Philippine University (CPU) through its Review and Continuing Education Consultancy Center (RCECC) in partnership with the Philippine Theological Library Association (PTLA) is holding the PLAI-WVRLC International Summer Conference with the theme “Librarians in Action: Innovate and Collaborate” from May 30-31, 2018, at Central Philippine University Educational Media Center, Lopez Jaena Street, Jaro, Iloilo City. This conference has the following objectives:

1. Upgrade librarians’ competency in the field of research, IT, collaboration and linkage building, and standards and accreditation. 
2. Provide librarians with opportunities to learn from high impact speakers from the Philippines and abroad.
3. Offer librarians the avenue to share their experiences and evaluate their competencies through the activities that this conference has to offer.

In view of this, PLAI-WVRLC is cordially inviting you to participate in this two-day event. Rates are as follows: 
P2,500.00 – PLAI Members
P3,000.00 - Non-PLAI members/Paraprofessionals/Foreign Participants
P 1,500.00 - BLIS students

Registration fee is inclusive of 4 snacks, 2 lunches, kits, and certificates. We are inviting some of the most respected personalities in the profession both locally and abroad to provide us with a truly worthwhile learning experience. For inquiries, please contact cellphone numbers: 09998814491/ 09509445394/09194506688. You may also email at or at The officers of PLAI-WVLRC do look forward to your coming to this event.

Christian George F. Acevedo
PLAI-WVLRC President

See you there!

Thursday, April 12, 2018

7 Tips to survive Comprehensive Exams for Master's degree

Last time, I wrote about "5 reasons to enroll in a Master's degree." Usually, you have to pass comprehensive exams for your graduate degree. These exams try to test your knowledge of the core subjects studied in your course. Not all programs have comprehensive exams, so be sure to check with the school or course coordinator if this is a requirement. I took my 'compre' last February, and here are my tips to do well on the exams. First, of course, if you already understood the basics of the subject and passed them, you don't have to worry much - be confident that you already know them, you just have to review.

Schedule time to study.
Often, comprehensive exams are scheduled each semester or school year. Decide when you will take the exam, so you can determine how much time you can devote to studying. Take note of the exam redo dates (in case you fail in some subjects and need to retake them).

Often, we are juggling our graduate degree with a full-time job, family, and other responsibilities. It is important to set aside time to study first before it gets taken by other priorities. You can schedule study time on weekends, before/after work, or early in the morning/late at night when no one can disturb you. It also helps to be in a quiet study area away from distractions. It can be at your local library, the public library, or one of the coworking spaces around town where you can use the space for a fee. Some who lead busy lives often take a leave from work of at least one week for focused study.

Read, read, and read.
Comprehensive exams are usually essay-type exams, where your understanding of the concepts is tested. The tried-and-tested study method is read constantly: your past lessons, important texts, and research.

Get good studying tools.
I remember that on the first subject of my comprehensive exam, my hands hurt due to too much writing and a really bad pen. So I went to the school supplies store, tried and tested several pens and chose the ones that work best and are comfortable for writing. In answering the exams, you will usually have to write a lot, and a good pen helps. Also be prepared: try and check your calculators, pencils, erasers, and correction pens if they work. These are minor things, but if you are stressed about something not working, it will affect how you answer the exam.

In the exam, I also bought clean scratch papers to write down the outline of my answers before I wrote my final answers on the exam notebook.

Study previous exams.
Don't throw away the handouts and old exam papers. Study them so you can have an idea about the main topics or how the professor gives exams.

Ask students who passed about previous exams.
You can also ask the students who have already passed about the topics in the exam or the exam style of a specific subject or professor. They can give you valuable clues and studying tips.

Consult with your professor.
Most teachers are willing to help students. Exam content and questions may change, so it doesn't hurt to ask your professor for pointers.

Practice Writing.
In answering exams, expect that you will write a lot. Most people find it difficult to write. If you hate writing, try to practice explaining through words. If the books you read have practice essay exams, you can try writing your own answers. Writing is just thinking on a piece of paper. You don't have to write flowery prose (remember, this is an exam), but being clear and concise is enough. Don't be tempted to write too much on the exam, but just enough to answer the question. Sometimes more does not mean better (except if the questions require an extensive answer). The rule of thumb is to be brief but clear.

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

5 reasons to enrol in a Master's degree

I started my Master's degree in Library Science last June 2016. It has been a rewarding experience. Two years after graduating college and working, I found that I missed going to school and learning. One of the reasons I studied for my Master's is so I can apply for jobs requiring a graduate degree. I have just finished my comprehensive exams last February, and I only have Thesis Writing left.

In the Philippines, those who want to work as librarians but don't have a bachelor's degree in Library Science often opt to take MLIS or Masters in Library and Information Science so they can take the Librarian Licensure Exam and be professional librarians. In RA 9246, only BLIS or MLIS graduates can take the licensure exam. Often, higher-level or management jobs in the library (especially in Academic Libraries) require an MLIS.

Another reason why I took up MLIS is that I felt that there was something lacking in my learning during college. Now that we are at the graduate level, the discussions are centered on practical applications and experiences in the library. You are more responsible for your own learning and the requirements are more challenging than those in college.

If you're thinking of taking up MLIS or a graduate degree, here are 5 advantages:

Learning and Knowledge.
The technology and knowledge may have changed since you graduated. Being in graduate school exposes you to new trends and subjects. It encourages you to open your mind, do research, and investigate.

Continuing Professional Development.
CPD is now a law for professionals in the Philippines. We are required a certain number of CPD points to renew our licenses (45 units for librarians). Getting a Master's degree in a related field is another way of attaining self-directed learning, which can be also credited to CPD.

Career Advancement.
This is often the main reason why many choose to enrol in a Master's Degree. Having a Master's opens more opportunities and may open doors to higher-level positions (which also means higher salaries).

A wider network of professionals.
In graduate school, you also meet fellow professionals in the same field. You can share ideas, best practices, and solutions to common problems. You meet mentors who can guide you, and teachers who can help you. Since there is a small number of librarians in the country anyway, its good to widen your network in graduate school.

New friends.
Your friends in graduate school are often different than your college or school friends. In graduate school, you are all more mature and there is less drama. I think that I like my friends in graduate school best.

Monday, April 9, 2018

Book review: LAYB LIFE, Mga Kwento at Karanasan ng Isang Librarian by Michael Pinto, RL

Layb Life: mga kwento at karanasan ng isang librarian by Michael Pinto. Quezon City: Great Books, ©2013.

Warning at the book's beginning: "Bawal ang pikon. Bato-bato sa langit, ang tamaan huwag magrereact! Ang pikon ay guilty!"

For Filipino librarians, you may know Michael Pinto as the current President of Philippine Librarians Association, Inc. or PLAI. I first heard him talk during a seminar in CPU years ago, and hearing him on a talk in person is thought-provoking and funny at the same time. I actually bought this book during the PLAI National Congress in Ilocos last 2015, I've browsed it and read some sections, but I sat down and decided to read the book again from start to finish. As the title implies, it contains separate chapters dealing with the good, the bad, the ugly, and the funny in a librarians' daily experience.

The author's career is unique as at the age of 25 (my age!) he has been the youngest ever librarian to be the Director of Libraries in his institution. He presents his personal experiences that they don't teach in library school. I find it so amusing since the experiences he talked about the book was very near to mine and I think it will resonate with a lot of Filipino librarians. If you are a library manager or employee, you will laugh, cry, and also learn valuable lessons about dealing with people.

The first chapter, "Buhay Librarian" is a general description of different kinds of libraries and librarians you may encounter. This chapter may be a great introduction to non-librarians to library work. I think that this book is best for fresh graduates, new employees, and Library Science students. This is also great for high school students or parents who want to have an idea of what to expect from the Library Science college course.

In "Wow Mali!" presents the wrong practices people usually do in the libraries. Teachers making the library their salon, books being kept and not used, the sad state of some libraries. It's very funny but also makes you think: am I doing these things? If these are happening in my library, what can I do? In "D.O.L." the author describes his experience in being the Director of Libraries. Things get more personal in "Naiistress ka na ba sa trabaho mo?" since most of us employees have been stressed at some point. This book reminds us that we should also take care of ourselves and make time for our families, and if our workplace brings too much stress in our lives that it's taking a toll on our health or relationships, maybe it's time to think about resigning.

Most of the chapters tackle the various personalities in the library. There are chapters dedicated to what kind of boss, librarian, employee, job applicant, student assistant, or library client are you. There are also two chapters that will make you think: "Plants vs. Zombies" and "To be or not to be Idealistic or Impulsive?" deals with the author's experiences and opinions on the professional organizations of librarians. These chapters are mostly about the differing opinions between the younger and older generations of librarians. If you are a member of PLAI or any professional library organization, these two chapters are pretty insightful.

Each chapter is worth a read, because the tone is light and funny. The book is in Tagalog and the language quite reminded me of Bob Ong (if he was a librarian). Though the book is specifically about librarians, the ordinary Filipino reader can also have a good laugh over it and probably change his or her perspective about libraries and librarians.

I gave the book a 5-star rating in Goodreads, but my only complaint about the book is a technical one. The font is inconsistent, the spacing in between is okay in some paragraphs but looks too compressed in others and makes it hard to read (as someone who wears glasses and is practically blind without them). I had to slow down to read it clearly. If they have new editions of the book, I hope they change this minor thing.

Thursday, April 5, 2018

My fiction in Central Echo's Imagine Nation 2017

The cover of Imagine Nation 2017 with the theme "Concrete"
Imagine Nation is the Literary Folio of Central Echo, the official student publication of Central Philippine University, Jaro, Iloilo City. Every year since 2013, they hold the Imagine Nation Literary Contest for aspiring writers in the university. They have an annual theme for submissions. Contest winners and selected entries are chosen for publication. I first entered the contest in 2014, I submitted three entries (short story and poetry categories), two won awards but all three got featured in the folio that year.

Since I'm enrolled in CPU again for my Master's degree and there's another contest coming up, I took the challenge again. This year's theme was "Concrete" and that's a very challenging topic to write on, it really stretches your creativity. I submitted three entries for three contest categories: Maikling Kwento, Short Story, and English Poetry. "Bato" won 2nd place in the Maikling Kwento category, while "Barricades" also won 2nd place in the English Poetry Category. "Atlantis" is my entry for Short story category, it didn't win any awards but it was published in the folio.

The online version is still not available, I will post the link when it does. Here, I will write about how I came up with the ideas and the writing process:

Atlantis [short story]
This story is about a brother going back home to the funeral of his twin sister and finds the answer to her death.

Since the theme was "Concrete," my first ideas were abandoned buildings or forgotten civilizations. This is a story that was almost not written because by the first paragraph it was going nowhere, I don't even have a solid idea of it. I thought I might write about the lost city of Atlantis, but a story just wouldn't form. I left it for awhile, but near the deadline, another idea came: Atlantis as someone's name. Then from there the story just wrote itself, I didn't take a break while writing, I finished it in one sitting.

Now that I read it again, I think I was inspired by Cynthia Hand's book about a sister dealing with her brother's suicide, The Last Time We Say Goodbye [link to my review].

Bato [maikling kwento]
This story has action, poverty, and drug-dealing. This story won the 2nd place in the Imagine Nation Literary Contest this year for the Maikling Kwento or Filipino short story category.

Once I knew the theme, I immediately wanted to write something about poverty. This is me trying hard to be edgy. This was inspired by the current administration's 'War on Drugs' and this story centers on Joel, an innocent probinsyano who goes to the city to fulfill his dreams, only to find himself in a drug syndicate. Edgardo Reyes' Sa Mga Kuko ng Liwanag is a huge inspiration.

Barricades [poem]
is just another poem about infatuation. Much to my surprise, it won 2nd place in the English poetry category.

Since the Lang Leav-type poems are really popular nowadays, I tried my hand at writing something on the same subject but I didn't really think much about it as I wrote it. I guess poetry about love and infatuation will never lose its popularity, but this poem is really more of a joke to myself. When I knew about the theme the first lines already popped into my head (There's a wall / between you and me / that I want to break / You pass by me, seeming uncertainty / I imagine your eyes / see me as I see you), and it was easy to write the rest of the poem.

This issue also has my sister Edrianne's two poems and my friend Charlyn Mateo's short story in Filipino, "Diploma".

Speaking of writing, I wasn't aware that my work was included in a flash fiction anthology by Kasing Kasing Press, Mariit: Hiligaynon Flash Fiction 3. I did submit for a contest and forgot about it, and only saw now that it was included a year after it was included. Funny that I've seen this so many times but didn't bother to check.  My flash fic is entitled "Kataw". This costs P50.00 and is available at Kasing Kasing Press.