Saturday, April 15, 2017

Our Winter Of Discontent


I just found out that even before November last year, D already thought of breaking up with me. He was already dissatisfied with our relationship around two-ish years ago; I suppose there were needs of his that our relationship (and I) could not answer. Or maybe his priorities and needs had shifted already.

So why didn’t he? At that time he felt that if he broke up with me, he had no place to go. He still wasn’t earning enough to afford a place of his own. His mom and sisters live in the metro, and he also has relatives in Taguig; technically, he could have moved in with any of them. But it would have been a big hassle not only for him but also for his relatives.

(Let’s also assume that at that time he still had enough feelings for me, making it harder for him to leave. Because otherwise, if he were really unhappy, he would have been compelled to do something.)

By the time he broke up with me during the ides of March, he was in a much better place financially. And his mom and sisters had moved to a bigger apartment, with an extra room for him. Conditions were right for him to break up with me.

Was it unfair to hold on for several months given the discontent? Because a relationship involves two parties, let’s tackle that question in two parts.

Was it unfair for him? Well, it was his choice; he decided to grin and bear it. And for most parts, I did not sense anything out of the ordinary from him, so he was able to hide his discontent well. In that sense, kinaya niya. So whether it was unfair or not, I suppose it didn’t matter that much for him, because he stayed on.

Was it unfair for me? Did I deserve to at least be told? Do I deserve someone who is not discontented with me? Personally, I don’t mind having a partner who harbours some discontent, so long as he can live with his decision to stay with me.

The truth is, everyone can have some level of discontent or dissatisfaction with everyone else. Let’s get real here. The saying “No one’s perfect, but you’re perfect for me” is a huge fallacy. Walang perfect, walang forever. So staying with a partner means learning how to live with a certain level of discontentment and unfulfilled needs. The question one should ask oneself is: Can I accept him, warts and all of that? One must be able to determine the level of acceptable discontent and disharmony. Because if they go beyond that—we call them “deal breakers”—then the deal is off, so to speak.

Which is why, upon hearing that D had been thinking of breaking up with me earlier, I wasn’t really fazed or bothered that much. I was more curious as to why he didn’t say anything earlier.

(And to some extent, I feel bad for D that he had to endure months of discontent with me, when he could have extracted himself from that situation.)

Do I feel bad that he stayed for practical reasons? No. We all have different motives in life. And when we choose a particular path to take, often there’s more than one motivation at play there. We do this, we choose that, for several reasons; and it’s possible that there is no clear ranking of motivations. What’s the more important motive? What’s the least important? Most people act without much deliberation, which requires self-awareness and self-assessment.

At no time in our relationship did I feel that he was just using me. So no, I do not feel bad. In fact, it’s more likely that he had other reasons alongside practical ones for staying with me. And those are enough for me.

Friday, April 7, 2017

“This Is Where We Broke Up”



Okay, DO NOT read too much into this. This is not how we broke up. I just think this is a wonderfully executed short film.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

My Two Top 5 Films Lists


My friends asked me to make a list of my Top 5 films “of all time,” but they qualified it to mean that the films should be ones that “stayed with you or meant a lot to you through the years” and that “you won’t mind seeing them again and again”.

For me, there’s a difference between “stayed with you, meant a lot to you” and won’t “mind seeing again and again”. The latter qualifier allows for movies that are just freaking fun to watch again and again, and may not mean a lot for me except for the amount of fun or joy it gives me while watching.

I’d also like to point out that there are particular movies with scenes that I loooooove watching again and again and again and again (The Matrix and The Matrix Reloaded are especially my favorites; the action scenes are mini-lessons in staging and editing, and are not as relentlessly painful to watch compared to George Miller’s Mad Max movies). I’ve seen those scenes more times than I’ve seen E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial, the record-holder for the movie I’ve seen the most number of times, but I wouldn’t want to wade through the whole movie just to watch those scenes (hooray for DVD/Blu-ray!). So I will exclude those movies from my list.

To that end, here is my list of Top 5 Films I Won’t Mind Seeing Again & Again In Their Entirety:

5. Kingsman: The Secret Service (2014) – It’s got Taron Egerton in a shirtless scene, muscles taut and rippling. It’s got gentlemen spies. It’s very British. It’s got a killer lady assassin with killer legs (literally). And it’s got Samuel L. Jackson with a lisp. What’s not to love?

4. Raiders Of The Lost Ark (1981) – Spielberg’s and Lucas’ ode to their swashbuckling afternoon matinees of their youth. This film also is a mini-film class on how brilliant Spielberg stages action scenes (another Spielberg class in staging and editing is Jurassic Park).

3. Kick-Ass (2010) – The runaway star here is ChloĆ« Grace Moretz, making Hit Girl the cutest killing machine not older than 12. Her fight scenes energize the movie, and kick it several notches higher than your usual superhero movie. It also gives Nicolas Cage a role that fits his weird persona perfectly. Aaron Johnson anchors the film with his earnest and funny portrayal of a teenager who believes he’s doing the right thing. This is the second movie directed by Matthew Vaughn in my list; the other is Kingsman.

2. The Princess Bride (1987) – Fall in love with a movie that makes you fall in love with falling in love. The movie is a story-within-a-story, and is chockfull of quotable quotes and earnest yet winking performances. Plus you see Robin Wright at her prettiest, Cary Elwes at his most handsome and dashing, and the rest of the ensemble delivering inspired performances. You didn’t fall in love with this movie? Inconceivable!

1. Shaun Of The Dead – The zombie movie to end all zombie movies. It’s a wonderful blend of horror, comedy, and buddy movie, with a bit of drama and pathos thrown in. They also manage to throw in a joke about using vinyl records as weapons against zombies—and they toss Sade’s first LP.

Honorable Mentions (in alphabetical order): Aliens, All About Eve, Bangkok Love Story, Chicago, The Curse Of The Golden Flower, The Devil Wears Prada, Hero, Love Of Siam, Shelter, The Wedding Banquet, Y Tu Mama Tambien

And here’s my Top 5 Films That Have Stayed With Me And (Still) Mean A Lot To Me (Even Though I May Not Feel Like Watching Them Again And Again):

5. Airplane! (1980) – This parody of 1970s disaster movies led to a slew of big- and small-screen comedies that featured wall-to-wall jokes. There were even jokes in the foreground while a visual gag played out at the back. And despite a few jokes that now feel old, it’s still fun to watch again and again, especially with people who have never seen a comedy that’s this relentless in throwing every possible gag at you. Shirley, they must be kidding.

4. Kramer Vs. Kramer (1979) – Superb performances from Dustin Hoffman, child actor Justin Henry, and the incomparable Meryl Streep, plus measured, masterful direction from Robert Benton. Hoffman, Streep, and Benton went on to win Academy Awards for Best Actor, Best Supporting Actress, and Best Director respectively, while the movie won Best Picture. It’s a weeper that doesn’t try very hard to make you cry. It’s one of those few well-made dramas that managed to emotionally affect me while impressing me intellectually.

3. Close Encounters Of The Third Kind (1977) – If Steven Spielberg’s Jaws made you afraid to go in the water, this movie made you watch the skies. This was the Spielberg movie that made me want to become a director when I grew up. The sight of all those moving, flashing lights fascinated me no end. The whole movie is one big reveal, and when it does, it invites more questions from the audience. Who are these aliens? Where do they come from? What do they want from us? It is an intriguing, compelling, and ultimately, hopeful view of what’s out there.

2. Halloween (1978) – This mother-of-all slasher horror classic was another movie that made me want to be a director. I went in on the penultimate screening for the day. By the end of the movie I was so impressed that I stayed on to watch the last full show; or rather, the reactions of the viewers who watched the movie. And it fascinated me how, under the tight control of director John Carpenter, the movie had two different sets of audiences reacting the same way, at the same time, in the same scenes. Very Hitchcock.

1. E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial (1982) – This movie showed the world how superb storyteller Steven Spielberg was also capable of doing more than just shock or surprise. I was so taken in by the story of Elliot and the botanist alien, two beings alienated from everyone around them, that I ended up watching the whole movie seven times. (But it was only on the fourth or fifth viewing that I got teary-eyed during the scene when the flower started wilting as E.T.’s health deteriorated.) Even until today, E.T. still holds the record for the most number of times I’ve watched a movie in its entirety.

Honorable Mentions (in alphabetical order): Ordinary People, Phantasm, Poltergeist, The Poseidon Adventure, Star Wars: A New Hope, Willy Wonka And The Chocolate Factory

My New Itch

When I hit 40, I decided to embrace singlehood. Since my 20s I had been going out almost every weekend to bars, seeking and searching. I knew that I was unlikely to find love in those hopeless places, but still I went because, honestly, I had no idea where “people like us” converged. My most desperate seemed to be at age 29 and 39—just before the start of a new decade.

But at 40 I told myself, okay, fine, so I may end up single for the rest of my life. Let me embrace that. There are other things I am grateful for, and I know I will not be wanting of love from friends and family. Sure, I may end up wondering what it’s like to have a partner, but that may be an itch I will never be able to scratch. And I was beginning to be fine with that. Then D came along.

Itch scratched.

So now that I’m single again, I ask myself, “Do I want to go into another relationship?” I know that it really takes two to tango, so if there’s someone who comes along, why not? I feel I still can dance.

But now there’s a new item in my bucket list that I’m dying to experience, to know what it’s like to be in one.

I’m curious to know what it’s like to be in a polyamorous relationship.

Who knows maybe one day, when I least expect it, I just might stumble into one. Hehehe.


Sunday, April 2, 2017

The “Press Con”


I met with the Fabcasters for dinner, and of course it turned into the inevitable “press conference” about the break-up. They asked questions, I answered, and they made side comments—and some oversized, big-theater reactions.

What was interesting was this: I realized, while I was explaining things, how easy it is to make a mistake in recounting stories. Details can be missed. Quotes can be reworded, and with that, meanings changed. Memories can be muddled and switched. And it’s really hard to have reliable witnesses; everything is filtered and reframed by the individual. The veracity of memory rests on one’s own subjectivity—what is true depends on you.

One side is not enough, but even both sides may not even reveal all. So where does the truth lie?

Maybe it’s somewhere between his version and mine, over time.

My New Old Flame


So how is it like to be single after having a partner for 6 years?

I actually said something about this topic before, early on in our relationship. I’m not sure now if I told this also to D, or I just mentioned it to my Fabcaster friends. Or did I say it out loud in a Fabcast? Sorry, senior moment kicking in. But if I did tell D this, I now regret it. I don’t think partners need to know this kind of thing early on in a relationship.

And what is “this”? It is a realization on my part. I’ve been single up until the age of 44. When I hit 40, I began to embrace the fact that I may end up single for life—and that was fine. (Sure, there’s that nagging feeling of knowing only secondhand what it’s like to be in a relationship with someone, but a lot of things in life we live vicariously anyway.) And I was already slowly making my peace with that idea, when D came along. (That’s why I also have this nagging sensation that the moment you decide on something else, Fate will come and give you what you originally wanted. Like God, Fate has a sick sense of humor.) So my realization was: If I do end up single once again, I’m perfectly okay with that.

It’s not something you say to a partner in the early stages of the relationship, right?

But it is true. And that’s why I am thankful that D held off until I got a new job. Because part of my accepting this new job is also moving in back with my mom, brother, and sister in Marikina. And so now that I have no boyfriend, my family now becomes my new “partner”. Or rather, I’m just going back to my former flame before D.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Trump Pet Sounds

You may want to read THIS first.

After I read the Time article, it became clearer to me that there’s something unhinged about Trump. Either that or he’s a great actor, totally committed to be in-the-moment at all times, doing his best “I’m going to fool them into thinking I’m this unhinged president.” 

Or maybe this is really the secret to what made him successful all these years—an insistence to believing what he wants to believe, and sticking to his worldview. It makes him very laser-like in his focus towards his goals (in contrast with the seeming lack of focus in his statements). 

And why, oh why, does he remind me of someone so much closer to home?

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Beware Facebook's Algorithm

Sometimes I think that Facebook’s got a sick sense of humor. And when we die, I expect to find it laughing. (So always watch out for the post that comes after yours. It just might be *winking* at you.)





Beware The Ides of March

In the Roman calendar, the ides of March falls on the 15th. A day of religious observations, the ides of March achieved notoriety as the date of Julius Caesar’s assassination.

For me, March 15 also marks the day when we met for coffee in Makati after I finished work. That’s when he broached the idea. He initiated it, and I concurred. But because we wanted to make the announcement at the same time on our social media, we had to wait several days after he came back from a scheduled out-of-town trip (he was worried there won’t be a strong 3/4G signal in Marinduque).

Sunday, March 19 would have been our 81st monthsary. Late that evening, he was back in Manila. After a brief coordination over SMS, we synchronized our postings on our Facebook accounts. And on 12:17am of Monday, March 20, the same statement appeared on our respective news feeds:


* * * * *

He told me that back in November 2016, he was already thinking about it. Unfortunately I was on my eighth month of being jobless, and he felt it was too harsh and unkind to leave me at that time (especially with Christmas coming up). Instead, he chose to bear it for the moment.

I accepted an offer to do part-time work for an ad agency in Makati at the start of February 2017. He considered telling me then; however, he realized Valentine’s Day was coming up. So he delayed it again.

March came along, and with it, a new and permanent job for me. I thought, at last! My almost one year hiatus from work has ended. He thought, at last! I can tell him. But then my birthday was coming up, and right after that, his birthday. He decided to tell me after my birthday and prior to his.

I am grateful that he chose to delay talking to me about it, even though he had every right to raise this issue even way back in November last year. More than that, I am grateful for the 6 years and 9 months we were together officially as a couple.

We bonded because it was easy to talk to one another, and we made each other laugh. But I did notice that beginning sometime in November last year, he wasn’t talking much to me, preferring the company of his mobile games. He said he played games to de-stress from work, so I gave him the time and space. But I also noticed that, more and more, he was not listening to me—I’d tell him something, then a few minutes later, he’ll go, “Wait, what was that you said?” I had been meaning to point that out to him. Now I know why.

That’s why when he initiated it—and I could see that he was sure—I didn’t oppose it. It would be selfish of me if I did.

Barely half an hour after we agreed to break up, we were already making jokes about it.

Our lives go on. Life goes on. Live and love, always.

To hon, with much love. 
 Joel

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

I Think That God (Through Waze) Has A Sick Sense Of Humor

I can’t believe it. Same exact place, same exact violation.

A couple of months ago, I was on my way to my brother’s place at The Fort. It was a Saturday evening, and I was coming from Marikina. Waze advised me to avoid C5 due to heavy traffic. It led me into the bowels of Pasig.

Approaching an intersection with a traffic light, I had a tall van blocking my view of the traffic light. As we neared the intersection, the light turned yellow. The truck in front of me continued, and I stopped. Big mistake. Although my car was clearly not within the yellow box-with-an-X-inside sign painted on the road, the pedestrian crossing was already behind my car. I should have stopped before the pedestrian crossing lines.

Inside that yellow circle is the sweet spot for traffic enforcers
to catch vehicles that don't stop early enough.

So I was pulled over. But because I was in a hurry, I managed to convince the traffic enforcer that I would pay the fine directly to him, to avoid “the hassle of getting a ticket, etc.” The enforcer was an old man, and after a while he agreed to the arrangement. I drove off from that intersection, vowing to myself I will never, ever pass that way again.

Cut to this morning, on my way to work. Traffic along Ortigas Extension was so bad, Waze redirected me to take the East Bank road and turn right on a bridge that connects Taytay to Pasig. Big mistake. Turns out, Pasig has this stupid, stupid, STUPID number coding scheme wherein even-numbered cars (like mine) couldn’t pass through that bridge during Wednesdays. But instead of turning around, I forged on. Waze had me going through narrow side streets, and then coming out to a main road. Looking at the signs around me, I realized I was already in Pasig. In front of me was another van. (Uh-oh.) And as we approached an intersection, the van in front of me turned left, allowing me to see the traffic light in front turn yellow. So I stopped.

I looked around. It seemed familiar. Then it dawned on me. Oh. My. F**k. Same exact place. Same exact violation. Different time of day only.

I saw a different traffic enforcer (he was much younger) approach my car.

Sigh. Here we go again.

(Maybe next time, when Waze starts directing me towards the innards of Pasig, I’d turn around and stick it out in traffic.)

Maja Kita, Paulo! “I’m Drunk, I Love You” (2017)


I’m glad I waited until tonight to watch I’m Drunk, I Love You, starring Paulo Avelino and Maja Salvador, directed by JP Habac. At the height of its popularity, there were raves left and right. I’ve noticed that recently in pop culture, if positive buzz for something reaches a certain noise level (as in, it’s inescapable; everybody has heard only good things about it), there’s an inevitable backlash that swings in. It’s a good thing that IDILY never reached those heights. Still, everyone was raving about it. Well, every millennial I knew. And that was what got me slightly worried. I was afraid its topic and theme might be boring and irrelevant for 51-year old Fuddy-Duddy Me.

Thankfully the movie held my attention from beginning to end, even despite the distraction of two guys right in front of me who were leaning towards each other, whispering to one another; one of them went out twice to go to the bathroom. And I attribute its success to several things:

[1] Maja Salvador’s acting was topnotch. She made Carson come to three-dimensional life. My favorite scene was during breakfast with gay BFF Jason Ty (played by Dominic Roco) the morning after she revealed her feelings to Dio (Paulo); meanwhile, Jason was bemoaning his imprudent declaration of “I love you” to a hook up the night before. While stuffing her face with danggit and rice, Maja recounts what happened last night, mixing regret, sadness, anger, defiance, and self-pity along with hunger. No wonder the boys at the next table couldn’t help but glance over to her. Give this girl a best actress nomination in the next awards season.

[2] Paulo Avelino has all the right ingredients to play Dio—he’s handsome, he’s laid-back, and he can sing. There may be those who think that any good-looking actor can phone-in the part of Dio. But one can see in Paulo’s eyes that there’s something brewing inside. The role may not be a stretch, but he did work for it.


[3] Admittedly, there were times when Dominic Roco’s swishy and punchline-delivering gay BFF veered dangerously close to parody. (I found myself almost drifting off during that long, single-take, stationary-camera bar scene with Carson and Jason; it was Maja’s performance that pulled me back in.) But in subsequent scenes he manages to imbue Jason with a humanity and a depth that most third-wheel characters don’t get. And in the end, Jason’s third-wheelness may have actually prepared him for a shot at romance in a potential polyamorous relationship.

[4] Despite its youthful themes of unrequited love, friendzoning, and moving on, IDILY remains relevant to viewers of all ages. In examining a moment in the lives of Dio, Carson, Jason, and Pathy (with an H, played by Jasmine Curtis-Smith), the movie’s very specificity makes its appeal a lot more universal.