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. 

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.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Gay Loneliness

There’s an article by Michael Hobbes entitled, Together Alone: The Epidemic of Gay Loneliness, that’s being shared on Facebook. The click-worthy blurb for the article asks the question: “Why didn’t gay rights cure gay loneliness?”

In his article, Hobbes posits that the members of the gay community are subjected to “minority stress” even (or, in certain cases, especially) after coming out. The stress comes from learning how to engage with other people, hetero and homo alike, as a member of a minority. And this stress leads to feelings of loneliness. If that’s the case, then learning how to cope with stress—regardless of whichever causes it—is the way to cure this loneliness.

But stepping back further, I believe that the answer to the article’s title question, “Why didn’t gay rights cure gay loneliness,” is this: Loneliness (in general, not just for gays) is a result of a lack of loving and accepting oneself; if you love yourself, you can be alone but not lonely. Having rights (gay or otherwise) will not necessarily fill that void. The government giving you rights is an example of someone or something from outside telling you your worth; loving yourself is knowing your worth from inside.

A kid growing up knowing that being gay means having the same rights as any other kid will most likely have better self-esteem than a kid who thinks he’ll be ostracized by society. But the road towards a life with self-dignity has several possible pathways, not just “one right way.” (After all, my generation and the ones before me grew up without “gay rights,” and some of us turned out fine.)

We only need to hark back to George Benson’s original hit song, “The Greatest Love of All,” for that important insight people need to live by: “Learning to love yourself / It is the greatest love of all.”

We need to learn the greatest love of all, folks.

* * * * *

P.S. – Did you know that Lea Salonga recorded a cover version of that song in 1981, four years before Whitney Houston’s more popular 1985 cover? Lea was only about 9 or 10 years old at that time.

P.P.S. – I do acknowledge a certain kind of loneliness arising from our being social creatures: our need to connect with others. This is often a temporary feeling, and not a deep, depressing kind of loneliness. Minsan ayaw lang natin mag-isa at gustong may kasama. Keri lang yung.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

About Last Night

Remember when I said that nowadays I prefer convenience over lust?

And my Saturday evening ended with coffee with friends, then straight home to watch the latest episode of “Riverdale”.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Three Web Series

When I was growing up, there was a dearth of movies and TV series that featured gay characters or tackled gay issues and topics. And if there were, they were classified as “For Adults Only,” so I had no way of watching them. The only gay men that gay kids like me would see on video were from gay porn.

Slowly, the movies and television started featuring gay characters and subject matter. But these movies were mostly from other countries (especially European), and the Marcos government wasn’t going to let homosexuality “corrupt” the minds of Filipino kids. So the Board of Censors never allowed any overtly gay movie to be produced locally or to be commercially shown in theaters. To watch a gay movie, we had to seek out the people who had access to videotape copies (VHS or Betamax) smuggled into the country.

But thanks to digital technology and the Internet, the baklitas growing up today now have role models they can watch on the big and small screens.

* * * * *

For the past few months, the sangkabaklaan have been following the exploits of David, Adrian, and the rest of the latter’s gang in “Hanging Out,” a web series directed by award-winner Petersen Vargas, created by him and Patrick Valencia, and presented by Team Magazine and Blued (yes, that gay social app).

It’s the first locally made gay-themed web series, which may explain the sky-high expectations on the series coming from the community. Naturally, not everyone was happy with it. But for an initial effort, the series was interesting and engaging enough.

The series focuses on the 20-something gay men in the metro who try navigating the post-coming out world of gay Manila. Along the way, relevant topics and issues are presented in subtle and not-so-subtle ways: HIV testing, safe sex, transitioning, etc.

The primary plot driver—will David (played by Paulito Del Mundo) and Adrian (played by Jox Gonzales) get together?—played out over six episodes in its first season. For those who’ve never seen the series, I won’t spoil your viewing by answering that question. But you know that what happens between the two can fuel the episodes for the next season.

Now that the first season of “Hanging Out” is over, what can the sangkabaklaan watch while waiting for its second outing?

One can look to Singapore’s similar web series, “People Like Us,” by filmmaker Leon Cheo. It is co-developed by Action for AIDS, so certain topics like HIV testing and safe sex are also presented. However, they smartly avoid the trap of presenting such topics in a heavy-handed way within the narrative by having a short video attached at the end of every episode. There, three guys from the website discuss further the issues presented in the episode.

Like its Philippine counterpart, “People Like Us” also has six episodes in the first season, and more focus is spent on whether Joel (played by Josh Crowe) and Ridzwan (played by Irfan Kasban) will end up as a couple or not. There are many other similarities between this and “Hanging Out,” including an episode devoted to the two “will-they-or-won’t-they” guys taking a long walk while getting to know one another. (HBO’s “Looking” got there ahead of these two, while majority of the movie “Weekend” is focused on two characters chatting. And then there’s “Before Sunrise.”)

But it seems that this Singaporean series has a deeper pocket than the Philippine series, and one can see it in their production design, lighting, camerawork, and even the audio recording and mixing. Makes me wish that the “Hanging Out” team would get more funds for their second season.

Then again, maybe Petersen and Patrick ought to approach Manny Pangilinan. For those who think that Pinoys cannot produce a web series that can technically rival the slickness of Singapore’s output, check out “Sabagay Life” produced by D5 Studio, the digital content arm of TV5. Thanks to the Manny P’s funding, “Sabagay Life” has excellent video and audio qualities. Aside from the technicals, what this series has going for it are its very game cast, a sprightly script, and a light touch by director and creator Joel Ferrer.

“Sabagay Life” is about a mixed barkada composed of three guys and three girls, and their post-college shenanigans. It’s really the dynamics between the characters that fuel interest in the series. There are no gay characters; at least, not yet (well, there’s one guy who was described as “open-minded” and kissed another guy, but he was just in one scene). But I think viewers—gay or otherwise—will find something to enjoy in the series. There’s a drama queen; there’s the torpe-in-love; there’s even an unrequited lover who continues to persist even in the face of repeated rejection.

Besides, this series’ tone is more light-hearted and humorous than the first two series mentioned here. So if you want to watch 20-somethings try to navigate life, love, and lust (oh yes, there’s sex among characters here too, but not as graphic as in the gay series—baka ayaw ni Manny P!), watch “Sabagay Life”.

Sit back, relax, and enjoy.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Restart @50

It’s not the easiest thing in the world to leave your job at age 50, and then go look for a new one. But back in March of 2016, I told my superior that I was resigning. She understood why, and signed my terminal leave form. 30 days later, I was officially out of a job.

As early as May 2016, I started checking out jobs from other ASEAN countries. This was right after the elections. I didn’t mind being away for a few years from this circus of a government. Months went by, nothing. So towards the latter part of 2016, I started applying for jobs in and around the neighboring areas (hello, Clark!) of the metro. Belatedly I realized that the “-er” months aren’t the best time to look for a job.

But when January 2017 rolled in, I suddenly had several replies to my applications. And now, a few weeks before I turn 51, I’m happily employed again.

In the process, I had to move back to the house I grew up in. D and I couldn’t afford the condo unit where we were staying. Besides, D was also helping his mom and sisters with their payments at the apartment they were renting. So it made economic sense for us to move back to our mothers’ for the meantime.

It’s a good thing that I never felt the need to “be a millionaire at 30 years old” or “have my own company at 40.” I have my ambitions, but they were more along the lines of “learning more things” or “being happy and proud of what I do” instead of what businesses regard as clear, concrete, measureable goals: amount of money in the bank, position of power, status, etc.

Oh, and once in a while, safely hook up with a daddy loving, no-strings-attached insisting 20-something.