Friday, July 21, 2017

See This Movie

After watching Kita Kita last night, I predict that it will be a modest sleeper hit among Pinoy audiences who automatically lap up romantic hugot films, TV commercials, and songs. We are a hugot nation, after all.

Kita Kita (I See You) opens with Alessandra de Rossi as Lea, a Pinay who works as a tour guide in Sapporo, Japan, who goes temporarily blind. A Filipino neighbor, Tonyo, comes over to make friends with her. Eventually he slowly woos her. Empoy Marquez plays Tonyo with just the right light touch, striking a careful balance between charming and trying too hard.

It is largely to the credit of the two leads that their cute-meet and the eventual development of their relationship are mostly engaging and believable. On-screen, the two share an easy chemistry that works; in fact, a woman behind me muttered to her friend, “Shet, kinikilig yata ako!

The movie upends the usual romantic clichés by replacing them with another cliché. In this rom-com, it’s possible for a pretty woman like Lea to end up with a guy like Tonyo because love is (temporarily) blind.

In true rom-com fashion, the audience assumes that the true test of whether Lea really loves Tonyo will be when Lea regains her eyesight and sees Tonyo for the first time. (In a previous scene, when she tries to “see” what he looks like by tracing his face with her fingers, she says, quite confidently, “Ang guwapo mo siguro,” to which Tonyo replies in an aside, “Bulag ka nga.”) Will she accept Tonyo, looks and all?

When her eyesight returns, he’s across the street from her. Everything is in slo-mo, she sees him, and smiles.

Then, bam!

At this point the movie does a 360, and we rewind to the start of Tonyo’s story. The movie shifts to his point of view, including a change in voice-over. There are surprises and revelations, and their love story becomes fuller when his part in it is plugged into the timeline.

But while writer-director Sigrid Andrea Bernardo does something unusual in Filipino rom-coms, this two-sides-of-a-story is actually a well-worn storytelling device that the Japanese and Koreans have almost mastered to a T. So while I smiled at the slightly-clunky-at-times but generally smooth execution by Sigrid, I can’t help but think, “been there, seen that.”

Still, I prefer to see our filmmakers stretching their wings and giving the viewing public something more than the usual fare. And for those who are tired of hugot rom-coms, here’s something that’s worth seeing.

Kita-kits tayo sa Kita Kita.

(Kita Kita is Graded A by the Cinema Evaluation Board)

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Almost A Month of PrEP

As a participant in the DOH study on PrEP, I’m required to keep a diary that records my PrEP intake as well as my sexual activities. This is what our diary looks like:

(Already, some people pounced on the words used in our diary. Instead of having “unprotected” sex, it should be “condom-less” sex, since having sex without a condom but while on PrEP means, technically, “protected” sex. They have a point.)

We’re also asked to take note if we experience any side effects while taking PrEP. Those taking PrEP have noted drowsiness. Others said they’ve had very lucid and psychedelic dreams. And some have experienced upset stomach in the first few days.

For me, I didn’t experience any drowsiness or psychedelic dreams. My stomach got upset easily, but Loperamide helped me get through those days.

But there was one curious effect on me that was totally unexpected.

While filling out my diary every morning (after taking my daily PrEP), I’d see all those checks on the top, and a row of empty, unchecked boxes on the bottom. They seemed to be mocking me—“Have you turned into a prude, McVie?!” Was I pressuring myself to put out, because of PrEP?

Entering my 20+ days on PrEP, I’ve only had sex 3 nights since June 26 (my first day on PrEP). Granted, one night was in a bathhouse, and the other two nights were organized orgies in hotel rooms. But still, 3 out of 20+ days is too low compared to the three-times-a-week bathhouse visits during my 30s and early 40s.

Ah well. Less sex, less likely to get infected, right?

Monday, July 10, 2017

Come On Guys, It's 2017

I am put off by parents—especially mothers—castigating Nadine Lustre when she answered, if she and boyfriend James Reid were living together, “I’m not gonna confirm, I’m not gonna deny. But then, ano naman (so what)? If that was true, so what? ‘Di ba, it’s not new anymore. Come on guys, it’s 2017.”

These parents feel that her home studio should retrain Nadine to answer properly such types of questions because they feel that little girls look up to her, and she should set a proper example.


First of all, Nadine is an adult at 23 years old.

Second, she’s an actress. She plays roles, not role models.

But ultimately, if there’s anyone responsible for how children should or shouldn’t act, it’s the parents. Why should parents abdicate their responsibilities to a total stranger? Nadine isn’t here to teach people how to behave. She’s not even herself when you see her onscreen.

Sure, there are a few exceptions, like Emma Watson, for example. But the fact that they’re exceptions only means that we lucked out with the likes of her. When she was chosen to play Hermione Granger, it was specified in her contract that she couldn’t behave in a manner unfitting for her character’s image—that’s the studio protecting their massively expensive assets. That she grew up an upstanding young woman is a welcome delight, not an expectation.

But ultimately it goes back to the parents. The showbiz world and its denizens do not owe you a favor by making your jobs as parents any easier. They’re your kids, they’re your responsibility—not Nadine’s.

Saturday, July 1, 2017

A One Year PrEP Study

Sunday, 25 June 2017:

We go to TLY Anglo Clinic around lunchtime to get pre-screened and tested for PrEP Pilipinas’ “Project PrEPPY”. I signed up because I wanted to get into PrEP while at the same time contribute to the DOH’s yearlong study on PrEP in the Philippines.

During the screening, I find out that, for the first time, my blood pressure is high. “141… sir, matagal na bang mataas blood pressure n’yo?” the male nurse asks me. I am shocked. In all the annual corporate physical exams I took, my blood pressure has always stayed within normal levels. Well I am older, I haven’t been working out for more than 6 years now, and I don’t exactly follow a strict healthy diet. Still, it is a rude awakening. Part of me is still hoping the reading was an anomaly.

But thank goodness my blood pressure isn’t too high to boot me off the PrEP program.

By 4pm that afternoon, they hand me my PrEP diary, wherein I am to record my pill taking as well as any incidents that may expose me to the virus (in other words, any sexual dookit or pak ganern, I’m to record it). And then they give me my bottle containing 30 PrEP pills.

Monday, 26 June 2017:

First day of PrEP; I decide to take it after eating an oatmeal breakfast. My PrEP counselor says I should take it on an empty stomach; but upon reading the literature, I find out that PrEP is best taken with meals, for better absorption.

The whole day goes by without anything out of the ordinary.

My mom cooks spaghetti for dinner, and I love her spaghetti. I eat too much and drink a little too much soda. That night I feel a little too gassy/burpy than usual, but I attribute that to my dinner splurge.

Tuesday, 27 June 2017:

PrEP after oatmeal breakfast, and I am off for work. By afternoon I’m feeling sleepier than usual, but I assume that’s because I lacked sleep the night before (playing, of all things, Candy Crush Soda).

I still feel gassy/burpy/bloated. I’m now wondering if it’s a side effect of PrEP.

* * * * *

In the pre-test screening, I was asked if the statement “PrEP encourages promiscuity” is true or false. I wanted to give a more nuanced answer, but my PrEPPY Counselor insisted I stick to the two one-word choices.

What I wanted to say was this.

I can’t answer for other people, because I can’t read their minds. But for me, taking PrEP isn’t a license to be promiscuous. If people want to be promiscuous, they will—and they’ll look for any excuse to justify their actions. If PrEP is a convenient excuse for them, then they’ll use it. As an excuse.

But promiscuity is not the more important concern. “Will PrEP encourage condom-less sex?” is the bigger issue. But even with this one, I’m not entirely convinced that the issue stops at condom-less sex.

I think ultimately condoms, safe sex, and PrEP all point to the essence of why we do what we do: What is our sense of responsibility, to ourselves and to other people? Do we take responsibility for our actions? Do we act responsibly or carelessly? And do we consider the effects of our actions on others?

It’s your choice whether you have protected sex or not. But do you take full responsibility for your choices? Are you willing to live with the consequences of going bareback with a total stranger—consequences to you and to your sex partner? And will you be gracious enough to allow your hook up to turn you down if he finds out that you’re not packing rubber?

Taking PrEP doesn’t mean that I’m allowing myself the luxury of letting my guard down and occasionally engage in condom-less sex “just because I can”. On the contrary, taking PrEP is about me taking responsibility for my (thank god still active) sex life. PrEP is an additional arsenal I can use in my quest to protect myself from HIV.

We acknowledge that we aren’t perfect; we occasionally make mistakes. Being infected with HIV has lifelong consequences. Wouldn’t it be nice to have protection for those times we do slip up and open ourselves to the possibility of infection?

Instead of encouraging me to be careless, PrEP reminds me every day, before I take the pill, that I should be careful out there.