#30DayWritingChallenge: My worst birthday.

Day Eight: My worst birthday.

I drew a blank on this one.

I can’t say I’ve had a bad birthday, ever. Boring birthdays, maybe; but never bad. The normal personal Mercury Retrograde field that surrounds me (as in, there is an even tinier Mercury perpetually revolving around me in reverse) seems to give me a break during my birthdays.

So I can list some good birthdays I can remember but, for the life of me, I can’t remember a bad one.

I didn’t grow up with my family throwing birthday parties. We were a lower class family (in the beginning) and we could not afford it. I always thought that birthday parties were a strange amusement held by other people. By the time I was old enough to know why my mother would only cook pancit for the family during my or my siblings’ birthdays, it did not bother me that much.

The strangest birthday I had was when I was thirteen. Previously, my birthdays fell a week before the start of classes. On the year of my thirteenth birthday, the academic calendar changed and moved the beginning of classes a week earlier.

It was my first day in high school. The grade school I went to did not continue to high school, so I was in a new school with a new set of classmated. During the entire day, the teachers kept using my birthday as an example for the little forms we submit that has our personal information.

“So if today was your birthday…” the teachers would begin. I was amused and uncomfortable in case they found out that someone in the class was indeed celebrating his birthday and every subject from that point on will have a five-minute interruption as everyone sang “Happy Birthday”.

Good thing that never happened.

When I became an adult, I started celebrating my birthdays either by inviting some close friends over, or by going off the grid and disappearing for a day.

Birthdays are strange days. A part of me is always amused at how another part of me stresses out days before it arrives and plans out what to do. I mean, for the rest of the world, who cares if it was your birthday, right? One can spend his entire birthday sleeping and it will hardly make any difference in the larger scheme of things.

But fuck the larger scheme of things. One great thing about the human experience is how easily we can overlook that and just think about ourselves. Birthdays are wonderful!

Anywho. Today is the birthday of several friends. Maligayang bati, Alek, Jes, Randy, at James!

Shinji holding a birthday cake.

Image of Shinji Ikari holding a cake was taken from Tumblr.

#30DayWritingChallenge: The stories behind my profile pictures.

30-Day Writing Challenge

Early last month, I came across this 30-Day Writing Challenge graphic. Apparently, it was a piece of paper that was handed out during the recent Philippine Literary Festival (which I missed, huhuhu).

I’ve meant to try this challenge sooner. But I kept procrastinating until I thought, “Fuck this. I’ll start in October.”

So, hey. It’s October now. And here we go.

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“Kababawanan” and the sudden Lea Salonga hatedom.

It was during the height of the weekend AlDub vs Showtime Twitter war when Lea Salonga posted a tweet that was quickly noticed by local Twitter users:

Lea, being from Showtime’s network, may have been seen as dismissing AlDub. (If she were from the opposing network, many AlDub fans would probably have embraced it as a criticism against Showtime.) Fans of the show reacted in droves, calling her condescending for dismissing kababawan.

That was despite her stating in her tweet, “Okay lang sa akin ang kababawan”.

Was it really a subtweet against AlDub?

A Really Good Movie with a Rather Boring Title: a review of Pride.

Seriously, a title like “Pride” isn’t the most engaging thing one can call a movie. It isn’t enough to hint at how heartwarming and inspiring the story of a group of gay activists who decided to help a small mining town.

It’s 1985 in the UK. Immediately after a Pride March that surprisingly had fewer police presence, a group of gay activists realized where the police were putting their attention in: a recently started protest of British miners. These activists decided to raise money to help protesting miners as show of solidarity. Just like the miners, gay people have experienced oppression from the government. The idea was not met with enthusiasm at first, but after several attempts, the activists were able to get in touch with a small Welsh mining village where many residents joined the protests.

The touching thing about Pride is how it effectively showed how the struggles of one underprivileged group is not that different compared to another. The people of the village had mixed reactions to a group of gay people approaching them for help; back then, gay people very rarely identify themselves in rural areas because doing so result in heavy discrimination.

Not unexpectedly, most villagers had strong opposition, at first. But because of persistence and some initial straight allies, the relationship between the gay activists and the village, and eventually the miners, warmed up.

Pride (2014) movie poster

Pride essentially was a dramatization of one of the early victories of LGBTQ activism in the UK. It happened when two seemingly separate groups realized their common struggle and committed to support each other. The climax of the movie was a very heartwarming show of that commitment: I got some goosebumps when I saw it.

But within this larger plot of worker and gay rights, Pride also wove little stories of each character. Just as important as the ideals that these people fought for are the humanity and individuality of each person: their individual struggles.

The popular narrative within gay activism these days is that of love and the equal dignity of LGBTQ love. Pride distances itself from this narrative; several characters are shown with romantic partners but no conflict was introduced because of those relationships. The movie instead highlighted fellowship, brotherhood and sisterhood, camaraderie, and chosen families. That gay people are also part of the common human experience.

Reimagined History: A review of Heneral Luna.

At the beginning of Heneral Luna was a reminder that the movie is a work of fiction based on historical events. That certain truths about history are better understood by mixing fact and imagination. It was a curious disclaimer that made me a little uncomfortable. Was Heneral Luna more interested in recreating history, or was it commenting on what we’ve been told as history?

Heneral Luna dwelt on the life of General Antonio Luna, particularly during the beginning of the Philippine-American war, immediately after Spain sold the Philippines to the United States. Early on, the movie did not hesitate on its depiction of American imperialism. But even more than the Americans, the movie has very little good to say of many of the Filipino leaders from that era, such as the Caviteños.

Especially the Caviteños.

A quick scan on the biography of Antonio Luna can help one determine the liberties the movie took in presenting his life. The movie carefully avoided cramming the entirety of his biography beyond the war against the Americans. The general’s backstory was presented through a magnificent flashback that looked as if it was a long one-take shot.

The flashback was probably the best part of the movie; to be fair, it wasn’t at all lacking of good parts. Another standout sequence was an extended argument between General Luna and General Mascardo: the clever editing allowed a seamless flow of dialogue despite the two being in different locations and communicating via telegram and messengers.

The movie did not avoid depicting the general’s many flaws: his famous temper, his arrogance, his lack of skill in political maneuvering.

If there was something to complain about the movie, it was, ironically, the battle scenes. For a movie set during a war, the scenes in the trenches were quite underwhelming. The movie was a careful balance of drama and comedy, and the combination worked well, for the most part. But it felt like there was too much comedy during those battle scenes, taking away the gravity of war.

It didn’t help how General Luna would appear bullet-proof during these scenes, standing openly without protection while everyone else is huddled and hiding themselves from bullets. And yet the general was not hit, despite several of his men getting fired; one very gorily so. Even in history books, Luna was one of the most badass of the Philippine heroes. But his movie version cranked it up further.

Another intriguing detail the movie added but was content in leaving it as a joke were the inclusion of women soldiers. Outside the sequence where those brave women appeared, the rest of the Philippine military were decidely all-male. It was quite frustrating how that opportunity to depict the bravery of Filipinas was diminished to a mere gag.

Heneral Luna movie

These minor complaints aside, Heneral Luna is still worth watching, especially now when complacency and armchair activism are fashionable among Filipinos. The movie argues that what lost the war was people’s inability to see beyond their self-interests. It’s a lesson that is just as relevant now as it did a century ago.

“Heneral Luna” was written by E.A. Rocha, Henry Hunt Francia, and Jerrold Tarog. Starring John Arcilla, Mon Confiado, Arron Villaflor, Joem Bascon, Archie Alemania, Epi Quizon, and Nonie Buencamino. Directed by Jerrold Tarog.