AsiaPOP Comicon 2016

I would describe myself as a casual geek, so I wasn’t really excited when the AsiaPOP Comicon was announced. Yeah, I think it’s cool that geeks can get together to celebrate the different fandoms. My co-admins at WIM were talking about how excited they were in Messenger, but I skimmed through the messages until something else came up. Then it was announced that Millie Bobby Brown of Stranger Things was coming.

I was one of the many people who were blown away by the Netflix show. The sci-fi series is an homage to ’80s Steven Spielberg and Stephen King movies, and follows a group of boys who try to rescue their missing friend. Along the way they meet Eleven, a mysterious telekinetic girl portrayed by Brown. It’s a great series to watch, and Winona Ryder is amazing in it.

And that’s how I found myself in SMX on a Saturday, walking around a sea of Darth Vaders, Elevens, Jokers, and robots I didn’t recognize.

A lot of people came in cosplay, and I was impressed at how elaborate and sophisticated their costumes were. Some even had elven ears, which shows how dedicated they are in breathing life to their favorite characters. One of my dream Halloween costumes is the Belgian detective Tintin. If I push through with it, at least there will be two occasions where I can wear the costume.

I spent a few hours at the venue on Saturday, walking around and checking the scene. There was a skateboard park, an area where people were playing some kind of RPG game on desktop computers, a large ring where wrestlers tousled in, and row upon row of Funko Pops. I was this close to losing against my EQ, as I saw the first issue of Neil Gaiman’s Sandman and Grant Morrisson’s Arkham Asylum: A Serious House on Serious Earth at 20% off. I had to constantly remind myself that I have National Book Store GCs at home, and it would be better if I postpone the purchase.

Sumpa

I won against my EQ because I only purchased a local comic called Sumpa. It’s about a half-man half-deity named Sumpa who must break the curse of the Philippines. The comic was part of Komiket’s booth in Creative Circle, where it was packed with people. It was hard to navigate the area and fully appreciate the comics, but it’s nice that so many people are supporting locally-made products. It only occurred to me that we have a vibrant comic scene, and I’m looking forward to buying more.

I missed any media happening because I had to check in at BGC Hostel in the morning, so I went back to the hostel to read Smaller and Smaller Circles.

Comicon

I had already planned to go to the last day of the Philippine Readers and Writers Festival on Sunday, but my co-admin Anj texted me to say that the media interview of Brown was going to be held that day! It wasn’t going to be a one-on-one interview, but I didn’t care. I just wanted to see Brown. And she did not disappoint. She was bright, cheerful, and bubbly. I wrote an article about the 11 things I learned from her for WIM, one of which is what will happen to Eleven in the second season.

It was more crowded that day, so after doing a quick look around (I did not buy anything), I went home.

I’m glad I went to Comicon even if I only stayed for a while. It inspired me to read more graphic novels (both local and foreign) and watch more TV shows. Growing up, geeks were bullied because they played Pokemon and watched Batman. Now they’re the cool kids. As I mentioned in my article summarizing my visit to the event, “call me a bandwagoner, but I’m going to enjoy the ride.”

P.S. My fandoms growing up were Pokemon and the Harry Potter series.

Bahala na si Batman

Filipinos are obsessed with luck. Yes, people everywhere believe in it, but Filipinos elevate this concept to a higher level, especially with the tagline “Bahala na si Batman,” where you just go with the flow and hope Batman will look out for you. And the biggest celebration of luck is Lunar New Year, an event where Filipinos, with or without any trace of Chinese blood, will throw or attend parties and wish for a stroke of luck.

This year, I decided to spend it in Binondo, the world’s oldest Chinatown. It was established by the Spaniards in 1954, but Chinese migrants have already set up businesses even before the they arrived. The long stretch of Ongpin Street, and the little streets that branch out like little vines, are filled with Chinese businesses and homes. And for Lunar New Year, this is ground zero.

The streets were packed with Filipinos, Chinese, and everyone in between as they lit incense and made wishes, watched sweaty men dance under dragon costumes, ate dim sum, and shopped for toasted siopao, tikoy, and little red charms. The cramped Eng Bee Tin I once took actress Louise de los Reyes to became a supermarket, with the brand’s theme song blaring out of large speakers. If all these equated to good luck, then everyone will have a stellar year of the fire monkey.

The scene reminded me of one comment made by a reader on one of our Lunar New Year related stories on WhenInManila.com. He said that the difference between the Chinese and the Filipinos is that the Chinese pray for luck and combine it with hard work, while Filipinos pray for luck and wait for it to happen. Of course, the comment generalized all Chinese and Filipinos, but there is a truth to the message.

When I was 17, I wrote a short story about a man who wakes up from a dream where he is successful. Thinking it was a prophecy, he slacks off the rest of his life, believing that he will reach success no matter what he does. The story ends in the real future, where he is old and is still waiting for his “big break.”

I believe in luck. I believe in being at the right place at the right time. On a trip to Shanghai, I bought a little charm that’s supposed to give me luck. I also own an agimat and a gayuma (which I’ve never used). Despite all this, I believe that being at the right place and at the right time is not enough. You have to do something to get yourself there. Even Batman takes a holiday. I think I saw glimpse of him in an alley in Binondo.

2014: The Year of Exploration and Experimentation

2014 New Year's Eve resolutions (3)

 

I used to wrap up the year by writing a list of the most memorable things that happened. It was fun looking back at the year that was, but I feel like I should write something that would encapsulate the entire year rather than break it down into specific moments. The year 2014 was beautiful, as I predicted in 2013, but I’d rather talk about it as a whole. Also, I can’t exactly look back because I lost my planner when I got held up last August.

The year 2014 was all about exploration and experimentation. It was the year I quit my day job as a PR professional and decided to pursue writing full-time. In 2013, there was a discontent growing in me like a terrible fungus, and I constantly wondered what it would be like to be a writer. I took on a string of jobs after college, but somewhere in 2013, I decided to pack up and go into the world of publishing.

 

2014 New Year's Eve resolutions (6)

 

I did the same thing before, when I became a contributor to The Philippine Star. I quit my marketing job, but my mistake was I did not maximize the opportunity. The section I write for only comes out once a week, so I had a lot of free time. Instead of taking on more gigs, or going to the office to help close the issue, I became a bum. I vowed to change that in 2014.

Right after PR, I took on freelance writing projects. I had clients from New York, Florida, and the Philippines, and I did PR for big brands like Ayala Malls (which I still do today). I became active at When In Manila and I eventually became the features editor. Every week, I submitted articles for The Philippine Star. It’s not exactly the glamorous life I envisioned at the start of the year, but it was more relaxed. I didn’t earn a lot, though.

Some time around March or April, a college friend contacted me to start a lifestyle website with a businessman from New York. A series of unfortunate events happened, and my friend left. I decided to still push it, and we published GP Gallery (GP stands for Global Pinoy, the businessman’s Filipino magazine in New York). It was a paid gig for me and my writers, but shit hit the fan and he disappeared, leaving me and the website in debt.

 

2014 New Year's Eve resolutions (2)

 

I plowed on, revamping the website to Voyeur, named after a zine a friend and I planned on making in 2013. I tweaked the concept a bit to champion Filipino talent, mixed with critical essays with a specific theme each month. Our first month had 18,000 views, and when I closed the website four months later, we had more than 40,000.

I wanted to continue Voyeur, but it wasn’t sustainable, and I started working at Rogue. Rogue is the country’s most intelligent magazine, and my favorite. They were looking for interns so I decided to apply. My application took less than a week. It’s not a paid gig and I finish mid-January, but I’m hoping to be accepted full-time when I finish. If not, at least I can say I was exposed to the big three in publishing: newspaper, magazine, and online. And oh, I found out earlier this year that a short story I submitted was published by the University of the Philippines Press, in an anthology edited by Dean Francis Alfar and Kenneth Yu.

 

2014 New Year's Eve resolutions (5)

 

But one of the year’s biggest surprises is having a boyfriend. Because I quit my day job, I suddenly had time to date. I met my man on PlanetRomeo, the last generation’s answer to Grindr and Tinder. I still kept my account to look around every time I needed an ego boost. We’ve been talking since the latter part of 2013, but I was so busy that I kept responding late. We met on January 27. We had dinner at Nolita and tea at da.u.de. I thought he didn’t like me because he was quiet, it turned out he was shy. We continued dating until we became a couple on March 23.

I started the year with him, and I ended the year with him. It was our biggest experiment: it was my first relationship in four years, it was his first relationship his whole life. We’re also polar opposites. He’s an introvert while I’m an extrovert. He works in tech while I work in the creative industry. It’s been a rocky year for the both of us, but we chose to learn from our differences and grow together. From him, I learned patience and commitment (I’m now making the commitment to grow plants). From me, he learned how to say charot in everyday speech.

 

2014 New Year's Eve resolutions (4)

 

2014 was all about exploration and experimentation. I ended last year wondering what it would be like to pursue writing full-time. It was an itch I felt since I graduated, and I believed it’s an itch that would never go away until I fully embraced it. I always told myself that I would wake up at 50 and wonder, “what if?” But the thing is, I never fully embraced it. I never took publishing by the hand, I merely followed behind. I wasn’t assertive about my entry. It wasn’t a leap a faith, more like dipping my toe in the pool. It was hesitant, tentative. But as Lao Tzu once said, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”

What will 2015 hold for me? Rather than just go with the ebb and flow of life, I’d rather stand my ground and go for what I want. If 2014 was about exploring and experimenting, 2015 will be about grabbing life by the balls and telling it what I want. And like fireworks, there’s no other way to do it but with a bang. God save your fingers.

Christmast at St. Rita’s Orphanage

St. Rita Orphanage Sucat Christmas (1)

 

After our very indulgent Christmas Eve dinner where we stuffed ourselves with all the culinary sins my mom’s hands could make, she decided we spend Christmas day at St. Rita’s Orphanage in Sucat with the kids. We spent her birthday last year at the orphanage, too, and I had a lot of fun interacting with the kids. We brought food, had games, and gave gifts. I had a great time last year so I was looking forward to spending more time with the kids.

I love the kids at St. Rita’s Orphanage. They are sweet and well-behaved. They also cooperate during the games. They ask to be carried, they hold your hand, and they play with you. My theory is that they want more attention than what they get from the sisters running the place.

Surprisingly, St. Rita’s is well-maintained. All the kids have new clothes and footwear. Their beds, rooms, and interiors are clean. It’s all air-conditioned, and one of the rooms even has a TV. But because of the number of kids, only babies are “babied,” and those in advanced years are treated like adults.

One of the kids gravitated towards me during our time there. We’re not allowed to take their pictures, and we’re not allowed to publish their names, but let’s call the kid Rudolph. He wouldn’t participate during the games, so I would encourage him to go back to the group. One time, he was running away and he tripped. Just when he was about to cry, I scooped him up, and he spent the entire afternoon there, and would cry when I put him down. Once, one of the sweet girls sat on my lap and Rudolph cried and pushed her away. When the girl wouldn’t leave my lap, he lay on the floor and didn’t move, even when my brother tried to play with him. Rudolph is the sweetest, he would always offer his cheek to me when I say “Kiss.”

The infants were just as affectionate. We went up to the nursery to visit the younger kids, and as soon as you reach your arms out, they offer theirs in return to be carried. They’re trusting kids and it made me happy to carry them.

The last time we were there, another kid spent the entire time sitting on my lap. I forgot his name, and our photos together are in my broken iPhone (we can take pictures, but we’re not allowed to publicize it). There was also a problem child who wouldn’t participate and would spend the time sitting away from us. When we encourage him to play, he would cry. Right when we were about to leave, he went up to me and sat on my lap. Both kids were gone when I went there for Christmas, which is good because it means a family adopted them and gave them the love they deserve.

Most of the kids during Christmas were new, except for a few (some were just waiting for their paperwork, while others have not been adopted yet). While I’m glad that I got to see them again, it also makes me feel sad because they spent another year in the orphanage.

We spent two hours with the kids, and when we left, a sister had to peel Rudolph off my arms, and he cried as he was being led away. I couldn’t look at him because I was afraid I would cry, too.

 

St. Rita Orphanage Sucat Christmas (2)

 

In the receiving area, a framed copy of the poem Legacy of an Adopted Child is hung on a wall. It’s a heartbreaking poem about the two mothers an adopted child has. I took a photo, but below is a copy in case you can’t read it:

 

Once there were two women who never knew each other,
One – you do not remember, the other you call mother.

Two different lives shaped to make yours,
One became your guiding star, the other became your sun.

The first gave you life, and the second taught you to live in it.
The first gave you a need for love and the second was there to give it.

One gave you a nationality; the other gave you a name.
One gave you the seed of talent; the other gave you an aim.

One gave you emotions; the other calmed your fears.
One saw your first sweet smile; the other dried your tears.

One gave you up – that’s all she could do.
The other prayed for a child and God led her straight to you.

Now you ask through all your tears the age-old question through the years;
Heredity or environment – which are you a product of?
Neither, my darling – neither – just two different kinds of love.

 

I’m thinking of visiting them on my birthday. I hope our Christmas visit will become a yearly tradition. I hope you can go visit them and make their day a little special.

Soon, I’ll have my own child, and he or she will come from St. Rita’s. Rudolph, if you’re still there, you’ll be coming home with me.

Meeting my man’s friends at Crisp and Niner Ichi Nana + Why

For my man’s annual Christmas get-together with his college friends, he thought it was a good idea to introduce me to the group.

This year’s get-together was at Crisp, an all-day breakfast restaurant in Bonifacio Global City. I initially thought it was an Asian fusion joint because of the flavors, which were somewhat similar to Pink Panda in Makati. Incidentally, both Crisp and Pink Panda are owned by blogger and restaurateur Erwan Heussaff. Great interiors—unfinished walls paired with bright yellow lamps and patterned tiles.

It turned out to be a surprise for some to meet me, because they thought my man was still single, and because I’m his first everything: date, kiss, lay, boyfriend. So of course, a part of the night was spent grilling (and teasing) us on how we met, what we usually do on dates, and who said “I love you” first.

They played an entertaining round of exchange gift, but theirs was called White Elephant. Basically, you put all gifts in a pile, and you take turns taking one. You can either take a gift from the pile or “steal” what was already taken. There was a really nice Muji pillow (it’s incredibly soft), but my man got traveling bags. His gift was a set of Human Nature products.

 

A bacon-flecked something in Niner Ichi Nana
A bacon-flecked something in Niner Ichi Nana

 

After dinner, we moved to Niner Icher Nana (also co-owned by Heussaff) for drinks, where I had something with bacon flecks staining the glass. I forgot what it’s called or what the liquor was, but it was an okay drink. I think it was whiskey.

 

Niner Ichi Nana's enormous chandeliers
Niner Ichi Nana’s enormous chandeliers

 

Niner was full, so we were seated at Hungry Hound, the partner restaurant. They had these enormous ring chandeliers that dominated the room. It has a little medieval feel to it, but its size makes a very strong statement, and detaches itself from other restaurants that also use wood interiors.

 

The "Why" graffiti in BGC
The “Why” graffiti in BGC

 

On the way home, we passed by this intersection near Forum in 7th Avenue. On one of the signs there, the word “Why” was stenciled at the back. A similar sign exists in Pasig and Makati (I saw one along Dela Rosa while walking to Mom & Tina’s) and it’s a sort of urban mystery, like Banksy. Coconuts Manila was able to interview the guy behind it, but he refused to share his name, what he does, and why he does it.

According to the interview, it’s supposed to be a rhetorical question. Why? Well, why not?

P.S. I need to take more photos to accompany my posts.

Rogue Christmas Party 2014 at Pablo’s

Rogue Christmas Party 2014 (3)

 

For Rogue‘s Christmas party (which was held on the same day of the Philstar Christmas party), we all gathered at Pablo’s Pub and Restaurant in Bonifacio Global City. It’s a Filipino restaurant (I think) with interiors that lie in stark contrast to the unassuming building it’s in. The pub has sexy dark wood interiors and dim lighting. Pablo’s is named after Pablo Escobar, the notorious Colombian drug lord., and the owners reimagined where the drug lord would meet his associates for drinks. And it translated well—spend an evening here and it gives off an illicit but delicious vibe.

 

The Rogue team at the bar
The Rogue team at the bar

 

The dark wood and soft lights are a sophisticated touch, highlighted by the well-lit bar and the bookcases stuffed with tomes. A bookshelf slides to reveal a secret room you can reserve. Sadly, I wasn’t able to take much pictures because we were all bustling around.

 

Beautiful ceiling panels
Beautiful ceiling panels

 

We had a short program introducing the new people, and had a few rounds of charades. We were all divided into three groups and we had to guess the covergirl, which one of our teammates had to act out. I correctly guessed Xandra Rocha (April 2014) and Celine Lopez (July 2013), but we didn’t get the points because I answered Xandra late and Miguel Mari, our creative director who acted out Celine, gave out a clue. But I feel I would still have guessed it without it. That’s how big of a fan I am of the magazine. I acted out Valerie Weigmann (June 2014), which my teammates quickly guessed.

There was also a round of charades for other categories, and it was divinely fun.

After the games, we had an pre-exchange gift gamewhere you have to guess who picked you. If you get it wrong, you have to take a shot of Jack Daniel’s. Naturally, no one guessed it right and everyone got a shot.

 

20141228_164901_HDR

 

During the raffle, I won a bottle of Jack Daniel’s, which I plan to experiment with. Winning a bottle of liquor is probably the most illicit thing I did at Pablo’s. It’s not even bootleg. Escobar would have been disappointed.

The Philippine Star Christmas Party 2014 at Sofitel Manila

I’ve been writing for The Philippine Star for over three years but I haven’t attended a single Christmas party. For some reason, things always seem to come up. This year, nothing was scheduled on the morning of the party, so I was able to make it! This year’s get-together was held at Sofitel Philippine Plaza Manila (my favorite hotel), and includes the entire Philstar family, from the newspaper itself to Pilipino Star Ngayon and printing.

This year’s theme was Heroes vs. Villains, and I was surprised at how a lot of people went all out in their costumes. According to Kathy, one of the lifestyle section’s sub-editors, there is a large monetary prize for the best costume.

 

Philstar Christmas Party (1)
This guy came in an elaborate Doctor Octopus costume, complete with stuffed Spidey

 

They were having games when I arrived, and there was a great parade of costumes. The Philippine Star had superheroes, Pilipino Star Ngayon had Disney, while printing had Filipino heroes. Of course, the costumes were what you’d expect: Iron Man, Superman, Elsa from Frozen, and a few favorites. There were a few Maleficents in the crowd. The person who stole the show was Doctor Octopus from Spiderman. The guy had those really large tentacles, one of which held a stuffed Spidey. People started taking their photos with him as soon as he came in, and even after I told the winding story of how Voyeur (my attempt at a culture website) rose and fell to Pepe Diokno, our editor-at-large, people were still having their photos taken with him. According to Kathy, he tops himself every year.

 

Ystyle's Reggie Belmonte and Supreme's Tim Yap hosting the Philstar Christmas party
Ystyle‘s Reggie Belmonte and Supreme‘s Tim Yap hosting the Philstar Christmas party

 

The official program was hosted by Supreme and YStyle‘s editors-in-chief Tim Yap and Regina Belmonte. Tim came in a great Iron Man costume while Reggie came as Harley Quinn.

I was seated with the rest of the lifestyle team, many of whom I haven’t met. I was with Supreme (Pepe, assistant editor David Milan, and contributing editor Cate de Leon), plus the folks from YStyle and Young Star. I was seated next to Young Star‘s Marga Buenaventura, who had on these amazing nails featuring art from Warhol, Lichtenstein, Koons, and Mondrian.

Sadly, lunch was served late and I had to go back to Rogue for work. It’s a good thing I had an extra box of puto flan, my gift to my editors, which I ate on my way. It would have been more fun if I ate this in costume, yes?