Tuesday, August 24, 2010


For the past day, the Philippines has made it to the copies of most of the world's newspapers. It's probably not just a passing remark. It could actually be a full-blown article or, in some instances, the headline of the day (or week, even). The thing is, we're being talked about.

Should we be happy?


All of us know about the August 23 hostage-taking on Quirino Grandstand that lasted for at least eleven or twelve hours. It began at around ten in the morning and ended at around ten or eleven p.m. It happened on a tour bus. When the ordeal ended, ten (including the hostage taker) were reportedly dead while others were wounded. The dead were Chinese nationals. So now the Philippines is a stench to the rest of the world. Some people are commenting that it is the most dangerous country in the world, even surpassing the ranks of Iraq and Afghanistan. Racism is prevalent, especially on the online community. They say that Filipinos are stupid and all that stuff, which, in my humble opinion, is not true.

Look at this way: a dead leaf doesn't define the whole tree. A sick sheep does not define the whole herd. An ugly dress does not define the whole clothing line. So it is with the Philippines. This incident alone does not equate the whole country, or its people, for that matter. One man (or institution) cannot act for everyone else. The comments that we're a dangerous and murderous people are misplaced. It's just totally not true. There are always many sides to one story. If these people only had the chance to experience (which they probably would never have) what the genuine Filipino spirit is, perhaps they would not be saying these. We may be wrong, but this sort of "harassment" is unacceptable. (What upsets me most is that they are speaking as if there is nothing wrong with their systems.)

I am willing to admit that the Philippine National Police and the media are at fault. First, the police failed to propagate effective security measures. If they had only restricted (media) access, perhaps the unnecessary would not have happened. Second, why did they let the situation go out of hand? The hostage-taking took up  half a day. What the hell was that? Since Rolando Mendoza was once a member of the police squad, wouldn't that make negotiations a wee bit easier? Also, they were very much lacking in equipment. Two shields? What the heck? And why the hesitation in "storming" the bus and freeing the hostages? Let's say there were negotiations. But when they ended, it was one man against a troop. At this point, the media played a vital (and very wrong) role. If you've watched the coverage, it is quite noticeable that every move of the police is reported. It's like there's a report every five or ten minutes. I think that's "unethical". The police is doing their job (not well...) to apprehend the suspect but all the media is doing is revealing their strategies. What bum wouldn't think that a tour bus didn't have a television inside? Didn't they, at least, consider that? Sure, pride yourselves in the fact that you were there, doing real-time reporting, and consequently upsetting the plan. That just sucks. I'm a Journalism student and I feel really disappointed in their actions. My professor in Journalism 101 said that no one even attempted to dig deeper and discover Mendoza's side. Okay, so maybe someone did but it was not enough. In order for a media outfit to be transparent, all the sides of the story must be shown to the people. The media utterly failed. Plus, they were obstructions to the fulfillment of the duties of the police. They were crowding all around! It was also said that Mendoza started shooting when he saw his brother being dragged away by the police on television. For Pete's sake, the man was only trying to help! Couldn't the police just confiscate the gun and let him approach his brother and possibly calm him down? Who knows how many lives could have been saved if the proper protocols (and media ethics) were followed to the letter.

In a Machiavellian point of view, Rolando Mendoza, according to Mr. Jalton Taguibao, was a good example of a smart hostage-taker. He considered the place and the people (mostly foreigners) he was going to hold hostage. I think he was also alone. It was obviously pre-mediated and not just an impulsive move. Mendoza really pondered the situation. But, in all that tension, he still had a heart. He released some people and if he had murder in mind, he woud not have done that. The killing of the tourists can be (although not fully) attributed to the other agencies. Of course, he also had his faults. He was obviously acting out of desperation. He lost his job and all he wanted was to get his name cleared. (Hostaging foreigners was clearly not the best way to achieve this, though.) What if the man was telling the truth? What if he was wrongly accused? As stated above, no one attempted to uncover his side of the story. All we got was the notion that he was evil... Well, it could be true. I mean, he probably decided that if he died, he would reveal the inconsistencies of the system and make the Philippines a stench to other nations. What a way to get revenge... (I'm probably imagining this, but it's a possibility.) Anyway, he really made his mark in history.

(It's totally absurd that the nations who devotedly assisted us during the Ondoy and Pepeng storms are now treating us coldly and branding us with the "most dangerous" mark.)

So yeah. My point is we're not all to blame. The incident alone does not define us Filipinos. Sure we made mistakes, but everybody else does. I still believe that there is still hope for our country. There will always be hope. That's the only thing we could hold on to. It is said that promises are made to be broken. But hope in God is what we're going to live for.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Book Review - L is for Lawless by Sue Grafton

Rating: 10/10

Johnny Lee, a friend of Henry Pitts, died a couple of months ago. His son, Chester, and grandson, Bucky, want to collect the army pension that the deceased man was supposed to receive. But inquiries denote that Lee was nowhere in the military database. Henry asks Kinsey Millhone to find out the deal behind all this. What she uncovers is more than what she bargained for - a decades old crime and one very dangerous person dogging her every move...

L is for Lawless is, by far, the most exciting Grafton novel I have read. The character of Kinsey Millhone is believable, complete with those flaws that make us human. The adventure, adrenaline rush, and other what-not absorb the reader into a fascinating whirlwind of surprising events. Any fan of the mystery genre must read this. The plot is absorbing and well-written. I like the way Grafton writes; it's so personal, and that makes her a great writer.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Movie Review - A Country Doctor

Rating: 7/10

A country doctor is asked to attend to a sick boy ten miles away one winter night. However, his sole horse died the night before. His serving-girl, Rosa, runs from house to house asking for a horse. In his frustration, the doctor kicks the door of his pig sty. A groom mysteriously appears from inside. He gives the doctor two magnificent horses and hitches them to his carriage. Once he is on the carriage, the doctor asks the groom to come with him. The latter refuses, wanting to be with Rosa, and spurs his horses on, leaving the doctor on his own. What follows is a whirlwind of mysterious and fascinating events.
A 21-minute film adaptation of Franz Kafka's short story, A Country Doctor is directed by Yamamura Koji. The animation is err... Disturbing. But it fits in well with the world of Kafka. I didn't like it much because, for one, I don't really know what this is all about. I mean, I can't get the meaning of the symbolisms in the film. So there's that. Second, I'm not in for this kind of weird animation. I'm so much more used to Studio Ghibli, or even MadHouse. Yamamura Kojis animation is just so queer and "vertiginous".

Movie Review - Megane (Glasses)

Rating: 10/10

In Megane, Takeo (Kobayashi Satomi) is a stressed out profesor who goes on an island vacation. She arrives at a hotel named "Hamada" run by Yuji (Mitsuishi Ken). She is surprised when her host sits down to eat with her. More so when she is woken up in the morning by an old woman named Sakura (Motai Masako), who comes to the island only during spring. She also finds the "merci taiso" queer. Takeo decides to check out and look for another hotel. But Marine Palace did not prove helpful so she returns to Hamada, a little awkwardly. As the days pass, she befriends the locals and learns how to "twilight", keeping up with the island's pace.

Megane is a really simple film but, as expected, its meanings are very deep. That is exactly one of the things I like in Japanese movies - they're not as superficial as... Others. Anyway, it's a feel good film with a lot of nice lessons. Watch it! :)

Movie Review - TOKYO TOWER: Mom and Me, and Sometimes Dad

Rating: 10/10

Nakagawa Masaya (Odagiri Joe) narrates his life, from his childhood up to the present time. As a child, his parents split up and he lived with his Mom (younger: Uchida Yayako; older: Kiki Kirin), but visits with his Dad (Kobayashi Kaoru) proved to be exciting. His dream is to enter art school. When he leaves his province to study in Tokyo, Masaya wastes his time and mother's money on women, drinking, smoking, and gambling. His mother begins running a restaurant to support him back home. At one point in the movie, while playing mahjong, he turns his life around and works hard. When he has enough money, he asks his mother to come to Tokyo and live with him, as her health continued to decline. His mother befriends his friends and cooks meals for them in Masaya's house. For a while, life is good. But his mother develops gastric cancer and she has to go through chemotherapy. After a few sessions, she asks him to stop the treatment because of the excruciating pain. The doctor informs Masaya that she only has a few months to live...
TOKYO Tower: Mom and Me, and Sometimes Dad is a beautiful drama film. I'm so happy I was able to watch this. Odagiri Joe and Kiki Kirin were great in their portrayals. There were a lot of memorable scenes. The one I remember the most is the scene where Masaya hid his head in his hands, refusing to see his mother go through such pain. It's just a nice, nice mother-son movie. Watch it! :)

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Movie Review - The Book of Eli

Rating: 9/10

The world is in a post-apocalyptic age. Food and water is running out. Other resources are also scarce. There is fighting and violence all around. The sun has grown hotter, too hot for human eyes to be able to see without sunglasses. A lone man named Eli has walked the earth for many years, bringing a book with him that he must take West. Carnegie, a ruler of a town, wants that book and will stop at nothing to get it, but Eli would protect it with all he's got.

I liked the movie. It's cool, really. I liked the color scheme, all gray and grim (in contrast to the harsh glare of the sun, maybe?). The fight scenes were awesome! Denzel Washington is a great actor and it was just a great cast. I think the plot was well-written and the twist at the end was really surprising. So it's a good movie, for me at least.

One last thing: the book that Eli is taking West and Carnegie wants the most is a King James version of the Bible. How's that? :D

Movie Review - Prince of Persia: Sands of Time

Rating: 8/10

Dastan, an orphan in Persia, is adopted by the king after showing courage in the marketplace. Fifteen years later, the empire wages war against the city of Alamut because it is rumored to be selling weapons to Persia's enemies. In spite of his doubts, Dastan leads a surprise attack that succeeds in the breach of the city's walls, allowing his countrymen to attack it. The princess of Alamut, Tamina, instructs a soldier to bring a dagger to a safe place. Dastan, however, defeats the soldier and the dagger falls into his hands. During the feast for the successful capture, Dastan brings an ornamented robe as a gift to the king. After a few minutes, the king dies because the robe is poisoned. Branded a murdered, Dastan escapes, with the help of Princess Tamina, and undertakes a journey to prove his innocence to his uncle, Nizam. He soon discovers the ability of the dagger to reverse time. When the truth about the attack and the real murderer is revealed, Dastan must protect the dagger at all costs. If it falls into the wrong hands, an apocalyptic event will take place and this must be prevented.

A movie adaptation of a video game, I think Prince of Persia: Sands of Time did fairly well. I liked the fight scenes and the stunts. The background music was also nice ( I've come to like Persian music because of MuL 13...); it really puts you there. The movie entertained me a lot and the plot was pretty exciting. I think Jake Glylenhaal did a god job with the role (probably some bias here :D). Gemma Arterton, who plays Princess Tamina, was good (-looking) also.

So I think Prince of Persia is an entertaining movie. Not as good as the others, maybe, but I appreciated it.

Book Review - Candide by Voltaire

Rating: 10/10

"In this best of all possible worlds, everything is for the best."

With Dr. Pangloss' optimist philosophy in his mind, Candide grows up believing that the world he lives in is beautiful and that all things will work out for good. Even though he is flogged, punished, shipwrecked, alone, and miserable, he stubbornly clings to this belief. A novel written for the criticism of the Age of Enlightenment thinkers, Candide is one of the most celebrated works of French literature.

I never thought that the day would come when I would appreciate Voltaire. (All I previously knew about him is that the volt was named after him. Other than that, nadda.) Candide certainly made me like the French author.

This novel is the only one from our English 12 reading list that I've seriously enjoyed reading. Medea is okay but it's just too "unfeeling" for me. I haven't finished Inferno by Dante Alighieri because of the language. Candide, on the other hand, is a beautiful philosophical novel which truly entertains with its satirical tone and highly exaggerated story plot. The characters are odd and are surprisingly resurrected after such painful deaths. As Mam Concepcion pointed out, only the good guy (James the Anabaptist) died, and a man who did not believe in infant baptism at that. Friars are portrayed as liars, thieves, and vow breakers which tell us how much Voltaire hated organized religion. Also, the place where happiness can be found is a place that does not exist (Eldorado). It's really no wonder why Candide is such a famous work.

Book Review - CSI: Double Dealer by Max Allan Collins

Rating: 7/10

A killer is on the loose - one who uses a distinctive double tap signature on his victim. A mob lawyer, Philip Dingelmann, is killed in his hotel. A fifteen year old murder, with exactly the same signature, is found in a construction site. The night shift CSIs of the Las Vegas Police Department must find out the person behind this before someone else gets hurt...

I kind of liked it, but the television series is better. The dialogue is a bit corny but it stays true to the characters. I was expecting that the whole gang would be here (like Hodges, Wendy, and Archie maybe), but it was only the characters from Season 1. Greg Sanders was the only lab rat I read about. Doc Al wasn't given much "book time" so it's pretty disappointing. But, overall, it's a good book and a nice read for crime and mystery enthusiasts.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Book Review - A is for Alibi by Sue Grafton

Rating: 9/10

The first book in the Alphabet Mysteries, Sue Grafton introduces her detective, Kinsey Millhone, in A is for Alibi. Nikki, wife of the late Laurence Fife, is released from prison and hires Kinsey to find out who really killed her husband eight years ago. A jumble of events take place, including an affair with Fife's co-worker, the handsome Charlie Scorsoni, another eight year old murder, and a second corpse.

I liked this book; there's no denying that fact. I actually liked the character of Kinsey Millhone, because I think we're kind of similar in more ways than one. It's also an interesting read because Grafton lists down the things that Kinsey does. The reader isn't just seeing the geeky stuff. She's not just showing the reader how the investigation is going but also shows the life of Kinsey Millhone - how she lives it, how she spends her time, where she eats, the people she gets along with, etc. The first-person narrative also helped because the reader is able to see and follow the ideas that go through her mind. It also gives it a personal touch; the reader can't help but cheer for Kinsey as the story unfolds.

All in all, I think Grafton made a great debut with this novel. I've read her story in Chicken Soup for the Writer's Soul and her dedicatory epistle to her father, Chip W. Grafton, is well-deserved. I bet her father's real proud of her. No wonder Sue Grafton is still a powerful force in the mystery genre today.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Can' take my hands off you...

SERIOUSLY. Yes, seriously, I cannot take my hands off you. No, I'm not talking about a species of the male Homo sapiens. I am talking about the best-est thing in the world for me: books.


First of all, I can't help but buy one or two books every week from Booksale. Hunting for the right book in a mountain of 'em is hard work but once you find the real treasure, it's the achievement of a lifetime. Like yesterday, I found a copy of Pinnochio by Carlo Collodi for 40 pesos. That book is rare to me because it's the first time I've seen it. I mean, I always knew [in my heart] that such a book existed but I've never seen it. So, yeah. It's a great achievement!

Second, books keep me company. Often, more than friends. I keep them around me for leisure and knowledgeable pursuits. Curiously enough, I am not drawn to academic and non-fiction books...

I learn a lot from books, especially from Michael Crichton's sci-fi books. It's amazing because most of these stuff are things I don't learn in school and would never bother reading about in the Science library. But when they're written by Crichton or by any other sci-fi writer, they pique my interest. The things which are hidden from us are revealed through books. While reading them, I am able to know what the life of a doctor, detective, or a writer is all about. Books also take me to places I've never been and will never be in. Take Libba Bray's Gemma Doyle trilogy or C.S. Lewis' Narnia, for example. It fosters a person's imagination and exercises the mind's creativity.

There are a lot more reasons why I love books so I wonder why some people don't read them or how they can survive without reading them. They're missing out on a lot of things. The world of books is so wonderful! :3

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Movie Review - Salt

Rating: 9/10

Angelina Jolie plays the role of Evelyn Salt, a CIA agent who is accused of being a Russian spy by a man referred to as Orlov. He says that she is tasked to assassinate the Russian president during the American vice president's funeral. Thus begins an action-adventure movie you will most likely not forget.

First of all, when I knew that the movie's title was Salt, I thought it was going to be a wee bit similar to Madhouse Studio's Paprika because, well, they're both named after spices so... *shrugshrug* Anyway, it was Inception, I think, that turned out to be similar to Paprika because of all that dream thing.

Okay, so, I think Salt is a good movie. Angelina Jolie is really making her mark as a female action star and she's quite good at it. It's also cool to see a [gorgeous] woman doing those amazing stunts, getting beat up, and kicking bad guys' butt all around. And it leaves you wondering how she keeps her sultry look while doing those...

The storyline is a tad bit confusing since it alternates between two identities of Evelyn Salt, but I think that's what makes the movie great. It just shows how human Salt can be.

So, before I give anything away, I'll be ending this review. :)