Photo Dump January 2019

Starting my year right by posting these photographs captured by my phone here.

The city might be hectic and busy but all you got to do sometimes is stop and appreciate the little things nature throws our way.
Travelling south to Sta. Cruz and you’ll be greeted with one of the biggest rivers in the province.
Travelling to the city is a rare occurrence for me and I can only appreciate it fully during night time.
One of my happy places.
Jiro and his friends hang out in this old boat used to travel people to Talim Island.
This cutie loves to go sunbathing.
Lily and her sister Tala
Visiting public hospitals is always a heartbreaking experience for me.
Cancer patients waiting for their post-chemo results on a busy day at the Philippine General Hospital.
Public hospitals such as the Philippine General Hospital always suffer from the lack of facilities. This is a rather common sight. Heartbreaking and agitating, to be honest.
I love the melancholy of this particular photo.
Manila is weird. It’s old and botox-ed. 🤭
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The Story of Alden Richards is the Story of the Filipino Youth… Kind of

Last Thursday, I was lucky enough to meet actor and heartthrob Alden Richards through a sit-down interview for a magazine that I work for. Although I am not the one doing the actual interview, I was near Alden enough to do a bit of an observation.

It’s no secret that the 26-year-old actor started from scratch: he is one of many celebrities who have a celebrated rags-to-riches story. To those who are not familiar, Alden pursued an acting career not only because it was the dream of his late mom, but also to be able to provide financially to his family.

In most of his interviews, he would frequently talk about his inability to pursue his studies because of his lack of funds to afford the tuition. He would also emphasize in his interviews that he worked hard in his projects and endorsements to make sure that his family is well provided for.

Now, the actor isn’t alone in this problem. Lack of funds for education is a common predicament for the Filipino youth. In an economy where the government run by the ruling class believes that education is a privilege rather than a right, majority of the students are bending over backwards just to pursue a higher education.

And not everyone is as lucky as Alden Richards. Not everyone has the chance to escape poverty. The cyber world was recently shook when the suicide note of an undergraduate student from Trinity University of Asia circulated. In the note he states that the main reason of his act is his inability to pay the school’s humongous tuition fee.

He is not the first, however, to commit such an act with the same reasons. One of the first known cases of this was that of freshman Kristel Tejada from UP Manila and since then there has been an alarming number of students who — out of desperation — choose to do the same.

But, let us not judge these poor kids. There are certain events that trigger the worst thoughts inside our heads and unfortunately, their predicament is the noose that strangled their necks. Understand that they are a victim of circumstances. As mentioned, not everyone is as lucky as Alden Richards who was given a shot at escaping the hell hole that is poverty.

Upon my travel back home, I ponder on the bitterness of such fact — of such inequality. If the youth of the cities have it this hard, the youth of the countryside have it worse: most of them no longer learn how to read and write due to the fact that they spend their time escaping the rampant militarization. If not, the schools and the educational equipment in these areas are not in good condition. You’ll wonder why… If it’s true that the Philippines earn millions, why are we so poor? Why are the people suffering?

In the face of these issues, you won’t be surprised that the youth themselves are becoming more vocal in demanding for quality education. They are at the forefront of every mobilization.

And they have my sympathy.

Why?

Because poverty is not something you can escape from. Poverty is systemic and the system is rotten. It is time for genuine change, a societal change. An overhaul, not like the ones promised by those trapos during elections.

Hopefully more and more people join in the demand for equality in this society. Hopefully this would be the last time where a young boy would give up his studies and pursue a different career to provide his family like the Alden Richards and most importantly, this should be the last time, a kid would take his life because of the helplessness brought on by poverty.

Hey there!

Long time no update, I know. Been busy with trying to learn a lot of things like gardening, farming, apiculture, and the likes. I haven’t been drawing and I still can’t find my inspiration to write stories.

Right now, I am obsessing over these Korean girl groups. Funny enough, I am not into K-Pop. I find some of the songs and gimmicks repulsive. I don’t know what happened or how it came to be but I stumbled upon these groups and I find myself “stanning” them (stanning is the term used by this generation when one obsessively supports someone or something. I do believe it came from Eminem’s hit song Stan haha).

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First off, Blackpink. I was acquainted with this group a couple of years ago, if I remember correctly — it was a YouTube recommendation. At first, I thought of them as “budget 2ne1”. I thought they were just created to fill the void left by the influential girl group from the same company. Plus, I hated their song “Boombayah”. I found the title pathetic. 

I harbor these opinions until recently when a friend’s sister showed me the music video for “Whistle”. I guess what I liked about this group is that they are very visual, very aesthetically pleasing. A lot of my friends would like to point out that one of this group’s “lethal weapon” (haha) is their choreography and I agree. Not a lot of girl groups do complex choreography — not even 2ne1.  Recently, I was able to watch their reality show Blackpink TV and I just find them adorable, I don’t care if it’s scripted, I just saw a glimpse of their personalities and I love them all (I have Jisoo as my bias, though).

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Next on my list is Red Velvet. I’m not really familiar with how they started but I know they are produced by the same company which gave the world another iconic girl group: SNSD. According to my more K-Pop informed friends, this group started out as a commercial flop but was able to come out stronger every comeback.

While I am not particularly a fan of their earlier concept (apparently they have two: the Red and the Velvet. The earlier concept falls under Red which is the “cute aesthetic”), I really like how they harmonize and how they perform live (Blackpink cannot, for the love of god, harmonize live). I do believe their vocal prowess is underrated.

I think it’s a big plus that their leader Irene is “closet” feminist. Recently, there were reports that male fans of this group burned their merchandise because they learned Irene is a feminist (haha).

mamamoo

Okay, last on my list is the wonderful and criminally underrated Mamamoo. Remove the flashy aesthetics, the choreography, and the gimmicks, most of these Korean pop groups are, unfortunately, mediocre. Here is where Mamamoo stood out. These girls are musically talented — and that’s an understatement. Try listening to the acapella version of their songs and you’d be willing to shell out money just for their raw tracks. 

This group also has a large LGBT following because of their LGBT-friendly music videos, and of course they themselves are lovely. This group is also the home to one of K-Pop’s largest “ship” Moonsun (Moonbyul and Solar).

I really can’t find the words to describe Mamamoo as they are perfect for me, I am a proud stan of this group. Hopefully, they get the recognition they truly deserve.

I have recently traveled the whole Caraga region for an assignment. It was bittersweet.

Some of the Things I Noticed part 1

Nothing gets the attention of the Filipino reader more than stories based on local folklore. Who can blame them? These are, after all, stories – and mostly retelling of them – that they have often heard from their parents, grandparents, friends, and (if they are among the wealthy ones) house helps who usually come from the province. Various characters from the folklore may have graced both the television and movie screens in the past but somehow, it does not provide the same excitement as when they appear in the pages of a book.

In recent years, local folklore is taking on a new form.As the comic book industry is gaining popularity once more among the middle class, one of the go-to genres of modern creators is the supernatural; and of course, the easiest stories to write in this genre are the familiar ones. Stories about the manananggal, tikbalang, tiyanak, and the like rose from the ashes of city-dwelling bourgeois imagination and are poured into dozens and hundreds of zines, graphic novels, anthologies, and comic strips.

One of the must read titles that showcase the local folklore is Arnold Arre’s The Mythology Class. A rather enjoyable story about a group of students invited to a mysterious mythology class where they discovered they are to prevent supernatural creatures from wreaking havoc into the mortal world. Along with Arre’s illustration, The Mythology Class took the reader into adventures and reintroduced folklore characters in a way that is different from how they are known but did not become complete strangers.

Despite The Mythology Class’ success in bringing folklore in comics form, it is not until 2008 that it starts to become a popular genre in the medium. Its popularity is ushered in through the arrival of Trese. Unlike Arre’s lighthearted story about a group of youngsters from the early 2000s, Trese tells the story of Alexandra Trese, a detective out to hunt gangs of aswang and deal with every supernatural creature who decided to live in the city and use their powers on poor mortals. It’s serious, it’s grim, and most of the crimes committed by these mortal world meddling monsters happen in the city. Think of her as a female and more badass John Constantine.

Soon after, a lot of titles arise. All telling stories of the same characters. Like everything else when it gets popular and the market saturates them, it gets bland. One cannot tell another apart. Some creators, to be able to ‘drift’ away from the competition uses local folklore characters in European inspired storytelling. Now that is just unfortunate.

Folklore reflects culture. The deeper you know about it, the deeper you understand a culture. In the local context, most of the middle class know folklore as a source of entertainment – stories you tell when there is a power blackout, pass the time when you’re bored or wanting to scare someone. But a deeper view of these stories would tell a glimpse of the history, beliefs that date back to the precolonial times, and some gruesome truths that are not discussed in history lessons.

The importance of being well versed in the origin and deeper meaning of folklore can help in establishing an identity among culture. A really important factor in developing country like the Philippines. One can use folklore as a metaphor for the current situation and be able to spark a discussion. Top that with gorgeous and witty illustrations and you have made a rather intellectual and political topic palatable.

It is high time, too, to recognize comics as a both a form of art and literature. To a generation where the general public has a low tolerance for reading, the illustrations will not only act as the cherry on top but also help glue a reader’s attention. Combine comics and good retelling of folklore and surely, a wider generation of intelligent Filipino readers will arise.

Sa May Pilapilan

Tingin ko hindi ito ang pinakamasaya kong taon. Maraming problema ang umangat (na kagagawan ko rin naman) at mga bagay na kailangang igpawan at i-resolba.

Ngunit, marami rin namang pagkuhanan ng lakas upang maiwaksi ang pagod: pagkain, mga nakakasama, at mga lugar — lalo na ang mga lugar na kinalakhan.

Panahon na nga pala ng pagsuloy sa kabukiran na malapit sa subdivision na tinitirhan namin. Ngayon na lang ulit nakadalaw dito. Isa itong pilapilan na ito sa mga lugar na malapit sa aking puso sapagkat halos kaibigan ng tatay ko ang mga magsasaka dito at parati niya akong dinadala kapag nakikigapas siya (o kahit bumibisita lang). 

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Tahimik na dapit-hapon

Dito din kami naglalaro ng mga kaibigan ko noong hindi pa gaanong marami ang nakatira sa subdivision. Daanan din ito kapag nais naming makatawid tungo sa kabilang baranggay (lalo na kapag eleksyon o panahon na ng pagbebenta ng sinaing na isda).

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Malakas ang hangin, di lang halata sa larawang ito.

Madalas ay iniiwasan ng mga taga subdivision namin ang lugar na ito dahil daw sa ito ay mapanganib: maraming ahas at daanan daw ito ng mga masasamang elemento na nanggagaling sa kabilang baranggay. Tingin ko naman, hindi lang kasi nila kilala ang bukirin na ito (yun, at masyadong mataas ang tingin nila sa kanilang mga sarili).

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Ganda.

Siguro isa sa mga hindi ko malilimutang karanasan sa bukiring ito ay nangyari sa isang mainit na hapon noong 2010. Galing ako sa kabilang baranggay para bumili ng tinapay at sa isang iglap ay bigla akong nadulas. Hindi ko na nakuha ang tsinelas ko kung kaya naman ay naglakad ako pauwi sa amin na naka-paa at hanggang tuhod ang putik.

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Mga palay sa isang malinis na hanay.

Wala lang. Nagkaroon lang ako ng pagkakataon mag-isip ngayong hapon at nakatulong ang pagpunta kong muli sa bukirin na ito para ilagay ang lahat sa tamang perspective. Nakatulong din ito na maibsan ng kaunti ang lagnat ko.

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Cute ng mga kuhol pag itlog pa lang sila.

Of Babblers and Pitcher Plants: Remote Birdwatching in Mt. Victoria — eBON

Of Babblers and Pitcher Plants: Remote Birdwatching in Mt. Victoria by Carmela Balcazar The Mt. Victoria range is known for its biodiversity significance attracting scientists from all over the world. Recent discoveries of Nepenthes species of plants make this mountain range particularly unique. As the second highest mountain of Palawan with a classification of 7/9 […]

via Of Babblers and Pitcher Plants: Remote Birdwatching in Mt. Victoria — eBON

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