Weekly Ketchup 52 - The End

This has been a week of endings for me.

One of my favorite hosts on YouTube announced he's leaving SourceFed. I got to watch the final seasons of Legend of Korra and the Newsroom, both of which I just started watching this year. Meanwhile, my mom lost a friend and my cousins lost their belongings to thieves. This is also the last entry on the weekly ketchup.

Party last Sunday with great friends.
Pic c/o Jovan
Now for the breakdown:

The week started with Joe Bereta announcing that the next couple weeks will be his last on SourceFed. I've been following the channel since around 2012. It has been my constant source of entertainment news and of some of the crazy ass news I share on my Facebook. It's gonna be sad to see him go but I wish him well.

As I've mentioned before, I prefer my fantasy in vanilla flavor, so I never really liked the science and technology aspect of Legend of Korra. Unfortunately, it's even more pronounced in the last season, what with all the mechs and all, which kinda makes sense since the enemy here is not just earth-benders but an army of metal-benders. I would've preferred them use metal-bending to power and control their mechs, similar to what the water-benders have done with submarines in The Legend of Aang. I also feel like the stakes weren't as high as they were in the first couple of seasons. I feel like the battle with Vaatu would've been a better series-ender. And that final scene! Where did that come from?! Don't get me wrong: I don't hate it - I just didn't see the build-up to it.

As for the Newsroom, I feel like there's very little in the final season about covering a story (or stories), which kinda bums me out. It's like the personal struggles of the characters were put forward instead, which made the story less compelling for me to watch. I also wasn't a big fan of the sudden marriage proposal from last season and I certainly wasn't a big fan of how they thought to add to that story in their final season. I didn't like that Dev Patel was absent for most of it but I did like that one of the main characters died. It was the ideal context for an ending, I thought. Then again, no matter what I thought of everything else about the show, it's still the dialog that hooks me in. I still wish there were more seasons of the show though!

Meanwhile, one of my mom's oldest and closest friends, someone who I've also had the pleasure of meeting, passed away yesterday after a bout with cancer. My mom helped with her medical finances, so I can just imagine how much her friend's passing must've pained her. I thought: Is this what she's got to look forward to now? Friends dropping by the wayside? Of course, I remembered that "the culling" has already begun in my generation and, as much as it pains us, we have to just accept that it is a part of life - and the best that we can do is simply to live out what time we have with each other the best we can, which should really go without saying, but it does bear reminding.

On Christmas Day, the cousins and their kids and me and my siblings went out of town to this privaate resort in Laguna. It was supposedly a despedida for me, back when everyone thought I was leaving for good, so I didn't have any idea about what they planned to do. I didn't know it was gonna be out of town nor that we were gonna be staying overnight. I kinda felt awkward about the whole thing since I was coming back (this time anyway) and I was having one of those episodes I talked about last week, so I didn't get to enjoy the pool as much as I wanted to. The kids were having the time of their lives, though, which was good enough for me. So all was well - until we were robbed. Two masked men came in through one of the locked doors in the room the women were staying in and took their bags, which had all their phones and money (including the ones I gave as Christmas gifts). My niece, who was awake at the time, managed to scream and alert everyone else, so the robbers had to flee right away, sparing the other rooms, including mine.

I'm really grateful for my niece because if not for her, the robbers would've crept into me and my brother's room and took our stuff, which would've included my spiffy new camera that I'm also bringing on my trip.

The family. The morning after the robbery.
And now about the trip. And this blog.

Originally, I had intended for this entry to be the last entry, as the "goodbye" blog as I embark on a new adventure. It would've been a nice ending to this year and this little project of mine, as well as my life here in the country.

Well, pieces don't always fall where they should and here I am leaving on a trip for which I'm still coming back for. To be fair, I am proud of what I've accomplished this year. I did it. I stuck through with blogging bits and pieces of my life every week. More importantly, I stuck through with my crusade to save money and so here I am. Hooray me!

Christmas Eve with the orphans
There is a part of me that's a little anxious and excited about the prospects of what I might accomplish in the next month, which should be expected, I guess. For the next 30 or so days, I'm just gonna be a wanderer, not so much a tourist. I intend to write and still be productive with my projects while I'm gone and not making money (I'll actually be losing money, come to think of it).

However, I don't think I'll regret not pushing through with the bigger plan, or at least I'll have to keep convincing myself that: a) I've done it once, I can do it again; and b) My friend only gets married once. Actually, scratch that. I meant I'll probably only be a groomsman once in my life and so I have to be there. It sucks that I bought a ticket that couldn't have been rebooked instead but I'll take what I can get. Life is, after all, too short to spend on regrets.

Last night with high school friends
Pic c/o Anya
So I'm gonna go on this flight, which leaves in a few hours, and enjoy myself, broke-ass traveler I would likely be. Thank you all who followed my drama, comedy, and adventures on this blog this past year. I'm sorry I wasted your time every week, but this is the last episode. Goodbye, all! See you when I do!

Behind-the-scenes at the pre-nup shoot I helped marshal earlier today.
I thought it would be a thematic to end the blog with the reason my story here isn't done yet.


Weekly Ketchup 51 - The Holiday Special

On more than one occasion on this very blog, I mentioned feeling bloated or not feeling well, both very vague references to seemingly fleeting physical conditions. In reality, however, and this is something I haven't talked or written extensively about, I haven't been feeling okay in years!

Yes, years.

There have been days when I would wake up exhausted even after a long night's rest. Or whole days when I would feel so tired even if I haven't done anything remotely physically challenging. My bowel movement have also been frantic to say the least. Without getting into the disgusting TMI details, I'll just say that it's been affecting my ability to get to work and meet other appointments on time, which is the biggest reason I found it troubling. Sometimes I would also feel some pain or, at the very least, a sensation in my gut that were alien to me. It's not debilitating but it's enough to get me paranoid.

Yes, most of the time, even if I don't show it, I'm not feeling all that well. That heavy bloated feeling has become a normal thing for me, though I surprise myself that I can still maintain the energy to be hyperactive, which is also normal. So my consolation is that I'm not unwell enough that I'm unable to enjoy my usual activities. I've also lived with it for years and while I haven't normalized or gotten better, I also haven't gotten worse.

Yes, I've had myself checked. Multiple times, in fact.
The first instance of fire in my gut, way back in 2007, the doctors didn't find anything significantly wrong with me. A routine check-up in 2008 showed everything about me was normal. When I had my appendectomy in 2011, doctors didn't find anything else wrong down there. A few months later, in 2012, during another routine check-up, the only thing my doctor found was an enlarged goiter, symptomatic of thyroid problems, which I was given medication for.

Earlier this year, when I set about saving money, one of the other goals I had, in addition to flying away, was to set aside some amount to getting checked again. It became even more important given the recent spate of friends dying.

I never talked about it but, in my head, I was worried that they'd find some enlarged organ and I would need to be operated on. Worse yet: That I only have a short time left. Yes, my head can get that busy sometimes, especially on days when I was the feeling the worst. I even thought that this very entry, the second to the last of my weekly catch-up, would be where I would announce that I'm about to face the biggest challenge of my life: Fighting for it.

Well, if you've been following my blog long enough, you'd know that one of the recurring themes is that my stories don't necessarily reach its logical conclusion because life is just like that. And for once, I'm glad that it didn't.

This past week, after saving up enough money, I finally went and got the check-up I desperately need. After analysis of my blood and "other samples" plus chest X-ray and abdominal ultrasound, it was found that most of my indicators fall within normal parameters! All organs seem to be intact - no growth, enlargement, or foreign objects whatsoever

My doctor, however, advised me to lay off coffee, which I've been drinking a lot of, using it as a laxative, because we're trying to eliminate ulcer as the source of all my gut problems. I've been given medication and was advised to go on a heavy fiber diet. We've also ruled out any mass growing in my lower extremities, so that's a relief. I'm not gonna get into the "how" but just know that there's nothing there to worry about.

There's still the matter of my thyroid problems, which I still have as it turned out. Curiously, my previous doctor said my thyroid functions were "hyper" but this doctor said I'm "hypo". Odd but I'll just have to trust the diagnosis. I've been given another set of medication for it but not as intensely as the one I had before.

The thing is, though, I spent the equivalent of approximately $200 on the tests, consultation, and prescribed medicines, which obviously is going to cut into the budget I was saving for my trip, which wasn't much to begin with. Because of this, I won't be able to buy some new stuff I would like to bring with me, like a new camera or a new phone, but it did afford me something priceless: Peace of mind.

That I can tell my friends that I'm okay for the most part and perfectly capable of facing whatever it is that pains me. That nobody has to count me out just yet because I'm still gonna rock it for years to come (if the fates allow, that is). That, I think, is a gift in itself. Happy holidays, everyone!


Weekly Ketchup 50 - Busy Week

I thought last week was busy but I was wrong!
I've been out every day this past week for one reason or another.

Monday night was spent at home, worrying and prepping for the upcoming onslaught of typhoon Hagupit, which didn't happen thankfully.

Tuesday night was spent at the wake of the mom of geek friends Carl and Isab at Manila Memorial Park. Rej, Chiqui, Shey, Oneal, Mark P., and I went, though for obvious reasons, no photo of the group was taken. Me being me, I did think about it the entire time we were there. I just wasn't sure if it was appropriate. (Though now that I'm writing this, I remember that the college friends had a photo taken during the wake of one of our own just earlier this year.)

Anyway, it was good to see Carl again. I haven't seen the guy for at least a couple of years, though we still maintain contact over Facebook. He and his sister were in surprisingly good spirits, attending to us and regaling us with stories of their more emotional relatives and how their mom was such a big fan of showbiz that she would prefer getting buried in a plot near where some celebrities were.

After the visit, the rest of us went out for cold treats at Iceberg's, at which point it would've been perfectly fine to take a photo of the group but I didn't so here's a photo of what I had instead.

Photo credit
Wednesday was Hobbit Day! The Battle of the Five Armies had its premiere and I got to don my Ori costume again, which I hadn't even laundered because of the whole typhoon thing. Me and my friends have been dressing up as the dwarven company for the past three years now and helping Warner Bros. Philippines pretty much spruce up their media premiere for the trilogy, posing for photos and interacting with their guests.

I almost didn't make it to the screening, though, because Manila is such a magical place that at certain times, the population of the city seems to triple and what should normally take an hour's ride would expand to three hours! It's ridiculous! I was flashing back to events two weeks ago and was even contemplating on just going home.

Well, thankfully, I decided to trudge on. I made it to the movie just in time to put my costume on. I didn't get to take photo ops until afterwards though.

As for the movie itself, I felt like it could've been cut down to half. It was action-packed, to be sure, and the battle scenes were majestic at that but it was dragging at parts, especially Tauriel's scenes (let's not even get started on her lines). I felt like the ending was a little rushed and one character I expected to have longer screen time was demoted to a glorified cameo. However, I thought the scenes connecting to the Lord of the Rings were incredible! It reminded me of the excitement I felt upon seeing the Imperial Star Destroyers in Revenge of the Sith!

Photo c/o Jovan.
The following night, despite not feeling well the entire day, I made sure to attend Deus Sex Machina 2 at Boho Sarapsody Bistro. I missed the first one and was curious as to what the event was all about. It was basically amateur erotica reading but most of it was humorous. My college friend Denice, for example, read her composition about pop stars, girl groups, and boy bands of the 90s. A bunch of the regulars at Geek Fight were there as well as the regulars at Boho. It was a fun evening but I only got to drink once and had to leave as soon as the program was over (way before midnight) because of the whole not-feeling-thing.

Something I said to Denice got me thinking though. I mentioned to her how the readings got me "hot and bothered", which, in hindsight, might not have been the right choice of words. I didn't think I was aroused in anyway but I was stimulated, which, I think, was the purpose of the night anyway. She was flabergasted at the idea because she thought me asexual, and I don't blame her. Just a couple of weeks ago, I told college friend M that I probably am. I even blogged about it a couple of months ago. Sorta.

However, I don't know that not being capable of getting attracted to someone else means not getting stimulation at all, even at the most whimsical scenarios. Maybe I just have a vivid imagination. Or maybe I'm just aroused by the idea... or the story. I've often said how I seem perfectly capable of feeding of other people's emotions, particularly happiness or excitement. Maybe other people getting attracted to each other is what gets me off.

The following night, Friday, was the company Christmas party. I'm not really a big fan of the people I work with. Not that I hate them. I'm just not big on the idea of spending time with them on a casual basis. So I busied myself with karaoke, vodka, and Instagramming the funky glasses at the bar. Highlight of the night was reaching my whistle register while singing Minnie Ripperton's "Loving You" with a female officemate.

Yesterday, I was at another trooping with the Philippine Garrison of the 501st Legion, this time helping spread holiday cheer to the kids confined at the Philippine Children's Medical Center. We gave away toys and interacted with the patients, taking a few photos. As always, my duty was to help the troopers get dressed and snap photos and videos of the event, though I used someone else's equipment.

I don't think I'll ever get used to the sight of kids fighting for their lives. Some of these kids are fighting cancer. Some are in worse conditions. Some are just babies.

It's a good thing I had to be zooming in and out of rooms, chasing troopers, making sure I got good shots of everybody, because I don't think I can just stand there and be idle. I've helped in similar charities before with the same people and I still can't imagine how any of my friends can stay in character and even offer words of encouragement. I can't imagine it gets easier for them considering they do these sorts of activities more than I do.

Photo by me, from Sharm Macalua's album
In happier children news, earlier today was the first birthday of my college friend Germie's daughter. I was actually surprised to get invited since we're not particularly close (I didn't even know she was pregnant until she gave birth) but I made sure to go. After all, I did preach about making time for friends and I really treat it like such an honor to be invited to these things, especially since I wasn't particularly popular with my classmates during the college years. I guess I've come a long way, huh?

Aside from the classmates, there were a few batchmates I knew as well. It was always good to catch up about where they are now and what they'e doing. At some point, Albert mentioned that we've now approached that age where instead of endless parties, we're now attending weddings and children's birthday parties. I say: Bring it on. Any excuse to get together is a good thing. Just don't let it be funerals please!

So that's been my week. It's been very eventful. I'm seriously looking forward to a quiter week ahead, despite the mad holiday rush. I'm also beginning to plan out my itinerary for my upcoming big trip. And wow! I can't believe I only have two weeks left in this blog exercise!


Weekly Ketchup 49 - This Week In My Social Life

Wow, I've been busy.

A couple of days ago, I attended another wedding of  another college friend. Nicolai, actually, is someone I had known much earlier, having gone to the same high school our senior year. We were enrolled in the same home study program and would often see each other in campus from time to time, so it was a bit surprising that we'd end up going to the same school, taking the same course, and being assigned the same class in college. Other than that, we have pretty much nothing else in common and there's very little that we can talk about. The one strongest memory I had of her during college was that time I made her cry after I non-chalantly hurled an expletive at her direction during a class recitation.

I did get to know her a bit more after college, though. I found out that this girl has got spunk and an appetite that can best me. She's also got a strong talent for business and sales that I actually wish I had. And underneath that pretty face is a tough, take-charge personality, someone with street smart and who knows how to navigate her way through life.

I didn't really get to know her now-husband Tristan as well as  I maybe should have, so it still came as a surprise to me that I was even invited at all. I'd like to thank them both for including me on their special day and for bringing the college friends together. It's an amazing experience to end the year with these guys for such a lovely occasion considering we pretty much started it bidding farewell to one of our own.

Fortunately, I made it just in time for the ceremony - unlike last week. I got to shoot some videos, including the bride's walk, which I just finished compiling a few hours ago and is currently uploading.

As for the reception, there are three things that will stand out for me:

First, I got to sing "Don't Stop Believing" with another college friend, Lora, who's actually a professional theater actress in the States. That was an amazing experience!

Second, I got to dance and drink practically non-stop. I woke up the next day without body pains or a hangover. Yeah, I felt like 17 again! It was awesome!

Third, another college friend (name withheld deliberately, though it should be obvious among our common friends), in an inebriated state of mind, told me something that got me thinking. Apparently, I am one of three members of our college group who's got a calming presence and that this friend somehow finds zen and serenity (my words) whenever any of us are around.

I had no idea I can possibly have this effect on anyone. I certainly have never internalized it but I'm glad I can be this to someone else. I mean, I have always striven to give off this air of positivity about me - that much I'm self-aware of - but to be able to affect someone else in such a strong manner? That's news to me and it's a wonderful feeling!

Karen Ang's costume-bowling birthday party last Wednesday.
Guess who I am.
Also: I can still bowl (a bit) apparently.
In other news:

A few days ago, I tried to get a salary loan from SSS through their online portal only to find out the HR of our company, despite being registered, hasn't logged into our employer's account for a while and had forgotten our account details. Hence, all salary loans from the company are coursed the old-fashioned way: Through forms and endless lines at the nearby SSS office. And so my application is stalled.

What bothered me most about the whole exchange was the HR and my fellow employees' attitude about the whole thing and other things that relate to online transactions or technology. I'm living in 2014 and these people are stuck in the 90s. I decided then that it's seriously time for a change. I mean, I was gonna quit anyway when I decided to leave the country but now that I'm coming back, I realized I can't go back to the same company. I can't be dragged down by dead weights who refuse to roll with the rest of the tide. I seriously wanna be around people who are at least more cosmopolitan.

Game night with the Boni peeps last night.
I couldn't stay long, though, cause I had chores to do.
In totally random news:

I've also been feeling a little tired and bloated the entire day. It's been one whole week of eating, thanks to a birthday party, a wedding, and, just last night, a little get-together with some geek friends. And this is just the beginning. I hope this doesn't cause me any problems.

And just a little update about this story, our house help has once again left, which means more work for me to do here in the house, which is why this blog is kinda late. I had to get some chores done in addition to not feeling all that well and editing last my video from last Friday.

Anyway, I'll just leave at that. I'm really sleepy.


Weekly Ketchup 48 - The Day I Cried At A Wedding

No, it's not what you think.

First of all, there are three things you need to understand.

a) Marriage, for me, is a legal contract and a human construct. I'm highly suspect of the religious aspect of the whole exercise and I'm sure people are quite capable of staying committed to each other forever without getting society's expectations involved.

Yes, the lovely sentiments behind weddings is lost on me. But I do enjoy the pomp and pageantry of it all. And there's a certain pathos about seeing my friends happy. I may not be much of a believer (maybe being born a bastard out of wedlock had most to do with); however, seeing my friends light up and happy on the biggest day of their life just does it for me.

Call it empathy. But it's there. It's also the same as being happy for other fandoms, which happens to me a lot.

Me being me, I also enjoy the fact that some people regard me highly enough to invite me to their special day.

My collection of invitations by geek friend Jovan.
b) The second thing I need to share is that, while I don't do it professionally (and I certainly don't deserve to), I shoot videos and photos of my friends' weddings. I've been doing it since I got my first camcorder a few years ago and I'm proud of the work I've done, rank amateur that I am.

Yes, I'm aware that couples hire official videographers and photographers to document their special event, which is why I stay way from their range of vision - so I don't mess up their shots. Yeah, I'm respectful like that.

As late as last year, all of my "wedding coverages" have been shot in standard definition, so I was really looking forward to shooting my college friend Jihan's wedding last Friday in High-Def with my swanky new camera.

c) Speaking of Jihan, she just happens to be one of my oldest friends - one of the first I made friends with back in freshman year, in fact. Over the course of our collegiate life, we both figured into pretty much the same activites, including debating and student politics. Actually, I had intended to leave the student government after being disenchanted with the system on my first year but then she was recruited into my party, without my knowledge, and was made to run for office and eventually won. I figured I can't leave her there and so I stayed to help. Halfway through our sophomore year, when I reasoned that she was gonna be okay, I finally left the student council to focus on debating, which was her thing.

I made it as far as I could with debating (won a few medals) but she made varsity. I went back to student politics and by the time we were seniors, we're the head of our respective organizations. Funny how that worked out.

Graduation with junior members of our political party
Yet, we couldn't be more different people. She goes to gigs. I go to conventions. We read totally different books and listen to totally different music. She found her tribe with the debaters and I've always envied their closeness. I won't lie: I really wanted to belong with that group, but even I have to admit how much of an acquired taste I can be. Yet Jihan remained my friend throughout all of it.

It would be years after graduation before I found my tribe with the geeks. And a few more years after that when our circles would intertwine - when Jihan met War who I had previously met among the geeks years before. Funny how that worked out again.

At the Yale Party with Dante
It's an amazing friendship really, even if we don't see each other as often as we do our respective "tribes". The day War brought her to the annual Yale party and introduced her to everybody, I pretty much told her how I felt about the geeks and how it compares to her and the debaters. That was the night I infamously referred to her as "two of my closest friends from college" after she jokingly got offended when I introduced as just "one of my closest friends".

With War, I thought she had struck a good match. Somebody who was just as educated and eloquent (not too mention as good-looking) as she was. And that he runs with the crowd I really hold dearest to me, it's a no-brainer. I'm all for it!

With War on my 30th birthday!
Last year, he told Jihan I looked great for 32!
Yep, I approve this guy!
So you can imagine how important this girl is to me and how I was never gonna miss her wedding for the world. I had to ask her earlier this year before they even announced or finalized their wedding date to make sure that I would still be here for her big day and worked my plans around it (for those keeping count, yeah, this is the first time a good friend's wedding has derailed me). She even asked me for advice months ago about the ballooning number of guests and I had to remind her that it's her and War's day, not anyone else's, so they invite who they want and who they can - unless the parties that insist on adding more names to the guest list are also sponsoring a few extra plates.

You can imagine how much I was looking forward to her wedding. I was gonna dress my best (that doesn't happen very often, mind you). I was gonna bring my new camera and do what I love to do.

My camera's amazing. Love this shot!
Except that I didn't make it to the ceremony on time. I arrived at the last 15 minutes. I was able to catch the kiss but I was so tired that my hands were unsteady, so my footage was a little shaky.

What the fuck happened?

First, I spent way more time playing Dungeon Village, which is admittedly my fault, but damn! If there's another thing you need to know about me, is that I love strategy, simulation, and fantasy RPGs, and that this game is all three and it works on my phone? Well, you can imagine why disaster would strike.

But even then, I had an hour to get to a church that was just 20 to 30 minutes away by cab and that's a conservative estimate! I still had plenty of time to socialize and shoot footage.

Well, if you've been following me on social media, you know what happened. It was just lucky me that apparently last Friday was also one of the dates the MMDA had advised would be hellish on traffic.

So, yeah, there was a moment during the reception at Jihan's wedding when I had to just step outside and let it out. I was so disappointed at myself that I couldn't have done more for "two of my closest friends".

The bride told me I looked great. I'm good!
I still enjoyed everything, to be sure. The food was great, the program was totally chill, and of course, the company of college friends, debaters, and some geek friends (basically, our common circles) made sure I had a great time despite the crappy time I had getting there earlier. I still shot some great footage of the reception though. I just finished editing them and it's currently uploading.

I just really wish I had been there to see her and shoot her walking down the aisle.


Weekly Ketchup 47 - Social Media, Social Issues

To say that this past week has been unremarkable can really mean it's about any number of things as far as I'm concerned. How I'm grateful for my latest finished writing gig. How I've been playing the same level on Heroes Chronicles because I keep losing. How I'm frustrated with Zenonia because of repetitive gameplay. How I just caught up with three weeks' worth of shows. How I never have anything on-hand to wear to weddings and so I had to shop for new stuff for a couple of weddings I have to attend in the coming weeks and how incredibly hard it is to find stuff that fits my shape and budget. How my skin, hair, and body are totally whacked. How my dog now barks at me. Or how I'm totally digging this YouTube channel.

Here's the thing: Not only are all of these mundane things old news in this blog (except for the wedding get-up thing but anyone who's ever known me knows I'm not big on formal wear) but they're all incredibly self-serving. This blog has been a bible of "me" things since I started and that's by design. Sure, I've discussed my opinions about certain issues every now and then but, for the most part, I've always just talked about my own experiences, which is what I set out to do to begin with so I won't fault this space for that.

I do, however, feel that, as a person, I couldn't be more rotten. I recognize that I'm self-serving and self-involved but then again I'm also self-motivated, so I guess there's a balance to it... maybe... kinda...?
The thing is: I've also long considered myself charitable even if I really can't afford to be generous, so I always try to give whatever I have extra of - whether it be time, money, or clothes - to relief efforts (Ondoy and Yolanda come to mind). In my admittedly skewed view of the world, I'm already privileged and excessive (that I can afford to get into geek stuff and pursue jobs in non-essential industries is already proof enough of that) so I try as much as I can to really give forward. I'm also the kind of person who feels guilty about seeing a homeless child or elderly on the way home after having just bought a P200 shirt on a whim.

The reason I bring this up isn't to brag about my sensitivity to social injustice (though I wouldn't be humble about it either, if the situation called for it) but I do need to paint a picture of the stuff that goes on in my head to illustrate a point: That it isn't enough.

While I've never endeavored or internalized being an activist or advocate (yes, there's a difference) for any cause, I've always thought that I would be doing something important. I never set out to be the savior of the world. I've just always thought I would be part of something that will. That's probably why I was never drawn to Superman or his all-star team but was heavily invested in the Avengers. The idea of a team of second-tier small-fries playing in the big league appealed more to my sensibilities.

Yet here I am: Obsessed with my own growth. My own legacy. My projects. My goals. My stories. Where is the team I'm supposed to be avenging with?

Now, here's why I brought this up: For some inexplicable reason, I was beginning to get bored with social media this past week. Like I'm somehow just going through the motion and routine of checking my updates but not really invested in the experience as much as I used to be.

Then the following things happened:
Barack Obama just announced amnesty for undocumented immigrants, which gives hope for Jose Antonio Vargas (I already shared my thoughts on him and his advocacy in a previous blog) - something I care a little too much for when I'm not even remotely affected;
It's also the fifth anniversary of the Ampatuan Massacre, which I realize is a horrible event by itself - the delayed justice even more so - but I honestly don't care as much as I should about it (please don't hate me, I'm sorry);
But what got me really thinking about how removed I am from being conscious about social issues is a surprising new follower on Instagram and Twitter: Fil-Am activist Kalayaan Mendoza. It's ridiculous and twisted that it took this one small thing to realize that what I've been posting as funny or thoughtful on my social media feed is utter garbage compared to what many others are using the platform for.

The logical denouement for such a realization is to use social media to benefit social issues. However, I am also aware that "slacktivism" is a thing and I want no part of that either. So where does that leave me?

Not for the first time, I thought about leaving everything behind and joining some underground movement and take the fight out of the virtual world. Anything just  to step out of myself. Maybe join an NGO or Green Peace. But I just don't have it in me. I'm too self-involved but also insecure about my own abilities that I'd likely end up a liability instead.

It's at this point that I remembered something my father once told me: "Before you help other people, you must help yourself". As an arrogantly passionate teenager with delusions of grandeur about making an impact in the world. I thought the idea perplexing, absurd, and even insensitive. I'm beginning to think that maybe he's right and maybe that's where I am in this part of my life. Maybe only once I'm perfectly fine with myself can I heed the call to assemble.


Weekly Ketchup 46 - Science and Sensitivities

I got to see Big Hero 6 earlier this week for no other reason than it's a Disney-animated movie featuring Marvel characters, obscure as though they are. I guess I was interested mainly because of brand loyalty more than anything else. I'm not sure that I would've been as keen to see it had it been a Dreamworks production featuring a set of original characters, which it might as well have been given how much the movie veered away from the original material.

The movie touched on all the right bases, meeting all the expectations I had of it but not surpassing them, which is okay. I thought the plot did get predictable but I still enjoyed it. And while I'm not as crazy about this film as much as I was with Book of Life or How To Train Your Dragon, the reason I'm devoting much of this week's blog talking about it is because I love how the film made science cool for kids. Even I wanted to get into science after watching the movie. I don't know if that was the filmmakers' intention but it certainly came off that way to me.

Speaking of science, this past week was a big one for space exploration. Comet-landing! Yay!

Except that, all this time, I thought that landing probes on anything floating in space was such a common occurrence already, which was why I didn't really give the matter much attention when I first learned about it. It wasn't until the YouTube channels I'm subscribed to started talking about it that I fully realized what a big deal this really was.

Yet what really drew my attention to this milestone as I read more about it was that it's not even NASA that accomplished this feat but the European Space Agency! There's this strange part of me that's delighted that another part of the world was able to expand humanity's reach. No, it's really not borne out of some anti-American sentiment. Far from it, really. I just feel like the more agencies out there in the world are as capable as NASA, the more efficiently we can advance our understanding of the universe. I get excited thinking about the competitive and cooperative element of having multiple agencies and nations working towards practically the same goals without the political shadow of the Cold War looming over them. It's an interesting and optimistically hopeful scenario that just makes me happy.

Still on the subject of science, a conversation I had with a friend over Google+ got the wheels in my head turning again this past week.

It's certainly a good idea but how do make this series watchable? How do we attract an audience? Am I capable of producing it? I toyed around with the idea a little bit and thought it might be something worthwhile to pursue. Then I realized I'm comfortable with the idea of producing something like this. I have the right contacts both in science and communications. I know where to secure space and equipment. I have some money saved, though I was saving it for another thing. I can make this happen right now if I wanted to.

Granted, my immediate future is up in the air right now and I already have another project in the works but I am enjoying this sense of confidence and assertiveness about being capable of producing a new project off of a simple online exchange. It more than made up for the helplessness and inadequacy I also felt this past week as I realized that I'm extremely under-qualified for a lot of the open positions on Buzzfeed, which I just learned about a few days ago.

Yes, I was looking for new opportunities. No, this is quite different from the writer position I talked about last week, which I haven't even gotten around to attending to because after the Piolo Pascual article, I was immediately given my next assignment: an Anne Curtis article. If I keep this up, I'll be writing about local stars and celebrities for a long while. They maybe vapid pieces (much like this blog) but hey! They're easy money and they're also work that I can be proud of, so let me at 'em!

Speaking of last week, I feel like I more than made up for the lack of documentation of the shenanigans I talked about by bombarding my Facebook and Instagram feed this past week with real time updates of my adventures - from getting my face marked on last Thursday night after a game of Kaiju tower to the bizarre way I got my gift from geek friend Alec yesterday.

A photo posted by Niki Yarte (@pinoyavenger) on

A photo posted by Niki Yarte (@pinoyavenger) on

Yeah, I've had a fun week. I do regret not having had enough time to visit UST yesterday though because one of the programs I launched as president of the Communication Arts Students Association is apparently still ongoing and on its tenth year. That validation about having left a legacy behind just makes me feel like I did well during my time. Ah, memories.


Weekly Ketchup 45 - Changes and Challenges

I'm currently taking a break from writing about Piolo Pascual to do this blog. Yes, I'm writing a showbiz article.  Yes, it's for a client. Yes, the only reason I'm doing it is for the money. Yes, I'm well aware that makes me a whore. I've long established that.

Funny enough, this isn't the only time this past week that I found myself having to write something way beyond my comfort zone. I found out that Buzzfeed Philippines was looking for a writer and so I threw my name on the hat, sent my resume and some published samples and all that jazz. The editor got back to me with instructions instead. Apparently getting the gig involves some sort of "audition". I was to contribute a "community" post on the website and they like it, I'm in. I've never really had to brainstorm on a topic before, at least not from scratch, let alone one that's intended to generate online buzz, so this one's a bit of a challenge.

The thing is: I've never really been one to push the populist agenda. One quick tour of this blog and one will immediately surmise that I exist in my own bubble, so I'm not really in tune with where the masses are at. In short: I'm a middle-class elitist snob... who just happens to be an advertising copywriter. Yeah, I can put words together in often incoherent structure to market a product - but to write about experiences that people, specifically Filipinos, can relate with? That's a bit of a stretch for me. I mean, how do I even begin writing a piece like "You know you're a Vilmanian when..."?

There's a part of me that's thinking maybe this gig just isn't for me. But then, there's also the part that tells me it can't hurt to try. Guess which one is winning out? Hint: I just have to finish this Papa P. article and I'll get on it.

Speaking of comfort zones, I just realized that in about seven weeks, I'll have to break out of another one, which was what I've been building towards since day one of this blog. There's a feeling of dread and anticipation in the pit of my soul as so many things are up in the air right now but I did make the decision late last week that I was gonna push through with it, however I think I'll have to cut the trip from a potential lifetime to a month-long trip.

I already knew that I have to be here for Beejay's wedding. Being able to include "groomsman" among my life experiences certainly was a deciding factor in that, otherwise I wouldn't have allowed a friend's life event alter the course of my own. Besides, I can always come back but I'll probably never be a groomsman again so there's that.

I do have to work out the logistics of my itinerary though, which was what I've been busy with this past week. I have a pretty ambitious trip in my head but, as always, it all boils down to money. Our company sales is down so I'm a bit nervous about the state of our 13th month pay, vacation and sick leaves, and even our salary for the next two months - all of which are integral to making any of my fantasies for this trip materialize.

This planning is a challenge in in itself as I'm working with nothing else but the resources that are available to me. I'd rather not count on asking my mom, my dad in LA, or even my grandmother in Canada for help because I'm a big boy and I'd rather think I can handle this. Whatever happens, it'll be glorious!

Anyway, in a week of changes and challenges, the Hat Madders (including myself) won the monthly Quiz Night last Thursday (again), which was held at a slightly altered Amici because of the ongoing renovations.

Yesterday, geek friends Alec, Hec, Paul, Jovan, Echo, and I converged in Divisoria upon Mark P.'s invitation. MR was in town and it was his birthday, so we went. We didn't really do much, except munch on dumplings and oyster cake, and looked at toys. It's a change because I hardly get to have any of my friends on my home turf of Manila and navigating the busy streets of Divisoria is a challenge, so there.

Last night, I was supposed to start writing this Piolo Pascual article but I ended up joining the rest at Purdue for game night (that's a change of plans and some challenges right there). We played two games of King of Tokyo (I got to be the kraken and the big ape), Ticket to Ride (I attempted but failed to connect Vancouver and Montreal because Canada), and Love Letter (funny story about that) where I finally won!

Unfortunately, I didn't take any photos from any of these three events. Bad, me! Bad!

Anyway, I also started playing a new game, Beastie Bay, and totally neglected all the other games I haven't finished from last week so challenge changed! I thought it was a fun city simulation/pocket monster hybrid.

Right, so that was my week. Gotta get back to Piolo Pascual now.


Weekly Ketchup 44 - I'm A Player!

Sorry for the click bait but I just mean I play videos and games! LOL

This past week has been pretty lax at work. No clients and new projects coming in, which means I'm getting paid to pretty much just report for the day and standby in case something does come up. While for many people, that may sound like the dream, as a professional in the creatives industry, being "benched" denies me the training and practice I need to further the craft. I feel like this unproductivity would make me rusty before I'm even great at anything.

To be fair, though, the light workload does give me time to daydream and think about other projects, which was what I've been doing with my all-too-generous spare time. It also gives me time enough to check out more stuff that have been floating around in the ether, mainly in the form of YouTube videos. I'm such a big fan of the platform that I'm constantly trying to discover more and more channels to subscribe to. I probably watch more YouTube productions now than TV shows. No, they're not all cat videos. Some of them are very informative while some are just plain humorous, mostly in a slice-of-life kinda way. Take Buzzfeed's video channels, for example.

While this obsession of mine is hardly unique to this last week, I did share more videos on my social networks this week (mainly because of the aforementioned lack of better things to do at work) than any other time in the past . This was also the week that I got to peruse more Saturday Night Live videos, which made me realize something.

Aside from making me wonder how I would've fared in sketch, improv, or even stand-up comedy, I realized that the ever-changing nature of the cast in the show's 40-year history is exactly what I've been looking for. I already mentioned in a previous blog how I tend to organize my experiences and memories in "seasons". For that matter, I think what I want in this life is to be part of something and be remembered for my time in whatever that something is. I want to just come in, do my thing, make an impact, then leave and hope that I'm memorable enough. Right now, the closest I have to that is the last (*almost*) five years in my current job, which ran alongside all the personal growth I've experienced as well.

Of course, Saturday Night Live is equally famous for featuring musical guests weekly and one of the prolific ones they had on the show earlier this year was Sam Smith who - up until last week - was just a name I keep reading on social media. I finally got to check out his music videos (and consequently, his songs) and I gotta say it's refreshing to hear his brand of music, especially in this era dominated by songs like Bang Bang and Anaconda.

Seriously: Whatever happened to slow ballads? Am I just being old and hipster to still want new music to sound soft and buttery in my ears with beautiful and poetic words?

Ironically enough, I got into watching YouTube videos at the office just so I can have something playing in the background while working on client's projects. Now I spend more time there than I do on Photoshop and Illustrator. To be fair, the thought of contributing content to the platform has fueled my motivations as well so all is not lost.

On that note, I also thought I'd spend last week at home working on a client's video but, seeing as the project had an open deadline (as in the client hasn't elected to give me any), I pursued other interests instead. I thought I'd get started on a new book since I finished Neil Gaiman's "Anansi Boys" (and loved it) but that didn't happen because a couple of games kept me busy all through last week as well.

Heroes Chronicles is a spin-off of Heroes of Might and Magic III with pretty much the same gameplay. I never got to play it until I bought my copy from GOG.com, so it's like a familiar thing that I'm also experiencing for the first time. Yeah, it's funky like that and I still love the game after all these years! I got to finish the third chapter in the game by the end of last week. Hopefully, I get to finish the remaining five by the end of the year!

While Heroes Chronicles has taken the time I wanted to spend editing a video, Zenonia has taken the time I intended to start on a new book. The thing is, though: Playing a fantasy RPG is pretty much like reading a fantasy book as far as I'm concerned (and I love me some fantasy). The same thrill and excitement is there and the story element more than makes up for it. Of course, repetitive gameplay does take me out of the experience but that's okay. There is a certain joy that comes with leveling up in experience and earning money to buy more powerful equipment, both staples in any RPG game.

What surprised me about this game though is that I don't have control of a party. I just have one character and I'm kinda getting bored. Keep in mind: I didn't just start playing the game last week. I did spend more waking mornings and sleepy nights playing it though. It does kinda get addictive and that I have an Android-based gaming device with physical buttons make the button-mashing all the more rewarding. I ended the week finishing off a tough boss so yay me!

So I put off editing my client's video until the weekend. That didn't happen because I decided to continue with Age of Wonders 2, which takes me roughly half a day to finish a level. I thought I was on the last level the last time I played the game about a month and I can finally move on with my life but, as it turns out, I skipped a few "bonus" levels, which I think is just fine. I just wish I can finish it before the year ends though.

The thing with Age of Wonders 2, though, is that there's no random map generator so you're forced to either play the preset scenarios or the campaign. I can't just play a casual game to test out the different factions, as I am wont to do when it comes to strategy games.

I remember writing about the dangers of becoming less of a creator and more of a consumer some time ago and the reason while this blog was delayed was because, in the original draft I wrote yesterday, I was berating myself for simply enjoying these things that I do instead of being productive. I realized halfway through it that I really didn't like how it was going. I just want to enjoy what's in front of me and share it without any drama and so here I am.

Lastly, Friday was Halloween and, as much as I wanted to go join my friends even if just to take photos (or videos) because I didn't have a costume but I also just wanted to stay home and play games. Guess what ultimately won out, though I do feel a tad envious that I didn't get to see this.


Weekly Ketchup 43 - The More They Stay The Same

I've had friends tell me that I'm "masipag" when it comes to maintaining this blog. I tell them it's really not that hard since: a) I stick with a regular schedule as much as posssible; and b) there really isn't all that much to do or think about since this is mainly just a recap of the week's events. Most of the time I just react to or recall seemingly random events and find some connections and commonalities for the sake of cohesion.

There are times, though, when do I let the need to deliver content drive my actions for the week, which mostly results in me sharing the latest book, game, or movie that I'm checking out. I haven't done any of that these recent weeks either because there are more pertinent matters that I felt were better to discuss or because I don't really have anything new on those fronts to share. For example: I'm still playing Zenonia, Age of Wonders 2, and Heroes of Might and Magic Chronicles. I did get started on Neil Gaiman's "Anansi Boys" a few weeks back but I haven't finished it, though I am liking it far better than "American Gods". I haven't seen any new movies in a while and my taste in shows have just merely carried over from the previous shows. I haven't been checking out any of the new shows for fear of them getting cancelled just as I was getting invested. I'll see if the shows I'm interested in make it past December before I dive right in.

All this pretty much highlights what I've known all along: That sometimes I just got to let things plateau and just chill. I started this blog announcing all sorts of changes and challenges, all in the hopes of finding something new and exciting, of pushing myself forward, and all that jazz. Sometimes, I just got to let things stay the same.

I do have to point a couple of things out though:

I saw "Book of Life" last Tuesday and surprise! I actually liked this movie far better than "Frozen". However, I do feel like the story could use some restructuring so that we spend more time in the Land of the Remembered. We seriously didn't need 15 or so minutes establishing their childhood. I also didn't understand why there had to be a framing story with some kids in the museum. But other than that, I thought the film was perfect and really wins in animation and voice direction.

And yeah, this trailer, which I already wrote at length about already, so I'm not gonna bother anymore.

Of things that stay the same, I found myself back in my habit of compulsive spending, which is only notable because of last week's blog. If I've been Instagramming a lot more than usual lately it's because I got myself another cheap-ass droid last week mainly for the mobile Internet and the camera. I also got new more expensive eyeglasses last weekend because the plastic one I've been wearing breaks easily (at least once a year). Here's hoping the investment pays off and it stays with me for at least ten years. Lastly: A quick errand at SM yielded a shirt and new jeans (something that's been known to happen to me A LOT in the past). To be fair, they were on sale and I do need new jeans. Also: A sideline job paid a couple of weeks ago but not enough for a party (yeah, I'm being defensive).

New shirt, jeans, and glasses and taken with a new phone.
I look great, okay!
I'm also back in the habit of unconventional dieting where I would eat a lot in the morning, a little during the day, and nothing but water in the evening. Of course, that also lead to my habit of breaking that diet when geek friend Tobie treated me to his special pasta recipe and milk shake from Ludo last Friday evening. This was his late birthday treat for me, which is just really sweet of him. Of course, Tobie being Tobie, we played some games! I surprisingly won our game of Carcassonne Wheel of Fortune at his place and Ludo co-owner Jay won the two "engine-building" games we played there.

Image credit: BoardGameGeek.com
Diet be damned again come Saturday evening because a friend I thought I've lost is back in my life. Beejay and his fiancee Din invited me and Din's friend Karen to dinner. I haven't seen or spoken to Beejay since a spat we had over Facebook messenger early last year so I was surprised to get the call sometime ago (briefly hinted at here) inviting me to be a groomsman at the wedding. I'm also to be a host at the reception, along with Karen, which was what the evening was really about. What I thought would be an awkward dinner turned out to be quite enjoyable - like no time at all has passed (I am disgusted at my own cliche but it is what it is). Even if I feel like I've changed a lot since the last time we saw each other, and he most certainly has, there's still that sense of familiarity and it's wonderful.
From Din's Instagram
I suppose going back to the comfortable and familiar in a sea of change is a good thing every now and then. Yet before I even get to big change I've been planning for myself, I now have a problem: The wedding is in February. I wasn't planning on hanging around these parts by then. What do I do?

Whatever happens, I wanna be able to vote in the 2016 US elections in person. I mailed my absentee ballot for this year's local elections last Thursday and I felt like cheating. Why am I voting when I don't even contribute taxes there (something I feel strongly about the voting populace here)? And, no, this isn't a new experience since I've already voted in absentia back in 2012.