Weekly Ketchup 13 - I Refuse to be Filipino

Whether for a particularly wanting public transport system or a general frustration with every aspect of society, this week had (at least) a couple of friends considering renouncing their Filipino citizenship and/or moving to other countries with agreeable living conditions.

Between these sentiments and the Straits Times article I alluded to last week, I got to thinking about "nationalism", "the Filipino identity", "the Philippine experience", "Pinoy Pride", etc.

Deep, right?

Hello, no. Of course this is all about me!

Right off the bat, I will say this: I'm not Filipino. Not legally at least.

Ethnically? Who's to say who's a Filipino in that regard? Anthropologists, care to weigh in?

Culturally? Well, that's where it gets interesting.

See, I didn't find the article offensive at all. I've been living in this city for 20 years and I still find other people's lax compliance to rules and signs alienating. I even empathized with the writer pushing for his adopted brand of linguistic nuances. I found his experiences hilarious rather than offensive.

Actually, I have yet to be offended by any article that criticizes Filipinos or the Philippines. I am actually more critical of Filipinos who are offended by the most idiotic instances (the Teri Hatcher, Dan Brown, and Lucy Liu episodes come to mind).

However, yesterday, Tatcee brought up a very interesting point over our Plurk conversation about the article: It was published on an international platform. Since inductive reasoning dictates that "because some - okay, a significant number of - Filipinos are an undisciplined bunch as the article made them out to be, therefore ALL Filipinos must be the same way", then it might hurt other peoples' perception of Filipinos, especially migrant workers, which is her NGO's advocacy.

On the same Plurk conversation, one of my contacts responded "Masunurin tayong mga Pinoy kapag wala tayo sa sarili nating bansa". And that's the thing: I don't have a "tayo" or "we" mentality. I have an "us vs. them" mentality. As far as I'm concerned, the writer wasn't talking about me, my family, or my friends. He was talking about "the others" - the others who believe that "because you're in the Philippines, rules are bendable". And I refuse to associate with that rabble.

Case in point: I still use pedestrian lanes and wait for the traffic signals to cross streets. Sometime in college, a friend dissuaded me from doing so, saying that it's okay because "nasa Pilipinas ka eh". Context: I had just come back from a couple of years in Canada and had perpetuated a lie that I actually grew up in the States (long story).

And I hate it. I still hear it to this day. My boss says it all the time, sometimes adding "diskarte" into the mix. And I hate it as well.

Many of the butt-hurt comments from the original article pointed out the idea of "pakikibagay", which makes sense as far as adapting linguistic nuances are concerned. But if you're telling me that I have to adapt to the cultural norm that breeds an undisciplined citizenry, then hell no! I refuse!

The thing is: I grew up in this country. I spent all my schooling here. Like many, I spent my formative years in the province (Quezon in my instance) and, except for my high school, endured a dominantly Catholic education. I am not privileged. My family can't even afford a car. So where is the disconnect? How did someone like me become a better Filipino than Filipinos with more qualifications than I do?

I used to think that "nationalism" meant being a model citizen, by not being part of the problem. That my discipline alone made me an exemplary Filipino. Recently I realized that I don't do it for love of country but for respect of my environment and of the people I share it with, because it's common sense, and because I'd like to believe I'm a decent human being. Because, logically, if I was doing it for some semblance of nationalism, I should be comfortable breaking the rules in other countries in a glaring reversal of the "nasa Pinas ka eh" mentality.

On a more sinister note, I'd like to believe that I'm better than "the others". Just last night, as I was coming home from Myna's birthday party, I had my cab driver turn right from Magsaysay Blvd. to Pureza St., then make a U-turn so that we can make a left turn back to the opposite lane of Magsaysay Blvd. I always do this even as other drivers ignore the No U-Turn sign on the corner of Magsaysay and Pureza.

If the Filipino experience is defined by such wanton disregard for basic rules on account of "eh nasa Pinas ka eh", then yeah - I refuse to be Filipino in the only possible way I can be: Culturally. (Then again, I have never been attuned to other aspects of Filipino culture anyway, but that's another story for another time.)

Going back to my opening paragraph, I realized that while I have the privilege to leave and be done with this nonsense, my friends are tethered to this country. What offends me now isn't that this one article, which ultimately paints a realistic portrait of daily life in this country (or at least this city), puts Filipinos in a bad light. What offends me is that there are Filipinos, who are as much Filipinos for the same reason that my friends are Filipinos, who cast a shadow on the Filipino identity. These are the people to blame if the general perception of Filipinos in other countries isn't as glowing as we'd like them to be, not the article or its writer.

However, I do recognize that this aspect of the Filipino consciousness is just an affliction - and it doesn't affect everyone. My friends, who are far more outstanding citizens than I am and far better Filipinos than most people chosen to represent the Filipino ideal, are living proof of that.

I also recognize that my divisive mentality is something that I have to work on, but until then, I'll revel in the fact that I'm in the right company.

On that note, I got to spend some time this week with some awesome people:
Giselle is in town!
(Last Thursday at Rocket Room BGC.)
Last Friday, a bunch of friends and I traveled all the way to BF ParaƱaque to enjoy a "smuttering" of nachos.
I also accomplished a life goal.
Game night for Ian and Myna's birthday last night.
(Photo from Tania's G+)
On, and last Wednesday, Ralph invited me to their company's block screening of "Captain America: The Winter Soldier". It was awesome.


Weekly Ketchup 12 - Old, Fat, and Ugly

For those who've been following, I usually publish a new entry every Sunday just to keep myself disciplined - until now.

The thing is: I've been sick (and frankly quite distracted) the past three days. Nothing horribly bad though - just fever and colds. I'd blame it on the shift in weather but I can offer no empirical proof of that. I elected to stay in and skip work today, which turned out to be a good thing because I am now feeling better.

I've also been trying to finish an article, which was almost impossible between the sneezing fits and runny nose, in addition to constantly relieving myself (TMI, I know) - a side effect of my more-than-regular intake of water. As a result, I only just sent in my draft a few minutes ago.

Which finally means BLOGGING TIME!

Now, this recent bout with viral monsters just brought into fore this week's subject, which I had already locked onto last Friday: Aging.

I was at Kopiroti that morning with my boss and a potential client when I noticed something on the glass panel in front of me.

My face has lines. My skin is sagging. I looked older and tired than I felt. It's ridiculous!

And I kid you not: I spent the entire meeting playing with the skin on my face, giving it a gentle stretch and was blown away by the difference.

Just the other week, both the client and the photographer, on separate occasions, noted the gray in my hair, which was apparently not as prominent two years ago when we had our first shoot. Coincidentally, it was during the shoot two years ago that I first noticed my bangs were thinning and my hairline was receding - something that Rej also noticed over dinner after one of those shoot days. Thankfully, neither had advanced since then.

I wish I could say that I'm bothered by this because I feel my youth slipping away and I haven't done much with my life - but no, it's really just the vanity. I know I'm really not much of a looker but I just didn't really think it could get worse! Seriously, my bathroom mirror apparently tells a different story because I always feel more invigorated every morning! Either that or my daily affirmations have been working too well and I've been blinded by the reality.

The same mirror did show me an unmistakable white nose hair, which freaked the shit out of me last week as well.

Well, anyway, I actually haven't been feeling 100% all of last week and that episode just made me feel even worse. So when Paul suddenly sent out an invite for drinks at Cubao X, my body was like "no, you have to rest" but the rest of me was like "Now is not the time to be an old man. Drink up on a Friday night. It's been a while". This after turning down an invitation from friends to party down south because the trip is exhausting.

So hell to the yeah! Drinks on Friday! Woohoo!

Except that the walk to Cubao X from the LRT-2, which I usually enjoy, was suddenly slow and excruciating! Then I get to the bar and my brain and my mouth were suddenly out of sync with each other - and I was sober! WHAT THE HELL?!

The good thing was that Paul and I had some spirited discussions about this very subject as well as some general rants about our shared industries. When asked how I was, I couldn't even bother to lie. "I feel old, fat, and ugly". Yes, I also recently noticed my jeans weren't fitting as well as they used to. Funny enough, Paul noticed the same thing a couple of weeks ago.

After drinks, Paul invited me back to their Purdue apartment, which was a bit of a walk and I was once again hesitant because of the effort but I went anyway. I hung out with Jovan for a while and she asked why I haven't been going to the Relik Quiz Night. Answer: The travel it takes to Bonifacio Global City is exhausting.

Then there was this article that has gone viral about 10 Life Lessons To Excel In Your 30s!

I suppose my biggest problem with aging is that I still feel like I'm 17. I've deliberately kept myself in the dark about many things because I want to keep that sense of wonder and awe. I don't crave to know everything. I don't need wisdom, which apparently is one of the benefits of getting older. I want to keep discovering new things as I go along. I'm not in a hurry but my body seems to be and I hate it. I just always thought that if I avoid stress, which is one of the reasons I stay with my job anyway, and get enough sleep, I could at least prolong these "signs of aging".

But what I realized is that the more I become knowledgeable about the world and myself, the more I become angry. I am much more critical of everything and everyone now than I was before and I suppose I have also now grown the balls to become vocal about them. On quiet days, my head would be noisy with all sorts of sentiments ranging from politics to social stigmas. Just this past weekend, butt-hurt Filipinos have been creeping into my consciousness and I've been trying my best to silence them.

Writing/blogging has always been my outlet, so I suppose I would like to find some resolution to this recent realization, no matter how pretentious. So here goes.

I can't stop aging. It will happen. It is happening - right before my eyes. And this isn't even the worst of it.

It's my attitude about it that I have control over. I can choose to fight it - and be exactly like the type of people I mock for doing so - or I can embrace it.

Or I can continue living with the sense of wonder of a 17-year old in a 30+ old man's body. I've been openly defying society's expectations this whole, why should this be any different?

To that end, gaming has definitely opened up new worlds for me to explore, a new-ish interest for me to delve into. Gaming has always been my brother's thing growing (up until now actually). Obviously, books and comics have always been my province. But last week, I got really excited about Kemco's RPGs and Kairosoft's simulation games on Google Play, which were my kind of games. Upon digging some more, I found more similar games and was flabbergasted that I had access to these titles the whole time! Meanwhile, GOG.com had a fire sale for some new games, which they hardly do, so I ended up getting a bunch from different genres, so I'm excited about that too. So yeah, I think I'm gonna get more into this whole gaming thing and update my "personal brand" as a means of deflecting my aging issues.

On a somewhat related note, the final scene of last week's How I Met Your Mother resonated with my feelings about the passage of time. It was very touching.


Weekly Ketchup 11 - Direction vs. Management

These past three days had been rather busy for me, work-wise. I directed a photo shoot for a client's advertising and marketing campaign. I got to work with an awesome photographer who, as cliche as this may sound, really brought to life the ideas in my head.

The experience gave me an insight into the relationship between a film director and a cinematographer. Although I had a dictionary definition of each other's scope of work in a film set, I never had a working knowledge about the difference between the two disciplines - until I found myself giving our photographer directions about what I wanted to see and then let him masterfully wove light, shadow, and depth to give me the photos that I needed.

I get it now!
Thankfully, this was our second campaign for the client and we also booked the same photographer as the last time, so there's already a level of familiarity that made the workload a bit smoother and easier than the first time. Of course, that doesn't necessarily mean things went off without any glitches.

While I was essentially on board the project as creative director, my previous training in production management constantly kicked in and I found myself micro-managing every aspect of the shoot, including logistics, which was supposed to be the client's responsibility. Because we were trying to accomplish more than 50 sets of photos in different rooms with different groups of people over a period of three 12-hour days, I often had to serve as vanguard and prep the next location before our photographer came in, which was the system we worked with in our previous project.

I'm seriously awed by how they control the lighting of their set.
However, as director, I really shouldn't leave my set. That was a mistake I learned from the very first set that we shot. I left to prep the next set and someone from the client side thought they could supercede my direction, so they took a photo that I would never use in the campaign. We ended up re-shooting the damn thing on the very last day. Time and effort wasted but lesson learned.

If that sounds like a rookie mistake, that's because it is. It was, after all, my first time to handle directorial duties. However, when it comes to production management, I'm your man. That much, I can take pride in. I knew how to control my sets, isolate variable elements, and give our team a controlled environment to work in.

Production work is as close to military dictatorship as it gets.
There were several instances when pre-determined locations suddenly weren't available and I practically dictated to the client which alternative locations I preferred to shoot in instead of waiting for them to decide. In one instance, they did offer an alternative but, knowing that the location wasn't conducive for the type of shoot I wanted to do, I strongly insisted on another specific location, which was ultimately granted. I feel that in those instances, the creative director and production manager part of my brain were working in tandem.

One thing I learned about myself throughout the whole process was that I'm quick on my feet when it comes to creative direction but I make crappy decisions on the spot as production manager. Is it the nature of the job? As director, I had to make something out of what is immediately in front of me. As manager, I needed to know everything beforehand. In production management, especially in events, one of the very first things that we learned is to gain control of every aspect of production, which meant that we had to adopt a "begin-with-the-end-in-mind" mentality.

Get it?
My experience as a student leader in college also inculcated that line of thinking, and I've thankfully developed a sense of foresight that helps me weed out "unforeseen circumstances". But I also have the foresight to know that no matter what I do, there will always be "unforeseen circumstances". I even have the foresight to realize that the commands I barked on the spot were stupid and reversed them before they did any damage, which served us well during the shoot.

On a somewhat related note, we had a meeting with another client - a project management specialist - who brought up a very interesting insight: Apparently the strict, follow-instructions-to-the-dot approach to project management is more closely followed in engineering, construction, and other rigid industries and is hardly used in the creative disciplines, which follows a more flexible approach to project management. In my head, I was like "Bitch, unless you've actually managed live productions and events, your understanding is theoretical!"

Also this week: I bought a new game from Google Play! Venture Towns is a simulation game from Kairosoft similar to Sim City. It was on sale as part of the Play Store's 2nd anniversary promote, so I thought I'd snatch it. So far, I've been loving it - I even played it on breaks during the shoot!

Hmm, now that I think about it, I wonder if there's a correlation between my preference for third-person POV RPGs, simulations, and strategy games and my "seeing the big picture" approach to production management.


Weekly Ketchup 10 - This Week In Randomness

Well, this past week has been rather uneventful. Well, the Oscars happened but I hardly care anymore, though there was a time when I would tune in every year even if I hadn't seen any of the nominated movies or performances. Of course, I had to get in on that whole selfie thing.

Aids started it. I put myself in, hoping other friends would join and it would snowball.
I only ever take the toys out for photo ops like this.
I got to shoot atop a building under construction and that was fun... not. I was worried not just about my safety (one clumsy snag or slip and it's a long one-way trip for me) but also about the dust and dirt on my brand new gear. The client did not give us a proper briefing about where we're shooting - just that we're shooting their product: A wall. Seriously, a wall. A job is a job, I guess.

The location did give me some pretty exhilarating views to shoot though.

"Toy mode".
It's been a rather busy work week, no complaints there. On the racket side, I mentioned last week that I got a new assignment from Planet Philippines and that's always exciting. I just wish I can somehow get feedback from readers, so I know if they're enjoying my articles.

However, I did recently discover that I can search my printed articles here, though some are available on the web edition!

Last Thursday was the monthly quiz night at Amici. My team, the Hat Madders, won again after a month. This particular edition was more memorable because we blindly chose to joker a category that - surprise - turned out to be a sports category! Even more amazing: We aced it - or well rather, Jon and Sandor did! Other teams were even stealing from us! It was pretty surreal!

Photo from Dexter
Context: We generally suck at sports categories. "To joker" is to get double the points for every correct answer. "Stealing" is when a team scores if the team they "stole" from gets the correct answers.

Afterwards, I finally got to meet Jay Laga'aia, Wicked Manila's resident wizard and screen actor known for his roles in The Lord of the Rings, Star Wars, Xena, and Legend of the Seeker. The Philippine Outpost had organized several meet-ups with him but I'm always too busy. Thankfully, he had some business with Jovan that involved a hard drive so I got to tag along. Good timing, too, since today is their last day in Manila!

Photo from Jon. There's a more flattering photo but Jovan hasn't uploaded it yet.
After all the excitement from last weekend, I elected to make this weekend as ho-hum as possible. Played a few levels of Age of Wonders and Warlords Battlecry, caught up on this week's shows, and progressed on Guy Gavriel Kay's "Lord of Emperors".

Yes, all of this is pretty vapid and self-involved. I wish I can find some way to thread them all together thematically and then come up with some brilliant realization/universal truth/blabbity-blah that I can impart to any reader who stumbled upon my blog just to make the few minutes they spent here worth it.

But some days are just random.


Weekly Ketchup 09 - Risks and Regrets

Other than Geek Fight and my pitch landing our agency a big campaign, this was generally supposed to be a quiet uneventful week.

Until this weekend when I practically blew majority of my savings on a plane ticket to San Francisco and a Panasonic FZ200.

This after repeatedly talking about my crusade to save money? What gives?

Well, what do you think have I been saving for?

Flying back to the States has always been the plan, except I didn't really take any active step towards that goal. Remember the PrudentiaLife returns I alluded to before? That money was supposed to fund that trip and now that it's gone, I had to save up. Fortunately, earlier in the year, I learned that Philippine Airlines had been offering Budget Economy class seats, which were really cheap. So for the past couple of months, I've been monitoring the available flights to either Vancouver (where my aunts and cousins are), San Francisco (where my friend Dek is), and Los Angeles (where my dad is). I could've booked earlier but: a) I needed to check with all concerned parties first; and b) I needed to make sure that I didn't leave myself broke when I finally do. Yeah, it's ironic, I know.

So I gave myself until the end of February to make the final booking.

Meanwhile, the cheap seats were getting scooped up and I was running out of dates.
I really wanted to fly before the year ends, otherwise I'm never leaving.
The only reason I'm flying extremely late in the year (my original plan was October in time for my birthday) was because a couple of friends are getting married  later this year and I want to be there!

Everything worked out according to plan and I was feeling great about it.

I didn't see Rak of Aegis 'cause I was trying to save money.
So here I am with Mark and MR at La Creperie (Great place, by the way) waiting for our friends who saw the show last Friday.
Pic from MR's Instagram.
But then I got a job to shoot a video for a client.

It's a great opportunity but I don't have the right equipment.

I had three choices knowing that I was headed for a big expenditure:
a) Rent equipment (but I wouldn't know how to work them until the day of the shoot);
b) Get a cheaper but capable camera and continue to pine after another camera;
c) Or take the leap and use this opportunity to get the camera I've been lusting after for years.

Well, it's apparent what option I eventually chose. The thing is I did look through a lot of other cameras but I kept coming back to the FZ200. It just had everything that I wanted in a camera, it's universally praised, and it's reasonably priced. Yet no matter how much I liked it, I never would've gotten it unless my current cameras finally break down and I decide to upgrade or, as so happened, I had a professional need for it.

Also got a back, a spare battery (always important), and a C-10 32 MicroSD.
By the way, remember when I blogged about how the universe somehow just conspires to make things fall into place for me? Well, yesterday, after withdrawing money to pay for my ticket, I maxed out the withdrawal limit from of my ATM card. Unfortunately, neither PAL nor Henry's accept EPS payments, so I wasn't able to get the camera then. But lo! Later on I found a much cheaper seller in DBGadgets and that's where I picked up my unit earlier today. Thank you, universe!

So yeah, I'll be using my camera for a paid racket. I won't recoup all the expenses I made but at least I opened myself up to more opportunities down the line. Look at me thinking forward! Also: I did say that I want to do a bit more work with my hands, rather than just going purely digital. Well, I know that I'm good with production work and documentations, so getting this camera is really the better fit for me.

(Yes, I'm aware that this is not a DSLR but I'd rather get a top-of-the-line bridge than a basic standard lens kit for the same price. Also: Lenses scare me.)

Note to self: Only buy accessories WHEN NECESSARY.
Now back to the flight. Knowing that I had an upcoming project that needed funding, I suppose I could've delayed booking my flight at the risk of paying for a more expensive seat. Or I could've waited for seats on a later flight to open up. But either way sets a deadly precedent. "'Someday' is a very dangerous word. It's a codeword for 'never'" or so I've heard it said.

So now I risk going broke in a matter of weeks and not having ready funds for emergencies. Do I regret it?

Not really. I suppose I regret the timing - but I have no control over that. But making a brazen decision? Definitely not. I've said it before that I regrets the things I didn't get to do, not the things that I did. I could've made the biggest mistake of my life right now and I would be fine with it because the alternative would've been to wonder about what could've been. And I'm not just talking about my financial situation.

In ten months, I have to decide whether I'm going to finally uproot myself and move back to the States permanently (Canada is an option, too). That is the biggest risk I'm probably gonna take. But until I try I'll never know. And I'm afraid. Well, according to Theon Greyjoy, that's good 'cause that means I'm not stupid. Then again, Theon Greyjoy as life coach? Really?!

In the same ten months, I have to earn back this weekend's expenses and make sure that I have money for the trip. I also have to make sure that I have enough savings left over. But don't worry about me - I'll be okay. I just need to close my eyes and leap!