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.