Surrounded by art at Surrounded by Water Gallery

Surrounded by Art 
By Walter Ang
December 6, 2000
Philippine Daily Inquirer

I was stuck in traffic along EDSA. The bus had been slowly inching along and I found myself staring outside the window in desperation. I was trying to figure out how many stars had been born and zapped out of existence while I was stuck in traffic. Then, amidst the swirling dust, car fumes and throng of commuters, a house painted yellow right in front of my window caught my eye. It had a sign outside that said, "FREE ADMISSION."

That was good enough for me. I jumped out of the bus and decided I might as well get a little culture rather than staying in the bus all day. Door chimes rang as I entered the gallery. In the middle of the main area was a huge installation with a TV set and pipes and blowing wind. The walls had several mixed media paintings. Definitely not the usual stuff you'd see in galleries residing in the malls.

This gallery is called "Surrounded by Water", the same name of an installation piece previously done by its founder Wire Tuazon. "It was a doll submerged in water," describes Tuazon. Having started out in a one room deal in Angono, Rizal back in 1998, the gallery has since moved to its present location across the street from Robinson's Galleria, beside the POEA building. Tuazon adds, "Surrounded by water also describes the state of Angono?you'd have to travel across water to get to it."

The point
A twentysomething artist, Tuazon eschews the normalcy of a Monday to Friday, 9 to 5 job. "I wouldn't last in an environment like that," he claims. Instead, he initiated an "artist run space" to provide a venue for contemporary visual art. Up and coming young new artists usually need a foot in the door of the industry. Having a venue for their work that's managed by the artists themselves seems to partly solve the dilemma.

The whole point of it all is expressively stated in the blue brochures by the entrance, made to look like the instruction sheet of a make-your-own-model-plane-kit: the space is "geared towards exploratory endeavors of the struggling and under-exhibited artists ?
(and) plays a fundamental role in supporting young and less established artists to produce innovative work outside commercial and institutional restriction."

The present location of the gallery was donated for the artists' use by Dalton and Cecille King, a couple who has been supportive of Tuazon's works. When Tuazon got the go signal, he got all his artist friends to ride a bus with him without telling them where their destination would be. They got to the place, he turned the key to open the door and presented the new location of the gallery. His friends were all game. They fixed up the place by pooling their money and since October of 1999 the gallery has had group and solo shows, exhibitions, and artist talks filling it up. In fact, there are events lined up until June of next year.

Three different exhibits are usually mounted at the same time to utilize the way the gallery is split up: a Main Gallery, a smaller Kitchen, and an even smaller Stockroom. With no funding and sponsors, all of the artist use what Tuazon refers to as the "DIY or do-it-yourself esthetic." From conceptualization to execution of an exhibit, artists are given free reign to use the space.

SBW attracts passersby of all sorts, usually walk-ins from the daily grind of commuters. Reactions usually begin with surprise at the fact that one does not have to pay to view art. "Many people are intimidated by art. They think you need money to appreciate it," observes Tuazon. Some of the artists who run this space, more or less twenty in all, laments the fact that most commercial galleries give off snob appeal; limiting the possible audience that could become available for art. Hence the free admission sign, to inform and remind people that art is always accessible.

Digesting the artwork is another matter. One incident that Tuazon narrated involved an old grandmother getting quite upset over an image of Ronald McDonald done a la Christ with a sacred hamburger in his chest instead of a sacred heart. But that's what the art in this gallery is for you. With such an environment providing startup support for the artists, it makes for some, as Tuazon puts it, "progressive, no restriction" artworks to reckon with.

The best part of having such a space enthuses Tuazon, "is the interaction, which is the main difference with most galleries." People are encouraged to ask the artist any questions they may have about the artwork. What it means, what were you feeling when you did it, is it art? The artists relish the chance to explain and share their artworks with more people.

Apart from the commuting public, a quick glance at their guestbook reveals that most of the other visitors to this gallery are art students from the different universities. Fittingly enough, SBW used to give outreach art programs to the youth when it was still in Rizal. Nowadays, as announced by the banner outside the gallery, they have scheduled workshops for various art disciplines. Students shouldn't have to be the only ones to experience "modern" art though, whether it be paintings, video, sculptures, installations, comic art, and what-have-you. People who work in that area should try to pass by the place perhaps en route home, or maybe before catching the latest teen movie in the nearby malls. Something new for those of us who always complain about how bored we are.

Surrounded By Water is open Mondays to Saturdays 10 am to 7 pm. Call 724-2027 for details.

How we lost the webby awards

How we lost the webby 
By Walter Ang
November 29, 2000
Philippine Daily Inquirer

Nov. 21, Tuesday
The 3rd Philippine Web Awards night is in three days! The team behind is excited. We keep asking each other what outfit we plan to wear. I think to myself, "This must be what actors go through before the Oscars or the Famas." But those people get sponsored clothes. We have to dig through our closets that smell of mothballs.

Nov. 22, Wednesday
What to wear? What to wear? To complement our site, we consider wearing Chinese-inspired outfits. The girls could wear cheongsams and the guys could wear Mao-collared shirts. But everyone might think we're the program sellers from "Miss Saigon"!

We wonder what it must feel like to go up the stage, wear the crown, receive the scepter in your hands, have someone drape the sash ever so gently over your torso and drape the cape over your shoulders. No, wait. That would be a beauty pageant. Perhaps they'll give us damaged hard drives spray-painted a shiny golden color.

Nov. 23, Thursday Morning.
An idea hits us: Let's all wear black! Very chic! Afternoon. A new problem. No, our server did not crash. This problem is bigger. What to do with our hair! Someone suggests, "We could get haircuts from Frank." Those of us on tight budgets ask incredulously, "Provost?!" The response being, "No! Frank's Haus of Beauty. Beside Aling Nena's Carinderia! Over there by the corner!"

Nov. 24, Friday 9 a.m.
The day of all days is here! No one gets a new hairdo. Not everyone is wearing black. But so far, we've all got great hair. It feels that something is missing though.

1 p.m.
We figure out what's missing. After a late lunch, we rush over to the nearest supermarket to look for one of those instant hair color sprays.

1:15 p.m.
We find one! It comes in a little plastic bottle with a little black applicator comb. It's called Manic Blond. We buy it (of course!). We are having lots of fun and the awards haven't even started yet!

4 p.m.
We wonder if reporters will flank around us at the awards show to ask questions (read: delusions of fame). We scramble to practice our answers. I hear someone say, "I wonder if they'll ask what the essence of a woman is?" There goes another beauty pageant question!

4:09 p.m.
We wonder if we can bring in placards and streamers with " Global Village of Chinese and Filipinos" emblazoned in big bold letters.

4:10 p.m.
We start putting on streaks of Manic Blond into our hair. All thoughts of preparing streamers instantly vanish. Hair is much too big a matter to set aside.

4:30 p.m.
We have some time to kill. We try to visit all the sites included in the finals. Some are so-so. Some are incredibly wonderful and creative. rules! (You've got to love your own!)

4:40 p.m.
Still adding Manic Blond to our hair.

5 p.m.
We squeeze into a car and drive off to Makati Shangri-La where the awards night will be held. We have to get there early because they're giving away free shirts to early birds!

6 p.m.
We get our tickets from the booth. We look for our free shirts. Where are they?

6:15 p.m.
We rush off to nearby Glorietta to have a little dinner. We'll be rushing back to the hotel so we can mingle and hobnob with other finalists. More importantly, to get those free shirts!

8 p.m.
Doors open. Success, we get our free shirts! Little black numbers with the Webby Awards logo at the back.

8:05 p.m.
Dear diary, I sat beside Carlo today. No wait, that's the hotdog commercial! What I mean is, I sit beside Cynthia Alexander the singer! Sitting beside her is Gerry Kaimo, the guy who created!

The whole team is so giddy at getting the free shirts and finding good seats that I don't even realize I am sitting next to celebrities until about 10 minutes into it. Most of us are excited since it is our first Webby Awards night. won Best Culture Site last year. This year, we're nominated for Best Community Site.

8:15 p.m.
The show begins with a cheesy dance number. We think it's hilarious. We make fun of it and say it's an interpretative dance. (It's not.)

8:20 p.m.
JM Rodriguez and Joey Mead are hosting. Joey is beautiful! Even the women in our team are semi-drooling. Upon seeing Joey, our Web technologist tells me she wishes she were a man. The hosts say winners should limit their thank-you speeches to a maximum of 10 words. Interesting rule, but will anyone be able to follow it? We'll see.

8:40 p.m.
The Community Category is up next! We are blown away! (We thought the categories would be announced alphabetically!) We get an adrenaline rush and our stomachs hurt a whole lot in anticipation.

8:41 p.m.
They announce the winner for the Community Category. It's not us. Our faces are frozen in a mixture of shock, excitement, disappointment, resignation, anxiety and heaven knows what else.

8:43 p.m.
Minds still reeling. Trying to recover from the news. Some team members take a nicotine break. The tension is mind-numbing.

8:47 p.m.
The fact of not winning has been digested somewhat. We settle down to try and enjoy the rest of the awards night.

8:50 p.m. wins People's Choice Awards for Weird/Humor Category. Gerry Kaimo goes to get the award. Where's Cynthia? She's not beside me anymore. There's another lady in her place taking a video.

9 p.m.
Barbie's Cradle play their set. Every time I see Barbie, I get an overwhelming urge to rush over to her and hold her up. She's so tiny and frail and pretty, like a little fragile fairy girl.

9:30 p.m.
My friend's friend wants to get Barbie's autograph. I give her a sheet of paper from my notebook. She thanks me profusely. Then she rushes off backstage to catch Barbie.

9:32 p.m.
I hear a thank-you speech that's less than 10 words. "Thank you for the P100,000 cash prize!" He didn't get any money, though.

9:35 p.m.
Joey announces the winner of the Best Personal site -- LuvKo SiInday ?- but pronounced "luv" like "louvre." Even the way she pronounces words is dreamy We louvre the way she hosts!

9:55 p.m. wins's most visited website of the year. I overhear a lady exclaim, "Tsismoso talaga ang Filipino!"

9:58 p.m.
Cynthia is back! She is clutching a plastic shopping bag. Now I know where she went.

10:15 p.m.
Most applauded acceptance speech is from "Yes Virginia, we defeated Erap!"

10:40 p.m.
All the winners go onstage for their photo-ops. Brown Beat All Stars start their set. Lead singer Skarlet (Myra Ruaro) is wearing a plaid kilt/skirt and scarlet shoes. We mingle and try to network with their music in the background.

11:14 p.m. doesn't go home empty-handed. Someone from our team wins a set of CDs in the raffle!

11:30 p.m.
A guys wins the grand prize, a new personal computer. We hate him.

11:32 p.m.
We ride into the night.

Carlo Muñoz: The boy next door just a phone call away

Carlo Muñoz: The boy next door just a phone call away 
By Walter Ang
November 8, 2000
Philippine Daily Inquirer

"Hello, Billy?" By now, it seems everyone has seen the TV ad of a telecom company for its long-distance service. The one with a persistent mother constantly calling up and checking on her son, who's in the US. If you haven't seen this ad, you might want to get out of the rock you've been living under. With two installments already out, the ad has become quite popular, and so has the actor who plays Billy.

Quite the reserved gentleman, Carlo Muñoz seems every bit the obedient son, boy-next-door character he plays in the ad. Projecting a mature aura far beyond his 21 years, Carlo was taking up marketing management for two years before the acting bug bit him.

He was supposed to be part of the defunct TV show "Ang TV," but he explains that he turned down his slot because "I was still in high school. I didn't want to interrupt my education." While in college, however, he sang a different tune and auditioned for, and consequently passed, ABS-CBN's Star Circle Batch 6.

That started the proverbial ball rolling. Pretty soon, he got offers to do commercials for Del Monte, Star Chips, Coke, Maggi Champorado, among others. His most popular, of course, is the Billy commercial. The exposure certainly has some advantages for him. "Since people know me already, it serves as an instant ice breaker when I meet strangers. I don't mind it. I'm a people person." But this dapper, yet mostly laconic young man says there are disadvantages. "I do the groceries for my family," he says. "Even now, I still do. When I go out, sometimes people call me Billy. Sometimes there's no privacy."

It can't be denied that part of the charm of the Billy ads is that they haven't actually shown the face of Billy's girlfriend yet. "They actually showed Grasya in the first commercial," Carlo says. "But she got edited out." There are already plans to make another ad, but as of this interview, Carlo still has no idea how they'll be tackling the third installment. "I don't know what it will be like. They're still planning it."

In the genes
Good looks and acting genes seem to run in the family. Older brother Leandro is part of Star Circle Batch 8 and youngest brother Angelo is now training for Batch 9. But there's no sibling rivalry here. Carlo treats them more like friends than brothers. "I'm pretty close to my older brother Leandro," Carlo says.

Asked if he and Leandro had gotten into trouble, Carlo exclaims, "Oh, yeah! All the time." He went on to narrate their latest (mis) adventure. Just recently, a tricycle driver who'd had a little too much to drink hit the car he and Leandro were in. Needless to say, they got into a fight with the driver.

When it comes to romance, Carlo is looking for a woman who is "Simple. Has a sense of humor. Knows how to have a good conversation. Hindi fake. Filipina beauty." But it may take some time before this man plunges into another romance. After having broken up with singer Carol Banawa barely six months ago, he claims, "It's too soon to have another relationship."

Moving on to show biz
A fan of international actors Kevin Spacey and Anthony Hopkins, Carlo wants to pursue acting. "Aside from doing commercials," he says, "I'm a full-time actor and part of the cast of a soon-to-be-released soap opera, 'Pangako Sa Iyo.'"

Carlo is seeking out all the breaks he can get. He's currently known for dramatic roles, but what he really wants is to play character roles. He knows what he wants and, fortunately, he has his parents' support. "It was my decision [to enter this kind of work]. They didn't interfere. Natuwa sila. They're proud of me." Future career plans for this city-born and bred young man include writing and directing.

With several projects underway and his career charging ahead, Carlo usually has a pretty full schedule. He describes a typical day: "I wake up around lunch time. I have a light lunch because I go to the gym afterward. I come home to rest for a bit. The rest of the day I tape for shows."

Through all of that, he maintains a work ethic drawn from his parents, "I learned to work hard. All their life they've worked hard for us [their children]. Namana ko sa kanila 'yung discipline. Even if you're sick the show must go on. I work hard just like them."

Crouching Passions, Hidden Emotions

Crouching Passions, Hidden Emotions 
By Walter Ang
November 7, 2000
Confuse Shoes Column,

Film director Ang Lee was introduced to international audiences with his movies The Wedding Banquet and Eat, Drink, Man,Woman. He was later tapped to direct Sense and Sensibility. The English countryside seems far removed from Taiwan, where the director hails, but he slipped into it effortlessly.

After helming The Ice Storm, this time America circa 1970s, he moves to Ching Dynasty China and gives us Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. First off, this is one instance where I've wanted to watch the Chinese version of a film rather than the English dubbed version. Provided, of course, there'd be English subtitles to help me along the way. I learned Chinese back in school, but most of it escapes me, much to the dismay of my parents and scores of uncles and aunts.

However, I am at least able to understand Mandarin and can carry a fairly civil conversation. This is why when a good Chinese movie comes along, especially if it's an Ang Lee one, I prefer to watch it in Chinese. The emotions and nuances of the characters are obviously better delineated and expressed. Unfortunately, the only versions showing in Manila so far are the English dubbed ones.

The language, however, does not take away from the other points of this film. The principal actors carry the film well and deliver textured performances, much the way you'd expect an Ang Lee film to be. It is interesting to note that Ang Lee has done films where women are the central focus. Just as in his previous films, such as the sisters in Eat, Drink and Sense, the women in Crouching Tiger have substantial roles equal to and, at times, surpassing their male counterparts. The two female protagonists' fight scenes number more and are also more complex than what you'd see with the male warriors in this film.

This film revolves around women warriors Jen Yu (Zhang Zi yi) and Yu Shu Lien (Michelle Yeoh} and their intertwined relationships with Li Mu Bai (Chow Yun Fat) and Lo (Chang Chen). Apart from showcasing the characters' combating skills, their inner workings are explored, revealing lots of gray areas motivating their actions. When Yu Shu Lien looks at Li Mu Bai, the longing is evident, but expressing it seems a more difficult task than killing off an enemy. It's all in the eyes.

The characters try to find balance in a world of social obligations, repressed desires, and explosive passions. This kind of emotional interplay is where Ang is most adept. His effort to incorporate this into a martial arts movie, however, is something up for discussion. Fans of hardcore, fast-paced, action-packed kung fu movies may not enjoy Crouching Tiger as much since it decidedly takes a more roundabout path.

The gracefully choreographed fight scenes aren't an end to themselves but only serve to drive the drama along. While the plot that sets the movie off is nothing new, I personally found it refreshing that the martial arts isn't the main point. The fight scenes were elegant yet had a tongue in cheek quality to them (they had little injections of humor typical of kung fu films). The film is not just a kung fu movie with flying kicks and gliding warriors, it's a sweeping drama with restrained loves and hidden emotions.

Roald Dahl Rules!

Roald Rules! 
By Walter Ang
October 25, 2000
Philippine Daily Inquirer

Do you know what the movies "Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory," "The Witches," "Matilda" and "James and the Giant Peach" have in common? They are all adaptations of books written by Roald Dahl (pronounced Roo-al). While these movies are fun to watch, I'm sure fellow Dahl fans will attest that his books are definitely better. If you enjoyed these movies but haven't read the books yet, boy, oh boy, you're missing two-thirds of your life!

The first time I encountered Dahl was in high school. One of my friends brought a copy of "Revolting Rhymes," a deliciously wicked collection of well-known fairy tales in poetry style, complete with inventive rhymes and extremely hilarious twists. With Cinderella's opening line: "You think you know this story/You don't. The real one's much more gory," my friends and I knew right away it was going to be a fun read.

We sat in a circle in the cafeteria and took turns reading the stories aloud. With a pistol-toting red Riding Hood and Snow White's seven dwarves gambling on horse races, we were laughing our heads off. At the end of it all, I took a look at the list of books the author had written, two titles caught my attention: "the Witches" and "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory."

I'd already seen both movies. (In the movies' title, Charlie was changed to Willy Wonka because "Charlie" was a racial slur during the early `70s when the movie was released.) And, I thought, if this were the same guy who wrote the books for these movies, then I've got to get the books myself!

Buy me this, buy me that!
The bookstores didn't carry Dahl books at that time when e-mail was not yet the in thing. I wrote a nice letter to my aunt in the United States, asking, "Buy me this! Buy me that!" After waiting for eons, I finally received several Dahl books (thanks Auntie Melissa!) which I have since read and reread with much amusement and enjoyment.

Dahl uses dark and cruel humor at times, but it's what makes him a winner with younger readers. If you think Harry Potter has it bad when he received a used clothes hanger for his birthday, you should see what happens to some of Dahl's protagonists. Readers usually cheer on for children who have to deal with some not-so-nice adults and whenever they do villainous acts to such adults.

Another part of Dahl's appeal is his playfulness in using words: he even creates new ones to suit his needs. Food isn't just delicious to him, it's scrumdiddlyumptious! The stories are even more fun to experience with Quentin Blakes' quirky illustrations. His style aptly captures the irreverent, inventive atmosphere of Dahl. If you plan to purchase the books, make sure to get the versions with Blake's illustrations.

Sem break is the perfect time to pore over a Dahl book or two. Forget t6he movie version; the books are more fun. Here are some of his books that you can try. If you're one of the unlucky ones who get a measly weekend that masquerades as a sem break, at least you'll have a few items to put in your Christmas wish list! he's written a veritable library but I'll allow you to discover his other works.

"Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" 
Charlie goes to the world's greatest candy factory where Everlasting Gobstoppers are made) and meets the man who owns it. The movie gave the world the song "Pure Imagination" sung by Gene Wilder (Willy Wonka), "If you want to view paradise?"

"Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator" 
This is the sequel to "The Chocolate Factory," if you're interested.

One of my all-time favorites. About a girl who's already read Charles Dickens by the age of 4 and discovers her hidden powers to help her teacher, Miss Honey, challenge the school's vile headmistress, Miss Trunchbull.

"The Witches" 
Made into a movie in 1990 with Angelica Houston as the Grand High Witch who hates all little children and plots to turn them all into mice. Contains one of my favorite lines in literature: "It is dangerous of children to take baths."

"The BFG" 
Catch little orphan Sophie and her adventures with the Big Friendly Giant (who collects happy dreams and blow them into the ears of children as they sleep) as they stop some evil giants from flush-bunking off to England to swollomp little chiddlers.

"Dirty Beasts" and "Revolting Rhymes"
Abso-bloody-lutley, fantabulously hilarious! With these two books, poetry, rhymes and fairy tales have never been this much fun.

Happy reading!

The Booksale Curse

The Booksale Curse 
By Walter Ang
October 12, 2000
Confuse Shoes column,

I've been extremely caught up in work the past few weeks. September just started yesterday and ? okay, I've just been told it's already October. The second week already, no less! Oy.

In any case, even if it is already over, September is an exciting month for bibliophiles in Manila because that's when the yearly bookfair is held. Piles and piles of books with crowds and crowds of book lovers congregating in one place. The smell of fresh books (and a couple of used books) and the palpable excitement of finding the good buy is enough to intoxicate a cow. Not that I've ever actually seen an intoxicated cow at one of the bookfairs, but I digress.

Don't you just love digging though mounds of books, be they new or used, and finding one that you fall in love with? Especially if it they're on discount! I'm not usually an expressive person, but if the right book came along at the right time, I wouldn't be opposed to shrieking like girl to celebrate a good find.

I used to go to the bookfairs with my family all the time. The past few years however, I've always been extremely busy during the month of September. There would always be some sort of exam to cram for, a production I'd have to rehearse for, a project I'd have o work on. I'd sometimes have the weekends free, but I'd be too tired to even get out of bed. Thus denying me the chance to go to that year's bookfair.

Missing out on bookfairs, however, are the least of my problems. The thing I have to deal with is the booksale curse. What in the world is the booksale curse? Whenever I go to a booksale, I can never find a book I like. I scour and browse and pace and look all over the shelves and bins and stacks to no avail.

That's just part one of the curse. There's a part two. Part two is that almost all the books I do get to find the rest of the year and purchase at the regular price seem to mysteriously end up on sale later on. You have no idea how incredibly frustrating that is!

Remember that scene in the movie "You've Got Mail"? Tom Hanks was complaining how a book could cost so much. The bookseller explains the care that went into making the book makes it "worth" so much, not "cost." Books are worth what you pay for them, certainly. But a bargain is never a bad thing to have!

So you can imagine the look on my face when I dig through the discount bins during sales and come face to face with books that I've already bought. Then only to discover them with prices that are a fraction of what I originally paid for. This happens to me all the time.

For example, I once bought Douglas Coupland's "Mircroserfs" at around 300 bucks and found it in the discount bin later in the year for only 80 bucks! Poor me. Apart from doing my Fran Drescher impersonation, "Why me?" I can only muster up a pathetic sigh. Maybe in the next time I visit a booksale, I should try to look for a book on how to break curses.

REVIEW: Tanghalang Pilipino's "Macbeth" in multimedia

Macbeth in multimedia 
By Walter Ang
October 11, 2000
Philippine Daily Inquirer

Macbeth does not wear a kilt in this version by Tanghalang Pilipino. Director Chris Millado and designer Salvador Bernal's concept and design is what's most fun about this production. The audience comes into the CCP's studio theater to see a backdrop of red cloth gently rippling like a waterfall of blood and an acting area filled with sand. Very stark, very Zen ? and that's only the beginning of this production's Asian themes.

Transplanted away from Scotland, it is an amalgamation of various Asian theater forms. There is Japanese, Chinese, and shades of Indian influence in the costumes, make-up, movement, and choreography. Actors wear costumes, headdresses, and make up inspired by Kabuki theater and Chinese opera. Instead of swords, warriors combat with fans.

Just as Chinese and Japanese drama puts emphasis on every step and every hand movement (for example, if an actor starts walking with literally the wrong foot, it can reveal flaws in his character) this version utilizes stylized movement and action. Words are spoken not just by the mouth, but also by the hands. As such, it is only fitting that Macbeth and Senyora Macbeth are portrayed by two of the country's well known ballet dancers, Nonoy Froilan and Edna Vida, respectively.

While both performers certainly look their parts, their strength lies chiefly in their ability to move their bodies. They establish a strong presence the moment they appear onstage. One readily notes a difference in the way the two principals moved compared to the rest of the cast. Froilan and Vida do not just merely cross the stage, they glide. Their movements are graceful, deliberate, and powerful. It was inredible to watch them physicalize the inner workings of their characters.

This stylized approach is certainly an interesting take on this Shakespearean tale of prophecy, murder, and guilt. One feels, however, the grand action and some fight scenes might have been better suited for a bigger acting area rather than the small studio theater. The marching scenes when the army troops congregate are especially impressive and would have looked wonderful from afar.

If this play were performed in a bigger area, the only drawback would be the loss of immediacy the small venue provides. If there were a great distance between the actors and the audience, we would not have experienced hearing and feeling the sand move whenever the actors paraded onstage. More exciting were the battle scenes. It was a sight to behold, the actors in their flowing costumes and grand headdresses, fans flapping about and sand flying in all directions. An occasional shriek here and there from ladies in the audience would pepper some of the combat scenes as they shielded their faces from the flying sand.

Done in Tagalog translation by Rolando Tinio, another interesting aspect was the way the three witches were portrayed. I was half expecting to see mangkukulam type women with wild hair and noses with carbuncles, or perhaps Japanese fox spirits with jet black hair and pale white faces. Instead, director Millado presents them as "angels of History", not the Catholic kind, but with "winds of Paradise caught in their wings flying backwards into the future, surveying the debris of the Past."

It was fun to hear the witch's chants and curses done in Tagalog. Their role as surveyors of the past was reinforced with a video projection of humanity's past atrocities (images of Hitler, Stalin and world wars) as they prophesized Macbeth's death.

The youth of today who try to get a thrill out of multimedia computer games should get out of those chairs and experience what real "multimedia" feels like. No cartoon show or Playstation role playing game could possibly deliver the same level of excitement of a live performance. Nor the creepiness evoked by rows and rows of death idols flanking the sides of the stage, high above in raised towers, watching over the audience . Watch out also the coronation ceremony of Macbeth; a fantastically eerie ritual.

Fans of anime such as Samurai X will find this production appealing with its Japanese themes and warrior sensibility. After all, if some anime shows can deliver nuances such as honor and guilt so eloquently, it would be an interesting change to see it live. Lights, sounds, fight scenes, costumes, flying sand, emotions ? now is that multimedia or is that multimedia?

For schedule, call Tanghalang Pilipino at 832-3661 or 812-1125 loc.1620. 

Italian cuisine 'at the table'

Italian cuisine 'at the table' 
By: Walter Ang
October 4, 2000
Philippine Daily Inquirer

A Tavola is an Italian restaurant that sits at the corner of the Ortigas and Santolan intersection. Inside, a dining area of yellow walls, red bricks, and small, intimate tables greet the patron. Owner and chef Hazel Lu Galvez designed the interiors so because, "I wanted it to have a Tuscan feel, a bright and happy feel to it."

As I sit down to have a chat with her, she translates the name of her restaurant, "At the table." She confides however, that she will be changing the name of the restaurant soon. As it turns out, even though she was granted the name when she applied for it, there are around three other restaurants with the same name or variations thereof.

After graduating from the University of the Philippines, Hazel worked in investment banking for a while. She was bored with her job and finally decided to do what she really wanted: cook. Even when she was younger, she loved to cook and did experiments on weekends. "My younger sister would be my guinea pig for the concoctions," she recounts. Hazel left her job, surfed the internet for a suitable cooking school, found one, packed her bags and flew off to Italy.

For four months, she attended the Cotstigliole d' Asti. Three months of studying and a month of practical application working in a restaurant. "It's different from cooking schools in the States where students learn different kinds of cuisines over many months. In Italy, you learn only the local cuisine in a short period of time," explains this lady who originally hails from Cotabato.

After completing the course, she had wanted to stay in Italy longer. She'd been told that her visa would be extended there, but no dice, she had to come back home. "The bureaucratic red tape over there is, unfortunately, very similar to ours," she observes. Hazel was planning to return to Italy to study further, but her then boyfriend (now husband), convinced her to stay a while and give Manila a try.

Exploring new tastes
Hazel always knew she wanted to open a restaurant, so she immediately started scouting for possible venues. She tried the malls first, but eventually spotted an old rattan furniture shop that she transformed into what it is now. This chef points out that the area may not be ready for this kind of cuisine. She explains most Pinoys are used to the Spanish influence in our local cuisine and, to a certain extent, French influence, "But that's why I want people to try the food, to try Italian cuisine, so they can learn more about it."

Things seem to be working out pretty well. She's already had repeat customers since opening only in May this year, including families with young children. "It's great when families come in. Kids try the food and they like it. If you don't tell kids spaghetti sauce should be sweet, they're very willing to try new tastes."

Hazel wants to share what she's learned about the cuisine and dispels the myth popular among Pinoys that Italian cuisine should be sour, a misconception grounded on the tomato based dishes. "People think tomatoes should be sour, but in Italy, they use vine ripened tomatoes and those are sweet. They're not the least bit acidic."

To educate more palates and to keep them coming back, the menu is changed every six weeks. Of course, customer favorites end up staying on the menu. Seafood dishes are popular and so is the gelato, a frozen desert this chef makes from scratch. People seem as eager to learn about the cuisine, evidenced by jampacked evenings when Hazel has to sometimes seat diners at the bar and even turn away a few unlucky ones. She confesses, "When the restaurant is full, we're running around and it's hard work, but we don't get tired. It feels great."

A Tavola is at Unit 5 Madrigal Bldg. Santolan Road, corner Ortigas Avenue. It's open for lunch until 2PM and for dinner until 10PM. They're closed on Mondays.

Little Red is a hood

Little Red is a hood 
By Walter Ang
September 27, 2000
Philippine Daily Inquirer

When I found out the British Council was staging a production of Roald Dahl's "Little Red Riding Hood" for its Performing Arts Season this year, I wasted no time in rushing over to the U.P. Theater to catch the show. I've only seen two shows at that venue, one about a King of Thebes marrying his mother and the other with a singing Indian prince and princess (and some dancing monkeys thrown in). Now I was going to watch a little girl and her run in with a wolf.

This production has already been performed by nearly every major British orchestra. The Cebu Youth Symphony Orchestra premiered it in the Philippines and now it was the Manila Youth Symphony Orchestra's turn. The first part of the show was a lot of fun as host Freddie Santos spent time to introduce the different parts of the orchestra and how the parts worked together.

When he started throwing out words like fortissimo and pianissimo, even the most clueless person would be able to understand as the orchestra demonstrated the terms. This is a great way to make this art form more accessible to everyone. In an effort to make the show more hip, the production incorporated a lot of flashy, roving colored lights moving across the stage and the musicians. The young musicians came out wearing all black outfits; not a single boring, staid suit or gown in sight!

Over and over
The orchestra began with Sergei Prokofiev's "Peter and the Wolf" conducted by Arturo Molina. Some of you may be familiar with the animated version by Chuck Jones shown on TV some time ago. The only thing I dislike about listening to this piece is I always end up hearing the strain that represents Peter over and over in my head like an evil Aaron Carter song. Pam pam parampampam ? oh boy.

"Little Red Riding Hood" was up next, conducted by Adrian Brown. This version did not rely soley on the lines in Dahl's hilariously wicked book "Revolting Rhymes," it incorporated narration and dialogue. Audie Gemora narrated the piece with Jaime Fabregas as the wolf. Enchang Kaimo played both Ms. Hood and Grandmamma. It was very interesting to see how music worked with the fairy tale.

This is no ordinary fairy tale, with a drunk Grandmamma and a wolf that passes wind at the audience. Little kids would react every once in a while as the piece progressed. "I can see the wolf!" You can figure out the fun twist in this version when you hear the line, "The small girl smiles. One eyelid flickers./She whips a pistol from her knickers." No need to worry, no gory violence here. Although director Freddie Santos still joked, "We're so incorrect! Teaching kids it's okay to shoot pistols!"

Behind the scenes
Both conductor Adrian Brown and composer Paul Patterson are professed fans of Roald Dahl and had nothing but praises for the Filipino production. Brown claimed that both youth orchestras played professionally. He also noted how resourceful and how fast the Filipino crew was when they whipped up some new set pieces. Several bolts of cloth had been brought over as part of the production. The local crew was able to paint up a couple of wooden boards with designs that matched the cloth -- overnight.

Patterson was amazed at how quickly the cast picked up from rehearsals and shared that one of his companions thought the Filipino cast was the best one to perform the piece yet. The original plan was to compose music for all the fairy tales in the book, but in the course of development, it was decided to compose just "Little Red Riding Hood." Interestingly, he's actually planning to compose a sort of sequel, "The Three Little Pigs."

In the book, Little Red Riding Hood makes a guest appearance in "The Three Little Pigs" and so does her pistol. In an effort to make orchestra music more engaging, Patterson is devising some audience participation in this one, "We'll make the audience blow the pigs' houses down."

The new piece will most probably come out in two years' time. What is it with the Brits for making everyone wait? J.K. Rowling is making us wait a whole year for the next Harry Potter book, and Dahl fans have to wait two years for the next orchestra piece! In the meantime, we'll have to make do with "Little Red Riding Hood." It's a great experience for students and everyone else, especially families with young kids, who'd like to find out more about orchestra music.

Call the British Council at 914-1011 to 14 for details.

Burma is not the other name of Myanmar (and other acronyms)

Burma is not the other name of Myanmar 
By Walter Ang
 September 20, 2000
Philippine Daily Inquirer

I had a classmate named Juneth who always gave little notes to everyone in class. Before exams, she would pass out good luck messages. On someone's birthday, she would give out a nice little piece of stationery with a short message of greeting. Sometimes, it would be just a short "Hello!".

One time, during an insufferably boring class, she decided to start writing up and passing out some notes to everyone. It was no big deal as most of us weren't paying attention to the droning professor anyway. I got a nice little message with the word J.A.P.A.N. appended at the bottom. It cracked me up. It stood for Just Always Pray At Night.

We had a little inside joke going on. Earlier, we'd been talking about slumbooks and how people would usually write funny acronyms at the bottom of the dedication page. The generic message being: "Thank you for letting me sign in your cute slumbook." Followed by a country acronym that usually had very creative and hilarious meanings.

I passed around a big sheet of paper and asked everyone to list down all the slumbook acronyms they knew. The page was almost completely filled up by the time it got back to me. Everyone got into it, wanting to be the first to list down a particulary acronym.

It's interesting what we remember from our elementary schooldays, when slumbooks were almost de rigueur for the girls in class. I found out from the ladies in the class, as they recounted their own slumbook escapades, that aside from getting cute stickers and cute staionery and whatnot, one of the reasons why girls passed out slumbooks was to get their crush to sign in it. I had to honestly say I did not know that. But I guess now I do.

Pinoys have an affinity to acronyms and shortening statements. After all, this is the nation that reduced such pressing national issues such as charter changes in the constitution into media savvy soundbites like Cha Cha and Concorde. Even the exclamation "Susmaryosep!" is but another shortned version of something much longer. But I digress.

After I got the list of slumbook acronyms back, we took a look and had a good laugh at the all the names and statements. The most popular one was K.I.T. for "Keep In Touch". The funniest one for the day was the acronym for "Friends U Can Keep". The rest ran the gamut of the countries of the world and then some. Here's the list for your perusal. I just hope people don't throw their shoes at me if these acronyms start making the rounds of text messages.

A.B.C. - Always Be Careful
A.R.M. - Always Remember Me
B.A.L.I.W.A.G. - Beauty And Love I Will Always Give
K.I.T.T.Y. - Kind, Intelligent, Thoughtful, That's You!
K.O.S.H. - Keep On Soaring High
M.A.R.L.B.O.R.O. - Men Always Remember Love Because Of Romance Only.
S.A.S.A.Y.A. - Stay As Sweet As You Are
S.M.U.R.F. - Smiling Makes Us Real Friends
S.W.A.K. - Sealed With A Kiss
Y.A.M.A.H.A. - You Are My Angel! Happy Anniversary!

B.U.R.M.A. - Between Us, Remember Me Always
C.A.N.A.D.A. - Cute And Naughty Action that Developed into Attraction
C.E.B.U. - Change Everything... But Us
C.H.I.N.A. - Come Here, I Need Affection
E.G.Y.P.T. - Everything's Great, You Pretty Thing!
F.R.A.N.C.E. - Friendships Remain And Never Can End
G.U.A.M. - God Unites All Men
H.O.L.L.A.N.D. - Hope Our Love Lasts And Never Dies
I.M.U.S. - I Miss U, Sweetheart
I.N.D.I.A. - I Nearly Died In Adoration
I.T.A.L.Y. - I Trust And Love You
K.E.N.Y.A. - Keep Everything Nice, Yet Arousing
K.O.R.E.A. - Keep Optimistic Regardless of Every Adversity
L.I.B.Y.A. - Love Is Beautiful; You Also
M.A.L.A.B.O.N. - May A Lasting Affair Be Ours Now
M.A.N.I.L.A. - May All Nights Inspire Love Always
N.E.P.A.L. - Never Ever Part As Lovers
P.A.R.A.N.A.Q.U.E. - Please Always Remain Adorable,Nice And Quiet Under Ecstacy
P.A.S.A.Y. - Pretty And Sexy Are You
P.A.S.I.G. - Please Always Say I'm Gorgeous
P.E.R.U. - Porget Everyone, Remember Us
P.H.I.L.I.P.P.I.N.E.S. - Pumping Hot.. I Love It! Please Please..I Need Erotic Stimulation R.U.S.S.I.A. - Romance Under the Sky & Stars is Intimate Always
T.O.N.D.O. - Tonight's Our Night, Dearest One
Y.E.M.E.N. - 'Yugyugan Every Morning, Every Night

The Throbbing In My Head

The Throbbing In My Head
By Walter Ang
September 19, 2000
Confuse Shoes column,

I have had a terrible headache all week. It would not go away. I was ready to take off my shoes and hit my head with them. I was ready to crawl the walls. It was the kind of creeping, heavy, throbbing headache that gave me murderous intentions. I admit it: I do have murderous intentions most of the time ? but this headache compounded the feelings even more. I'd like to point out that this was no ordinary, run-of-the-mill headache.

It moved! It would taunt the left side of my head one day and move to the right the next. At certain times of the day, it would stay at the base of my head. It was awful. I had to carry on with my usual workload under the strain of a having head that felt like it was going to unexpectedly topple off my neck any minute.

Friends who regard me as high maintenance work have started to give remarks they usually give me whenever I complained about an ill - imaginary or otherwise. They claim I'm just being a hypochondriac, or that I'm only a little under the weather. But the worst line I heard this time was, "It's all in your head." Great, tell me something I don't know!

Some of them showed genuine concern, which I greatly appreciated. Of course, they also tended to go overboard, insisting that I get my head checked at the nearest hospital as soon as possible. Now I'm usually the first one to freak out over the slightest pain in the stomach or ache in the joints. But hearing these guys talk about the worst kinds of diseases possible, I began to have second thoughts on who was more paranoid.

Unable to find solace in the few friends I could ask to listen to my tales of woe, I started to look for possible solutions on my own. I tried to take a walk to shake the darned pain away. It worked - for about five minutes. Then the pain redoubled and hit my poor unsuspecting head like a flying brick. I also tried the usual route for pain, taking truckloads of paracetamol and acetaminophen. I suspect I may have developed an immunity to some of these medications by now. Not a good thing actually.

I've also tried taking hot showers. When those didn't work, I took cold showers instead. I even tried playing soothing classical music and lit a couple of scented candles to help calm my nerves. No dice. And people kept streaming in and out of the room asking if the power had gone out or worse, "Who died?"

I have a sneaking suspicion that the weather may be a culprit in my latest escapade with pain. It's been scorching hot this past week and the worst part are the sudden bursts of rain that last for a few minutes. By the time you can get your folding umbrella out of wherever you've hidden it, the sun comes shining back again. You, on the other hand, are left looking like a complete idiot soaking wet while everything else dries up in a couple of minutes.

Well, one of those attempts must've worked somehow. As I write this, the pain's been reduced to a tiny throb. One of these days, I'm just going to have to find a wall I can bash my head into.

Rage against the rain

Rage against the rain 
By Walter Ang
August 30, 2000
Philippine Daily Inquirer

The rainy season creates for me a sort of experiencial compound noun. You know how teachers always include a lesson on compound nouns in elementary English classes? Ham and eggs. Salt and pepper. Pork and beans. That kind of thing. It's how two completely independent, separate objects have been melded by chance or choice into a collective whole and therefore considered by the grammar police as a single noun. Uhm, whatever.

I will forever associate rain with the blaring of rickety radios tuned in to AM stations crackling with static and feedback. The background sound of rain prattling ominously on rusted GI sheets punctuated with the husky voices of old invisible men droning on and on about the news and weather updates.

That's my experiencial compound noun: rains and AM radio stations. This point of association is the result of two factors. One, living in a tropical country pelted with incredible monsoon rains almost half of the year. Two, going through years and years of keeping glued to the radio in hopes of hearing an announcement that will cancel classes for the day.

On particulary dreary rainy mornings, I've always hated getting all dressed up and grudingly dragging myself to the school bus. Finally, after navigating through pot-holed, water filled streets, we reach the school gates and everybody else streams out, screaming with glee, "Walang pasok! Walang pasok!" Groan.

I once had a conversation with a friend who claimed he loved the rain, especially walking in it. While he went on about the romance of it all, citing several movies, including the scene in "Four Weddings and A Funeral" where Hugh Grant runs after Andie Macdowell, I contemplated the idea of turning him over to a nuthouse.

Anyone who's lived in Manila will attest to the fact that the rainy season is no picnic. When you wake up and hear rain banging on every available surface, you're already wishing you lived somewhere else. The moment you walk out your house, your face gets pelted with wind, water and other flying debris. First of all you have to wonder, in these ecologically unsound times, if the liquid that touches your skin could possibly be acid rain. Who has the time to purchase litmus paper strips to find out? I'm not about to use my face as the testing medium, that's for sure.

For hardy individuals who are not afraid of getting wet, the howling, intense winds pose a challenge. Yayas are forever scaring their wards with visions of little children being carried away by the wind. Scarier stories include decapitated heads courtesy of wayward flying pieces of GI sheets.

Sometimes, you can't even venture out of your house anymore. A few minutes of rain will transform the streets into virtual lakes. Only, instead of beautiful multi-colored fish swimming around, there will be all sorts of trash and human waste bobbing up and down in all their glory for everyone to see.

Aside from having to navigate through unidentifiable foreign objects and hoping you don't fall into an open manhole, you have to worry about all the vile Leptospira interrogans swarming in the floodwaters. These vile bacteria can enter your body through cuts or lesions, causing leptospirosis -- wreaking serious damage on your muscles, kidneys, liver, and central nervous system. Shudder.

One of the amazing things is that, in spite of all these conditions, you can never stop the entrepreneural spirit. It's a fascinating to witness a whole economic system being born whenever it rains. Evil taxi drivers charge exhorbitant rates just to travel a few kilometers. Creepy neighborhood toughies charge people to cross their makeshift wooden boardwalks to avoid wading in the flood.

More enterprising souls charge for banca rides to your destination. Banca rides may look and feel good in a movie, where there's mood lighting and romantic background music, but Hollywood this ain't, ladies and gentlemen.

REVIEW: Tanghalang Ateneo's Asian "Twelfth Night"

Love What You Will, How You Will 
By Walter Ang
August 23, 2000
Philippine Daily Inquirer

Watching a Shakespeare play is daunting enough. But done in Tagalog translation and dislocated from the familiar 16th century English setting, audiences may find it a tad overwhelming to comprehend. Fortunately, Tanghalang Ateneo has come up with a production of "Twelfth Night" that has made the Bard more accessible to audiences.

I caught the touring show at the Far Eastern University Auditorium last weekend (it moves to the Subic Arts Theater next). To help the audience appreciate what was to come, before the play began, director Ricardo Abad came out to explain the plot and some of the key staging devices that he used. He also gave the mostly student audience his reasons for transplanting the play to an Asian locale.

This is my first Tanghalang Ateneo production so I don't know if the introduction by the director is di rigeur in their shows, but I appreciate its objectives. Other theater companies, including non school-based ones, could take their cue from this practice and help bring in a larger audience for the classics. A little hint here and there helps move the action along. After all, not everyone reads the program notes.

Asian motif
Shakespeare has been transplanted countless times. Baz Lurhman put the walang kamatayang "Romeo and Juliet" in South America, while some local companies have set it in Verona, Cavite and even Japan with a japayuki Juliet. In the movies, Ethan Hawke will be portraying "Hamlet" in cosmopolitan Manhattan while "Taming of the Shrew" has been remade into the teen flick, "Ten Things I Hate About You."

TA's "Twelfth Night" utilized a Southeast Asian motif designed by Salvador Bernal. Sitting in the middle of the stage was a large hut with obviously Asian inspired workings. Later on, as the lights dimmed to start the play, its silhouette would become the ship on which our protagonist Viola and her twin brother Sebastian sailed on. Lighted in consultation with Naomi Matsumoto, it was an fantastic piece of set as it would be turned around by the actors to become various other settings in the play, from different houses to a prison cell.

Setting the play in a mythical Asian Ilyria seemed to be an inspired choice from Rolando Tinio's Tagalog translation. If the language is Asian, might as well make the rest of the elements Asian. The decision to stage Shakespeare in Tagalog works well for this version of "Twelfth Night". The audience lapped up the occasionally ribald language and enjoyed its earthy nature.

This tale of cross-dressing fraternal twins, mistaken identities, and mixed up loves was executed by an able cast led by Marie France Arcilla (Viola) and Steven Uy (Sebastian) -- the one actor accorded matinee idol status. Judging from the screams of the girls in the audience, this guy could've played the part of a rock and still get the same amount of giddy adulation.

It was amusing to note how Araflor Fernando (Maria) looked like Helena Bonham Carter, but the performance by Miren Alvarez (Olivia) was what floored me. For a while there, I thought I was watching her mother Nieves Campa onstage. I remember cutting class a couple of years ago just to catch Nieves Campa perform "Medea". I finally got a chance to see her daughter perform as well and it would seeem that acting for this family (Miren's father is Roy Alvarez) must really be in the genes.

Every once in a while, at certain angles, Miren looked exactly like her mom. It was eerie and amazing how both ladies also sounded almost alike, with the same tone and lilt. If these two ever do a production together, someone please let me know!

Apart from the effective cast, it is Abad's creative use of the language that brought out the nuances of what the characters' hidden motives and desires were. He also peppered the play with hilarious slapstick asides for the characters.

One of the interesting devices Abad injected into the play was his addition of Androgynous Person. Androgynous Person is shown at the beginning of the play with both male and female genitalia. At the end of it all, when mistaken identities are revealed and all is set straight, Androgynous Person once again appears, but this time without the male and female parts. The appendages have appeared in other characters, showing the different ways we love, what we love, who we love. Proving that when it comes to love, as the other title of this play states, "What You Will." Or more aptly in Tagalog, "Kung Ano'ng Ibigin."

Fundraising Power Circle Fashion Show

Power Circle Fashion Show 
By Walter Ang
August 16, 2000
Philippine Daily Inquirer

Some thirty of the youngest and most accomplished local business achievers took a break from work last Wednesday to volunteer their time and efforts to model in a fashion show dubbed Power Circle Fashion Show.

Organized by the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry's (PCCI) Youth Affairs Committee, the event was to create awareness and raise funds for PCCI's Adopt a Business Project. This will be a nationwide contest to be held next year to encourage the youth, especially business students, to cook up business plans.

Sherwin Hing, one of the night's models and chairman of PCCI's Youth Committee shared how they were able to come up with the idea, "There are a lot of good business ideas out there, but the problem is that they don't have a lot of capital, so we'll provide the seed capital for those who can win the competition."

Guests were treated to a no-frills set design at the Grand Ballroom of Westin Philippine Plaza Hotel. The ramp was swathed in red carpeting that extended to the backdrop to become a stark red column against black scrim. As the lights dimmed, these young professionals, mostly members of the PCCI Youth Committee, sashayed down the runway in Cerruti 1881, Josie Natori, Claiborne for Men, Escada, Liz Claiborne, and Hugo Boss.

The show was helmed by director Joey Espino who imparted how, "Everybody was so fearful at fist. But these guys are winners, and once they understood the point of it all, it was smooth sailing." Asked what made him decide to participate in the event, he offered, "I myself am trying to set up a business and I know what it's like. This was for a good cause and I wanted to share myself to it."

First time
Most of the business executitves had their baptism of fire in the modeling arena that night. One of the oranizers of the event, Anna Marie Periquet relates, "At first we were all very nervous. Everyone was given a shot of cognac. It didn't work." Though that obviously didn't stop them, "I was the first to come out on the ramp. I was testing the waters for everyone. It wasn't too deep, so we went for it." She continues that it wasn't just for fun or the chance to walk down the ramp, "It was for a good cause. We know that by walking down the ramp, we would be able to support a lot of new businesses."

Ma. Christine Ledesma joked, "In the first set, they showed videos of us, we were hoping the audience would watch the videos instead of us." The sole dreadlocked lady of the night and co-founder of The Big Chill got involved because of her work with, a website that has linked up with the Adopt A Business Project.

Organizing chairperson Michelle Varela-Lim points out, "I believe the youth can change our society and really make a difference. So even though you're young you can make a difference." Many young executives seems to agree with her and showed their support that night. Among the ladies who graced the catwalk were Cris Roque, Executive VP for Kamiseta and Morgan de Toi, and Sari Yap, Editor-in- Chief of Mega Fashion Magazine.

Menardo "Butch" Jimenez, Presidnet of GMA Films, Jean Henri Lhuillier, Chairman of Strike Zone Bowlnig Lanes, and Vicente Padilla, President of Padi's Point Restaurant and Bar, were but a few of the many guys who strutted their stuff.

One would think young professionals doing a fashion show would be somewhat of a contradiction, but Summit Point Realty Marketing Manager Jose Leviste II confesses, "It was a childhood fantasy of mine to be a model," and gamely signed up.

Throw away your stereotypes of businessmen as straight laced and boring, Gregory Banzon, Sales Director of Johnson and Johnson Phils., admitted to playing hooky from practice sessions. And when we asked Manila Councilor Kim Atienza what he would never be caught dead wearing in public, he revealed, "My birthday suit," and quickly added with a devlish smile, "On second thought."

Serendipitous: (quickly) getting a handle on Jane Austen's works

By Walter Ang
August 11, 2000
Confuse Shoes column,

Over the past few months, I was able to catch up on my reading list. I got through a couple of books I've been meaning to digest. I would have felt totally pleased with myself, if it weren't for one elusive book that I couldn't finish. Every time I was done with a couple of chapters, I would stop, shake my head violently and throw the book across the room. Who knew reading "Pride and Prejudice" by Jane Austen would be such an ordeal? I don't know why it's so hard, considering I'd already read "Sense and Sensibility" by the same author.

The first time I encountered Jane Austen was when I watched the movie "Sense and Sensibility". When I saw it, I wasn't paying too much attention. As a consequence, I thought it was a dumb movie. My second encounter with Austen was yet with another film -- "Clueless". I didn't know this for a fact until I was reading some movie reviews, which pointed out that the movie was an adaptation of the Austen novel "Emma". Clueless was a hilarious movie. Jane Austen was a dead white female writer who wrote boring English novels that were made into dumb movies. I was semi-intrigued.

How could this be possible? I brought this up with some my friends who, as it turned out, have all read either "Sense and Sensibility", or "Pride and Prejudice", or worse, both. I was stupefied. When they found out I still hadn't, they were the ones who were stupefied. "Shame on you!", they reprimanded with a shaking finger. I retorted with, "At least I've seen the movie!" They rolled their eyeballs and admonished me, "Watch it again, and this time, pay attention!"

Serendipitously, it was shown on cable TV that same week. I watched. I paid attention. And I discovered something: Jane Austen is really, really funny! The story of two sisters and their misadventures with men seemed so much like a silly Tagalog romance flick, only the women wore empire cut dresses and spoke with British accents.

I called up my friends and told them to send over their books. This is how I got into reading Austen, by watching it first. It's kind of embarrassing actually. I read "Sense and Sensibility" on and off at home, and sometimes, in boring laboratory sessions in school. I finished it. Not bad!

Reading Austen is no joke. She's funny, but you do need a little handle on the language to get some of the humor. Otherwise, it's a fun romp as you realize you're reading what is basically gossip. Austen talks about the neighbors and everyone else and their manners and their schemes at getting their daughters married off. She tells it to you like the hottest, juiciest news in town.

Going back to the problem of the unfinished book. I was desperate. Fortunately, the internet offered an interesting solution. I found out that there is a website [Book-a-minute Classics] that condenses books so that you can read one in a minute or less. I typed in Jane Austen and one mouse click later, a webpage appeared that featured all of her works in one condensed form. A few seconds later, I'd solved my problem.

Brews Buddies: Coffee (and more) for a Song

Brews Buddies: Coffee (and more) for a Song 
By Walter Ang
August 2, 2000
Philippine Daily Inquirer

Brews Buddies is a small café along the busy street of Juan Luna in Chinatown. In a street where banks and tall buildings dominate, this little coffee shop bravely opened earlier this year. I would pass by on my way to other places but wouldn't have the time to actually try it out. That is, until my friend, who had already become one of the café's regulars, insisted I try their Iced Café Mocha.

We ducked into the blue and gray café, with figurines of Blues Brothers James and Elwood on the counter by the entrance welcoming us in. Since the name of the establishment is an offshoot of The Blues Brothers, the music playing in the background was especially apt. Even the sizes of the drinks are named after the brothers, short sizes are James and the tall ones are Elwood.

We ordered, we drank and we were not disappointed. I took a sip and was surprised I could still taste the coffee. When you order café mochas from other coffee places, you usually can't taste the coffee anymore because they dump so much chocolate syrup into the drink or perhaps the beans wouldn't be fresh anymore.

Spill the Beans
My friend and I had to good cause to gush and smile for the rest of the day owing to our discovery. I caught up with two of the four owners and made them spill the beans on how this café got started. Dodo Chuaunsu with brothers Charlie and Philip Yao are buddies who share a passion for good food and coffee. After a trip to the States last year to visit their friend Leslie Laddaran, they decided to put up a coffee place of their own since they were unable to find the elusive good cup of coffee here in Manila. In their quest for good coffee, "It came to a point where we would try out every single coffee shop we came across," shares Dodo.

Since their friend Leslie made them promise to include him in any new business venture they'd tackle, these four friends came up with Brews Buddies. Their initial brainstorming session was at a hotel coffee shop (where else?) with their ideas written down on paper napkins. By December of that same year, they were fortunate enough to have already found a place to set up.

Raring to go, "We were in here clearing things out even during the Christmas holidays," Charlie recounted. Sticklers for the perfect venue, they had the original flooring material torn out for a more suitable material and even transferred the location of the stairs from the back of the shop closer to the entrance.

Now the interiors include posters and a few memorabilia displayed for patrons to admire. I especially like one of their counters where the top is shaped like an electric guitar with the hole in the middle as the trash bin. There are even strings attached to the contraption and will play, albeit out of tune since it isn't a real guitar.

Cupa Java
Brews Buddies uses Arabica beans which are less acidic than most other coffee beans. They take pride in the fact that their beans are locally sourced, "unlike other coffee shops which import their beans
(even their paper napkins), which in turn, makes it more expensive for their patrons."

They've also invested in state-of-the-line Italian espresso machines. "In other coffee shops, the machines require the baristas to time the coffee preparation, each time you order the same drink, it may not taste the same because different persons prepare and time it differently," explains Dodo, "our machines are fully calibrated and have timers, which is why each cup you get from us tastes the same."

Of course, these guys don't just leave it all to these cold, impersonal machines, they take customer feedback seriously. "We're still in the process of achieving the perfect blends for most of our drinks. We take note of what our customers tell us. It's too sweet. It's too bitter." They shared a funny anecdote where they had a friend try one of their iced coffee mixtures while it was still in the test kitchen phase, only to have him claim that it was too bitter. They all had a good laugh when they realized later on that they'd forgotten to put in the sugar that time.

Aside from Leslie, who is based in the U.S., these guys are usually in the café in late afternoons to chat with customers. Some regulars come in to share and trade information on good places to eat in the city. If you get a chance, chat these guys up; they have a plethora of recommendations on where the good places to eat are.

Yep, regulars. This café is not even one year old yet and they already have people who come in everyday to get their usual caffeine fix. Charlie recounts how one customer used to be surly and would complain about everything, but now, "He comes in regularly, smiling and trading jokes with our lady baristas. When we see him walking in the streets, he'll wave at us."

Among their regulars, they have a vendor in nearby Divisoria who will come in every morning for her breakfast coffee to go and they have one guy who comes all the way from Makati at least every two weeks to get his taste of the place. There are a lot of offerings for people to choose, and I really like the creative names they've given their concoctions.

Desert Storms for the hot coffees and Cold Fronts for the iced coffee mixes. Aside from the usual sandwiches and cookies, Brews Buddies also offers pastries and paninis. Most of the names are play on words, like Let's Do The Twist for their cinnamon rolls and Uncle Ham for their deli ham sandwich, obviously based on Uncle Sam. They're also currently testing a new dessert that will debut soon, a coffee jelly concoction called Jelly Be Good.

Before anyone assumes that this coffee shop is American in origin, the owners are quick to dispel that notion. They do take it as a compliment that people think highly enough of their café to assume it must be a franchise of some sort. The flipside of this is that, "We've actually received inquiries for franchising," confides Dodo.

For now, they're still improving what they have to offer. They've recently started delivery service for the Binondo and Escolta areas, good news for the downtown yuppies who need their caffeine for the day. They also offer the second floor for business meetings and other special functions like birthday parties and even occasional Bible study sessions. The shop closes around 8 PM on most evenings but can accommodate special requests from big groups to stay open late.

Brews Buddies Cafe, 384 Juan Luna St., Binondo, across the street from State Investment Building. Call 450-4155 or 241-7466 for reservations or deliveries.

What I Did In My Summer Vacation

What I Did In My Summer Vacation 
By Walter Ang
July 13, 2000

When students make their way to school at the beginning of the school year, one of the first assignments that English teachers give out is always a composition on "What I Did In My Summer Vacation". I'm going to take my cue from this yearly ritual and spill the beans on what transpired during my summer vacation. First off, let me just explain that, unlike students, I no longer enjoy the luxury of having a two-month summer vacation. Instead, I get a few measly days off from the grind of the city when the Holy Week rolls by. Better that, though, than nothing at all, right?

I didn't even make any concrete plans to do anything for this year's break. Come Holy Monday, though I realized that I was so incredibly stressed out and I wanted, nay, NEEDED to get away so I could decompress. After a few phone calls, I was able to hook up with a friend who gamely agreed to go with me on a trip to Puerto Galera. Normally, my neurotic self would have had apprehensions about the trip, seeing as how we've never been there before and we didn't make any advanced plans or reservations.

Thank heavens I wasn't my usual self. I was in full "I-wanna-get-away- for-the-break" mode and nothing was going to stop me. What's more, my friend and I were able to ask another pal to join us on Wednesday evening. We were supposed to leave for the beach Thursday morning. And just to show how unplanned everything was, our friend said yes right there and then.

After a three-hour bus ride, we got to the pier where we had to get tickets for a ferry ride to the beach. I risked the large crowd inside the ticketing building while my two companions stayed outside to scout for scalpers. There were so many people jam-packed inside the lobby, I was afraid we were breaking some fundamental physics laws.

I ignored the sweat, body heat and occasional yelling. I stifled any fears of stampedes breaking out. I now knew what sardines feel when they're inside a can. I desperately wanted to do my Fran Fine (a.k.a. The Nanny) imitation, "Oh Lord, why me?" Fortunately, my friends were able to hook up with other hardy souls so we could fill up the quota for a banca ride instead. It wasn't lunch time yet and we'd made new friends already!

Two hours later, we stepped onto the warm sands of White Beach. The sun, the waves, the people, the atmosphere, boy oh boy! We were pooped from all the traveling and spent the rest of the day securing a place to sleep. (Prices were exorbitant as it was the Holy Week; to save our meager budget, we spent our second night sleeping on the beach.) The evening was spent staring at the stars.

The following day, we discovered an interesting little Italian bar/restaurant at the end of the beach. We marked our space near the bar and lounged in the sun while the aroma of freshly baked pizza and cooked pasta wafted in the air. Banana daiquiris in hand, we spent the rest of the day blanking out and staring at the waves. The tension began leaving our bodies, we felt the energy that flowed to refresh our minds.

All of this -- and without any plans or preparations, to boot! We were so thankful that none of our prissy friends came along. We didn't even want to think what it might've been like. Our sojourn came to an end with us trundling back to the innards of the city awash with golden summer glows. What a blast!

Ballet Manila stages "Dracula"

The horror! The horror! I now enjoy ballet 
By Walter Ang
June 29, 2000
Philippine Daily Inquirer

The first time I saw a ballet was when I was in high school. A classmate of mine had gone to see a production of "Swan Lake" and was gushing about how good it was. The rest of our group felt left out and slightly jealous of our friend's escapade. She had actually seen a full-length ballet; it was culture, it was art! The whole event was tinged with glamour and we wanted to have our piece of the action.

So, filled with youthful zest, we caught the matinee the following weekend and saw men and women in tights dancing on tiptoe. That was when we found out we didn't have anything to be jealous of. Ten minutes into the first act and we were squirming in our seats, ready to go home. Plainly said, we were bored.

We didn't have enough background in dance to appreciate the nuances of the dancing. We never had art appreciation classes. We were plainly too young and too unsophisticated to appreciate the finer points of this art form.

We sat through the entire two hours, except that half of the time, we were making mental notes either not to freak out or to keep awake. The afternoon was not wasted however, as we were rewarded with Lisa Macuja playing Odette. Even to the uneducated, untrained eye, she really did look like a swan. When she performed the 36 pirouettes in quick succession required of the role, we watched in awe as people in the audience started shouting "Bravo!" even before the turns were completely done.

Flash forward to a couple of years later. I was browsing through the newspapers and my eye caught an ad for a ballet production. The title: "Dracula." I was intrigued.

I wanted to give myself a chance to try ballet again after the first encounter. Maybe I had grown up a little and could now take in another afternoon of this art form. The first thing that attracted me to this particular production was the subject matter. The word ballet conjures up images of swans and nutcrackers and petite women dancing the role of Peter Pan. A ballet that would tackle the gothic world of the undead? This I had to see.

The one fact that made me decide I could definitely give ballet another try was that "Dracula" would only be 50 minutes long. I couldn't believe it when I read it in the papers! A full-length production running two hours would seem daunting to a generation raised on the fast-paced editing of MTV and channel surfing. Attention spans are getting shorter and shorter everyday. But 50 minutes? I was sure I could manage that. I had seen the Francis Ford Coppola film. I had tried reading the book (which I hurled across the room after a couple of pages). So now I was going to catch the ballet.

We tried to get to the GSIS Theater early so we could check out the paintings and other exhibits in the museum before settling down for the show. Unfortunately, all my friends and I met up at the theater just within minutes of the door closing on us, otherwise it would've been fun to take a look at the artworks the museum had to offer. We composed ourselves as we sat down and anticipated what was to come. The show opened with a front act, a light piece, "Velvet Wings," choreographed by David Campos Cantero. I was telling my companions how I liked the last part where the dancers held butterflies as they danced, until my friend pointed out the notes in the program said the whole piece was about the dancers being the butterflies themselves. Oh. Okay.

Lisa Macuja wouldn't be dancing this time due to her pregnancy, but it was her company, Ballet Manila, that gave birth to the Asian premiere of "Dracula." The artistic director of the Nashville Ballet, Paul Vasterling, choreographed this production. He created his version of "Dracula" in 1999 and it performed to sold-out audiences. The curtains opened to a bare stage with a backdrop that seemed plain black at first, but eventually filled with shadows and colors as the ballet progressed. Later on, the center would reveal a glorious lighted cross to vanquish the dark Count. The ballet was meant to be an abstract of the dark tale's major events.

The characters from the novel had been reduced and the story had been streamlined to move the action forward. Female characters like Mina Murray and Lucy Westenra were obviously retained, but Vasterling combined Professor Van Helsing, along with the other male characters, into Jonathan Harker. So instead of a milquetoast Harker, in this version he actually had a hand in defeating The Count.

We were older, sure, but were we capable of appreciating the nuances of dance this time around? We actually had a lot of fun and our fear of becoming bored dissipated quickly. I will leave a more technical review of the dancing to better qualified connoisseurs and critics of the art form. Some scenes I liked were when the other dancers would grab Dracula and make it look like he was gliding along the stage. With just a little imagination, he would be flying on his own at times.

My friends and I really enjoyed the scene where the Count seduced Lucy. She started out dancing gracefully and lightly, but after Dracula bit her neck, she became an earthy, unrestrained, unbound dancing entity. We particularly liked the device Vasterling used to signify Dracula's bite. The Count would drape a scarlet scarf across his victims' necks to symbolize blood.

Spend an afternoon immersing yourself in ballet, glide over to watch "Dracula." The 50-minute time frame works. The whole thing was over before I knew it. Even after Dracula was finally defeated in a loud explosion, I found myself waiting for more and had to be reminded that the show was over.

"Dracula" shows on June 30, July 1 and 2 at the GSIS Theater. Call 512-5031, 512-5032, 525-1584 

Theatre Etiquette Tips

Theatre Etiquette For Boors 
By Walter Ang
June 15, 2000
Philippine Daily Inquirer

As soon as the schoolyear opens, most theater companies start their seasons for the year. After taking a break from doing shows to hold workshops during the summer months, theater companies will go into full blast as they resume staging productions that run the gamut from Greek classics to Broadway musicals.

One of the biggest captive audiences most theater companies have are students who are required to watch at least one show for school. This is why most seasons are scheduled in tandem with school calendars. Exposing the youth to culture and arts is a noble enterprise, however, woe to the unlucky and unsuspecting theatergoer who has to endure hours of sitting with noisy, fidgety, unappreciative kids.

Bringing busloads of teenagers into a darkened theater will give you the usual scenes: boys asleep, girls giggling and chattering away, cell phones going off during the most importune times, whole groups wanting to go to the bathroom at the same time. All of that, and the play hasn't even started yet!

Some of us has experienced at least one horror story while watching a stage production. These inconsiderate individuals should at least try to realize that they aren't the only ones who are in the theater. A little common courtesy can go a long way. Unfortunately, no one seems to know what courtesy means anymore. Teachers really should try to brief their students with a few etiquette tips before they head off to the theater. In the meantime, here's a few reminders for the most common offenses:

1. Turn off those cell phones.
If you own a pager, or a cell phone, or a radio unit, or all three, turn them off. First of all, the various lights, beeps and other strange sounds emitted by these devices will distract not only fellow audience members, but especially the performers. Leave the light and sound effects to the professionals.

Second, a unit that's switched to either vibrate or mute mode will still send out signals that will interfere with sound systems. We already know how telephones and computer monitors are affected whenever a nearby cellphone is receiving an incoming text message. Now imagine the same annoying interference amplified for all to hear, drowning out the lines of the actors onstage.

Third, owning a cellphone is no longer a status symbol. Even fruit vendors in Divisoria have them. So if you think you prove how cool you are by letting everyone hear your ringing tone of the latest AprilBoy ditty, you're just showing everyone how crass you are.

Fourth, don't even think of taking or making a call during the play! This may be a concept that is alien to many of you, but this is considered rude. If you've forgotten what rude means, you'd better go back to preschool to take a refresher course.

2. Don't talk.
This reminder is for people who like to give a blow- by-blow account of what's happening onstage to their companions. If you want a career as a commentator, don't practice while the play's going on. And don't we just all hate the whiny, know-it-all who does nothing but complain and claim how he or she could do so much better?

We've got good news for people who aren't enjoying the show like the rest of us. There are moments during the play called black-outs. Most of us think black-outs are for scene or costume changes, but the truth of the matter is, they're really for those of you want to leave the show! Black outs are specially put in for you by the playwrights. Don't you think that's so gracious of them?

3. Don't heckle.
For a whole generation raised on explicit, graphic scenes of sex and violence on television, I do not understand why some audiences shriek and swoon whenever there's a kissing scene onstage. Are you experiencing kilig? Or are you just worried that the kissing actors might harbor some horrible diseases that they could contaminate each other with? If you think you're being cute, think again.

There are a whole lot more things to keep in mind. Yes, watching a live production is not like watching the latest Latin American television soap opera at home. You cannot scream at the villain, you cannot put your stinky feet up, you cannot talk on your phone, etc. Having reactions to what's happening onstage is perfectly fine. Laugh if you must, cry if you must, but always remember, you're not the only one in the theater so remember to behave.

Delicious Ongpin On My Mind

Delicious Ongpin On My Mind 
By Walter Ang
June 1, 2000
Philippine Daily Inquirer

Onyx black gulaman thrown in a blender with crushed ice. The whir of the machine announcing to the world how the two ingredients were mixing and blending. The resulting draught was poured into a tall plastic container and served promptly. Instant gratification on a hot, humid day.

We were in Chinatown, in an eatery just a stone's throw away from the historic San Lorenzo Ruiz Basilica, more popularly know as Binondo Church. We came over to end our busy week with a short break from the summer heat. Our objective was to get our black gulaman shake fix and just hang out.

We sat ourselves in a booth by the window and inspected the motley crew of characters passing by. Shirtless, sweaty men carrying loads of boxes down the street. Old ladies, white hair in neat buns behind their heads, with grandchildren in tow. Celphone-toting, braces- wearing teenagers armed with plastic bags filled with textbooks. It's almost June and students and parents are scrambling to get things ready for school opening.

Parked across the street was a cordon of heavy-duty firetrucks painted in bright purple. Everyone loves a firetruck. It must be some sort of ethereal connection with our childhood as we played with toy versions and saw Sesame Street features on these large metal vehicles. Painted across these large firetrucks are big letters spelling out, "Ube Pumper." How's that for a name?

Smack in one of the intersections of busy Ongpin Street, with its green walls and white ceiling fans, is Chuan Kee Chinese Fastfood / Cafe Mezzanine. This place has been around forever. Prior to its renovation several years ago, it was one of those typical, seedy Chinese eating joints with layers of grease covering every available surface. Some people will argue that hole-in-the-wall Chinese restaurants wouldn't be worth going to if it weren't seedy. It's what gives it character. This little deli isn't seedy anymore, but it still retains an otherworldly charm. Now it's sparklingly clean, well-lit, and has friendly servers with large nameplates. Not unlike a hamburger fastfood restaurant.

While you won't find any burgers in here, what it does have will leave you watering at the mouth. The place offers meals for as low as P40. Customers view the choices from large neon placards hanging across the counter. A little gauche, but what do you expect? No one seems to mind though, as the fast turnover of tables will attest.

One dish this deli is known for is their Soup No. 5. A subject of countless jokes among high school students in Chinese schools in the area. For a ridiculously high price, you can get a tiny bowl of soup that has bulls', eherm, male parts in it. This is, of course, supposedly a potent broth that can boost male virility.

We skipped that entry and ordered for ourselves some kiampong, literally, salty rice. Warm, brown, and glutinous; served in little plastic bowls. We picked out a sidedish of kikiam to go with our rice. Not those puny little ones that fishball vendors sell, mind you. We got a humongous piece that had to be sliced up. We were attended to by servers who all wore clean uniforms and had ready smiles on hand.

One of the best things I love about the place is that, as you enter, there is a sensor that calls out in an robotic, almost female voice, "Hello. Please come in." It's absolutely hilarious. I crack up every time I hear it. It even has another message for outgoing customers, "Thank you. Come back again." I'm sure we will.

Eye to Eye: Wearing contact lenses

Eye to Eye 
By Walter Ang
May 28, 2000

I started out wanting to wear contact lenses because I hated my heavy clunky glasses. Aside from the fact that it dug, nay, excavated holes into the bridge of my nose, I was in high school and I flat out refused to wear the thick black plastic frames that I was supposed to get. (They may be all the rage now, but back then, it was a different story.)

In addition to not wanting to look like a doofus (even moreso), I had a more serious reason for convincing my parents to agree to the contacts. My prescription was increasing by as much as a hundred in one year. This prompted me to ask my optometrist if there was any way to slow it down. Fortunately for me, it turned out that contacts could significantly reduce the pace of prescription increases. Woohoo! Even though I still have to wear glasses (whenever I'm not wearing contacts), I got my contacts. Soon, the craters in my nose started to fill out and my prescription stopped increasing as quickly as before.

Contacts offer freedom from restraint. In case I have to chase somebody for whatever reason, I don't have to worry about holding on to my glasses as I run down the street. Not that I'd ever had to or would want to do that. Conversely, I may have to run away from someone chasing me.

But as with all good things, there are certain consequences that you have to live with. The hassles and perils of wearing contacts knows no bounds.

Every time dust gets in my eyes, I'm reduced to a whimpering, blinking fool. My eyes tear up as I ask for tissue and reach for my lubricant to wash away the intrusive particle. It'd be fine if this happened indoors, but it usually happens to lucky me while I'm crossing a street. I get stuck in the middle of the lane and holler at who's ever with me not to, for the love of heaven, leave me. And to think I live in the Binondo area, where 90% of the dust is composed of horses' droppings (courtesy of the calesas). Shudder!

I used to wear soft contact lenses, but they were a pain to wash and maintain: there are about ten thousand solutions and tablets that you need to buy and use. It was messy, confusing, frustrating, and very tiring. I didn't want to have the act of washing my lenses serve as a metaphor for my life. My life was messy, confusing, frustrating, and tiring enough without having to devote time to cleaning lenses when I could very well use the time to do other things (like being confused, frustrated and tired). So I shifted to gas permeable lenses because you only need tap water to clean them.

I must point out, however, the revelation that I had during my short relationship with soft lenses. I'd seen a poster for another brand wherein a pair of hands stretched and twisted a lens to prove its strength and durability. So one day, I decided to try it out on my own lesser known brand of lenses. That's when I found out why my brand was not as famous: the moment I tried to stretch the lens, it ripped apart in half.

Contacts are very capricious objects. They serve well, but then there are days you wish you'd rather be blind than have to get anywhere near a pair. Every time someone in the household loses a lens, we all have to get down on all fours and grope like fools. We'll spend many tension filled minutes looking and looking, scouring the floor and making people lift up their shoes so we can check the soles, only to find out the lens was "in my eye all along!". Either that or it'd be stuck on the wearer's nose, plastered on the tip like a clown's red ball nose.

Cyber Roach

Cyber Roach 
By Walter Ang
May 18, 2000
Philippine Daily Inquirer

Lately, several local companies that offer free email have had extensive advertising campaigns to tout their services. This is an interesting development since it seems that email can still hold its own even in the advent of text messaging.

So even though texting is all the rage now, it seems that people's use of the internet, specifically emailing, hasn't really waned. Amidst the usual chain letters, boring urban legends, forwarded tasteless jokes, and other useless junk, having internet access does have its perks: old friendships are renewed, and new ones form all the time. Extra perk: communicating with friends and relatives living abroad has become faster, easier and cheaper.

Aside from all of the perks, certain incidents occur that can hardly be described. One incident started out with an innocent statement, or so I thought. In one of my emails to old high school batchmates, I had posted, "By the way, don't you just love it when you step on one and it crunches?" I was referring to, well ... cockroaches. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

Once, during a time of reduced workload, I went through a frenzied episode of writing loads of email. Reincarnation was one of the topics, among many others, that we discussed with much passion. One school of thought that emerged was that if you waste your present life constantly kvetching and slacking off or creating trouble for other people, you could most likely be reincarnated as a cockroach in your next life. Evil mongers take note!

All this talk about roaches prompted me to mention the crunching affair. Little did I know that it would open the floodgates of much debate and email exchange. Responses flied all over, flurrying from coast to coast. While old high school batchmates from Manila provided different methods of killing the little buggers, those now living in Canada and San Francisco gave scientific explanations on the longevity of the roach.

I know a lot of useless information, but when I got to discover other people's methods for annihilating of roaches, I wasn't sure if I should classify my newfound knowledge under the useful category or the useless category. Let me share some of the various (and surprising) ways to get kill roaches: 1. Spray them with rubbing alcohol. "Just be careful not to get it on wooden furniture, kasi patay nga ang ipis, pero ikaw, patay ka rin sa magulang mo." 2. Hairspray. "Glues them to the spot!" 3. Mouthwash. 4. Pesticide. 5. Good old reliable tsinelas.

Of course, all these techniques spawned a relevant question of why we get all worked up over these little insects in the first place. A batchmate immediately quipped, "The number one reason why we hate the little critters is because they always, always happen to fly towards you when you try to spray them!" To this statement, no one disagreed.

When someone wondered what the best method of eradication was, everyone countered that no matter how you tried to obliterate roaches, they'll always be around. So even though without any reliable source of information to back up our answers, another list was produced to reason out Why We Will Never Get Rid Of Them: 1. Millions are born everyday. 2. They have resilin in their bodies which is why it's hard to kill them if you only step on them once. 3. If the gravity of earth was multiplied six times, we'd be pancakes, but roaches would still be happily scurrying about. 4. In a nuclear holocaust, we'd be dust. Guess who won't be.

After about a week of nonstop proclamations, suggestions, condemnations, abominations, and heaven knows what else you can think of, people started sending out appeals to "Stop the insanity!!!" I suppose the final word on the roach issue couldn't have been stated more aptly: "They were the first ones to evolve, and they'll be the last ones to go."