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 Pangarap.com, 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, Tsinoy.com

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.