Sunday, December 13, 2009

[Twitter] Trending "Pyramid", WMTK, et al.

THIS POST IS INSPIRED BY a recent group effort put in by ardent followers of a young singer to help promote her second international single set for release sometime after New Year 2010 in America, using Twitter as the platform of choice to create buzz.

While the group effort (it spans across all fan bases and geolocations) does not seek to undercut the marketing strategies of the young singer's record label — rather, it seeks to strengthen it independently — the flurry of suggestions from active followers on how best to use Twitter and its phenomenal trending capabilities has re-energized all of the singer's online community forums and nudged non-Twitter using fans into signing up for an account to join in the collective work.

Here, finally, is a good reason for me to share some insight based on some expanded and updated research in connection with the concerted Twitter effort which I hope will help.

As we know, there are many reasons for a topic to trend on Twitter. There are also 3 popular essential ingredients (expanded here to 7) on what makes for effective Tweets, and I hope I can help shed light:

[1] A topic has to be emotional. If any of you remember Ondoy/Ketsana — especially those who were most hit/have relatives affected by Ondoy in the Philippines — all Tweets about/related to the storm including the successful and "well-attended" performance of AJRafael on were randomly generated. By this I mean that all types of Twitter users from various locations and time zones used Twitter as a means to shoutout a particular topic (or topics: Ondoy/Ketsana/flooding/Philippines) but which all point to "Ondoy". In fact, as I myself witnessed, "Ondoy" was trending a couple of hours even before the #hashtag for it was generated, and it was because the event was emotionally hitting almost all of Twitter that even celebrities from the West took notice.

However, emotional need not mean tragic, sad or catastrophic. It simply has to be personal and true, the aim being to tug at someone else's similar experience no matter how basic or dull.

If one is to Tweet something about an artist and/or an upcoming single, for example or, if we wish for her/"Song Name" to trend at all, the posts must have something in it to trigger interest in others, not just exclusive to her fan base.

[2] Sharing something that "feels good, it needs to be told".
Conversely, experiencing something bad seems to have the same effect on people because we tend to warn others to avoid something in the hope of sparing them a similar experience.

I believe technology-related stuff, food, freebies and events, destinations and weather, links and blogs, etc., trend — even without the #hashtag — because these make people generally feel good (or bad) that these need to be shared.

In fact, it won't hurt to request a post to be reTweeted if need be, as hardselling (or the appearance thereof) can turn many users off.

Data grab courtesy of Sysomos

[3] A "trigger" (a launch, a special appearance, an event, etc.) - taking from Emmanuel Rosen's The Anatomy of Buzz Revisited which is basically composed of being:

[3a] people-driven, and very much in need of
[3b] participation (or, is "participatory") - in other words, something that naturally creates interest and invites inquiry.

[4] Allot character spaces for ReTweets. Social media experts advise to leave at least 15 chars. for reTweeting by others.

To these, I add:

[5] Above all, a good story, a credible source.
That Twitter is limited to just 140 characters does not mean short thoughts cannot convey a good story. Twitter users are people, after all, not robots. Stories also contextualize a Tweet. More importantly, to separate a spam (or 'bot) Tweet from that of a human being's, the source must be credible. It does not mean one has to be a celebrity — though that undeniably helps — but real experiences, real thoughts and sincere emotions in real time make for very credible sources.

{ADD} Might I add that one of the measures of a "credible source" would be news organizations which, by now, have all implemented social sites, not just blogs, into their pages. By virtue of their being news organizations — because we all rely on the news for news, after all, and not simply our next-door neighbor — these organizations are first to acknowledge the newsworthiness of someone or something.

[6] Some words on scheduling posts.
I also read about the schedule of Tweeting a post and there have been several suggestions at the forums, mostly based on time zones and people's availability to Tweet. Many have suggested that Tweets have a greater chance of being noticed not so much as to when the poster has the time as to when readers are actually online or catch up to read on others' Tweets.

DigitalDigs' Best Time of Day to Tweet probably illustrates it best on when to Tweet most effectively. :p

[7] Interdependence.
Twitter, like anything on the internet, exists interdependent on other sources and live sites.
I read a couple of posts at the forum about AJ Rafael being somewhat of an influential Twitter user, especially when his #HealPhilippines made it among the top trends during the Ondoy/Ketsana storm.

It must be noted that AJ Rafael posted a request over at his Facebook account on 24 Sept 2009 to help spread the word on Twitter about his contribution to promote awareness about the typhoon. This request was picked up not just by his FB friends but by others searching for FB tags about the storm happening in the Philippines at the time.

In other words, Twitter does not exist in a vacuum and trends do not always emerge overnight. Notice how strong brands and highly popular sites such as BBC World and the New York Times have Twitter accounts and always place a link on their front pages which visitors can't miss. This simply means some link love and sharing has to be given effort to, especially if one needs to promote a good cause, a notable person or an affecting music.

As in life, the Net is always a 2-way street and to survive, everything must co-exist.

Some very useful links:
  • Twitter's web traffic blog, Feb. 2008
  • Fuel Interactive's The Life and Times of a Twitter Link, Mar 2009
  • Emmanuel Rosen's The Anatomy of Buzz Revisited
  • Dan Zarella of Mashable's The Science of ReTweets, Feb 2009 (slightly technical)
  • Pew Internet's Survey results on Twitter's demographics, Feb 12, 2009 (viewable online or downloadable as PDF)
  • Find out what's trending and why at
  • The difference between meme and viral from Julian Cole's The Difference between a Meme and Viral, Apr 30, 2009
  • Find out when it's best to Tweet someone at the fun and simple Tweet O'clock
  • To find out the profile of a Twitter user and some demographics, go to and get some very interesting data.
  • If you're a data and visualization freak like myself, Sysomos' comprehensive 2009 survey of Twitter can be accessed here (data may actually overwhelm). [Recommended]
  • Twitter twivias from (which says I had been Tweeting for 1,010 days as of this post) and (only for public timelines)
  • HubSpot's TwitterGrader has comprehensive data on individual users, too.
  • If you're interested in other Twitter-related applications, Twitdom has a few lists to share.
  • Yahoo joined in the Twitter bandwagon and cooked up a fun online app to know your True Social Mojo (only for public timelines)
  • And, finally, to show us how many other words are trending all over the world at a given time, a visualization of Twitter trending from TrendsMap from where the graphic on top was taken. Such a cool site that is.

Monday, November 23, 2009

bloody dirty, as usual.

Sad day. Not even elections yet & political violence has started. In Mindanao, but no surprise. Whoever wants to be president must uderstand it's not all church and indulgences. Not 'pogi' (handsome) points nor favors.

Is anybody really, seriously ready for true 'change'? And if so, how?

Related news:

Sunday, November 22, 2009

a lazy november sunday


Writing a post about the annoying Boxbe for my other blog.

Colleague and I are to shoot some products later today. The labels have been corrected.

I am bothered by the fact that I have been palpitating almost all morning all through this post. It's more that my heartbeats have been quick and somewhat irregular and having a sense of anxiety over nothing hasn't quite gone away. It is irritating me. As such, I haven't been able to do as much as I had planned since awaking. Not good.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

weather weather II: Tropical Storm KETSANA (ONDOY/17W)

[2:30pm, Sunday, 27 Sept. 2009/a blog-in-progress]

The Philippine map is practically obliterated in this satellite image of Ondoy's wrath 26 September 2009. As such, the highest ever recorded level of rainfall in Quezon City alone, where I am, was registered at 410mm. (16.141732 in.) over a period of 10 hours, from 8am to 5pm of Saturday, exceeding the highest rainfall record of PAGASA on June 07, 1967 at 334mm. (13.15in.) in 24 hours*.

NOTE[1] Check in with your local Barangays or Homeowners' Associations for direct help if your area is affected.
Immediately needed: clothes, blankets, towels, ready-to-eat food.

This storm, at PHI Signal No. 1 yet (the lowest storm alert advisory based on wind velocity), caused all waterways and tributaries to overflow inundating all roadways in all of Metropolitan Manila's cities and municipalities, including its neighboring districts and provinces especially Rizal province of which Cainta, Marikina, San Mateo, and many low-lying municipalities remain under water as of this writing.

NOTE[2] Coordinate with your school org, local Barangays officials, or Homeowners' Associations for organized help to other areas affected.
Immediately needed: doctor/nurse volunteers in evacuation areas, specifically
Cainta and Marikina.

Metro Manila has not been declared in a state of calamity due to typhoons in a long time, and the amount of rain from Ondoy was unexpected. In my community alone in Fairview, Quezon City, a hilly suburban district northeast of the City of Manila, the water in the creek 1 km. down from our residence rose to as high as 9 ft from street level. It was almost unbelievable hearing it from the local drivers of tricycles I rode in yesterday to buy food and some provisions, as Fairview itself is on a higher location compared to the rest of Quezon City.

NOTE[3] Many areas, specifically Cainta and Marikina are still UNDER WATER.
Be aware that donors' vehicles have to be able to navigate through flood
higher than 12 in. (1 foot)

When I passed by the bridge over creek this morning, the place that used to be a local market (i.e. talipapa) was being manually dredged of sludge by its tenants, the informal settlers' houses around it were surrounded by sacks of wet mud and the settlers themselves cleaning what were left of their belongings. True enough, the metal grid wall support on each side of the bridge had all sorts of trash and debris stuck to each grid space reaching halfway its full height of about 20 ft.

NOTE[4] Ondoy is NOT YET OUT OF THE PHILIPPINE AREA OF RESPONSBILTY even if it is beyond the eastern section of the Philippines off Bataan .
Rains are expected for 2-3 more days.

NOTE[5] RED CROSS needs volunteers:
  • Pasay 8542748/4343751
  • LasPinas 8734873/4689688
  • Pasig 6350922
  • Alabang 8093132
  • NHQ Manila 5245787/5270864

*from a televised statement of Nathaniel A. Cruz [PAGASA Officer-in-Charge Operations and Services], 12nn, 27 Sept. 09

Thursday, September 17, 2009

weather weather

I am listening to all of Nature's collection of drum rolls in its arsenal right now.

~ 2:29 pm, Quezon City

Post scriptum

Really, when Nature puts on a show, everybody halts to listen, watch or do some inward reflection.

After all, what else can we do when caught in a light show in the mid-afternoon, with incessant rolling and barreling and banging of the skies above, and a burst, an unstoppable flow of the skies' mighty waters that rushes our negligence away.

And then, a deafening silence. And a sigh. And then the sound of every body's routine creeping back in, slowly breaking the hush, taking over what was, for a few minutes there, a reminder of our fragility.
~ 3:27pm


Sunday, September 6, 2009

I am a Chaster Part 2

Anciano Uno, aka Ding Flores

I cornered @AncianoUno in YellowCab at the post-concert gathering so he could tell me their stories and the history of each Chaster person and Chaster site he knew about.

@AncianoUno, or simply Uno, was gracious enough to lend me his ear and spare me his time, as there were new Chasters he lent his time to and made sure to feel welcomed that late evening. I followed each Chaster online after that, and came to know even more of them, especially those based overseas.

Online, I read how Uno would defend Charice earnestly and passionately, or write his thoughts about how she and her songs have transformed him. In the few hours I came to know Uno face-to-face, he struck me as somewhat of a real fan-anatic (as they all were), an articulate no-nonsense guy who, later I discovered, had intense interest in history and regular guy-talk subjects like military stuff, cars and gadgets. Really, a rather typical guy. I could tell he had a temperament, yet was gracious and seemed very protective of everyone.

He seemed to have been very curious about my Q&A moments with him that, at one point, he asked if I was a reporter. I always found that amusing as I never thought I'd ever give that impression.

In my eagerness to know more about these people and document them, I not only saw to it that I had the chance to sit with each and find out their thoughts, but also took photos of their interactions. I was surprised at how Uno evaded such photo sessions especially without his ubiquitous Ray-ban Aviators on. "It's near-midnight, for christsakes!," I told him. He gave a wry answer and simply said he didn't want to have his picture taken without them.

I obliged, of course, but managed to take photos of him without it. Whether he knew I was shooting with him in the frame or not did not matter, except when once I announced that I was giving out copies of these online and he requested to not include anything that may have his image in those without the shades.

I continued to have communication with the other Chasters I spent time with that evening, either by email, chat or, occasionally, SMS. I was able to meet with some of them again a week or so after (05 July) in another of Charice's gig at Greenbelt when I joined them in the post-show's tete-a-tete. I missed that Greenbelt gig but made sure I saw the group who went to watch it.

As usual, it was one of those shows that was announced on short notice, and only those who could free themselves from work or school were able to go. Uno wasn't there and there were fewer than 8 who did show up. He said later on that he would rather not be passing on whatever infection he had due to the flu-like condition he was in at the time.


Uno had been missing in action for a few days in the final weeks of August. His last few posts were those of his prolonged coughing and muscular spasms and fever.

I remember reading a post quite hastily in the last week of August, of him planning a walk at the back of the Mall of Asia for some fresh air, and responding to that with an invitation to an exhibit in the same venue I was working on. I never got a reply to that post.

On Thursday, Sept 03, 2009, I received an SMS message from @Narita, @Love and @Tintol about Uno being rushed to the hospital and in a state of coma. I helped with re-broadcasting this message to Charice's sites so that the other Chasters would know about it.

No sooner had this been reposted than a flood of well wishes and inquiries of support were called out. It was quite a touching development.

Even years after the Chasters had "known" each other, a majority still remained clueless as to who the real people were behind each username. Unless there were chances at arranging real-life gatherings, many Chasters still knew each other only by these aliases and exchanged pleasantries online. There were few such gatherings ever arranged, some as instant as meeting up at a mall to watch Charice promote and sing, yet even those announcements are made only hours before any confirmed date and venue, as was the case in Greenbelt.

It was therefore quite extraordinary to witness a real outpouring of support from a community that really only exist in the virtual world. I can say that Charice is fortunate to have real people who not only exist online to support her — after all, what are YouTube view figures but really just virtual numbers, and chat greetings, impersonal characters transmitted through wires and cables — but luckier is she still that there are real warm bodies who truly support each other when the need arises: flesh and blood empathy that is felt across virtual channels that surprise even the uninvolved and clueless, like Uno's own family members.

I wasn't able to pay Uno a visit at the hospital. @Narita, @Tintol, @Pin, @Smee, @Love and @Bosio did in batches, as the ICU visiting hours were strict and limited.

@Narita, a died-in-the-wool Charice fanatic who listens to eternal loops of Charice's songs in her car and through her iPod, made the unconscious, unresponsive Uno listen to these while he was strapped with tubes and surrounded by machines at the ICU. Uno responded by shedding tears. It would be an experience both @Narita and @Tintol will never forget.

Thank you

For Uno, who was fighting for dear life when I started writing this, and who, at 345pm today, Sept. 6, 2009 (PHI), lost the battle, thank you for the time you shared with me and the videos you so tireless took and uploaded for everyone to see.

We know how truly freed you are now from the pains brought about by that nasty disease you thought you could out-battle, and how ecstatic you may be at being reunited with your father who arrived at Peace just weeks before. As is my silent prayer, you and those who got through earth life ahead are truly at rest, in peace.

Thank you, Uno, Nonito Raymundo "Ding" Flores. As I unmask you to the world now, I shall unmask myself as well, for there is no better time than now to say: like you, I am a Chaster.

Read Part 1 here.

I am a Chaster, Part 1

TO BE A FAN IS TO BE bestowed a label that, on one hand, not everyone is comfortable with — as there is a stigma to being a "fan" — while on the other, as like in any social identity and group affiliation especially in today's wired societies, to take pride in wearing a badge that comes with the association; an agreement and ready acceptance because fan experiences and emotions are shared with candor and without prejudice.

However, let me add two more to these types of groups: those who neither abhor such identities, nor openly declare die-hard loyalties, e.g the fence-sitting believers who refuse to justify their identifications and simply want to be left to their private obsessions; and fourth, the downright indifferent.

There is something about fans and fan bases that is simultaneously enigmatic but at the same time invites resistance because they are almost always perceived as shallow and pretentious. This world that moves in the underlayers of showbiz and across all industries related to entertainment is what can fully make or break a product, brand or person.

I can swear by and preach about the benefits of a computer brand, for instance, yet refuse to be called being called a "fan girl" of it. I guess I can say I belong to the fence-sitting believers; I can say as much to being one of many things and people — until recently.

A Fan

After being blown away a third time watching Filipina singer Charice Pempengco rather belatedly on a recorded Oprah Show episode over at YouTube middle of this year, I unconsciously started to follow links that came up in my searches about her.

Charice's songs and those in her genre are nowhere near the periphery of my music interest nor are the regular staples of local variety shows who yell at their microphones and sing their lungs out to their hordes of followers. Yet there was something about her that drew me to spend idle moments looking up videos on YouTube, a site that feels like it has existed online forever but which I purposely stayed away from because it was, to me, the epitome of boredom and careless use of bandwidth except on occasions when I'd be provided a LOL-cat link or two (my online equivalent of the funnies), or follow some documentary or conference talk that are more in my line of interest.

In the days that progressed, I found myself clicking on more and more related searches and was surprised at the sheer number of video uploads of Charice. I watched home videos of her singing in the privacy of her room or casually in groups, of what looked like a clandestine footage of her being emotional in the airport lounge before another departure for America; of her dancing with friends, or singing to the camera in a music store in a mall, or of her plunging right into the crowd during a song number without missing a beat.

As I delved into this near-obssesion, the more I became interested to know about who the people were behind the uploaded videos (technically known as "channel owners"), and get to know more beyond the now familiar YouTube users "FalseVoice" and "Coolsmurf" who were responsible for Charice's break into the American mainstream. It cannot be denied that Charice is, after all, a product of the Internet, and YouTube her launch pad.

A whole new world

And so I came upon Charice's fan sites — yes, there isn't just one — from where I saw familiar usernames like the channel owners I came across on YouTube. By then, I was curiously drawn into a world where the people in those sites, identified by aliases, wrote like they spoke differently, almost in codes, in which words like "Labyo", "Cha", "AIWALY", "AIATY" and "crab" come up often, and who posted information and facts about Charice with some degree of authority which I relished quietly and digested. This was a whole new world I certainly wasn't familiar with: her ardent, long-time followers who spoke their own language, engrossed in their own preoccupation.

They, cloaked under usernames (as is common in Internet chat rooms and forums, e.g.) were as anonymous as anything that one could not make out their genders except when usernames are obviously male or female or when avatars, graphic representations of themselves, are a giveaway to their persons. Yet by their short and terse interactions, sometimes serious, other times just plain silly, they seemed like a tight-knit community who knew Charice enough to refer to her by her nickname, or even call her mother like their own.

I found myself a little lost wading through a sea of multi-media information about Charice that I started filling up my already bloated list of bookmarks in an attempt to put some order to the chaos. Little by little, I, too, was getting immersed into discussions and exchanges that went so fast I couldn't keep up.

At the same time, my limited hard drive space was slowly getting filled with videos I meant to watch offline and to somehow ID chronologically but which I never, up to this day, gotten to doing.

A "Chaster"

"What's that?", you ask.

Since there is no link or page that defines the word, let me do it for you: A Chaster (ˈchäs-ter) is a follower of the young Filipina singer Charice Pempengco. She used this to identify those whom she met and had constant communication with over the internet; those who follow her and whom she follows in return.

The name was supposedly given by Charice herself to this group of followers — her online chat-mates who, over time, she too had come to know, and who provided her online company way ahead of her becoming "an international singing sensation" and a hit in the US entertainment market.

The word sounds strange enough and a little juvenile; a bit pedestrian, even. It's not that a Chaster is more chaste than the average celebrity fan, nor more religious, blindly idolizing to a fault.

While I remained the "casual" reader of each Chaster post and discussion, by then still completely the opposite of any of my interests with other people I usually interact with online and in real life, suffice it to say that I felt a little envious each day at their posts on the fan sites. Yet I held back jumping in, in part because I could have potentially blown my schedule off, then already becoming tighter and trickier to manage as a result of giving in to watching more and more videos and reading up more information about her. I also simply could not afford to be spending additional time online chatting with another group of strangers on top of the others I was used to chatting with already.

In my visits to these fan sites, I subsequently picked up a term each day from these fan discussions as it was necessary to understand the context and flow of their conversations. Furthermore, the more familiar I became of usernames, of their manners and their language, the more curious I was of them.

Who were these people? What draws them to Charice? Where are they from? What do they do other than chat, upload videos or interact with each other, or be obsessed with exchanging gig schedules and appearances and composing fan tributes and photos in their personal sites and such?

Were they the typical celebrity fan who would line up in network stations for hours than be in school or at work? Were they the fans who outscream other celebrity fans in television shows and concerts?

Were they today's rabid Noranian-vs-Vilmanian follower who would pick a fight to show how devoted they are to a celebrity without thinking of personal consequences? As far as I knew, this type exists today only with the overrated TV matinee idols because the local music industry had been on a plateau for some time now, partly as a result of its own complacency, partly a victim of the industry itself not supporting and developing real talents enough.

Beginning the Journey

My interest and searches of the Chaster world that unselfishly support her came just in time as she was scheduled to do a major concert in Manila in June after the successful debut of her single in America.

It was through them that I became more informed of details about this concert, of what others were saying about her, of her scheduled interviews and whatnot; of her public thoughts and sentiments. It was also through them that I saw an unbelievable show of support not just for her but for each other, something that, as far as I know, I had not come across in any other online community nor in any of my own online community memberships.

For they were, I came to know, mostly mothers and motherly, both working in offices or working hard at home; fathers and the fatherly, caregivers and business owners, executives and truckers, students in school and students of life . And they were all over the world.

It was through their solid and unified coordination that enabled followers and late converts to watch the concert and be up close and personal not just with Charice but with each Chaster I met and connected with on 27 June 2009 after her concert ended.

Uncloaked, unmasked

In the late post-concert hours of June 27, there I finally came to know @Narita who, like countless others, readily bought tickets for Charice's fans who otherwise could not have afforded tickets that evening; @Monkiedoggie and @Irmsmith who were patiently waiting at the lobby for the latecomers.

I met the Chaster organizers @Mitch and @Garfield at the Meet and Greet and fell in line with @Tintol and her friend.

I had a good time hearing stories at YellowCab Pizza nearby the concert venue about their being fans, unknown suporters and converts: of @Ecirol, @Lemur, @Fem_z, @Pin, @Bing, @Smee, @Love, @Ejadroba, @Scrub, @Joyze and countless others whose names escape me now.

And it was here where I met, finally, YT channel user and fansite moderator @AncianoUno, who, with @Smee, are two of a handful of local male Charice fans who tireless follow her every gig and mall tour and post videos of these online for all to watch.

All the other Chasters I met were pretty much regular people and surprisingly timid. Some came from out of town just to watch the concert. Others managed to secure an early exit from work. Based on the concert attendance, I learned that the demographics of Charice's fanbase is wide: a high school student from Bacolod, an entrepreneur from San Fernando, Pampanga, nurses and lecturers, bank employees, overseas workers from the Middle East, doctors, mothers, retirees, and even a politician.

As in any other growing community, I also came to learn that there were some personal issues among the certified Chasters, they who wear the Chaster badge proud. Yet the underlying fact of their coming together that one night, in real time and in real life, was to have a great sharing of experience and to simply be there for Charice.

Clearly, it is they for whom she tries her best to deliver and give her best in spite of Charice being under the weather that momentous concert day, for instance, and at every stage and performance hall she finds herself in overseas. In as much as each Chaster followed her, online and off, Charice made sure she followed back. I could tell that from personal experience.


Top photo taken from "Charice: The Journey Begins", SMX | krvilla.2009

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Alexis Tioseco, criticineaste

Rest in Peace to you and your loved one, you who sowed seeds of thought that helped energize brain inertia numbed by the mindless intentions of the puppeteers and power players, and who helped keep the window open for light to shine upon our very own brown film industry.

Alexis Tioseco
founder and editor in chief, Criticine
film critic, lecturer and blogger

Nika Bohinc
film journalist, content provider, SEA Images

ABS-CBN news 02-09-09

Monday, August 3, 2009


And one day and an hour older, of what was a hectic working day, save for the subdued but meaningful reminders from friends and family.

Hectic has really never applied so accurately in the 24 hours that just passed, and, though very thankful for the blessings, I wish for this to not happen again.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Chips on their shoulders

COMING ON THE HEELS of an extravagant celebration in the Philippine internet-age — aptly, of Imeldific proportions replete with the illusions of past grandeur, of heaps of greetings and hallow wishes by friends-turned-foes-turned-friends again, and of fireworks that accompanied Manila's lifestyle headliners at Imelda Marcos' 80th birthday party — were reminders that she cannot be faulted for one time supporting, quote, The Arts, unquote, in the midst of corruption and third-world poverty, among others.

That Imelda bragged about her unstoppable court cases at the party — around 900 as of last public account since 1991 — and seemed to relish just that kind of achievement tells me that, while she wants to remain controversial, she seems to have made some kind of peace with the past. She does not take herself too seriously, too, and, conversely, cannot be taken so.

For good or bad, she always makes news of herself in an amusing way, and in my observation, never much faulted others for her or their family's [mis]fortunes but solely unto herself. Rather, she always says that she is either misunderstood and easily judged or is a fighter with a cause that never gets acknowledged; or that she simply is who she is, ad infinitum.

If she has any grievance of the past, at 80 years old, she certainly is carrying it out in style.

Twin quinquagenarians speak

This cannot be said of two men in the local entertainment scene also making some buzz recently. Although not as obscure as the word "quinquagenarian," these two men, Joey de Leon and Freddie Aguilar, have chosen to come out and reveal the biggest chips on their shoulders to the public. And my, are they big, burdensome and ugly.

Joey de Leon, a self-proclaimed comic whose sense of humor is scathing at best, and seems to delight in making fun of others' physical appearance, resorts to name-calling and can let loose remarks bordering on chauvinism, was one-third of the Tito, Vic and Joey comedy trio. I can say as much that I did enjoy some of their recorded humor from their "Tough Hits" days in the late 70s. Who doesn't like some moments of amusement anyway?

Joey, I think, was a good choice to host a late-afternoon weekend gossip show because he could provide a balance to some highly charged and controversial segments. I've seen him do this several times and this is where he can call upon his being a comic at best.

In most cases, however, he comes off as a know-it-all and intolerant host on his noontime show, sometimes even unforgiving, like when contestants fail to give an answer to common trivial questions and he allows his disappointments to come through.

Has he forgotten that he constantly deals with a sector of society that grew up with their shallow antics and foolery day after day for the past 30 years? Was he expecting that all of their audience picked up useful insights to add to their knowledge, quality of life or skills every lunch time? They may have picked up dated phrases of insults or rehashed jokes once in a while, and I can't take credit away from him for that.

Yeah he can be funny. He actually is, sometimes, and can be quick on the draw and witty. But a genius he is not, although I've read comments in the past about his being a misunderstood artiste, especially in personal pursuits like painting and song writing that are a little out of place in the traditional sense, especially in the norms of the entertainment world which he's been part of for decades.

Joey also likes sarcasm. A lot. And he particularly likes throwing a comment or two at competitors because he relishes being part of the network wars than being above it. Too bad, I may have been expecting much more from him.

One day in August 2008, Joey de Leon, who I wasn't aware was also columnist of a broadsheet, waged a word war against his paper because of a published report in the paper's tabloid that said their show was a flop in a US tour.

The next thing I knew he was a regular at another paper, the Philippine Star, one of the papers I subscribe to. I never did read his columns except one, I think: a year-end recap.

Unfair competition
My attention was called again to his column recently. Written in some kind of verse like that recap article, it was his Michael Jackson tribute that alluded strongly to Charice Pempengco (a "nuno na sinugaling," he wrote: a lying dwarf) as lying about being approached to guest in Michael Jackson's London shows and that she would have been rehearsing with him after her Manila concert.

While this is largely unconfirmed from Charice's US management but by her alone from a news segment, the meat of the matter is Charice is identified with the network that is in fierce competition with Joey's. And while Joey is entitled to his opinion on the recent recognition Charice has been getting abroad, I think picking on a minor like Charice is one big low blow.

Joey has already made a name for himself in entertainment. The once bad and taunting young man is now father to children much older than Charice. He, too, is a grandfather now; someone who refuses to grow up and grow old. The grandfather, therefore, picked on a young woman obviously extremely talented, lucky and barely of legal age. This is a one-sided confrontation and a much more revealing affirmation of the kind of person Joey de Leon may additionally be perceived as: a coward in using allusion, and a bully.

From what he just wrote, he looks like he is going to age green with envy, bowed and bended by his anger and vindictiveness, without once thinking that by adding fuel to the network fire fight at every opportunity, he is not at all helping the industry's redemption from mediocrity but will drag it to the level of cheap thrills and trash, an environment he seems to never want to get out of.

And Freddie....
He needs no introduction.

Freddie's recent comments on Charice, Arnel Pineda and just about every overseas Filipino entertainer abroad who sing cover songs are words of an angry man growling his way to senescence.

Does he not understand that the world turns, much like how day turns into night as he may have experienced working towards the opening of his new bar from where he made his statements?

Does he not agree that Charice, Arnel, Leah Salonga, Apl de Ap and many unnamed Filipinos abroad who have the gift of singing and are appreciated for it are in a much better position to bring a good name to the Philippines than fugitives and money launderers, self-centered politicians and citizens who filth the air?

Is it their fault, these singers, that they don't share his writing talents but make the most of what they have — plus a little luck — anyhow? Or that foreigners recognize their talents in spite of the kind of songs they sing because the local handlers and music industry moguls are too busy building up non-talents, the networks are putting all their resources to their stupid rivalry and the record labels are barely surviving?

Or was Freddie not paid royalty by Charice's producers for "Anak" when she and Kuh Ledesma sang it so well at Charice's concert two Saturdays ago?

Has "Anak"'s accomplishments been ever taken away from him at any point? No. No one has taken away the stature of "Anak" in the local Filipino music scene. It may have, however, faded from the memory of record producers, radio station owners and a generation that listened to newer sound and responded to messages that speak to it.

Has he done much, to the public's knowledge, about curbing or denouncing local music piracy? And I mean launched something so massive, given his legendary status, to call upon all music loving Filipinos across all ages and genres — including the YouTube savvy, hip-hopping, iPod-carrying youth — to strongly rally behind his name to such a cause?

What is going on with him and Joey? We're already choking from all the crabiness, engulfed in political mire that exist in all corners of our archipelago that a whiff of fresh air is enough to get us through sometimes. No one has monopoly over nationalism, especially in the age of information.

And what do they know about the shared pride these talents give our laborers in the Middle East, the domestic helpers, engineers and nurses elsewhere in the world, they who have been bestowed some kind of dignity and respect by the new crop of "international singing sensations," no matter how trivial, how occasional? A sort of recognition that Filipinos are much more than just being worthy of domestic chores or being all greased up and grimy in the deserts.

Has he overlooked the fact that they, too, Charice, Arnel, Leah Salonga (although unmentioned by Freddie), et al. have remained Filipinos not just by citizenship but by choice, and are, like any "OFW," overseas Filipino workers themselves who seized the opportunities that came knocking at their doors and continue to do their best to put food on their tables, send relatives to school, at the same time inspiring others, one way or other, with honor?

If any of them, famous or unnamed singers, bring shame to our country in any way like how dictators and opportunists once did and continue to do, by all means, these men can throw everything at them including the sink, the toilet humor and their burdens.

Freddie and Joey should get real and wake up to a different time. Freddie Aguilar has had his and no one can take that away from him. Let the others shine in theirs.


Wednesday, June 3, 2009

NLT, you good soul, thank you

When did I first know you again? Maybe 15 years or so ago, when I was the occasional passenger-friend in the back seat hitching a ride between school and home and you, fetched in between that route from work by dear friend C.

I remember being amused at how hearing your musical voice for the first time confirms a lot about genetics, although yours, albeit soft, was distinct, instantaneously agreeable and firm. Almost always lilting, never angry or abrasive.

What I liked the most in those years of knowing you was how quick you were to laugh at some stories I thought were funny, and you shared the laughter, never holding back, yes. You weren't at all staid and strict even if you looked too upright for comfort.

You'll always be the well dressed mom who never gave as much as a big deal out of circumstances beyond your control. Those times I saw of you doing that were rare but memorable nonetheless.

I would always seek out your thoughts on things from my friend C; always asked "so what did she think? What did she say?" and the answer would almost always be "OK lang" and always nothing utterly negative or confrontational. And you were selfless.

I've always admired you. Not very many of my friends' mothers leave that much mark on me, especially because you continued to be a silent brick wall, the stabilizing leg, to our endeavors. I think you are--you were--grace under pressure personified, another genetic pass; a modest and strong woman. Best of all, you were a good listener, something I will always try to be for others while on this plane.

Have I said thank you enough in our personal encounters? I don't think so. But you may not know that in my most quiet moments, I always did, as I do your family for all the support. Always. Thank you.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Too good and a full circle tribute

Posted to twitter earlier:
Though totally expected, sad that voters' trending came true. Adam Lambert, who is his own music, is too good for the general pop market
I wrote yesterday about Adam Lambert possibly being out-voted in the finals because voting trends read that for every contestant that leaves, votes of those who are left increase dramatically save for Adam's which seemed to stay consistently high enough to keep him through each week comfortably.

Voters for All-American pop molds Matt Giraud and Danny Gokey definitely went to Kris Allen.

This is the only American Idol season I watched quite regularly and I am glad I followed it somewhat.

The best part for me about the finale is the collection of iconic guests who were obviously inspired by the presence of Adam Lambert: Carlos Santana, Kiss, Rod Stewart and Queen.

It is tribute enough to Adam's artistry that the last segment was with Queen, whose song Bohemian Rhapsody Adam sang for his audition. How overwhelming it is to witness how Adam Lambert came full circle, musically, in four months.

I wonder what the next seasons will be like without him.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Note To God : Charice Pempengco [updated]

If there ever was anything even more refreshing, optimistic and inspiring amidst the ever moody Manila weather and grime, the book blockade frenzy, and the slowly-rising murky Philippine political waters, than the recent performance of Charice Pempengco on Oprah of her American album debut single Note to God, I would please like to know.

Charice and her performance are a breath of fresh air.

A concert at the SMX Mall of Asia is scheduled on June 27, 2009 at 8 pm. More info here and here

Charice is the embodiment of true trans-atlantic success without it getting into her head, it seems. So far, the people who made it possible for her success — besides her tower of strength, her mother, and her most avid video poster and follower "FalseVoice" — have been the powerhouse of Western pop music and entertainment. So far, it's most unlike the local sleazy, camera-hogging characters who seem forever stuck with and stuck on Manny Pacquiao, especially post-Hatton, and the distasteful sweathogs associated with the sport and with legitimized betting.

So far, the honest-to-goodness earnings and praises heaped upon her have been from her overflowing talent, charisma and focus, and that she has kept her young head firmly in place.

After almost a month's worth of work and deadline beating, I just remembered again how good it feels to just free my mind. I consciously dedicated a well-deserved overnight of youtube-watching and tuned in to many of Charice Pempengco videos I previously indulged in more than 12 months ago after she first appeared on Ellen.

By the way, after a night's marathon, I realized that the common line thrown about since Charice's American debut on Ellen is that [a] Oprah discovered Charice on YouTube and [b] David Foster almost simultaneously with his family, after Charice appeared on Oprah, discovered her, too. It's sad that after Charice's string of successful mainstream apperances on American media, Ellen -- who flew Charice in to the US for her show for the first time in December 2007 -- is left unmentioned in the recent publicity rounds by David Foster.

Anyway, Charice looks like the best person to inspire our youth these days. She has, like Journey's Arnel Pineda, strove hard, stayed true to her craft and both maintained their dedication to performing their best. I hope Charice the best and if there was any one I'd be placing a bloody bet on with regards giving something back, and working hard with dignity and pride, it'll be on her.

Posting the Oprah performance for archive purposes.

Credits Note To God (143/Reprise Records) Digital download | 3:59 | Diane Warren, David Foster | Originally recorded 2006 by JoJo | Release Date: 18 May 2009 | Official video page | Video above from youtube user 'winnerschoice123' | Watch on Oprah | (Currently #3 on Itunes UK, #2 on Amazon Downloads) | [Crossposted blog]

Added 3:04pm

I had to zip in and out of this blog to squeeze in a presentation today. I'd like to add that in one of the videos I saw of Charice and David Foster (the Carousel of Hope 2008), he said Charice had only learned English three months prior to the event when "she really couldn't speak English".

I think this statement is unfair to Charice. She may not be articulate (or even talkative in front of big-name celebrities whom she comes face to face with), but almost everyone in the Philippines from all strata speaks English enough to be understood.

We are, after all, a former American colony with almost nary a trace of Spain's 400-year domination in our language. If Charice's packaging is something like an exotic tropical find, then it is no different from how the Filipinos were exhibited at the 1904 St. Louis Exposition.

How can Charice "sing from the heart" as Celine Dion remarked, if she could not understand the lyrics to her songs? She is not an Antonio Banderas who was able to learn the script for the film Philadelphia (1993) phonetically. It's too much exoticism put on Charice who certainly spoke English good enough to express her thoughts when she appeared on Ellen in 2007.

David Foster must be so overwhelmed by Charice; otherwise, he must have cracked a joke I didn't quite get. However, his every mention of "from the Philippines...Charice!" at each introduction is commendable. Because of this, Charice has become our, uhm, unsung (and unofficial) entertainment ambassador.


A confession I should have posted during the Holy Week yet: Lambert/Iraheta. Allison Iraheta has been voted out and avid American Idol followers think her votes were split up between Danny Gokey and Kris Allen.

I love Adam Lambert from his Bohemian Rhapsody audition, and especially after he sang Believe. And then the other off-beat song selections in the weeks that followed showed his versatility.

I am not an American Idol show follower and so I can't say if Bohemian Rhapsody was ever sung as an audition by a finalist in the past seasons, but to choose it as an audition piece and be sung well is always a risk.

On the eve of the season's finale with only two finalists in the running  —  Adam Lambert and Kris Allen — the fans say that Danny Gokey's votes will most likely push Kris Allen's votes towards victory.

The idea is not remotely impossible. Adam Lambert is far too good, too independent, too risqué for the American pop music followers.

What I also like about Adam Lambert is how he so far has shown his adherence to the tenets of theatre without, as Randy Jackson always says, bordering on theatrical, meaning, perhaps, being wild and dramatic but shallow.

Although I hope he wins the competition, he surely could be out-voted.

And if Adam Lambert is out-voted, he certainly has left his mark, though not skid marks, but trails that have blazed the road and upped the ante on future auditionees, whether with theatrical background or not. I'm sure I'll see his album on the shelves as soon as the show is over.
-430 pm

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

form + function() + .class | Asia’s first web designers’ conference

At last.

Here, now, read about the Philipines’ & Asia’s first and only web designers’ event

Bookmark it!

Monday, April 27, 2009

Evelien Lohbeck's Noteboek magic

A project worth echoing in a web full of echoes. Evelien Lohbeck's experimental short.

Jury prize for best online film NOFF
Playgrounds Award Best Student 2008
De ijzeren haring 2008 Leids film festival
Award for best online film HAFFTube

Friday, March 6, 2009

Thank you to the Man from Manila

There is something to be said about the true character of a person, man or woman.

Francis Magalona was a true-blooded showbiz personality, he the offspring of a showbiz union.

Perhaps it is that old school lineage manifests itself no matter the bumpy journey one has -- or had, as his -- that niceness, gentlemanliness, courtesy, humility and passion for one's calling seep through the superficial social stereotypes, self-vandalisms and peer pressures.

Francis was always a cut above the rest because he was articulate, artistic and intelligent and demonstrated the freest of expressions than any of his contemporaries ever did. Yet he always did things with flair, even as a noontime show host from which a live feed on its sister station broke to announce his passing today, Friday.

Rap is not Filipino, but Francis made it Pinoy. As a rap musician, he put an agreeable, friendly face to what became an angry, jaded and sometimes negative, genre. Like in person, his anger was acceptable and viral because, really, they were about concern for the Bayan (country) and for each kababayan (countrymen).

I guess Francis has said and done enough in 44 years: about his very public life, his nationalism, politics and advocacy, and his private pain and gallant battle with illness in which, finally, his physical shell could no longer handle.

FrancisM's last entry dated 14 Jan 2009
"...I look forward to the pain as I know my journey is on full speed ahead. I will not be bold to say that without asking a favor from you all. PLEASE PRAY for me as I undergo treatment. Your prayers, as always, have sustained me. And am sure the Lord will listen to all our prayers. To His will I submit myself..."

I salute a Filipino for accomplishing a lifetime in 44 years. Hopefully, your life messages will be listened to for years to come. Salamat, FrancisM.

Photo of Francis Magalona from his official site.
Please visit
FrancisM's AML blogumentary
Francis on Wikipedia
His clothing line and other creations can be seen here.

Watch the breaking news on QTV 11's Balingtanghali here
Image above | krvilla.09

UPDATE with a couple of links on general reading about FrancisM's cancer, 08 Mar 09

Read up on Adult Acute Myeloid Leukemia from
About Leukemia, AML and other types from
About Mixed-Lineage Leukemia from Howard huges Medical Institute, published Dec. 2001
Adult acute myeloid leukemia from the National Cancer Institute
Some AML FAQs from the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance

Philippine music chronicler Pocholo Concepcion's write-up (PDI: "FrancisM loses happy battle") on the breaking news as it appeared in print on 07 March 2009 said so much more than any other quick write-ups that made it to the deadline. Read it here.

A growing number of links by and about Francis Magalona can be found here.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Coffee Tripping: From Crop to Cup [update 09 Mar 09)

K's coffee mug, tour bag and shirt

I had the rare chance of finally heeding an invitation to join a club activity of Figaro Foundation's Coffee Harvest/Farm Tour in February 21, 2009 (a Saturday) as member of the Figaro Coffee Club.

It was a day-full of activities I confirmed attendance to at the last minute via the Foundation's efficient staff through SMS. Luckily, the planned tour was able to accommodate my associate, Isabel, and I. I must mention that the Foundation staff were graceful enough to accede to a full vegetarian lunch for my friend when I was confirming attendance, and then to update us of the group's location when we couldn't make it to the scheduled morning departure due to glitches.

We caught up with the group at Gourmet's Refreshers in Silang, Cavite from where Joyce Montalban of the Figaro Coffee Club fetched us at the entrance of Refreshers' al fresco section by the highway for [Figaro Foundation Program Officer and Head Organizer] Joed Alcid's and Gourmet's Lennard P. Reyes' Coffee 101 talk amid sacks upon jute sacks of coffee beans.

The Figaro Foundation actively participates in the propagation and planting of Philippine coffee varieties to meet local demand and consumption of 65,000 metric tons. Currently, only 30,000 metric tons are being produced. The rest are being imported at an estimated Php 3.15Bn. Figaro Foundation joins the other local coffee companies of making the Philippines a self-sufficient coffee-growing nation by 2015.

From there, we moved on to the farm's coffee processing facilities. We couldn't be accommodated inside, however, so the introduction and talk was conducted outside the facilities.

An introduction to how Gourmet's processes coffee

Dennis and guests peep through the processing plant window
Dennis and club members peep through the coffee processing facilities

A refreshing gourmet lunch

Refreshers was full of hungry Club members by lunch time

Sponsor and host Refreshers Gourmet served the group their signature drink on that hot and sunny Saturday noon: a glass each of delightful chilled lemonade with pesto, basil and herbs mix. It was during this relaxing lunch break that a pleasant chat with former Collegian staff and Tropa apprentice Dennis Sabangan, in a surprise reunion earlier at the Coffee 101 session, was resumed. We each caught up with goings-on and such at a shared table after more than 15 years since we last saw each other in UP. Dennis is now with the European Pressphoto Agency (EPA) as chief photographer.

Two generations of Ka-Tropas meet for the first time in Tagaytay

The tour resumed after lunch with a trek to Gourmet's organic farm facilities after we were divided in two groups. Orientation to the farm areas included a request by the facilitators to refrain from throwing small trash and smoking.

Midday walk to the farm

Gourmet's Refreshers maintains the organic farm facilities that grow all their salad and vegetable ingredients. Gourmet's employs locals from the area as farmers, farm hands and maintenance persons that make sure the 2-hectare property is clean and manageable. It also has a fresh section at the restaurant where all its organic produce as well as Philippine coffee products and coffee-making merchandise are sold.

A Club advocacy: Support for organic farming

Gourmet's Lennard P. Reyes and Figaro Foundation's Joed Alcid* share experiences. 

Figaro Coffee supports like-minded corporations that advocate organic farming which, as mentioned, help employ locals in the area and promote good farming practices that are beneficial to both the public and to the environment.

We were introduced to Gourmet's collection of greens and fruit-bearing plants and trees, the produce of which are all available and for sale at the restaurant. The stocks are always replenished in the afternoon.

The herb farm

Vegetable garden

Two of many greenhouses (above and below)

In between the farm tour was a side trip to convention and retreat facilities where there stands a modern geometric chapel, gardens around a pond and an enclosed meeting and convention area and some lodging.

Side trip to the convention facilities

After the farm tour, the group was herded back to Refreshers for afternoon snacks with more refreshing chilled dayap and herbs and three varieties of signature cookies with rosemary, basil and more herbs.

Afternoon break before distribution of certificates

This gave the Club members and guests some time to appreciate the goods at the restaurant shop and pick a few finds to bring back with them to Manila.

After the snacks came the distribution of certificates of attendance and a bag of lettuce each from Gourmet's Refreshers.

Before the tour was over, I had the chance to view some photos taken during the morning activities that I missed: the coffee harvest and harvest game at Junsy Lim's coffee farm a few kilometers off in Tagaytay.

The Figaro Coffee Club successfully pooled together about 30 members and guests for the tour that day. Together with representatives from the Foundation and the tour sponsors, the coaster was as full as when we all gathered at Refreshers for breaks. Not only did we end the tour rested and satisfied, we were gratified to have been a part of positive action from companies that accomplish to be of service to others as well. Kudos.

More photos by me here.
Morning activity photos by Dennis Sabangan of EPA can be found here: [1], [2], [3], [4], [5] >>Please note that the EPA photos are copyrighted<<

*Corrected caption

UPDATE: 09 March 2009

The official photos of the event is finally up. Check out the morning activities and the fun coffee harvest pictures at the Figaro Coffee Club's Multiply page here.

Figaro Coffee Company - Marketing Dept.
Johanna Clavecilla - Marketing Services Manager / Head Organizer / Master of Ceremony
Joyce Montalban - FCC Coordinator / Assistant Organizer
Marvee Queg - Marketing Assistant / Marshal
Jeandell Tantiado - FCC Encoder / Marshal

Joed G. Alcid - Program Officer / Head Organizer / Speaker
Emil Cuaresma - Program Assistant / Assistant Organizer
Julie Ann Gepielago - Foundation Consultant / Marshal

Participants & FCC Members
Beng Sikat • Annie Valdes • Peewee Guerrero • Diana Guerrero • Lea Lumbao • Myr Lim • Legaeda Zhel Lega • Mike Gozum • Justin Liu • Kelvin Gaisano • Kriskarla Yturzaeta • Claire Co and Rita Co • Joel, Amy and Isaiah Fernandez • Niko Arevalo • Ria Galit • Arno Vasquez Jr. • Philbert Cabalteja • Rachelle Orindain • Isabel Templo • Vanessa Villafuerte • Silvia Joh Sabio • Mae Caparas • Bezie Martinez • Anna Tan • Joanne Onio

Special thanks to:
Ollivence Gonzales - Event Photographer / Marshal
Nancy Troyo - Marshal (Purchasing Officer, Figaro Coffee)
Lennard Reyes, Jojo Manzano - Gourmet's Refreshers

Sponsored by
Corporate Gifts • Earle's Delicatessen • Edward Keller (Philippines), Inc. • Gourmet's Farm • Insular Life Direct

Event Sponsor Representative
Jhezl Nas, Insular Life Direct

Dennis Sabangan | Judith Balea | Neil Lim

Monday, March 2, 2009

4 a.m.

It's 4 in the morning, Manila time.

The beginning of the end of the first quarter. The last weeks have been a bit crazy, a bit manageable. A HD crash, server migration, a regrettable typo, a lot of night-to-dawn cross-overs which I see will continue. In the last 72 hours, a very tight deadline for an old client which then sees print when the press operators log in for work later.

A handful of local events missed, many of which I wanted to comment on in my blogs but couldn't; a few more tech-related, social and cultural stuff I'm interested in, all read hurriedly and digested just fairly recently. A "volunteer" work input for peers I hope would help with the forthcoming planned event.

There were a few unexpected silver linings to provide consolation. No, make that two outstanding life vests instead: an incredible, soft-spoken data-saver named Alvin — he, among the geek of all geeks I have ever encountered — and an assistant reconciled, trustworthy and competent as she had been, who came just in the nick of time: thank you both.

So, it's another Monday. A March Monday. Bring on the sun but let some breeze cool us off. Meantime, to bed I go for the much-needed power nap.

'night, for now.

(this blog is cross-posted)

Thursday, February 5, 2009's Pic of the Day

I received an email this morning from, a site I enjoy looking at time and again, informing me that the photo I sent them during Holidays '08 is today's Pic of the Day. The image was taken at Figaro-Royale Place on Commonwealth Avenue, Quezon City during a meeting in December 2008.

You can see the big picture here.  Thank you,

Monday, January 5, 2009

In small things forgotten: Mang Milton's iskolar pays it back as we all should (update)

(Shelving a New Year post in favor of this story which I hope will help start the year right. Thank you for reading.)

There were three 'cute guys' over at the UP Repertory Company in my time, all of them more than just acquaintances in the theater campus scene: Eugene, Mike and Bernie.

Cute they were, physically and in demeanor, but 'guys' they weren't, biologically.

Eugene is Eugenia Domingo, the spontaneous wise crack who, back then, was an underrated actress with overflowing confidence you could sense it from buildings away, and now, properly recognized for her talent. Mike is Mike Rivera — Michelle, if you will — the petite and dependable over-all production person who always had a ready, sincere smile for everyone; now wife and mother married to campus sweetheart Augie. And Bernie, real name: Bernadette de Castro, Aureaus' Solito's original Jaclyn Jose-look alike 'beautiful laundrette', she, not just the frank Rep and Tropa member but a level-headed, pragmatic student; erstwhile flight attendant and Vegas resident.

Like everyone in UP in my time, all three were state scholars who at some point in their UP lives have had to seek financial assistance or other to complete a course. Unlike everyone in UP, however, they enjoyed campus life differently in that extra-curricular work, theater in this case, became an alt-life they pursued with passion while maintaining above-average school standing and still managed to avoid being slapped the maximum residency rule.

A [re]connection for a hero
I got reconnected with Eugene and Mike last year at the 2008 Cinemalaya screening. Though brief, the reunion was nonetheless gratifying.

A few days ago, through mutual friend Dante Garcia, Mike and I are now virtually reconnected because of Mike's story on Meliton Zamora, or Mang Milton.

"Meet Meliton Zamora, a retired University of the Philippines janitor and my hero. For forty-five years, he swept floors, cleaned up trash, watered plants and did odd jobs at the University", Mike wrote.

It turns out that dependable Mike, always present at Rep's activities and visible at their tambayan, was much like the majority of Iskolars ng Bayan in our time: juggling studies, org activities and familial obligations.

Also, Mike's generous smile defied this multi-tasking reality so adroitly that she always came across as problem-free and relaxed.
"Back then, [Mang Milton] was just one of those characters whom you got acquainted with and left behind as soon as you earned your degree and left the university for some big job in the real world...But for many UP students like me who were hard up and had a difficult time paying their tuition fees, Mang Mel was a hero who gave them the opportunity to finish university and get a big job in the real world."
The mop and a pen
STFAP, UP's socialized tuition fee scheme, was already in effect then, and Mike was categorized under Bracket 9. That meant full payment of tuition fees and being ineligible for any financial assistance from the University.

Mike's father had lost his job three courses short of her graduation. Mike worked part-time to supplement her allowance and had to avail of a student loan on her last campus semester. However, looking for a faculty member to guarantee her turned out to be a daunting task (..."But those whom I approached either refused or were not eligible as guarantors").

Twenty-four hours into the last day of enrollment, Mike was hopeless and helpless on the steps of the AS lobby.
"Mang Mel... mop in hand, approached me and asked why I was crying. I told him I had no guarantor for my student loan and will probably not be able to enroll this semester. I had no hopes that he would be able to help me. After all, he was just a janitor. He borrowed my loan application papers and said softly. 'Puwede ako pumirma. Empleyado ako ng UP.' He borrowed my pen and signed his name. With his simple act of faith, Mang Mel not only saved my day, he also saved my future."
That was fifteen years ago. That summer, Mike settled her dues.

675 days less
Mang Mel is now retired from UP and, although given due recognition for his 45 years of service, his retirement pay was only credited 171 days of work. The University deducted about 675 days from his full retirement pay as a result of the unsettled loans Mang Mel guaranteed countless of students.

"This seems to me a cruel repayment for his kindness", Mike wrote. Even in retirement, Mang Mel still works odd jobs like "doing a little sideline gardening for a UP professor in Tandang Sora" to make ends meet.

Not the blues
Sometime in November 2008, Mike was told that Mang Mel recorded an album in a mall to sell to help with daily expenses.

I had availed of a student loan myself with a faculty as guarantor. I wonder, however, how many students in all of Mang Meliton's 45 years in UP actually had his signature on their loan forms, and how many students of the 675 days deducted to his retirement pay failed to settle loans due him.

In retirement, Mang Mel is creative. I personally think, though, that a CD at P350 each only goes a long way.

It seems Meliton Zamora is not asking for much. Forty-five silent years of service Mang Mel, or Milton, routinely cleaned away the floors and corridors of AS the best he could while students engaged themselves in on- and off-campus pursuits. Yet Mang Milton, with so much goodness in his heart, demanded nothing back, save perhaps for some appreciation for his voice this time around.

A cyber call to a real cause
"This is a cybercall to anyone who did not get to pay their student loans that were guaranteed by Mang Mel. Anytime would be a good time to show Mang Mel your gratitude." Could a recipient to Mang Milton's generosity be anyone I personally know besides Mike? Could anyone else be moved or be interested in listening to a silent hero, this time by purchasing Milton Zamora's CD from No. 16-A, Block 1, Pook Ricarte, U.P. Campus, Diliman, Quezon City (behind UP International House) or through his daughter Kit V. Zamora (0916-4058104)?

Kitakits, taumbayan! (update)
Meanwhile, Mike and a couple of friends from UP Rep, like Eugene, Dante and others are putting together something soon on Jan. 17, 2009, 7:30 pm at the new Taumbayan place on 40-A T. Gener Street on Kamuning. The evening will be dedicated to Mang Milton who will not only speak of stories but sing live to whoever might care to listen and share.

An invitation: A Night with Mang Mel at Taumbayan

My friends and I have invited Mang Meliton Zamora to a night of food, music and kuwentuhan at Taumbayan, a new tambayan that serves delicious grilled food. Mang Mel wil be selling his CD’s there. So if you want to buy a CD, meet Mang Mel, show your gratitude or pay your student loan back (don’t worry, you can pay it back discreetly and we won’t make a target out of you and will be thankful that you paid it back)…
[Read full invite]

Do come.

Read Mike's full post and album list here.

Added 05 Jan 09: Map to Taumbayan

Palma Hall photo by ButchukoyD
Mang Milton's CD photo by Mike R.


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