felix felicis

felix felicis: June 2014

Monday, June 30, 2014

Summer book binge (1 of 2)

After five months of reading academic papers, journals and theory books, “summer” months were spent reading just about anything light and entertaining. I’ve had an eclectic mix of young adult fiction, inspirational stuff and a few literary classics. For April, I had adventure-related stories. By May, the books I read centered on mother-daughter relationships (Hey, it’s Mothers’ Day).

April books are reviewed right here:

Gone Girl
Gillian Flynn
Photo from: http://www.eastonlibrary.org.
The story begins with Nick describing how his relationship with his wife, Amy, transformed into indifference. On the day of their fifth wedding anniversary, Amy suddenly went missing and all the evidence found in their house point to Nick as the prime suspect. The rest of the story develops around events that will solve Amy’s disappearance and of course, other suspenseful stuff you’d want to read and discover for yourself.

Gone Girl’s unreliable narration and plot twists provided me with enough reason to stay up late at night and unravel the mystery behind Amy’s disappearance. Ultimately, the novel depicts marriage not as your usual happy-ever-after stuff; rather, a lifetime commitment as such can turn into something uncanny and dishonest.

I dunno if this one’s really adventure stuff, but I guess the twists and thrills featured in this suspense novel are already something adventurous for me. I don’t usually read “scary” stories, the same way I avert my eyes from horror films—they keep me wide awake at the wee hours of the night. Anyway, this one literally kept me awake at night because I was flipping the pages of my e-book. Flynn’s novel is a page turner and it is a good one. Also, it has a movie adaptation that will be shown this year. Looking forward to it.

4.5 out of 5.

Looking for Alaska
John Green
Photo from Wikipedia.
Miles Halter is obsessed with living out Francois Rabelais’ last words: “I go to seek the Great Perhaps,” so he’s decided to spend his junior year at a boarding school. He becomes friends with his roommate, The Colonel, a Japanese student Takumi, half-American half-Romanian Lara, and the beautiful but emotionally unstable Alaska Young. Miles found boarding school boring but the pranks done by his friends and all the other students made it a much better place. He then falls in love with Alaska. The book’s blurb says it all: nothing is ever the same.

This simple diagram shows how much I like Green’s Looking for Alaska:

Looking for Alaska > Papertowns > The Fault in our Stars > An Abundance of Katherines


As usual, John Green’s novels tackle usual themes in teenage narratives—academics, teenage relationships, some sort of addiction to either smoking, alcohol drinking or substance use, and that dream to be bigger than ourselves like Miles’ Great Perhaps. What made it better than other Green novels? I loved how the story is simple and uncomplicated but had that sense of depth (Naks). #truestory

4.5 out of 5.

Veronica Roth
Photo from Wikipedia.
After Suzanne Collins’ successful Hunger Games trilogy, several other writers have tried to pitch in their own stories about teenagers trying to make a better world in a dystopian future. But Katniss Everdeen may have created a niche for herself when only a few managed to successfully replicate their mainstream hit. Publishers and agents have even predicted that dystopian-oriented young adult novels would have a hard time penetrating the market yet again.

In 2011, however, Roth’s Divergent series managed to gain a sizeable following and even successfully landed a movie adaptation this year. Divergent’s heroine is Tris Prior and the novel is set on war-ravaged Chicago. In the story’s dystopian future, the people of Chicago are grouped based on their dominant character—Abnegation for the generous and selfless, Erudite for the intelligent, Candor for outspoken and honest ones, Amity for peace-loving peoples and Dauntless for the adventurous and brave. Those who did not fit into any of these five groups will either become homeless peoples or are Divergents, those with varying characters. Tris has come of age and has to choose. Eventually, her choice will affect the rest of those around her and the society she lives in.

The good thing about the novel is its exploration of characters as groupings—it resembles how the Sorting Hat in Hogwarts determines which House a student belongs to. More than that, it shows how characters are powerful variables to determine how we’ll behave in a society, what we’ll contribute and how this affects social relationships. I also like how the new members of each group are initiated and trained. It’s exciting, I guess I want to try one. Haha! Anyway, I dislike Tris’ character. The author tried to mold her into a strong Katniss clone but ends up becoming a Bella Swan in several parts of the story. Overall, the story has promise but lacks in execution.

2.5 out of 5.

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Thursday, June 26, 2014

Magic 20

Three pesos and a few centavos littered my coin purse. I need seven more to get to Eastwood. The jeepney’s about to reach our stop and I’m having internal debates whether to pay the remaining three I had and say sorry to the driver for being too stupid not to have stashed coins; or pretend sleeping and skip paying the ten-peso fare altogether. I was actually inclined to do the latter, all be damned.

Wonder of wonders! There’s a semi-torn twenty-peso bill in my pencil case! I paid my due and gleefully went off. Thank you, Lord! I am saved from eternal damnation. Or possible public shaming.

Lesson learned? Keep emergency twenty-peso bills in bag pockets or notebooks. You'll never know when you'll need it. Or really, just sit at the farther end of the jeepney. When you resort to doing 123, it's the easiest way out. Finally, 123 is the last resort. But if you can, don't it. Just don't. :P

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That kid on the jeep

It was a gloomy Wednesday afternoon and everyone's rushing to get home from work. The queue for jeepneys off to Cubao had started to fill with people. I managed to ride the fifth or sixth jeep. It took me around 20 minutes to ride one but that's ok. I read a book as soon as the jeep took off. By the time I had the chance to see where we were, we're still caught in a traffic jam halfway along Boni Serrano. We took a right turn and a batang grasa rode in our jeep. 

Young boys like this one are usual fares in the streets of Cubao. They're dressed with torn shirts and baggy shorts; their hairs, either cropped unevenly or colored with brown and blonde highlights. Their faces show their innocence but are often marred by the grime and grease of the streets they prowl. Some can even be caught sniffing rugby in a plastic bag. When they ride jeepneys, they bring with them white envelopes or ampaws, during Christmastime, asking for alms. The scrawny letters that adorn the envelopes tell us that whatever amount we give will be a guarantee that they'll get by the next day. 

Of course, I do not buy it. So, for the longest time, I often choose to ignore batang grasas because I know the money will just be used to fill the pockets of syndicated groups of child traffickers. 

I tried giving the extra food that I have stashed in my knapsack. I felt it was better than coins, that way, I know they'll sleep better at night because their tummies are not grumbling. Instead of thank yous, I either receive glares or worse, rejection. Sometimes, they'd get the food and still ask for money. This happened most of the time so I went back to ignoring them. And every time I do that, that small voice telling me to do something to help them still, is usually shut off.

Tonight, I tried not to ignore by giving my lunch to that young boy. Before I did, there was a mental debate—I can eat the food at home for dinner or I might look a bit pretentious when I help the poor kid or the kid might reject and ask for money, I'd feel slighted and annoyed. But the prevailing feeling of guilt won over the hollowness that started to fill my hungry tummy. 

Ok, so I nicked the sandwich and gave away the rice and veggies in the paper bag. Several pairs of eyes stared when I gave the young boy my lunch and I chose to ignore. Kid accepted it and never said thank you. It still felt good. At least he did not shove it in my face to ask for twenty bucks, instead. I resumed reading until I reached Cubao.

While on the train ride going home, I remembered my sandwich last night was also enjoyed by another batang grasa (I really hoped he enjoyed that one). It wasn't to pat myself at the back. What I remembered more clearly was the feigned ignorance by the other passengers. I saw myself in them. There's nothing really bad, because if we do not feel like giving money or we don't have spare food, there's nothing we can do anyway. But it is alarming. Maybe we can keep extra munchies on our bags and give it to these kids instead of money. If they reject or ask for more, we can always politely say no. It will take time before they get the real help they'll be needing, or sadder still, they won't be able to get it. So, a little help from us may just be something they need. 

It was a good lesson to learn last night.

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Friday, June 20, 2014

The anniversary post

I happened to check the earliest entry I had and I realized it’s been three years now since I began populating the vast cyber universe with my presence through blogging. Quite a feat. Hahaha. I thought I’d stop halfway just because I felt that writing these entries might just be too personal. But I realized that I write because the introverted me would want to at least find a platform to make my voice heard, scream my lungs out if I want or whisper those seemingly unspeakable thoughts in my mind. Three years. Really, now. Hahaha!

To people who read this blog, who happen to stumble upon any of my posts or those that lurk around, thank you. Thank you for spending a few minutes scrolling through the page and reading normal to weird stuff I write and talk about. Or if no one bothers to read the whole blog at all, still thanks, Universe. :P

The succeeding posts will feature reviews on film, food and books because those are the things that keep me busy right now. Also, a few features on street photography because I have to practice. I’m still thinking if I should jump the gun and take that master class on photography. Taking the class is quite costly, so I’d have to think about it.

This is me saying thank you. :P

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Monday, June 16, 2014

Buffet at Banzai X trying out Street Photog

North and Southeast Asia majors volt in. For food. :P
After trying out an all-Korean buffet, it’s refreshing to try something new. My gradschool classmates and I headed to Banzai at SM Mall of Asia for a Japanese lunch buffet. The price for a four-hour unlimited Japanese fare was a bit of a luxury for a thousand bucks but I guess the company and the good food made it worth it. I had four plates of food and three tall glasses of drinks. In between, we’re trading funny stories. School-related stuff is limited to jokes and anecdotes, nothing more serious than that. Hahaha. By the time we’re all done, I felt bloated and sleepy. I am such a pig.

Second plate. Too hungry to take a picture of the first one. :P
Third plate. 

Fourth plate.
 Anyway, if you wanna try Banzai, just head over at their MoA branch. It’s near the giant Ferris Wheel (MoA Eye), by the Seaside Boulevard. They’re open during lunch hours, 11:00AM to 2:00PM, and dinner time, 5:00PM to 9:00PM.

Insider tip: Kuya Waiter shared that there are more selections during lunch hour than dinner. Lunch is more sulit then.


I should be practicing street photography but I still suck at making myself invisible. While digesting the platefuls of food I devoured, I took my camera and just took a few shots by the window side. Here they are:

Seaside at the window side.


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Child's play

May 31, 2014

Before May ended, my siblings and I planned touring nearby museums in Manila. But because we woke up late and due to certain sched glitches, we ended up visiting only one-- Museong Pambata. And yes, we're all in our late teens and early twenties. We enjoyed the whole tour nonetheless.

I remembered the last time we walked the halls of this building-- a decade or more ago, perhaps. During those days, kids would always have Museong Pambata as one of the stops for whole-day field trips. This plus food factories and Intramuros or Manila Zoo. 

When we went that day, it was like field trip all over again, except that we're reading more and playing more too. Snapping photos of our own too. Haha! Also, we get to tour our cousins and their kids in Manila. 

We spent so much time exploring the History area and the Human Anatomy exhibit. Their interactive displays were good enough to capture our attentions. I was particularly amused with the "Noises Our Bodies Make" display (My eight year-old nephew and I took turns hitting the giant butt to hear the farting sound. Hahaha).

There was also a "pamayanan" exhibit at the second floor. It resembles a typical Filipino community-- there's the barbershop, sari-sari store, talipapa stalls which sells seafoods, fruits, vegetables and different kinds of meat. There's also a newspaper stand, a pharmacy and a fire station. We had fun trying out firemen costumes and riding the big fire truck in the middle of the hall.

The bell rang at 12 noon signalling lunch break for museum staff. We would have wanted to visit the rest of the exhibits at the other side of the building but time would not permit. That small time we spent at Museo brought back a lot of fun childhood memories. Because we're all big and burly now, it's nice to remember those days when we're just wearing our PE uniforms and prancing around the room to have our pictures taken by our eager mothers and fathers. It took us a long time to go back but what's wonderful is that the childlike wonder never left us. We still loved to learn, re-learn and try on something different. It was one of the enjoyable half-days I had. 

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Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Wide Open (Street Photography Workshop)

After weeks of summer gala, June has come to haunt us again. Not that I have to get back to gradschool (classes will open on August); but really I have to get going and make significant progress if I intend to go beyond the ~initiation phase. I braved myself into asking a renowned professional photographer if he’s offering photography seminars or workshops these coming months and good thing he’s planning one. The price had slightly affected my gradschool stash but the promise of learning more and improving my skillz outweighed certain budgetary constraints.

Last Sunday, we began our two-week workshops. Morning session’s dedicated to a bit of theory—defining street photography, trying to become invisible and also being in the moment when capturing photos, connecting with your subjects and some other concepts that we can use while practicing our street photog cred. Of course, there’s the usual getting-to-know session, which I always find difficult because I’m not used to talking and maintaining conversations with new people. I guess I managed.

The afternoon session’s more exciting. We get to apply the things we learned—photowalk! So from Mendiola, we crossed the footbridge going to Recto Avenue and from there, we began looking for subjects and taking photos. We reached Isetann and the underside of LRT Recto Station where informal settlers abound. Whenever I go home from work or school, I dread walking this side of Manila because I’m afraid of getting robbed or held-up or something. Those fears were washed away—I was busy taking photos and getting immersed in the urban noise.

But just to be safe, I asked our instructor how should I avoid “elementals” if I plan photowalking on my own? “You just have to look alert—always look back as if you forgot something. You get to stall them if you do that. And walk briskly to prevent them from ganging up on you.” Ok. Alive. Alert. Awake. Important lesson if you plan to do this on your own or a small group.

We also reached the residential areas in Santa Cruz and then the famous Divisoria, finally wounding our way towards Juan Luna Street in Binondo. We capped our workshop with steamed dumplings and taipaos at Wai Ying. By 5pm, I was back to walking, this time bound home.

Here’s a sample of the photos I took during our first street photog session. The rest are posted at my Flickr account and Jux photoblog. J

The history of the Filipino people lies in its streets.

Is it seriously nice?
Alone. Drunk. Somewhere in Sta. Cruz.

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