the Breakup Playlist : how could Piolo & Sarah go wrong?


[ Am not sure if watching a grand total of one Piolo Pascual movie previously (Starting Over Again with Toni Gonzaga) and watching Sarah Geronimo cry over an audition during The Voice Philippines blind auditions qualifies me to review the first ever Piolo – Sarah G movie, but the latter was the highlight of the day, in fact of the week, so I didn’t hesitate. ]

EXPECTEDLY, the movie starts with the breakup.  Sigawan, sumbatan, sisihan, the three S’s of Philippine drama, and the protagonist couple physically and emotionally break up.  The rest of the movie is a buildup towards the eventual reconciliation and reunion of the protagonist couple which as you know in Pinoy movies is a must, because a happy ending is the only ending possible.

Except that the breakup scene isn’t the real (sequential) start of the movie, as the film traces the long and winding road that leads to the defining moment of The Breakup Playlist, a surefire box office tsunami back home, & shown in Wellington as a project of three fundraisers, good for them.

In fairness, the plotline is realistic and credible : Piolo’s character, lead vocalist of an up-and-coming band, discovers Sarah’s character in a singing workshop for raw singing talents.  They feel each other out, musically, professionally and emotionally, until Piolo convinces Sarah to leave her law school studies and join him in what turns out to be a breakout, career-making teamup for them in the form of Pencil Grip, the band with no limits in terms of fans and success.

Happy ending, right?  Alas, it’s only 45 minutes into the movie.  The green-eyed monster better known as professional jealousy creeps in.  Naiinggit si Piolo sa creative input ni Sarah, and eventually he cuts short what he fears will be his absorption by Sarah’s brilliance.  Human nature makes you side with Sarah, because Piolo is so mean to her during the pre-breakup scenes.  But the rational side in you says :  Teka muna, tama naman si Piolo, nalulunok na sya sa impending stardom ni Sarah.

But just to make things clearer, Piolo becomes the temporary kontrabida so he can work his way back to Sarah’s heart.  You know the pattern :  Couple falls in love, couple falls out of love, and couple rediscovers the things that made them fall in love in the first place, and (sigh) fall in love again.  Predictable, but it still works.

The whole movie is a metaphor for a smartphone or laptop playlist that has become oh-so-ubiquitous in today’s handheld world.  Each segment represents a song : The Breakup, The Reunion, What Led to the Breakup, etc. etc.

Except that there is really no song, except the Yeng Constantino ballad (Paano Ba Ang Magmahal) that in the story is the composition that brings the two bidas into unprecedented heights and is actually a symbol of their breakup and reconciliation.

So, it’s tried-and-tested formula of perfect love team challenging the world and themselves, tried-and-tested formula of decent acting that although not great  delivers the goods; tried-and-tested formula of soundtrack supporting the tearjerker lovefest (Kitchie Nadal, Eraserheads, and of course, Yeng Constantino hits), and the tried-and-tested formula of two icons of Pinoy movies that on their own have never produced anything less than a mega blockbuster.  How could they, as a symbiotic pair, not combine to produce an even more explosive hit at takilya?

You get the answer, as I did, only by watching the movie.  I’m not embarrassed to say that as a middle-aged Pinoy grandad- to-be, kinilig ako.  Was entertained too, by the way.

PS.  Sorry to add this, but watching Piolo’s acting, you almost forget that at the very least, he is very likely bisexual.  I know I did. :)

becoming dad


Mom & Dad with one of my fave aunts of all time, Tita Dely Imperial!  Thanks and acknowledgment to the Facebook photo library of Ms Dely Imperial.
Mom & Dad with one of my fave aunts of all time, Tita Dely Imperial! Thanks and acknowledgment to the Facebook photo library of Ms Dely Imperial.

[  Paalala :  Sorry for the long absence Precious Reader, kung meron pang natitira dyan.  At least one blog friend coming across this makes the post worthwhile.  Wanted two things : (1) to have posted this on father’s day, but laziness intervened, sigh sorry Dad, and (2) to talk about recent anti-Chinese sentiment, both in NZ and Pinas.  But in the real world out-of-blog, you can’t always have what you want.  Missed blabbing with you, belated Father’s Day !  ]

MY FATHER is healthy and despite his advanced age has many long years ahead of him, but there are things we can no longer do together.  Similarly, I can no longer expect him to impart to me his memories, learnings and insights the same way he used to do (sometimes too enthusiastically) when we were both much younger.

But there are things I would have liked to share with my own kids the way my own father did, with the same length of attention, repeatability, and certitude.  He was/is a man with simple likes and tastes, but he was devoted to those things that he did.  It’s rather trite, but he lived by the saying anything worth doing is worth doing well :

Karaoke King.  As regards do-it-yourself singing for entertainment, he was ahead of his time.  Just chuck the mike into the amplifier, and play “minus one”  tapes of timeless standards and he would sing to his heart’s content.  He was the Karaoke King before the karaoke was invented, and he could match note for note any amateur singing champion, as long as the songs were by Frank Sinatra, Bing Crosby, Dean Martin, Matt Monroe, or Nat King Cole.  He would inspire at least two of his children, that’s me and Eldest Brother, to sing out of love, no matter if the audience was one or one hundred.

Sadly, I have not paid forward the inspiration my Karaoke King father has given me.  But it’s never too late for that, right?

Reading for life. Like Mom, my father loves to read, and you will always find him with a book in hand, wherever he goes and whatever else he does.  He is an omnivorous bibliophile, but is partial to war and war-related novels, political biographies, and a wide range of paperback novelists, as long as it’s a good yarn.  Needless to say, the years have seen me pick up his reading habits, until I’ve now reached the day when as a dedicated and committed reader, I’m truly my father’s son.

Running buddy. In Dad’s middle age, when I was a teenager, he picked up a physical fitness fad that became a lifelong sport for him, and because he had lots of sons he could pick from as running buddies, we all had a turn at running with our father.  As years passed, most of us lost interest, but because I always identified running with Dad, I could never truly abandon it without abandoning a part of my youth.

Which was why when I ran my first half-marathon after nearly 25 years, there at the finish line, just waiting for me, was one of the most satisfying memories of a similar run at the Luneta, with none other than my first running buddy, Dad himself.

Belated happy father’s day Dad, and thanks for all those useful and enjoyable habits you imprinted on me.  Love you always!

with great smarts (& looks) comes great responsibility : happy birthday Bunso!


to be young with nary a care in the world... happy birthday Bunso!
to be young with nary a care in the world… happy birthday Bunso! Thanks and acknowledgment for the photo to the Facebook photo library of Bunso. :)

[ For the nth time, I ask Precious Reader to indulge me in bit of what sounds like selfish immodesty.  At the expense of people who haven’t had kids, let me talk about very personal feelings about having a son like Bunso. ]

IT SURELY smacks of insincerity whenever I accuse Bunso (to his face and witnessed by his sister, no less) that one of his few shortcomings is his vanity, because chief among his reasons for his comely looks is the fact that he looks a lot like me.  About his rationale I certainly have no complaint, but now I have to start finding other ways to find fault with him.

Because in truth, I can’t find much that is wrong with him.  He is kind, intelligent, charming to a fault, is disarmingly agreeable but will fiercely discuss debatable issues with you well into the night, if that is your cup of tea.  He will spend his last peso (now dollar) helping pay a friend’s overdue rent, and will secretly stamp extra stars on your loyalty card to get you closer to your free mochaccino (shhh, he used to be barista in that ubiquitous multinational-owned cafe, not that it matters).  And every other time we sit down for a java, he will insist that he at least pay for a muffin, reasoning out that we are both peons in the salt mines of life, earning wages levels not much different from each other.  “Papa, you can’t pay for me all the time,” he sez with an eye twinkle that means well actually yes you can, but just not this time.

And of course, there’s the looks that you can’t mess with. (irony indicating smiley face here) :)

*****     *****     *****

With all these gifts comes great responsibility to make use of them, paraphrasing Stan Lee’s Uncle Ben (Parker).  Bunso is not just a clever brain resting inside a pretty face.  His is a combination of ruthless ambition and focused drive, something he has nursed like a fever inside him since he discovered his purpose in life : to be the best he can be.

Scary as it sounds, and without exposing himself too much (although I’ve every right to as a doting dad) he knows exactly what he wants to be in the space-time curve he has plotted, in two, three, five and ten year intervals.  In a role reversal, if I had the forward thinking and determination he now has when I was his age (becoming 20 as we speak), I would in every sense of the word be successful today.

Obviously I’m not, unqualifiedly successful I mean, but I am a resounding success in at least one aspect.  My attempt at fatherhood has produced an individual that any father can be proud of, and that is of course none other than Bunso.

I am so happy you’ve turned out the way you have, and every day you’re looking better.  I love you always, and happy birthday Bunso!

juan tamad gets poked gives blood sees double atbp for the visa physical


hope you don't think it's in poor
hope you don’t think it’s in poor “taste” (get it?), thanks & acknowledgment to memeblender.com! :)

IT’S THAT time of the year again, Precious Reader.  Roll of the dice, shell game or single bullet in the chamber (sorry for the morbid metaphor), call it what you will, but the parchment that permits our stay in Disneyland to earn our pieces of silver another year needs to be renewed, based on many factors but mainly on whether or not the job we perform is important enough that even non-permanent residents like me should be left alone to do it.  And continue staying in the land of milk and honey by the way.

But that’s not our topic du jour prepared especially for you Precious Read.  Rather, every now and then (as opposed to every year, at least they’re not that cruel) Immigration New Zealand sees it fit that we guest workers submit ourselves to medicals and physicals to determine whether or not we are fit and healthy enough to continue working in this paradise.  That is what I wanna talk to you about today, how I went about doing it.  Or rather, how I went about having it done to me.

I had to in summary, submit to a basic physical, give blood and urine, then see the doc again if there were any issues based on the bloodwork and other tests.  Easier said than done, but it’s not like we had a choice.  Moreover, the entire thing would set me back roughly $500NZ, a pretty penny but well worth it. The doctor, a white Kiwi in his mid-50’s tried to be as professional as possible, but I couldn’t avoid  getting a creepy feeling.  I remembered him from last time, which wasn’t difficult because he touched my family jewels for a little longer than a few seconds.  He also tickled my smelly heels with a semi-sharp instrument, ostensibly to check my responses but likewise to see how Asians laugh.  But that’s just me.

Just before that was the usual twenty questions, which any sane worker wanting to continue staying in New Zealand would answer no to.  Have you ever been exposed to : tuberculosis, HIV, drug abuse, any communicable disease, ever been treated for mental illness, ever been operated on, ever stayed in bed for more than a week, etc. etc. etc?  His tone was cordial, but his demeanor and eyes were screaming :  you would be crazy to answer yes to any of these apocalyptic-sounding questions, and, as I had been doing the past eight-plus years, answered no no no no no no, and for good measure, a resounding NO!  To which he replied, with deadpan understatement, that’s good then.

All very good then, but my general denials had to be backed up by my blood chemistry, x-rays and related stuff, which had to be sorted out and organized in two different clinics nearby.  Said establishments were very quick and efficient, much like seasoned workers herding obedient cows and goats to the milking stations.  Which was in a sense what we were, since body fluids and other unmentionables were gonna be secreted out of us nervous individuals.

[I say nervous because let’s face it, I had recently reached my half-century mark, and this was the time for all good men to face the reality of middle age, where lifestyle diseases start to make their presence felt, where Mother Nature tries to cash cheques your body wrote out years and years ago, and where you start paying for the foolishness of misguided youth.  You can’t blame me for thinking if any of this silliness starts looking for payback in the form of red marks on physical exams.]

*****     *****     *****

Coincidentally I had a lung capacity, blood pressure and eye/hearing test done at the workplace the previous week, but for slightly different reasons.  Occupational hazards like unacceptable noise levels, dust levels and the realities of physical exertion required that we maintain a certain level of fitness, and that we haven’t broken down from said occupational hazards, and the only way to determine this was if the employer itself conducted physicals. My BP was an acceptable 125/60, hearing and lung capacity roughly the same as last year’s, but because I brought an old pair of spectacles to work that day, I didn’t pass the eye exam.  Let’s just say if I was taking a driving test that day, I would’ve been sent home for a retest.

All told, I’m generally as fit as a fiddle for a man my age, but I’m still waiting for the results of my blood and x-rays.  We never feel as mortal as when confronted by the reality of the state of our bodies, and I try to be as realistic as the next human being.  We are only as good as our last physical, and thank you God for every sunrise that we wake up to!  Thanks for reading!

day of mini-wonders


one of my first pictures taken in New Zealand, December 2006 in Newmarket Auckland, with nephews. The cute boy in blue (son of 2nd Brother) is now a young man towering over me, and the teenager next to me is  now a clever accountant.  I'm still searching for my pot of gold in Hobbitland.
one of my first pictures taken in New Zealand, December 2006 in Newmarket Auckland, with nephews. The cute boy in blue (son of 2nd Brother) is now a young man towering over me, and the teenager next to me is now a clever accountant. I’m still searching for my pot of gold in Hobbitland.

THE ONLINE VERSION of the Merriam-Webster dictionary defines wonder three ways, but my favorite is that which defines it “as something or someone that is very surprising, beautiful, amazing, etc.”  That one works well for me, especially when you hear about my day yesterday.  Because they’re not that surprising, beautiful or amazing, I classify them as “mini-wonders”, thus the title above this blog.

*****

It started in a very humbling way.  An unscheduled staff meeting produced a backhanded compliment from our supervisor, who very routinely handed out the week’s shift assignments.  For the first time in eight years, I was on shift not to perform regular shift assistant’s work or chores, but to train as a shift boss, to be trained by the most experienced and most reliable shift boss, lucky me.

I’m not sure if bisor realized it, but it was an affirmation of the years I’d put in the outfit, and the discipline I fashioned.  True I’ve never been a mechanically-inclined person, and my initiative to learn to troubleshoot factory breakdowns and work in faster ways left much to be desired.  But the little I learned, I did my best to do well.  I could’ve been trained earlier, and given more responsibilities sooner, but I had no outstanding skills, and it took me more time to absorb. It was meant to happen the time it did.

*****

Once again I’ve fallen into the trap.  As an inevitable part of being a sports fan is internalizing too much of a sports team’s fortunes (or misfortunes, as the case may be),  I followed the path of success of this particular team, which I likened to an Irresistible Force, breaking down one adversary after another in the NBA playoffs, only to meet the Immovable Object in the Finals in the person of LeBron James.  After a close win in their homecourt, they lost two games to the future Hall of Famer, and now it looks like LBJ will pick up yet another title on his way to immortality.

Except that yesterday, they achieved the unlikely feat of tying the series 2-2 in their best-of-seven, and keeping their hopes alive.  Lebron James and the Cleveland Cavs may yet eventually capture their well-deserved title, but for yesterday at least, the City of San Francisco, California and their beloved Golden State Warriors were champions-in-waiting.  That for me, is a wonder.

*****

And finally… I still can’t be too specific about the last wonder, knowing very well the taboo attached to counting your eggs before they’re hatched and all that, but a very important wall was breached in the obstacle course of migration in our Land of Promise.  Let’s just say that, after seven years the rusty wheels were finally greased and had begun to turn, but the queue of permanent resident hopefuls was long with no end in sight.

At the very end of this queue was not even the beginning of the end but rather the end of the beginning, where the chaff would be separated from the wheat, the serious applicants from the gamblers, and only those with real chances of being considered would actually be heard.  That queue, Precious Reader, we invested in and we were finally favored with a crack in the opening, or a foot in the door.

Because we had not been moving in the queue for so long, we had begun to give up hope that we would even be considered, but yesterday, through the magic of online status updates, we realized we had just been kicked upwards to the next level.  No more pushing and shoving here, but still no less uncertainty.  But still exhilarating.

All these, in one day.  Wouldn’t you agree we exceeded our daily quota of wonders?  And oh yes, levels in both Candy Crush Saga and Candy Crush Soda Saga that took us more than a few days to finish, we inexplicably finished, today.

Certainly worth two bottles of beer, at least.  Will wonders never cease?  Thanks for reading!

seven things to know about Joe and Linda on their 56th anniv


Mom and Dad on one of  many happy occasions spent together.  Here they are with Fifth Brother, who cuts a dashing figure himself ;)  Photo courtesy of the Facebook photo library of Ms Dely Imperial.
Mom and Dad on one of many happy occasions spent together. Here they are with Fifth Brother, who cuts a dashing figure himself ;) Photo courtesy of the Facebook photo library of Ms Dely Imperial.

AFTER A short week of night shifts, you learn to savor a good night’s sleep.  That’s why even after only 7-8 hours I was drunk with zzz’s this morning, although I had a slight half-memory of an important event today.

Sure enough, two of my favorite aunts remembered on Facebook Mom and Dad’s 56th wedding anniversary today. Their love is truly the gold standard, having passed the test of time through so many trials and challenges. So in return for reminding me, here are a few tidbits I’ve culled about my folks here and there :

Theirs wasn’t a long courtship.  Then as now, when you saw a good thing, you grabbed it.  My dad saw in mom everything he wanted.  An ideal wife, good mother to his future children, and equally important, someone who would keep him rested and well-fed for life’s many battles ahead.  I don’t have the numbers, but I would be very surprised if Mom and Dad didn’t marry less than a year after meeting for the first time.  How I knew this : simple math, because Mom was a very maidenish 19 years old when she tied the knot, so Dad couldn’t have known her for very long.

They originally planned to have a son and a daughter.  Then after Firstborn Son came Son No. 2, Sons Nos. 3 (me), 4 and 5.  THAT WAS ENOUGH, said both of them.  Five sons, though unexpected, have been good for them, as has been their life together.  How I knew this : from Dad and Mom themselves, who must’ve told me at least a few times.  They must’ve thought twice about their decision after a few of the awesome messes we made.

There was a seven-year difference in their ages, something that might be considerable now, but not that unusual then.  Men were as always slower to mature than women, so you would naturally expect women to gravitate to older men. As the years pass, the differenced mattered less and less, until it doesn’t matter anymore, as if it ever did.  How I knew this : common sense.

Their personalities weren’t a perfect fit, but in most matchups, whose are?  My mother is more the extroverted type, friendly, engaging and gregarious.  My dad is more the ambivert type, picks his friends more carefully.  In other areas, they are the converse of each other, and appear more to complement each other and fill each other’s gaps.  In the end, whose marriage isn’t a combination of the best (and worst) of each other’s good points and bad, thorns and roses?

In my 50 years, I have spent roughly half that time with them, and I have only seen them in an argument a grand total of one time. Sure there have been disagreements, quarrels and spats, but I’ve never been witness to them, and they’ve always been sweet and loving, I’m sure not just to the world, but to themselves as well.  Hard to beat.

They celebrated with style their 50th wedding anniversary last 2009 with all their children, grandchildren, loved ones and friends in attendance at the Philippine Columbian Association ballroom.  I made it by the skin of my teeth, commuting on a 16-hour flight from Wellington to Manila via Auckland and Sydney, catching the last 45 minutes of the happy occasion.

Lastly and not leastly, to this day they still give gifts to each other, sweet and practical, in gestures grand and small.  After all, what is life but the sweetness between the daily grind of routine?

Happy wedding anniversary Mom and Dad!  Love you lots and miss you more!

never get tired remembering Tita Lily


Tita Lily (center, seated) surrounded by loved ones including her nephews First Nephew and Second Nephew (standing, back row), First Brother (center, back row), Second Brother (extreme right) and Fifth Brother (extreme left, front row).  Thanks to the Facebook picture library of Mr Jude Bautista (http://judebgallery.wordpress.com/)
Tita Lily (center, seated) surrounded by loved ones including her nephews First Nephew and Second Nephew (standing, back row), First Brother (center, back row), Second Brother (extreme right) and Fifth Brother (extreme left, front row). Thanks to the Facebook picture library of Mr Jude Bautista (http://judebgallery.wordpress.com/)

[  Note May was the anniversary month (2nd) of my aunt Tita Lily’s passing, and yesterday was the last day of said month.  I cannot overestimate the impact her life has made over so many others, including that of mine, my immediate family, her colleagues at work, and the professional, religious and larger communities to which she belonged.  We all miss you terribly Tita Lily! ]

AS EARLY as four or five years old, whether Mom and Dad intended it, you were an important part of our birthday ritual.  Usually early in the morning, half-past six or seven you would be on the phone with Mom or Dad, and one of them would invariably mention it was my birthday.  You would then spend a few minutes greeting me and making my day.  Mostly because you, not unlike a fairy godmother, asked me “what would you like for your birthday Noel?”

Like a kid in a toy store, my pupils would dilate in wonderment, although I was previously coached to say, anything you would give me Tita Lily would make me so happy, but I had a little amendment of my own, young as I was, like a certain Matchbox model just sitting on the store showcase was just begging me to be owned by a birthday boy, and I happen to be that birthday boy, so…

Then it’s yours, Noel, just because it’s your birthday.  Happy birthday! or something like that, you would always say, then as now, taking time to make me feel loved, and special, and important.

Not knowing that you did it to all your nephews and nieces, on their respective birthdays.

Years later, you kept a short list of people you liked to take with you on your year-end office meetings, invariably held outside the country.  I wasn’t on that list, but everytime someone begged off, I was one of the first alternates.  Because of those few trips, I was able to see the land of our ancestors, the wealth of Singapore, and with my children, the magic of Disney World.  I would never have seen those wonders otherwise, if not for you.

Those things, after the success of your career, were your priorities.  Travel and keeping close track of your health.  Everything else took a back seat, and rightfully so, since you deserved to enjoy the fruits of your labor by seeing the wonders of the world, and you deserved to enjoy them in the pink of health, despite your advanced years.

Fortunately in the time you spent in this world you were able to enjoy both before God took you away from us.  I thank Him for all the happiness and comfort your shared with the least of your brethren, and I am doubly glad that I was one of them.

Remembering you always Tita Lily.  Thanks for everything!