Perks

photo credit: imdb.com

I’ve never heard of this movie or the book up until a facebook friend posted the trailer on his wall. It was around July. And it single-handedly awoke the avid teen movie person that I was. September really came up fast this year. On the 26th of this month, at opening day, there I was, watching the deepest and emotionally sentimental teen movie I’ve ever witnessed, in classic lone-city-dweller style (alone, last full show, office clothes, in ergonomically-designed movie chairs). Other movies watched in the same manner were The  Hunger Games and Marvel’s The Avengers (in IMAX).

I must admit, I have an uncanny fascination for movies & tv series dwelling on high school stuff. You know, the kinds that would almost always have scenes in cafeteria talking about the cool kids, and there will be football games put in somewhere, and then have a prom finale of some sort. Yea, those stuff. My top favorite will be a toss between Tina Fey-written Mean Girls and Academy Award-winning Juno. The former stars the good Lindsay Lohan, who’s the alter-ego of today’s troubled Lindsay Lohan while the latter stars Ellen Page, who would later incept our minds in dreams within dreams within another dream. I do agree that high school is one of those monumental periods in your life, admit it or not. But I am not certain why I have ‘this’ kind of fascination for it. Maybe I was trying to understand how high school would look like if I have not went through it the same way that I did. How would exams look like if I don’t know the answers? How would lunch feel like if you don’t have friends? How would prom look like if you’re just a wallflower?

The movie The Perks of Being a Wallflower visually answered all my queries, in the most emotional and nostalgic way I could possibly imagine. It was beautifully acted by Logan, Emma & Ezra; so good that they brought me to an entire world in the 1 hour and 45 minutes I was in the theater. I even forgot it was looking at Hermione and Percy Jackson. Patching in the movie was the book’s original author Stephen Chbosky, directing a feature film for the first time. Also, I knew then that I was in for a treat since it was the same producers who brought Juno to the world.

Set in the 1990’s (my era), it was a coming-of-age movie about a boy’s first year in high school. He battles the typical teen movie antagonists of bullies and awkward alone lunch moments. His first saving grace is Bill, his English teacher, who saw his smarts beyond his being introvert. Then came the senior duo of Patrick & Sam, who brought Charlie to the high school life as seen through their eyes. From then on, the movie brought scenes upon scenes of love, awakening, sexuality, drugs, violence and mystery in an artistic way, climaxing to a very moving breakdown scene which is by far Logan’s finest acting yet. For the first time in a long time, I wished for the credits not to appear; I don’t want the movie to end at all. It was that good.

In one of her interviews, Emma said that you cannot watch this movie without saying that there isn’t one moment you cannot relate to. She’s damn right. I may not have a troubled childhood like Charlie, thanks to my amazing family, but I can definitely relate to his introvertness. The feeling that you just cannot express yourself that you just resort to communicating through silence. You write words and letters to someone you don’t know, hoping you get a connection somehow. And you tell yourself not to cry when you already are. Both Charlie & I survived those moments, with me bypassing the drug and alcohol part. We were both saved by friends, who saw and accepted us who whoever we were when others just don’t. Should Charlie’s story went through, I bet he will be friends with Sam & Patrick for years and years, the same way I kept my high school friends until now.

It’s been said that the book became life-savers of people facing challenges in high school. The movie should be doing the same. As I look back on my past, it isn’t so bad and depressing that nobody notices you. It’s that moment of invisibility and omniscience you see the world in ways no one else can – only through the eyes of a wallflower.

Me in High School

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My Top 5 UP Pep Squad Pyramids

Photo credit: up100pep.multiply.com

It’s been 10 years since I watched my first UAAP Cheerdance competition. Yep, it means one thing – I am that old. Haha.

And every year, I’m with thousands upon thousands of true-blooded Maroons rooting for our one and only pep squad. Whether it be live, on tv, or online, I do find time for that moment in the UAAP season that I already feel like a winner, even if it’s only 1:45pm (show starts at 2).

As you may now know, UP Pep Squad yet again claimed the top spot in the 2012 UAAP Cheerdance Competition. Year on year, the squad delights us with intricate routine and stunts that would make us gasp for air and ask ourselves: did they actually do that? Thank god for youtube and the replay button, there’s a way to verify.

So in honor of my decade-long UP Pep Squad following, below are my top five favorite UP Pep Squad Pyramids in the past 10 years. I’m no technical judge, but my basis for the list is as follows:

  • uniqueness & creativity
  • mount & dismount intricacy
  • death-defying or buwis-buhay factor
  • over-all impact

Here goes:

5. Tribal Pyramid (2008)

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photo credit: pinoyexchange.com

It’s probably the drums, or the theme, or the skin-toned costume, but there’s something interesting about the simplest pyramid of UP Pep Squad in this list.

The top flyers were mounted in a rather slow and mystifying way, in tune of a tribal-inspired take on the classic Unibersidad ng Pilipinas chant. This is also the only pyramid where the flyers are not facing the front (Do you remember anything else, even if from other squads?). Their arms are stretched in non-traditional perky cheerleader poses. The form is how a diwata would pose if ever she finds herself atop a pep squad pyramid.

Other remarkable 2008 moment: Oblation in the end, flawlessly performed by a very good friend of mine 🙂

4. Tower-ish Pyramid (2005)

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photo credit: youtube.com and studio 23

UP Pep is a fan of inverting people in precarious positions and precarious ways – and here’s a fine example. This pyramid scores high in the buwis-buhay criteria. You just have to imagine what those two girls are thinking in the seconds that they stand upside-down just to delight their audiences. Pure dedication.

It took time to assemble their pyramid and UP is doing away with time-consuming pyramids these days. It’s probably to allocate more time to other death-defying feats. Another bright idea.

Other remarkable 2005 moment: UP Pep Squad lost by a hair to UST. To this day, I firmly believe UP won that year. That’s a fact.

PS: The guy in black sitting in front turned out to be the Oblation finale of 2008 CDC.

3. Magkukumare (Girlfriends) Pyramid (2011)

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photo credit: Rhoel Nino Bautista (gmanetwork.com)

The title was quoted last year in UP Pep’s official facebook page. It goes something like:

Yung limang nagkukuwentuhang magkukumare habang binubuhat ng apat pang magkukumare (Five casually chatting girlfriends on top of four others)

It was a fan-favorite, and was the face of most newspaper articles the day after. It just show how witty UP Pep is in coming up with pyramids that appeals to all.

Their smiles tend to divert the fact that it was a pretty damn hard pyramid to pull off – the flyers above are more than the lifters in the middle. And they mounted and dismounted this thing perfectly.

Other remarkable 2011 moment: All the members of the squad donned blonde hairs, and shaved armpits. They looked like girls from afar.

2. Buwis-buhay (Death-defying) Pyramid (2012)

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photo credit: Rhoel Nino Bautista (gmanetwork.com)

Fresh off the 2012 competition is the 2nd in the list, and this image will have the fate similar to the #3 photo – broadsheet headline.

I can still feel my gasp when I saw the middle flyer (inverted in the photo) do that thing that the two other inverted girls in the photo did. It’s like; you dangle nearly ten feet above in an upside-down split, on the mercy of the hands of your team mates, just to hear the crowd roar? That’s UP Pep.

But I know UP has all it takes to do that stunt. Only UP is bold and crazy enough to pull that off. But who knows, maybe next year some squad might be crazy enough to attempt, just like what they are doing to UP’s routine year after year.

Other remarkable 2012 moment: All the members of the squad shaved their heads and armpits. They looked like guys from afar (payback time?).

1. Tableau Pyramid (2003)

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photo credit: pinoyexchange.com and that karmina abesamis girl

I guess the first will always be my best.

This may not be the tallest or most difficult one, but this pyramid stuck to me like glue. Maybe it’s the fact that I watched it live at the place so far, you can literally touch the adds above the venue. I’m not kidding, I’m wayyyyyy above there (Pizza Hut, Jag…)

From afar, I thought their costume was combined maroon & skin-tone. I later found out that those are real skin and that I’m nearsighted.

Going back to the pyramid, I did not quite remember how they formed it and how they dismounted, but I’m pretty sure they held that position for quite a while. The fact that I can clearly see all the members of the squad doing the stunt makes it more picturesque, with smiles and all.

Other remarkable 2003 moment: The more than a minute head-stand routine, unveiling the inverted “UP” in their chest. That’s what the tummy skirts are for.

There you have it – five things that UP Pep squad made to make our lives happier. I know you want to squeeze in that other pyramid from that year, or the other one from another year. Just let me know! I bet I know that one too, just missed my list by a hair!

University – an homage

Initially intended to be a contribution to a very famous newspaper column, this was the first full length essay I did after stepping out of college. I wrote this in June 2011 inspired by a news clip of college freshmen prepping up for the first day of school. It didn’t make it to the broadsheet, a first failure in my three attempts (the first two got in). I edited parts of the essay especially the ending. You’ll know why and I thank you in advance for braving the length.

_____________

My memory of a certain day way back is still as vivid to me as an HD video clip: There I was, peeking at a narrow door opening in the first room of a building’s right wing, professor in front, classmates seated, one vacant chair in front row, me trying to grab a classmate’s attention, mouthing the name of the class, getting confirmation, and slowly slithered through the narrow opening seemingly unnoticed by the ongoing lecture. That very day, several years ago, marked the first of thousands of classes that I attended inside the university.

Yes, I arrived late in that class. I didn’t know how late I was, I dare not asked. I knew no one in the class. In fact, I didn’t know anyone of the more than twenty thousand students in the university. I was the only one in my high school who chose to study there. But for some reason, I was not bothered by that at all. Going to college was definitely a milestone in somebody’s life, especially mine. And what a way to mark that milestone than to start life anew. That was the perfect opportunity to redraw everything, test where my two feet can bring me, and to see a world beyond rice paddies and mountainsides.

I was born and raised in the province. Opting to live in an on campus dormitory was a no-brainer decision. It’s kinda hard at first because I have limited options of things-to-do. I tried socializing with my floor mates, but I end up getting behind the conversation when they suddenly speak Cebuano, or things that don’t interest me. Watching TV wasn’t a good option too. You got 500 pairs of eyes glued to Meteor Garden. Change the channel and those angry eyes will zero in on you. It’s instant popularity, but rest assured nobody will share a table with you in the mess hall.

But eventually I did find some friends there. We do laundry talks – the chats that we make while pretending to know how to wash our clothes. We do late night room hoping, sneaking food beyond curfew hours & watching movies until sunrise. We even do spoofs of talk shows, doing round-robin of roles. One will act as a bald, gay host with prominent glasses, and another one as a famous but troubled actress-tv host who, at that time, said to the world that she once wanted to crush a man’s genital. Hah, if youtube was popular then, a video of our talk show spoof will certainly go viral.

Then there’s the serious part of going to college. There’s this building aptly called Math Building where, obviously, all the math classes are held. Math building and I saw each other for two years, almost every day. I didn’t ace math, but I was glad I understand it. That’s enough to carry me on to the more advanced, complicated, mind-boggling, sanity-challenging field known as Engineering. That was when I had to reinforce my study habits. Browsing notes in between classes wasn’t enough. And I know that studying inside my room, with DOTA-hungry roommies, is bound to fail. I looked for a place to get away from the distractions. It was then that I seek sanctuary inside the university library. Me and my study buddies braved the dark university roads to get to library. We stay there sometimes until midnight, doing serious studies. At first, I was armed with my notebook, scratch papers and a high-end, state-of-the-art scientific calculator. Semesters later, my arsenal included a textbook with drawings of a swinging pendulum & revolving cogs. A year after that, I was bringing a laptop with me together with my group mates, carefully concealing our brainstorming activities with the roving librarian-on-duty. Our academic get-together can sometimes spill over after midnight, on some 24-hour fast food chain, trying to pour every ounce of our thoughts to a report due in less than a decent sleep’s time.

Thankfully, there are ways to escape from the seemingly hellish academic tasks inside the university. Comfort comes in the form of random people coming together to form a group, an organization, that you share common things with. May it be religion, or the lack of it, love of birds, of your hometown, or of a foreign culture, you just need to unleash your social skills and in lightning speed, you’ll end as a member of an organization. I joined a group of students who all hail from my home province. It was just a joy for me to find this group out, since it compensated for my lack of high school friends in college. And when the semester is over, when we’re miles away from the university and our academic life, we still see each other and hangout. Although on paper, there is a defined structure of the group (i.e., president, members, etc.), we just consider ourselves as a bunch of friends who gained expertise in juggling studies, organizing events for good causes, and partying afterwards.

In all honesty, this is just one of the very few moments that I reminisce the memories I have in college. It’s bittersweet: finding yourself drawing a simple smile at remembering a random college moment, suddenly feeling the happiness that was, and then realizing that the moment will probably never happen again. The number of shoulda, woulda, coulda’s raises towards the top of my head, bringing me to a slow downward spiral to a feeling that I compare to something like extreme homesickness. Memories want to pull me back to where I was years ago, back to the carefree days of walking around in shorts and slippers. On several occasions, I tried going back just to look around and see what became of my former home. I even ventured the option of totally going back, to take another degree, and literally doing things over again. But things are not as easy as I figured. There’s a lot happening right now and for reasons beyond my control, I just can’t go back.

I think it’s all part of a greater scheme of things. Making me feel like this is the university’s way of saying that my work there is done, or rather, the university’s work to me is done. I came there with fresh fruits, milk, sugar and ice in my hand. The university thought me what good things I can do with those. I eventually came out holding do a pretty darn good fruit shake to share with others. The university thought me how to do the fruit shake on my own, and how to teach others to make the fruit shake for them. I guess this path destined for me and for thousands who walked with me through the halls & streets of the university: pass on to others the good things and lessons that we learned. Uphold honor and excellence will follow. Do what you think integrity would dictate. Always consider doing the right thing, even if nobody’s looking.

Every now and then, I see bits and pieces of those lessons being transcended by former colleagues. My orgmates still continue devoting their precious time in bringing whatever resources they have for the service of the people in our province. My groupmates, who spent sleepless nights with me, joined the swarm of young professionals in various fields in the industry. Like me, we are carefully crafting our skills and continually bringing good thoughts in the table. My former study buddy is now braving the corporate world overseas. Though his choice of work will be a subject of debate better explained by something longer than what you’re reading now, I still give him props for bringing the university values into international waters. My dorm mate, who never failed to crack me up with his impersonations, turned out to be an exemplary writer of a tear-jerker show on TV. He uses his gift of writing to make viewers like me feel a slice of life of a fellow Filipino. And finally, my former classmate, who took the role of a saving grace in my troubled first day, is more remarkable now than she ever was. She carried with her wits, wisdom and values during one faithful night in 2011 enabling her to be the 3rd runner-up in the Miss Universe 2011 pageant.

Homes in the City

If we are to rank the most cliche quotes ever used by mankind, ‘There’s no place like home’ will rank amongst the top. True enough, whatever shelter or bed or room I settle in, nothing will beat the feeling of sleeping in that one bed, roughly the same age as me, on that room at a small town in the far away countryside.

This is not about that place.

Instead, here’s a run down of those city spaces I traded in for that comfy place, enumerated in order of residency. Find out bits of stories of my stay, including their homey and not so homey points.


1. Kalayaan Residence Hall

First taste of Communal Living

Being new in the city, with no immediate relative in sight, a dormitory is the first and smartest housing choice one should make. A lot of first times happened in my one-year stint here. For years, the only guys I have to deal with in the house are my dad & my brother. Suddenly, I would have to share my world with 250 others. I’ve never looked at the showering same way again.

Why is it homey
– I look outside my dorm room and all I see are trees. If the fact that there are trees in the city is not remarkable enough, I also wake up to the familiar sounds of chirping birds every morning.

Why is it not
– The television is shared by a thousand pairs of eyes. At one point, most of those eyeballs were glued at Meteor Garden.

2. Molave Residence Hall
Communal living at it’s peak

One of the many dormitories for the upper classmen, this dorm is one of the two co-eds, and the only one with an in-house cafeteria. It’s also very near the University Film Institute where the rumors are true – uncut versions of movies are screened. It’s kinda liberating seeing certain body parts, in all clarity, in full wide screen. You gotta love art.
Late night walks at the dorm corridor teleports me to a horror movie set. The dorm makes you appreciate nature as well – friendly bats eats all sorts of bugs as you sleep.

Why is it homey
– Stumbled upon amazing dorm mates that I’d keep as friends for life.

Why is it not
– The comfort room doesn’t bring comfort at all. Go figure.

Image3. Village A, UP Campus
A province in the city

The lesser known villages in UP Diliman are Villages A & B, where the university houses its employees. Everytime I step out the house in the afternoon, I couldn’t help but feel the resemblance of the street ambiance to that of our province – children playing in the streets, half naked men clutched together in the street side, street vendors selling stuff, until darkness covers it all up. In an attempt to save a fraction of my allowance, it was during this time that I do a 20 minute (around 2km) walk every morning to go to class. I go the same route in the afternoon going home.

Why is it homey
– No curfew. However, you have to walk the street at night in near pitch black. Define darkness.

Why is it not
– Village houses are not posh houses. At one point, it was actually described as ‘shanties’. Try braving a twister or typhoon signal #4 Milenyo while in it. Not a good experience, I’m telling you.

4. Dona Josefa Village, Las Pinas
Birth of the Lone City Dweller

My very first official venture into living alone, and a very trivial decision too. A lot of people raised eyebrows on to why I chose to live in that place. It’s like laying a map of Metro Manila on a table, place a blindfold, grab a pen, and encircle an arbitrary location. And the funny thing is that I really did that. Well, sort of. I did the virtual version: used Google maps & half-arbitrarily choose a place down south. It’s nearer to my place of work, nearer to the provincial bus terminal but still in the city.

Why is it homey
– Very silent. Too silent that you can hear the clock ticking at noontime. The very near mall add up to the perks. I went there one time in my worn out sleep wear to use the ATM. I stood in line next to a posh girl with a posh dog carrying shopping bags of posh shops.

Why is it not
– I got robbed. End of story.

5. Somewhere near Alabang
My current nest

I’m now going into 2 years in my current apartment. It’s a studio bigger than my previous Dona Josefa room. A neighbor once describe the complex as being like a school building, with apartments lined up to each other like classrooms. In all address books, maps and documents, the place is located in Las Pinas, but you can literally count the steps going to the area covered by Alabang. Hence, I often say that I live in Alabang (to save on time explaining, and to also to add up to the posh value).

Why is it homey
– I furnished the place in an attempt to recreate, to the best of my ability, our home in the province: a lot of wooden pieces, wide spaces and familiar color schemes of brown, cream, white and occasional greens.

Why is it not
– Saturday night videoke concert of the neighbors. Aegis, anyone?

Journey to the City

In the States, and in other parts of the Caucasian world, included in a person’s rite of passage to adulthood is moving out of your parent’s house and venture the world on your own. A good friend once told me it’s like kicking a little bird out of the nest on purpose, until it learns how to fly back.

In the real world, leaving the nest happens around the age of 18 when people move to big cities to go to college or to work. Without K+12 yet, I started 2 years earlier at age 16. It was surreal then – the kind of stuff that would blossom into a good story book material: a little boy plucked from a far away province to live, study and face the challenges of the big city all by himself. On paper, it seems like all hope was lost then. But those times of trial and despair are sometimes necessary to brings out the best in you.

So, with the determination, positivity and wit under my wings, I stepped out of the comforts of my childhood nest and ventured into the open city sky. It was ridiculously uneasy at first. I dare not relive the pains of nights without cable TV, of mornings spent with strangers, and of long penniless afternoon walks. It sucked to think that taking flight wasn’t going to be that easy, let alone navigate through the city, long enough to at least keep myself alive.

But as cliché as it may sound, the journey itself weighs more than the destination. I learn to embrace the city in all its junk and majesty. If you manage to see right through it, it’s sprawling with the good, the bad, the best, the worst, the random and countless other unexplainable things rolled into one – a concoction of stuff that weird dreams are made of, which I find rather intriguing and amusing. My flight to the city is reminiscent of How to Train Your Dragon‘s spectacular 3D aeronautic wonder scene. Under every twisting and turning comes the uncertainty of whether you’ll survive it in one piece – the very thrill I feel in wandering around the city.

And so I embraced the city journey whole-heartedly, until I eventually made it out alive and back home. I made that homecoming years ago, but here I am, back in the city for reasons that mere paragraphs cannot explain. Well, it’s ok because maneuvering to the path towards home is one thing that I’ve already mastered. For now, how I cope up, dwell, and sometimes escape the city life will most probably be the stuff that you’ll find in here.

Thanks for visiting and welcome to my life in the city.