Friday, February 27, 2009

You Changed My Life (Star Cinema, 2009)

from http://starcinema.multiply.comPoster from http://starcinema.multiply.com

The double-edged sword that plagues You Changed My Life, the new John Lloyd Cruz – Sarah Geronimo-starrer is that A Very Special Love came before it in 2008. At first, I thought it would be hard to top or at least match Laida and Miggy’s chemistry on screen. I feared that Star Cinema will churn out a cheesy, mediocre sequel to appease lovesick hearts this season of despair (the global financial crisis, not Valentines).

But to paraphrase the note on You Change My Life’s first scene - No, Star Cinema won’t do it to us. And they didn’t. (Snippets and spoilers maybe found in this review.)

The film still has the correct ingredients- formulaic, yes, but somehow the general taste seems to have been enhanced. Some flavors have been muted, some new flavors have come to the fore. But at the very least, the movie does not disappoint.

You Changed My Life is six months after Laida, a budding executive assistant in a struggling publication, met and worked for a cantankerous, brooding boss Miggy in A Very Special Love. The latter was won over by his EA’s sweet and positive demeanor, the proverbial beast was tamed, a deal sealed with a frolic and a kiss under the rain.

The same bunch of cookie people is present. Laida’s Flippage/BACHELOR magazine colleagues return, with the same ardor for life and work, but lovingly distracted by their friend’s relationship with their former boss. Their quick-witted quips and antics provide the same real-world lines that populate many an office setting. In a word, Laida’s loyal and often sensible friends are – Adik.

Laida’s family returns as well, albeit with lesser screen time. But despite their limited appearance, their seamless support for her exploits and welcome guidance when she veers off course make them lovable still.

Miggy’s family returns as well- the same business-minded clan, but this time showing more… heart. Miggy struggles to balance this concept- that businessfolk HAVE hearts too- and mistakes profits as the way to earn the love and respect of people connected with the company- workers and management alike.

Here the conflict ensues- between him, his family, their business, and his personal life.

It does not help that a blast from Laida’s past, Makoy, a male best friend comes into the picture.

It does not help that Laida, savoring her first real relationship, is willing to give up everything for Miggy- even dreams of strolling the greener pastures of Canada- in a heartbeat.

It does not help that she expects the same from Miggy.

The film has many, many great moments. However, I checked my phone for calls or messages twice during the movie- which is not a good sign. The film did not capture me right away; again, it suffers from being a sequel. But that is likewise the strength of the film: it builds on what the audience already knows about the characters, a strength ably harnessed by the production team as they unraveled a logical tale.

Logical that Laida has many over-the-top quirks: the irritatingly sweet ringtone, terms of endearment for Miggy, her pre-occupation with this, her first relationship. Give me the name of someone who, in her first real relationship, did not go bonkers this way, and I’d tell you that that person did not love at all. Logical, too, is the fact that her family is a bit worried about her foray into this love relationship.

Logical that Miggy is equally giddy, having discovered someone who loves him just the way he is, sans the need to constantly compete and prove himself. Logical, too, is his transition into a new world of business and the challenge to balance it with his personal life. He asked for it, in a way.

The dialogues, the scenery, the people that fill You Changed My Life give the film a consistent feel, a sense of real-ness to it. In these trying times, we don’t need to be taken to an imaginary, highly-improbable fantasy world where magic happens exclusively. During this brief cinematic sojourn, we are reminded that in the real world, magic (or miracles) can and should be expected to happen, even in the most unusual of places like a Styrofoam cup that says Sorry or after a Power-Hug.

(Watch out for Manang and Tin. They rock.)

Saturday, February 21, 2009

PhotoHunt: Warm



To say that the last four weeks were hectic is the understatement of the year. We're in the thick of preparing for a week-long course for health professions students to be held this April; rolling out a project between the University and the Philippine Department of Health, and; laboring on the first draft of a book about our work among urban lower income communities. These on top of my regular academic load and activities with my Catholic renewal yuppy group.

This week brought some respite though as one of my classes held its last session for the year. The special seven-year Doctor of Medicine program of the University has a year-long once-a-week course called Introduction to Patient Care or IPC. The course title is a misnomer, carried along from its inception more than two decades ago. Thanks to its evolution, IPC does not only aim to make the medical student a good clinician. Moreover, it furthers the development of excellent physicians through a guided journey of self-discovery by way of activities that clarify their values, shedding light on their family's lineage, practice their skill for asking and giving feedback, among other activities. The course approximates a values and personality enhancement class that will hopefully ultimately lead to our students becoming caring, compassionate, and competent physicians.

As I have mentioned, the Wednesday past was our last day in IPC class. With all the things in my to-do list, to finally have all my Wednesday afternoons free starting next week is a tremendous blessing. But before we parted ways, all three of us facilitators received this token of remembrance from them. They wrote heartwarming messages on the other side of this framed sheet bearing the amazing illustrations of our likeness.

I will surely miss the 10 students we've been facilitating for the last 8 months.
They're a bunch of articulate, effervescent, talented, sincere students who displayed genuine interest and resolve to better themselves through the course. It was such a joy to have been given the chance to work with them. If they remain as diligent and human as they are now through medical school and beyond, I would entrust my health or the health of a loved one to them in a heartbeat.

Php 1:3-6
I thank my God for you every time I think of you; and every time I pray for you all, I pray with joy because of the way in which you have helped me in the work of the gospel from the very first day until now. And so I am sure that God, who began this good work in you, will carry it on until it is finished on the Day of Christ Jesus.

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Weekend at Sonya's Garden


We caught a whiff of this unique haven some two years ago when we had lunch there and, boy, what we saw, felt, smelled, heard, and tasted was too good to resist. However, we were then booked already at the Discovery Country Suites so we just vowed to enjoy Sonya’s Garden one day. That day came last weekend when we spent the night in this not-so-secret southern getaway located just at the fringes of Tagaytay City. And that we enjoyed our stay there tremendously is an understatement.

Choosing from among dozens is going to be painful but let me share just the five details I like best about Sonya’s Garden, in no particular order:


1. The gardens are simply wonderful. Flowers of all shapes, sizes, colors, and scents- including one that smells like butter!- populate a substantial amount of the property. I don’t know and I don’t really care if there was some planning of which flower grows beside what species; the end product is a sight for sore eyes. It’s an amateur photographer’s nightmare: I hardly knew which flowers to photograph first!




The garden, too, served as an unwitting key to unlocking memories. Our aunts who were with us reminisced about which flowers populated their home’s garden back in the day, educating us youngsters, in the process, about biology and our family heritage.



2. Guests will feel at home in any of the 12 cottages in the bed and breakfast area. We stayed in the Lavender cottage, a two-storey abode that comfortably housed our party of 13. The cottage is airy, thanks to the huge windows that allow the cool breeze of the hills to filter through.


The d├ęcor is distinctly Filipino but it is replete with hints that a well-traveled person owns the house. Sans tv, landline phone, or stereo, the place is really intended for those who want to master the art of just-relax-and-do-nothing.


The front door opens into the welcoming well-appointed living room and dining room.


My sister and brother in law, feeling a bit Town & Country in the Lavender cottage.


One of the numerous beds in the cottage, arguably the most interesting.


Loo with a view.

3. I adore the simple touches that render the place unique- from the interesting furniture, to the most inconspicuous of knick-knacks, within and around the cottage.


An earthen basin with fresh flowers greet guests at the cottage’s doorstep.


The day can be as lazy as this lounging amphibian at the nearby pond with koi fish.


Detail of the back rest of a bench in front of the cottage depicting the life of an indigenous Filipino trader.


The window greeting anyone who ascends the stairs to the second floor rooms.


Walking paths in the garden are lit at night by numerous capiz lamps.

4. The food at first glance appear to be akin to our daily fare but ordinary the meals here are not. From the bread, the salad, and the pasta for dinner; to the bangus, adobo, and omelet for breakfast- mealtimes are unique experiences which health buffs and those on see-food diet (when I see food, I eat food) will enjoy. The unending liters of dalandan juice for dinner and local hot choco for breakfast provide the perfect partner for the meals.


The irresistible savory character of the meals explains the dearth of photos. I also do not want to preempt future guests’ experience.

5. The members of the staff working with Sonya’s Garden are among the more professional and perceptive in the hospitality industry I’ve encountered. A party of 13 is not the easiest of guests to please but they managed to, um, smile and attend to our needs (and whims!).


For a respite from the stifling life in the city Sonya’s Garden may just be the place for you. It was indeed for me. No TV? No internet? No problem! There are lots of nooks and crannies to explore within the compound of Sonya’s Garden. Its wellness center has a lengthy list of massages to soothe the aches of the body; its Panaderia has goodies reminiscent of the products from the neighborhood bakery.

The Sonya’s Garden experience does not come cheap but it is worth every peso spent. And being serenaded at dinner by two authentic kundiman singers cum guitarists all the more sweetens the deal.

In case I suddenly become incommunicado, be sure to include this hideaway to the list of places you'd check my presence for.

Saturday, February 07, 2009

PhotoHunt: Bridges



Good thing I love being behind the wheel, else I would have gone crazy with the intermittent traffic jams in the Philippines. While anybody, including myself, would savor bottleneck-less stretches of roadway where we can push the pedal to the metal(?), I likewise enjoy the occasional stop-and-go traffic scenarios so I can smell the proverbial flowers, or take a snapshot of a roadside vista.

This segment of my route home has been the area of many a motorist's driving woes; but the latter may soon be things of the past. After more than three years of roadworks (if my memory serves me right), the construction of these off-ramps and bridges interconnecting the new international airport with the elevated and at-grade highway systems seem to be in its final stages.

Faster travel, cooler heads, mission accomplished. Finally!

Sunday, February 01, 2009

A Filipino win, a Swiss miss: Australian Open 2009

"God. This is killing me."

It was heartbreaking, the sight of Roger Federer uttering those words and then wiping from his face the torrent of tears at the awards ceremony of the Australian Open 2009, attempting to speak after receiving the runner-up's plaque, amidst the cacophony of cheers and applause and declarations of love from the crowd.

The 13-time Grand Slam winner lost to current world no. 1, Rafael Nadal, 5-7 6-3 6-7 6-3 2-6, in a 4-hour championship match that showcased both players' amazing tennis prowess. The pressure to equal Pete Sampras' 14 Slams plus the crowds unabashed support for the Federer Express must've weighed heavily on the Swiss sensation. But soon after Rafa received the Australian Open winner's trophy from the Aussie tennis deity Rod Laver, Roger was gracious enough to speak right away amidst the tears so as not to steal Nadal's thunder.

The promise of returning next year seemed like reassurance enough for the crowd that Roger will be ok.

But this sadness from Federer's loss cannot parallel and is even forgotten thanks to the sheer joy any Filipino tennis fan should feel or any Filipino for that matter because Francis Casey Alcantara of Cagayan De Oro City, along with partner Cheng-Peng Hsieh of Chinese Taipei won the Boys' Doubles Final at the 2009 Australian Open! The pair, seeded seventh in the Aussie Open, beat the tandem of Russian Mikhal Biryukov and Japanese Yasutaka Uchiyama 6-4 6-2.

Finally, we have a Filipino Grand Slam winner!

At first I thought it was one of those hollow vicarious victories that we Pinoys and the media claim as "ours," like Fil-Ams winning awards or recognitions from US-based institutions. Frustrating is the fact that when they get interviewed their being "Fil" is almost an after-thought, which makes heralding their victories as "Filipino" seem pathetic. But apparently, young tennis star Alcantara IS all-Pinoy, hails from Cagayan De Oro City, is the top local junior player and ranked 20th in the world according to the Philippine Daily Inquirer. I never knew we had a Pinoy tennis player ranked so high! I wonder if Dyan Castillejo, an accomplished player herself, has ever featured him in any of her shows or reportage. Maybe she ought to, and pronto, rather than tailing Manny Pacquiao and showcasing all his excesses and indiscretions.

Anyway...

Such a happy day for Philippine tennis and Philippine sports! The Australian Open is one of the most prestigious sporting events in the world, touted as the Grand Slam of the Asia/Pacific. This boy Alcantara should receive all the media coverage, recognition, and support that government and the private sector could muster. He and his team and his sport deserve all of it.

This victory of a Pinoy in the Australian Open sure beats the blood and gore that come with victory in the boxing ring.

Game, set, match, championship!

More about Francis Casey Alcantara's 2009 Australian Open victory here http://sports.inquirer.net/inquirersports/inquirersports/view/20090201-186753/RP-boy-triumphs-in-Aussie-Open

and here

http://www.australianopen.com/en_AU/news/match_reports/2009-01-31/200901311233383282609.html

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I would have blogged about the Pinoy Aussie Open victory but we just got back from an overnight stay in a little slice of heaven call Sonya's Garden. More tales from Tagaytay next time-