Sunday, January 31, 2010

Vigan


OF course, as long as we're in Laoag, we might as well check out Vigan, too, right? Well, we did. I have to say my first and only memory of the place from the same 2006 Cebu Pacific media fam is equally memorable and quite surreal as my account below will attest.

SOLID NORTH PART 2
By EDWIN P. SALLAN

Outside of Cebu and a good part of Manila, I don’t there’s any part of the country that best preserves our 19th century Spanish heritage better than Vigan. Passing by several churches including the very famous Vigan Cathedral is like being part of some sort of time warp.

One of the oldest and historic churches in the country, the cathedral remains a must-stop in every Vigan visit. In a province known for their beautiful old world architecture, it stands out as a stunning historical monument, marred only by the unfortunate memory of the assassination of the late Congressman Floro Crisologo, whose gun-riddled vehicle is still on display at their nearby residence, now known as the Crisologo Museum, that also houses other memorabilia of the once powerful political family.

Give or take some fairly recently cemented roads, the famous cobblestone streets that punctuate the old Spanish structures remain remarkably intact. The equally popular calesas and newer establishments like McDonald's and Max's Restaurant that strangely seems to seamlessly blend with each other there makes our visit all the more surreal.

Old Demi Moore and Patrick Swayze jokes aside, the pottery-making process as demonstrated by National Folk Artist Fidel A. Go of Ruby Pottery is a hoot. Turns out the burnay or earthenware jars crafted by a potter’s hands with the aid of a potter’s wheel is a big industry in Vigan.

Even more amazing is the fact that disfigured burnays are never thrown away and in fact, commands a higher price and a bigger demand than their perfected counterparts.

Interesting trivia: Our tour guide told us that aside from his burnays, Mang Fidel is also known for having several wives. Matulis! But that’s another story.

The restored house of Juan Luna was also a nice stop for us although I have to admit being a little disappointed when I learned that only printed reproductions of his original paintings were displayed instead. Still, it was quite a time warp trip to be in the house of a national hero and a prized artist at that.

Another highlight of our Vigan sidetrip was a visit to the house of former Governor Luis “Chavit” Singson where his not-so-private zoo that open to the public for free. Characterized by big bold letters that spell “Baluarte,” the sprawling complex also houses Chavit’s impressive collection of animals, ranging from gazelles to kangaroos to peacocks to an Alaskan Husky snow dog to of course, lots of tigers. The brave and the bold can also have his or her photo taken with those tigers, too. The governor was not around to entertain us but her sister, who I understand is also a local official at the province treated us to a nice merienda of pancit and more Ilocos empanadas.

I wish we had more time to explore Vigan further as it is the wonderful place that people say it is. Hope to come back here soon. 

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Laoag


REMEMBERING my “historic” 2006 visit to Laoag City. Haven’t been there since but would love to visit again this summer or any other time this year. You should consider giving it a thought, too, especially if you haven’t been to this beautiful city. Given its rich history, Laoag is not quite any other place you’ve ever experienced.

And why is it historic? Read on and find out.

SOLID NORTH
By EDWIN P. SALLAN

MAIDEN voyages have a somewhat scary feel to them, no thanks in large part to the infamous disasters that befell the Hindenburg and the Titanic on their respective maiden trips. Thankfully, modern technology has a way of making things a lot safer for travelers and in the case of Cebu Pacific’s recent maiden flight to Laoag, pretty much uneventful.

It was uneventful in the sense that for one thing, our 45-minute flight from Manila and back to Manila two days later in the airline’s spanking, new Airbus A319 was as smooth as any plane trip can get. It pretty much negated any adventurous illusions of Flight Plan-like heroics that I actually entertained. And no, I did not win anything in the Show Me games this time.

What was actually eventful for our group of lifestyle journalists was the media fam that followed. While there was not enough time to see everything that was included in our original itinerary, what we did manage to check out was enough to leave memories that should last for quite a while.

For starters, there’s the place where we were billeted. Fort Ilocandia, the only five-star resort in the region, is an upper class beach resort that’s popular with foreign expatriates. It boasts of a Spanish-Moroccan inspired architecture and also houses a popular casino where guests can play right away with the complimentary P200 betting coupon included in their room keys. Framed pictures of prominent people, mostly politicians adorn its lobby while the hallway of the second floor leading to the casino are filled with equally fascinating pictures of foreign heads of state including Emperor Hirohito, Fidel Castro and I could have sworn, even Saddam Hussein rubbing elbows with the late president Ferdinand Marcos and the Imeldific former first lady.



You pretty much know you’re in Marcos country when you see these and similar blasts from the past just staring at you in the face. Ferdinand Marcos remains revered in Ilocos Norte. Our tour guides and just about everyone else we talked to still refer to him as “President Marcos.” Incidentally, Governor Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos, Jr. was also in that same Cebu Pacific maiden flight to Laoag and delivered a brief speech at the airport upon our arrival.

Our Laoag media fam was then kicked off with guided tours of the MalacaƱang Of The North and the Marcos Museum and Mausoleum. In the first, we got to see the Ilocos resthouse of the Marcoses, a once imposing colonial-style mansion overlooking a lake where the late president and his guests once sailed and water skiied. It is also adjacent to a world-class golf course where they leisurely swung their R and R time back in the day.

The mansion has obviously seen better days and the creaking sound of the hardwood floor and furniture gives it a somewhat eerie feel, especially in the master’s bedroom of the former president that also included a study and a library. The house is a reminder of a not-so-distant past that at the very least remains fascinating for the tourists who get to set foot in it. For my part, there is something about one particular room that were supposedly shared by sisters Imee and Irene that kept me wondering if they and the other surviving Marcoses do drop by from time to time whenever they wax nostalgic about this place. I mean, I certainly would if I once lived here. Turns out they don't come here very often, says the longtime male housekeeper.


In the Marcos Mausoleum, we get to see the former president himself in his famous glass coffin. Preserved in a refrigerated crypt made remarkable by the imposing presidential seal that pretty much frames him when viewed from the foot, he does look more like a wax figure when viewed up close. Our tour guide and the Mausoleum staff that we talked to also believe as much. But foreign journalist Brent Hannon wrote that Eddie Quirino, grandson of former president Elpidio Quirino, insists that this is the real McCoy. “He was embalmed with pure glycerin at 110 degrees, the latest technology,” he says. “If you light a cigarette, he will go up in flames.”

The nearby Marcos Museum was equally fascinating as well. Here, you could see plenty of everything about the late president: statues, figures, news headlines, official nameplates and even his own presidential desk. The most intriguing thing I saw was his biography divided into the different phases of Marcos’ life and political career. There is no mention at all of People Power or Ninoy and Cory Aquino. The only reference to 1986 here is that Marcos was ousted by “a military coup d’ etat.”

And no, I have no idea who that guy who posed in the picture below was.

To be fair, Marcos has done more for the Ilocanos than any other president this country ever had so it is understandable why most of them don't really care how he is now viewed by the rest of the country. Or even the rest of the world, for that matter.

In between our trips to the two Marcos landmarks was a brief stopover at Laoag City Hall where I got a taste of their famous Ilocos Empanada. Nowhere close to the Empanada that most of us are familiar with, the Ilocos variety has a bright orange color similar to that Kwek Kwek street food. Instead of the chicken and potatoes that it usually contains, it has tasty ground beef, vegetables and egg as fillings. Although best taken with the balsamic Sukang Iloco, I tried it with banana ketchup and it goes well with that, too.

As food trips go, buffet breakfasts at Fort Ilocandia’s Garden Coffee Shop were always something to look forward to. Aside from the usual popular choices, it was here where we get to taste the famous Laoag and Vigan longganisas. Dinner at the Palazzo De Laoag Hotel was an affair to remember as well. You haven’t really been to Laoag until you’ve dined at this hotel owned by Nonong Ablan. And you haven’t really tasted Pinakbet and Bagnet unless you’ve tried the excellent “original versions” at this place.

On our last day, we still managed to go to two more stops before packing our bags on our way back to Manila. Some in our group went to the famous La Paz Sand Dunes which is just near our hotel and were thrilled to see the pig-shaped sand dunes that most of us only get to see in the movies they’re often used—most notably FPJ’s Ang Panday series and the recent teleserye it spawned that starred Jericho Rosales.

Another group that included myself shopped for pasalubong at the Laoag Public Market. As I’ve discovered earlier, the Laoag and Vigan longganisas are two different things, in terms of taste and appearance. While I like them both, I prefer the bigger, bulkier and slightly sweeter Laoag variety to its smaller and thinner Vigan counterpart.

All told, it was a weekend well-spent at the very Solid North. Thanks to Cebu Pacific, it now takes only about 45 minutes to get to a place that is otherwise a 10 to 14 hour-drive from Manila. And with the airline’s Go Fares rates, traveling to Laoag or any part of the country (and even beyond, for that matter) has never been more affordable.

For Go Fares ticket bookings to Laoag and other destinations, visit cebupacificair.com

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Sinosikat?


CURRENTLY on a bar tour to promote their second album called, well, 2nd Album, Pinoy Soul pioneers Sinosikat? continue to mesmerize old fans and new converts alike with their own brand of what singer Kat Agarrado describes as “groovy, funky, baby-making music for the soul.”

Now an even more potent unit with the addition of Noel Asistores on bass and David Starck on keyboards, I wrote about this band in 2007 for the i Section of the Manila Bulletin. Since then, Sinosikat? went on to achieve the expected greater heights. Kat bagged Singer of the Year in the 2007 NU 107 Rock Awards while the band snagged Best World/Alternative Music honors for “Turning My Safety Off”, Best Jazz Recording for “Akin Ka”, and People’s Choice for Favorite Group for “So Blue” in the 2008 Awit Awards,

Recently, the iced tea brand C2 also signed them to perform the product’s carrier commercial single, “Best About Life,” that also featured arrangements by the band. Sinosikat also performed the song during its formal launch on the Sunday noontime show, ASAP.

The new album’s carrier single, “Nung Iniwan Mo Ako” was written by Sugarfree’s Ebe Dancel. Featured in the video below, it’s a haunting ballad featuring Kat’s evocative and crystal clear vocals in a moving lounge arrangement. It’s just Kat, a piano and a painful loss.

Sinosikat? and 2nd Album are distributed by Warner Music Philippines. For more information and schedule of their ongoing 2nd Album tour, visit their official site here. You can also join their Facebook and Multiply fan pages.

And here’s my first encounter with Sinosikat? in 2007:

SOUL PATROL
By EDWIN P. SALLAN

SINO Sikat o Sino Si Kat? Is it who’s famous or who is that lead singer? As double entendres go, the name of this much talked about band is quite the mystery. And it wasn’t even the idea of its members.

“Actually, it was Vic Mercado and Nathan Azarcon of Bamboo who suggested that name,” recalls vocalist Kat Agarrado. “Nathan would always sing ‘sinosikat?’ repeatedly whenever he sees me. I was a little hesitant at first, but the band agreed it was a good one. It could create interest which it does now.  One word with a question mark. One answer is pretty obvious, the other,  merely a matter of time.  A question or so much as a statement. You decide.”

Yes, it’s one word with a question mark. Well, there certainly is no question about this band’s ability to get our attention, what wiith music they describe as “an orgy of jazz, soul, funk, rock and broken beats.” Sinosikat? is what happens when individuals with diverse musical influences join forces and develop their own unique sound.

Drummer Reli De Vera grew up listening to music from the 50’s and 70’s as well as being heavily influenced by his father, an accomplished bass player in his own right. Guitarist Nick Azarcon got his groove from the likes of Sting and The Police, Jeff Buckley and grunge legends Alice In Chains. For her part, Kat is big on Ella Fitzgerald, Mary J. Blige, Erykah Badu, Bamboo as well as “music from the 70’s era.”

And with the help of equally seasoned session musicians that included Aya Yuson of WDOUJI, Mong Alcaraz of Chicosci, Ira Cruz and Vic Mercado of Bamboo and their former bassist Allen Umali, it’s small wonder Sinosikat?’s self-titled debut CD has as Kat would put, “a little bit of everything.” “It has good vibes and sets the mood right. It’s groovy, funky, baby-making music for the soul,” Kat enthuses.

The sultry singer anchors the 10 tracks of the band’s Warner Music release. They give a fresh funkydelic take on their cover of “Telepono,” a song originally recorded by the 70’s funk outfit, The Advisors, an act whose hit, “Yugyugan Na” was also covered by Karl Roy’s P.O.T. not too long ago. “The moment we heard this song we thought it was super and we wanted to let this generation know that there was a band na kasing groovy nila dito sa pilipinas dati pa,” exclaims Kat. Sinosikat?’s update of “Telepono” includes a reference to text messaging that the original didn’t have.

Other standout tracks include originals like “Akin Ka” (which Kat says is about “a lover who worships the object of his affection from afar”), “Prayer” (“an inspirational song about faith and facing challenges”), “Pag-Ibig,” (“our ultimate love song”), “Tragic Beauty” (“about a free-spirited wild child”) and the current crowd favorite, “Turning My Safety Off” (“about wanting somebody back after a breakup”)—all performed with inspired aplomb by a band worthy of being at the forefront of the so-called Pinoy Soul Movement that they themselves co-founded with Cosmic Love and Pinoystories two years ago.

“Pinoy Soul is more a movement than a genre,” Nick points out. “It espouses friendship and love among musicians and music lovers alike. The music is very different from what is considered as pop nowadays. It is earthy, sultry, sometimes slow, but all the time heartfelt in its emotions. What it seeks to accomplish is bring more intimacy into the music, taking in also the vibe of the crowd as part of the experience of being musicians, and playing live.”

Kat is more animated when she talks about this movement. “Ang saya lang parang get together lang namin ito once a month. Dahil magkakaibigan kami sa totoong buhay noong-noon pa. nabuo talaga ito out of love and friendship,” she beams. “We plan to make the Pinoy Soul Movement big and introduce everyone to a different but comfortingly familiar sound that they can add to their iPod playlists. Our mission is to promote and spread the love. Pag-ibig ang aming main ingredient and of course to promote original pinoy music na may taste at may mission to inspire.”

That’s quite a mouthful. Are these pretty much the same things that they hope to accomplish with their record? “We never considered the songs here as part of a supposed theme,” says Nick. “The music is a reflection of the kind of collaboration between the members of the group. We can write about anything under the sun, and while the lyrics are important, the music should always be able to get our messages across without any further explanations, and that is what we focused on.”

Well, it certainly doesn’t hurt that Kat sings and performs these songs with Diva-esque authority, thanks also in part to a chops-honing stint with no less than Pinoy Rock legend Wally Gonzalez as well as jamming with other musicians including the members of Bamboo.

“I feel very fortunate and blessed to play music with the living legends and the pioneers of Pinoy Rock,” says Kat. “That’s actually where I get my inspiration from. it is a priceless experience. My bandmates are cool about it and besides I represent Sinosikat? and it’s like taking one for the team.”

A driven band that’s “influenced by the past and inspired by the future.” Yes, it may only be a matter of time before people stop asking the question that their name prompts. There is at least one definite answer for that now. Sinosikat? ang sikat ngayon. 

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Picture Flawless


RECENTLY attended the press presentation of the finalists for Picture Flawless, a search for the next male and female endorsers of the popular salon chain.

From the more than 1,000 hopefuls between the ages of 15 and 33 who agreed to be photographed after availing of  P1,800 worth of products and/or services from Flawless branches nationwide, only 23 emerged as the last ones still standing.

Distinguished by their “F” text voting codes as well as the characteristics that best represents their respective personalities, these finalists are for the girls: Flawlessly Kikay Jean Teresa Agoncillo or F1, Flawless Potential Abigael Arazo or F2, Purely Flawless Julianne Susie Arcenio or F3, Flawlessly Elegant Doris Cheong or F4, Flawless Dreamer Trina Felis Espia or F5, Flawlessly Exotic Keina Fawaz or F6, Flawlessly Fun Rose Carmel Pagtalunan or F7, Flawless Mom Jennifer Regaspi or F8, Flawless Diva Rhiza Ostonal or F9, Flawlessly Fierce Catherine Santos or F10 and Flawlessly Friendly Apple Seva or F11.

The lucky guys who made the cut are Flawless Chef Aristotle Corrales or F12, Flawless Heartbreaker Carlo Cruz or F13, Flawlessly Dangerous Robert de Claro or 14, Flawlessly Charming Eric Eleazar or F15, Flawless Hugger Paolo Jereza or F16, Shy and Flawless Cerafin Letim or F17, Flawless and Tough Rafael Nanquil or F18, Flawlessly Funny Paul Reyes or F19, Eco-Flawless Saman Sohrabi or F20, Flawless Mind Stephan Schielmann or F21, Flawlessly Fine Jason Sumang or F22, and Flawlessly Sincere John Rudolf Villamor or F23.


That’s a lot of F’s there. Kidding. Seriously, while I thought all of them are deserving to have their own Flawless billboards (actually they already do as a group), there are those who stood out for one reason or another.

Among the girls, F2 Abigail Arazo left quite an impression. The youngest finalist at 15 who was refused entry at Embassy during a Flawless event because of her age has the same kind of growing up appeal that the likes of Carmina Villaruel and Anne Curtis had. Potential is indeed the key word for her.

There’s F3 Julianne Arcenio who is best remembered for her “represent the Filipino, with Filipino values” reply to what makes her Flawless. There’s F4 Doris Cheong and F6 Keina Fawaz who both photographed and projected well during the launch. There’s F10 Catherine Santos, who true to her Flawlessly Fierce billing boldly declared that she will donate P200,000 of the total P800,000 prize money to a medical cause if she wins. Yes, she’s kinda cute, too.

And then there’s F11 Apple Seva, who although already married remains a bubbly personality and drop dead gorgeous with her unforgettable smile. During our brief chat at the launch, Apple told me how she had a wonderful time getting to know the others during their photo shoot and was so thrilled when she saw their Picture Flawless billboards in EDSA she couldn’t help but take photos.

I didn’t get to interract that much with the guys but I thought F16 Paolo Jereza, who took part in the same formidable Star Circle batch of Hero Angeles, Roxanne Guinoo, Joross Gamboa, Melissa Ricks, Sandara Park and Michelle Madrigal has a good shot.  There are those who favor tall and funny guy F19 Paul Reyes while I thought pretty boys F18 Rafael Nanquil and F20 Saman Sohrabi could easily have been Regal babies if they were born in another time.


One girl and one boy will win the cash prize of P800,000 each, in addition to a Flawless endorsement contract that includes his and her own billboard. Lorna Tolentino, Judy Ann Santos, Richard Gutierrez, Mark Herras and Yasmien Kurdi are just a few of Flawless celebrity endorsers.

Of course, their chances or at least 80 percent of it hinges on your votes. Voting is done through visits at Flawless branches or through texting. Even voters stand to win big in the raffles conducted last January 18 and this coming February 8.

And since Picture Flawless donates part of the profits to the victims of the recent typhoons that ravaged the country, you’re actually part of a good cause as well. So are the eventual winners who will also embark on the Flawless Philippines project and provide valuable input on how the Philippines can be a more Flawless place.

For more information, visit www.flawless.ph.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Film Review: Sherlock Holmes

SOME critics who saw the recent re-imagining of Sherlock Holmes have accused director Guy Ritchie (Snatch, Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, Madonna) of cinematic blasphemy for turning what was largely a cerebral crimefighter into a swashbuckling action hero that author Sir Arthur Conan Doyle never envisioned him to be.

Or so they say. Well, I never read any of those books and I never saw how Sherlock Holmes was portrayed in earlier films about him either. But a little sleuthing on my own part (okay, I Googled) revealed that the English filmmaker is actually more faithful to the original material than he is given credit for.

In addition to his more famous deduction skills in solving crime, the real Holmes (Robert Downey, Jr. in his recent Golden Globe-winning performance) had the brawn to match his brains, most of which were also depicted in the film. Yes, Holmes does pack a pistol and is equally adept at using swords, canes and riding crop as weapons. He is also formidable at martial arts and describes himself as a bare-knuckled prizefighter.

And just as he is portrayed in the film, the real, okay, original Sherlock Holmes also led a bohemian lifestyle and was heavily dependent on drugs, as certain scenes implied. It certainly didn't help that he was very good in chemistry and that his ally, Dr. John Watson (played here by Jude Law) is actually a doctor. Watson is also a war veteran and Law’s reading of the part is closer to Doyle's vision than the bumbling sidekick he was essayed in earlier Sherlock Holmes adaptations.

Either that, or both Ritchie and myself read the same Wikipedia entry. Comparisons aside, Sherlock Holmes, the movie, is a pretty enjoyable ride, with a plot that’s a lot less convoluted than Ritchie’s other known works. Even the critics who scoff at the so-called “comic book” treatment of a literary classic (think 18th century Batman minus the brooding persona and the Halloween costume) have grudgingly conceded it to be entertaining.

The movie begins with Holmes and Watson successfully preventing a human sacrifice ritual conducted by one Lord Blackwood (an eerily creepy Mark Strong channeling Andy Garcia), who was later arrested, tried and executed. But just as Blackwood promised Holmes before he was hanged, three more deaths are going to occur as the fiend’s body mysteriously disappeared from his grave shortly after his execution. How Holmes and Watson will save the day from a mad villain (the good old-fashioned destroy the world type, okay, destroy London at least) that seemed to have risen from the dead is where the rest of the film revolves.

In the middle of all this, Holmes also re-acquaints himself with Irene Adler (Rachel McAdams, radiant as ever), an old flame and femme fatale who is now in the employ of a nemesis that's familiar to old fans but won’t be fully revealed until the sequel.

Yes, there are crowd-pandering moments including a fistfight sequence straight out of Snatch, a CGI-effects aided thrilling chase scene that ends with a sunken steamship in a naval yard, a literally explosive cliff-hanger at an industrial slaughterhouse and a climax taking place on the still unfinished Tower Bridge (again, CGI-aided) that, among others, should keep Downey’s next project, Iron Man 2 in the audience’s minds.

Add the atmospheric score of Hans Zimmer, the largely dark and picturesque production values straight out of the London sets of Sweeney Todd and From Hell, the spot-on chemistry between Downey and Law as Holmes and Watson plus the faint promise of McAdams (hey, I like her, okay?) coming into her own in the next installment or so I hope. And oh, yes, throw in the brilliant deductive reasoning that the world’s most famous detective is known for and Ritchie has a nice film franchise equation that is simply too, uh,  elementary (to quote Sherlock Holmes himself) for audiences not to figure out.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Kangol Headwear

ANOTHER recent fashion piece I wrote for the Manila Bulletin.  Yes, hats are back in a big way.

Kangol hats remain stylish accessories through the years
By EDWIN P. SALLAN

ORIGINALLY created as protection from the elements like heat, rain and falling rocks, hats were later worn for religious reasons as well as to indicate rank (i.e. in military) and social status.

Eventually, hats or headwear as they are now often called, became fashion accessories. And lately, they have become an increasingly indispensable part of men’s fashion statements. And because the onlooker’s attention is first drawn to the face, a hat is the most noticeable fashion item anyone can wear.  There’s an old saying that goes “if you want to get ahead and get noticed, then get a hat.”

A lot of people did and continues to do so to this day. And as men’s headwear goes, the ones made by British clothing company Kangol have been setting the pace for head fashion. Since it was founded in 1938 by Jacques Spreiregen, Kangol quickly became a major beret supplier to the British armed forces and the Olympic team.

With its iconic kangaroo logo and a name taken from the words “Knitting,” “ANGora,” and “woOL,”  Kangol has distinguished itself as the most recognized headwear brand in the world,  producing a wide range of hats that transcend generations and cultures. Along with historic collaborations from designers like Mary Quant and Pierre Cardin, Kangol has over the years graced the heads of not just war heroes like Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery but also the rich, the famous and even the royalty including The Beatles, tennis legend Arnold Palmer, Run-DMC, LL Cool J, Eminem, Chris Brown, Samuel L. Jackson and Brad Pitt.

Even in its latest collection, wool continues to be the cornerstone of Kangol Hats  as exemplified by its very popular Kangol Wool 504 Cap, first introduced in 1954 and the more “modern” Kangol Ventair 504 Cap first unleashed during the 80’s.

Equally popular traditional shapes such as the Kangol Wool Monty Beret are also back while shapes like the Kangol Wool 507, The Wool Geez, and the Wool Clery are coming-on strong.

Inspired by the stylings of the rat pack and vintage golf, the much sought after Wool Player is a clean looking and very wearable trilby shaped style with an integral band and stingy brim that can be worn up or down.

Among the newer designs, the US-crafted Lite Felt and Fur Felt shapes specifically variants like Lite Felt 504, Lite Felt Mau, Lite Felt Player, Fur Felt Cap and Fur Felt Player easily stand out.

There’s also a “Japanese Jersey” collection that consists of four styles made from premium Japanese jersey, giving the traditional hat styles a fresh and young look.

With strong attention to fabric, construction and detail, Kangol blazes every trail as it sets and continues to transcend trends. From the greens of England to the snazzy streets of New York, from the classic vogue to the modern chic, Kangol hats are sure to outlive decades of fad with its unique flare and elegant rebirth.

Kangol is available at Bratpack Greenbelt 5 and Rustans Makati and exclusively distributed by the Primer Group of Companies.

New From E-Games

EXTENDED “remix” of a recent news item I wrote for the Infotech section of the Manila Bulletin.

E-GAMES ANNOUNCES NEW ONLINE GAMES FOR 2010
By EDWIN P. SALLAN

EVEN as it maintains its dominance in the field of online gaming in 2009, IP E-Game Ventures, Inc. or simply IP E-Games, the number one-ranked online gaming publisher in the country announced the launching of more new titles for 2010.

During its recently concluded Road To Dominance IV event, E-Games Chief Operating Officer Gil Edeza announced these new online titles namely Dragonica, a side-scrolling adventure game, Bandmaster, a music band game and OP7, its newest massively multiplayer online first person shooter or MMOFS will be available by the first quarter of next year.

Edeza says Dragonica boasts of RPG elements and an eight-way side-scrolling system in full 3D that provides fun and intuitive gameplay even for first time players. “Dragonica has the potential for bringing all kinds of gamers together in one game,” he points out. “Its easy-to-use interface and gameplay system will appeal to casual gamers and first-time MMOG players, while the game’s RPG elements, combo system and PvP battles will also attract veteran players.”

Heidi Mendita-Garayblas, Vice President for e-Games, adds that the game’s appeal widespread appeal is rooted in its uniqueness. “Dragonica, though side-scrolling, is the first to use 3D graphics to enable more freedom of movement. With its humor and use of pop-culture references, it’s easy to have fun while playing this game.”

Another new title, Bandmaster is actually a game to be published locally by X-Play Online Games, the joint venture company of IP e-Games and GMA New Media Inc, the digital media arm of GMA Network.


Developed by Dyson (Piper Games), Bandmaster is easily patterned after popular console franchises, Rock Band and Guitar Player as it allows each player to choose between six different instruments and battle with other players in a concert-like atmosphere where each participant will match the beats of their chosen instruments in rendering an outstanding musical performance.

“With the advent of technology, the music industry has evolved to a point where the artist can present their music directly to the public. Bandmaster takes this one step further, offering the opportunity to display artistic talent to their peers within a virtual setting,” beams George Royeca Chief Operating Officer of X-Play.


And then there’s OP7, which already began its closed beta and open beta testings during the last quarter of this year. The commercial version, set to debut next year will have better gameplay dynamics and will also feature new maps, the best of which is the Dust Map which is closely based on De Dust, the most popular map of FPS game, Counterstrike, as well as a Clan System that promises to bring players to work more cohesively as a unit.

“These new improvements and adjustments will make OP7 run better and provide an even more improved and balanced gameplay,” says Sonny Carlos, Product Manager for OP7.

In addition to these new games, E-Games also announced the closed beta testing period of Runes Of Magic, a game that started its Alpha testing last October. Developed by Taiwan-based Runewaker Entertainment, Runes of Magic is a new fantasy MMORPG (massively multiplayer online role playing game), using a popular Western-style high-fantasy backdrop complete with heroic quests, crafting, incredible creatures and monsters to defeat.

“Runes of Magic aims to break online gaming conventions,” Edeza enthuses. “With a big, immersive world, veteran and beginning players are in for a surprise. And just like all other E-Games titles, it is free-to-play.”

IP E-Games is a subsidiary of IPVG, a company recently nominated as IT Company of the Year by the I.T. Journalists Association of the Philippines in its recently concluded 2009 Cyberpress Awards. 

Jeremy Piven of Entourage

HAVING already won three Emmys and a Golden Globe award for his role as Ari Gold, the acerbic Hollywood agent in Entourage, Jeremy Piven was again nominated for the same role in the recently concluded Golden Globes.

Now on Season 6 and currently airing on HBO, Piven’s character remains a central figure in the hit TV series as Ari Gold is on pace to become more powerful than ever. You have to catch the ongoing episodes to know more, though.

Because for now, I’ll just leave you with a 2007 feature I wrote about the actor and one of TV’s surprisingly endearing characters for the i Section of the Manila Bulletin.

GOLD STANDARD
By EDWIN P. SALLAN

“THERE are no asterisks in this life, only scoreboards.”

Forget about that new James Woods courtroom drama, only a real shark like Ari Gold can say something like that in convincing fashion. Ruthless, relentless and always at the top of his game, Ari is the Hollywood agent that makes his client’s stars wildest dreams and sometimes, even worst nightmares come true in HBO’s hit comedy series, Entourage, now on its third rampaging season.

Based loosely on the Hollywood experience of acclaimed actor Mark Wahlberg who also acts as its executive producer, the Emmy award-winning Entourage takes a look at the day-to-day life of Vincent (Vince) Chase (Adrian Grenier), a hot young actor in Hollywood, and his entourage, three longtime buddies from his hometown of Queens, New York: his best friend and manager Eric “E” Murphy (Kevin Connolly), his half-brother Johnny “Drama” Chase (Kevin Dillon) and his loyal pal and the group’s designated driver, Turtle (Jerry Ferrara).

But make no mistake about it. Ari Gold, who steals just about every scene he’s in, is the life of this party. Played with livewire tenacity by character actor (and frequent John Cusack sidekick) Jeremy Piven, the morally-challenged Ari is emerging as the, well, gold standard by which TV supporting actors are measured. And Jeremy has Emmys and Golden Globe trophies to prove it. Ari is an agent people either love or hate, well, mostly hate. A frequent name-dropper, he is well-known throughout the industry, and his clients know that even though he’s such a pain to work with, there's no better agent to propel them to the top.

“This show has been pretty far-reaching and so that's been an amazing experience for people to really take to it.” Jeremy enthuses. “And it’s interesting because my character has a certain energy and I think some people see me and they immediately assume that I’m going to have that type of energy so they give me back what I’ve given them. So they immediately are very abrasive with me. Guys will hug me, and smack me on the back, and yell and bark in my face. And it’s very interesting because I’ve really grown to realize that that’s not really the way that I want to be greeted. I’m not a fan of strangers barking, you know (laughs).”

Yes, Ari is wound up in such a way that the method of his madness lies is his unwitting sense of irony. Like HBO’s own Tony Soprano, Ari’s take-no-prisoners persona is somewhat balanced by his fierce devotion to his family. He may fear no man, but he certainly bows to the demands of his materialistic wife, who is nonetheless exasperated with his fast-faced lifestyle.

“If you want a Beverly Hills mansion, a country club membership, and nine weeks a year in a Tuscan villa, then I'm gonna need to take a call when it comes in at noon.” Ari snaps at the long-suffering Mrs. Ari, played by Perrey Reeves.

“I think there’s a lot of duality going on with us, so there’s an angel-devil thing going on with this guy,” Jeremy notes. “What’s just really fun to play is that he says the "un-sayable" and the unthinkable a lot of times, and then he has an enormous amount of love for his family. His wife wears the pants and at work he goes and crushes everyone. So that’s really fun to play.”

Ari’s relationship with “E”, Vince’s manager is also one of the series’ highlights. Eric's advice to Vince often agitates Ari, who feared that such advice could steer Vince towards the wrong projects. As much as they hate each other’s guts, Eric and Ari have entered into a marriage of convenience that has resulted in mixed blessings for Vince.

“There are certain actors that have a little Elvis-dust on them and they kind of blow up very early. And some of them may not have a lot of patience to read scripts,” Jeremy says. “So their best friend, they give the job to them and then their agent has to sit down with their best friend who’s maybe been in Hollywood for like 11 minutes and suddenly, he’s speaking to the best friend ‘cause he can’t find the actor. It happens all the time. And those moments are what’s interesting because this hot-headed Type A racking ball agent has to contain himself to deal with this, what Ari calls E, a ‘pizza boy’. So he’s got to deal with the ‘pizza boy’ while the real deal is off golfing somewhere. So he’s got to keep a lid on all that frustration, hence where you get a lot of the thrust of our show.”

A minor subplot and another marriage of convenience in the show is Ari’s relationship with his gay assistant, Lloyd (Rex Lee) who has pledged his “undying loyalty” to him after he got the Jerry McGuire boot from the agency that he helped build in Season 2. Lloyd's ethnicity and sexual orientation are the constant targets of Ari's venomous and often hilarious barbs, but as much as he hates to admit it, the cut-throat agent does rely heavily on Lloyd to handle the day-to-day minutiae of his work life and also knows that he needs his resourceful assistant to ensure the success of his career.

In Entourage, Ari’s willingness to go to great lengths, heights and even stoop to the lowest of lows to get what he wants for his clients, his family and more importantly, for himself is what keeps the show a must-see.

To keep tabs on Ari’s “scoreboard,” visit HBO Asia's official site here for Entourages schedule. Also, watch past seasons of the hit series on JackTV and etc Entertainment Central.

Here's the best of Ari Gold in 2009 (Warning: spoiler alert and some foul language may not be suitable for very young audiences):





Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Anawangin


SHE's back! Yes, Ms. Ianne Borillo, my favorite guest blogger (actually, she's my only guest blogger right now) returns to Radio Clash with another one of her great outdoors adventures. This one is about her Holy Week trek to Anawangin Island in Zambales.

As travel stories with an attitude go, it really doesn't get any better than Ianne's adventures. Read 'em and weep!

WAY MORE THAN 5 STARS
May 10, 2009
Ianne Borillo

My friend, AJ and I decided that Lighthouse Marina was too crammed with those sardonic merrymakers of Holy Week. We packed our bags and hit the road to take up a standing invitation to visit Anawangin Island in Zambales.

The one hour and thirty minute drive was fairly okay albeit the masochists doing their annual penitensya and in effect agitating the living shit out of AJ.  More than the sight of blood and gore, it was the thought of being splashed by it that bothered my friend more as I insisted on opening the windows to get a close-up shot of the “sinners” whipping their asses sorry. It was both an entertaining and educational sight as we made our way to Pundaquit in San Antonio, the jump-off point to Anawangin Island.

After the bloody show, we passed the time by singing anything from The Corrs’ “Don’t Say You Love Me” to the Pointer Sisters’ “Jump”. Not exactly an ideal soundtrack but when you start noticing the spectacular landscapes and the perfect beach weather, it doesn’t really matter. Then, we passed by a toll gate that issues a day pass for P40 as our moving concert is abruptly interrupted. The toll gate operator who offered us a boat ride to the island gladly left his toll booth to escort us to the parking area.

He advices to bring all necessities that we can especially drinking water. I already have a plastic bag full of bottled water, packed lunch for two and a bottle of Tanduay Rum so I'm all set. For his part, AJ's trolley is packed with his own version of necessities namely his laptop, his iPod and an SLR camera.


A two-way boat ride to Anawangin costs P1200 that is usually paid after pick-up from the island The boatmen’s unwritten rule is simple: whoever brings you to the Island must also take you out of the Island. The rule prevents them from stealing each other’s clients and ensures a harmonious working environment.

The 20-minute boat ride was pleasant enough. The water was calm, the sky was blue and the view was a breathtaking sight to behold. Finally, we reached a cove decked unexpectedly with pine trees. My first impression as I planted my feet on the fine sand and clear water was this has got to be where Palawan meets Bukidnon (Or Boracay meets Baguio…whichever gives you the better visuals). Simply beautiful.

We then weaved through hundreds of happy campers frolicking without a care on the scorching hot sand looking for our host, Dada. We suddenty realized that there were absolutely no available rooms to rent much less a permanent fixture other than a line of toilets. Fortunately, our only hope for survival was not all that hard to find. I was overjoyed to see Dada along his trademark long hair and sleeved out tattoo.

The sincere welcome from Dada’s friends were probably more out of pity as AJ and I looked desperately unprepared for camping. One candid comment came from a near by group directed towards AJ’s hard case trolley “Ano yan kapatid? Refrigerator?”

I nudged AJ and told him to pretend to be a Japanese tourist so he can get away with his luggage faux pas. The group vacated one tent offering it to be our accommodation for our stay in Anawangin. We quickly adjusted to the environment and start socializing with Dada’s friends including the neighboring group who continuously made a joke out of AJ’s “refrigerator”.

Dada, AJ and I went for a stroll and came across a lone skim boarder who gladly offered us free lessons. As Dada and I learned about timing and balance, AJ snapped away to document our very first experience with a skim board. (To skim boarders all over the world, I salute you. Your choice of sport looks so damn easy but certainly isn’t. ) Eating and drinking is by far the only staple activity we can do at this time of the day. It was too hot to be out in the sun and the sand was just too “unfriendly.”


I brought out my bottle of Tanduay and got the drinking spree started. The rowdy tattooed all-male group who turned out to be an all gay group of seasoned climbers came over to drink with us. I noticed Rasta Jay, with his waist long dreads, listening intently to Kundiman music. His peculiar penchant for very old Filipino love songs was quite a revelation as my Metrosexual friend AJ and the rowdy gangster-looking gay group started singing every single line along with him. Apparently this particular musical genre transcends all stereotypes especially when people are already under the influence of rum.

Soon as the sun went down a little bit we decided to play frisbee. Let me tell you that playing a mean game of frisbee in between drinking and smoking is not at all a good idea. Some just collapsed on the sand complaining of stitches in their stomachs, Dada just started puking. Rasta Jay, …well…he was just really sitting pretty and moving at glacial pace on a corner playing with sand the whole time. The all-gay ensemble was desperately gasping for air and just gave up in the middle of the game. Yours truly got a knee injury. Everyone eventually gave up on whatever athletic aspirations they might have and just retired wading on the cool clear water and the now sizzled-out sand.

The absence of a decent shower room is compensated by a couple of old school “poso” (artesian wells) situated in a spot where everyone might as well be eating peanuts and drinking scotch. It is pretty much a free show so yeah, it is advisable to be wary of wiggling your behind too much. You might just get a well deserved but unsolicited applause.

After dinner we grabbed the necessities (read: bottles of Grand Matador and water for chaser) for another drinking spree before we headed out for the beach:. This is by far the provincial venue that sells the most expensive bottle of Grand Matador (P120 a pop!)  and pack of cigarettes (P100!). I should’ve taken a hint when my evil conscience rolled her eyes at me when I asked for JUST one bottle of rum. The ambience though is incomparable and to quote Mastercard, “priceless”.

We drank by the beach sitting on the cool, fine sand under a full moon lit sky. I certainly didn’t mind paying for a couple more of those ridiculously priced “Granmas”.

For some bizarre reason, camping holds no place for hostility. At the back of your mind there’s a nagging feeling that sooner or later MAYBE you will need something, no matter how small from somebody else. Call it survival instinct. The activity leaves you vulnerable and stripped of whatever you have and whatever you do for a living. In a place like this, who you are does not really matter.

Tired and tipsy, some headed to their respective tents to sleep. I, on the other hand, stretched out on the beach, listening to Sting’s “Why Should I Cry For You” on my iPod under the full moon until I fell asleep. Of course, everything in between sound tripping and falling asleep is as pleasant as pleasant could be. I have to say, my accommodation for the night was literally and figuratively a million stars.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Blogwatch.ph Launched


RECENT news item I wrote for the Manila Bulletin, as online awareness on the coming elections further improves:

BLOGGERS LAUNCH 2010 ELECTIONS PORTAL
By EDWIN P. SALLAN

AS if taking their cue from an earlier Comelec pronouncement acknowledging the internet as “the most efficient way of disseminating information,” a group of bloggers recently launched a news web portal called Blogwatch.ph.

Hosted by the Philippine Online Chronicles (www.thepoc.net), a news and features website under the Vibal Foundation, Blogwatch.ph is described in its Facebook page as “a new media initiative where bloggers join forces to cover the 2010 elections and help raise public awareness by tapping the burgeoning blogosphere in the Philippines to provide different perspectives on the elections apart from that of traditional media.”

Led by its project editor, Noemi Lardizabal-Dado, other bloggers involved in Blogwatch.ph include Philippine Blog Awards president Juned Sonido, Dine Racoma, Carlo Ople, Vince Golangco, Jane Uymatiao, Pierre Galla, Angel Abella, Brian Ong and Fritz Tentativa, among others.



During its launch, Lardizabal-Dado said the Blogwatch.ph portal “will harness the power of new media to present a multiperspective, multimedia coverage of next year’s elections, the events leading up to it, and relevant topics such as election automation, campaign finance, and the personal and political backgrounds of candidates.”

“The decision to blog about presidentiables started as far back as last year,” recalls Lardizabal-Dado in one of her recent posts in her own blog site, aboutmyrecovery.com. “As luck would have it, an invitation from the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism for a training seminar on “Covering Elections in the Era of Internet and Automation” provided me with a framework to cover the Elections 2010 with more focus. Then in one of my meetings with Vibal Foundation’s Philippine Online Chronicles, Tin Mandigma of Vibal thought of a citizen’s journalism portal for their site. And just like that, Vibal Foundation provided us with the support and logistics for this bloggers’ own 2010 Election Coverage Project.”

Even as the site covers election-related stories in various formats normally used by bloggers such as podcasts, articles, and videos, Blogwatch.ph will also utilize social networking tools such as sites like Plurk, Twitter, Ustream, Facebook, YouTube, and Qik to spread information and connect with users.

Another thing that will distinguish the portal is its use of social networking media to spread information and connect with its readers. Already, the site has Plurk, Twitter, Ustream, Facebook, YouTube, and Qik accounts so that BlogWatch.ph can be made accessible to everyone online.

Blogwatch.ph is independent of the Commission On Elections’ own online initiatives. Launched a little earlier, Bagong Botante (bagongbotante.ph), I.B.A. Na Ngayon (ibanangayon.ph) and Political Arena (ph.politicalarena.com) also present different ways where the general public can familiarize themselves not only with the new automated electoral process as a whole but also with the general platforms of the candidates running for national positions.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Buying A Used Car


IN the market for a new car for the new year? You might want to check out this piece that I wrote for GARAGE magazine last year before taking the plunge.

(ALMOST) AS GOOD AS NEW
By EDWIN P. SALLAN

YOU’RE in the market for a new car, quite possibly your very first vehicle. But then you suddenly realized a few things. You don’t have enough budget for a brand new vehicle. You don’t know anything about cars. And you either don’t know where to look or what to really look for.

This is why it is not uncommon advice for you to instead consider a used or pre-owned vehicle as your first car. Segunda mano, in the vernacular. True, a used car is not as clean, not as fresh and certainly not as smooth as new cars. And it cannot and will not have the same level of performance of its spanking new counterpart since it has already covered several thousand miles and probably all kinds of roads.

But it’s also true that a good number of used cars do look just as good and if (well-maintained by the seller) perform just as well as their brand-new counterparts while available at more desirable price tags that suit your budget.

What to look for

As most buyers of second-hand cars we interviewed will attest, doing one’s homework is the key to getting a very good used car deal. Autolink Philippines (autolink.ph), an online auto resource says the first thing you need is to determine your needs: “If you are buying the car for yourself, are you looking for something used primarily for commuting, or for work? Are you looking for a status symbol? Then a compact car, sports car or pickup may suit you. Do you have children?” and so on.

“Choose a car that fits your lifestyle and contributes to your functionality and productivity,” adds Charlie, a self-styled middle man for Luxury Car sellers. “Whether brand-new or second hand, what matters most is you get a car you’ll enjoy driving and riding. You have to like the car and not just be influenced by reviews or what other people say about it. That means getting a feel for the car and see if it is right for you.”

Kotsemo.com, another online auto resource says “shopping for a used car is not really as easy as buying a new car. Never trust your instincts in buying used cars. Getting a thorough review of the car will help you find a good buy.”

And by thorough review, that means doing your homework. For starters, beauty is very much skin deep even and especially when it comes to used vehicles. “Don't just fall in love with the car based on its looks,” cautions Lizette Manalo, a US-based businesswoman who engages in online buying and selling at Sulit.ph under the username iluvukay. “Inspect under the hood. Some simple checkings can give you better judgment of how the owner has treated the vehicle.”


What’s under the hood

Lizette says engine issues are expected with second hand cars. “Due diligence can keep one from buying a lemon car and can keep you from being stuck with hefty repair bills that are mostly unnecessary,” she says. “First, you need to check oil and transmission oil. If they’re dark and grimy, that means the owner might be negligent with oil changes. If the air filter is black then it’s dirty.”

If you make a checklist, then Lizette also suggests a few more questions that you’ll want answered when checking out a used car. “Are there leaks under the car? Are there unnecessary noises that shouldn’t be there when you test drive it? Do the brakes work well and does it squeak when you step on them? Do the car shift smoothly? Does it overheat as shown by the temperature needle drastically shifting to high after driving for a while? Does the airconditioning work? Gauges? Electricals like headlights, taillights and wipers? Does the car have starting issues that can possibly be caused by a dying alternator, battery or others? How much tire meat is left? What kind of repairs, major or minor, has the owner done to it?”

Autolink adds that knowing a used car history (i.e. “totaled in an accident/salvaged, flood damage, odometer rollbacks, lemon histories, junked titles, state emissions inspection results, lien activity, and/or vehicle use”) is also very important not just in determining its true worth but also in getting a good idea on how much mileage and usage does it still have in its tank.

Who to take with you

If you don’t have enough confidence in determining these things on your own, then by all means, get your own mechanic (make sure, he’s a really good one at that, too) to check out the car for you. Listen to Lizette: “If the owner would agree to take the car with to a mechanic, or have a tune-up done by a pro, then tune ups can pretty much tell you some issues that your plain eyes and intuition cannot see.”

There are always certain risks involved when buying a used car, or any used item for that matter. Maricel Tan Chong, another businesswoman who has owned several cars over the years and has bought both brand new and used vehicles advices only to buy from people you already know. “Unless you personally know the owner of the car you are buying and the history of the car itself, there is a great risk of driving home a defective car,” she says. “Remember, people selling cars only highlight their good points and rarely mention, if they ever do, their defects.”

Charlie, the Luxury Car specialist somewhat disagrees. “I think it’s okay to buy from a used car dealer where you are comfortable transacting and convenient for you. Buying from a dealer is establishing a relationship where the buyer is also dependent upon the service of the dealer and it is important that there is mutual trust.”

Lastly, Charlie emphasizes to importance of giving some down payment to reserve the car. “When you have the car’s service history and you had it checked by your mechanic and all that, then you need to make a down payment. As the dealer or seller is also continuously advertising the car regardless if the buyer is really interested, A down payment is a good first step in eventually “sealing the deal.”

Desiree Del Valle

REVISED and updated version of a piece I wrote for MAXIM Philippines in 2008.  Yes, Desiree is the wicked mayor's wife in ABS-CBN's top-rated May Bukas Pa, now on an extended run.

SHE’S JUST DRAWN THAT WAY
By EDWIN P. SALLAN

Even though she’s made life difficult for many lead stars on the big and small screens including Nora Aunor and Judy Ann Santos (twice!), Desiree Del Valle insists that she’s really nice. She even admits to going out of her way to make an extra effort to be just a little more friendly when she’s seen in public.

Not that there’s little to like about the acclaimed actress who’s also blessed with one of the most beautiful faces in the business. There’s something about those expressive eyes, that meaningful smile and oh, yeah, those drop dead gorgeous lips that can easily catch and sustain anyone’s undivided attention. In an alternate universe, one that a lot of us would rather live in, Desiree could easily give someone like Angelina Jolie a good run for her money.

Here, many see Desiree as more of a vixen than a virgin. In the now defunct teen drama anthology, Tabing Ilog, her character was in fact the first to lose her cherry and was also the first to break the heart of her then onscreen and later offscreen sweetheart, Paolo Contis. Her portrayal was so good it eventually led to a streak of villainous roles that she continues to do to this day. She’s currently spoiling the party of the beloved Santino in the ongoing teleserye. May Bukas Pa.

While Desiree would be the first to qualify that what you see on film and TV is far from who she really is, there’s something about the free-spirited nature of her Tabing Ilog character that partly mirrors the real her, as also reflected in some of her career choices. Who else would dare accept the role of someone who does circumcision for a living in an acclaimed indie flick called, yes, Tuli?  

In any case, if you think Desiree Del Valle belongs to hell, how many of you would still want to go to heaven? Yeah, we thought so, too.

Des, do you actually ask for these contravida roles?

Nooo! They just give it to me because they know I can pull it off.  My features alone, if I don’t smile, I look mataray.  They’d think when somebody approaches me to talk, I’d yell at them right away. That’s why when I’m out, I always make an extra effort to smile and be really nice. Because they think that’s who you are in real life.

But you like doing these roles anyway?

Yes. Like I was watching what I did in Ysabella. I like watching myself. I think it’s kinda vain but I want to see what’s kulang or sobra about my performance. I feel good when I see myself like in that series, I was pointing a gun at Juday’s character. I feel like Lara Croft in Tomb Raider in that scene, with all those action sequences. I like playing contravida roles, I really do. I like that, yung pumapatay ng mga tao, haha!  But I’m not like that at all in real life. I always put my family first and think everything that I do is for them. I will never forget the values that my parents taught me

If you do ever decide to be a bad girl in real life, whose life would you likely make very difficult?

I don't know. I don’t have any enemies. I guess no one in particular but, if the time calls for a little bit of ass kicking I won't back down especially if it involves my family, friends and the significant other. I can very much take care of myself. I don’t think nobody will step on my toes because they'll regret even thinking about it.

Have you always wanted to be an actress, even as a kid?

Yes, I think I have. I’m the little entertainer during parties. I sing and dance for the guests. Sometimes, I play waitress. I give them a menu and I’d ask them what they wanted to drink, even though I can only offer them orange juice and iced tea. And when I was in prep school, I wanted to be a nun.


Desiree Del Valle wanted to be a nun? Sister Desiree?


I don’t know why. It’s kind of weird. I went to a Catholic school and I was active in choirs so I guess that must be why I wanted to be one. But only for a little while.

You first displayed your acting chops in Tabing Ilog. Your character was the first to do things a little different from the others.

My role there was aspiring to be an actress. I’m the one who’s dying to leave our province. Ako yung palaban sa kanilang lahat. That was the year when many young people were into Ecstacy and all those drugs, which was what was happening at the time, aspiring actresses who have to sell their bodies first and we were able to show that in the series.

As an actress, what spurs you to accept the kind of roles that you do? Not just the villain roles but also the ones like you did in, say, Tuli?

It’s certainly not about the money. It’s about doing something different and also about working with some really good actors like Bembol Roco and Carlo Aquino who was really good in this movie. In Tuli, I’m not a contravida. There, my father, Tito Bembol Roco is the town manunuli or the one who circumcises everyone there. Even when my character was a kid, I was already there at his side when he circumcised all these little kids so for me that was traumatizing, because those bagets were about my age and nakikita ko na yung mga pututoy nila.

Would you consider this a bold role for you?

I had a bed scene with Carlo Aquino but I had clothes on.

And he wasn’t circumcised yet at the time of that scene?

Yes, hindi pa sya tuli nun. But he still got me pregnant. After my character gave birth, I finally circumcised him.

All’s well that ends well then. This is the second time you’re doing a sexy photo shoot for a men’s magazine. You were 22 when you first did it three years ago, what was that like?

They asked me and I said yes, sure. I’m very comfortable wearing bathing suits. I love going to the beach anyway. Lingerie is a different matter. I won’t feel at ease wearing it at a shoot. For me, it’s too personal.

Were you nervous?

No, not at all. Everbody was asking me if I feel comfortable. I happen to know the photographer who was a good friend. It was easier because he knows what I can and cannot handle.

It’s been three years since that last shoot, what has changed in you physically?

None, really. I believe in all natural although to each her own. Me, I'm very much content with what God gave me and it's all just a matter of how you carry yourself.

Is sexy more about how you look or how you act?

If one has the confidence, that's sexy. No need for enhancements physically. I think it’s really all in the mind.

Let’s talk about relationships. You’re a battle-scarred veteran of several already. So what exactly do you really look for in a man?

He has to be really nice. It’s important for us to get along because I don’t like fights. As long as we’re on the same page on everything, it’s fine. If there are little arguments, we should talk about it right away. I can say this is what he should and shouldn’t be but in the end, it’s how we are together that counts the most.

The best date you ever had so far? The most bizarre?

My boyfriend and I had our anniversary coming up and we both made secret plans for dinner. We both knew that we were gonna have dinner out thinking not one of us made plans. But, he had reservations and I had reservations at a different place. We were both laughing because we were on the way to Makati. I told him to take a left but he kept going straight. To my surprise he had dinner plans already and the place was set up exclusively for just the two of us, haha. So, we ditched my plan and I told him that it would be my turn the following year. A year later, natuloy din ang plan ko. It's just sooo cute the way we surprise each other pero, lagi akong nahahalata. He also gave me a surprise for my birthday. I didn't have a clue. Again, he succeeded in surprising me as always.

You have other interests or plans you’d like to pursue other than acting?

Well, I love to cook. I might open a restaurant, who knows? But I have to be the one who’s cooking because I can’t teach. And I’m one of those people who are blessed with good taste buds. Like, when I eat at a restaurant, I can recognize the ingredients of a certain dish just by eating. I’d try to copy that at home and it would taste even better. My dad makes the best Chili Con Carne and he would make it really spicy and I love spicy food. I’d watch and ask him how he does it then he told me the ingredients and now I can make my own. Now that’s one of my own specialties.

Can you cook anything approaching an aphrodisiac?

Oysters! Oysters! Oysters! With champagne, chocolate, fondue anyone?  You've got to love those sexy strawberries and chocolates. And nuts are good, too.

And here she is, having a swinging time on the dancefloor.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Michael and Jennifer Cocuaco: A Literally Prized Couple


EARLIER this month, we reported here that Pinoy couple, Michael Paul Cocuaco and his wife, the former Jennifer Caspe were among the five finalists for the Ultimate Thailand Explorers competition and that their winning it all is dependent on our online votes.

After the final vote has been cast, Aubrey and Parker, the American couple now based in Thailand and who were leading Michael and Jenny in the standings at the time I posted my blog entry, emerged victorious with 22,559 votes.

Although Michael and Jenny did not win it all with a still impressive tally of 17,603 votes, their efforts (as well as those who voted for them—us) was still good enough for some really fab prizes.

For their runner-up finish, this lovely couple is getting a 2-night holiday package including spa treatments for at The Zign in Pattaya, an extra spa treatment at Nusa Playa Hotel & Spa, also in Pattaya plus complimentary tickets from Tiffany Show and Alangkarn Theatre as well as scaling cleaning treatments from Bangkok Smile Dental Clinic or Sea Smile Dental Clinic, all of which are worth a total of US$1,200.

That’s not all. Michael and Jenny also were also awarded with Best Promotional Blog honors and won an extra three-night holiday package for two at the Hilton Phuket Arcadia Resort & Spa, a prize package worth US$1,000.

Way to go, Michael and Jenny. Congratulations. You made us proud. And hope it's okay if the pic I used above is taken from Michael's Facebook page.

But they’re not the only Filipino participants who got lucky in the contest. As one of two lucky online voters, Jennifer Que also won a total prize package worth a cool US$2,500 that includes a two-night holiday package for two at Absolute Bangla Suites, Phuket, an HTC Android-powered phone (the HTC Hero?), spa treatments at Oasis Spa and Samsara Spa, both in Bangkok and complimentary tickets from Siam Niramit, Siam Ocean World, Alangkarn Theatre and Tiffany Show as well as complimentary scaling cleaning treatments from Bangkok Smile Dental Clinic or Sea Smile Dental Clinic, all for two.

For two? Hmmm, wonder who she’s taking with her. Uh, Jennifer?

One more time for Michael and Jenny’s Ultimate Thailand Explorers adventure:

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Film Review: Zombieland

THERE are 32 rules in dealing with the undead in the United States of Zombieland, a post-apocalyptic America that has turned almost everyone into zombies after being afflicted by the human progression of mad cow disease.

Some of these rules, like Travel In A Group, Be Quiet and Know Your Way Out are pretty much self-explanatory. Others like Cardio, Double Tap, God Bless Rednecks and Enjoy The Little Things need to be further explained to the uninitiated.

For the four non-zombie characters (five if you count the hilarious cameo of a former Ghostbuster) of Zombieland, these are the rules that prevents them from becoming a special kind of Happy Meal in their quest for a zombie-free sanctuary. Yes, hilarious, because while there’s the obligatory eeew-inspiring gore, much of Zombieland is really designed for laughs rather than screams. It’s Dawn Of The Dead meets Road Trip as directed by Quentin Tarantino.

Only Tarantino is not at all involved in this film in any way. Newcomer Ruber Fleischer has crafted an exhilarating Tarantinoesque ride minus the excessive Tarantinoesque dialogue that the former’s works have been notorious for as of late.

Leading the charge for this zombie-busting mayhem is Woody Harrelson, who couldn’t have found a better comeback vehicle than this potential, no, make that guaranteed horror-comedy franchise. Not that the quirky actor was ever gone but after a string of largely forgettable supporting roles and equally forgettable cameos, Zombieland brings him back to lead star status and reminds us how electrifying (i.e. Natural Born Killers, The People Vs. Larry Flynt) his screen presence once was. Yes, even when he’s pretty much hamming it up here, he’s still way better than say, Vince Vaughn.

As the shotgun-toting Tallahasse obsessed with Twinkies (those golden sponge cakes with creamy filling that remains available only in the US) he bumps into Columbus (Jessie Eisenberg), who also incidentally came up with “The Rules” and reluctantly takes him in. Along the way, they encountered Wichita (Emma Stone) and her little sister Little Rock (Abegail Breslin), a pair of con artists who twice tried to leave them behind. Further along the way and in between all the looting, Little Rock’s driving lessons and a very special private screening, there’s plenty of zombie-whacking fun to keep our heroes preoccupied.

And Harrelson is also blessed with talented fellow cast members in Eisenberg (The Squid And The Whale), Stone (Superbad) and Breslin (Little Miss Sunshine) who all could more than keep up with him. It certainly didn’t hurt that the script allows for more characterization than what is usually expected in a film like this. They actually have their own interesting back stories and yes, their character names are taken from places where they're identified with.

To emphasize how much of a thrill ride Zombieland is, the climactic sequence takes place in, where else, but in an amusement park. Director Fleischer is not looking to push any envelopes here and his film is not without its share of cliches. But with a fine cast, a clever script and okay, inventive use of graphics in punctuating the above rules, he has given us something that is, in the immortal words of the late, great Colonel Sanders, finger-lickin’ good. Pun very much intended.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Channel [V] Philippines

YES, it’s back.

Now claiming to be the number one music channel in Asia, Channel [V] (yes, it’s spelled with a bracket) has recently relaunched its Philippine network with a new line-up of shows and new VJ’s to compliment your favorite music videos and more.

“With a bigger and better Channel [V] Philippines, we’re featuring new local shows that cater about fashion, entertainment, reality TV and lifestyle of today’s Pinoy youth,” declares Channel [V] Philippines owner Ronald Singson, who along with Channel head JM Rodriguez welcomed guests during the launch held at The Fort’s NBC Tent. “Along with that, we’re also introducing a new breed of fresh faces; new VJ’s and hosts who are all set to make Channel [V] Philippines the People’s Premier Music and Lifestyle Channel,”

Among the network’s new shows are the following:

In Command. An all-requests show where the viewers and fans are, well, in-command.

[V]’d Out. A show that features famous personalities showcasing their favorite music videos.

[V] Life. This one features noted and larger-than-life personalities who not just work hard to stay on top of their game, but also find the time enjoy the perks of their success. Hosted by Claudine Trillo.

[V] Trends. As the title suggests features the latest trends on the pop culture scene hosted by TV personality and eventologist Tim Yap.

Bente-Uno. A countdown of the 20 most popular songs on the channel.

Circuit TV. Where the hottest spots and events are showcased by host JR Isaac.

Over the years, Channel [V]’s line-up of formidable VJ alums read like a who’s who in recent music history as its Philippines and International networks gave us the likes of Joey Mead, Paula Taylor, Angela Chow, David Wu, Danny McGill, Rick Tan, Sophiya Haque, Brad Turvey, Nonie Tao, Amanda Griffin and even the late, great Francis Magalona or simply Francis M.

Hoping to be part of both that honor roll and Channel [V] lore are Australian-born model and host Cliff Ho, actress and host Megan Young, Channel [V] International’s resident VJ Alvey, and Filipino-German model and host Maike Evers.

“We chose them for their a knockout personalities,” says Channel [V] PR consultant Cat Arambulo. “They possess the qualities that define Channel [V] Philippines as a music channel that goes beyond boundaries—fun, fashionable and not afraid to be different.”

Graced by several celebrities and VIP’s from the music other industries, the launched also featured spirited performances by Rico Blanco, Side A, The Dawn, 6 Cycle Mind, and Radha.

Channel [V] Philippines now airs on SkyCable Channel 25 and is also available on other cable providers. Also visit its official website here.