Saturday, September 26, 2009

Ondoy: Eye Of The Storm

YESTERDAY we here in Metro Manila experienced what is easily the worst typhoon to hit the country and the big city at least this year. The official report says it certainly dumped the heaviest amount of rainfall in our history.

It's no big surprise that Typhoon Ondoy (where the hell do they get these names?) and its non-stop rains for nine punishing hours pretty much submerged the nation's capital and nearby cities and provinces. Or that it left at least 51 people dead and thousands more homeless. See, killer storms do that here in the Philippines all too frequently and our government, both in the local and national level, never learn from the aftermath of these calamities.

But as tragic as it was and still is, there was at least one amazing bright spot about the whole experience. With a little luck, a little creativity and the latest advances in technology, it also helped re-ignite and even redefine the spirit of volunteerism. Taking advantage of popular social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter, Multiply and yes, even Friendster, people updated everyone in their network with all kinds of helpful information from traffic situations in their areas to friends trapped in their homes and literally on their roofs (one in my FB network actually asked for help for popular actress Cristine Reyes who was trapped on the roof of her place in flood-prone Marikina), numbers to call for help and how the generous and more fortunate souls among us can donate cash, clothes, food and anything else that would help.

Somebody eventually found a name for it: Citizen Journalism. And yes, it was quite a phenomenon that started late in the afternoon and extended all the way to the wee hours of the morning. Turned out to be quite reliable, too, as I would learn that not everything that's "officially" reported by the legitimate news networks are as accurate as the ones reported by, uh, well, the social networking reporters.

Yes, like many others in my Facebook network, I found myself reposting all these information even as the cynic in me wonders how many of the thousands stranded out there has a 3G-enabled cell phone that could access the internet and their social networking pages. But given the circumstances that there's not much else most of us can really do at home but to well, stay at home, I might as well find a way to be of little help to anyone out there who can access their FB pages and at least read my posts.

To be honest, I have no idea if any of my reposts was able to help a single soul. But yes, if there was at least two people who were able to access their Facebook accounts in their mobile phones and pass them on to as many people as possible via SMS or if there were few folks in their cars who were somehow "fortunate" enough to be stranded in a wi-fi zone or that somehow, the major news networks were able to pick up these posts and pass them on to their viewers or listeners, then those little efforts would not have been for naught.

And it's not yet over. The storm may have calmed down but the spirit of volunteerism and, okay, citizen journalism continues. Of course, some reposts are also either a little or a lot less correct than others (in local journalism parlance, we call it kuryente or being electrocuted by false information) but in times like these, I guess you really can't blame anybody for being too careful or a little too anxious to do their share to help.

But then again, these reposts are also a good reason for: one) the responsible officials to confirm or deny or immediately act on; two) for those out there in the field to further verify; and three) for those of us at home to be a little more circumspect with the information we share.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I may need to repost something that might be helpful to someone again.

How bad was Typhoon Ondoy? Watch this video taken at noontime yesterday:

Friday, September 25, 2009

Wolfgang: Back For More

EARLY this year, Lizza Nakpil, best known as longtime manager of Rivermaya aside from her lesser known advocacy of championing Andres Bonifacio as our national hero, sent me a CD of a new recording of the new band that she is now managing. That band turned out to be Wolfgang and Villains, the CD is actually their very first studio recording of new material since they went on hiatus in 2002.

At right about the same time, FHM Philippines asked me to submit some capsule music reviews for their March (or was that April?) issue. Although I do listen to all kinds of music, I was never much of a hard rock slash heavy metal fan to begin with and I also don't do music reviews on a regular basis anymore so yes, there was some reluctance on my part to touch Villains.

Still, I never really had a problem with Wolfgang's brand of headbanging rock and unlike many of their contemporaries, I always regarded the band as a class act not just in terms of their body of work but also with the way these guys carry themselves on stage and off: all business and no bullshit.

So I gave Villains a few spins and yes, actually enjoyed it. But as much as I want to say more on my review, I was limited by FHM's prescribed format. I hope what little I said about the album pretty much covers what it was all about. We all love comeback stories and as hackneyed as it sounds, Villains was/is indeed a triumphant return to form.

And here's that review:

Semenelin Records

Like they were never gone. Even without the Wolfman on drums, the bangs and crashes remain loud and proud on Wolfgang’s long-anticipated studio return. The method of Wolfgang’s madness is restrained a bit with slick production values that somewhat tames the raw power of the band’s early releases. Still, it’s a solid all-around effort from Basti, Mon, Manuel and new drummer Francis Aquino. Standout tracks: “Diaspora Mama,” “John of the Cross,” “Kung Gusto Mo Pa” and “RP Deathsquad.” Rating: 4 out of 5.

Here's Wolfgang and their video of "Soap" from Villains:

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Nami: Mansion On Boracay Hill

AH, yes, 2005 was a particularly memorable year for me.

It was the very first time I've been to Boracay when I was part of a team from two lifestyle sub-sections in the Manila Bulletin that did an extensive shoot in the island. But because I still had a day job at a bank back then, I couldn't join everyone on our scheduled Friday flight and had to fly there on my own the next day.

Even though my Air Philippines flight touched down in Iloilo and I had to take a long bus trip all the way to Caticlan, I managed to find my way to the island. It was an unforgettable weekend in more ways than one because I found myself assigned to reviewing not just one, but three resorts where I stayed in two of them (Fairways & Bluewater and Nami) for one night each and hung around the other (Boracay Regency) the rest of the time.

More resorts has since mushroomed since then. People are talking about Discovery Suites and The Tides as two of the better places to stay among the newer resorts. I love staying at The Tides but my affection for the old-fashioned charm of Nami still lingers.

Here's a revised version of what I wrote about Boracay's unique landmark for the About Weddings section of the Manila Bulletin back then.


IN an island teeming with resorts, Nami is quite literally at the top of the heap. A perched and elevated architecture located in the rather secluded Diniwid Beach along the more tranquil Boat Station 1, Nami is a throwback to what Boracay originally was to those who discovered its natural beauty long before progress inevitably took it over—a virgin island paradise that also doubles as an ideal getaway to anyone who wants to take a respite from the fast and furious pace of the big city.

Is it a mansion on a hill or a castle in the clouds? Well, for soon-to-weds who are looking to spend their very special day in a very special place, Nami Beach Resort in Boracay is the closest that they’ll ever get to experiencing either one of the above fantasy structures. It’s the perfect wedding venue for those yearning for a more intimate and yes, unforgettable exchange of vows. Weddings can and have in fact been held at Nami’s spacious dock area and even at the whole Diniwid beach front itself.

Because of its secluded location and therefore far from the usually madding crowd of the favorite island getaway, Nami also provides a private atmosphere that is very much conducive to romance—the only resort that provides a panoramic view of the picturesque island. Seen more intimately while taking a bubble bath from the jacuzzi located at the balcony of either the Suite or Family rooms, the magnificent view is simply breathtaking.

As its name suggests, the origins of Nami are obviously Japanese, as the term “nami” means “wave” which is also part of the word “tsunami,” with the word “tsu” meaning “harbor.” Nami’s present look and feel is what its Managing Director Cheese Ledesma would describe as “Contemporary Filipino implemented in a pretty modern way.” You’ll see a lot of the bamboo-adorned doors and furniture while other native and luxurious touches like the individually hand-sculpted washbowls, classic Hunter electric fans (in addition to the regular airconditioning), Hansgrohe bathroom fixtures and Ivan Acuña’s abstract expressionist paintings are also nicely in place. With a quirky construction lift that takes guests to its reception area and nearby restaurant, Nami’s old-fashioned charm is nicely tempered by its adherence to the latest technology.

“It’s more edgy than your typical resort,” Cheese quips. “I have a sister who’s based in New York and she says Nami has this Soho, New York boutique look except for the fact that it’s located on a beach.”

Soon-to-weds on a tight budget may still opt for the less expensive Standard Beach View room and they can still treat themselves to the 180 degree ocean view that the Nami Bar & Restaurant offers where even non-guests are welcome to dine. Because there are only 15 available rooms, the butler system of service that it employs is nothing short of excellent.

And if you haven’t dined at Nami, then you haven’t really eaten in Boracay at all. Honeymoon or no honeymoon, dining at Nami is just as unforgettable as actually staying there.

You don’t have to take our word for it. You’ll believe us when you taste Nami’s Tenderloin Salpicao or the Champagne Brunch that Cheese highly recommends or even the resort’s exclusive Mushroom Tarts, a must-have puff pastry baked with mozzarella, goat cheese, shitake mushrooms and caramelized onions. These tarts will rock your world! Actually, any dish at Nami is ideal for your wedding reception and should certainly be one of the major reasons why your guests won’t regret traveling all this way to be part of your big day.

As for other amenities, there’s a business center that provides internet access for guests who want to send a quick email or two and for those rainy nights when you can’t get out, guests can actually borrow and watch movies on DVD for free. For those who want to be part of the more lively action at the more “populated” part of the island at Boat Station 2. While Nami is located near the equally popular Mandala Spa, it now offers its own in-house spa services.

If you’ve never been to Nami, then you’ve never really been to Boracay at all. It is truly what the island is all about. Say your “I do’s” here and chances are, every moment spent here is something that you’ll always love and cherish for the rest of your life. And if you’re already hitched, you can still “I do” to the wonderful food and just about everything else this place has to offer.

Nami Resort is located in Diniwid Beach, Boracay Island. For more information and for reservations, please visit their official website at

Here's a view of the island from one of the rooms outside the jacuzzi-equipped balcony:

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Julia Clarete

TODAY is the birthday of Julia Clarete. Back in 2005, I did a feature on the talented actress, singer and TV host for the Philippine Daily Inquirer. At the time she just won the top plum of the reality talent show, Hollywood Dream and was just signed as an image endorser for Bon Jour De Corp.

I'm not sure what exactly happened to her Hollywood Dream and I really haven't heard much from Bon Jour De Corp since then. But I do know that Julia is still very much around and since I wrote that story, she has released her own album and did a few more teleseryes and movies including Bakekang and the critically-acclaimed Nasaan Si Francis?

And yes, four years after replacing the still very popular Toni Gonzaga, Julia Clarete is still with Eat Bulaga. She is very much an integral part of the show's formidable barkada. Like The Beatles tune that inspired her stage name, she remains the free-spirited ocean child that continues to grow right before our very eyes.

Here's a slightly revised version of what I wrote about Julia back then:


JULIA Clarete is going to Hollywood. How about that?

Considering that her main motivation for joining the competitive reality show, Hollywood Dream, was to merely do a monologue and just have enough TV exposure to keep herself out of work, Julia got more than what she bargained for when she actually won it all.

And to think that the ruggedly beautiful actress was a dark horse in a pretty tough playing field that included promising newcomers like Rafael Rosell, comebacking young stars Baron Geisler and Roxanne Barcelo and even seasoned veterans like John Arcilla, Pinky Amador and award-winning actor Raymond Bagatsing, whom she edged by just a single vote in the cliff-hanging finale, it makes her victory all the more sweeter.

“I just want to keep working, that’s all,” Julia told this writer at the Eat Bulaga dressing room during a break from the show. “There was a time in my career when I wasn’t getting work and no one would talk to me. It was a terrible feeling that I wouldn’t want to go through again that’s why I’m constantly working very hard on my craft because there’s so many things to correct about me as an actress.”

Julia’s triumphant stint in Hollywood Dream is not the only Cinderella story worth writing a screenplay about. The life story of this spunky doe-eyed lady is in itself inspiring enough to be featured in Mel Tiangco’s drama anthology, Magpakailanman. A big fan of the late Beatle John Lennon, she said her name was actually inspired by “Julia,” a moving ballad from The Beatles’ White Album that Lennon wrote as a loving tribute to his late mother.

She started her career in the hit kiddie gag show, Ang TV, the launching pad for the careers of Claudine Barretto, Jolina Magdangal and Rica Peralejo, among many others. Small roles in movies and the legitimate stage followed while her love for music also eventually found her singing in lounge bars. It was a lead role in an Extelcom commercial that led to her big break. “I became a part of ABS-CBN’s Star Circle Batch 4,” she recalls. “But it wasn’t until I got the kontrabida role in the soap opera Sa Puso Ko’y Iingatan Ka that I really got noticed.”

Playing the scheming Sheila, Julia made life very difficult for Judy Ann Santos in the show and as a result got the thumbs up of the critics and the thumbs down from the fans that hated her character. “It didn’t bother me at all that I was playing the villain or the bad girl,” she says. “I was really happy to get that role and was really challenged with the character. As for the fans feeling that way towards me then, I didn’t mind. I actually found it reassuring in fact. The more people hated me, the more that I thought that what I was doing with my character is right.”

After her stint in that soap opera, meatier roles in more Star Cinema movies followed including the surprise youth-oriented box office hits, Trip and Jologs. “I miss doing films like Trip and Jologs, they’re so much fun to do. But I guess it’s like a cycle, there will always be times when those kinds of films are in demand and times when they’re not.”

Julia’s acting style is characterized by her dead-on interpretation of the characters that she plays. More often than not, it’s her eyes that says a lot more than the dialogue she’s supposed to memorize—something that a certain Nora Aunor got widely acclaimed for all throughout her career. In a horror acting segment of Hollywood Dream, Julia impressed judges Armida Siguion-Reyna and director Joel Lamangan with her largely silent interpretation of the sequence.

“Thank God, I got that right,” she says recalling the sigh of relief that she heaved when she was commended for her reading. “It’s a horror sequence so I thought I’d show how terrified I am not by screaming and saying a lot but by simply not saying anything at all and just rely on my facial expression to convey my fear.” In between her acting career, Julia still managed to find the time to take up studies in the field of business that would serve her well in case the whole showbiz well dries up, so to speak.

It almost did. After being with ABS-CBN for the longest time in her career, she was released from her contract and for a while became a freelancer. That’s when offers became few and far between and Julia found herself being an out-of-work celebrity. “Those times were really hard and depressing,” she remembers. “I was behind in my apartment’s rentals and was about to be evicted. I just wanted a second chance.”

That second chance came when a guest stint at top-rated noontime show Eat Bulaga eventually led to a regular hosting stint. Toni Gonzaga has just left the show and for a while, the show was trying out several guest hosts to fill her void including the likes of Iza Calzado and Tanya Garcia. “I was a guest contestant in their TKO portion and I was told backstage that if I do well, the show just might consider me as one of the hosts. I actually won that contest and now I’m here.”

Of course, Julia had to endure unfair comparisons with her predecessor as Toni Gonzaga was already enjoying quite a following herself when she left the show. But Julia proved she’s no spring chicken and her effervescent presence was exactly what the show needed. It also didn’t hurt that she’s a very competent host who is more than capable of making people laugh. In short, she was a perfect fit.

But you do know what happens when it rains, right? Yes, it pours and Julia’s blessings did not stop with her Eat Bulaga break. For the first time in her career, she is also an image endorser, for a new clothing brand, Bon Jour De Corp.

Favoring things that are a little out of the ordinary such as extreme sports like Ultimate Frisbee as well as art works by Francis Bacon and Gustav Klimt, Julia's ultimate dream, is believe it or not, is to own and tend to her own farm in New Zealand.

Her fondness for rock music is also something that she can now afford to indulge. Julia is both performing as a solo act and fronting a band called Circus that covers classics by the Rolling Stones, The Doors and The Clash.

Her victory in Hollywood Dream does not necessarily mean that she’ll be automatically cast for a major role in a big Hollywood production. But with a much-coveted Screen Actors Guild card as one of her prizes, there will certainly be numerous opportunities for this very talented artist to, uh, well, eventually pass the audition.

Here's Julia as one of Vic Sotto's Acoustic Chicks in Eat Bulaga:

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Film Review: Crossing Over

WITH a strong ensemble cast that includes Harrison Ford as an "immigration gestapo," Crossing Over, as its Wikipedia entry defines it, "is about illegal immigrants of different nationalities struggling to achieve legal status in the US in general and Los Angeles in particular. The film deals with the border, document fraud, the asylum and green card process, work-site enforcement, naturalization, the office of counter terrorism and the clash of cultures."

Directed by Wayne Kramer (best known for The Cooler), it is actually a remake of his 1995 short film of the same name. Because it involves multiple and often interweaving story lines, it has been compared (rather unfairly, in my view) with the likes of similarly-styled films like Traffic, Crash, Babel and Magnolia.

Kramer, a native of South Africa who became a naturalized American does a good job of depicting what immigrants are willing to do for the so-called American Dream. Among them is a young British immigrant (Jim Sturgess) who has to pretend to be Jewish to get a job at a Jewish school that would mean continued stay in the US. His girlfriend (Alice Eve), an aspiring actress from Australia who got tangled with a corrupt immigration officer (Ray Liotta) promising quick green card processing in exchange for sexual favors for a limited time.

But Crossing Over is not just about desperate immigrants. Perhaps owing to his own naturalization, Kramer portrays certain American characters in a sympathetic light. As the immigration agent who is a part of a team that regularly raids textile factories for immigrants that needed to be deported, Harrison Ford actually hates doing his job. So when a Mexican woman he caught asks him to take care of her son, he eventually relented and personally brought the kid to her grandparents in Mexico.

As the wife of the corrupt immigration officer, Ashley Judd is a lawyer who wants to adopt a little orphan from Nigeria and at the same is tasked with defending a Bangladeshan teenager (Summer Bishil) who recited a school paper sympathetic to the 9/11 bombers, eventually causing enough stir to expose the illegal status of her family to the Feds and face deportation herself.

There are also plotlines involving a dysfunctional Iranian family that includes a colleague of Ford in the immigration police (the ever dependable Cliff Curtis) and an Asian family (Korean?) that included a rebel without a cause teenager whose brief but critical brush with the law almost cost him his American citizenship.

On an episodic level, the film is engaging enough to merit some moments of your time. After all, the subject of immigration, legal or otherwise, is something that's particularly close to our hearts. And the thing about flicks with ensemble casts and multiple storylines is that there is always at least one subplot worth watching.

But overall, this isn't one of those cases where the whole is better than the sum of its parts. Kramer has prepared an initially appetizing dish but with too many things on his plate, Crossing Over still ends up with some unfinished leftovers.

Watch Crossing Over's trailer here:

Monday, September 21, 2009

Midnight Rendezvous: TV5's Late Night Trip

WELL, if you think you got nothing better to watch on TV on late nights, then you might want to consider pointing your remote to TV5 and check out its late night offerings. Since The Network Formerly Known as ABC 5 decided to reinvent itself last year with a new name (TV5, of course) and a new identity, it has continuously expanded its programming horizons by coming up with local shows that has fared well in the ratings game against shows by both ABS-CBN and GMA.

Pat Marcel0-Magbanua, the station's Marketing and Communciations Head said that since becoming TV5, the station now ranks third behind "The Big Two" in overall ratings and is even rated number one on certain time slots.

Which is probably more than enough good reason for the station to uh, "shake-up" its weekday late night time slots by introducing seven new shows during its Late Night Trip launching event at Mag:net Cafe in Bonifacio High Street. Also coinciding with its Happy One Year celebration, the new late night offerings each have something for everyone from humor to music to travel to cars to food to games to yes, girls, girls and more girls.

Here's how the shake-up shakes down:

Urban Tribe. Airing Mondays on 11:30PM, the show is hosted by the Fiesta House Band called Tribomanila that features Stefano Lowenstein, Alvin Cornista, Danger Sanchez, Marcus Maguidad and actor Minco Fabregas, the show is all about what men like, and not just women but also music, traveling, partying and I guess, everything in between.

Promdi Chef. As its name suggests, this is about a Visayan-based chef who takes viewers on a tour of the best places to eat in the region. Except Chef Jomi Gaston is no ordinary chef. An alumnus of the Culinary Institute of America, this Bacolod native also owns an Italian resto and a cafe that specializes in Asian and European cuisine. Tuesdays, 11:30PM.

Stoplight TV. This show is more of a "bagong lipat" than really bago. Yes, it's the same one-stop motoring program you've been watching for years. Featuring the latest motoring and motoring sports-related material from all over the world and I suppose, the world wide web, the show is hosted by DJ Matt Montoya and Eggay Quisada with Stoplight Angels Love-Love Tioseco, Ardge Barbaso and make-up artist Mayone Bakunawa to keep the guys tuned in. Wednesdays, 11:30PM.

How 'Bout My Place Tonight? In this culinary school for TV, celebrated chefs Fernando Aracama and John Cu-Unjieng teaches us how to cook "glorious food" the quick and easy way. The show also features guest prominent personalities, tourist spots and their signature delicacies, OFW's sharing their international discoveries via phone patch (really?) and many more. Thursdays 11:30PM.

More On Gaming TV (or Simply MOG TV). Produced by E-Games, distributor of popular online games, RAN, CABAL, Granado Espada, Dance Battle Audition, Runes of Magic and more, the show is all about games and appeals to hardcore and casual gamers alike. Hosted by Magic 89.9 jock Sam YG, the show features reviews, mods, strategies, cheats and yes, sizzling gamer girls. Fridays, 11:30PM.

Jojo A. All The Way. Is he our very own Letterman or just a poor man's Conan O' Brien? No matter what you want to call him, Jojo Alejar has the late night talk show schtick down to a science. Even with the not-so-good signal on the UHF station where he first started this, Jojo A. has managed to create a niche for himself that has grown exponentially to merit a major network transfer. With a better set, better gimmicks, better signal and yes, funnier jokes (hehe!) and side comments on the issues of the day, the laughs should come aplenty every midnight on weekdays.

Insomnia. Airing right after Jojo A. All The Way at 12:30AM on weekdays, this informative, humorous and sexy show has live music, interactive games, music videos and three alternating sassy hotties chatting the morning away. Unfortunately, only one among Chai Lontoc, Diane Medina and Mica Abesamis is here to stay. All three are up for the scrutiny and judgment of viewers who will decide who among them is the Ultimate Insomnia Hottie.

And that's all she wrote. So are these shows worthy of our thumbs ups, or for that matter, high 5's, pun intended? With the exception of Jojo Alejar's show which in my opinion, has improved by leaps and bounds and therefore a must-watch on his time slot, I'm not in a position to say anything about the other shows. Yet. But do visit this blog from time to time. If I do get the chance to catch any of them and I hope I do, I will share my thoughts here.

In the meantime, watch this YouTube highlight reel of Jojo A. All The Way:

2009 NU Rock Awards: Now in High Definition

IT's that time of the year again, boys and girls.

For the 16th year, rock station NU 107, the Home of New Rock and home to my favorite radio show, Pirate Satellite Hours airing every Saturday from 9PM to 12 midnight is once again hosting its annual Rock Awards.

This year, it looks like the NU 107 Rock Awards are expanding beyond the traditional limits of rock music as we know it, in recognition of what the station describes as "a constantly evolving musical landscape" as "the lines between genres are progressively blurred."

"One of the greatest things about the Philippine music scene is its diversity. With a mix of tried-and-true OPM icons and a wellspring of up-and-coming talents, the landscape of local artistry always remains interesting, innovative and undeniably relevant," the station declares in its press statement announcing the awards. "This year, the 16th NU 107 Rock Awards is about providing a clear presentation of what the current state of the local rock scene is. NU 107 Rock Awards ’09: High Definition will give focus to the artists who are undeniably at the top of their game, and have reached the summit of OPM supremacy."

Like the previous rock awards, artists that are qualified for this year's derby can be voted upon by listeners at The awards night will be held on the eve of Halloween on October 30 at a familiar venue: the World Trade Center at Macapagal Boulevard in Pasay City. Scheduled to perform are Bamboo, Chicosci, The Dawn, Franco, Greyhoundz, Itchyworms, Juan Pablo Dream, Kamikazee, Kjwan, Pupil, Rico Blanco, Sandwich, Sugarfree, Up Dharma Down and Urbandub.

The NU 107 Rock Awards are also usually a babefest of sorts so it should be interesting to find out who will be included in the expected celebrity presenters aside from the station's current line-up of rock jocks.

Online voting for the 2009 NU Rock Awards is still open at Tickets for the awards night are available at all SM Ticketnet outlets and at the Araneta Coliseum box office.

Last year's big winner Pupil performs at the 2008 NU Rock Awards:

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Kamikazee: Tattooed Love Boys

ONE of the highlights of the annual Dutdutan tattoo fest is the multi-band concert that features both rock and hip-hop artists. A featured performer in this concert is Kamikazee featuring its, uh, "highly-decorated" frontman, Jay Contreras.

Back in 2006, I wrote about this band for the Manila Bulletin. Back then, they were smokin' hot with their breakout sophomore release, Maharot that featured several big hits including concert staples like "Chixsilog" and "Narda." Even with the huge exposure that turned the band into a household name, they wouldn't release their follow-up release, Long Time Noisy, until three years later.

Here's a slightly revised version about what I had to say about the band back then:

Kamikazee sends everyone else running for covers

JAY Contreras performs with the same gung ho spirit and reckless abandon as the World War II Japanese suicide pilots that his band was named after. Beyond the kid’s countless tattoos, the wavy long hair and the trademark goatee is a poker face and mischievous grin that seems to tell all of us, “I got you all figured out.”

Well, Jay and the rest of Kamikazee (Jomal Linao and Led Tuyay on guitars, Allan “Bords” Burdeos on drums and Jason “Puto” Astete on bass) do seem to have everyone figured out these days. The band has scored two consecutive hits (“Narda” and “Chixsilog”) that most, if not all of us, can’t help but sing or hum along with whenever and wherever they're played. They also have a wildly anticipated live show that is almost always the highlight of just about every major rockfest that they find themselves booked in including last year’s Studio 23’s Myx Mo, the 2005 NU Rock Awards (where they bagged the Best Live Act award) and just recently, the latest staging of Pulp Summerslam at Amoranto Stadium.

And if that wasn’t good enough, their latest CD, Maharot (which means flirty) features no less than veteran actress and recent FHM cover girl Eula Valdez on the CD cover sleeve. In probably one of the most memorable album cover art in recent history, it has Eula standing like a goddess beside the cherubic-like boys in all their half-naked and heavily-tattooed glory, as if these guys just died and all went to Kamikazee heaven. Some guys simply have all the luck, huh?

It wasn’t always this way for the UP Fine Arts contemporaries that started six years ago sans Jay with the name Green Leafy Vegetables. Later changing it to Kamikazee Corn Flakes, they eventually settled with simply Kamikazee.

Although they were actually noticed and signed by a major label that released their hastily-put together debut CD, it was a bad time for Kamikazee or any other band for that matter, to make waves, as jukebox balladeers like Renz Verano and acoustic popsters like Nyoy Volante were the flavors of the moment then.

“We were in a hurry to finish that album, ” Jomal recalls. “Most of the songs were also in English and were actually written in the studio during our recording sessions. We didn’t put much thought into it.”

“Hindi bumenta!” as Jay himself would often exclaim onstage is what pretty much summed the ultimate fate of that CD. Be that as it may, the album still scored three NU 107 radio hits in “Ung Tagalog,” “Girlfriend” and concert favorite, “Chinelas” and established a cult following of sorts for the band, who loved the band’s unique and often rollicking fusion of punk, metal and yes, comedy. A hilarious cover of Britney Spears’ cheesy hit, “Lucky” led to the band’s an equally funny animated music video that later snagged the Best Music Video plum at the 2003 MTV Pilipinas Music Awards.

After that, their recording career read like a telegram. Nothing followed. In radio lingo, dead air. Any other band would have packed up their bags and called it a day. Not Kamikazee. Like the Energizer bunny that they can be easily compared with, they just kept going and going and going.

“There was a time when we actually played to an almost empty crowd,” Puto recalls. “We were playing in Oracafe one night when there was a heavy typhoon. Isa lang ang tao dun but we still played a whole set for him and he was very happy he came that night. Sabi nya sa amin later, sulit na sulit daw yung gabi nya.”

The band’s perseverance eventually paid off and a second chance came when they were asked to be a part of Rok On!, an album featuring music inspired by Ragnarok, the phenomenal online role-playing game by Level-Up Games. Kamikazee’s contribution, “Chixsilog” was easily the most popular song in the CD.

“Yung Chixsilog eh tungkol sa mga lalaking gumagamit ng babaeng character pag naglalaro sila ng Ragnarok,” says Jay. “Ginagawa nila yun para may makilala silang gamers na type nila.” Oh, chicks with eggs, huh?

In any case, the band found its second wind and the next thing they knew, gigs are once again aplenty and another major label, Universal Records gave them a crack at a new full-length release. And now we have Maharot.

“We were going to call it Jomal Pogi sana,” Puto and Led choruses. “But we stuck with Maharot because it’s the word that what we think encompasses what the album and the music in it is all about,” counters Jomal. “Mas masaya kami with this CD kasi mas gigil na gigil kami, mas napag-isipan at mas nagawa naming yung gusto naming gawin dito.”

Despite its references to Mars Ravelo’s now immortalized superheroine, Jay says “Narda” can easily be about any guy who find it hard to be within striking distance to the girl of his dreams. “Kaya nga sabi namin sa kanta, ang suwerte naman ni Ding,” Jay continues. “Kasi nga, the kid is the only guy who can get close to Narda. Pinapasan pa siya pag nagiging Darna na, di ba?” With not just one but two versions of the song (and two music videos to boot), Kamikazee is finally a household name thanks to this irresistible powerpop ditty.

Still, naysayers are quick to compare their humor-laden rock with that of Parokya Ni Edgar, something that the band has no problem at all. “It’s true that Parokya ni Edgar has been a big influence for us as is the band Cheese. Barkada naman namin sila and we hung out together a lot so we don’t mind being compared to them. Sobrang idol namin sila eh.”

As for the choice of Eula Valdez, who incidentally is a self-proclaimed rock fan herself, the band admits that the former Bagets star who is now a mainstay of prime time soap operas is a long-time crush. “Like Pia Guanio,” Jay quips. “She was very glad to do it as she said in her FHM interview. She was excited to be a part of the project and she actually watches us whenever she can. We’re textmates na nga eh.”

“Hindi naman mahirap isipin na crush namin si Ms. Eula eh. Kahit naman kayo, sir, nagagandahan sa kanya, di ba?,” Jay teases with that mischievous grin on his face again. You know, come to think of it, I always did have this schoolboy infatuation on the one time Amor Powers. Well, what can I say? I told you these guys have us all figured out.

Watch Kamikazee's video of "Wala," a single from current album, Long The Noisy:

Dutdutan 2009: Skin Deep

DUTDUTAN na naman!

In what has become a much-anticipated tattoo lovefest, the just concluded Tribal Dutdutan '09 once again brought the country's best "skin specialists" together under one roof, at least for one "illustrated weekend."

Now on its 9th year, it aims to promoted tattoos as mainstream art and not as the inappropriate expression of self-expression nor a symbol of society's bad elements. Last year, I had the chance to interview premier tattoo artist Ricky Sta. Ana for One Philippines, the entertainment and lifestyle magazine for the millions of Filipinos overseas who want to read about positive and heartwarming developments back home.

A moving force behind the Dutdutan series, Ricky then told me that he was glad with how Dutdutan has evolved over the years, from a mere "gathering of musicians, tattoo artists, painters, tattoo enthusiasts and music lovers in Malate," to a very well-attended convention of a now universally-recognized industry.

This year's edition is the biggest yet, as it marks the first time that Dutdutan brought international tatoo artists coming from countries like Malaysia, Saipan, Thailand, Singapore, France, Holland & New Zealand and essentially making our own tattoo artists as at par with the world's best.

Even better, the festival also featured the likes of Tribal Gear's founder, Bobby Ruiz, drummer Wuv, who literally hits the skins for POD and graffiti artist OG Abel, all based in San Francisco. There were also exhibition fights of professional fighters from the Universal Reality Combat Championship or URCC and another staging of the Tribal Bikini Contest, Tribal Gear's sizzling bikini open contest of Tribal Gear and a crowd favorite since last year.

For more details on Dutdutan 2009 including updates on everything that transpired last September 18 and 19, please check out

Thursday, September 17, 2009

New iPod Nano Takes The 5th

YESTERDAY marked the official Philippine launch of Apple's latest iPod family. As if the last batch of our favorite music players on-the-go aren't ubiquitous enough, Apple is asking us to take another bite out of its current temptations.

And while the Shuffle, Classic and iTouch models have their own share of improvements (I'll talk about these iPods in a future post), it is the beloved Nano, the bestselling iPod of 'em all that stands out with the most radical facelift.

With a high quality video camera, a larger and wider (in landscape mode) 2.2-inch display, a snazzy polished anodized aluminum finish in nine (count 'em) vibrant colors, a Voice Memo audio recording (at last!), an FM radio (make that double at last!) with "Live Pause and iTunes Tagging" functionalities and a Pedometer that fitness buffs would love, the 5th generation Nano is easily the head of the class of the latest batch.

Available at P8,790 for 8GB and P10,490 for the bigger 16GB, you have plenty of reasons to hate yourself if you just bought a 4th gen Nano that retails for around the same prices.

You can now order the 5th generation Nano and the other new iPods at Apple Store Philippines at

Watch the latest iPod Nano ad:

Korean Film Festival

AS part of its year-long celebration, the Embassy of the Republic of Korea shall be holding a Korean Film Festival from 23 to 29 September 2009 at the Shangri-La Plaza Cineplex.

The film festival will be featuring seven of the most widely-acclaimed films in the past decade. Yesterday I was invited to an exclusive pre-screening of the movie entitled “Old Boy” at the Shang Cineplex’s Cinema 3. Old Boy, an action film directed by Park Chan-wook and highly recommended by filmmaker and good friend, Rianne Hill Soriano, is the second installment of The Vengeance Trilogy and was awarded the Grand Prix in the 2004 Cannes Film Festival.

Due to other commitments, I wasn't able to make it but will try to catch another screening of Old Boy on the festival's opening night. Film buffs might also want to catch this and the other films scheduled for screening. For the festival's complete schedule, please click on the attached poster in this post.

Here's a trailer of Old Boy:

Puerto Galera Unplugged

BELOW is my final draft of an article I wrote about a newly-relaunched resort in Puerto Galera for the Manila Bulletin. Because another writer from the same paper was invited during the weekend of the launch, I ended up sharing my byline with another writer from the same paper who rewrote the piece to add his own insights.

I would later write a totally different piece on the resort again for One Philippines, a newsmagazine for OFW's. But since the published version in Manila Bulletin is not in any way how I would have written the story on my own, I am now posting a slightly updated version of my original draft, a Director's Cut (or in this case, Writer's Cut) of sorts, if you please:

“IT has many facets. Quiet, loud, serene, girlie, messy, windy and many more. It’s vast and everywhere you go, they have something different to offer. We have places here to play music and to party here so people won’t get bored.”

No, Stephen Lu is not exactly talking about Boracay, most people’s favored summer destination. Instead, the frontman of the now defunct alternative band, Rizal Underground (yes, that was him singing the big hit, “Sabado Nights”) is actually waxing poetry about the charms of Puerto Galera, where he has taken refuge in recent years and is in fact, managing a new beachfront and dive resort there called Dolphin Bay.

Located in the comparatively more private part of the island (think Station 1 if you’re in Bora), DolphinBay is owned by Austrian expatriate Manfred Tauber who himself was taken captive by the many facets of the Oriental Mindoro-based tourist spot in general and its Barangay Palangan in particular, one of the remaining places in the area that has remained largely untouched by progress.

“Manfred was looking for a place that was accessible to land his sea plane with a nice looking beach,” Lu fondly recalls. “It was an empty lot when he bought this property but quiet and windy, which in my opinion is part of its appeal. The name was chosen by his wife, Annaliza because of the many dolphins they would see here during their regular sailing trips abroad.”

With only 19 rooms scattered over four storeys that offer more than just a panoramic view of the breathtaking scenery, guests are assured of personalized service from DolphinBay’s very able staff. It’s amazing what you can do in a resort located in a spot that is quite far from the madding crowds of the more popular Sabang and White Beach areas.

“We have airconditioned rooms, cable TV, hot and cold shower, intercom and wifi,” Lu says. “We have swimming pools, pool table, diving and other related equipment. We have jetski, seaplane, banana boat, island hopping, hobie cat and sailing trips in Manfred’s Catamaran yacht. In fact, we are trying to angle the catamaran diving safaris and diving in general. We also have land tour packages or picnic in waterfalls and other beaches.”

The food ain’t so bad, either. Lu says the menu fare consist of popular Italian and Filipino cusine. “Ours is not fine dining but we do have the basics covered. We aim to improve this even more in the future by offering a more extensive wine selection and more food specials or specialties. We will also have monthly beach barbecue buffet parties so we can receive guests from other establishments as well.”

At night time, the possibility of live entertainment was nicely explored as our group was treated to spirited, old school rock and roll sets courtesy of guest performers, the Bembol Rockers as well as jamming numbers from Lu himself and legendary rock guitarist Jun Lopito, who has also taken up residence in Galera as of late.

During our Catamaran sailing trip the following day, we were treated to a glimpse of the majestic coves, reefs, and pocket beaches that are living proof why Puerto Galera is also listed among the elite “Club of the Most Beautiful Bays in the World.” Well, whoever labelled Puerto Galera a “poor man’s Boracay” because of its accessibility and comparatively affordable rates has certainly not seen a side of the island that offers so much more.

“Working here at DolphinBay has been quite a privilege,” Lu beams. “It has given me a chance to learn to dive, sail and as you’ve seen, I saw Puerto Galera from the air last Sunday from here. You know, that was really special.”

For reservations and more information on Dolphinbay Beachfront & Dive Resort, please visit Special thanks to Bryan Quesada for the photos.

Puerto Galera today:

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Weighing In On Manny Pacquaio

WITH the official announcement of his upcoming November 2009 bout with Miguel Cotto for the WBC Welterweight title, Manny Pacquiao is once again making headlines. As he moves up to Cotto's weight division, he is once again regarded as "the underdog." And that's the way he probably likes it.

Earlier this year, I was asked by GARAGE magazine to write a tribute piece of sorts on Pacman as seen in the eyes of boxing experts and sportswriters. This was prior to his fight with Ricky Hatton, who as one of those "experts" noted below should not be taken lightly, even by the GenSan native. Well, we all saw how Pacquiao took Hatton seriously, all right.

And here's how seriously I took that writing assignment, or should I say, writing challenge. Puwede na bang sportswriter?

Is Manny Pacquiao truly the world’s greatest?

HE is already the greatest boxer the country has ever produced. With his numerous achievements, Emmanuel “Manny” Dapidran Pacquaio is certainly a world class fighter who has done the Philippines proud many times over.

Even before his recent victory over fellow boxing legend Oscar Dela Hoya, he was already declared by Ring Magazine, the bible of the boxing world as “pound for pound, the world’s greatest fighter” after Floyd Mayweather, Jr., the man who previously held the title announced his retirement from the sport.

By “inheriting” the pound for pound title by default, there are still a few naysayers who have expressed their own doubts as to whether the pride of General Santos City truly deserves to be called the greatest in his time. Just how good or great is Manny Pacquiao also known as the “People’s Champion” then? And how better can he still get?

Reputable sportswriter who are also regarded as experts in boxing analysis have in several instances put Manny’s legend in perspective. The reigning WBC Lightweight Champ is, after all, the reigning champion in four divisions. And there’s a very good reason for that.

“More than the power, the conditioning and the skills, the size of his heart is what makes Manny Pacquiao the champion that he is,” wrote Quinito Henson in a feature profile of Pacquiao for People Asia Magazine. “No fighter has more guts, courage and determination than this southpaw. His spirit is what propels him to victory against all odds.”

In his article, Henson, a veteran sports analyst and regular commentator for the local coverage of Pacquiao’s fights, revealed the humble beginnings of the prized fighter. From his arrival in Port Area, Manila without a single centavo in his pocket to how he managed to work his way up to the top of the boxing ranks, Pacquiao has been all about heart.

Henson and other local sportswriters are not the only one impressed with Pacman’s fighting spirit. Marv Durmon of the Business and Finance Examiner attributes Pacquiao’s ring prowess to his humble beginnings. He wrote: “Boyhood Manny’s desperation for food and scraps of money was in direct proportion to the plight of his family for survival. “Pacman” the boxer’s desperation in the ring is in direct proportion to the magnitude of his struggle as a child. Marco Antonio Barrera, Eric Morales, Oscar de la Hoya—fought, and lost to, a desperate fighter; he has been desperate all his life.”

Stephen Galloway of echoes this sentiment: “All I can say is I offer my total respect to Manny Pacquiao for his admiration and courage,” he wrote.

“It is righteous to say that over the recent years Pacquiao has become somewhat of a boxing legend as well as a Filipino hero (So much so, he has even had his face printed on detergent bottles, foods, political posters and even toilet roll in his home country) I can’t speak for everyone but I certainly wouldn’t like to get caught disrespecting Pacquiao’s face with used toilet roll.”

He got that right. As the best pound-for-pound fighter in the world. Pacman is ranked ahead of valued fighters like Joe Calzaghe, Bernard Hopkins, Shane Mosley and more significantly, his next opponent Ricky Hatton who is only ranked number 9. The guy at number 2, Juan Manuel Marquez was already beaten by Pacquiao in a thrilling match last year that continues to beg for a rematch that is not likely to happen anytime soon.

Because even as Hatton is sitting way below Pacquiao in the pound-for-pound rankings, no one, not even Pacquaio is taking this deadly puncher for granted. “Facing Hatton certainly won’t be a walk in the park for the Pac-Man as bookmakers propose,” Galloway points out. “On the night Pacquiao must decide to either run or brawl with Hatton, if he comes to brawl I think Ricky would give him an ass whooping,”

“Also The Filipino added that he will be fighting Hatton at 140 pounds, a division he has yet to test,” he continues. “Whereas Hatton has clearly proved himself with an unbeaten record at the 140Lb mark, his only defeat coming in 2007 against Floyd Maywether where he boxed at 145 pounds for his first time opposing to his comfort zone of 139 ¾ to140 pounds. At the 140 mark The Hitman has beaten notable fighters such as Castillo, more recently Paulie Malignaggi and his biggest win to date against Kostya Tszyu all at his niche of 140 pounds.”

But that’s also where Pacquiao’s heart and fighting spirit comes into play. After Pacman’s demoltion of Dela Hoya, Henson granted a radio interview that puts the Pacquiao legend in perspective. Describing Pacquiao’s feat as “a David slaying a Goliath,”

Henson goes on to say, “Parang yung meron siyang challenge, mas lalo siyang susubok. Doon siya gumagaling, doon niya pinapakita sa mundo, na yes we can. (He takes on any challenge. He showed the world that yes, the Filipino can). Napakita niya that even if he’s an underdog, hindi siya titigil (He showed that even if he was the underdog, he will not give up). He showed the heart of a champion, he showed the heart of a Filipino.”

So is Manny Pacquiao truly the greatest fighter in the world? “Pacquiao was able to demonstrate not only that he's the world's best pound-for-pound fighter, but for the first time, how good he really is,” wrote Mark Kriegel of FoxSports. Com. “For months now, you have heard that a good big man beats a good little man. But what of a great little man?”

Kevin Iole of Yahoo! Sports has this to say. “The fight (with Dela Hoya) ended any debate whether Pacquiao or light heavyweight Joe Calzaghe deserves the top spot in the mythical pound-for-pound race, but it also sent a one-time legend into retirement,” he declares. “Manny Pacquiao unequivocally established himself as the finest fighter in the world.”

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Film Review: Technophilia

I met indie filmmaker slash film critic Rianne Hill Soriano during a media screening at MyCinema in Greenbelt 3 last year. We had an engaging talk on not just about the film we're about to see (the title of which I can't remember now, must be that forgettable) but also on other films we've seen as well. Although she's the indie, progressive type, I could tell that Rianne loves to watch movies in general and is not totally averse to enjoying any film from any genre, mainstream or otherwise, popcorn or no popcorn.

Her background as "a freelance production artist doing directing and writing works in film and commercial/corporate productions" according to her website may have something to do with her open-mindedness and also seems to have serve her in good stead as a filmmaker. Her works, at least the ones I recently saw have a particularly glossy look-and-feel (i.e. well-lighted, well-edited, well-acted, well-scored, well-everything) that's not too common for indie films that are usually known for their deliberately crude cuts.

These two short films namely Technophilia and Pera-Perahang Lata were in fact earlier previewed on Gateway Cinema, an occasion Rianne actually invited me to but for some reason I can't remember, I wasn't able to make it. She later gave me a DVD in a recent screening of another film. And yes, I actually enjoyed both of them.

The first of these two films is the seven-minute Technophilia, which according to its website, "is about how technology starts to shape people to become too dependent on it that relationships and lifestyles are altered, and later on, possibly destroyed. At one point by now, our interactions to other people are becoming as robotic as the machines we use."

In this Korean-shot film that also featured Korean lead actors, a young woman was meeting her boyfriend in what looks like an internet cafe complete with tables and chairs (presumably for dining purposes and placing of laptops). Expecting to spend some quality time with her beau, she immediately realized that there's nothing romantic about a place where just about everyone including her spaced-out, catatonic-looking partner is immersed in their own high-tech weapons of choice, be it laptops, iPods, PSP's, mobile phones and his own Nintendo DS. Even with intermittent interruptions from his cellular, the couple is clearly not on the same page. Visibly irked and frustrated, she walks out on the geeky jerk.

In less than 10 minutes, the film was able to immediately strike a chord with this particular viewer. Granted, Technophilia also has the feel of en extended commercial (or infomercial as some people would prefer to call it), that's not at all a knock on the filmmaker. It works as she envisions it and thoughtfully delivers its message loud and clear. Every single day almost all of us can't leave home without our cellphones, iPods and what have you. Not content with spending hours on Facebook and other social networking sites at home, we still tote our laptops and immediately resume our online activities at the nearest Wi-Fi enabled coffee shop.

Technology is supposed to enhance our lives, not totally rule them. Do we have to wait until it destroys our relationships before we see the difference? After watching Technophilia, maybe we don't have to.

I'll talk about Pera-Perahang Lata in a later post. But for now, do try to catch the movie (watch trailer below) when you get the chance. For information on the film and possible future screenings or where to get an original DVD copy, visit or the filmmaker's website at

Monday, September 14, 2009

Sharon Yu

Speaking of Sharon Yu, the former UAAP courstide reporter for the De La Salle Green Archers and current co-host of the Solar Sports show Clear Men Future League now airing on Solar's Basketball TV (or the BTV Channel for Destiny Cable subscribers) and C/S9 is now a VJ for Channel V Philippines. Clearly a star on the rise, I did a feature on Sharon for the Manila Bulletin last year. I'm posting a slightly revised version of that piece here :

At courtside, Sharon Yu shines.

It was a UAAP season like no other. In 2007, the prestigious collegiate basketball tourney had just as many subplots as your average teleserye, among them the Cinderella season of the UE Red Warriors, the triumphant return to championship form of the De La Salle Green Archers, and the battle of wits of the two teams’ respective coaches, brothers Franz and Dindo Pumaren.

Not totally lost in all that drama was a fresh face on the Green Archers bench that was a big part of Studio 23’s successful coverage of the games. With her effervescent demeanor and eloquent delivery, Sharon Yu did not at all look like the rookie that she was in what was supposed to be a totally new ballgame for the 19-year old advertising management major and one-time commercial model.

"My mom wanted me to audition for the courtside reporting job when I first entered La Salle," Sharon recalls. "But I never considered it because I was never a UAAP fan, I don’t know anybody from the team, and I’m not fond of basketball."

Sharon was aware that La Salle was making a comeback in the UAAP, though, and when she saw the audition commercial for courtside reporters on Studio 23, she soon found herself calling up the ABS-CBN contact people about it.

Fresh face

"I was even joking about it with my friends at the school canteen," she exclaims. "They couldn’t imagine me in that position and they were all laughing about it. They even tested me on some of the basketball terms that I didn’t know then. And I didn’t take the actual auditions too seriously. I would make mistakes. I would make fun of myself. I was just having fun."

To her surprise as well as that of her friends, she bested countless other aspirants for the job and when she herself asked the judges why she was chosen for the job, they said she had "a certain freshness to her and that she is also trainable" enough to get the work done.

A two-week crash course in basketball followed, which wasn’t really hard given Sharon’s other athletic interests like badminton, wall climbing, and volleyball, or which she was a varsity player in high school. She also spent a lot of time in La Salle’s practice facility, getting to know its players, familiarizing herself with their respective games, understanding how their coach thought. She was thankful that they were all in welcoming mode and didn’t see her as a distraction.

Even though she was still nervous on her first day and committed her share of gaffes, everything else went well for her as the season went by. Now Sharon’s career in sportscasting is blossoming beyond courtside reporting. She’s now an image endorser for Nike and continues to improve on her hosting craft. "I’m learning a lot from the people I look up to like Lisa Guerrero, who is a very good sports host as well as the people that I work with like Sev Sarmenta and Boom Gonzales."

For someone who admits to struggling with her English just three years ago, Sharon Yu has so far done well for herself. "I did not have hosting in mind but I did want to have a taste of (the) industry," she says. With La Salle going all the way to the finals and eventually winning the title, she got more than what she bargained for. More than the extended onscreen time, the new projects and the celebrity that followed, she got a courtside view of a winning attitude that should more than augur well for her own professional and personal pursuits she’ll face in due time.

Watch Sharon do her stuff in this video:

Jersey Dress

Go Eagles! Go Tams! Go Tigers! Go Warriors!

With the UAAP seniors basketball now on fever pitch and down to its Final Four, you may have noticed a good number of girls donning what looked like the official jerseys of their favorite teams but upon closer view are something just a tad different.

These are what former UAAP courtside reporter Sharon Yu call Jersey Dress, a clothing line she created with her friend Pat Giron and inspired by yes, those sought after UAAP uniforms. But Sharon says Jersey Dress is also inspired by other athletic jerseys like baseball, and football that consists of both UAAP and NCAA school designs.

"However, what’s special about Jersey Dress is that clients can have their names or their favorite athlete’s name, same goes for the jersey number. We've also made it figure-flattering for girls of any size, but still comfortable. Our dresses all have sidebars, giving the wearer an illusion of a thinner waistline. The dress fits just right, so girls can pig out without worrying about their tummy showing!"

She says the fabric they use is also the same as of the fabric of high-end apparel brands. And Jersey Dress is not just something you get off-the-rack. "You can make your own design, meaning own color, own school, and personalized lay outs/sketches. If clients have any request like adding sleeves or what not, Jersey Dress will make it for them," Sharon points out.

Girls can choose between two types of Jersey Dress. There's the original and classic sleeveless Basketball Style and there's also the new Off Shoulder line accentuated by striped knitting for sleeves with a twist.

"We want to gain presence all year long, not just during the UAAP/NCAA hype," Sharon says. "After all, school spirit doesn’t die out, so why should we? So starting this year, we will regularly come up with chic and sporty designs that are perfect for everyday, making sure whoever wears them turns heads."

For more information, visit

The Beatles Rock Band: Yeah! Yeah! Yeah!

From its Wikipedia page:

"The Beatles: Rock Band is a music video game developed by Harmonix Music Systems, published by MTV Games and distributed by Electronic Arts. It is the third major console release in the Rock Band music video game series and, like other games in the series, it allows players to simulate the playing of rock music by using controllers shaped like musical instruments. The game consists of 45 songs by the British rock group The Beatles spanning their career, along with virtual depictions of the band members performing the songs. Future downloadable content for the game will feature additional songs and full albums from The Beatles, such as the entirety of Abbey Road (1969) shortly after the game's release."

The game was released internationally on 9 September 2009 to coincide with the release of the new, remastered CD versions of The Beatles' albums. I don't know about you but if you only have enough money for just one (more) game and you also love both The Rock Band game and The Beatles, then this one's a no-brainer. Judging from the trailer below, the game does look and sound like it's a lot of fun.

All you need is love...and a PS3 or an Xbox360 or a Nintendo Wii, maybe a PC and (fingers-crossed) a Mac sometime in the near future, too.

UPDATE: According to my good friend and former GamesMaster magazine editor Ed Geronia, The Beatles Rock Band is now available in Data Blitz. Complete set including instruments is around P20K while the game disc itself will set you back by P2,400. Go get it already!

And here's the trailer of the game taken from its MTV Press Conference:

The Gaslight Anthem

THE Gaslight Anthem is a New Jersey-based quartet that has released three critically-acclaimed recordings in the four-song EP, Señor and the Queen, the sensational full-length debut, Sink or Swim and the equally well-received The '59 Sound.

In the band's Wikipedia page, one critic's spot-on description of them read: "The Gaslight Anthem are like something out of speculative fiction: "this is what pop music would be if Springsteen hadn't listened to his producer, let The Ramones record Hungry Heart, and launched the C.B.G.B.'ers into megastardom."

However one describes it, this is a great rock and roll band that kicks major butt. I first heard them on the radio show, Pirate Satellite on NU107 and I have been a fan since. Check them out in this video of a song written as a tribute to the Clash's Joe Strummer.

Missing Baguio City

MY sister recently spent a weekend with her call center officemates in Baguio City. Judging from her kwento and the usual pasalubongs, it was certainly more than just a weekend to remember.

Which suddenly made me miss the place. I have very fond memories of my few Baguio visits. I was actually there to cover the very first Baguio Flower Festival in 1995. A few years later, I was part of a media entourage that covered the tour of Pinoy Rock legend Joey "Pepe" Smith and the folk-rock duo, Yano, who were then at the height of their popularity. Pepe and Yano performed at UP Baguio, a campus that fascinated me the first time I saw it on the big screen as the setting of Mike De Leon's classic romantic yarn, Kung Mangarap Ka't Magising.

Also met a good number of interesting people based there as well including independent filmmaker Kidlat Tahimik and his daughter, Kawayan as well as now National Artist Ben Cabrera simply known as Bencab.

Hopefully, I can pass by anytime again soon especially now that it's a scorching hot summer here in Metro Manila. For now, I'm gonna have to content myself with sharing a revised version of an article I wrote about the City of Pines for the Manila Bulletin back in 2005.

Our rollicking highland adventure

TO pass up any opportunity to go up to Baguio would be a big mistake for anyone who would even think about it. The City of Pines remains one of the most wonderful places in the country–earthquakes, landslides, outbreaks and other natural disasters notwithstanding. The cool weather is a big reason, of course, but there is a lot more to Baguio than just its climate. It’s simply one of those places where your first visit is never your last.

Getting there remains a marathon six-hour drive, eight or more when using public transport. It really doesn't make much difference if you take Marcos Highway (our path of choice coming from Manila) or Kennon Road (our choice route going back to Manila) although the zig-zaggy Kennon is certainly less safer when it’s dark and raining, given all the documented mishaps that took place there over the years.

The long trip is, of course, always worth it. For those who don’t come here very often, Baguio will always feel like a totally new experience. In many ways, it actually feels like a different country altogether. It’s that special.

And it’s all the more special if you happen to be staying at Camp John Hay Manor, where about half in our group of 12 were booked. The European-style hilltop hotel was built on the site of the old main clubhouse of the former American rest and recreation camp.

Surrounded by towering pine trees, the Manor remains the camp’s centerpiece and the mostly wooden structure of this very charming hotel was, in fact, a high-profile witness to the fairy tale wedding of Aga Muhlach and Charlene Gonzalez. Often the choice spots for taking wedding vows, the place has a beautifully landscaped garden punctuated by a lovely gazebo and statues of Abraham Lincoln and Manuel L. Quezon, supposedly symbolizing our so-called Fil-Am friendship.

Billy King’s Le Souffle restaurant provides the good food served in the hotel. Buffets were occasions that we particularly looked forward to. Equally worth looking forward to is the piano bar where we saw an elderly couple having a romantic dinner complete with flowers, candlelight, champagne and yes, thoughtfully-rendered lounge instrumentals.

Taking a walk at the nearby John Hay Commissary area is a pleasant cheap thrill as well. There's a duty free grocery store, a couple of gift and souvenir shops, an ukay-ukay store and several restaurants including Mile Hi Diner, which has a familiar ring to me as I do recall eating in a similarly-named old-fashioned American diner during my very first visit to this camp when the Americans were still running the place.

Outside the camp, Mines View Park is another part of Baguio that's ideal for daily morning walks as you can also shop for souvenir items or simply enjoy its picturesque scenery. For some strange reason, I always buy a cardigan sweater whenever I come here. During our last two days when we had more free time, I was joined by photographer Qyam Michaels, who took pictures of the awe-inspiring view. Yes, I made like a tourist and posed with a horse, a St. Bernard and even the elderly Ifugaos (or was it Igorots?) for the usual five to ten peso fees.

For better or for worse, shopping for ukay-ukays (or used clothes) in Burnham Park and the Session Road area remains a highlight of every Baguio City visit. I know a friend who goes to Baguio on a given day just to get his ukay-ukay fix. He then immediately returns to Manila after only an hour's worth of used-clothes shopping.

I'm glad to see that some old favorites like Star Cafe and Sizzling Plate are still Session Road fixtures although I didn't get to dine in those places this time. Outside of Le Souffle at the Manor, we also had great meals in a couple of inexpensive places in Burnham Park including a turo-turo eatery that specializes in lechon manok.We also enjoyed a really sumptuous lauriat at Hotel Supreme in La Trinidad (known there as an ideal venue for wedding receptions, thanks to its much talked about signature cuisine) and of course, it's hard to go wrong with Cafe By The Ruins where framed works by artists like Baguio native Bencab adorn its quaint interior.

In a previous visit, our media group had the chance to visit Bencab's beautifully-landscaped residence and enjoyed a nice chat with the National Artist himself. The really cool dude who is also the same guy who painted Pinoy rock legends for my fellow Jingle magazine writer, Eric Caruncho's book, Punks, Poets and Poseurs has an equally eclectic music collection of his own.

Technology seems to be a big deal in Baguio City and it has just about everything we have here in Metro Manila. There are several computer schools including two STI branches. There's even one that actually calls itself, Philippine Cyber College. Cool name, I thought.

Of course, a visit to Baguio nowadays is not really complete without checking out its own SM Mall. Yes, there is one here, too. While there’s not much that sets SM City Baguio apart from other SM Malls everywhere else, it does have open-air balconies that has a panoramic view of the city that’s quite different from the one in Mines View.

SM City Baguio is also home to an Islands Souvenirs shop where I found a really funny T-shirt that I just had to get. At first glance, the design of the tee resembled the logo of the popular reality show, Survivor. A closer look reveals that what it actually says is “Meningo Survivor.” Talk about spin.