Tuesday, February 9, 2010

PLDT myDSL Watchpad

WHETHER we like it or not, the World Wide Web has changed the way we watch our favorite TV shows, thanks to sites like YouTube and Hulu.com, among others.

Back here at home, there have been quite a few attempts to make online entertainment more accessible to more people, especially the more mobile amongst us such as SmartTV (what happened to that?) and more recently, PLDT myDSL Watchpad, which has continued to improve since I wrote about its launch for the Infotech section of the Manila Bulletin last year.

Recently, PLDT myDSL Watchpad in partnership with Channel [V] brought us Musicfest 2010, a music festival featuring American Idol winner Kris Allen, Jabbawockeez and Boyce Avenue. Subscribers who could not make it to the shows in Manila and Cebu were able to watch it on live streaming video.

Just how much PLDT myDSL Watchpad has progressed since its launch? So far it seems to be chugging along pretty well. One big acid test that awaits it is how well will it cover the coming elections. In any case, here is an updated version of that October, 2009 news item that I wrote about it.


MULTITASKING online suddenly got a lot more entertaining.

At least for subscribers of the Philippine Long Distance Telephone (PLDT) Company’s myDSL broadband internet service, there is now one more reason to go online. With its recently launched Watchpad, users can now watch their favorite TV shows in streaming video for free even as they surf the web, check their emails, update their social networking status, write their blogs, chat in real time and play online games.

With Cignal HD as content provider, Watchpad is a revolutionary service that combines broadband connection with rich multimedia content. Initially available right off the bat are popular free TV and cable channels National Geographic, Cartoon Network, MTV, Pinoy Box Office, CNN, Animax Mobile, CNBC and GMA while newly-added networks now include MTV, PLDT, Living Asia, Bio, History, Crime Investigation, Tin Word, Go E! Entertainment and most recently, Channel [V]. myDSL subscribers only need to register at PLDT myDSL Watchpad's official site to get a username and password in order to access them for free.

“While it’s true that you can access streaming videos of your favorite shows in the internet from various sources online, what we did here at Watchpad is bring them all together under one online roof,” says PLDT Retail Business Group Head Dan Ibarra. “So our users can spend more time watching, surfing, chatting and blogging instead of searching the web for these show.”

And that’s not all. Watchpad is also introducing myFlicks, its own one-stop, commercial-free movie central channel which will show the acclaimed films of 2009 Cannes International Film Festival Best Director Brilliante Mendoza starting this month. Mendoza, who has so far directed a total of eight films, is the first Filipino to get this prestigious recognition at the annual film festival held in France.

During the press conference launching his inclusion in Watchpad’s initial entertainment line-up, Mendoza said he’s very pleased to see his films such as Serbis, Twilight Dancers, Masahista, Mamoro, Foster Child and soon, Kaleido and the award-winning but controversial Kinatay exposed to a wider online audience. The filmmaker pointed out, however, that since myFlicks is still subject to MTRCB regulations, only the MTRCB-approved cuts of his films will be shown in Watchpad.

For PLDT’s part, Ibarra and AVP Gary Dujali announced that aside from those by Mendoza, more acclaimed films from the country’s best directors are coming soon at Watchpad. Another exclusive Watchpad channel, myView, will feature special shows from popular celebrities like Isabel Oli who will discuss her fashion tips and Rhian Ramos who will dwell on her own celebrity status in myLife. Also in myView are the latest showbiz gossip from fashion designer slash musician Kate Torralba and respected industry scribes like Shirley Pizarro, Isah Red, Dolly Anne Carvajal and Ricky Lo, now known as myFoursome.

Dujali pointed out that the Watchpad service is not just limited to films and television but also the latest online games from LevelUp! Games. Initially available for Watchpad are CrazyKart and Hello Kitty Online Philippines.

With regards to the speed and quality of the streaming videos and overall quality of the service as a whole, Dujali and Ibarra are one in saying that while Watchpad is available to all PLDT myDSL subscribers, “the service is best experienced for those who are subscribed to Plan 1299 and higher.” Plan 1299 is also the minimum requirement for those who want to enjoy the streaming videos of available Watchpad entertainment in High Quality (HQ) resolution.

According to Ibarra, PLDT has a total subscriber base of over 1.5 million for both its wired and wireless broadband service. He said he expects this number to significantly increase with the introduction of Watchpad.

Dujali also reveals that there are plans to acquire 25 to 30 more channels to augment the service as it continues to be a hit with PLDT myDSL subscribers. He hinted, however, that just like cable TV providers, PLDT may also require subscribers to pay a premium for certain channels as well as special shows like the recently concluded Pacquiao-Cotto match available only on pay-per-view.

Here's the first TV commercial for PLDT myDSL Watchpad:

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Political Arena.com Version 2.0

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


WITH a totally new look to include all official candidates for not just the presidency but also the vice-presidency and those seeking Senate seats, PoliticalArena.com recently relaunched its so-called Version 2.0 or the second phase of its ongoing evolution.

Dubbed as “the country’s first socio-political networking site and a one-stop shop to access all candidates in one arena that allows voters to make informed decisions,” PoliticalArena.com is an initiative of JobsDB.com in partnership with the Commision On Elections (Comelec), the Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting (PPCRV) and the Department of Foreign Affairs.

WHEN it was first launched in June of last year, PoliticalArena.com, there were no official candidates for any position at the time so the site included all information it could gather on 22 perceived presidentiables. Now with 10 official candidates in place (Nicanor Perlas not included in photo above and Vetallano Acosta not in both pics at all), the site has introduced major changes and new features.

“By including the presidential candidates’ respective running mates and senatorial slates, our users are given access to majority of the candidates running for national seats,” says PoliticalArena.com General Manager Racquel Caguirangan.

Caguirangan added that the site’s home page now includes a new Issues section that features the presidential candidates’ answers to the country’s top issues. “With this feature, users are allowed to know the views of the presidentiables on important issues and compare their responses,” she points out.

The old Issues section that housed over 500 questions posted by site members is now called the Question and Answer section. Here, users can still pose other questions they still consider relevant that may range from anything like national security to the environment to tourism to the youth to even the much-talked about Reproductive Health Bill issue.

“While the new PoliticalArena.com has a lot of new features to better cater to our users’ needs, we have also retained many of our popular features,” Caguirangan notes. “These include the News, Announcements and Calendar sections that all relay important information on current events and the candiates’ campaign activities and events as well as our very popular Forum where we encourage healthy discussions on everything related to politics and the Philippines.”

As a social networking tool, Caguirangan says PoliticalArena.com now allows users to build their own networks and connect with “like-minded” individuals (read: those who support the same candidates) with the new “add a friend” button. There’s also a freedom wall for micro-blogging postings as well as the ability to write a full blog that may be featured on the site’s home page.

Since the start of the year, the site has garnered a total of 484,515 hits with page views of 1,358,501 as of January 14. Absolute unique visitors is 396,746 with a daily traffic of 2,319.69. Accessed in more than 180 countries, China, the U.S. and Saudi Arabia are among the top countries that regularly surf the site outside of the Philippines.

As a venue that provides free space to candidates to allow them to explain more about their platform and their stand on certain issues, Caguirangan admits that presidential candidates that take advantage of this privilege include JC Delos Reyes, Bro. Eddie Villanueva, Senator Richard Gordon and former president Joseph Estrada, who all provided their own welcome messages during her presentation.

Asked if PoliticalArena.com will also include information on those running for local positions, Caguirangan says they would like to do so but are still trying to figure out how to go about it at this time.
For his part, Comelec Spokesman James Jimenez says that the growing response of the public to sites like PoliticalArena.com as well as independent initiatives like Blogwatch.ph underscores the importance of this coming elections to the general public.

“We welcome anything that will help us disseminate election-related information, even sites that have been critical of the Comelec,” he says. “This is an important event in our history and we’d like to get everyone involved as much as possible.”

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Dick Israel

WHEN I started out as contributor for MAXIM Philippines, I was once asked if I had any suggestions on who to feature for our Male Icon section, Dick Israel was the first name at the top of my head. See, I’ve always been a big fan of of what I’ll always describe as “the classic character actor.”

The MAXIM editors then (Pierre Calasanz, now with Town & Country, Peejo Pilar, now with Men’s Health and Vlad Bunoan, also Managing Ed of Business Mirror) liked the idea. Our only problem was we don’t know where to find Dick Israel at the time. So, the idea was shelved.

Until last year when I  found the actor in, of all places, Facebook. So I proposed the idea again to new MAXIM EIC Eric Ramos who gave me the go ahead to pursue it. So I added Dick Israel as Facebook friend, left a message for him that he promptly replied to and we finally got something going. Nice guy, actially.

And although I was limited by MAXIM’S Q & A Format, I thought I managed to come up with a pretty good piece.

Well, the actor and some of our readers apparently think so, too. Reposting this slightly tweaked feature now. Let me know what you think.

Pics taken with permission from Dick Israel's Facebook page.


Do kontrabidas really have more fun? The classic character actor gives us the lowdown along with other interesting career highlights.

Your Facebook profile says your real name is Ricardo Michaca and that youre also a Mechanical Engineering major from Mapua. So how did you got into this business and whos responsible for your screen name? 

An uncle of director Francis “Jun” Posadas who was the assistant director of Maning Borlaza offered me and my three buddies supporting roles in the film I Love You Honey starring Vilma Santos and Edgar Mortiz under Tagalog Ilang Ilang Productions. Tony Martelino, a nephew of producer Atty. Laxa predicted I won’t make it far in this business and picked Carlo Romano instead as the most likely to succeed among the four of us. Well, I’m still here.

It was Deo Fajardo, the discoverer of Rudy Fernandez and Robin Padilla who gave me my screen name. Actually, the first screen name I used was Ariel Israel but Deo felt that Ariel was too soft for me. Since my real name is Ricardo or Richard, he told me to change it to Dick, the usual nickname for Richard. Israel was chosen because Israel was always on the news at the time because of the war between the Arabs and Israelis. It's also for instant recall, Israel being the birthplace of Jesus Christ.

Have you always wanted to be an actor? Who were your favorite actors before you became an actor? Favorite movies? Directors?

I guess so because I was always exposed to Hollywood films in an early age because of my aunt who was a movie addict. Actors? I like Jack Nicholson, Marlon Brando and James Dean in acting. Elia Kazan, Akira Kurosawa and Danny Zialcita are some of the directors I love. And I’m also big on satire movies.

Who gave you your first big break as a kontrabida?

My first big break as a kontrabida was given by Dr. Perez of Sampaguita Pictures in Kamay Na Gumagapang. In one of our press conferences, he told everyone “Watch out for this guy, Dick Israel, he's going to be the next Eddie Garcia.”

Who are your favorite among your fellow kontrabidas?

Lito Anzures, the guy who played the village dimwit in the original Ang Pinakamagandang Hayop Sa Balat Ng Lupa is my idol. I played the same role in the remake. Also Vic Diaz who did a lot of foreign films that was shot here is another favorite as well as Johnny Delgado.

At some point in their careers, your fellow kontrabidas were also given lead roles. Some like Eddie Garcia and to a certain extent, Max Alvarado were accepted as both heroes and villains. Others, like Paquito Diaz and Ruel Vernal, were less successful as leads. In your case, have you ever wanted to be a lead star at any point in your career? Did you ever come close to being one?

I don’t really mind kung bida ako o hindi. I actually played a lead role once in Danny Zialcita’s Escolta Mayo 13 Biyernes ng Hapon where I got nominated for best actor.

Probably the closest thing you ever came to a title role is Humanda Ka, Mayor where you played Mayor Antonio Sanchez. What was that experience like for you? Have you ever met the Mayor in person? And would you know what he thought of your portrayal in that movie was?

I met the mayor in court, hehe. He sued me, direk Carlo Caparas and the producers for paninirang-puri. Gayang -gaya ko kasi siya eh, hahaha. Yung 3/4 na tupi ng polo, dress watch at syempre yung buhok ginaya ko lahat. The case against me was dismissed by Judge Harriet Demetriou, though. She ruled that as an actor it's my right to characterize Sanchez since he was already a public figure.

You won Best Supporting Actor four times, that's quite a feat. But you're not always a kontrabida all the time, you've played sidekicks in such films like Pretty Boy Segovia with Daboy and that Epimaco Velasco biopic with FPJ, how do you find playing those kinds of roles?

As a sidekick, you are given a chance to suggest dialogues for the lead character which I do. I probably get these kinds of assignments because I make the character more real and lively with my suggestions and ad-libs although my directors are the ones who usually get the credit. So when it comes to roles like this, they always think of me because I make them look good, hahahaha!

These days, you play mostly father roles to younger stars like Diether Ocampo, Sam Milby, Bea Alonzo and Angel Locsin. What do you tell them by way of advice?

These young actors are serious in their craft. I just tell them be professionals. Always come prepared and avoid being late during tapings but I think they already know that.

You're also a big music fan. You play guitar even onscreen. In one memorable scene in Perfumed Garden, you and Michael De Mesa, playing brothers were loudly singing along to Neil Young's Helpless in the jukebox while drinking in a beerhouse. In another movie, you were wearing a Bob Marley t-shirt. Have you ever thought about pursuing a career in music?

Yeah. During my teenage days, I usually jam and sing with my barkada’s band. I still do guitar jams on the tapings in between my scenes.

You're known to be a very likeable guy on the set and is also said to be quite close to the leading actors that you worked with like Rudy Fernandez and FPJ. Were you always this friendly in real life? To what do you attribute the ease in which your co-stars become close to you and even become your friend long after the shoot is over?

I think I’m not intimidating, for one. With me, what you see is what you get. I'm also close to the crew, the little guys in the film because for me there is no discrimination. I treat them all as my equal.

You did many rape scenes as a bad guy and bed scenes especially during the bold/pene era. Can you cite some of those memorable scenes to you for whatever reason?

The most memorable for me was the rape scene with Tetchie Agbayani in Pepeng Shotgun. I was protecting her private parts from being exposed. This was way before she posed for Playboy magazine.

You're said to be quite a chick boy yourself. You mentioned you used to hang out with Director Danny Zialcita, a known ladies man himself. Ms. Tetchie Agbayani also admitted you two had something going for a brief period in a book about her written by her late manager Franklin Cabaluna. What do you think is the secret to your appeal with the ladies? Do kontrabidas really have more fun?

Wala kasi kaming hang ups at saka, lalaking-lalaki kami, haha! During the time of Tetchie, I used to drive a 550 Yamaha dirt bike and a Renegade jeep. We just usually listen to the music of the Eagles back then, particularly specially Lyin’ Eyes. You listen to the music and you'll get what I mean.

What about foreign actresses like Miss Wales Helen Morgan, the runner-up to the Miss Universe pageant held here in 1974 and Barbara Ann Kaufman? Paano mo nahuhuli ang mga kiliti nila, so to speak?

I just try to be myself. If I can say it in a song, I’ll do it. With Ms Helen Morgan, who played the lead in Isang Gabi Sa Buhay Ng Isang Babae, I sang the music of the Moody Blues. Miss Kaufman naman was driving a 650 cc motorbike when we shot Perfumed Garden. I also had one that time so we got along just fine.

So do you believe nice guys finish last?

Not really, at least based on my experience. As they always say, when you're bad, you die when you die. But if you’re good and nice, you live forever.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Isla Verde

SINCE summer is just around the corner, I’ll be posting more travel stories between now and the succeeding three months. That’s in between of course, the other stuff that I also do here.

This one is from a very memorable weekend in 2006 that I spent with the entire i Section of Manila Bulletin for our special feature on Batangas City. At that time, much of the thunder of the provincial capital has been somewhat stolen by Lipa, a city that attracted a lot of attention under the watch of its then very popular mayor (and now Batangas governor) Vilma Santos.

Isla Verde was just one of our many stops during that weekend. And now, I’m happy to share this slightly tweaked piece with you.

Special thanks to Ms. Jojie Alcantara for most of the photos.


LET’S just say this is one summer getaway where you’ll literally have a sweet time.

The 1,625-hectare Isla Verde or Verde Island (depending on who you ask) is pretty much the pride of Batangas City, a place usually known for things like its unique kapeng barako (extra-strong Batangas coffee) and equally famous balisong (Batangas switchblade). Discovered by Spanish soldiers under the command of one Captain Juan Verde (hence, the name), it’s about a 45-minute boat ride from the Batangas mainland.

There are two great things about this island. One is the wonderful Dos Palmas Verde Island Resort which occupies about 110 hectares of the entire island. The other is the pakaskas, a “sugar-less” sweet delicacy that is to Batangas what peanut brittle is to Baguio. The pakaskas is actually produced in the other side of Isla Verde and despite the rather lengthy boat ride and the subsequent long walk to see how it’s done, it is something well worth our time and then some.

Our boat ride to the island itself was quite an adventure. The unpredictable waves, while not exactly as thrilling as the Rio Grande Rapids ride in Enchanted Kingdom, can nonetheless give anybody the occasional scare or two. At the same time, it’s also pretty exciting as we were also treated to some breathtaking views during the course of our sail including picturesque islets and flying fishes jumping in unison.

Dos Palmas Verde Island Resort

The Verde Island Resort, however, is usually the first stop of any tour of the island. Developed in 1986, it is quite the nature trip as it is pretty obvious the resort’s development did not come at the expense of destroying the island’s natural resources. If nothing else, the resort only further enhances it.

Visitors are usually given a Hawaiian-style welcome by the resort’s manager and staff complete with either lei (handmade flower necklaces) or flower petals sprinkled at us after alighting from our boat. I can’t help but feel like Eddie Murphy being followed by his rose bearers in Coming To America.

After downing our welcome drinks, we were immediately treated to a tasty breakfast at the Comida De Pastor, the resort’s main restaurant and bar that serves both traditional Filipino and international cuisine including the Pastor family’s own recipes. The Comida De Pastor also provides room services to all guests.

Everything you expect in island-based resorts in far-flung summer destinations like Boracay and Palawan are also right here in Dos Palmas Verde Island from the generator-powered supply to satellite cable TV to swimming pools right down to a diving and snorkeling concessionaire. Since the resort is adjacent to a 50-hectare bamboo plantation, its very character is pretty much defined by the indigenous materials used in the construction of the rooms and cottages such as the bamboo floor tiles, the hand-woven buri mats and the laminated sawali walls.

There are four types of accommodations. There’s the Casa Aplaya, located along the shoreline, the hillsite cottages of Casa Dahilig, the hotel-type rooms of Villa Condesa and the condo units of Villa Maharlika.

Dos Palmas Verde Island Resort is also known for its elevated pool area known simply as the Infinity Pool because its clover leaf-shaped adult pool punctuated by a tension edge gives the illusion of pool water overflowing into the sea. Our photographer Noel Pabalate wasted no time in taking a dip here.

The famous pakaskas

As much as we wanted to stay a little longer, it was already time for our pakaskas-making tour on the other side. One thing that I noticed in this island is that regardless of what side you’re in, the villagers are very friendly. In fact, the whole island is one big happy community on its own complete with schools, churches and sari-sari stores. I was able to even have my prepaid credits reloaded here which shows that these people are not exactly isolated and insulated from the rest of the Batangas province.

The community atmosphere of Isla Verde also somehow made our long trek towards the “pakaskas factory” a whole lot bearable. In what seemed like an eternity of hiking guided by a nice old woman who smilingly insisted that our ultimate destination is “malapit lang” (just nearby), we finally got to a small hut characterized by a kawa (huge frying pan) where the pakaskas is boiled to perfection in around 45 minutes.

Yes, boiled and not cooked. This delicacy is made from the already sweet sap of the buri palm tree, a plant that seems to be in abundance only in this island. It is called “sugar-less” by BatangueƱos because no extra sugar is necessary to further sweeten the deal. And it is called pakaskas because the process consists of scraping (“kaskasin” in the vernacular) the sugar from the boiling sap.

Once thick and hard enough to be considered “cooked,” the pakaskas is then placed on talikads, a small bamboo containers about the size of a typical Reno Liver Spread can. It is then sold by tens. In any given pakaskas cooking, er, boiling session, 600 talikads or 60 packs are made.

Our group was also treated to a “half-cooked” pakaskas, which is served to us as balinghoy or a caramelized sweet sauce for boiled or steamed cassava or camote and tastes just as great.

Pakaskas, by the way, is also used as the sweet topping for another popular Batangas delicacy, the Suman Taal, a popular sweet rice cake made from sticky rice, and wrapped in a banana leaf then boiled till cooked.

Our very brief stay at Isla Verde was obviously not enough for us to enjoy everything the island has to offer. We were not able to see and try out the other amenities and attractions of Dos Palmas Verde Island Resort. Also known as a diver’s mecca, I certainly would have wanted to try out its famous glass-bottom boat ride that allows non-divers like myself to marvel at underwater wonders without actually getting wet.

What we both experienced and didn’t experience in Isla Verde are all the more reasons to come back here. Now that I myself have discovered this wonderful and not too crowded island paradise, any return trip to Batangas City from hereon would not be complete without braving the occasionally temperamental Batangas waters for it. Sweet.

More about the island:

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Off Road Racing, Anyone?

SOMETHING I wrote for GARAGE magazine last year. Slightly revised and updated. Yes, believe it or not, it's actually a lot safer than it looks.

And for a first hand look or experience, you might also want to check out the upcoming 2010 Balayong Festival Offroad Challenge in Puerto Princesa City, Palawan this coming March 5 to 7, 2010. Interested? Then please check out Mike Potenciano’s Facebook page and drop him a line.


WHEN people think about races, they usually think about fast cars running at breakneck speed. That’s not necessarily the case with off-road vehicles particularly those imposing 4 x 4 monster trucks. Or so says veteran race car driver Mike Potenciano who organizes these type of races along with a couple of other similar off-road rallies and veteran jet ski racer turned 4 x 4 off-road racing champion Joey Millionado.

“Off-road racing is only one of several types of off-road races that I organize here under my group, MP Turbo,” says the multi-awarded Potenciano, whose racing experience spans many years of competitive racing in varied disciplines—from karting to rally cars to touring cars to Formula One cars, name it, he has done it. “There are actually several variants of off-road racing including the faster 4 x 4 Speed, Motocross and Moto Enduro, Mountain Bike races and Rally Raid.”

Now 47, Potenciano remains a racing icon and a unifying force in what was once a dormant industry during the martial law years. An industry that was only revived during the late 80’s. When he’s not organizing races, he races himself and when he’s not racing, he organizes them. He also continues to aggressively promote the sport through his television show called SpeedTV that airs on the Viva Prime channel and Turbo Time, a radio show that he co-hosts with DJ Lindy every Monday from 10PM to 12MN at MTV Radio U92.3 FM.

Although he has a strong preference for the faster and yes, more dangerous variations of off-road motoring, he is nonetheless actively involved in promoting the slower but equally exciting 4 x 4 off-road racing.

“The thing about regular 4 x 4 off-road racing is that it’s actually safer than other motor sports,” quips Millionado, also 47, and a longtime friend of Potenciano’s. “You’re only running on first and second gear only or 40 kph an hour at the most. Yes, your vehicle will have its share of tipping overs but the only thing you need to do when it does is to just hold on to the steering wheel and you should be okay. Injuries are very rare in these kinds of races.”

Millionado, who owns Joey’s 4 x 4, a motor shop that specializes in modifying 4 x 4 vehicles, particularly Suzuki Ferozas, for both hobbyists and racers says the key to winning these kinds of races is how light one can modify his own vehicle or “rig.” These rigs are not built for speed to begin with and for off-road racing, they don’t have to be. “An unmodified Suzuki 4 x 4 usually weighs 800 to 1,000 kilos and modified to 600 to 800 kilos should do well in these types of races.”

Aside from Suzukis, the Toyota Land Cruiser (the 40 series variant) is also a popular choice for off-road racing. In terms of modification costs, Millionado says a budget of P500,000 should be enough to get Suzukis to rock and roll while Land Cruisers are more expensive to modify with an ideal budget of between P800,000 to P1.0 million. “From there, it’s non-stop gastos na as every race you participate will require your vehicle to be regularly maintained and even further modified.”

And then there’s the matter of the man-made tracks, which he says are actually more difficult than the ones in the international circuit. “Every track that we race here like the off-road tracks in Tiendesitas and the Fort are not the same unlike in the races held in the rainforests of Malaysia where it’s easier to familiarize with the tracks after racing there a few times since the course doesn’t change. Our races are shorter, usually about 15 minutes, but far more difficult.”

More than his own achievements, Millionado is proud of his teenage daughter, Jam, who is already a rising star in the off-racing circuit. “She already knew how to jet ski when she was just three years old,” he beams. “She started driving at 13 and at 16 ran her first race where she placed second and has been doing well ever since.”

Potenciano says the faster 4 x 4 races require vehicles to shift up to 3rd and 4h gears. Among the many off-road races that he has organized, he is particularly excited about what he dubs as The Ultimate Speedfest Championship which combines 4 x 4’s and motocross. “It was a big hit with the locals in Puerto Prinsesa when we organized it last March,” he muses. “We’re planning to do Rally Raid or Dakar Type Rallies with 4 x 4’s, rally cars and motorcycles.”

As defined in Wikipedia, Rally Raid, also known as cross country rallying is a more ambitious form of long distance off-road racing that takes place over several days.  Each day may require traveling up to 900 kilometers. The length of the event can be 3–15 days. Examples of rally raid races include the Dakar Rally, Central Europe Rally, Spanish Baja and Russian Baja Northern Forest.

The one MP Turbo plans to organize here covers about 300 kilometers and as Potenciano himself describes it, is “extreme and high-speed.” Aside from Puerto Prinsesa, other popular out-of-town destinations for off-road races include Pampanga and Bicol.

Both Potenciano and Millionado are one in saying that off-road racing is now a very popular sport in the country and with a very bright future to boot. “While not everyone can be racers, afficionados of the sport can still be a big part by helping out as marshalls, managers, organizers and mechanics,” Potenciano says. “Do you know that we have the best mechanics in the world here in the Philippines? Unfortunately, they are just being pirated by other countries. Their participation is actually key in the success of the speedfests that we organize.”

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Film Review: Legion

IT is often said that the Lord works in strange ways. Director Scott Stewart apparently thinks so. What else could justify his own unique and yes, strange vision of Armaggedon where God sends his angels (yes, angels!) to execute his last judgment after he loses all faith in humanity?

In Legion, the angels unleash flesh-eating zombies (or were they the angels themselves?) to destroy all mankind. In a small diner somewhere in the middle of a New Mexico desert, they’re particularly after a young waitress (Adrianne Palicki) who is pregnant (out of wedlock, of course) with what a fallen archangel believes is the Earth’s only hope for survival.

The fallen angel in this case is Michael (Paul Bettany), who, as Biblical history serves, is the same one who drove a much earlier fallen angel by the name of Lucifer (not part of the movie in any way) out of heaven and into the gates of hell. This time, Michael is the rebellious one who questions his creator and has traded his wings in favor of guns (mostly the high-powered automatic kind) to protect the waitress and the rest of the ragtag group of not-exactly-the-saintly type of strangers (Dennis Quaid, Kate Walsh, Tyrese Gibson and Charles S. Dutton, among others) in this apocalyptic horror-thriller.

Oh, and the archangel supposed to take Michael down and execute (pun intended) the divine orders originally given to the former? He is none other than Gabriel (Kevin Durand), the same bearer of good news best known for telling the Virgin Mary (also not in the movie) about her immaculate conception in the Anunciation.

It all sounds very intriguing on paper and there’s a part of me that wonders what the guys downstairs (yes, the ones basking in all that fire and brimstone) think about the whole thing.

And contrary to what the unimpressed critics say,  Stewart's, uh, creation isn’t half-bad. Shamelessly derivative, Legion will easily remind you of a whole lot of other films. The zombies, of course, refer to everything from Land Of The Dead to Zombieland. The strangers in the diner fending off an unknown threat recalls Ron Underwood’s little-seen smart thriller, Tremors. Michael protecting the waitress and her hope of mankind will remind you of The Terminator and the apocalyptic theme should also recall another Schwarzenegger title in End of Days, among other similar, uh, offerings.

Yes, you get a lot of movie in Legion and as entertaining as I found it to be, it is one of those polarizing films you either love or hate. One critic hit the nail in the head, though: “If you wanted logic, you should have taken one look at the poster of an angel holding a machine gun and walked the other way. Needless to say, if you take your scripture seriously, you also might want to avoid this one.”

Otherwise, enjoy. Down the road, I am willing to bet it is one of those movies that you'll love to pop the DVD from time to time or stay glued on your TV whenever it gets shown on HBO. It is that kind of pleasure, guilty or not guilty.

By the way, if the box office receipts of Legion are any indication, Scott Stewart (incidentally best known for special effects) seems to be on to something. His next film, Priest is about a warrior priest (Paul Bettany again) who disobeys church law by teaming with a young sheriff and a priestess to track down a group of renegade vampires who kidnapped his niece.

Whoa! I guess the Lord works in strange ways indeed. At least He does, in Scott Stewart’s world.