Saturday, October 27, 2012

The Shisha Smoker

Taken in Dubai, UAE. May 2012.

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Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Khmer School Girls

Taken in Siem Reap, Cambodia. January 2012.
A group of Khmer school girls on their way home from school. 
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Sunday, October 21, 2012

Thai Sunset

Taken in Mae Sot, Thailand. March 2012.

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Friday, October 19, 2012

Hongkong Food Trip

Disneyland may be Hongkong's most popular landmark but no tourist should brush off what this city offers best: food. The rich influence of Eastern and Western culture in Hongkong's cuisine is prevalent in its restaurants and street stalls. From noodles, dimsum fish balls, pastry, rice pots, Peking duck, you'll never run out of choices for something to eat. The first time I went to Hongkong in 2008,  I was particularly drawn to their tasty egg tarts, nothing I've ever eaten anywhere. These HK$3 egg tarts are the best! Unfortunately I haven't taken pictures of them.

A typical restaurant in Mong Kok, Hongkong. December 2011.
When I went there last December, I spent a lot of time in Mong Kok. A place popular as a shopping area where new trends in fashion, electronics, gadgets are sold at bargain prices. I've heard that a popular GFX and post-production house is located in Mong Kok as well as several love hotels (inspired by Filipino short-time motels, yes). After a tiring day of bargaining and shopping, the restos around Mong Kok are the best places to spend your dinner.

An interesting menu offering exotic rice pots. Fresh frog and preserved duck's legs, anyone? December 2011.
The typical Hongkong restaurant is small, crowded and noisy, located beside the street. Usually, they have pieces of pre-cooked Peking ducks or pork meat hanging in front, not a reason to be intimidated though. The first time I ate in a jampacked small resto there, I was caught off guard when the owner pulled someone in to sit at a chair in my table that was good for two . A funny, awkward situation where I had to eat in front of a stranger. I guess that's how they maximize their space. Also note that most restaurant staff shout at each other but I reckon they're not fighting.

Not one with a stomach for frogs, I ordered chicken with mushroom rice pot.
In Mongkok, restaurants start to get full of hungry shoppers by 6pm, most of them have tables located outside occupying the sidewalk space and parts of the street. I particularly like the rice pots, a kind of dish where rice in a claypot with your choice of topping is cooked over charcoal. You can end your meal scraping pieces of crispy burnt rice at the bottom of the pot.

The best way to quench your thirst after a day's shopping is the milk tea.
And here's the best part. Milk teas. A form of beverage made of black tea and milk which can be consumed either hot or cold. Bubble teas, the ones that came from Taiwan, have become quite popular in Hongkong, too. Bubble tea is a tea-based drink mixed with fruit or milk usually with ice and small chewy black tapioca balls commonly known as "pearls". A lovely way to quench your thirst when shopping's done at the end of the day.

Don't forget to check out the Tsim Sha Tsui area if you're up for exotic food. 
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Thursday, October 18, 2012

Kowloon Holiday

Really nice Christmas exhibit at Kowloon Park last year. Lights were brighter at night.

Kowloon Park. December 2011.

Toy Story's Woody gives color to the exhibit. 

Green Dinosaur is the new Santa.


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Romancing Trains

Chiang Mai Train Station. July 2012.
There's something about trains that is romantic. Probably because I grew up not seeing or riding one until early this year. What a sight looking at the hustle of intertwining lives bumping into one another that make up the organized chaos that makes sense and doesn't at the same time. Different stories of people going to the same destination, lost pairs of feet trying to make it on time, weary eyes waiting for their time of departure, crying babies wanting so bad to be taken cared of.

Casablanca Train Station in Morocco. June 2012.

What could a family of five be doing out of a poor town? Seeking for greener pastures on the other side perhaps, or going back to the place they were from after a failed attempt at finding a bright future in the big city. I stand at the ticket line watching that happy couple on their backpacks, probably on their first trip together hoping they'll make it to their 1st-year anniversary so they can share memories to talk about when they get home.

Graffiti on the wall on the way to Rabat, Morocco. June 2012.

Or that woman squatting on the floor, travelling alone, reading her favorite novel as she waits for her train to arrive. She could be a divorcee, mending a broken heart. Was she the one who left her man or was she left behind? That middle-aged man with the attache case on a business trip, most likely unhappy with his marriage and his strained relationship with his teenage kids pushes him to uninspired trips to the office and conferences. And the happiness he thought he found in his mistress' embrace made him realize his inadequacies.

Chiang Mai Train Station. June 2012.
That songwriter stretching his hand out of the window to feel the rush of wind on his arms. He closes his eyes, swaying to the rhythm of the wheels kiss the the infinite tracks. The laughter of a group of friends looking forward to a vacation together, talking about office or school gossip but avoiding the weight of talking about their families and relationship troubles. Or the filmmaker in deep thought, thinking of another story to tell, perhaps a story that happened in a train trip. A love story that isn't lasting and he knows that the uncertainty it brings is what makes its tragedy fun to watch. A love story that just happened to pass through time, both parties knew it would end sooner than later and the temporary high it brought them was something to cherish when they walk apart at their destination's exit stairs.

Yes, trains are romantic.

Upon arrival at Rabat Station in Morocco, taken by my brother James. June 2012.

They have stories to tell. Or am I just romanticizing the density of loneliness that trains bring? Maybe I watch too much 'Before Sunrise'.

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Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Point me to Casablanca

Some street signs in Casablanca.

Taken on May 2012. Casablanca, Morocco.

Taken on May 2012. Casablanca, Morocco.
Casablanca wasn't what I expected it to be. Not romantic, as depicted in the movie. Very crowded, too but it was a good starting point for the whole Moroccan journey with my brother last June (more about these stories in my coming entries).  I must say I love the weather there!
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Tuesday, October 16, 2012

The Itchy Feet*

Taken during the film shoot of "Batanes" in Batanes, 2007.

"Aren't you going back to Italy anytime soon?" I asked though I knew what his reply would be.

"I'll keep travelling while I'm still young", he quipped.

He was an Italian guy, attractively scruffy and if I were to judge on how he looked, he was an artist. And he smoked weed a lot.

Me and my brother met him in Marrakesh, Morocco in a nice riad where we stayed for a couple of days. Then we took the train together, he to Casablanca and us to Rabat.

He quit his job four years ago and started travelling the world non-stop. Sleek. Pretty much what I wanted to do with my life, too. Flashback to a year ago when I got burned out in doing one film after the other. Apparently I realized there's only so much you could take and that the amount of success in the business should not be based on the number of films made but the quality of how they were made. When I went to Vancouver, Canada in October where my second film was exhibited at the Vancouver International Film Festival, epiphany struck me and I felt the need to make things happen and explore other terrains - anywhere but here.

To start it off, I went for the first time in Bangkok right after Vancouver. Then by December, after the gruelling edit of "Enteng ng Ina Mo", I went back to Hongkong and Macau, spent time with old friends and made new ones. Mainland Southeast Asia (Bangkok, Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos) didn't escape me at the beginning of this year then I grabbed the opportunity to go back to Dubai in March to work on a documentary. Two months after, I packed my bag and went with my brother to Morocco. Then I resumed doing the documentary and rekindled my love affair with Bangkok where, after my passport stamp expired, I gathered enough strength to see if I would love or hate India. I came back to Bangkok intent on staying longer that I should and psyched myself up on moving in here in the future for good.

As I sip my 45 baht milk tea, I thought of the Italian guy and where could he be right now? He must be somewhere, having the time of his life, not wiping off that smile and lightness on his face because he is living his dream. That simple reply to my question would echo in my consciousness for the longest time, reassuring me each that going to places is a baggage you carry that's worth more than any other possession you have. Which brings me to the question...


Taken in Hongkong, December 2011.
TO SAVE UP FOR THE FUTURE OR SAVE UP MEMORIES? There's a wrong notion that you have to be rich to be able to travel. Well obviously, you need to provide a budget to do that. But 'how much?' is a subjective question.

So here's the chicken-egg question: how can I travel without money and when I have the money, will I still be capable of traveling? There goes the light bulb moment, the Italian guy's voice reverberating: travel while you're young.

I am not rich. In fact, I don't earn as much as the other filmmakers. I know I can't dive in the pool like most of the travellers I met in Bangkok, Cambodia or Vietnam, mostly Europeans, who quit their job to explore Asia. Their First World concerns are far different from my Third World situation. The currency exchange would tell me that. For someone of my stature, there's always that dilemma.

Yes, the world is an infinite adventure ready to embrace any explorer and a lifetime is not enough to wait for that moment to be the person of the world. I often weigh on the need for me to travel when my means cannot allow me to save up for my future - the what ifs that cloud the certainties of my goals. The truth is, I feel like I'm always in a hurry to go to other places because there's so much to go to and only a short time left to do so. Well, time is always short. But I reckon, though I am a 'now' person, there's always time for everything. So here's how I resolved it: I work for a certain period of time, say three months.  Work that puts the buffalos to shame. Then I set my travel but I don't spend all my money instead keep some for the future. It's a compromise and though I want to stay longer, I'd have to take shorter trips. Two to three weeks instead of a month. It's a win-win situation for myself.

Having been to different countries widened my perspective on the diversity of nations, it scrapped my prejudice, it made me loathe the English grammar nazis, it made me appreciate races and culture and language. I intend to learn more. I still want to party in Satorini, to kiss someone in Paris, to experience full daylight in Oslo, to swim to the currents in Australia, to see the Mayan ruins in Mexico, to dance in the festivals in Brazil, to experience romance in Venice, to walk on the edges of the Banaue Rice Terraces, to taste the food in Zamboanga, to anywhere. Anywhere but here.


"Makati ang paa" literally "itchy feet" is a Filipino idiom to describe a wanderer, someone who can't stay put in one place.
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Monday, October 15, 2012

Moroccan Kids

Taken outside the old market in Rabat, Morocco. June 2012.
Most Moroccans like to pose for the camera like these kids who gamely pose for a shot outside the crowded old market of Rabat. 


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Saturday, October 13, 2012

Rigga Station (Lomo)

Back in April, I used to stay in an apartment hotel in Al Rigga, Dubai. Not only the restaurants, Filipino OFWs nor the Chinese women prostitutes charm the area but also the busy Al Rigga Metro Station where I ride to going to work in GGICO.

Taken on April 2012
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Mercedes' Audition for 'Ligo na U, Lapit na Me"

Remember "Ligo na U, Lapit na Me"?

It was that surprisingly successful Cinemalaya entry last year, veteran TV director Erick Salud's first venture into filmmaking. It was 2nd at the festival's box-office returns, was picked up for distribution by Regal Films, had a theatrical run and got exhibited at the Hawaii International Film Festival. The formula for success: the chemisty of the film's actors.

Sure the book from where the film was adapted had a cult following and Jerry Gracio's brilliant script were a winning combination. Given these factors, it was understandable that some members of the Cinemalaya Committee urged us to get an actress who was already popular to draw the audience in. Otherwise, the adaptation would be put to naught.

'Jenny' as a character would be hard to pull off, the actress that would play it had to possess an infinite fountain of sexuality, has perfect comic timing without even trying to be funny and must have a chemistry with Edgar (Allan Guzman) who would play Intoy. Noel (Ferrer) the Producer and I as was Line Producer, wanted Cinemalaya staple Mercedes Cabral to play Jenny because one, she had no qualms about doing sexy scenes. Two, she hasn't done comedy before and I know she could pull it off. Three, because she was born to play Jenny. But the Festival Committee was skeptical. I totally understood why for them Mercedes couldn't be Jenny but Noel and I knew she was tailored for that role.

So we tried to consider other actresses who were, given the benefit of the doubt, more well-known. I tried to contact Star Magic for Kaye Abad but they didn't bother to give a feedback. Valeen Montenegro was kind of up for it but someone close to her wasn't. I had to go to beauty queen Danielle Castano's place to let her audition er, read some lines but it was blah. Several other actresses who I already forgot were considered but it just wouldn't work out simply beca.

Noel and I agreed to ask Mercedes to audition, meet up with Erick (the director) and throw some lines with Edgar, tape it and send it to the Committee. We insisted she had to play Jenny. Here's the video:



As soon as they got to watch this, the casting was approved. I know we made a good decision to fight for her.
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