Sophisticated men, and men’s magazines

A sort-of defense of the decent kind of men’s magazines.

I recently had to spend a night out in the city, waiting for the sunrise. It was already past midnight, and on a whim I boarded a bus to Makati. Nowadays, these buses with brightly-lit cabins ply the city’s highways all night. Other souls were shuffling on and off the bus, going around the metropolis for leisure or for labor; it was hard to tell which, here in the offshore-outsourcing capital of the world. They all looked impatient, in any case.

Up until a year ago, I worked graveyard hours in Makati myself, and I’ve memorized the night-time pulse of its wealthy streets. The place always feels safe, even in the most ungodly hour. On a weekend, it is even serene, but not dead. Every turn of the district is illuminated by lights spilling out of innumerable convenience stores; every intersection, by the blinking of traffic lights.

I planned to kill the time by reading in some 24/7 restaurant, picturing myself like Mari Asai in Haruki Murakami’s After Dark, digesting a hardbound at a Denny’s in Tokyo. I didn’t have a book with me then, however, so I dropped by a Ministop and grabbed the current issue of Esquire from the magazine rack. I had to stand and wait a few moments in front of the cashier before the sleepy clerk, who was catching up on some shut-eye, sensed my presence.

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Review: Labs Kita, Okey Ka Lang? (1998, restored 2017)

Art, insecurities, and youthful passion drive the classic rom-com starring the famed 1990s love team.

An enthusiastic crowd converged at a cinema complex in Quezon City, on a Tuesday night in early January. The occasion: the premiere of the restored film, Labs Kita, Okey Ka Lang?, which features the ’90s love team of Jolina Magdangal and Marvin Agustin. The people in attendance, many of them barely containing their excitement, proved that the pair can still rally a good crowd of supporters.

The actors may have been glamorous in their presence, but the true star of the night was the film itself, a classic Star Cinema romantic comedy. After the screening, a few guests started comparing the movie to entries from the recently-concluded Metro Manila Film Festival. A fellow guest, with a mixture of disgust and an aficionado’s righteousness, cried, “Don’t compare!” Because it is absurd to label an old film as formulaic, when it hails from a time when such storytelling conventions were still being established.

And that is true. Let us take a closer look at what exactly makes this rom-com a classic.

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Christmas Morning by Eraserheads

“Wake up little darling, it’s Christmas morning,” begins the quiet track by Eraserheads at the end of their special Fruitcake album.

“Wake up little darling, it’s Christmas morning,” begins the quiet track by Eraserheads at the end of their special Fruitcake album. It is idyllic, serene, peaceful; it is the perfect melody for a cool December morning, for decked halls and sleepy wishes, for children looking forward to opening presents.

But behind the earnest, hopeful melody, we soon see an outlook that is world-weary. Ely Buendia sings to the beloved child,

You had been dreaming
Angels are singing
But now they’ve gone and once again
It’s time to go on with our lives

Christmas Morning, a deceptively sentimental tune, speaks not just of Christmas season’s occasional sorrow (which comes from its serenity), but also of its despair. Despair, as a holiday that merely holds harsh realities at bay, postponing their pain for a later time.

Maybe the time will come when we won’t need to pretend to be happy for just a while

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