Santo Domingo Church

On a dim, rainy Friday morning recently, I took a Quiapo-bound jeep near my home in Quezon City, handed over the 10-peso fare and tersely announced my destination to the driver: “Santo Domingo.”

View of the Santo Domingo Church from the convent courtyard, with stained glass windows visible
Santo Domingo Church, viewed from the convent courtyard

I cannot remember the first time I set foot in that magnificent church, but I am quite certain I have always been in awe of its architecture. Outside, the church greets its faithful with the imposing belfry of classical proportions at the eastern corner. Its facade observes a conservation of detail, concentrated in a sculpted band depicting the La Naval above the main doors.

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Elon Musk and humanity

Recently I’ve been reading about Elon Musk, a man most easily introduced (and admired) by the qualities he shares with the fictional celebrity Iron Man/Tony Stark: he’s a billionaire, he’s a technological genius, and he has a vision of saving humanity. The first two aspects place him securely in the same league as Bill Gates and Steve Jobs; but the magnitude of his dreams sets him apart, raises him into the realm of larger-than-life.

The story alone of how he made his wealth is enough material for a fascinating biography. At age twelve, in the eighties, he programmed his own computer game and sold it to a magazine for a profit. After earning degrees in economics and physics and being admitted to Stanford University, he pursued entrepreneurship and rode the dot-com wave. The second company he founded eventually became PayPal.

PayPal was bought by eBay in 2002, and this is the point of his life I’d like to frame as the turning point. Bill Gates started and ended his career with computers and software, taking up philanthropy only in his retirement. Steve Jobs arguably went further, inventing new product categories and transforming consumer tech industries before his premature death. And Elon Musk could have continued doing similar work—after eBay bought PayPal, he could have started searching for the next Internet-enabled commercial breakthrough, the next useful, popular, satisfying product. But he had grander plans. Instead of simply creating what will benefit us here and now, he looked forward to the future, and founded SpaceX.

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Sinulog: dance and faith

Cebu City at dawn as viewed from Mactan Channel
Cebu at dawn

We were on the deck of a ferry named MV Beautiful Stars, on a drizzly Saturday morning before the grand Sinulog festival day. It was the traditional fluvial parade, but not much was happening and we were uncertain of what we were waiting for. We’ve been on the ship since before dawn, idling the time away on the cramped passenger bunk beds while Mass was celebrated in the ship’s main hold below. Though people lined up the length of the deck’s railings, I could see through just enough to watch Cebu City in the blue overcast dawn. The city is decidedly distinct from Manila in how it is so close not just to the sea, but to the mountains as well. Cebu’s tallest towers are eclipsed by the mountains beyond when viewed from the sea. In Manila one could spend days without noticing the distant mountains, if one were to be completely lost in the urban jungle as I often am.

Someone in the group eventually found a way for us to get out onto the foredeck. While I was carefully stepping over the pipes and valves on the metal floor, a band started playing the festive notes of that trademark Sinulog melody to the channel’s salty air. That was when I saw the most remarkable of the many dances I was to witness in Cebu that weekend: a young lady, in casual shirt and jeans, swaying and swiveling while firmly holding with both hands a diminutive image of the Santo Niño. It seemed like someone merely handed her, a random passenger, the image and asked her to dance to fill the gap while the professional dancers were still preparing. It was a pure, spontaneous dance; not unique as it was the same dance that any lady holding a Sto. Niño would perform during the festival, but it was personal. Eventually the dancers in María Clara dresses and barong arrived, and performed their choreographed dance to everyone’s satisfaction.

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Three films from Cinemalayà 2013

I started watching films from the Cinemalayà festival in earnest in 2010, catching around three films from each annual outing. I won’t deny that part of the motivation to attend the screenings is a not-so-subconscious desire to be identified as cultured—which, as a survey of blog posts and tweets and Facebook updates would indicate, is very much a desirable identity. I confess to enjoying every big-budget, mainstream production that comes out of Hollywood, so you can probably explain my Cinemalayà-watching as a simple curiosity to see a different kind of movie. But, in all honesty, there’s a part where I believe that these films are superior to most commercial movies; in that way, these so-called indie films matter.

The main lobby of the Cultural Center of the Philippines during Cinemalayà 2013, with chandeliers and the word ‘cinemalayà’ in colored lights
The main lobby of the Cultural Center of the Philippines during Cinemalayà 2013

Instead of attempting an ambitious and amateurish essay on why the term/categorization ‘indie film’ is problematic, I would just share my opinions on the three movies I saw at Cinemalayà this year.

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Sketches

One

I want to live my life in saturated technicolor, until I die puking rainbows, broken emeralds and shards of sapphire. I want my reds to burn in anger; I want to drown in deep blue. I once grabbed a kid’s box of crayons and broke each one of the sixty-four sticks (and I was as cruel as I could be to the white crayon). I gave the child a set of metallic spray paints in psychedelic violets, telling him to never, ever put crayon on paper again. The colors are simply never happy enough.

Two

Before I post anything on Facebook, I think hard about it first. Actually, even before typing into the textbox, I would’ve mentally rehearsed and revised my paragraph about something totally interesting I saw on the streets in the day. I hear voices telling me, “That’s not worth it. You will get no Likes.” To which another voice, weaker but purer, would respond, “No, do it, trust in yourself. Dispel your social insecurities. Only few people ever get multitudes of Likes in every post they submit, and even then, they probably started out with a couple of unpopular status updates.” (This latter voice sounds like Obi-Wan with a hint of Yoda.) There is an all-powerful, ever-encompassing set of unwritten rules guiding what should and should not be posted in social media, that we all follow even if the rules differ from one person to another or between social circles. In this respect at least, there is a lot less differentiation between the real and the virtual—but this subject is worthy of a lengthy discussion on its own.

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