Wednesday, December 31, 2003

We just had our new year's eve dinner at this hoity-toity restaurant called 12 in Greenbelt, Makati and since we were the only customers at the time I took the liberty of taking some shots with my camera equipped cellphone. Shots turned out to be really, really good. Maybe it was the ambience or maybe the sparse lighting had something to do with it. Whatever, it was so cool!

You can check out the other pictures in my phlog. Some of them were also taken inside the Chocolate Bar in Greenbelt 3 and at the well known Policarpio St. where we viewed the houses decked with thousands of Christmas lights.

Tuesday, December 30, 2003

I finally figured out what my problem is after a lot of seeking. You know what they say that God uses the megaphone of problems to scream in your ear as a way to get your attention? To point out something so you and Him can get to talk about it in private? Well it isn't totally true as my case proves. At this point he used that great announcement to get my attention and point out there's something in me I need to deal with as soon as possible. Hehehe... You have to give him credit for doing something totally unexpected.
Our life is a story. A rather long and complicated story that has unfolded over time. There are many "firsts." Your first step; your first word; your first day of school. There was your first best friend; your first recital; your first date; your first love; your first kiss; your first heartbreak. If you stop and think of it, your heart has lived through quite a story thus far. And over the course of that story your heart has learned many things. Some of what you learned is true; much of it is not. Not when it comes to the core questions about your heart and the heart of God. Is your heart good? Does your heart really matter? What has life taught you about that? Imagine for a moment that God is walking softly beside you. You sense his presence, feel his warm breath. He says, "Tell me your sorrows." What would you say in reply?

So there I was walking in the mall, doing the usual rounds trying to take a breather. But the more I thought about the reactions I got from the announcement, the heavier I felt. I couldn't place a finger on what it was that was bothering me. It was all so abstract. I know the pain is real and so is the anger and regret. I went inside Powerbooks and tried reading a book on singleness by Charles Swindoll because that's what I thought I was dealing with: The problem of loneliness. It was sorta related to it but it wasn't exactly that thing I was dealing with here.
Why is it so easy to get angry at, or to resent, or simply to grow indifferent toward the very people we once loved? The answers lie down in the heart. "For it is with your heart that you believe," Paul says. And in Proverbs we read, "The heart of a man is like deep water, but a man of understanding draws it out." Our deepest convictions—the ones that really shape our lives—they are down there somewhere in the depths of our hearts.

You see, we don't really develop our core convictions so much as they develop within us, when we are young. Down deep, in the inmost parts they form, down in deep water, like the shifting of the continental plates; but they form when we are vulnerable, without our really knowing it, like a handprint in wet cement, and over time the cement hardens and there you have it. Think of it this way: Have you always known down deep inside, down to the tips of your toes that your heart is good and that your heart matters to God? Me neither. No, what we've come to believe about those ultimate issues was handed to us early on, in most cases by our families.

It took a lot of time for me to understand everything and Dad finally got to point it out to me during one of those times when I took time to be alone. It wasn't about being lonely and longing for companionship. No, it was a lot deeper and more personal than that. It was about a question I evaded for the longest time: Am I good enough as an artist? Just like I thought earlier yesterday it wasn't about my convictions (hey, everyone knows my convictions and what I believe in) or being able to meet the requirements (I'm grateful for those compliments), it was about being good enough. Growing up there was a sense of wanting to "perform" and showing what I can do before the public but being so painfully shy and all I kept almost everything to myself. I never dared to show my drawings to everyone for fear of both compliments and the critiques.
The worst blows typically come from family. That's where we start our journey of the heart, and that's where we are most vulnerable. What we learned from our parents and siblings about our heart defines us the rest of our days; it becomes the script we live out, for good or for ill. Cinderella's father calls her "a little stunted kitchen wench which my late wife left behind," and her stepmother sees her as "much too durty, she cannot show herself!" What do you suppose she learned about her heart from growing up in that home?

The worst blows tend to come from those who know us well and should have loved us. In the German myth, Siegfried was a great warrior: he slew a terrible dragon; he was fearless in battle. Siegfried was invincible—except for a small place on his back, between his shoulders. There, he could be wounded. An uncle discovered Siegfried's "weak spot" and murdered him. Stabbed in the back. By family. Small wonder this tale has endured through time.


Even Jesus endured this sort of assault—not the open accusation that he had a wicked heart, but the more subtle kind, the seemingly "innocent" arrows that come through "misunderstanding."
After this, Jesus went around in Galilee, purposely staying away from Judea because the Jews there were waiting to take his life. But when the Jewish Feast of Tabernacles was near, Jesus' brothers said to him, "You ought to leave here and go to Judea, so that your disciples may see the miracles you do. No one who wants to become a public figure acts in secret. Since you are doing these things, show yourself to the world." For even his own brothers did not believe in him.

I think we can relate to that. Did your family believe in you? Some did—but far too many more believe in the person they wanted you to be. Did they even notice your heart at all? Have they been thrilled in your choices, or has their disappointment made it clear that you just aren't what you're supposed to be? At another point in his ministry, Jesus' family shows up to collect him. "Your mother and brothers are standing outside, wanting to see you." They think he's lost it, and they've come to bring him home, poor man. Misundertsanding is damaging, more insidious because we don't identify it as an attack on the heart. How subtly it comes, sowing doubt and discouragement where there should have been validation and support.

"How long, O men, will you turn my glory into shame?" These blows aren't random or incidental. They strike directly at some part of the heart, turn the very thing God created to be a source of celebration into a source of shame. And so you can at least begin to discover your glory by looking more closely at what you were shamed for. Look at what's been assaulted, used, abused. As Bernard of Clairvaux declared, "Through the heart's wound, I see its secret."

Let me put it this way: What has life taught you about your God-given glory? What have you believed about your heart over the years? "That it's not worth anyone's time," said a woman. Her parents were too busy to really want to know her. "That it's weak," confided a friend. He suffered several emasculating blows as a boy, and his father simply shamed him for it. "That I shouldn't trust it to anyone." "That it's selfish and self-centered." "That it's bad." And you . . . what have you believed?

Those accusations you heard growing up, those core convictions that formed about your heart, will remain down there until someone comes to dislodge them, run them out of Dodge.

Those who don't know me personally may find it hard to believe and those who do may have an inkling but not much to try and talk about it. I'm really scared to pursue my dreams but deep down inside I really want to expose my art to as many people as possible. In fact my ultimate dream was to establish an amusement park that would rival that of Disney's. That it would be more of a walk-through a world I created and peopled by the characters I created. I know i'm not motivated by pride to do this. Dad knows this and he always keeps me in check. But right now I'm just just overwhelmed by this sense of worthlessness, that what I do is not worth anybody's time and my achievements are hardly something to be proud of.
Most of us simply try to "put things behind us," get past it, forget the pain as quickly as we can. Really-denial is a favorite method of coping for many Christians. But not with Jesus. He wants truth in the inmost being, and to get it there he's got to take us into our inmost being. One way he'll do this is by bringing up an old memory. You'll be driving down the road and suddenly remember something from your childhood. Or maybe you'll have a dream about a long-forgotten person, event, or place. However he brings it up, go with him there. He has something to say to you.

Notice also that Jesus asks Peter the penetrating question three times-one for every betrayal. Peter is hurt by it, and that is the point. The lessons that have been laid down in pain can be accessed only in pain. Christ must open the wound, not just bandage it over. Sometimes he'll take us there by having an event repeat itself years later, only with new characters in the current situation. We find ourselves overlooked for a job, just as we were overlooked by our parents. Or we experience fear again, just as we felt those lonely nights in our room upstairs.

I'm also afraid of the pain involved whenever the drudge is stirred to the surface. I fear it so much whenever I go through these times I can't and won't even look at myself in the mirror. Weird right? These accusations that I'm not doing my job right or the art that I do is hardly something that moves people are the things that snap at my heels driving me to try harder the next time around. On one hand it's good but then the question remains, till when? I used to think that I'm a closet "attention whore." I craved and starved for reactions (even really bad ones, just as long as they react) but refusing to stoop down to doing carnival acts.
There are all invitations to go with him into the deep waters of the heart, uncover the lies buried down there, and bring in the truth that will set us free. Don't just bury it quickly; ask God what he is wanting to speak to.

That's when I finally figured out that no matter how many compliments or reactions I get from people who liked or didn't like my work (both strangers and people I respect) it will never be enough for me. The addiction for approval and reactions were always there because I didn't get any of it from those who matter the most. And that the timing this was brought back up again on the "eve" of this really big project was no accident at all. It was about time I faced it and dealt with it. Dad won't allow me to go on to the next level until I've finally made a closure on this.
Maybe . . . the thought began to creep in . . . maybe the world has been wrong about me. "The world has been wrong about you. They've hated your glory—just as the Evil One hates the glory of God. But we need your gift. Come forth." I began to believe the truth, and it set me free. The doctrine I knew—kind of. But having a doctrine pass before the mind is not what the Bible means by knowing the truth. It's only when it reaches down deep into the heart that the truth begins to set us free, just as a key must penetrate a lock to turn it, or as rainfall must saturate the earth down to the roots in order for your garden to grow.

Yeah. I think I will take his counsel and end all this running right now. Thanks Dad!

* Excerpts taken from John Eldredge's book "Waking the Dead," pp. 112-118; 122; 126

Monday, December 29, 2003

"A friend is one to whom we may pour out the contents of our hearts, chaff and grain together, knowing that the gentlest of hands will sift it, keep what is worth keeping and with a breath of kindness blow the rest away." - Arab proverb
I've received an invitation in the e-mail yesterday. An invitation that, not to be melodramatic about it, will take me a step closer to my dreams. And who in their right mind would decline such a request?! Of course after the euphoria died down and after reading the congratulatory mails from a couple of friends I thought... Hmmmm? It's not that I'm plagued by doubts on my abilities to do it nor am I wracked by guilt that I would be getting selective amnesia after a while. But it's more like a "guilty" feeling one gets for being selected above the rest. While I'm on my rocking chair pondering this Melancholy and Aloneness began to knock on the door whining to be let in. They were accompanied by the twin brothers Self-loathing (who had the loudest voice) and Self-pity along with their sister Miserability. They also brought Anger and Isolation with them just for fun. They're like a bunch of Grima Wormtongues from J.R.R. Tolkien's Lord of the Rings and familiar company from the past. I was sorely tempted to go and welcome them in but before I could stand up to open the door, I was reminded of this part of the book I'm reading:
Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, "Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?" Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small doesn't serve the world. There's nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We were born to manifest the glory of God that is within us . . . And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others. (Nelson Mandela)

When I first read this quote, I thought, No, that’s not true. We don't fear our glory. We fear we are not glorious at all. We fear that at bottom, we are going to be revealed as . . . disappointments. Mandela is just trying to make a nice speech, like a sermon, to buoy us up for a day or two. But as I thought about it more, I realized we do fear our glory. We fear even heading this direction because, for one thing, it seems prideful. Now pride is a bad thing, to be sure, but it's not prideful to embrace the truth that you bear the image of God. Paul says it brings glory to God. We walk in humility because we know it is a glory bestowed. It reflects something of the Lord's glory.

The deeper reason we fear our own glory is that once we let others see it, they will have seen the truest us, and that is nakedness indeed. We can repent of our sin. We can work on our "issues." But there is nothing to be "done" about our glory. It's so naked. It's just there—the truest us. It is an awkward thing to shimmer when everyone else around you is not, to walk in your glory with an unveiled face when everyone else is veiling his. For a woman to be truly feminine and beautiful is to invite suspicion, jealousy, misunderstanding. A friend confided in me, "When you walk into a room, every woman looks at you to see—are you prettier than they are? Are you a threat?"

And that is why living from your glory is the only loving thing to do. You cannot love another person from a false self. You cannot love another while you are still hiding. How can you help them to freedom while you remain captive? You cannot love another unless you offer her your heart. It takes courage to live from the heart. My friend Jenny said just the other day, "I desperately want to be who I am. I don't want the glory that I marvel at in others anymore. I want to be that glory which God has set in me."

Finally, our deepest fear of all . . . we will need to live from it. To admit we do have a new heart and a glory from God, to begin to let it be unveiled and embrace it as true—that means the next thing God will do is ask us to live from it. Come out of the boat. Take the throne. Be what he meant us to be. And that feels risky . . . really risky. But it is also exciting. It is coming fully alive. My friend Morgan declared, "It's a risk worth taking."
But I can cry –
O Enemy, the maker hath not done;
One day thou shalt behold, and from the sight wilt run.
(George MacDonald)

It's not so much the fear of expectation to perform but rather the thought that I would be going through this without much familiar company around me. Physical company that is... But it's a false burden I choose not to bear.

* Excerpts taken from John Eldredge's book "Waking the Dead," pp. 87-88.

Sunday, December 28, 2003

Angel Aquino, Sharon Cuneta, and Hilda Coronel playing the title characters.

Entries for the Metro Manila Film Festivals seem to be getting better and better every year. I started with the best of the lot which got an "A" rating from the Film Classification Board, Crying Ladies. This is the first(?) full length feature from ad director Mark Meily, producer Tony Gloria, and Unitel Productions's second (they're also the same guys who did American Adobo) and it really delivers the goods as promised. The story revolves around Stella Mate (Sharon Cuneta) who's been hired by Wilson Chua (Eric Quizon) to be a professional mourner in a wealthy Chinese patriarch's funeral. Since the family required three mourners Stella also engaged the services of her friends Rhoda Rivera (Hilda Coronel) and Choleng Benitez (Angel Aquino).

Stella is a streetwise hustler and gambler who was recently been released from prison after being convicted of estafa. She's constantly on the move in between her chore as a mourner, applying for jobs in agencies and joining various contests to scrape some money for her son Bong (Julio Pacheco) who she briefly got custody of from his father Guido (Ricky Davao). Rhoda, is a has-been actress whose sole claim to fame is a bit role in the Vilma Santos starrer Darna and the Giants. While she's not manning the store she can often be found dragging her daughter (Jomalene Estrada) through commercial screenings or taking the role of a ghost in one of the horror rides in a local carnival. And Choleng is a naïve religious woman who can't seem to resist the sexual advances of her friend's husband (Raymond Bagatsing). She would often retreat to the confessional to the consternation of the tired Parish priest who has heard the same set of confessions week after week.

The movie actually shows us a preview of the daily grind that cuts across classes of Philippine society. So the viewer is made to feel like a willing voyeur and eavesdropper on the conversations of the characters (we're made to experience their dreams, aspirations, hardships, and struggles along with them). The actresses can be credited for coming up with such a real-life portrayals of ordinary people that they didn't mind spoofing themselves in the process. Writer/Director Mark Meily can also be credited for coming up with a fresh concept that's totally devoid of the cliché found in a typical Filipino movie. There are no hysterical screaming or crying, no tears pouring down like a disastrous flood on the faces of the characters, and no old hat exaggerated comedy routines. The execution that has the feel of MTV but still manages to avoid the trap of being totally so (I can't help but smile at the cleverly done opening credits). He experiments with camera angles that may serve to distract the viewers from listening to the dialogue but not so much that it ruins the experience. There are some symbolisms and subtle nuances that can only be deciphered after some more viewings (but that may just be me). I also give two very ethusiastic thumbs up to the post production crew for the creative seamless dissolves and transitions in some of the scenes. Chalk up another notch for a possible Filipino entry to movie festivals abroad, 'cause this is a worthy addition to those who have discriminating tastes in their collection of Filipino movies.

Also, if you're planning to see this movie then I recommend that you try to go in a few minutes early since they also showed a truly excellent cartoon version of Larry Alcala's Siopawman. I have no idea if it's just an animation short (since they already rolled the credits for the crew involved in the film) but from the looks of it it may be a preview of an upcoming full length cartoon movie. If it is then it's something I'm looking forward to watching too.

* Turns out that it was done by Toon Manila Production, the same guys who did the Gen13 animation among others.

He's a Skellington no longer.

This is the last strip I did for Fusion magazine that unfortunately did not see print this month. Why? Oh, they just cancelled the magazine last month. It's ok. I'd rather see my other strip Always Saturday see print anyway.

Saturday, December 27, 2003

The following is an excerpt from the book I'm currently reading called Waking the Dead by John Eldredge, pp. 75-79. This part is really significant for me as I've been through this thinking a lot in the past.
In an attempt to explain the biblical doctrine of sin, we've let something else creep in. You'll hear it come up almost automatically whenever Christians talk about themselves: "I'm just a sinner, saved by grace." "I'm just clothes for God to put on." "There sure isn't any good thing in me." It's so common a mind-set, this idea that we are no-good wretches, ready to sin at a moment's notice, incapable of goodness, and certainly far from any glory.

It is also unbiblical.

The passage people think they are referring to is Romans 7:18, where Paul says, "For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing" (KJV). Notice the distinction he makes. He does not say, "There is nothing good in me. Period." What he says is that "in my flesh dwelleth no good thing." The flesh is the old nature, the old life, crucified with Christ. The flesh is the very thing God removed from our hearts when he circumcised them by his Spirit.

Yes, we still battle with sin. Yes, we still have to crucify our flesh on a daily basis. (But) does the Bible teach that Christians are nothing but sinners—that there is nothing good in us? The answer is no! You have a new heart. Your heart is good. That sinful nature you battle is not who you are. Twice, in the famous chapter of Romans 7, where Paul presents a first-person angst about our battle against sin, he says, "But this is not my true nature. This is not my heart."
As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature . .. Now if I do what I do not want to do it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it . . . For in my inner being I delight in God's law. (emphasis added)

Paul is making a crucial distinction: This is not me; this is not my true heart. Listen to how he talks about himself in other places. He opens every letter by introducing himself as "Paul, an apostle." Not as a sinner, but as an apostle, writing to "the saints." Dump the religiosity; think about this mythically. Paul, appointed as the Great One in the kingdom, writing other Great Allies of the kingdom. How bold of him. There is no false humility, no groveling. He says,
Surely you have heard about the . . . grace that was given to me for you, that is, the mystery made known to me by revelation, as I have already written briefly. In reading this, then, you will be able to understand my insight into the mystery of Christ, which was not made known to men in other generations as it has now been revealed [to me].

Paul is not unashamed to say that he knows things no man before him knew. He even assumes they've heard about him, the mysteries revealed to him. That is part of his glory. His humility comes through clearly, in that he quickly admits that it’s all been a gift, and in fact, a gift given to him for others.

And listen to the way he talks about us: "You shine like stars in the universe as you hold out the word of life." As Shawn Mullins sings, "we're born to shimmer; we're born to shine." You are supposed to shimmer. "Let your light shine before men." All this groveling and self-depreciation done by Christians is often just shame masquerading as humility. Shame says, "I'm nothing to look at. I’m not capable of goodness." Humility says, "I bear a glory for sure, but it is a reflected glory. A grace given to me." Your story does not begin with sin. It begins with a glory bestowed upon you by God. It does not start in Genesis 3; it starts in Genesis 1. First things first, as they say.

Certainly, you will admit that God is glorious. Is there anyone more kind? Is there anyone more creative? Is there anyone more valiant? Is there anyone more true? Is there anyone more daring? Is there anyone more beautiful? Is there anyone more wise? Is there anyone more generous? You are his offspring. His child. His reflection. His likeness. You bear his image. Do remember that though he made the heavens and the earth in all their glory, the desert and the open sea, the meadow and the Milky Way, and said, "It is good," it was only after he made you that he said, "It is very good." Think of it: your original glory was greater than anything that's ever taken your breath away in nature.
As for the saints who are in the land, they are the glorious ones in whom is all my delight.

God endowed you with a glory when he created you, a glory so deep and mythic that all creation pales in comparison. A glory unique to you, just as your fingerprints are unique to you, just as the way you laugh is unique to you. Somewhere down deep inside we've been looking for that glory ever since. A man wants to know that he is truly a man, that he could be brave; he longs to know that he is a warrior; and all his life he wonders, "Have I got what it takes?" A woman wants to know that she is truly a woman, that she is beautiful; she longs to know that she is captivating; and all her life she wonders, "Do I have a beauty to offer?" The poet Yeats wrote,
If I make the lashes dark
And the eyes more bright
And the lips more scarlet
Or ask if all be right
From mirror after mirror
No vanity's displayed:
I’m looking for the face I had
Before the world was made.
("Before the World Was Made" from the poem "A Woman Young and Old")

Yes, that’s it. When you take a second glance in the mirror, when you pause to look again at a photograph, you are looking for a glory you know you were meant to have, if only because you know you long to have it. You remember faintly that you were once more than you have become.
It was my first time to watch that Drew Barrymore movie, Riding in Cars with Boys on HBO. What I thought to be another angsty teeny bopper movie that discusses the pains of growing up turns out to be a poignant story about acceptance and letting go. Because of one night's careless fling Beverly's life took a very different route forcing her to tough it out and, in a way, manipulate those around her in a desperate move to take things under control. Her parents accepted her when she got pregnant during the time when getting a kid out of wedlock caused a big scandal. She grudgingly accepted her fate and sacrificed her dreams in light of this sad reality. Her husband accepted the fact that he was a no good example to his kid and had to let them both go for their sakes. Her kid matured beyond his years in order to cope up with his dysfunctional parents. And years later, her impoverished husband gave her the rights to publish their story without asking for anything, she lets go of her only child to pursue his dreams in college in another state with the girl he grew up with (and the one good thing that's happened in his life as he calls it), and her father finally let go of the past and welcomed her back into his arms after they were distanced from each other some twenty years before. Good movie with a lot of lessons, laughs, and tears. Something you'd watch with your significant other and discussed over some coffee.

Last night's Den meeting was also something good. First of all I got a personalized gift from my good friend Syeri. A small booklet that doubles as a Christmas card with illustrations explaining her search for the perfect gift. Only the usual cast were there last night: me, Lyndon, Jon, and Syeri and we discussed a new project to liven things up a bit. We discussed some initial ideas and plans on how to make it work and hopefully we could drum up some interest among the other members when we announce it in the mailing list. Afterwards Jon and Syeri had to go home and so me and Lyndon were left to discuss a lot of topics running from technology, the future of comics, movies, books, the book he brought titled "God's Debris" by cartoonist Scott Adams. It's a fictional book that disturbs one's comfort zone and traditional thinking. It calls into question one's beliefs about everything, from physics and gravity to evolution and God. Topics tend to lean to atheism, agnosticism, and even buddhism although the book also questioned these too. The author avoids any responsibility for the disturbance by asking the reader to examine his or her beliefs in light of what has been called into question. It was a good discussion all in all, so good in fact we finished near two o'clock in the morning.

Friday, December 26, 2003

My dad came home with a new puppy the other day from Batangas. It's an ordinary mutt (or "askal" in the colloquial) but seeing the overall white fur, brown nose, gray eyes and big paws the mixed in heritage may be a Bull Terrier or so my younger sister theorizes. It was all afraid during the first night and come yesterday morning it was all frisky and playful. Our other dog Tommy (aka Wuffy) was curious and kept poking his nose inside the puppy's cage. But he was growled and snapped at when the puppy saw his territory being intruded. The puppy's quite petulant and territorial for someone so young. What I actually expected was the other way around. I'll take its picture for posterity tomorrow. It'll be a nice souvenir for the future when it will be all big and fat. I also finished updating my phlog. Speaking of which I do wish I had a digicam, anyway Christmas isn't through around these parts till after a couple more weeks. hint. hint. *wink-wink* nudge.

Thursday, December 25, 2003

I hope we never forget the real reason for the season.

Wednesday, December 24, 2003

At least he didn't get one of those corporate shirts.

This is the second Christmas strip between father and son (the first one was in CLASS). I also tweaked the dialogue a bit since the original Tagalog lines were too deep for most Manileños to speak. Of course the dad hails originally from Bulacan but he's talking to his son who was born and raised in Manila and might not get some of the words being said. You can still see the original lines if you click the link below.

* West Side is published weekly in Philippine News.

Tuesday, December 23, 2003

It's true! All the stories, all the reviews, all the praises that I've heard about this movie is true! I still can't find the words adequate to describe this experience. It's so great it goes waaaaaay beyond supercalifragilisticexpialidocious! Ever since the Philippine Tolkien Society announced they were selling tickets to the premiere showing in Megamall I knew I had to get my hands on them no matter what, then I thought about having some company to share the experience with. So I invested on two more tickets and considered it a Christmas gift to these two dear friends of mine. Special effects and scenes aside (which a lot of reviewers will be writing on in the near future) it is a wonderful story of courage, loyalty, and being true to one's calling no matter what the cost. If you think that Frodo went through a lot just to get the one ring into the fires of Mount Doom, then Sam is the absolute icon of martyrs everywhere. People in the theater screamed and gushed over the "mushy" scenes between the two imposing their twisted ideas and fantasies on the friendship of these two valiant hobbits. I also got teary eyed during the Battle of Minas Tirith. I couldn't help it, it was all so beautiful. The sweeping panoramas of New Zealand's landscapes still manages to take one's breath away. I'll write about down my thoughts on this again when the regular showing of this movie starts next month. Oh yeah, before I forget... Eowyn rocks!!!

Monday, December 22, 2003

I just finished two strips Philippine News is printing for Christmas and New Year. It's been months since I did two strips at one sitting and it took another getting-used-to. I only finished drawing, scanning, and cleaning them last night when I got home from the 1st Star Wars Philippines Con at Ayala Town Center in Alabang. I got there around 12:30 p.m. and I hadn't had my lunch till after four hours later. Az, Ryan, Gabe, Oneal, Meann, and the others were already there playing with their yo-yos and eating veggie shawarma. I checked out the place, the people, and the exhibits before settling down to draw a Star Wars related sketch since Az told me I was going to be the "Artist of the Hour" or something like that.

Introducing Jedi knights Ryan, Az, and uh... somebody.

Oblivious to the world.

Almost finished with the sketch.

The fun didn't really start until I started a short lecture on cartooning, composition, and copyrighting one's work in (this was held upstairs at the San Mig Pub). In all honestly I didn't prepare anything and just told them everything I know from the top of my head. They gave me thirty minutes to talk and to fill up the slot I had to come with all sorts of subject related to the craft. I even lectured them on the "scientific" methods of cartooning and comic strip writing. I just came up with this thing based on observation and I actually have no idea if anybody else came up with this. Camy also arrived at this time with Az. They were also holding a "Create your own Jedi" contest and while all this was happening. Ryan came up to do his part in the lecture after my turn, then merienda was served.

Lecturing on the trade secrets of a cartoonist.

Gabe stands amazed as Ryan finishes his sketch in a matter of microseconds.

Lecturing on the proportions of a human body.

We all went back downstairs to join the others in the exhibit area where a couple of henna tattoo artists were doing their stuff for free and anything that's free was sure to draw a crowd. Taking advantage of the situation Az and the organizers called me to the center again to do an art demo on the same big paper that was used in the lecture upstairs. I haven't had any idea what character I should be doing since I didn't have that much of a reference guide with me. I settled to do my all-time favorite Star Wars character in a way that would show both the past and future in one go.

Ta-daaaaaah!!! Live art demo before a small audience.

I may be handsome now but I'm gonna be much cooler someday!

Then Emil and Rain did a live demo on lighsaber fighting. Gabe even sidelined as the Force that Emil used to bring the saber back to his hand (for this purpose she had "I am the FORCE" label stuck on her shirt).

Prepare to die!!!

The crowd dwindled to a few after a while and the only activity we had after that was the showing of some fan films. Ryan and me hitched a ride home with Gabe around 8:30 p.m. And that's it. Now I have to get ready for the premiere of the last LoTR movie that's happening later.

* Pictures came from Paolo's Image Station album.

Sunday, December 21, 2003

"You're desthpicable!"

This is one of my art contributions to the Star Wars Philippines Convention ongoing at Ayala Town Center in Alabang. It was inspired by that classic episode titled Rabbit Fire. Remember that famous Elmer Fudd line that goes "Be vewy, vewy quiet. I'm hunting wabbits!"? And who could ever forget that famous Bugs Bunny-Daffy Duck debate as to whose season it was? I'll be going there later this afternoon to do a short lecture on doing Star Wars art and maybe sell some stuff.

Saturday, December 20, 2003

Last night's Christmas party was one of the best I've ever had, a night well spent with great friends. The invitation was extended to me about a month prior and knowing them they intend to keep it small and private. Only a few close friends were invited to attend. Since it's Christmas I also thought it would be a good time to give something back to the hosts for being so accomodating and for accepting me in their private circle. I first met Joseph when his brother Jorge introduced me to him in our Alumni Homecoming early this year. Then again during the summer when Jorge extended an unlimited invitation to hang out in their office as often as I wanted. The office actually belongs to Joseph and his company and he was sharing it with his brothers. I also had the perfect gift in mind seeing they always like to drink brewed coffee in their office: a Six Variety Starbucks Gift Pack! I've been eyeing this for some weeks now and thought that it would always be available. So you could imagine my frustration and disappointment in finding out that they ran out of that same pack when I got there earlier last night. All they've got there was the huge three pack which costs a lot more than I set aside. But since I was already in a hurry I gave in and bought it, something I regretted doing on my way there. Thoughts of waiting to see if the other branches in Makati might have the pack I was originally planning to give.

I got to their office around 7:30 p.m. Jorge and Sheila were there drinking some lite beer and the only guests around were Jorge's father and a couple of military officials. All thoughts of regret over the huge amount melted away when I saw the recipient's face light up. He was all thanks and showed it to his girlfriend Dana. Jorge showed it also to his dad when he came out looking for more beer. They handed me some drinks and I also got a few sticks of pork barbecue. The spread on the table looked very appetizing: Italian spaghetti with sun-dried tomatoes, salmon topped with creamy garlic sauce, beef with broccoli, beef caldereta, lechon, whole chicken, potato salad with fruit cocktail, etc. (cholesterol city but drool worthy). Jorge also told me that since the party was going to extend till the wee hours of the morning it would be best for me to stay at their house to pass the night. The guests started arriving soon after among them was a batchmate of ours from high school and his closest friend Dennis (I based one of my comic strip characters on this guy), his wife Jen. One of the brothers' barkada Carol was also there. Joel soon arrived after bringing his nephew home.

The guests were divided according to rank: the "oldies" (their dad's friends and Joseph's associates) ate in the other room while the rest of us settled at the reception room near the door. At first all our conversations revolved around our day jobs and the like, entrepreneurship and the pros and cons of owning a business. I also found out that Joel's taste in music ran close to mine: lounge and 80s classics. We talked about the CDs that he has played them on the PC providing the party with some lively but relaxing music. Though it was already somewhat late and most of the guests were already leaving there were still some who managed to come in at the eleventh hour (turns out there was a monstrous traffic in the Quezon City area because of some corporate Christmas parties). One of those who was able to join us at the last minute was Joel's girlfriend Ivy who also came from another Christmas party.

Sheila and Jorge look on as Carol is entertained by Dennis' banter.

Dana, Sheila, and Ivy enjoying their bonding session.

Jen and Dennis getting tips on the food business.

Old friends sharing a private joke

... and having a grand time laughing about it.

Things turned a bit substantial when Carol mentioned that she was getting married next month. At first they all talked about recommendations for preparations for the ceremony then the topic slowly veered to her apprehensions about her expections after the ceremony. She generally asked what's it like to be married and how do you make things work between two married couples? Dennis gave a lot of sensible answers and sound advice in between cracking jokes and laughing out loud, Jorge shared some great advice and so did Mang Danny whom everyone treated as one of our despite the large age difference. At first Joseph just stood at the sidelines quietly listening to the discussion but soon gave in and threw in some practical advice. This discussion turned out to be really fruitful because it was the men who rose up to the occasion to give sensible answers that you have to understand your partner, know him first as a man or a woman before knowing the individual, make sacrifices and leeway for each other, husbands are the providers and security givers while wives should submit to their better-half and provide emotional support, etc. I wish I had a tape recorder last night and transcribe everything that was said (well, not including the jokes and crass humor in between).

Jorge gets serious on the topic about relationships.

Dennis in one of his rare serious moments.

Joseph gives his two cents worth on married life.

The brothers get into discussing the finer points of marriage.

Jorge and Sheila gave notice that they were leaving at around 1 a.m. since they were already drowsy (Joel wouldn't let me leave at first but I told him that I was spending the night at his brother's house). Everyone also thought that it would be best to start packing up.

We got to the house twenty minutes later and they prepared my bedding right inside their room and I fell sound asleep as soon as I lay on it. I woke up at 10:30 a.m. today (at last I was able to sleep over as long as I always wanted). Jorge had left very early in the morning to attend to his construction business. I helped Sheila prepare our brunch before saying goodbye. I will see them again tomorrow at the Star Wars convention since they promised to watch me conduct a short lecture on the field of drawing. Thank you God for these good friends of mine.

Thursday, December 18, 2003

This is a new tradition that started last year.

Seems like I'm on a roll these past couple of strips (thank you Dad for the ideas!). Of course the edited version is way better than the printed ones since I had time to rethink the jokes.

* West Side is published weekly in Philippine News.

Wednesday, December 17, 2003

I GOT MY DRIVER'S LICENSE! I FINALLY GOT MY DRIVER'S LICENSE! After these weeks of waiting and false starts I finally got it! I started out early waking up at 6:30 a.m. for the appointment at 8 (I didn't even have time to eat breakfast). I won't go into details of how I got it but let's just say that the way the bureaucracy works in these parts is less than honorable. So I'm all mixed up inside over this. And yeah we were made to wait four and a half hours so this is something I'm all mixed up inside too but in a minor way (I only had one measly hamburger for "breakfast" since there was only Burger Machine around the area). On one hand I thought I would be able to have lunch at Jorge's office after confirming my visit at that time (I had to turn down his offer the other day since I had to finish the strip) and on the other people usually picked up their finished license after two weeks. Like I said before I was already mixed up on the way the system works for one to obtain a driver's license at the LTO and it didn't help things a lot for me when those who were waiting with us were asking a lot of questions as to how we were able to arrange our way to applying. I can't help but show a bit of some attitude to make them stop asking more questions. During the waiting period Az was asking if he could drop by the house to pick up the artwork contributions for the SWP convention. Initially I told I'll be arranging these for pick up but the problem was there was no one in the house available to arrange my stuff. The credits on my phone were fast being depleted so I cannot use it for phonecalls anymore.

After getting my shiny new license from the window I ran to find an available public phone in the area. There was no such luck. My next move was to ride a jeep to Galleria in hopes of finding a phone to call the house again and arrange the pick up. Good thing my mom was already available and the problem was solved. Next st op was Jorge's office in Makati. I don't know if he's going to be there but he told me to just go ahead, proceed there and hang out. I arrived at their office around thirty minutes later. Joseph was there playing solitaire at their PC, I told him I'm just going to hang around and relax for some minutes. We talked for a bit before getting myself a cup of coffee. After about 30 minutes I took my leave and went to Tower Publishing to pick up some checks and a Christmas basket they prepared for me. These are the same people that published POParazzi before. Then I rode the MRT home.

After settling down a bit and showing my parents my license and the Christmas basket, I went on over to Megamall to meet with Az (he sent me another text message asking me to meet with him and Jac at the foodcourt). Had my "lunch" there with them at around 7 p.m. Eugene and Dennis from Glasshouse Graphics also came by to drop their art contributions for the con. After a while we dropped by Comic Quest to check out some new releases and then on to our separate ways. Az is inviting me to come over to Alabang Town Center and check the exhibit. I dunno, I'll try to make it on Saturday and Sunday.

Tuesday, December 16, 2003

Had to take a break after all those commitments and requirements. Since my parents are having their Couples for Christ's group Christmas party tonight I thought it might be good to spend some time alone outside. I set my sights on eating something sweet and filling at the Podium. I brought a good book and walked all the way to the place. Podium has this great atrium where classical and jazz music are constantly played live before relaxing shoppers sitted on the couches and easy chairs. Cinnabon has this great promo for their new product: an apple cinammon muffin with any drink for ninety pesos only. The size of all of it were huge and just right for a light dinner. I passed the time finishing around three chapters of my book before moving on to the atrium itself to take some pictures and finallize some ideas I should be finishing before the end of this week. I still couldn't reconcile all these into one coherent punchline.

Monday, December 15, 2003

After a long, long struggle I finally finished and submitted this week's strip. I've decided not to follow up another artwork for the 1st Star Wars Philippines Convention. I can't do the others in a simplified Mr. Bean-meets-Batman: The Animated Series style since the characters I'm planning to include are too detailed and I don't enough energy to work on them. I also have to start planning the Christmas and New Year strip for next week. Aaaargh.

Sunday, December 14, 2003

Second day of the C3 Con and due to some time mismanagement I never got to attend the service in Galleria today. I was already on my way contemplating whether to push though with attending despite the lateness of the time when Lyndon saw me. He was riding inside a cab on his way to Megamall and that somehow clinched the decision for me. He was bringing a cartfull of books and he was with a helper helping him lug them up the stairs. After getting the necessary papers ready he set up his place on the last table beside the indie titles, right in front of Anino Entertainment.

The ever humble Lyndon tries to downplay the accolades and praises thrown his way.

I brought some CLASS folders after all my copies of the ashcan were bought yesterday and after not being able to prepare additional copies. It fared quite well in last year's con and I thought it wouldn't be any different this year. I was wrong big time. The format was something that people didn't exactly like so it was ignored. You have to admire the other indie comic artists there who took some aggressive steps in selling their works. They were hawking and handing them to passersby like sellers in a public market. There were some titles that had potentials but there were a lot who were relying a lot on manga art. I didn't buy those. Also I beef with these titles was that the prices were a bit prohibitive. One group who came out with an interactive CD comics can be excused for selling it for P80.00, but the others? Errrr... never mind.

Things began to pick up about mid-afternoon when cosplayers and their hangers on began to arrive in preparation for the contest. Check out the pictures of these rabid fans who were a colorful mix of geniuses who had a lot of money to burn:

Robert Wong and his impressive cosplayer entry from the Matrix Revolutions.

Ragnarok winners.

He joined last year as an alien from the Alien movie and
he's come back as someone just as cool.

I forgot who he's cosplaying as... help?

Az gets ready to do battle.

Prepping at the side of the stage before they march on stage.

Gabe as the playful version of Dr. Doom.

Dr. Doom taken aback by the sight of a sable brush growing from my chin.

Jac showing her bracelet as Jun from Battle of the Planets.

There was one who came on as Spongebob Squarepants and though he got the audience's approval he failed to make it to the finals. We even cheered and howled when Jac and Gabe onstage to strut their stuff (they never got much of a reaction from the audience though). I also got in line to buy additional Pugad Baboy books and the small Polgas figure I wanted so much (you wouldn't believe how long it took before I finally got it signed).

Pol Medina Jr. signing my copy of Pugad Baboy 15.

Oh yeah, they announced that Matrix Philippines' entry "The Juan" won the indie film contest. They showed it the second time around to the delight of the waiting crowd.

This video clip is brought to you by Azrael's Merryland. "Azteeeg!"

We'll be waiting for the DVD copy and the add-ons included in it, probably by next month's New World's Con everything will be good and ready. I also got to have my CCCom merchandise autographed by the artists themselves.

Culture Crash Comics' Jio (who did "Solstice Butterfly") and Taga-Ilog (who does "Pasig").

My fave CCCom artist, Memer (who does "One Day Isang Diwa"
and "Cat's Trail")
with his alter ego I Q 40.

I didn't bring my sketchpad this time since they were swamped with requests for sketches by people right up until closing time. It's also unbelieveable and quite heartwarming to know that Kubori Kikiam's David and Memer still remembered me and my work. Wow. Thanks guys! This really means a lot to me. Another successful C3 Con was over and people are anticipating another big year ender next year.

Lico (Asong Makulit Productions) threatens passersby into
buying the last copy of their indie comic.

After packing up our things and finishing all the pleasantries me, Az, and Lyndon ate dinner at Big Bowl and discussed the con and other upcoming cons that will be happening. Next up is the Star Wars Philippines thingie at the Alabang Town Center next week. Wooooohooooooo!!! Can't wait for this one.

* C3 Con pictures are also available at these sites (some of which I lifted from): Kubori Kikiam (useless)News and Articles, Syeri's site, Joel Chua's site, Gabe's site, and TransFans Philippines.

Saturday, December 13, 2003

Today's the first day of the most awaited, most anticipated convention of all: The Second Philippine Comic Book, Gaming, & Anime Convention. Everyone who's anyone's going there to launch their works like Mango Comic's third and last issue of Darna, Marco Dimaano's Angel Ace Next, Carlo Vergara's Zsa Zsa Zaturnnah trade paperback, Quest Venture's Siglo, Culture Crash Comics #13, PM Jr.'s Pugad Baboy 16, and lots and lots of others. I went there around 2:30 p.m. after finishing some stuff and a bit of resting (I finished my submission for the Star Wars Con at 2 a.m. earlier today and I'm proud of the way it turned out).

Reno was already waiting for me outside the entrance and there I was still getting ready to go out making him wait for quite a while (sorry dude!). There was a quite a rainfall right before I got out of the house forcing me to bring a big umbrella with me. Unfortunately for me the sun came out when I was already halfway on my journey. The place was packed when I got there, paid for my ticket and nagivated the place starting at the right side. It was quite a coincidence that I found my friend waiting for me there right beside the booth of Ground Zero. Ludz wasn't around so we continued our inspection of the place passing by the booths of Psicom and Glasshouse Graphics among others. Then off to the left side where I found the booths of Comic Quest, Mango Comics, and the independent titles manned by my friends Syeri and Joanah. I dumped my load of comic titles at the table after asking permission from them (indie booth's reserved for those titles that are included in the CCCom indie contest). Good thing Syeri had her digicam on hand while we were hanging around the place:

There's my CLASS comics lying among this year's bumper crop of indie titles.

Indie booth being mobbed by rabid fans.

Mingling around and rubbing elbows: me, Mark Navarro (Summit Publishing), and Reno

The boys in business: Az, me, and toy store owner, Vic Yap

Saw Az an hour later and the rest of the Matrix Philippines crew hanging around waiting for the showing of the group's submission to the indie film contest titled "The Juan." They finally showed the entries on the big screen near the stage around 7:30 p.m. after a round of cosplayers' contest. There were some good entries and there were some really good entries like a film adaptation of Taga-Ilog's Pasig. Our group's film was the last one to be shown and it got rave reactions from the audience. It was also my first time to see it and I must honestly (and without bias) say that the peeps behind it did a very, very, very good job of it. The actors involved in the film were all blushing from the attention we gave them.

Weird thing about this was that right after the showing of the film and CCCom head honcho James' announcement that the results of the contest will be known tomorrow, the place quickly became deserted in a matter of minutes, whereas moments before the place was filled to the rafters with human carpet. Lyndon and I had a late dinner at Yoshinoya downstairs, discussing the con and his plans to set up a booth for his comics in some corner near the indie titles. We went home around 10 p.m.

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