Tagpuan (2020)


The last good Filipino film I felt compelled to write and have written was Sakaling Maging Tayo by Jaime Habac Jr. It was unexpectedly good.

Due to the reality of so many to watch, read, and listen – doing film reviews on my blog has taken a break. I opted to write short film reviews that will fit the finite space of Twitter instead. It was my goal at the beginning of 2020.

Yet, for a film made by Filipinos for which came as a pleasant surprise when I watched it, I feel obliged to write my thoughts on it even if its “unpopularity” brims in Twitter as of my random scroll in its early days of showing.

Written by Ricardo Lee, the script is crisp and at times poetic. It does not convince an ideology. Rather, it asks life questions that may be deeply stirring our hearts and minds or may have been hidden in the recesses of our subconscious. Either way, they are questions grounded in our inherent quest and pursuit for meaning.

Aside from its brilliant scriptwriting, the film’s cinematography is a sight to behold. Its choice of shots is intentional that each frame can be likened to a photographer’s portfolio or a well curated Instagram account. The film’s palette and style has a striking resemblance to Sofia Coppola’s Lost in Translation.

The artistic style of gradually unfolding the story through an intertwined panache of subtlety brought by shades to denote the past or present is commendable.

While a stress reliever is typical in most films (international or local), Shaina Magdayao’s candor works. She shines in the film. Alfred Vargas reminds me of any rich guy in most Korean series or movies where the expressions are mostly stoic. For my own taste though, he is not as dreamy as Kim Rae-won (Love Story in Harvard). I was hoping to see more of Agnes’ pain through the eyes or facial expressions of Iza Calzado who portrays her, but, it somehow hides behind her pretty face.

Director, MacArthur Alejandre’s skill in storytelling weaved a film that brought the best in the script that is cradled in the beautiful music by Von De Guzman.

Like its literal English translation, Tagpuan brings us to a place which may be pensively uncharted or commonly described as a love story for most. But, it is also a place of finding one’s identity, a pursuit of passions, where even if the journey’s consequences are far more likely to happen than the impossible dream, the chase for it will be undeterred.


© rooks 2021

2020 Read Log

2020 Read Log

In a 2015 TED Talk, American businessman and philanthropist Bill Gates said, “If anything kills over 10 million people in the next few decades, it’s most likely to be a highly infectious virus rather than a war — not missiles but microbes. Now, part of the reason for this is that, we have invested a huge amount in nuclear deterrents, but we’ve actually invested very little in a system to stop an epidemic. We’re not ready for the next epidemic.” Indeed, fast forward to 2020, we were not ready. We still are not ready. It is far from over.

Life has changed. The word normal has transformed itself into a definition of resolute adaptation to a reality that is distressing and perplexing. The boisterousness of social media despair is only a tip of the iceberg to the silent lethal pain of depression – unspoken and undisclosed. Little did we know that the vibrant goals of 2020 will be overturned to survival mode.

Aside from the company of family and friends, media has also been our companion as we endured the time loop of 2020. Though I consider 2020 as the year where I have watched and reviewed more movies than the past, my love for reading has a place of its own in my day. It remains to be a respite from the exuberance or gloom of content platforms and social media.

Below is my 2020 Read Log.

17 – [Dec 15] Ties That Tether by Jane Igharo
16 – [Dec 08] The Truths We Hold: An American Journey by Kamala Harris
15 – [Nov 05] Becoming Superman by J. Michael Straczynski
14 – [Oct 04] Good Morning, I Love You (Mindfulness + Self-Compassion Practices to Rewire Your Brain for Calm, Clarity + Joy) by Shauna Shapiro, PhD
13 – [Aug 30] Asia’s Cauldron (The South China Sea and the End of a Stable Pacific) by Robert D. Kaplan
12 – [Aug 29] Conversations with Friends by Sally Rooney
11 – [Aug 07] Our Stop by Laura Jane Williams
10 – [Jul 17] Alibaba (The House that Jack Ma Built) by Duncan Clark
09 – [May 31] Talking to Strangers (What We Should Know about the People We Don’t Know) by Malcolm Gladwell
08 – [May 14] One Man’s View of the World by Lee Kuan Yew
07 – [Apr 26] Your Perfect Year by Charlotte Lucas
06 – [Apr 12] Fifty Inventions that Shaped the Modern Economy by Tim Harford
05 – [Mar 29] The Man Without a Face (The Unlikely Rise of Vladimir Putin) by Masha Gessen
04 – [Feb 29] Charlotte’s Web by Elwyn Brooks White
03 – [Feb 26] The Flatshare by Beth O’Leary
02 – [Feb 15] The Other Side of Happiness (Embracing a More Fearless Approach to Living) by Brock Bastian
01 – [Feb 08] Hit Makers (How To Succeed in an Age of Distraction) by Derek Thompson

*** Indicated dates are completion dates.


© rooks 2021

The Unconscious Social Media Avatar

The Unconscious Social Media Avatar

Apart from books and movies, podcasts have gained much of my attention these days. Episode 3 in Bill Gates and Rashida Jones Ask Big Questions asked this question towards the end of the conversation, “What will you do when technology begins to know you better than yourself?”

In a world of social media likes, retweets, shares, and comments – technology will most likely know you better than yourself through data analytics and forensics. The social media scroll culture that almost instinctively compels one to like, retweet, share, or comment, stealthily creates your unconscious social media avatar. The more impulsive the reaction to a social media content, the better technology becomes of knowing you better than yourself. Have you noticed that the data on your feed becomes more refined as you engage in social media? The feed knows what you like or you are most likely to engage in – politics, sports, wellness, etc.

So, are you willing to let technology know you better or are you more keen to know yourself better?

Thoughts? Let’s talk.


© rooks 2020

Music in Isolation

Songs in Ukulele, Series 1 by cherokee (cover photo)

In this time of lockdowns and quarantines, we generally at some point have taken time to clean and rearrange our storage rooms and have likely discovered and remembered forgotten items.

On top of my dresser and encased in its dusty brown carton, Kai, my soprano ukulele, has been sleeping for years – waiting for music. While Taylor Swift created Folklore, I found refuge in playing Kai in this time of isolation.

In my laptop is a random collection of songs I play in ukulele for which I have carefully researched for their easy chords. I kept a copy of them even if they can be searched in the internet as You Tube and Google can be convoluted. It is always nice to have them in handy whenever I feel like playing. As the collection grew, I realized that I can compile them and create an ebook to share especially to beginners who may find it hard to search for simpler chords that sound just as lovely.

Drop by my shop to have a sneak peek. Enjoy playing with your uke.

Kindness in the Time of Covid-19

cruisingcherokee - Be Kind

70 days and counting. Staying home due to Covid-19 is changing us – how we live, how we think, and how we cope. In varying degrees, each one of us feel the impact of the pandemic in our lives – socially, economically, environmentally, spiritually, and mentally.

Technology is helping us grapple with the vicissitudes of the outbreak. But, while it is keeping us entertained, the temporary filler of delight does not eliminate the psychological strain. If one is not mindful, it can even reinforce desperation.

With the virus not sparing anyone to be infected due to the absence of a cure or vaccine, some say that it levels humanity to an equal footing for which I disagree. The strength of one’s immune system alone is a factor of survival and demise. And the list of determinants – financial, political, etc., go on.

So, how do we withstand the absurdity of our time? Be kind to yourself and others. At this time of incomprehensible strangeness and unpredictability, it is common that the reason to be anxious is high and the foresight of hope is low. You may be content and unruffled, but, a percentage of your family members and friends are struggling to make sense.

Again, be kind.


© rooks 2020

2019 Read Log

2019 Read Log

In between Netflix, YouTube, movies, to daily life (personal & professional) is reading. Yet, reading needs focus and attention. And, it can always be temptingly set aside for later over pleasure viewing especially after a tough day.

Today’s conversations tend to circulate on what is trending on social media. It is a topsy turvy range of interests from politics, economics, entertainment, sports, etc. – where, feeds are flooded with more opinions and fabricated stories rather than facts. It is a deluge of information and misinformation. It is a circus where one does not want to be left out. With that, there is a tendency to be glued and consumed by the scrolling culture.

Thus, where do books and/or reading position itself from sunrise to sunset?
How does one in between all things place reading in one’s 24 hours?

Below is a simple guide that keeps me reading.
(1) Aim it. Set a reading goal. Give a number. 20 or 50 books a year.
(2) Schedule it. Set a specific reading time and period. 5AM, 1 hour.
(3) Log it. Take note of your reading accomplishment as you finish each book. I indicate completion dates.
(4) Share it. Have meaningful conversations with a friend/s about your readings. It does not matter if you have read the same books. In one way or another, you will find a common ground or will discover the wisdom of other genres.

Most importantly, make reading a lifestyle. It is a calming alternative that boosts brain power.

For 2019, below is my list. I am still aiming for 50 in 2020. Care to share your favourite reads of 2019? I am very interested.

19 – [Dec 24] Born a Crime (Stories from a South African Childhood) by Trevor Noah
18 – [Dec 14] The Bookish Life of Nina Hill by Abbi Waxman
17 – [Nov 16] iGen (Why Today’s Super-Connected Kids Are Growing Up Less Rebellious, More Tolerant, Less Happy – And Completely Unprepared for Adulthood… and What That Means for the Rest of Us) by Jean M. Twenge, PhD
16 – [Nov 02] A Brief History of Japan (Samurai, Shogun, and Zen: The Extraordinary Story of the Land of the Rising Sun) by Jonathan Clements
15 – [Sep 22] Well Met by Jen DeLuca
14 – [Aug 30] Gaudete et Exsultate (Apostolic Exhortation on the Call to Holiness in Today’s World) by Pope Francis
13 – [Aug 26] Cooking for Picasso by Camille Aubray
12 – [Jul 27] Start With Why (How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone To Take Action) by Simon Sinek
11 – [Jun 30] Rules of Civility by Amor Towles
10 – [Jun 23] Leading by Alex Ferguson with Michael Moritz
09 – [Jun 15] The Unhoneymooners by Christina Lauren
08 – [Jun 05] Shortest Way Home (One Mayor’s Challenge and a Model for America’s Future) by Pete Buttigieg
07 – [May 12] The Future of the Mind (The Scientific Quest to Understand, Enhance, and Empower the Mind) by Michio Kaku
06 – [Apr 20] Why I am Catholic (And You Should Be Too) by Brandon Vogt
05 – [Apr 07] The Girl He Used to Know by Tracey Garvis Graves
04 – [Mar 24] Option B (Facing Adversity, Building Resilience, and Finding Joy) by Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant
03 – [Mar 09] Istanbul (City of Majesty at the Crossroads of the World) by Thomas F. Madden
02 – [Feb 03] 13 Things Mentally Strong People Don’t Do by Amy Morin
01 – [Jan 07] Love & Luck by Jenna Evans Welch

*** Indicated dates are completion dates.

© rooks 2020

Singapore River Cruise

Singapore River Cruise

In a recent “unplanned with no expectations, but to chill trip” to Singapore, I was delighted to have surprise highlights of the spree – 2 museum visits and an experience of the Singapore River Cruise.

From a very shallow intention of just to “kill time” until the National Museum opens, we were brought to a cruise of discoveries that is reminiscent of the past and a glimpse to a vision of a future. Among the sweet finds while on the cruise are the Asians Civilization Museum for which was only a walk away from our port of embarkation and debarkation, and a short history lesson of Singapore through the educational video on board. My friend (who is also an epistemophile) and I were like kids in awe of the knowledge barrage for which was music to our soul.

The visit to the National Museum made us appreciate the river more as it brought us to its once cataclysmic past. The United Nations once described the Singapore River as an “irreversible environmental disaster”. Today, it freshly flows with pride of ditching its devastating past. In the beginning, former Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew’s call to clean up the river fell on deaf ears, but with his boldness and pursuit for greater things, and the participation of local heroes, he led the irreversible disaster to endless possibilities.

As I ponder on Singapore River’s inspiring transformation, I can only hope for our very own Pasig River. It is with sadness as I think of it. For now, I can only continue with my small acts of mindful consumption, disposal, and re-use.


© rooks 2019

San Vicente, Palawan

In our 4th year of annual vacationing, we did not intend to go to Palawan (again) as we went to El Nido in 2017. But, unavoidable circumstances redirected us to Palawan. And in a span of only 2 weeks preparation of flight and hotel rebookings, we were all set for San Vicente, Palawan. We have bookmarked San Vicente in our bucket list to visit but not this soon. However, the group is excited and happy to venture into San Vicente.

San Vicente is located at the north west of the island of Palawan. It is 186 kilometers away from the capital of Palawan – Puerto Princesa. On June 21, 1969, the municipality of San Vicente was created by virtue of Republic Act 5821. It is politically divided into 10 barangays – Binga, New Canipo, Sto. Nino, Alimanguan, San Isidro, New Agutaya, Poblacion (San Vicente), New Villa Fria (Kemdeng), Port Barton, and Caruray.

San Vicente Barangays

We took the Manila to El Nido flight through AirSwift as direct flights to San Vicente are not yet available. Then a van took us to San Vicente. It was previously contacted through the resort where we will be staying. It takes 2-3 hours from El Nido to San Vicente. Direct flights will soon be available in the second half of 2019.

Club Agutaya

We stayed at Club Agutaya. The resort morphs with nature. It is an environment conscious green resort where they use state of the art Sewage Treatment System (STS) to convert toilet waste to reusable water and solar and LED lights combined with solar and wind power to generate a significant amount of power for the resort. One thing noticeable during our stay is that, the foundation of the resort is built with solid concrete, which makes it ideal for structures constructed near the shoreline.

The room where we stayed gave a lasting impression. The bed runner is newly washed. One could still smell the detergent used. The beddings are crisp and clean – a very delightful sign that every guest gets a first use in their stay. This is important for me to write because of some unfavourable experiences from other starred resort stays.

Cafe Lily

Another remarkable experience is the menu at Café Lily, the resort’s restaurant. CEO and Chef Propriétaire, Maria, created the menu and personally prepares the food. The menu gave a good selection of Filipino and some international dishes. Homemade bread is freshly baked and served as appetizer during lunch and dinner. Dip them in melted butter – it made my day every time. Dining at the café is always a surprise to the palate. Simple and fresh flavours. On all our meals, we picked personal favourites to reorder on our last meal. Chef Maria would go around the tables to chat with the guests and ask how the food was. One late night, an hour before the café will close, tired but fulfilled with our day’s activities, we were clueless of what to have for dinner, Chef Maria suggested an off the menu dishes – mussels in broth with an aioli dip, and tinapa. It was exquisite. If there is something to improve, it is their breakfast buffet variety and to hire a good barista. Accompanied by friends who know their coffee, we were not as enthralled as compared with the experience of the sumptuous meals we had. But, these 2 things for improvement are minute for us because of the overall excellent service. They make you feel comfortable and at home; and they constantly ask if you are happy every after a trip or experience.

Kuya Mark, the driver, tour guide, and arranger of our trips, was not only all of those but he gave us meaningful trivia of the life around San Vicente and life in general. Aside from his endless jokes that made us laugh (or not), it was the educational experience we had with him that made the trip also memorable. Among those he shared that made an impact to my endless quest for learning are these: (1) Every captain of the boat for island hopping in San Vicente undergoes the yearly 1 mile certification swim. (2) The boatman feels the temperature of the waters first before letting the tourists go for snorkelling or swimming. This is to ensure that there are no deadly jellyfishes lurking around. If the water is hot, they are likely to be present. This is a very important reminder for tourists to always follow the instructions of their boatman as unlikely incidents have already happened.

Previously, San Vicente is most visited by Europeans rather than by Filipinos, but, is now becoming more popular and visited. With the new airport about to open, it will be more accessible. I am not sure if I should be happy or sad or both about it. The dreadful thought of it as becoming the next Boracay terrifies me. The current state of downtown El Nido devastates me. There is an urgent call for responsible tourism. Hopefully, the master plan of Palafox Associates preserves its beauty.

Long Beach San Vicente

San Vicente is lovely. Beautiful is an understatement.

Vacations give us time to relax and refresh, but it can also be enlightening if we deeply ponder and listen closely to the people and the environment. One of my realization in this trip is that, do not go cheap with your tips, especially if they really give good service. It provides dignity to work. It boosts the morale of the locals. In fact, the experience gained through their good service is priceless. So, be extra generous and kind.

San Vicente, you are love that gets better. Keep being beautiful.

Nota Bene
We had 2 island hopping tours and below are the places we have visited.
Photos with “summer buddies” inscription are from the random shots of my friends in this vacation.

Exotic Island

Exotic Island

Maxima Island

Maxima Island

Inaladelan Island (lunch and farther in between the islands is swimming with the turtles)

Inaladelan Island

Turtle Spotting



Bigaho Falls

Bigaho Falls

Sunset at Port Barton

Port Barton

Barangay Sto. Nino (overlooking the 14 kilometers long beach of San Vicente)

Barangay Sto. Nino

Bato ni Ningning

Bato ni NingNing

Lazuli Kitchen for brick oven pizza

Lazuli Kitchen

Village Island (lunch and swimming)
Unscathed. Picturesque. With no other tourists, simply perfect. This is where I swam to my heart’s content. What is not to love with our islands?

Village Island

Philippine Islands

Kambingan Island

Kambingan Island

New Agutaya River (Kayaking for 2 kilometers)

New Agutaya River


© rooks 2019

A Leap of Faith with an Option B

Leap of Faith x Option B

As I read a newspaper a few years ago, I came along an article of recommended books by a local celebrity who loves to read. One of the books that captured my attention was Leap of Faith by Queen Noor. Its back cover introduced the book as “a dramatic and inspiring story of a western woman’s remarkable journey into the heart of a man and his nation.” It further notes the memoir to be “…a love story – an intimate portrait of a woman who won the heart of a king and his country.” As someone who is exposed to local and western love stories as portrayed in the media, I read the book with great interest for which I gained insight not only in their love story, but on a culture that is different from what I experience, read, and perceive. The book is one of the reasons why I wanted to diversify my reading and to read more biographies.

Fast forward to today, I just concluded my reading on Option B by Sheryl Sandberg, the current Chief Operating Officer of Facebook. Option B is Sandberg’s journey after losing her husband and finding joy again. Intertwined are also stories from a broad range of individuals that reveals a person’s indomitable spirit from the researches of her friend and top-rated Wharton professor, Adam Grant. Through the end of the last chapter, her eulogy reminded me of Queen Noor’s affectionate note (below) to her late husband in the epilogue of Leap of Faith. It is pain, love, and hope in poetry.

“I will not fail you, my love. I will continue on the path we shared, and I know you will be there to help me, as you always were. And when we meet again at the journey’s end, and we laugh together once more, I will have a thousand things to tell you.”

Sheryl’s conclusion to her eulogy for Dave was down to earth, humorous, and heartfelt.

“I promise I will raise your children as Vikings fans even though I know nothing about football and I’m pretty sure that team never wins.” Read the book for the continuation… Towards the end of the eulogy, she said, “Dave, I promise to try to live a life that would make you proud.”

Both women promised to move forward. Both women lost the love of their life, but like any woman (or man) in this world, they faced adversity, built resilience, and found joy to live, love, and laugh again.

Indeed, in life, Option A will not always be possible. We have to take a leap of faith with an open mind for Option B.


© rooks 2019

Alone/Together (2019)

Alone Together

The popularity of the love team and the first breakthrough work of the director gives a certain level of expectation. But as movies (popular, high earning, hyped, etc.) commonly fall victim to a very important element of storytelling, that is, plot development, I came to the cinema to hopefully be surprised with good filmmaking.

With our mentality that is heavily influenced by foreign artistry, the movie is a good introduction to Filipino art. May it positively awaken in us a sense of pride and appreciation of our world class ingenuity and support for local artists.

Alone/Together is generally engaging. It is an artistically weaved romance with a recounting of the past, the traps of the present, and the indeterminable future. The shots, colors, oily student faces due to daily commute, and other notable minute details in a montage are well executed.

However, the main actors are yet to be at that stage of acting maturity. While Soberano gave a better performance than Gil, the needed emotions to be evoked of an uninspired woman who is haunted by her shattered dreams, and the demeanor of an award winning doctor, are found wanting. Additionally, its methodic ending gives a message that it is a movie with an intended audience in mind rather than a movie that is aiming to convey a love story beyond the expectations of a fandom, an audience to delight.

Do I like it? I enjoyed it, but sharing the same sentiments with a friend… I like it with reservations.


© rooks 2019