PUBLISHED: The Coolest Japan Experience in the Philippines

Authentic Japanese drum performance? Sushi-making from certified Japanese chefs? Yamada Nanami from AKB48’s Team 8? No, we were not talking about Tokyo. Last November 7 and 8, at Trinoma mall, Quezon City, the Philippines experienced a different and authentic perspective of Japan through the Cool Japan Festival 2015.

 

AKB48’s Team 8 in Manila.

 

“The event, being an effort to empower the cultural and economic friendship between the two countries, was an exchange of the coolest Japanese traditions and trends, and the warmest Filipino values” said the article that the Viewfinder wrote for Rappler. Catch the rest of the viewpoints that enlightened Filipinos about the Japanese culture in my published piece entitled, “IN PHOTOS: Highlights from Cool Japan Festival 2015.”

Take a glimpse of some of the other photos that the Viewfinder was able to summon through her lenses.

 

The lovely ladies of AKB48:

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Niigata’s Sato Shiori.

Kyoto’s Nao Ota.

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Nara’s Momoka Onishi.

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Kagawa’s Yurina Gyouten.

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Hyogo’s Yamada Nanami and Gunma’s Maria Shimizu.

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Akishibu Project:

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Alodia Gosiengfiao, cosplaying Hatsune Miku from Project Diva:

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An on-site cosplayer:

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Characters from the anime Doraemon:

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Gian playing with the camera.

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Nobita trying to kiss Shizuka.

The traditional Japanese drum performance by Tokoro Taiko:

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MT. PULAG: Cold as It Can Be

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“But merely conforming to all the rules does not prove one’s worth to witness what the spirits of Mt. Pulag have to offer. Ambangeg’s three-hour trail is relatively welcoming and hospitable to mountain novices said to be because of a certain spirit that joins visitors at the foot of the mountain. And this spirit seemingly evolves, as if being nourished as the altitude gets higher and higher. So by the time trekkers reach the camp site upon sunset, it finally transforms into a full-blown Guardian Spirit of Cold.”

Have a glimpse of one of the best sunrises of the country on my published feature on LiveToExplore.ph!

WAR: A word that speaks for itself

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A half spread photo and a feature on Corregidor Island.

 

The island is like a re-enactment of that calm-before-the-storm scene from Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, before the surprise attack. The winds are quiet, sending gentle waves at the North Dock. The Philippine flag is fluidly dancing through it, enjoying its long lost freedom. The ruins stand dignified under the sun, boasting of its survival all this time. And the cannons are sitting lazily and cozily on the battery concretes.

But all of a sudden, the island is jolted into battle mode, as a ferry filled with tourists docks in the shores of Corregidor. It is as if history, experience and trauma suddenly send a silent air raid alarm, awakening the whole island.

At around past nine o’clock in the morning, the visitors, who seem to be recruits newly introduced to war zone, have already disembarked from the vessel and are gathered around the pre-war tranvias. By this time, Corregidor is now all-prepared to make its transformation and transport these new soldiers back in the time of war.

 

The Viewfinder gets you back in time on her feature on Corregidor Island, which just got published in the pre-holiday issue (Vol. 7 No. 3) of Travel Plus magazine.

Grab your copies now to find out how the island explained the word war to visitors.

Travel Plus magazine is available on all leading bookstores and magazine stands.

And as the soldiers now leave the island, Corregidor can now go back to rest while the tourists bring with them a deeper understanding of the island and this powerful word called war.

Seeking Davao

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“Business travels or work-related trips are always tight on schedule and may only include one rest day or none at all. But traveling to a city like Davao, with all the metropolitan sheen all over it, and upon seeing its vast greeneries from the plane ride, a true traveler would definitely set his or her goal.

Official business focuses on the city proper. But the adventurer will not be able to resist the temptation and will eventually sneak out. He or she can definitely find a way to escape work through the urban forests of Davao. And if one is keen enough, one could even find a natural wonder that is three hours away from the bustling streets of the metro.”

More of Davao on the 2nd Quarter issue of The Electrical Engineer! Digital copy of the magazine can be accessed here.

The Viewfinder

What is a View?

The Baluarte de San Diego at Intramuros and the Manila skyline.

The Baluarte de San Diego at Intramuros and the Manila skyline.

Be it a good scenery or a bad display, anything within sight is called a view. And depending on one’s sight, a view is also a perspective or a way of looking at things.

What is a Finder?

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Photo by Johnessa Gabrillo.

Whether it be because of personal will or someone else’s, a finder is anyone who seeks anything.

What is a Viewfinder?

Photo by Johnessa Gabrillo.

 

It is that small box, usually on top of cameras, where one takes a peek of our beautiful world, before hitting the shutter. It has different shapes, forms and sizes, depending whether one has a film, video or a photography camera.

Literally, this small box is something that a person uses to find a view. It is where the photographer first recognizes his or her photographs. It is where he or she looks to adjust the framing. It is where he or she refers to check on the depth of field.

It is also where the filmmaker finds a view and creates a scene in it. It is where he or she consults to know where to position the actors. It is where the director confers to know the scope of activity he or she will put in the scene. It is also where he or she monitors the mood of the lighting and the mise-en-scene.

But a viewfinder can also be a seeker of a different view, a different perspective and a different way of looking at things.

Today, I am freeing the counter of the accumulated baggage through the years. Today, I am opening the gates and letting all the weight go. Today, I am making this stagnant venue into a wandering viewfinder, a fluid peeping hole that just goes with the flow of life, travel and movies.

Today, this venue will be your viewfinder to the world; a place where you will visit not only to check on different destinations around the globe but also on the people behind and in front of the cameras. Today, Baggage Counter grows up not only to be a travel blog and a venue for films and movies, but also to find a new viewpoint in life.

Today, Baggage Counter is signing off.

The Viewfinder is signing on.

Enter as a Visitor, Exit as a Filipino

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Where would this door lead you?

I finally reached the great white portal once again. The metal gate was still open, as if telling me not to close it as I took my exit. Maybe it was also Dr. Cuanang’s idea to leave it open all the time, so people could freely enter and exit as Filipinos with a deeper understanding of our own society.

Here’s a published work on GMA News Online featuring the Pinto Art Museum in Antipolo, Rizal. “Pinto” is the Filipino word for “door.”

Spread the Filipino talent and culture! 🙂

Asian Cinema Glamour at the Hong Kong Avenue of Stars

Alfred Hitchcock. Director. The Carpenters. Musicians. Audrey Hepburn.  Actress. The Walk of Fame in Los Angeles, California is able to immortalize their sheen in the entertainment industry by providing each of them a star along Hollywood Boulevard.

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But the stars are not concentrated only in America. Asia also has her very own definition of “cinema.” She has Wong Kar Wai, Gong Li and Bruce Lee, whose shimmer also extends beyond death. Located near Tsim Sha Tsui Promenade, along Victoria Bay, an equally grand honorarium is established to immortalize these passionate movers of Hong Kong cinema.

 

THE IN-BETWEEN CINEMA

According to Prof. Poshek Fu of the University of Illinois, Hong Kong has become “a principal ideological battleground between the Free World and the Communist Bloc in Asia.” Being geographically located at the middle of mainland China and Taiwan, Hong Kong’s beliefs has always been politically divided, plus the fact that they have been a British colony for more than a hundred years.

And this philosophical identity crisis has greatly influenced their cinema. On Prof. Fu’s article at the American Historical Association website, he has said that Cantonese filmmakers have showed the everyday life in Hong Kong during the time, but have “generally refrained” from giving any sensitive opinions about China nor about the foreign government.

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The viewfinder.

By the end of World War II, Hong Kong has started to take sides. Films featuring martial arts have become the trend and is said to be the outlet of the “anger and discontent” of the society towards Communism.

On his last note, Prof. Fu has said, “I came to recognize that movies, even those with apparent entertainment values, are never ideologically innocent. They are intricately and often ambiguously intertwined with history and politics.” Because of this, Hong Kong industry practitioners really deserve to be commemorated in this 440-meter walk along the bay.

THE STARS

The Hong Kong Film Awards Association Limited recognizes excellent performances in the industry by etching their names on shimmering stars.

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The “Clark Kent who didn’t need to change outfit…”

One of the more prominent names along the avenue is that of Bruce Lee’s. His contributions to both the worlds of film and martial arts are not only honored with a star along Hollywood Walk of Fame but also with a star and a bronze statue along the Avenue of Stars in Hong Kong. He has not just been a star but also a shape-shifter of the Asian image as it struggles against the racial discriminations in the United States. In an article published by Time, writer Joel Steinn said, “In an America where the Chinese were still stereotyped as meek house servants and railroad workers, Bruce Lee was… a Clark Kent who didn’t need to change outfits.”

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“I hate love stories.”

On the other hand, being the first Asian to win a Best Director award at the prestigious Cannes Film Festival has automatically granted Wong Kar Wai a spot along the bay. Known for the romance of Happy Together, Chungking Express and In the Mood for Love, Wong has said in an interview by Time that, ironically, he hated love stories. “They sell prettiness. I don’t do that. There’s more to life than love,” uttered the filmmaker who has given love a different definition in his films.

Another name that has made waves across the globe is Gong Li’s. In an interview by The New York Times, she said, “An actor should not memorize every line but should allow new things to happen. I need a collaboration with the director and other actors, something at the location that allows something else to emerge.” And true enough, working with different directors has earned her numerous prestigious awards including Best Actress at the 49th Venice International Film Festival.

THE AVENUE

The star-studded walk along Victoria Bay has not just acted as a tribute but has also boosted tourism in Hong Kong.

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Hong Kong Film Awards Diva.

At the entrance, guests are welcomed by a 4.5-meter giant replica of the Hong Kong Film Awards diva. There is also a bronze statue of McDull, Hong Kong’s most sought-after animated pig. There are also sculptures portraying key people in a film set like a director, a sound man, and a cinematographer. The newest attraction is a monument of Cantopop singer and actress, Anita Mui, who also owns a star along the bay.

At the Symphony of Lights

The Symphony of Lights.

The area also offers a magnificent view of the Victoria Harbour during the day. After sunset, establishments along the bay turn their lights on and dance to the tune of upbeat rhythms at the 13-minute show called the Symphony of Lights.

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Asia has its own talents. Photo by Mai Calapardo.

Hollywood may have been the biggest film outfit but it cannot deny the fact that it doesn’t own all the talent in the world. At the other side of the globe, there exist fine artists pushing for the richest culture and ideologies that Asian cinema can offer.

Down the Rabbit Hole of Manila

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Reaching for the jellyfish. Photo by Nessa Gabrillo.

Since I was a kid, wondering had been my hobby. And finding Lewis Carroll’s wonderland had been one of my dreams. Growing up, I became curiouser and curiouser about that place.

As I traveled around the world, the white rabbit of curiosity lured me to different rabbit holes, like the Hong Kong Disneyland, and the Moment of Imagination and Nostalgia with Toys or the MINT Museum in Singapore.

But I never thought that our beloved Manila could also house such a treat. Magic was overflowing even outside this rabbit hole located at Roxas Boulevard corner South Drive. With P250, I was given a local magic carpet ride back to my childhood days. Boasting its 8 enchanted rooms, Museo Pambata promised to bring me to that one true wonderland.

My Museo Pambata tour published online. Read the full story on Rappler.

Spread the magical love! 🙂

Traveling through Films

I stand there, eye to eye, with the Great Sphinx of Giza as my feet imbibe the warmth of the sand. Afterwards, I put on my backpack to trek and get lost at the Grand Canyon. My unreliable sense of direction manages to find the way out to one of the stalls in Akihabara district in Tokyo, Japan.

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I also got lost at Mt. Damas in Tarlac, Philippines. Photo by Karah Decapia.

How am I able to do all of these in just one sweep? I watch a movie, or a TV drama.

Production companies are like travel agencies, offering package tours to consumers, in the form of movies. A film is like a comprehensive tour, complete with transportation, accommodation, food, culture, music, art and most specially, story and experience.

Movies can also be considered the best tour bargains. Only a small portion of one’s salary is needed, plus it will not require full-blown leaves from work. More or less two hours is enough, unless one is catching films from Filipino director Lav Diaz, whose movies range from more than an hour to almost 9 hours of running time.

So sit back, relax and join me in this trip.

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The old seats at the University of the Philippines Cine Adarna.

Business class or economy?

Seats and services depend on what movie we are seeing. Hollywood movies will always offer the finest cruise cabins of Titanic. The science fiction genre may even give us an exclusive cockpit tour to outer space, like in Gravity. Aladdin‘s magic carpet ride is also always available for those who seek Alice in Wonderland.

Upon arrival at our destination, there is always a choice between the local bus or a local taxi from our favorite crime film, and make a Pulp Fiction kind of confession. Who will not want a rickshaw ride with Bruce Lee from the Fist of Fury. Or we can try the Philippine kalesa from the historical film Jose Rizal, for a more nostalgic effect.

For accommodation, an independent film, may not be able to book us a first class hotel. But it can definitely remind us that there probably is “no place like home” just like the Cinemalaya 2005 Best Production Design winner, Ang Pagdadalaga ni Maximo Oliveros. And we can always lie down with Mother Earth, or even over a frozen body of water, like that star-watching scene from Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.

But for budget travelers like me, we can always experience luxury treatment, every once in a while, through movies. Biopics can always grant us a chance to sit on the royal throne from The King’s Speech. Political films may give us exclusive passes to the official Presidential residence like in White House Down. A movie adaptation, on the other hand, can guide us through the Hogwarts castle of Harry Potter.

After settling down in our choice of accommodation, it is now time to mingle with our destination.
Complimentary Gourmet Meals

Stomachs growling from the long journey? The national cinema can offer us the best food tripping experience, from gourmet cuisines to budget meals.

For the first course, we can have a Korean soup from Le Grand Chef. This appetizer also comes with a free historical discourse between Korea and Japan. Then we can try some Jiro Ono sushi to stimulate our palates and learn the culinary discipline from the full-length documentary about the first sushi chef to receive three Michelin stars.

For the main course, we can have satisfying Filipino dishes from the upcoming Cinemalaya 2016 entry Kusina by Cenon Obispo Palomares and David Corpuz. This film will feature how we Filipinos make our cooking special by using a secret ingredient called pagmamahal (love). For dessert, we can enjoy the enchanted sweets from a small French village in Chocolat.

After that, we can enjoy our to-go coffee, just like Holly from Breakfast at Tiffany’s while we search for some Hong Kong street food from Chungking Express. Then there is always the popular Filipino fertilized duck egg called balut which we can enjoy through Balut Country, an official entry to Sinag Maynila Film Festival 2015.

Exclusive Gig passes

Experiencing the culture of each destination is a must for every traveler. And every film is also somewhat a virtual recital of some of the famous and award-winning artists in the world.

The Star Wars saga will never be complete without the signature John Williams symphony. Hayao Miyazaki films will not feel as magical if not for the accompanying music of Joe Hisaishi. Polish music can also be appreciated through the movie The Pianist.

Films also feature actual artist performances, like that Madonna act on the 1985 film Vision Quest. Ang Nawawala (What Isn’t There), an official entry to the 2012 Cinemalaya Film Festival, is an on-screen gig of Philippine indie rock musicians like Pedicab, The Strangeness, Flying Ipis, Ang Bandang Shirley and Ebe Dancel.

We can also tag along a whole European tour of one of Japan’s most promising bands today, ONE OK ROCK, through their full-length documentary, Fool Cool Rock.

There are also art gigs from Frida, showcasing Mexican art to the world. Still Life, on the other hand, another entry to Cinemalaya 2007, is a showcase of Filipino talent.

Free Counselling

When we travel, specially when we are alone, we discover a lot of new things about ourselves, as much as about our destinations. Traveling acts as our own personal psychologists, healing us every time we go out together.

Films also offer free life counseling, especially if we can relate to the stories of the protagonists. Ordinary People, the 1981 Academy Best Picture, features one of the most healing conversations of all time.

The drama series Hannibal also gives us an interesting relationship between therapist and patient.


Indeed, films have that ability to take us to our next destination, be it magical or realistic.

So while saving up for my next trip, let me enjoy some more films first, and use my imagination to go anywhere I want.

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“So, Direk, what’s our next film?” At the Avenue of Stars, Hong Kong. Photo by Mai Calapardo.

FILM REVIEW: “The Legend Ends” on Nimotsu

“Executing all those superb moves was one thing. But making tears fall out of your eyes and portraying all those emotions while concentrating on the fight choreography was something that requires mastery of the craft.”

These are my thoughts on the performance of Japanese actor Takeru Sato on the last installment of the Rurouni Kenshin live action trilogy.

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With Director Otomo Keishi of the Rurouni Kenshin Live Action trilogy.

 

You can access the full review on my sister blog, Nimotsu Counter.