There are places I remember

Last Friday, I unexpectedly found myself going to SM Centerpoint. I intend to pay my bills, look for a nice blouse and make a relaxing walk, after a long week. My usual destination for this activity was SM Manila. But I found myself too lazy of making a long walk and I was likewise trying to avoid the possibility of walking in the flooded streets of the Manila City Hall.

If we went to the same school, you will understand why SM Centerpoint is a significant part of my life. I studied at the Polytechnic University of the Philippines and SM Centerpoint is about a 5-minute ride. Hence, the mall somehow became my second home during those times of long breaks. When I was in my second semester of my first  and senior year in college, we have a 4-hour vacant period.  During those times, I found myself with my other friends and classmates eating out at Mc Donalds and strolling at the mall.

My trip to SM Centerpoint was 3 years ago, when I had a meet up with my friend and OJT buddy, Gracie. I was attacked by my recurrent quarter life crisis, as my friend Tinee calls it. I was frustrated with a lot of things in life. I felt that I needed someone new to talk to. Gracie and I did not really walked around the mall,  but just made a lot of catching up stories while dining at Wendy’s Hamburgers.

I just mentioned Wendy’s Hamburgers, which brings a lot of memories to me. Back in college, I wanted to eat at Wendy’s. However, my daily allowance could not even afford the cheapest burger combo meal. Hence, I was forced to settle with McDonald’s cheeseburger meals. Now that I am working, I feel a piece of fulfillment whenever I am reminded of that little wish. It somehow leaves a smile on my face upon remembering it.

As I was walking inside the mall, I noticed a lot of shops that I used to go to were already gone. The only shops that I think remained were Papemelroti, Blue Magic, National Bookstore, Pink and Blue Soda, and Marithe Francois Girbaud. The rest were already replaced by other shops. While walking alone, the memories of my college life, friends and classmates suddenly recurred and flashed back to me. The shops,  dear friends and classmates were all gone.

The Heartstrings Kiosk where we usually stop by to check out their cute cloth bags was gone. The Gift Gate Shop that houses the Hello Kitties that we enjoy seeing and touching was gone. The Robee Stickers kiosk where I bought stickers of my favorite PBA teams was gone. The stationery section of the SM Department Store where we roamed around was already transferred and reorganized to another floor. But more importantly, the people whom I spent with those shops were likewise gone to pursue their own endeavors in life.

In going back to the mall, I may have more confidence in entering those shops because I know now that I could pay. I have cards! 😉 However, I never thought before that such confidence will be later on accompanied by the feeling of missing my college life, friends and classmates. Is this a trade-off? Is this the opportunity cost of the little financial uplift I have?

Cliché as it may sound but I suddenly realized of how simple and uncomplicated my life was. My problems that time were confined in passing the examinations, doing my assignments, submitting all projects on time, coming to school everyday, rushing to get home to watch a basketball game, saving pennies and counting them after a semester to buy myself a little reward.

Today, my life is overwhelmed with a lot of concerns. Office work, teaching preparations, students’ concerns, consultancy work, payment of bills, generating savings, maintaining a healthy diet, getting rest, enough sleep and I’m sure, a lot more to come. As I walk around the mall, I can’t help but see places as a starting point of what and where I am right now. These places reminded me that some time ago, I was constrained with my allowance. My cabinet was so big to fit my few clothes. I only have three pairs of shoes. I was limited to two pairs of  jeans. I lived with one shoulder bag and a back pack. I do not have my own computer. Come with that constraints in life, I started dreaming for myself. I started telling myself that someday I will come back to those shops as a different person. Someday, I will earn and I will make sure that I will be able to buy all the things I want.

Today, I could proudly say to myself that in one way or another, I am able to buy the things that I ambitioned. Today, my closet is getting smaller because of my clothes, I have more than three pairs of shoes, I have pants of different colors, I have bags of different sizes, and I don’t anymore bother my cousin and relatives to use their computers.

However, the fulfillment of some dreams also meant closure and leaving places and people.  These places and people whom I have once shared my dreams and ambitions in life were gone. They have been transported to different places, in order to pursue and explore other ventures in life. I don’t know if they share the same feelings and sentiments with me. But for now, all that’s left for me is to remember these places and realize that once in my life, I have passed on them…

The Expendables: Almost an expendable (My Movie Review)

I was very excited to see  The Expendables not because it is a star-studded action film, but because of Jet Li. Yours truly is an Asian who is a devoted fan of Jet Li. After The Mummy, I haven’t heard of any film from him. In fact, I have waited for this film for more than a year already.

Here it comes, was the movie worth the wait? Subjectively, I regretfully say it’s a no.

Weeks before the film was shown, I noticed that there were two posters released

In the first poster, Jet Li’s name appeared as the last.  His name even came after the word “and.”  When I shared this to my friend, she told me that it could manifest two contrasting things . Either he plays a big role in the movie or he will  just have a special participation in the movie. The latter was almost the answer.

In the second poster, his name came after Stallone and Statham. In their picture,  he was the first cast who was positioned in the left side of Stallone. Statham was on the other hand placed on Stallone’s right side. The second poster gave me an idea that perhaps the lead role of the movie goes to Stallone (obviously) and the “also starring” roles are shared by Li and Statham.

My first expectation transpired as the right outcome. Jet Li had a limited cameo appearance in the film.  The movie “S”tars only the actors with “S” in their family names,  Stallone and Statham.

In effect, I was disappointed over the film.  Apart from the minor appearances of Jet Li, his name in the film was “Yin Yang,” a very uncreative name to begin with. I know he’s Chinese and he fits to a Chinese name. I wish that they had done more research for the right Chinese name. Jet Li’s small  role was likewise too lousy. He was given one fight scene. But that single scene was literally and figuratively short. It was short, his shortness in height was emphasized and he was not able to gracefully finish the fight. It was Stallone who dramatically terminated Li’s  fight with Lundgren .  In one scene where Li and Stallone was chased by bullets and cars, Li was also not given a magnificent moment to overcome those bad guys. He was stuck gunning and shooting nothing at the back of a pick up truck,  that boasted the escape driving skills of Stallone.  Another scene that further underscore Li’s shortness is when he was asking for additional pay to Stallone for the mission. Li said in the movie that his height disadvantage makes tasks doubly hard  for him. Therfore he deserves a higher pay.  

This is I think the problem with star-studded or power house films. In reality, a movie highlights only a star. It never happened that everyone in the movie has equal cameo appearances and opportunities to showcase their best talent and skills.  We all know that there are only two big roles in a movie, the protagonist and the antagonist. The rest  would just occupy supporting roles that either complemented the protagonist and the antagonist. But of course, I do not disregard the idea that  there is no small role for any actor. A role is still a role.  In the case of this movie, the real protagonists were Stallone and Statham. The remaining big names Li, Couture, Austin, Crews, Rourke, and Lundgren occupied minor roles. I almost forgot, Willis and Schwarzenegger too.  Just a little humor consolation, I can’t forget the scene of  Stallone, Willis and Schwarzenegger. Stallone told Willis that the reason why Schwarzenegger does not want to accept the job is because Schwarzenegger wants to become the president.  Was that a half-meant joke?

It all boils down to the idea that there are always small and big roles in a movie. Not everyone can be the hero . Someone has to always occupy those sidekick roles. This is what happened to The Expendables or to Jet Li in particular. Li, Couture, Austin, Crews, Rourke, and Lundgren were big stars who landed to pick up those behind the heroes characters.

Another problem of the movie  is that the big stars were all compiled and squeezed in the side of the protagonist.  What if Stallone became the villain instead? Though I know this one is impossible because Stallone was the writer and director. But I think the villain’s costume more fits him.  A fight between Stallone and Statham would be much interesting.

You may or may not believe me. You might say that my evaluation of the film was already influenced by my subjective point of view. But objectively, I could say that the movie was just a typical Hollywood action film. There’s nothing more of it.

The film’s effects, setting and all those technical aspects were excellent. But story content and substance, it’s a disappointment. The movie’s plot was too plain and ordinary. There’s nothing highly interesting on the story.  The plot which evovled on the mission to overthrow a dictator was a perfect typecast. The plot became even became more disappointing when Stallone developed that cheesy love interest to Gisele Itie.   

Overall, I could say that the powerhouse casting of The Expendables became its sole selling point. The movie was almost an icing on the cake. The casting gave everyone an instant attraction. But content wise, nothing was really spectacular about the film. Apart from being an icing on the cake the movie also depicts the saying that you cannot have the best of both worlds. It’s very rare to find movies that hold a superb story and a great line up of actors.   The Expendables almost became an expendable, if not only of its powerhouse cast.

Something that brought me back to life…

It was a seminar day at work for me last Friday, August 6, 2010. When I say it’s a seminar day, I wasn’t the one who is comfortably sitting, listening, daydreaming and waiting for the free snacks and meals. I was rather one of the organizers of the seminar. Together with my lone officemate, we call ourselves as the slaves and runners. We ensure that everything needed by the speaker and participants are provided. The venue of the seminar is like two buildings away from our office. So, from time to time, we have to walk back and forth to the venue and the office.

It was one tiring day. After the seminar, we went back to the office carrying our seminar materials, laptop, excess handouts, evaluation instruments and other pertinent documents. After organizing my things, I logged in to my desktop computer to check out my yahoo, twitter and  Facebook . For some reasons, I can’t last a day without ever checking my accounts even through my mobile phone.

It’s very unusual for me but on that day, I failed to check one my accounts, my company/office webmail. Since it was a Friday,  I will not be able to check my office email for two days. I don’t usually check my office email on weekends. I view my office emails through Microsoft Outlook. This perhaps could explain why my inbox is always empty whenever I view my webmail through Internet Explorer. So even though, I am tempted to open my office email on a weekend, I can’t do so. Unless I would be bringing home my office desktop computer.  😉

After checking my Yahoo, Twitter, Facebook and WordPress, I decided to go home. Not until Abigail called me up and was asking if we could go home together. I said ok, but remembered that I need to drop by the mall to buy a gift for a relative, who is turning 60. Abigail had no choice but to join me.

I always look forward for Fridays, because it marks the end of workweek and it signals the beginning of my weekends. Apart from being a Friday, another reason why I was so happy that Friday is because I got a pay. I received my consultancy pay from an officemate whom I assisted in her thesis. Yahoo, two reasons to be happy!

The weekend came and my Sunday became the highlight. I was able to treat my family to our favorite, Mama Chits’ Burger.  Mama Chits’ burgers and nachos salad on a rainy Sunday afternoon, simply perfect!

Sunday night and tomorrow it would be Monday. It’s back to normal life again and I realized that I had a lot of papers to check. Monday morning to work,  I was late. Ok, what’s new? I logged in to my desktop computer, check my accounts and realized that I haven’t checked my office webmail account for three straight days. As I logged in my password, I saw a lot of mails coming in.

Yawning, yawning, yawning, while the mails are downloading. I saw one email from  “Mr. Something.” The subject said “Acceptance Letter.” Wait! Wait! Wait! I opened it and read that my research paper was accepted for presentation to an international conference! Is this true? I closed my MS Outlook and opened it again. (So weird and crazy of me!) It’s there! It’s true! I printed the email and showed it to my lone officemate. Words could never describe the happiness I felt that time. I admit that I never felt such happiness in the last few months or even years. Heaven! Thanks be to God!

I however realized that I should hold off to my heavenly status. I have a lot to prepare, the full paper, powerpoint and unending prayers. I just have one wish, not to look stupid on that day. I am representing my workplace and the country. Please don’t allow it Lord.  Opportunities like this don’t often come to rank and file employees like me. Please help me prepare and iron out things well before the presentation. Please, no hindrances and unnecessary impediments, Lord.

The great news even gave me a teary-eyed moment. I texted my nanay (mother) to inform her of what I just received. My nanay just recently learned to master the task ot “texting.” Just seconds after, she replied and congratulated me. It was the first time I received a congratulatory remark from my nanay. I know she is silently proud of me, but to directly read and feel it, it’s different. Mothers are flattered and overwhelmed by the achievements of their children. Children likewise share the same feeling whenever they are verbally appreciated by their parents. In my case, since I am not a natural born achiever, these few instances become pieces of memorable moments for me. As Cecelia Ahern said in her novel, There’s No Place Like Here, life is not filled with perfect little moments, if they were they would no longer be considered as perfect little moments. 

After receiving this great opportunity, I realized the wonders of  God’s plan for me.  I have my own share of agonies. Only God and my close friends knew this.  I have my own share of crying moments on the last quarter of 2009 up to this year. Perhaps, this is God’s rebound to me. He may have closed other doors and subjected me to a lot of trials recently. If this is it, I thank Him not just for the opportunity but for bringing me back to life.