Saturday, July 29, 2017

How Can Stella Get Her Groove Back?

July 29, 2017

We were watching Crying Ladies, and I couldn't help but think of the times in my life when it seemed that everything was going wrong. With all the things I've been through, it is quite a subtle understatement.

Yet, I also feel grateful beyond words that those days are over, and that I have survived and even emerged as a better person.

I like the Stella, the lead character, primarily because I love Sharon Cuneta. She really is a good person who had just fallen on hard times.

But there is more to a person that his or her circumstances. She loves her son more than than anything else, and I've known few things more painful that having your child taken away.

Her greatest dream is to go to Japan as a singer, make enough money and get her son back from her ex-husband Guido (Ricky Davao).

The problem is that she kept getting passed over at auditions.

And so, she has to be creative to make ends meet.

She has a clever way to save money on transportation. She would tell the jeepney driver to take her to a particular destination which is on a different route. The driver would then tell her that she got the wrong ride.

And so, she'll get off, presumably to find the right one, but she would already be where she meant to go.

She can even get a free ride on a bus. Once, she passed a group of people staging a rally The bus came and she got in, giving the same speech that the protest leaders were saying, blessing the kind support of the passengers as she collected the money.

Then one day, she met a young man named Wilson (Eric Quizon) who offered her a job. Wilson was arranging for a traditional Chinese funeral for his father. There should be people who cry and wail loudly to show the gods that the deceased was a good man.

Stella got her friends Choleng (Angel Aquino) and Rhoda (Hilda Koronel), a former movie actress whose greatest role is as a woman crushed to death in "Darna and The Giants" starring Vilma Santos.

All Stella and her cohorts have to do is to lament like crazy in a campy show of grief. But of course, it's not easy to shed tears, so Rhoda gave them the secret of movies tars: Vick's VapoRub.

Then Stella finds out who she has to cry for – the same man who had sent her to prison and destroyed her life.

Crying Ladies
A Film By Mark Meily

Photo courtesy of

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

My Top 7 OPM Songs In English From The 80s

Wednesday Songs
July 26, 2017

Of the many songs from my beloved Michael Jackson that I love, there is one that is really special to me...

"...We've been together
for such a long time,
the music, music and me..."

I love so many songs that I have to organize them in my mind in different ways. I can use, say, genre, so I have ballads ("Is It Okay If I Call You Mine" by Paul McCrane), jazz ("Sweet Baby" by Stanley Clark and George Duke), folk ("Scarborough Fair" by Simon and Garfunkel), rock ("Stairway To Heaven" by Led Zeppelin), country ("Summer Breeze" by Seals and Crofts) and a lot more in between and beyond.

I also have a group of pop with a fast beat, like the kind of music played in the smart but sadly gone 103.5 K-Lite: "Believe It Or Not" by Joey Scarbury, "Trapped In A Stairway" by Paul Jabarra, "Steal Away" by Bobby Dupree, "What You Won't Do For Love" by Go West, "She's Playing Hard To Get" by High-Five, "Whenever I Call You Friend" By Kenny Loggins and Stevie Nicks, "What A Fool Believes" and "Sweet Freedom" by Michael McDonald and The Doobie Brothers, to name just some.

And of course, there's OPM.

OPM stands for "Original Pilipino Music," coined in the '80s before they changed "Pilipino" to "Filipino." A group of artists banded together after the Edsa Revolution in 1986, calling themselves Organisasyon ng mga Pilipinong Mang-aawit (OPM, get it?), ushering in a new golden age in music.

One of the things I love about being born in the Philippines in my current lifetime is OPM. I may have done that on purpose because the circumstances of our lives come from our intentions, some of which we have made even before we were born, but let's not complicate things.

The soundtrack of my life features a lot of OPM songs, from the English "Lead Me Lord" by Basil Valdez, to the Tagalog "May Bukas Pa" by Rico J. Puno, and much, much more. And that's just from individual male artists.

I also have a group of Tagalog songs from the 90's also from solo male artists that I'll carry for the rest of my life, but that's for another episode.

And I haven't even mentioned the bands: "Ulan" by Afterimage, "If" by Rivermaya, "Minsan" by Eraserheads and "Sa Puso Ko" by True Faith. I’ll just mention four because I could go on and on until Octoberfest.

The Dawn, like The Beatles, is in a category unto itself. "Enveloped Ideas" just blows me away everytime.

In my blog 2Rivers, I had posted my favorite songs from various artists as a statement of my own unique personality, and also because I have nothing else to post. And it has evolved, just like everything else in my life, that I now only feature OPM.

This week it is going to be "My Top 7 OPM Songs In English From The 80s."

I began with five, with the usual suspects, like songs from the motion picture soundtracks of "Hotshots" and "Bagets." Then I had to make it six because of Martin Nievera (spoiler alert!) and it became seven with a Christmas song that's ... perfect. 

Constant Change
Jose Mari Chan

Reaching Out
Gary Valenciano

So It's You
Raymond Lauchengco

Friend of Mine
Odette Quesada

Gotta Look For It
Martin Nievera

A Special Memory
Iwi Laurel

A Perfect Christmas
Jose Mari Chan

You can search around the world for someone more corny than me, and you won't find one, yet you also won't see a lot of people who are being authentic and enjoying life, following their bliss and marching to the beat of their own drums.

This is who I am – and I love it.

Photo courtesy of

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Chicken Adobo For The Soul

Saturday Stories
July 22. 2017

It is beautiful how some people stay in our lives even while we go our own individual journeys.

There will always be those who will leave, but as sure as God made apples, new people will come – and new chapters will begin.

I've been thinking these thoughts when,  by coincidence,  the same themes began to appear as we watched Laurice Guillen’s American Adobo,  a bittersweet story about Filipinos in the United States.

I like American Adobo as much as I love chicken and pork adobo, and that's saying a lot.

We watched it primarily because of Christopher De Leon, one of my favorite Philippine actors, right up there with Aga Muhlach, Eddie Garcia and Rogelio De La Rosa.

I happily saw that the film is more than I expected. It's not because of all-star cast – Christopher De Leon, Dina Bonnevie, Ricky Davao, Cherry Pie Picache, Sandy Andolong, Paolo Montalban and Gloria Romero, with American actors Randy Becker, Keesha Sharp and Wayne Maugans  – but because of the characters they gave life to.

I've known how some of them have felt at various times in my life, like being alone in a new place, being lied to by someone you trust, not wanting other people to know that a relationship has ended.

In my youth, 95 percent of my body weight was pure hormones, and I was a bit like one of the characters who just want to have sex all the time. (Now it's only about 85 but that's a different story).

I am deliberately not saying their names because the revelations are part of the arcs and the narrative.

The Christmas of their most eventful year would be the most unforgettable for all them.

One is going back to the Philippines after telling them that the marriage which they thought was pefect is actually on the rocks.

Another one has finally found the courage to open a secret that has been hidden for a lifetime.

But, one of them has found a revelation that was devastating to tell anyone.

I'm reminded so much of Rent, one of my favorite Hollywood movies. Both films depict HIV-AIDS without sanctimony and condemnation.

At the end of the day, somebody with HIV-AIDS, regardless of how he or she got it, is still a human being who deserves a chance to live.

American Adobo

Photo courtesy of

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

The Magic of Jose Mari Chan

Wednesday Songs
July 19, 2017

I honestly don't know where to begin a story about Jose Mari Chan. My all-time favorite OPM song of all time is "Constant Change." My favorite Christmas song of all time is "A Perfect Christmas." My favorite remake of all time is his "Perhaps Love"

I will never forget the time I was singing "Thank You, Love" to someone whom I had once loved more than life itself. I chose Christmas In Our Hearts when somebody once asked me to name an album I'd want to have if I'm stranded on an island. The other item on my list: the Avengers' Quinjet so I can go back home.

My personal soundtrack has featured "Tell Me Your Name" and "Can We Just Stop and Talk Awhile" at different times in my life.  Even my LSS (last song syndrome) right now is from Jose Mari Chan – "The Sound Of Life"

"Can you hear the laughter,
can you hear the music,
sing with your heart,
it's the song of life!
Can you hear it, can you feel it,
it's the magic in your heart,
it's the music, the sound of life...!"

I just watched an interview with Jo Mari Chan at BizNews with Tony Lopez. He was very articulate and charming and spontaneous and natural.

I first heard him in a interview in the DzMM show Music and Memories with Boots Anson and Willie Nepomuceno some years back. I was, and still am, very impressed. It is so obvious that there is a decent man and a beautiful soul behind the musical genius.

Jo Mari Chan vividly remembers his very first public performance. One of the most popular shows back then was "Children Hour," a radio program where kids can act or read poems.

He went there and sang "Granada." The audience was stunned and impressed – and he was only nine years old.

When he turned thirteen, he was already a pro in the big leagues. Jo Mari was the host of his own radio show, Junior Morning Chipper, or JMC (as in Jose Mari Chan) for short.

His natural sense of music began to fully develop during his high school years at St. Clement's in Iloilo. The teachers were Irish priests who introduced him to John Keats and Percy Byshe Shelley and some of the other great masters of poetry. 

“It was there where I got into dramatics and learned to speak English well," he says in an interview with Elizabeth Lolarga which I stumbled upon online. "The teachers helped give me an ear for rhyme and meter. I’ve always been a melody man.”

His teen years were during the colorful hippie and psychedelic era, but Jo Mari remained wholesome and squeaky clean, the type of boy that any girl would want her parents to meet.

With a career in music on his horizon, yet with an uncanny entrepreneurial brilliance he inherited from his father whom he idolized, Jo Mari graduated from the Ateneo De Manila University with a degree in Economics.

Jo Mari had also already conquered television during that time. He was one the hosts of the popular "9 Teeners" along with Ces Onrubia, Roman Azanza, Tito Osias and Johnny Salientes.

He shared his first original compositions on TV which led him to independent producers who helped create the 45-rpm record of "Afterglow" which made him a growing national sensation.

The young and superbly talented chinito looker was just irresistible with his effortless charm and the smooth velvety voice. The giant Dyna record label came to him and produced his first 12-song LP of his own compositions.

The first single is “Deep in My Heart" – and a star is born.

Jose Mari Chan's made musical history over and over again in his charmed career and magical music. The two biggest selling Philippine album of all time is his Constant Change and Christmas In Our Hearts, each full of songs that have become part of the lives of millions including mine.

The music of Jo Mari Chan is the soundtrack of all generations. His "Beautiful Girl" is such a monster hit that it became a movie with Gretchen Barretto, Romnick Sarmenta and Raul Zaragosa in 1990, directed by Laurice Guillen and also featuring another of his classic, "Can We Start Over Again."

His "Please Be Careful With My Heart," a timeless duet with Regine Velasquez that is now the wedding anthem of so many happily married couples, has inspired the successful 2012 TV series "Be Careful With My Heart" with Jodi Sta. Maria and Richard Yap on ABS-CBN

The most anticipated scene is the wedding of "Maya" and "Sir Chief." The surprise guest is none other than the living legend himself. Jo Mari serenaded the audience and the millions of viewers, making everybody fall in love all over again.

This year, 2017, the music of Jose Mari Chan has once again has inspired another hit ABS-CBN series, "A Love To Last," with Ian Veneracion and Bea Alonzo, that has become a television phenomenon, setting a new record in prime time.

His other classics have also been sung by Ian and Bea on the show, such as "Refrain" and "Afraid For Love To Fade" and of course, the title track, which have all became big radio hits.

The title was inspired by his "A Love To Last A Lifetime," which he has written for his beloved wife Mary Ann. They were married in 1970 and still going even stronger as the years passed, proving that "Forever" is real.

They have five children, all successful in their own fields. His daughter Liza is the little girl singing "Let's sing Merry Christmas and a Happy Holiday..." in their timeless duet "Christmas In Our Hearts."

When Lisa grew up, she again gave her beautiful voice to another duet with her legendary father their own version of "Perhaps Love." As much as I love John Denver, what they created is one   of preciously rare gems that is even more beautiful than the original.

The music of Jose Mari Chan is just world class. He has performed around the world, even at the Carnegie Hall. The Grammy winning jazz group Manhattan Transfer produced the album "The Manhattan Connection" featuring his songs.

This humble piece is only a small glimpse of his unequaled achievements and his rightful place in in history. I can go and go on saying how much Jose Mari Chan means to me, but he already sang what I want to say to him:

"Thank you for the smile
that never fails to brighten my day,
for the tender look when you gaze at me with eyes that warm my heart,
for the music of your laughter,
touch that makes my pulse go faster,
thanks for all the memories of a lifetime..."

Photo courtesy of

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Once Upon A Time In Manila

Saturday Stories
July 15, 2017


"She came to me. She said, 'Anna,' just like that. I said 'Why?' 'How are you?' I said, 'Fine.' But what I was thinking, what I really wanted to say was, 'Mother, your breasts are sagging now. Your face is already wrinkled. I bet your lover is not fucking you anymore.' She tried to give me money. I refused. I showed her my bag. 'Look,' I told her,' I have a lot.' Then I tried to give her some, but she also refused. 'We both have a lot of money,' she said. Then she cried. Me, I never did. I don't want to cry. I don't want her to see me cry."

I couldn't pinpoint any predominant emotion among the mix in me when I watched Mel Chionglo's Lagarista again recently. Lagarista is about a young man named Gregory (Piolo Pascual) who lives in the same house where I used to, a mansion built during the Spanish era in the 18th century in Quiapo at the heart of Manila. Gregory's work is taking film reels to different movie theaters. This was in the nineties when films are still projected.

Gregory's girlfriend Anna (Janna Victoria) reminds of me of my own girlfriend during that time who also worked in a bar. His grandfather Paking (Koko Trinidad) reminds me so much of my late foster father. The scene where grandpa Paking dies as he walks towards the screen is so heartbreaking to me in a very personal way.

Gregory's closest friends are Jimmy (Pen Medina), a projectionist who wants to believe that her wife loves him; and Osang (Cherry Pie Picache), a waitress who wants to believe that her lover will still return.

I can relate to that. Most of my friends are older than me because I've always felt drawn to them. Most of them are gone now, and I feel it's a great privilege to have become a part of their lives.

I remember Bulaklak, the Chinese diner where Osang works. I remember Times, the iconic movie theater where Gregory would deliver the reels, locking his bike on the accordion gate.

If you're standing at the entrance, you will see Quiapo Church across the road, with all those vendors selling herbs at the sidewalk. On your left is a small street with a police station and the Bahay Nakpil Museum. On your right, you will see the footbridge that leads to Raon, the street famous for electronic equipments and musical instruments where Anna buys karaoke CDs of Japanese songs for her customers.

I've written a story set in the same place during that time. It was a sort of stream of consciousness meta-noir about a teenage boy who was struggling with existential angst because he had seen too much of the dark side of humanity.

I used a typewriter and sent the manuscript to the Philippine Free Press via postal mail. Then a few days later, bam! The iconic magazine announced its closure. I won't be able to recreate it even if I wanted to, and I don't want to. There are many things I've said there that I don't want to say again.

I'm not even sure how I feel as I write this. I'll always cherish that chapter in my life, with all its parallels with the movie, but I have moved on a long time ago. It was my coming of age and the end of an era. I remember the story, but I don't remember the feeling anymore.

Photo courtesy of

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

The Best of Asin

Wednesday Songs
July 12, 2017

Related image

Himig Ng Pag-Ibig

Masdan Mo Ang Kapaligiran

Ang Bayan Kong Sinilangan




Itanong Mo Sa Mga Bata 

Gising Na, Kaibigan


Anak Ng Sultan 



At Tayo'y Dahon

Mga Limot na Bayani

Ang Tanong


Para Kay Agnes


Sa Malayong Silangan  

Bato Bato Sa Langit

Lakbay Diwa

Damdaming Nakabitin

Orasyon (Mano Po)

Ili-Ili Tulog Anay 


Ikaw, Kayo, Tayo


Ang Mahalaga

Aves De Rapiña


Kahapon At Pag-Ibig 

ASIN Greatest Hits Collection

Photo courtesy of

Saturday, July 08, 2017

The Healing

Saturday Stories
July 8, 2017

Bildergebnis für the healing vilma poster

It was a miracle. They were all healed even after the doctors had given up. They had asked their friend Seth (Vilma Santos) to take them to the faith healer Elsa (Daria Ramirez) and now they have their lives back.

Alma (Pokwang) had gangrene, Chona (Ces Quesada) had goiter, Greta (Ynez Veneracion) had a lump on her breast, Ding (Chris Villanueva) had a rare skin disease - and they have all completely disappeared.

Cita (Janice De Belen) had taken her daughter Cacai (Abby Bautista) who was blind. One morning, as she came home, she saw Cacai reading aloud her father's letters, and as she realized that her beloved daughter can finally see, and she just broke down and cried.

Seth's son Jed (Martin Del Rosario) begged her to take his half-sister Cookie (Kim Chiu) who was dying of a rare kidney disease. Val (Mark Gil), Cookie's father and Seth's ex -husband, was furious when he found out. He threatened Seth should anything happen to his daughter.

But something did happen. As he arrived at the hospital, he was greeted with the inexplicable news of her spontaneous recovery. Even the doctors were dumbfounded.

But the miracles come with a price.

Seth and her friends held a thanksgiving dinner, a double celebration because it was also Ding's wedding. They were puzzled why Chona didn't come. Later, they went to her house, and they were shocked when they saw her gruesome end.

At the funeral, they discovered an even more frightening revelation: those that were healed have began to suffer nightmares about a black crow. They saw it as a omen of death, but Greta's husband Ruben (Allan Paule) was teasing them about mass hysteria, not knowing the fate that awaited him.

In desperation, Seth came to Elsa as events began to spiral out of control - but the healer had been murdered.

Her assistant, Melchor (Joel Torre) had warned them that Elsa could not conduct healings anymore. Now, he told them the reason. There is only one they can do, only one thing can stop all this.

It all began when when Seth's father Odong (Robert Arevalo) had achieved a spectacular regeneration from a massive stroke that had left him semi-comatose. Elsa's amazing healing even made him regain his youth. Suddenly, he was like a teenager again, even going to a cosplay party in full costume.

Seth asked him if he ever had nightmares after the healing. "Last night," he said thoughtfully, in a rare moment of seriousness, "I had a wet dream."

Photo courtesy of

Wednesday, July 05, 2017

The Best of Joey Ayala

Wednesday Songs
July 5, 2017


Walang Hanggang Paalam 

Wala Nang Tao Sa Sta. Filomena

Karaniwang Tao

with Bayang Barrios



Manong Pawikan

Buwan, Buwan




Saan Ka Patungo Panganay Ko 

Awit Ng Mandaragat

Photo courtesy of

Saturday, July 01, 2017

The Beautiful Mind of Malang Santos

Saturday Stories 
July 1, 2017

I first knew about the great artist Mauro "Malang" Santos from the Bear Brand print commercials. The more I learned about Malang, the more I admire him.

Malang's art is distinctive for that spirit of optimism, that indestructible sense of hope, even in everyday scenes like street vendors and humble houses.

A newspaper poll in 2000 ranked him in the top three of the most popular contemporary Filipino painters of all time along with Fernando Amorsolo and Vicente Manansala.

His began to study art when he was only ten years old. As a young man, he sent himself through school by working for the Chronicle as an illustrator, cartoonist and lay-out designer. Malang is the first Filipino cartoonist in English and the first to have his comic strips published in American magazines, like his "Kosme the Cop" and "Chain Gang Charlie."

He also created magazine covers and advertising designs before he devoted his full time to painting. He made his first solo exhibit in 1962 at the Philippine Art Gallery.

Malang was intuitive. He will only sign his name once he felt that the work was right. "His devotion to his art was legendary," says Giselle P. Kasilag in BusinessWorld. "All of us have heard him say time and time again that art is like a mistress. 'Pag hindi mo pinansin, iwanan ka niyan!' And he painted every day – even when he didn’t feel like it."

His grasp of the inherently optimistic Filipino spirit also got the attention of the artist and art patron Fernando Zobel De Ayala who asked him to create the mural of the FGU-Insular Life Building. Malang's oil-on-canvas creation, Barrio Fiesta, is now one greatest art masterpieces in the country.

He knew the joy of living and seeing the good side of everything. The genius can be seen from his "surprising narrative skill distilled in a few frames and his witty and humorous sensibility," writes Cid Reyes in Philippine Daily Inquirer, "all these indicative of a sharp and perceptive observation of the Filipino psyche."

Malang is the co-founder of Bituin Komiks and the comic gallery Bughouse. He launched the Art for the Masses project in 1966 to bring art and printmaking to those who cannot afford it. Malang and National Artist Vicente Manansala opened the first art gallery in Makati in 1965: the Gallery Seven.

He was named as one of the Ten Outstanding Young Men of 1963 by the Jaycees. The Society of Philippine Illustrators and Cartoonists hailed him as the 1964 Artist of the Year. The City of Manila bestowed on him in 1981 the prestigious Patnubay ng Sining at Kalinangan Award for his achievements.

Malang's masterpieces is "a celebration of Philippine customs and rituals, observed with sympathy and insight," declares National Artist Arturo Luz. "It is a personal vision not only of a gifted artist, but of an active participant and observer sensitive to the color, texture and temper of a city he has learned to love and paint."

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