Movie Review: Words on Bathroom Walls

This unassuming Netflix film is a must watch. I was not wrong to add it to My List for future watching when I saw it.

Synopsis

The film is about a high school kid – Adam Petrazelli – who dreams of going to culinary school after graduation and becoming a chef of his own restaurant. He’s a pretty talented cook also. Yet he has an illness.

Adam was diagnosed with schizophrenia after an episode at school that put his friend in danger. This led to him being bullied and eventually transferring school middle of Senior Year.

He was accepted to Catholic school on the condition that he continues with his treatments, maintains good grades and doesn’t pose a threat to the student body. In exchange, the school kept silent about his condition.

Adam eventually adapted to his school and met a lovely smart girl – Maya Arnez – who tutored him to get his grades up. Eventually they fell for each other but without Maya knowing the real deal with Adam.

Adam was getting better from his medications, however, it had side effects. He was losing his ability to cook due to muscle spasms and loss of taste. This made him skip his medications causing his hallucinations to return. Eventually, he had an episode at school causing the school to suspend – and eventually – expel him.

His last episode was so severe that his parents decided to admit him to a mental institution where he eventually lost hope of getting well. However, a conversation with the school’s priest and the revelation that his stepfather was actually looking out for him, made him decide to regain control of his life.

He eventually graduated, made up with Maya and got into culinary school.

The last scene of the movie showed him holding his baby brother, surrounded by his family and Maya and still hearing the dark whispers of his hallucination. But at this point, he had accepted the love of his family and was able to battle his inner demons.

Reaction

I have been a fan of similar works exploring the theme of mental illnesses like schizophrenia. A Beautiful Mind has always been a personal favorite. It’s the 2001 movie starring Russel Crowe and based on the life of mathematician & Nobel Laureate John Nash. He has battled schizophrenia despite his brilliant mind and the movie showed his struggles to cope with the disease. Another favorite is Tell Me Your Dreams, a novel by Sydney Sheldon showing Dissociative Identity Disorder or commonly known as split personality.

I’ve always been fascinated by how our minds work – and how it can go off balance and lead to this mental illnesses. But in the past, I felt like the illnesses were objectified in this literary works. I like them and I think they were brilliant but I just didn’t see how it connects to the real issues our society faces with these mental patients.

Watching Words on Bathroom Walls showed me how real the struggle of mental patients are when it comes to acceptance by the society and provision for a cure for their ailment.

Adam’s rhetorical question during one part of his psychiatric treatments really resonated with me. He asked why people are so eager to help kids with terminal illnesses like cancer often granting them their death wishes. But when it comes to kids with mental illnesses, people are quick to look for someone else to make it their problem. As a result, too many are forced to go to the streets because they are plagued with the voices in their heads and find no acceptance in society.

The movie also showed me how important it is for schizophrenics to acknowledge the love of the people around them. Which means the people around them must never give up hope that they will eventually get better. No matter how difficult the situation becomes, the support system must always be there.

Mental patients may not complete get better. Medical cure may or may not be effective. But they can certainly learn how to cope with the disease.

The film got me thinking about all the mentally ill people I see on the streets. Or those who are in mental institutions that are too preoccupied to even provide real treatment. I felt sorry that majority of them may never really get better. As a society, we have not evolved in our understanding and empathy towards mentally ill patients.

We know how to sympathize with terminally ill patients or handicapped individuals but when it comes to mentally ill patients – those with depression, schizophrenia, bipolar, etc – we are often quick to judge and condemn. We forget that their mental challenges need a loving and caring environment to heal. Our judgment can often be the trigger for them to commit something worse (aka suicide).

We still have a long way to go. But seeing films like this, where the real struggles of ordinary mental patients are tackled gives me hope. The film is tagged as a romantic drama film – it’s the love angle they are emphasizing even in the posters. But beyond that, the producers, directors and screenwriters made a great film exposing the reality behind mentally ill patients – and the kind of environment they need to thrive in our society.

I hope that this will raise awareness about the kind of society mentally ill people need and will make us become a loving and more inclusive society.

My Thoughts on Seaspiracy – and Sustainable Eating

There’s a new controversial documentary in Netflix – Seaspiracy. I am familiar with our planet’s dwindling resources thanks to human’s own faults but it was a one-sided familiarity with only land’s woes. I was at a lost at sea.

Watching Seaspiracy opened my eyes to new knowledge such as bycatch, trawl fishing and wild fish farming.

Bycatch happens when untargeted species such as turtles, dolphins, sharks and whales are caught up in fishing nets and then discarded back to the sea – often dead. This is largely due to trawl fishing which is simply putting down a big net to the ocean that it can swallow even a whole cathedral. The net is dragged for many miles across the ocean floor gulping up everything in its path and leaving a flattened ocean. You can imagine the marine habitat destroyed – corals washed out – and the number of fishes big and small engulfed.

Fish farming may have been a solution – where instead of catching wild fish, they are harvested instead. But these farmed fish are fed wild fish feed (hence the need to catch more wild fish) and live in very bad farm conditions leading to lice infestations and many other fish problems.

The film went even further to tackle the problems of forced labor in Thailand and the conspiracy of sustainable labels where enforcers and reviewers can be bribed at sea – or shot dead.

Commercial fishing was a multi-billion dollar industry and it’s so interconnected – no one can stop it.

I was appalled at how destructive commercial fishing is and how some cultures are blatantly ignoring the real ecological impacts of their ignorant traditions.

After watching the film, I resonated strongly with the filmmakers conclusion – stop eating fish.

But as I slept it over and had more time to think it through – would this conclusion be the solution?

Watching countless films on how destructive farming has become or cattle raising / pig raising / chicken raising / etc. are – I never really had the incessant desire to shift to veganism. I still loved meat.

But watching how the problem at sea is way, way larger than the problem at land – and how no one seems to be addressing it properly – made me desire to boycott any- and all form – of seafood.

But I love eating fish. It’s abundant in my country. So what do I do?

Reading the review article by Greenpeace resonated with the solution I’ve come to realized on my own.

Stop eating fish is not the solution – especially for a coastal country like the Philippines where a lot of local fishermen depend on the seas for their living. In a country with a lot of other food options, and where fish is not naturally abundant, then yes – stop eating fish is a solution. But for us where fish is a major source of livelihood and where it’s abundant, then this is not the solution.

The film said there is no true sustainable fishing. Base on his research – I tend to agree that those organizations he encountered sounded fishy and reek of capitalism. Ever since sustainability has become a catch phrase, it appears that there are organizations who exploit it for their own personal gains. Various forms of sustainability certifications are awarded to various companies but did we ever researched how these certifying bodies define sustainability. And have we ever thought if true sustainability can really happen in large scale massive operations? Not to mention majority of sustainability certifications are paid for – essentially bought – by the companies seeking to be certified.

Here in the tropics, where people have fished for centuries, I believe true sustainable fishing exists. And we don’t need certifications to prove it.

Sustainable fishing simply means getting enough fish that you can consume and letting the fish have time to breed and recuperate. It’s about employing non destructive means of catching fish. For me who doesn’t live in a coastal town, it simply means buying from my local fishermen who knows what they are doing.

My conclusion: Small-scale fishing is the solution to the ocean problem we now face. Local fishermen – who can only fish within their coastal communities using non-destructive modes of fishing should be the ones only allowed to fish. That means that some variety of fish will not be available to some part of the world where the fish is not endemically found. (Goodbye salmon! Hello galunggong!) As consumers, we should be OK with that. We should learn to consume only those fish that are abundantly available at our locality.

As for large-scale, commercial fishing – while I want a total ban, we can’t really impose it but we can impose stricter measures. We should limit ocean grounds for fishing and limit the number of operating fishing boats. We should have better transparency to what happens at seas and government policies that really have teeth. By limiting large-scale, commercial fishing – there will be limited supply of these non-endemic fish which would lead to higher prices for them and encourage more people to support local endemic fish.

This is just like how I view eating meat. I am not against eating pork or chicken. But I would eat those that have been raised by backyard farms and raised without cruelty or artificial means.

It’s the widespread commercialization of fishing, farming and agriculture that has caused all these problems. If we will only retreat to just eating what is available to us – what has been sustainably harvested (and by sustainably meaning we know exactly where it was caught / bred / raised) then we will have a world which can recuperate on its own.

As citizens, we have the power to change the way our seas are governed. A recent house bill is advocating to allow small and medium commercial fishing vessels to fish within the 10-15 km fishing zone within municipal waters. This means that they will be in direct competition with small-scale fisherfolk who stands to lose their livelihoods as they cannot compete with the machineries of this fishing boats. Further, this would mean overfishing since the already limited supply of fish in our municipal waters would still be harvested by these commercial vessels.

We can help stop this now. Join by signing the petition here calling for Congress to junk this proposal. The more people lobby against it, the better chances that our representatives will hear our call. After all, we elected them to watch out and hear our interests.

While we cannot stop eating fish, we can be more mindful of where they come from. Refuse to eat the fish you know has been imported – ask your local wet market suki (vendor) where they fish they sell came from. If it’s not within the Philippines, refuse to buy it. When buying canned fish like tuna and sardines, research the company who is producing it. Check where and how they caught those fish. By becoming mindful consumers, we are sending a word to the large commercial fishing vessels that we won’t blindly consume fish which has potentially – and most probably – damaged our environment.

Spread the awareness. The more people who know about the plight of the ocean, the more can be engaged to take action. Don’t just watch documentaries and then leave it at that. Be moved to take action. It doesn’t have to be extreme or massive. It can start small scale and within your capabilities. Collectively, these small steps will accumulate towards the greater good.

We only have one planet to live on. It’s about time we seriously take care of it.

John 10:14-18

John 10_14-18

I am the good shepherd; I know my own sheep, and they know me, just as my Father knows me and I know the Father. So I sacrifice my life for the sheep.

John 10:14-15

“I am your shepherd. Few people in your society know what that really means; you aren’t familiar with the life of a shepherd. But I want you to know that I sleep where you sleep. I lead you – even drive you – where you need to go. Unless you willfully reject Me, I make sure you don’t stray too far from the path, though I let you wander freely within My pastures. When you get stuck in a ditch, I pull you out. When you fall into a ravine, I rescue you and heal your wounds. Without Me, you would wander aimlessly, scrounging for food wherever you happened upon it, and be vulnerable to predators all around you. You wouldn’t survive. I spend My days and nights with you because it is My responsibility to care for you. You can’t take care of yourself. You need Me. 

I like that arrangement. I enjoy shepherding. I develop a relationship with My sheep and teach you to recognize My voice above all others. You don’t know the significance of all the placed I take you or even why I take you there, but you can trust Me to guide you well. I may correct your course but I don’t punish you harshly. You’re sheep, after all. If you understood – if you saw the landscape as I do – you would never stray. But you don’t, and you can’t – not from your perspective. I know your weaknesses and am patient with you, much more patient than you are with yourself. 

You need to understand that sheep don’t worry about the future, obsess about their mistakes, or strategize their lives. And if you knew the heart of this Shepherd, you wouldn’t either. Sheep follow. That’s all I’m asking you to do.”

 

Jesus I know I can trust my Shepherd. You’ve proven that You will go to extremes to care for me. Help me to follow you well.

-Source: One Year Experiencing God Devotional by Chris Teagreen

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Psalm 34:18

Psalm 34_18

The Lord is close to the brokenhearted. He rescues those whose spirits are crushed.

Psalm 34:18

Sometimes when we look at God through the lends of our circumstances, He doesn’t look very good. That’s because our circumstances lie to us. They portray a careless God or an indifferent God or even a brutally painful God. If He is sovereign, we tell ourselves, He could have prevented the crisis or chaos we’re going through. And yet He hasn’t. Therefore… and we fill out the rest of the sentence with an indictment against His good intentions.

Never in Scripture does God define Himself by the hardships of His people. In fact, the hardships often set up a demonstration of His goodness. It takes a sickness to reveal a Healer, a captivity to reveal a Deliverer, or a war to reveal a Warrior. Our need creates an occasion for Him to show who He is. So when we are hurting, it isn’t a sign of His disfavor. It may actually be a sign of His desire to meet us at a point of need.

Whatever is going on in your heart or in your life right now, it isn’t a sign of God’s displeasure or unconcern. It isn’t hidden from Him, and it doesn’t drive Him away. In fact, He is drawn to you in your times of need. Brokenheartedness and desperation are magnets for His attention. The key is lifting heartbreak and desperation up to Him as an offering, a gift of opportunity for Him to use. His love and compassion cannot refuse a heart that needs Him and knows it. 

Tell God that you need His comfort. Acknowledge your discouragement and despair. Invite Him into your painful places. Know that He wants to you meet you there.

Source: The One Year Experiencing God’s Presence Devotional by Chris Tiegreen

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Psalm 34:10

Psalm 34_10

Even the strong lions sometimes go hungry, but those who trust in the Lord will lack no good thing.

Psalm 34:10

Our God is a God of abundance. He experiences no shortages. There are instances in Scripture when He lacked something for a time, like in Isaiah when He looked for someone to intercede and saw no one, or when Jesus did only a few miracles in Nazareth because He found little faith among the people. But even when human responses are lacking, He still finds a way to accomplish His purposes. He can multiply bread to feed thousands, turn water into wine when normal supplies run out, and raise up laborers to go into the harvest. His only limits are the boundaries of His own character. Within His nature, all things are possible.

Why, then, do His people experience lack? If He is the God of abundance, why do we sometimes have trouble paying the bills? One reason may be that we can know Him as Provider only if we have needs that require His provision. We have to experience lack and depend on Him in order to see Him come through for us. Even so, there are delays in His provisions that we sometimes don’t understand and limits on what we can do because our supplies are short. Most of us don’t have unlimited income; our resources are a factor in determining our options. We see lack everyday. 

But that’s from our perspective, where we measure lack in terms of all our biggest desires. Whatever dream isn’t being fulfilled at the moment causes us to feel like we’re lacking in that moment. But God is always satisfying our needs and more. At any given moment, He is either providing or planning a provision. He may allow uncomfortable seasons, but He envisions no crisis of need in the lives of those who trust Him. We are promised His provision always. 

Father I am trusting You for all I need, and I know You often provide much more. Please let me experience Your abundance in every area of my life.”

Source: The One Year Experiencing God Devotional by Chris Teagreen

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Happy Mother’s Day

This is a Mother’s Day post. A post that I made to honor my mom for all she has done for me.

As I am nearing motherhood – I hope – I am all the more struck at how awesome my own mother is. We have a long history – mom and I – and we have our highs and lows. Sometimes our lows are so low that I cannot begin to imagine why she is my mom. But yet, despite how low we could get, I know, deep in my heart I will never ever want another mom like her.

I’m not sure if I have blogged about how much I appreciate her sacrifices for us – her kids – but if I haven’t let me reminisce them once more. My mom had us when she could have been in the prime of her youth – young, beautiful and definitely skilled and going places. Yet she chose to instead, bear kids and start a family, foregoing a chance at a career and instead raising a family.

In the past, as I was growing up and being filled with so much ambition, I didn’t understand the sacrifices she made. I wanted to be a career woman. I wanted to rise to the top of the corporate ladder. I emulated strong women in business and leadership roles looking at them as the epitome of success. My mom – while I appreciate her hard work – I only saw what she gave up, and not what she gained.

Growing older – and wiser – I now crave for the life she had. The chance to be with your kids every growing up moment, looking and guiding them as they discover the world around them.

My mom has been like our best friend – the always ready companion who will laugh with us, cry with us, scold us, discipline us, quarrel with us, argue with us but in the end still remain true to us. Mommy has guided us the best she can even when the world was always changing – often times too fast for any of us to keep up. I bet how her mother raised her was very different from how she raised us. The same values were there but the circumstances are far, far different.

And with the rapidly changing world we live in, I can only assume that when I have kids of my own, I will be faced with radically different circumstances and different challenges of raising kids. But since my mom raised me on solid core values – I am assured I can depend on those core values to raise my kids.

Most mothers when you argue with them the way I do with my Mom will most probably scar your relationship – maybe beyond repair. My mom and I have our fights. Sometimes I cringe to even remember how much I hurt her and cause her pain. I can only regret the words left spoken and unable to get back. But the wonderful thing about my mom and I is that, despite all the hurts we had to find and navigate ourselves in, we always reconcile and go back to loving each other. We find time to heal and forgive – that love we have always stronger than any hurtful words we may hurl at each other. We may disagree on a lot of things but in the end we both knew that when the going gets tough we have each other.

I cannot ask for a better mother than that. A mother that allows me to have my own mind and allows me to express it – sometimes to her pain – yet still accepts me open arms and with no condemnation when I run to her arms – sometimes crying but hopefully not. I cannot remember feeling this secure love that I can push on and find my own voice, my own self and still be secure enough that there is someone back at home, loving me for who I am – who I become. And I can always go back to that no matter what.

I have read of many kids who stray from their homes because their parents can’t simply understand them. Kids who’d rather stay away because they feel they will never be welcome back. But I am thankful that such is the opposite for me.

I’ve always said that I am blessed that I was raised in such a way that I can have my wings and fly — and crash and burn. But still manage to find my way back home.

My life has been a constant flight into the unknown. I simply love adventure. I like going to places and pursuing things I feel strongly for regardless if they are seemingly wise or not. And most of the times, I feel like I crashed and burned it. But the security of the home that my parents – especially my mom – has created, is something that allows this free spirit in me to roam free to explore.

With the COVID-19 lockdown situation, I am away from my family. I have always been away spending less than 3 months total a year at home. I have already began considering other places as my home and will soon begin placing roots elsewhere.

But the lockdown situation has brought my heart closer to home than ever before. I keep seeing how, the person I am now, is largely influenced by my mother. I find joy in solitude because I like to read – something I took from her. I feel giddy whenever I sing to musical numbers and amazed at how much I remember the lyrics all because growing up, she has exposed us to theatrical musicals. My soul soars whenever I am able to bake a pleasant pastry that melts in my mouth all thanks to her influence in baking. I am mentally fit due to the faith in God she has instilled in me since I was a young girl.

I realize, as I prepare to become a mother, that my mom has been the single most influential person to my life. My love and passion for everything I have now is largely in part due to her. And for that I am grateful.

And for that, she is the best woman out there who can be my mother. I love you Mommy!

Ang Huling El Bimbo: The Musical

One of the privileges I am thankful for during this quarantine period is that I get to watch theatrical musicals that won’t ever have been aired if not for this unusual circumstances.

I have watched several weeks ago a full run of the 25th Anniversary show of The Phantom of the Opera and today I watched the full run of the 115th – and last – show of Ang Huling El Bimbo: The Musical.

If I haven’t told you yet, I am an avid musical fan. I don’t get to watch theatricals because I am not that privileged to afford them but whenever I have the chance to watch a musical production – be it in the big screen or now in YouTube – I grab the chance.

And today was that day. The musical airs only for 2 days and it’s a fund drive for ABS’s Pantawid Pamilya Program. I am so glad I caught it.

huling el bimbo

The production was a success because it was a testament to the ability of Original Pinoy Music to be converted and used for a theatrical production rivaling Western Shows such as in Broadway and West End. Most of the time, Philippine theaters would showcase West End or Broadway shows and rarely do we see any original productions featuring OPMs. But And Huling El Bimbo was the first and being successful, paved the way for others.

I loved how I could relate to the songs as I am an Eraserheads fan. Their music was popular when I was growing up and the very first CD that I actually bought and own was their Anthology of Best Hits.

Further, I related to the setting which is my Alma Matter – UPD – or maybe I just assumed it was because the band was from there.

But beyond the setting and the music to which I could relate, I was struck hard by the storyline and how, far from the Western musicals, is how true and realistic the musical is to the Philippine setting.

I am touched by the struggles of the main character – Joy – and how she met a sad fate in the end. We may want a happy ending but sadly, for many like Joy, life is just that – cruel. I am angered by the people who have the gall to deceive others pretending they are protectors when in reality they are predators. And how sadly, in the musical, these kind of people are not brought to justice – another allusion to the reality of justice in this country.

I am saddened by the reactions of Joy’s so called friends – how they evaded her for years when all she wanted was to bond with them and tell them they can let go of their guilty consciences. This shows to me that in friendship, no matter how deep the friendship may go, when guilty consciences thrive – not only does the friendship die but the lives of those involved decay slowly from the inside out. Which goes to show how, if we truly value our friendships and we value our relationships with those around us, we must never let guilt fester. Honesty, no matter how brutal and hard it can be, is always – ALWAYS – preferred over hiding under a comfortable lie.

I hope they will stage another run. I know it is hard for theater to keep staging musicals and even non-musical plays. Ang Huling El Bimbo was in production for 2 years but was conceptualized as early as 5 years ahead of the very first show. Which goes to show how much work goes into creating a musical production.

But I applaud the people behind it for their creativity and dedication to the show. I applaud after watching the YouTube premier even when I know they can’t hear me. I would have clapped loudly and hooted along with the live crowd if I can. It was indeed a great production.

I wish I could let you, reader, watch it. Sadly, they end the broadcast once the time is up and I don’t think they will indefinitely keep it up. I hope they could but that makes it prone to piracy and that is something we never want to happen to them. For all the hard work that goes into a production – from the actors who have to sing, dance and act live to the band who have to play musical scores for hours on end and to the back stage production staff who have to do the same things again and again for nights – we owe it to them not to pirate their hard work and let them earn a decent wage.

But I wish theater could be more accessible. After all, it is a wonderful form of entertainment – both entertaining and enlightening at the same time.

And if given the chance, I would really, really, really want to watch more of it – live.

Shocking Discover About Nancy Drew!

Today, I learned, for the first time in my life, that Carolyn Keene, the author behind Nancy Drew was actually a false person. The author doesn’t exist! Nancy Drew was written by a bunch of ghost writers. And not just Nancy Drew – probably the entire series of books of my growing up years aka Sweet Valley, Hardy Boys (though I don’t really read them).

Apparently, in the early 1900s, it was a popular scheme where publishers will hire freelance writers to write children book series for them – paying them off per work and removing their authorship rights. The Stratemeyer Syndicate was well noted for this kind of publishing scheme and it was their founder, Edward Stratemeyer who created the concept of Nancy Drew and assigned her to one of his ghost writers – Mildred Augustine Wert Benson who went on and wrote 23 of the first 30 Nancy Drew books. Benson eventually went on with her career to write other books under her name and pursue a gratifying career in journalism. It was only in her later years that it was revealed she was the original Carolyn Keene. Stratemeyer carefully guarded the identities of their writers to preserve the air of mystery around the authors.

But despite this shock – and how I feel like my entire childhood was a lie! – I still will say I love the Nancy Drew and the Sweet Valley series. These books became instrumental to my growing interest for books and my love for reading. I loved reading about the adventures of Nancy Drew that later on, I even embarked on a mission of collecting original prints – those that really look old. I would hunt for the copies in old bookstands along the market and won’t hesitate to buy one even if I’d read it just because I wanted to collect them.

Eventually I outgrew Nancy Drew and Sweet Valley but I never outgrew my love for reading. And I owe it to the brilliant authors – or ghost writers – behind these famous series.

Books : Forever My Love

From musicals, I now turn my musings to books. (This lockdown is really doing wonders to me indulging in all my introverted hobbies).

I never imagined I would be a voracious reader. I learned to read rather late – I was about 7 1/2 years old and I was still struggling with comprehending words written on paper. I cannot forget that embarrassing moment in First Grade when our teacher asked us to form two lines – one line for those who knew how to read and another line for those who don’t. I sheepishly joined the latter.

My mother was instrumental in teaching me how to read. I didn’t learn reading from school. I learned it from her. I can remember how she will hold a children’s book and force me to read over and over again the story of Too Thin Johnny. I cried a lot during those long afternoons. I longed to be outside playing with my siblings but I was stuck – by our doorframe – sitting there reading with her.

And thus it came as a surprise to me that, once I learned how to read and when I discovered the wonderful world of the library I was transfixed. I was a regular in the library, borrowing books weekly – sometimes twice a week. I couldn’t get enough of what the library has to offer.

I was 10 years old then. I read Nancy Drew, Sweet Valley and even Hardy Boys – all fascinating popular books of my time.

As I grew older, I began reading other genres of books and since I cannot afford my own books, I borrowed from a book rental store. I discovered the world of Sydney Sheldon, Anne Rice, Danielle Steele and their contemporaries. I was in high school at that time and I recall bringing a book (or two) with me to read every time I travel back to my dorm. I also began to discover classics like Emily Bronte, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, etc. and derive as much pleasure from them as contemporary authors.

Fast forward, I discovered bookstores where I can buy books for half (or even a quarter) of their usual price and so I splurged. Where others splurge on clothes or bags or shoes, I splurged on books. I bought more books than I could possibly read but I do not regret every single one of them.

Along the years, I lost books I lent but I also didn’t regret them. I stored books in storage places as my physical storehouses shrink. I can simply wonder if the pages are still alive to this day.

But with technology, I discovered e-books. And my love for reading remain constant.

Now that there is community wide quarantine and we are forced to spend eons of time inside our homes with nothing much to do, I find myself enjoying the company of e-books. I rediscover – to my amusement – that I actually enjoyed them more than watching series (which I also delve into with gusto).

There’s just something about how the words leap before my imagination. How a novel that takes me 5 hours to read is more engaging than a 2 hour movie. And I love how well researched novels actually allow me a glimpse into history, politics, ethics, culture, and so much more that even after reading it, I am led to researching the actual events that transpired.

I used to believe I will be a writer. I loved reading so much so I thought it was a natural course. But alas! I cannot stay introverted – trapped in my imaginations – for long. As life went by, I found myself interacting with society more than I ever want (to be honest) and time seems to fly without me ever finding the opportunity to sit down long enough to even come up with a decent chapter. Believe me, I’ve tried.

But, there’s always a first time for everything. And who knows. They say this lockdown will last and extend. I honestly wish it would end so we can go back to the normal daily routine of life (even if that will totally change) but if this extends, I know what I will be doing next.

Revisiting Musicals

Last night I was very fortunate to watch the 25th celebration of “Phantom of the Opera” at the Royal Albert Hall. It’s available for free in YouTube until April 19 Sunday 11PM PT. Here’s the link below but that will expire very soon.

 

 

I have been privy to theater musicals since I entered college and the whole UP Theater opened my eyes to this wonderful form of entertainment. In college, my very first dorm roommate was a Theater major and she influenced me to watch college plays. I had my share of plays in elementary and high school but they were very sparse and not as grand as college plays.

It was in 2004 when I first became acquainted with “The Phantom of the Opera”. It was a motion picture at that time and the musical score enthralled me. I longed to watch the theater version but it rarely got produced in the Philippines. Some years ago, there was a production and I eagerly looked for the tickets. To my dismay, it costs a fortune. Even if I were to sit at the very back (which wouldn’t be very ideal for my tastes), I would have to cough up a significant amount. It was simply a luxury for me.

And so I contented myself with just knowing the songs to the play and hoping that someday I will have enough excess cash for luxuries such as theater.

To my surprise and delight, because of the COVID lockdown, the producers decided that for a limited time they will stream in You Tube for free the 25th Anniversary production done in 2011. I couldn’t wait to watch it! Of course they were raising funds for COVID so any donation would be much appreciated.

As I watched, my eyes and ears were tingling. I can finally watch – even if in a screen – how the play would unfold on-stage. It’s very different from a motion picture.

As I expected, I knew all the songs and as soon as the first notes were hit, my spine was tingling. I was literally kinikilig just listening to the songs. I sang along in silence – no sound coming from my mouth – for I fear my voice will mix in with the beauty of the actors. I absorbed every movement, every stage effects, ever musical score. I beamed with pride when certain acts finished and I clapped along with the live audience.

How I wish I could really watch it for real in a theater.

I could imagine myself – dressed in a formal gown apt for a theater production as this – sitting in a respectable sit and being fully immersed in the beauty of theater.

Because I was such an avid fan of theater back in college, I even took an elective in Theater intended for non-Theater majors. Alas! Acting simply wasn’t for me. A renowned director/ professor handled our class and I was surprised at the brutality of theater life. I cried many nights and trembled many days because when I failed dismally at acting – he would curse me and shout at me in front of the class. I could never forget it how he sent me out of the room so I can practice “laughing”.

But it was a nice experience – one that I was glad for. We actually staged a play at the end of the semester and I proudly invited my friends over. It was a small play but we proudly carried it on as a class and our professor couldn’t be prouder for us. But that was the last time I tried acting. I realized I can be a good voice actor (I read lines pretty well) but I can never really act in front of an audience or a camera. I feel unnatural. Just put me behind the scene in production and I am sure I would flourish.

The Phantom of the Opera You Tube stream lasted for close to 3 hours. There was a short intermission in the middle – true to theater fashion. And at the end, Andrew Lloyd Webber went out and gave a speech. He honored everyone including the original casts of whom were invited on-stage. I was glad to meet the original Phantom (Michael Crawford) and the original Christine (Sarah Brightman). Sarah Brightman even indulged the audience with a rendition of the song Phantom of the Opera sang with some of the actors who played Phantom over the years. And then the Phantoms also sang for the audience the famous song Angel of Music.

It was a great show and I was near tears as it ended. And to relive it I downloaded the playlist from Spotify.

 

And I didn’t end there. I found my mind wandering to other great musicals I learned over the years.

Musicals like Miss Saigon and Evita. I hastily downloaded their Spotify Playlists and found, to my delight, I can actually sing along with the songs. It’s as if there were no years since I last sang them.

I guess, when you really like musicals, they never leave your memory. With each song I sang, I can remember how the scenes played out in my mind.

Such is the wonder and the power of musicals.