On Mocha Uson being a columnist of The Philippine Star


The entire piece of ‘Hotspot,’ Mocha Uson’s column on The Philippine Star on November 8th. Go on, read.

As Ricky Lo in his Entertainment column at The Philippine Star announced that the paper would welcome Mocha Girls lead Mocha Uson as its Opinion columnist, seems like all Hell broke loose. What is wrong?


Being a reporter for the said paper, I would like to think that we were not informed about this to come to us as a surprise. I am instead grateful that she was not hired as one of us, nor was offered a slot to be one.


If I may stress again, she is – from now on, every week – a columnist for our paper’s Opinion section, and I may have to support her argument, that “I also have the right to speak.”


Before the publication of her column, our boss’s daughter Regina vented her frustration on the move, saying that “THE STAR WAS FOUNDED WITH ‘TRUTH SHALL PREVAIL’ UNDER ITS MASTHEAD. TO HAVE MOCHA USON PEDDLING LIES IN IT IS A DISGRACE TO MY LOLA’S MEMORY (sic).”


If I may stress again, she is – from now on, every week – a columnist for our paper’s Opinion section. As a cliche goes, everyone has the right to express his/her opinion, eh?


Well, in fact, I even envy how articulate she was in expressing her views in supporting President Duterte all the way. I would want to hear (read, in this case) more from her, which would fall under the concept called “propaganda.”


Sometimes, the problem with argument is that we are too confined with our ideas, that we could almost close our minds and perceive these ideas as our own versions of the truth, so we would no longer hear what others could say and cannot reach a common ground. (This is why I so despise argument.)


We may not always agree with Mocha, but we can always oppose her ideas by presenting the facts. Besides, each of us always carry the burden of bringing out what is factual and true.


Otherwise, even without knowing, we might be already promoting intellectual elitism, i. e. we claim to know everything while some of us, particularly the ka-DDS and the Dutertards, know less, if not nothing.


Anyway, the public can always leave to us, legitimate journalists, the job of confirming, validating and verifying all kinds of information they get. To give Mocha, or just any other Duterte ally, too much attention for being a ka-#DDS or Dutertard, a spreader of fake news, and one who encourages hate and creates division, kind of makes our duty as journalists worthless.


If I may stress again, kolumnista siya sa Opinion section okay? So, kalma lang guys.

LGBT to Church, society: Open the doors for us


Aside from alleged deprivation in services and the hate crimes victimizing its members, the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community still faces challenges affecting their faith.

Reverend Crescencio Agbayani, one of the hundreds who attendes the Metro Manila Pride Festival at the Luneta yesterday, believed that religions, particularly the Catholic Church and other major faiths, should “open its doors” to the LGBT community.

“The church should open its doors to the LGBT, because if not mawawalan sila ng miyembro,” Agbayani, also a minister at the LGBT Community Church, stressed.


Reverend Crescencio Agbayani of the LGBT Community Church. (Photo by Ghio Ong)

“We do the ministry primarily because churches are closing the doors” for the LGBT, he added.

He shared that some LGBT members would feel uneasy entering churches who would demand presenting themselves as “straight” people when they no longer could not.

“Iyong iba ayaw nang maniwala sa relihiyon, ayaw nang maniwala sa Diyos,” he noted.

Agbayani has been conducting ministry and performing weddings for LGBT couples since 2012, when the controversial mass wedding of lesbian couples in Baguio City happened.

“Hinahabol namin na it is okay to be gay and Christian,” he stressed.

He cited instances wherein certain Christian sects and groups has expressed faith-based support for the LGBT community.

Meanwhile, he noted the Church’s concept on marriage is still traditional, that which is performed only on those of the opposite sexes.

“But Genesis 2:18 says it is not good for a man to be alone,” he said.

The said verse indeed says, ” The Lord God said, ‘It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.'” However, some versions stressed that a woman would be best to be Man’s partner or companion.

“Ang nagsulat ay lalaki, kaya natural na ang hanap nila ay opposite sex,” he said.

He is set to perform a mass wedding of six lesbian couples in Quezon city this afternoon.

He stressed that “legal or not, weddings of LGBT couples happen in the Philippines.”

“Besides, it reflects freedom of religion,” he pointed out.

Meanwhile, LGBT rights group Bahaghari called on people to “dare to fight against the culture of violence and discrimination that pervade our lives.”

The group made the call two weeks after the shooting incident inside an LGBT bar in Orlando, Florida in the United States that killed 49 people.

In a statement, the group added it also calls “for regular jobs and living wages, and free access to health services to all.”

“We believe these are necessary in ensuring that none of us – not thosenof us who suffer the most – gets left behind, because we know that our freedom and liberation is bound with each other’s, because none of us are free until all of us are free,” the group stressed.


Two protesters kiss before photographers at Plaza Salamanca before they proceed to the Luneta in Manila for the Metro Manila Pride Festival on June 25. (Photo by Ghio Ong)



International Maritime Organization secretary-general Kitack Lim, Department of Transportation and Communication secretary Jun Abaya (both middle) and officials of Maritime Industry Authority, Philippine Coast Guard and SM Malls join around 5,000 seafarers and their families in a photo op at the Day of the Filipino Seafarer in Pasay City, June 25. (PHOTO BY GHIO ONG)

While recognizing the role of Filipino seafarers in driving the national economy, the chief of the International Maritime Organization (IMO) challenged them and the authorities governing them to keep up with the challenges surrounding the industry.

“Once you have a bigger maritime and sea power, you will have a much stronger economy,” IMO secretary-general Ki Tack Lim told around 5,000 seafarers and their families during the celebration of the International Day of Seafarers in Pasay City yesterday.

His visit to the Philippines was a first for any IMO chief since the establishment of the United Nations-attached body in 1948.

He praised the contribution of the Philippine government and Philippine-based shipping industries in “collective investment in maritime education and training over the recent years.” “The number of highly-advanced, specialized facilities in the Philippines today show how strongly committed you are to remain the crewing capital of the world.”

However, Lim stressed that “demand of global fleet for manpower is increasing and predicted to rise further, hence attracting and retaining new seafarers, particularly officers, is a challenge.”

While the investment made in training infrastructure would help, he noted “shipping companies also need to ensure that they have properly structured training and community development programs in place, too.”

He also stressed that “seafarer welfare must not be overlooked,” especially for young people who aspire to be one. “To be attractive, the shipping industry needs to ensure they can feel confident in joining a profession in which they and their families would be looked after.”

Lim also stresses the important role of women in the seafaring industry. “Shipping cannot afford to ignore such a rich, largely untapped source of quality recruit.”

He said his cause as IMO chief focused on the human element, tackling issues and formulating policies which concern seafarers’ welfare.

He praised Filipinos for driving the national economy, citing statistics that the Philippine seafaring industry contributed around $5.8-billion to the economy.

Meanwhile, Atty. Gloria Bañas, deputy administrator for operations of the Maritime Industry Authority (Marina), said the establishment of the agency as a single maritime administration could help meet the said challenges.

President Aquino signed Republic Act 10635 establishing Marina as the sole body governing the maritime industry.

“This law will make sure that tighter oversight in the maritime industry will take place, that we will be more serious we have quality seafarers and making reforms indicated by the (International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Seafarers),” she said.

The said convention drafted the so-called Manila Amendments in 2010, which also included the celebration of the International Seafarer’s Day on June 25.

Bañas added Marina is also currently in talks with private firms across the country to provide spaces for seafarers to get easier access in meeting their requirements, including the seafarer’s book.

She also prided the entry of more ships in the country’s ports, and the establishment of a group of private shipbuilders based here in the country.

“We support the pronouncement of (President-elect Duterte) that focus on improvement in services, more investor-friendly and faster services,” she added.

Good governance: #Define

Question #3

How can we the Filipino youth today define “good governance?”

We could give meaning to this term using these words: transparent, accountable, inclusive, transformative, and more adjectives we can think of to describe how our government or our leaders should ideally be.

But the problem, for me at least, is that I find these words so abstract. I cannot define the terms as comprehensively and accurately as I can without witnessing it myself.

But let me give it a try.

Looking back, our history tells us so much about good governance.

It freed us from foreign conquerors and helped us establish a country we can finally call our own. It taught us discipline to ensure our safety and security. It also taught us how we can exercise and defend our rights. It gave us the fruits of development that we now enjoy. Ultimately, it provided us more opportunities for a better life.

As good governance continuously bore good fruit, it also eliminated harmful elements that could hinder its further growth. For instance, good governance tested the loyalty of our leaders to this country and its people, prosecuted the wrongdoings of officials we mistakenly called our leaders, and hindered anything that could hamper the country’s progress.

Simply put, in the course of Philippine history, good governance made sure that our lives would become more abundant, safe, and productive, and it also made sure that no thief would rob us of all these.

Now, in the age when we give meaning to every detail of our lives via status updates, tweets, memes, hashtags, videos and selfies, how can the Filipino youth define good governance?

I think social media gave life to the idea best when the controversy of the misuse of government funds by some officials and private individuals – better known as the ‘pork barrel scam’ – was exposed two years ago. Filipinos went to social media to vent their frustrations on the misuse of the government funds which they gave through taxes.

They eventually called for collective action, which resulted in massive rallies across the nation. Afterwards, cases have been filed, trials are ongoing, and netizens still keep their eyes peeled on the unfolding events in what was said to be the most fraudulent act in the country’s modern history.

Social media has also seen other forms of good governance no matter how people contextualize it. Some selfies showed our local leaders huddling with the masa. Some memes would say the strictest forms of discipline – to the point of being ‘Martial Law’-like – should be implemented for effective law enforcement and crime elimination. Some tweets challenged our leaders to stand firm on their mandate of implementing the law no matter who is involved in any violation. And nowadays, some photos and videos showed how frustrated netizens were over inefficient government service, the alarming wave of criminality and the “evolution” of modus operandi, and even threats to convenience in our daily lives (e. g., traffic).

The outgoing administration believed that good governance was an uphill battle against corruption, and an overwhelming journey toward a more open and trustworthy leadership. However, such principles of good governance were challenged when people questioned the sincerity of the leaders and the credibility of some of the government’s programs and projects.

Election season may have just started in the Philippines. We, the youth in particular, will soon be asked to redefine good governance as we will be set to choose a new set of leaders.

We should start asking ourselves: How should our country or our communities be like in the next six years or so? What do we want in our leaders? How can we make them more open and responsible?

Finally and most importantly, how can we take part in making sure good governance will be practiced continuously?

Online and offline, good governance has been continuously shaping our country’s past, present and future. It has challenged the capacity of this country to stand on its own feet. It has tested how this nation remained firm to its principles whatever obstacle thrown its way. At times, it has reversed the people’s cycle of convenience. It has seen how we as a nation, not just our leaders, worked so hard to achieve it.

Defining the phrase “good governance” seems to be an open-ended question. It is up to us to give meaning to it by thought, by word and by deed.


A new breed of leaders

Youth leaders from every corner of the country gathered in Baguio City last September 19 to 22 to discuss how their leadership skills would be enhanced further and help achieve the seventh Millennium Development Goal (MDG) of the United Nations (UN) – that is to ensure environmental sustainability – in their respective communities.

But as the convention was going on – and we the staffers of the Philippine I Transform! Young Leaders’ Convention (PITYLC) believed it served a timely and valuable lesson for us – a storm was battering Luzon.

Tropical cyclone ‘Mario’ (‘Fungwong’, which was once a tropical storm then elevated into a typhoon) did not severely affect any part of the country, but its enhanced southwest monsoon (‘Habagat’) winds dumped intense rainfall over Metro Manila, Baguio City – the venue for the PITYLC – and other provinces in Luzon. Once again, heavy flooding that damaged houses and crops, worse traffic and landslides were experienced for the past two days. What a huge mess Mario caused, as some areas in Luzon even forced to put themselves under state of calamity.

The PITYLC delegates who were supposed to catch up on their trips to Baguio City were not spared from Mario’s fury. They either got stranded in the middle of the vast expanse of the Manila floods or had their flights postponed until the weather got better.

But thank goodness they pushed through with their trips despite traveling along harm’s way, and arrived safe.


Both the organizers and the participants of the PITYLC groove to the music during the ‘solidarity dances’.

As soon as the almost 500 youth leaders and their advisers, or 95 delegations from across the islands, reached Teachers’ Camp to take part in the PITYLC, amazingly their energy never faltered. They survived the stormy weather and the freezing-cold temperature of Baguio City, thanks to their electrifying voices, their enthusiasm to learn more, and the warmth of newly-formed friendships.

Banquet of ideas

However, beyond the seemingly undying energy of youth lay within these young leaders that burning fervor to practice leadership that is ‘transformational’, or that allows positive change to happen.

The ‘Kabataan Fair’, one of the highlights of the PITYLC, allowed 20 selected delegations to showcase their projects focused on environmental sustainability, being the theme of the convention, to the participants and a panel of experts.

Students from Cebu Normal University proposed that they and other partners would build boats made of palm tree and other affordable wood materials to help residents living in the Liguasan Marsh (the largest swamp in Mindanao and a World Heritage Site of the United Nations) go on their daily activities without risking their safety. It primarily aims to help children there attend school hassle-free. The representative of the project believed that through the boats, the right of the child to accessible education would be assured.

Meanwhile, a local version of Project NOAH (Nationwide Operational Assessment of Hazards) of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) would be devised by students of the Baliuag University in Bulacan through the Project SHINE, or the School Hydrological Information Network. They noted that they adopted the original project first devised by the Pampanga River Basin Flood Forecasting Center. Being prone to floods during the rainy season, the representatives explained that a network of applications and devices would help monitor and inform both community officials and residents on the rainfall amounts in different areas in Bulacan and the status of the rivers which surround the province.

On the other hand, students from De La Salle-Lipa in Batangas introduced their ‘Project Hillview’, wherein it aims to change the attitude of the people toward mining and offer them safer and more suitable opportunities. Activities in the project would include literacy campaign about mining and its dangers to the environment, planting of fruit-bearing trees that could be their alternative to earn income, and hygiene education for children. Hillview, they noted, is actually an indigent community near the school which had become notorious for mining activities.

Also, delegates from Cebu Technological University (CTU) proposed a new, ‘greener’ design for their school canteen building, which was ruined by both the 7.2-magnitude earthquake and Typhoon ‘Yolanda’ (‘Haiyan’) last year. ‘Greener’ would mean applying environmentally-suitable innovations like solar panels for its electricity, hanging gardens, and a rainwater harvesting system. The catch was that the delegates were not Architecture students, and neither was their adviser. The project aims to fulfill the vision of CTU-Pollution Control Office as a hub for “clean and green advocacy through scientific, technological education and transformational leadership.”

The ‘Kabataan Fair’ was supposedly a ‘marketplace for young leaders’ innovation’, but it turned out to become more of a banquet of emerging leadership and sustainability ideas which one who is change-oriented could relish.

Taking the lead

Aside from this and other fun activities (group reflections, solidarity dances and even a beauty pageant!), the PITYLC also featured guest lecturers coming from various organizations but clearly with one cause: protecting the environment. They altogether encouraged the youth leaders to take the initiative in establishing leadership that roots on such cause.

Adelina Timoteo, senior program officer of Shontoug Foundation and a member of the Kalanguya tribe of Benguet, stressed the need to take care of the environment as part of the preservation of the country’s culture. She noted the high regard of their tribe for earth, which meant respect for land boundaries set by different tribes and utmost value for their land which they use for planting. Such tradition eventually went on to become a collective cause to protect not only the environment but also the rights of the indigenous peoples of Benguet and Ifugao.

Meanwhile, Paolo Pagaduan, project manager of World Wildlife Fund – Philippines (WWF), said during the open forum that one has “to work on a future where the same mistakes made by those before us would never be done again.”

Oscar Gador, volunteer coordinator of Greenpeace – Southeast Asia, enumerated such mistakes as the following: ignorance of the Filipino on current issues particularly nature-related ones; no sense of responsibility or community; one’s low value of nature; and the feeling of helplessness.

He added the power of the majority is also significant in harnessing leadership skills. “Let us remember that those who are governed, and not those who govern, have more power and can even define our government,” he added.
For his part, Foundation for the Philippine Environment project officer Edel Garingan stressed small acts can make a huge difference in stepping forward toward environmentally-sustainable leadership. “Alam n’yo, masabi mo lang sa parents mo o sa mga kaibigan mo na itapon sa tamang lugar ang kanilang basura, that will go a long way.” He also highlighted the importance of firmly believing in any cause one supports no matter how difficult things get along the way.

Garingan’s statements was somehow supported by multi-awarded singer-songwriter Joey Ayala, who was conferred with the ‘Gawad Kadakilaan para sa Kalikasan’ by YouthLEAD Philippines, the organizer of the PITYLC. “Dapat matuwa ka sa sarili mo at sa ginagawa mo. Kung pakiramdam mo api ka at hindi mo gusto ang ginagawa mo, kawawa ka naman.”

He stressed in his acceptance speech that ‘kadakilaan’, or ‘greatness’ in Filipino, can be an ordinary thing. “Ang kadakilaan ay hindi ikinakahon sa sarili, bagkus ay lumalabas at humahawa” just like a virus, he said.

Leadership for the environment

“We don’t need magic to transform our communities and our world. We carry already that will and power within ourselves. Just have faith,” said PITYLC chair John Maraguinot during the closing ceremony.

“We don’t need magic to transform our communities and our world. We carry already that will and power within ourselves. Just have faith,” said PITYLC chair John Maraguinot during the closing ceremony.

At a huddle of staffers, the PITYLC chair shared to us what his mentor told him, “Beyond academic learning, climate change is real. We can see it, we can feel it.” The four-day convention encouraged the country’s youth leaders to take the lead in nurturing of the country’s natural resources, especially in these times that the worsening effects of climate change are becoming the new normal.

But there was more to that. Leadership for the environment can cause a massive ripple effect.

Both PITYLC delegates and organizers learned that once leadership for Mother Nature has been realized, not only would the environment benefit from it but also all other aspects of society. The ‘Kabataan Fair’ taught us that once a leader takes the initiative in taking care of the environment, it would also give way to the assurance of the preservation of culture, human rights, food security and education, among others.

Also, leadership for the environment is a collective call for everyone, not only for leaders themselves, to take immediate action in solving the problems brought about by climate change. It is not enough that only those who have the power, influence and authority carry the solution. We at the PITYLC believe that leadership for any cause is empowering those who look up to us. Who knows, our collective efforts may give birth to new ideas and innovations.

It is our hope that the PITYLC will be able to produce the country’s new breed of leaders.

Time may be running out to solve climate change-related problems, as experts claim. But it is never too late for all of us to do so. We are given every moment of our lives to do our share.

A rundown of Korean tearjerker films

Thanks to #CinemalayaX and to my future sister-in-law who lent me DVDs, I am redeveloping my interest in watching films.  The following Korean films have interesting plots and even made me cry! The tearjerker ratings you would read in this review are only my views :)

my son1. A Day with My Son (아들, a-deul), 2007

Starring Cha Seung-won, Ryu Deok-hwan

Tearjerker rating: 3 of 5

Lee Gang-sik (Cha), a repentant prisoner charged with robbery and murder and sentenced to life imprisonment, applied for a one-day leave from his 15-year stay in prison to see his son, whom he last saw when he was still three years old. He then finally meets his son, Joon-suk (Ryu), who obvioulsy feels awkward upon meeting his criminal father. Father and son had only one day to refresh their relationship. But through Gang-sik’s sort of fatherly instincts befell unto him a surprising revelation.

The film effectively immerses the feeling of awkwardness of the criminal father-son meeting after 15 years to the viewer, but the monologues delivered by Cha and Ryu during these awkward moments were also likewise, awkward. The voiceovers of Cha and Ryu may have effectively revealed what they feel inside, but these made their emotions so obvious in some scenes. However, Cha’s portrayal of his agony as a father longing to be with his son was heartfelt. Also, some of the film’s graphic effects and Cha’s effective comic portrayal (when he was studying some greetings as a way of catching up with his son and with the present) gives a lift from the film’s being too gloomy and, well, awkward. Though the shocking plot twist and its details  in a hurry, it did not affect the film’s emotional build-up, thus effectively portraying the storyline’s originality.

Miracle_on_1st_Street_film_poster2. Miracle on 1st Street (1번가의 기적, 1 beon-ga-ui gijeok), 2007

Starring Im Chang-jeong, Ha Ji-won (Secret Garden, Hwang Jin-yi), Gang Ye-won, Park Chang-ik, Park Yu-seon

Tearjerker rating: 4 of 5

An aspiring woman boxer (Ha) struggling to become Asia’s boxing champion. Her brother struggling to fly on his own. A network marketing agent (Gang) struggling to convince her mother that her job was not a pyramiding business, and to find a man who could lift them out of poverty. Two children (Chang-ik and Yoo-seon) struggling to make a living and find ways for their grandfather (inflicted with stomach cancer) to be hospitalized. A gangster (Im) struggling to oust residents of a squatters’ area along 1st Street (including Ha’s, Gang’s, Chang-ik and Yoo-seon’s characters) through force to give way for a modern apartment complex. The entire community of 1st Street struggling to overcome the dilemma brought about by the feared demolition, but was somehow saved from such despair thanks to the gangster Pil-je (Im).

Obviously, the film’s plot featured so many events, making it hard to grasp altogether. However, it effectively portrayed seamlessly how these instances and all the characters got connected with each other for the buildup of the overall plot, thanks to all the characters’ close-to-real portrayal (especially Chang-ik and Yoo-seon). The most outstanding acts would be of Chang-ik and Yoo-seon overcoming all these beatings and bullying. When some scenes would become too depressing (including slapstick and bullying), comedy is suddenly put into the foreground (the toilet jokes and dumbass portrayals, especially by Im), which would justify the comedy genre of the film. In particular, Im’s character build-up from being a gangster to being compassionate with 1st Street residents, and of being sort of developed to Myeong-ran (Ha) also made the film lighten up, thus countering the depressing scenes. The overall plot may be quite hard to grasp at once, but the mix of comedy and tragedy was effectively and smoothly made.

photo289473. Voice of a Murderer (그놈 목소리, geu-nom moksori), 2007

Starring Seol Gyeong-gu, Kim Nam-ju, Gang Dong-won

Tearjerker rating: 4 of 5

The film was based on a kidnapping case in Korea which remains unclosed as of 2007 (when the film was shown). In Christmas time in 1991, Han Sang-woo, the son of respected newscaster Han Gyeong-bae was kidnapped. Gyeong-bae and his wife Ji-seon (Kim), and the kidnapper (voice of Gang) often got in touch with each other, with the latter demanding so much, including about $200,000 worth of ransom. The police later intervened in the pursuit to free Sang-woo, utilizing technology in forensics to find out the identity of the abductor and the location of him and Sang-woo. The incident also tested the faith in each other, the the police, and in God. How would things turn out during and after 44 days?

The film was more of drama than detective, since the emotions of all the characters worsened as the plot developed, and the focus on the use of technology to solve the case was less significant. The portrayals of Seol and Kim were just outstanding.

Well, the opening sentence may give you a hint on the film’s overall plot and ending.

This film will just leave you utterly devastated.

fullsizephoto2688664. Miracle in Cell # 7 (7번방의 선물, 7 beonbang-ui seonmul), 2013

Starring Ryu Seung-ryong (Hwang Jin Yi), Park Sin-hye (The Heirs), Gal so-won

Tearjerker rating: 10 of 5

Lee Yong-gu (Ryu), a mentally-challenged parking lot attendant and single father, was framed up in the alleged rape-slay of the daughter of the police commissioner. He was later sent to Cell # 7 of the maximum security prison. He suddenly misses his daughter Ye-seung (younger one portrayed by Gal, grown-up one portrayed by Park), so his colleagues in prison would make a way to bring her to him though it would mean another life sentence. Many “miracles” happened during Ye-seung’s stay in prison. In the end, would father and daughter be able to prove the latter’s innocence and reverse his death sentence?

An exceptional mix of comedy and drama, the film brilliantly narrated the unwavering love between father and daughter, the loopholes in the criminal justice system, and the will to defy the status quo. It also featured the seemingly perfect balance of the light and dark sides of the prison cell. Thanks to the dumbass and other comic antics, and emotional portrayals of all actors, the film will make you laugh a lot, but will make your heart cry out loud more. The most outstanding and heartfelt acts were of Ryu (a huge leap from his villain portrayal in Hwang Jin Yi), Gal and Park.

One should not miss watching this film since it is still (and will always be, I think) trending on social media and even in personal conversations.

Lest I forget, I can’t wait for this film to be aired on free TV and dubbed in Filipino.


The moment before the most “tearjerking” scene.

This blog post is open for further discussion about the featured films, and other Korean film recommendations! :)

#CinemalayaX: Looking back with ‘Hari ng Tondo’

10499597_587248374725516_8683616773241664756_oHari ng Tondo – written by actress and screenwriter Bibeth Orteza and directed by Carlitos Siguion-Reyna for the Director’s Showcase category of the 10th Cinemalaya Philippine Independent Film Festival – provided viewers with uniquely Filipino humor and drama, a storyline with loopholes, and a funny yet remarkable lesson about looking back.


Ricardo Villena (Robert Arevalo) was on the brink of bankruptcy due to investments gone wrong. He immediately decided to sell these investments – mostly properties – to pay off his debts and for his grandchildren to still acquire parts of his fortune, except for the apartment complex in Tondo he named ‘Alapaap’. He would be eventually forced to leave his mansion in Forbes Park to go back to Alapaap and live there. He also brought along his two grandchildren grown up to the comforts of Forbes, Anna (Cris Villonco) and Ricky (Rafa Siguion-Reyna). While the two naturally got disgusted with the environment in Tondo, Ricardo on the other hand was surprised with the outcome of Alapaap after he left it to enjoy the luxury of living in Makati.


Meanwhile, Ricardo’s grandchildren were struggling with their relationships with their parents. Anna strongly opposed her mother Olivia’s (Ali Sotto) plea to marry Mark despite his infidelity. Ricky’s father Julio (Audie Gemora) disagrees with the former’s pursuit of being a musician, which however caused his failing performance in school. The two eventually decided to accompany their grandfather in Alapaap, and from there went the ‘misadventures’ of Ricardo, Anna and Ricky in Tondo.


The film seemingly brought viewers back to how Filipino was in the years when sitcoms were household hits (for the 20-somethings or below, it may be a glimpse of it, rather). The fart jokes, cheesy lines and comic misunderstandings between the rich and the poor somehow reminded us of John en Marsha and Home Along Da Riles (sans the slapstick comedy). After all, Orteza herself wrote the screenplay for the equally-popular Enteng Kabisote/Okay Ka, Fairy Ko! series on television and film.


The film also revealed its musical side, thanks to the two original songs sung by Ricky and another character Rauna (Aiza Seguerra), a lesbian tambay in Alapaap. The most notable musical performance would be Arevalo’s heartwarming rendition of the classic love song Bituing Marikit, which he intended to sing for his old love Felisa (Liza Lorena). He eventually got the attention of the residents of Alapaap for his serenade, and for being showered with pee by Felisa afterwards.


On the other hand, the film also portrayed its dark side, particularly the seemingly perennial problem of poverty in Tondo. The disgust of Anna and Ricky in using the bathroom, Vic (Gian Magdangal) and his battered girlfriend Sally (Ciara Sotto) having sex in a room at Ricardo’s unit (which eventually turned to physical violence), pagpag (leftover food from hotels, restaurants and households), gang wars. However, some of these and other related scenes were portrayed lightly, which is very evident of the Filipino brand of humor.


However, the film did not provide both background and resolution in some of the scenes, thus making them open in some way. We never got to know how Ricardo, a widower, raised his children Julio and Olivia, which could had caused them to treat their children in maybe the same manner. Anna may have fallen in love with a barangay employee with a cleft palate or ngongo (Lorenz Martinez), but it ended with his sudden relationship with Sally. We never got to find out how Vic and Olivia’s husband (Quizon) would face the consequences of their ruthless acts.


The portrayals of the actors in the film were commendable and close to the real thing. Included in the exceptional acts were Villonco’s deep hurt after her failed relationship with the ngongo, Seguerra’s siga-like and musical performances, and Arevalo’s overall performance.


The highlights of his portrayal were his serenade for Felisa, and his emotional walk along the streets of Tondo which ended up crying in the middle of a garbage-dumped squatters’ area (which may have portrayed his failure to do something better for his hometown, Tondo, where he proclaimed himself as ‘king’.)

The ending scene in 'Hari ng Tondo', with (L-R) Villonco, Arevalo and Siguion-Reyna.

The ending scene in ‘Hari ng Tondo’, with (L-R) Villonco, Arevalo and Siguion-Reyna.

 The film may had not provided a logical storyline and may have narrative gaps, but it did great in entertaining viewers through the misadventures of Ricardo and his grandchildren during their stay in Tondo.


Overall, it somehow encouraged us to look back: at how effectively entertaining Filipino comedy and drama acts were done before; at how perennial the problem of poverty in Tondo had become despite the place being the cradle of Filipino heroes; and at how we can do something better as an expression of gratitude to where we came from.



PS: Robert Arevalo won as Best Actor and Cris Villonco as Best Supporting Actress for their respective portrayals in Hari ng Tondo for the Director’s Showcase category of Cinemalaya X. The film also won the Special Jury Prize this year.


Hari ng Tondo (Where I am King) will also be featured in this year’s Toronto International Film Festival.


Thanks to Cinemalaya Foundation and UP Cineastes’ Studio for the partnership which brought Cinemalaya X special screenings at the University of the Philippines-Diliman.