What it takes to be a Filipino

“I am a Filipino. And when all else fails, I am not and will never be ashamed of what I am.”

Being a Filipino is just no joke. I was born and raised in the Philippines as a child and went back to my home country as I reached adulthood. In between these times, I lived in a foreign country yet would still be raised under Filipino values – showing love, care and compassion towards others, being family oriented, respecting the elders, strong dedication to tasks and responsibilities given to me and having strong moral courage. Not forgetting to mention that I spoke Tagalog at home with my family, ate Filipino dishes, watched Filipino shows online, listened to Filipino songs and had Filipino family friends back during my days overseas.

I have tan skin. My hair is naturally black (I love to dye my hair as part of my style so it changes colors for your information) and my eyes are dark brown. My parents are pure Filipino and I have no trace of foreign ethnicity. I am not as tall as Western women my age. I speak Tagalog, know certain aspects of Filipino culture like its national anthem “Lupang Hinirang” and have been to certain places in the Philippines other than Metro Manila. I am a full pledged Filipino in terms of nationality and I am a registered voter in the Philippines. But what truly makes me a Filipino?

Being a Filipino is more than just an identity. It is more than being born and raised in the Philippines, as well as being familiar with every Filipino cultural aspect. It is more than acquiring the citizenship, the values and the physical attributes of a typical Filipino, and knowing the language. It is more than being raised in a Filipino family as well as appreciating the food, the places, the music, the movies, the shows and other positive aspects found in the Philippines. Being a Filipino will always remain in my heart, mind and spirit. No matter where I go, I will always be proud of being a Filipino.

Mabuhay ang Pilipinas (Long live the Philippines)!



Why Halloween is my favorite holiday

Here came the opportunities to transform into our scary-like creatures and to express our inner monsters. It was finally the time of the year to feast under the sights of pumpkin Jack-O lanterns, scarecrows, graveyards and spider-webbed homes, and to yearn for trick or treats dressed in our monstrous creepy selves. It was finally the time to dance to the beats of Michael Jackson’s Thriller dressed as zombies and to scream to the highest level at those eerie bloody scenes in high definition horror films. It was also the time to fill our stomachs with homemade oozing bloodshot eye jellies, chilly booger-like cucumber, and thick and blood-like tomato soups, as well as to trick others with a picture of our bloody hand carrying a knife (or without is already enough) in the sink while it was only coated with red food color that looked like real blood. At the foremost, my favorite holiday of the year had arrived. I was glad to have the opportunity to celebrate it this year, with a Zombie Apocalypse survival run in my hometown, a simple silent movie The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari marathon, a series of gore anime episodes marathon (Parasyte and Terra Formars), and a witch-costume worn in the Halloween Party of the special education center I am working for and also while providing trick or treats to children at my village. Halloween self pictorials, in other words, Halloween selfies, never failed to amaze me during this spooktacular time of the year.

With a zombie during the run
The scariest creatures I encountered while running

Others would either claim Christmas, New Year’s Eve or even Valentine’s Day as their favorite. I consider Halloween to be my top holiday, simply because I grew up with the likes of dark gothic sceneries, gore, horror films and works of literature (novels, poems..) and fantasy creatures (witches, ghosts, bats, black cats, centaurs, unicorns, vampires, Dracula..). Halloween presents a grand opportunity to exploit more of these than I would in an ordinary day – seeing those dressed creatures roaming in streets, those horror haunted decorated houses and gardens and lit graveyards, dressing up as one’s own monster and decorating one’s house as though it was haunted and abandoned. The known holiday also unleashes our inner creativity while we decorate our own houses with haunted looks, cook creepy and typical horror and dark comedy movie dishes inspired by a number of Halloween recipes online, and design our costumes through imitation of our favorite horror and dark fantasy creatures, doing a crossover of two-to-three creatures and/or fictional characters and improvisation of our own creepily designed costume. It is as considered as a momentum of our inner childhood, with the sole opportunity to yearn for bittersweet treats (and/or to help ourselves getting them) and to dress up.

These are the reasons for making HALLOWEEN as MY FAVORITE HOLIDAY. While Valentine’s Day would satisfy love and romance fanatics the most, Halloween would be more ideal for aficionados of FEAR and SCARE.

Me dressed in witch costume about to provide trick or treats to little monsters asking for them

I also took Halloween as an opportunity to pray for the departed souls together with my family and relatives. Hope you had a blessed All Saint’s and Soul’s Weekend, and of course, THE HAPPIEST (AND CREEPIEST) HALLOWEEN!

Dressed as ‘the joker witch’

When the virtual world is not that perfect

Remember when Internet was not the hype yet. Remember when news were only heard from the television, radio and press and we were only bound to be familiar with the played songs on the radio. Remember those times when we were only limited to meeting a certain type of people who do not necessarily share the same interests as us and there were times when we would feel isolated knowing there was no one we could share our fandom feels. Unless we were able to deal with different mindsets and passions, we would not stand a chance in gaining friends.

And there came the Internet. It was mainly used in the workplace in 80’s-90’s and was first introduced in the household during the 2000 decade. While social media and online gaming are on the rise, many people consider looking for online friends, preferably those who share the same interests and passions. These friends are also known as virtual life or VL friends and virtual friend finders tend to use them as their online confidants with whom they can spazz their fandoms. There are even times when they tend to spill their problems and ask for an advice to their online friends, assuming that they can also relate so much they can provide some help.

Yet the virtual world is not a perfect place to be. Some tend to overestimate their friends met through virtual interactions so much that they forget that these kind of interactions also have their flaws. The following are the downside factors that one must expect when meeting people online.

1) Your friend may be a lot more different in person. 

Internet provides us the opportunity to project ourselves and some people may only choose to project the person they want to be in order to be accepted. Even as they reveal the “real” them online, it still gives a different feeling to see their offline personality – their voices and their intonation, the way they act and look in person, and their real-life behavior and attitudes, all of which may be different from online. It will take time to figure out whether virtual friends can also make real-life close friends. A virtual friend will remain a complete stranger until the first meeting and if life does not provide an opportunity for virtual friends to meet, then they will be forever “stranger friends.”

2) As much as there are real-life people who are eyesores, there is also a chance that you will meet these kinds in the Internet. 

There is no escape from negative feedback and criticisms even as you enter the virtual world. This is proven through trash talks frequently seen in YouTube, online blogs and forums, as well as in personal-interaction based websites like Twitter. There are also as much fights, issues and gossips as in real life communities. There is no guarantee for escape from atrocities in virtual interactions and they will only guarantee you the same set of real-life problems.

Not forgetting to mention that meeting people online can involve a lot of risk. There is a high risk that you will meet a criminal in disguise (e.g. date rapist, a pedophile, hacker, scammer..) and if not, a person who will attempt to steal your pictures and identity and pose as you. It is best not to provide too much specifics especially if it will make you traceable enough to a stranger’s eye. And best not to provide specifics that will highlight your social status (rich people tend to be the online criminal’s top victims).

3) It will take time to figure out whether your closest virtual friends can make your closest virtual, or rather real-life friends. 

As mentioned previously, it will take time to figure out their real-life personality even as you meet in person. This means it will still take time to figure out whether you are meant to be close friends in real life, which may either happen or not depending on how you get along. In the meantime, you can still refer to them as virtual/online best friends as long as you have not met each other in person.

4) Friends do come and go in real life. Same goes in the Internet. 

And that is the sad fact of life. There will come a time when your virtual BFFs will be so busy with their real-life stuffs that they will no longer have time to still interact with you. Your virtual close friends may no longer be your close friends as time passes and their posts may no longer be as interesting as you used to think. There will be some virtual friends of yours who will no longer reply back to your comments. Some of them will even consider cutting communications with you for no reason, simply because you just do not interact with each other anymore. Unlike real-life friendships that can still be restored through reunions and simple invites, online friendships can never be as replenished.

5) And finally, it is the real life friends that give us the most comfort. 

They may not fully relate to you and give better advice than their online counterparts but they are still the ones to provide you comfort when you are down. They are the ones to give you a hug, to wipe your tears, to show up at your door and to invite you for a coffee to make you feel better. There is certainly such thing as virtual hugs and comforting online messages but a physically given comfort provides a different unforgettable touched feeling. Even though online interactions are at its peak, one should never neglect the importance of spending time with offline friends. And besides they are the ones to show up at your funeral when you die (while your virtual friends will only think that you went inactive, not care about your heard death or, luckily for you, send “RIP” mentions).

This article only seeks to point out the downsides of virtual friendships. The virtual world is not as perfect as those friend finders tend to assume and there is no reason for them to choose them over real-life friendships proving that they are better. Meanwhile, I am personally thankful that virtual friendships exist. They provide us the opportunity to communicate with people sharing our passions and interests, as well as to discover things that none of our real-life friends have made us discover. We can also turn to them whenever our offline friends cannot afford to help us or whenever there are problems we are uncomfortable sharing with them. Online friends are the ones not to make us feel alone, making us come out of our isolated selves that Internet-less world had conditioned.

In short, it is all about a matter of balancing friendships. While we can spend our time wholeheartedly with our real-life friends, it is with virtual-life friends with whom we can share our passion-related perks.

One way to introduce yourself virtually (sarcasm)
One sample of a negative highlight on online gamers
Applies to virtual reality (i.e. virtual world) once entered

DISCLAIMER: This article does not aim to harm any virtual friend or people who are into virtual friendships. It only seeks to point out the downsides of such interactions, which some tend to overestimate. 

Life doesn’t end at 20..

Have you ever wondered whether you’d be too old to do things you were doing in your teens once you turn 20? Truth is, I have. I would even consider stopping to adopt the same mannerisms when I come of age, like switching from my typical jeans-tee-Converse attire to a femme fatale look, wearing semi formal and floral dresses, high heels and flats. I wasn’t even surprised seeing how people could get married and have kids at 23-24 and assumed that such feeling should remain the same as I reach that age. I kept telling myself that I should keep my room clean at all times, should no longer argue with my parents whenever there’s a disagreement, should focus more on mundane tasks rather than what I like doing, should consider socializing with adults who are not just your age but also the ones in late adulthood, should cope more with adults in family gatherings and should consider going for a serious leading-to-marriage types of love relationships. All these things are dictated upon me by my teenage self, telling myself that I’d be too old having the similar teenage mindset once I’m 20. And yes, crushes and casual dating should be over by then, my teenage self once told me.

But nothing has changed when I turned 20. I’m still a sixteen year old trapped in a young woman’s body, whose mindset are more similar to a teen’s rather than to an adult’s. I still pick crushes and casual dates over those serious committed relationships, I still choose to stay out all night in clubs with friends, 80-90% of my current interests (arts, music, anime/manga, gothic culture, dark fantasy/horror/adventure, rock/metal..) come from childhood and teens, I still wear the same outfit as I was wearing at 16-19 years old, I still dedicate my time to doing what I want than what I must and I still consider spending money on pointed studs, skull necklaces and earrings and metal-based jewelry rather than pearl and diamond jewelry that most women are already wearing. And yes, I still look up to ragged looking men than those men in suits (though the latter aren’t bad). You will still find me sleeping with my dearest childhood plushies, dwelling too much on my emotions and having online social media accounts that look teenager-ish. I’m still surprised seeing how my friends can get married and have families at 18-24, although it should no longer be an issue at my age. Can it be that..I’m not matured enough for my age? Or am I just way too scared to take a step ahead?

But then I learned that I’m not the only one. Joining several adult hobby courses and workshops, I’ve realized that many adults, particularly 20-somethings, are still exploring themselves as much as I do. I’ve met this online friend my age who shares similar interests and views as mine. I’ve met a bunch of people in their mid/late 20’s who are still studying, or adults who are still finding time to learn new things and to explore their passions in life despite their hectic work and family life. I still see a bunch of 20-somethings (sometimes even 30-40 year olds) who consider having piercings and tattoos, sporting ragged attires, playing video games, attending music festivals and sports games and watching a bunch of cartoons and anime. I then realize that we are never too old to stand up for who we are and what we love. I begin to be satisfied with my now 24 year old self, not minding what my teenage self has dictated upon my future 20 year old self. And besides, I’ve realized that my teenage dreams are coming true in my 20’s. Performing onstage, being in a band, still having time for my interests, making more friends, hanging out more in bars and clubs, etc..

All in all, I’ve learned that being in your 20’s is a crucial stage. We are young enough to relive our teenage (even childhood) dreams, while being old enough to assume more responsibilities and exploring our identities as adults. I’ve realized that I still have a life ahead of me and I should not mind what the society pressures me to do at a certain age. Life doesn’t definitely end at 20. It is just a beginning of one’s new life.

Defining a Good Story line

A friend asked me “What do you expect in a story line?” I could not explain what my expectations were, although in my mind, my answers were under process. I would answer that I had no particular expectations in a story line, or I would like a movie, TV series or a book whenever I felt like it. With my mind under process, I constantly knew my expectations in a good story line. The following are the ingredients that makes a plot worth appreciating.

*A deep and original plot.

The plot must also be well-distinguished and should not be easily imitated by any author/producer.

*Action, drama, comedy, thriller, and sometimes gore, and supernatural elements rolled into one.

These elements add flavor to a so-called unique and well-developed story line, which makes it more enjoyable to tune into.

*The presence of psychological and philosophical aspects.

It is true that some (even many) are already satisfied with books, films and TV series that are produced only for pure entertainment. I am one of the people who is not merely satisfied with entertaining oneself but is rather obsessed with story lines providing messages to the audience. The psychological and philosophical aspects (not necessarily the Voltaire, Rousseau or Plato kind of philosophy. As long as the story makes the audience think, it will be fine.) are what makes the story line deeper, enhancing enough to develop the audience’s critical thinking. I would prefer a story line that makes the audience think, making them reflect about life and teaching them the most important lessons in life. But I would also consider such story lines that are enjoyable.

*A good and realistic twist – not the shallow and unlikely-to-happen kind of twist.

*Excellent character development – wherein a character in the story is given particular attributes (bio data, personality, talents, hobbies & interests..) as if it was a real-life person.

*Plot coherence – meaning to say that the plot should be realistic.

This is not a question of including supernatural elements but rather on whether a certain circumstance is likely to happen if it were to occur in the real world. Examples of realistic elements in the story are a military environment that is as strict as in the real world, the training of soldiers that is as intensive and takes as long and a reconciliation between long-time frenemies (friends turned into mortal enemies or rival siblings) that does not happen in a day. Should the story be fantasy or real-life based, including such elements are what makes the plot believable.

*A concrete progression of the plot.

The progression must be felt by the audience as to determine whether a certain film or book has a story line. It would be perceived as random otherwise, filled with unconnected scenes that does not build a plot (thus, a film or a book with no story line).

*An outstanding art and animation – for cartoons, anime, other animated works and movies with animated scenes.

*An attractive yet realistic special effects – especially for action, fantasy, horror, and animated films and series.

Exaggerated special effects (or special effects that has nothing to do with the story line concept and is considered unnecessary) are seen as unrealistic.

*And finally, a good overall audience impact (and enjoyment).

The most important ingredient in creating a good story line. An element wherein the audience is so much hooked to a certain show that will not make him or her leave the chair until the entire series is finished. An element wherein the audience will suffer from post-series (movie, book..) depression that will provide difficulty for him or her to move on, or do other things. An element wherein those sad dramatic scenes will actually make the audience cry. An element wherein the fight action scenes will make the audience feel he or she is actually watching a live battle match, or those comedic acts that provoke laughter throughout the theater. An element wherein blood is actually feared with passion, or those gore, horror, suspense, dark psychological thriller, fantasy and supernatural aspects actually create fear and air of mystery and suspense. An element where murderous acts provoke feelings to the audience as though real murders are committed or murder investigations that makes the audience part of the detective team. An element wherein the lighthearted comedies warm the audience hearts or romantic scenes that give chills of love. In short, an element wherein the story actually moves the audience. Otherwise, there is no impact.

Examples of works with good story lines are as follows. The shown examples may contain spoilers.

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