Philippine Politics

The Lowdown on the Philippine Presidential Candidates

Presidential Candidates 2015
The 2016 Philippine presidential polls are as near as ever, and aside from the upcoming TV debate in February, all we’ll get are the usual interviews, ads and news articles that either paint rosy pictures of each candidate, or withhold the bigger picture. I’ve made an article dissecting each one of the four so far, based on the articles I’ve read (I read news almost everyday online). I’ll start with President Noynoy Aquino’s anointed successor:

The Highest-Rated Administration?

We are in the middle of some sort of comeback for the Aquino Administration. Once the laughing stock on social media for perceived inaction, the son of two late icons of Philippine democracy has built up a clean, non-corrupt image with results that solidify it.

The economy is in an upswing, and corrupt officials for the most part now have a reason to be afraid for what they’ve done. The thing is, everyone forgives one wrongdoing when things are at an upward trajectory. While Binay’s camp comes across as downright hilarious most of the time (same as Donald Trump, but that might be too much), they do have a point in accusing the administration of politically-motivated persecutions. Their timing for several politicians are downright questionable, with established lawyers backing up that claim.

The promise of alleviating poverty hasn’t taken shape over five years after Aquino’s first day in office, and he hasn’t exactly followed his “bosses” the entire time. Still, compared to some previous administrations, this is the best we’ve ever achieved, and pretty much that’s the bottomline.

Mar Roxas was anointed by the president as the continuation of the Tuwid na Daan philosophy, and I can’t think of a more apt choice. Mar has experience miles above what Noynoy had before he took office. And finally we can breathe a round of fresh air, a beam of hope where the Tuwid na Daan mentality will continue sans broken promises, obsessive finger pointing/name clearing, piss-poor attempts at “pang-masa” communication and handpicked persecutions.

This all comes down if you’re open to supporting Binay or Duterte. Mar is honestly the safest choice out of all four if you value the moral side of things. He has a lifetime of experience like the other three. He’s younger than Miriam and doesn’t have cancer. He hasn’t stolen a single dime from the government and I’ve heard that that also equates to a 100% chance that he’s never ordered the killing of a single person. The lone aspect he can’t equal is Binay’s potential hand in developing the nation and the surefire crashing down of crime rates should Duterte win. If you still believe in good politicians also being capable, then definitely you need to vote for Mar.

The Quick Fix

Everyone knows the story by now. A leader that led the city of Makati to new heights of prosperity, albeit corrupt to the core. What would you choose, morality or productivity? The interesting thing about this election is there are two polar opposites in the lineup, and both offer tantalizing benefits over the other.

I don’t feel entirely dumbfounded to see his high numbers in the surveys. The guy’s got a “pang-masa” feel surrounding him, and he’s got skills to boot. This, despite his attempts at gaining public sympathy clearly coming off as fake, and the way he acts as if the public is too dumb to process what is happening so he does it for them.

This decision entirely depends if you’re the type of person who’d support Rodrigo Duterte despite his knack for ordering the killing of criminals. If you can fathom supporting and living under a leader with questionable morals, then go for Binay.

Know What You’re Getting Into

It’s easy to get lost into all the hype about crime rates crashing down and Rodrigo Duterte doing the Davao treatment on the entire Philippines. It would make for a much safer country, no? But here lies the problem. Duterte has a history of ordering the killings of numerous criminals back in Davao, and he’s stated that he’ll do the same if he ever wins. Do you hold killing in the same regard as stealing? If so, then what makes him any better than Binay? It’s all up to you to decide if morals take priority over productivity this coming election.

The Dark Horse

Now don’t forget about the youth’s favorite. Miriam Santiago has the biggest social media following next to the president, and that might be her biggest weapon. Despite her ailing health, she lucked out by taking the headlines whenever she could back when she was still a bubbling senior. Now the netizens can take a slice of the burden of promoting her for the presidency. The Philippines is one of the most internet-obsessed nations in the world, and that makes Miriam a definite dark horse.

But does her track record back up that underrated fan base? She has been the most productive senator so far recently, so that’s something. And she has a penchant for ridiculing corrupt and incompetent people who dare enter the senate hall. Must be hard to eat death threats for breakfast, as her Twitter account states. Surely this means she’s clear of any wrongdoing, right? But what about those properties she accepted from corrupt politicians she doesn’t condemn? Yup, that makes her corrupt too.

I’m worried if Miriam can weather the stress that comes with the presidency, but with her experience and bravado, I’m sure she’ll find a way. Vote for Santiago if you’d risk having an ailing president if it means things will be done, just not at the same level as in the senate.


The Walk Movie Review


A tense and fulfilling climax hampered by uneven buildup is what The Walk boils down to. What’s in the title and poster is what everyone expects to see in the climax, but a film based on a true story needs the characters to back them up. Sadly, both cast and crew have fallen short in instilling gripping drama in the film’s boring lulls.

It’s disappointing to see weak actors fill the screen after witnessing The Martian’s brilliant cast just a week ago. Ben Kingsley (woefully underused) and Charlotte Le Bon are exceptions, but a film with an ensemble cast needs more than three good actors especially when one isn’t really seen that much.

As a film built to make audiences appreciate the beauty and artistry of Petit’s act, The Walk thankfully succeeds through and through. Joseph Gordon-Levitt almost single-handedly keeps the ship afloat as he gives his all. He is the center of it all, and posseses perhaps the greatest quality of this film: heart.

Philippe Petit is a colorful character, yet for the many times he dreams high and never gives up, doubts fill his mind if he can ever finish the things he has set in motion. Yes, there’s a bit of insanity in there and he’s not afraid to admit it, but there’s a big, beating heart at the center too.

And that heart never fades to the background, even during the titular walk, where everything never feels over the top. To pull it off, Robert Zemeckis and crew had to nail the visual effects and camerawork, and they did. The experience feels authentic, a solid whole presented intimately. Ambition doesn’t take priority over the execution and the film is better off with it.

It wasn’t made to make what is absurd to the naked eye seem practical, but rather to provide a new perspective on how reaching for the impossible can inspire and give us goosebumps. That something so absurd can reach so many on such a human level is an achievement on its own.


Heneral Luna Movie Review

For Filipino films, even the most award-winning ones never quite reach the same level as their Hollywood counterparts. Heneral Luna represents a new milestone in this regard. From production values like set design, special effects and cinematography to the important qualities such as acting and directing, we now have a film of our own that can stand toe to toe on every aspect with the best American cinema can offer.

It all starts with the aesthetics, as every shot and every location feels like it belongs to the time period. The cinematography bleeds the artistry of a skilled cinematographer, as sweeping and immersive shots take moviegoers to a level rarely seen in Philippine cinema. The special effects have thankfully avoided the gaping hole of overbearing ambition. They are used only where they make sense and they nail it each time.

Acting in this film is near spot on. You only just rarely see acting so unconvincing you have no choice but to heighten your suspension of disbelief in a level typically reserved for other local productions. John Arcilla is a force to be reckoned with, just like the character he so eagerly plays. You feel invested in his story because he’s just so good an actor and Jerrold Tarog’s artistic vision is fully realized every step of the way.

The fierceness of the lead character makes for an entertaining time in the theater, but the the depth of the story is what will keep the audience thinking, and supporting this film as it makes its bid for the Academy Award nomination for Best Foreign Language Film. The film plays like a maestro is pulling the strings behind the screen, the best thing being it never quite shoves its themes into your face. As it’s more of a tragedy, Heneral Luna displays the reality of its period in an impactful way that feels relevant in modern times.

A film deserving of its critical and commerial success, Heneral Luna represents a big leap for Philippine cinema. It’s the overall package, not one that struggles because of the budget. The acting isn’t done in the teleserye way, leaning towards realism instead. The film doesn’t feel cheap for a change, thanks to the camerawork. And the portrayal of a historical figure is believable, for showing both his strengths and downfalls. But perhaps the most important thing is the film doesn’t feel like an exercise in history because it hooks you in with its charming lead and impactful story.


The Martian Movie Review

Authenticity; I can’t imagine The Martian without it. The movie dazzles you with imagery so unreal yet believable, a Mars that is a character in it’s own right. And not only in style does this movie excel, but in the characters as well. These are the pillars that the audience roots for and identifies with, and with an expertly picked cast of actors that deliver performances so solid, the believability inspires emotions towards certain situations and characters other films fail to accomplish. And although the film would’ve been better off leaving some in the cutting room floor, the main cast gives you the sense that each is an important gear in a much larger machine. The Martian undoubtedly, is epic both in scope and scale.

As the world watches the protagonist, played in Oscar contender fashion by Matt Damon, authenticity gives way to humanity. As the grandiosity of the journey envelopes the audience’s mind, director Ridley Scott paints the canvas with human moments that will leave you thinking and contemplating once the credits roll.

The Martian has a feeling of bloatedness in some scenes, but the brisk pace and solid acting make for a much smoother transition between filler and substance. It also helps that the sometimes incoherent dialogue of Interstellar only rears its head a couple of times.

I appreciated The Martian’s downplaying of its cliches. They don’t feel in-your-face, just like its underlying political and philosophical themes. Subtlety is something sorely lacking in today’s mainstream, blockbuster movies, and equally welcome is Ridley Scott’s return to form, as well as producer Simon Kinberg and writer Drew Goddard’s defining work. Finally, the sci-fi icon that made Alien and Blade Runner erases the sour memories of Exodus: Gods and Kings and The Counselor with a potential Oscar contender.


Spawn: Resurrection Comic Book Review

So it’s kind of a new age for me; comics have taken over my Tumblr, and now I just bought my first comic book in Spawn: Resurrection.
The tormented warrior has been a staple in the Dark Age of Comics, reaching its peak in the 90’s. To date, it is one of the best-selling and most revered independent comics of all time. What got me hooked? Well it all starts with the cover of course.

I’ve always held Kratos from the God of War games as the pinnacle of badassery. Both were similarly tormented, and that led to their rage and rebirth. The cover of this comic though, represented Spawn and his best features, like the iPhone 6S is to Apple in 2015. Bottomline: well-drawn art draws novices in.

It’s not just the cover. Inside panels depicting limbo and the creation of earth and urban chaos fill the imagination. There’s a particularly notable one in the middle where hooligans were depicted as demons on earth and it took over much of the page. The comic is just dripping with detail in all the right places, save for a few plain panels that sour the momentum.

The writing meanwhile, is overall well-written. There’s nothing unique about it, especially in the closing lines which you’re bound to think as cliche. But still, it works. Same with the dialogue between the protagonist and God; these lines you’ve probably heard before, but they’re nonetheless effective in being relatable and symbolic of society at large.

Spawn: Resurrection is a fine starting point for novices, as it sets up the story of Issues 251 and above. There are no major spoilers if you haven’t been living under a rock back in the 90’s, and the potential ones in a character’s recap of events aren’t mentioned in so much detail that purchasing old issues wouldn’t be viable. I say the new generation deserves to know Spawn and his story. Luckily they have this comic widely available for a decent price.