Filipino cast member of Terrace House

So in this episode of Terrace House: Tokyo 2019-2020 that I’m watching, we were introduced to the first Filipino cast member, Johnkimverlu Tupas, as well as the first Russian (half-Russian and half-German, actually) housemate, Violetta Razdumina.

Johnkimverlu’s parents are both Filipinos. A cast member in Terrace House: Boys & Girls in the City was half-Filipina: Masako “Martha” Endo.

By the way, my favorite cast member so far in this season is the Japanese female pro wrestler Hana Kimura 😃

She’s half-Indonesian and when she learned that Johnkimverlu was Filipino, she said: “Really? My dad is Indonesian. We’re neighbors.”

I love Terrace House because unlike other reality TV shows, the participants still go about their daily lives, balancing school or their career with life at the house. In a way it’s a dating show as some cast members join in order to find someone they can fall in love with, but the show itself has no goal and no winner.

Terrace House is about how the cast members interact with each other and grow as individuals, and it’s up to them what kind of meaning they will find at Terrace House. They also leave when they feel they have no more reason to stay, so we the viewers get to meet new batches of participants.

There’s something very Zen about Terrace House—a show where nothing happens but where we experience their joys and sorrows, whether big or small. We learn from them and maybe even learn a little more about ourselves.

The show also owes its success to the excellent panel members, who react to what’s happening and provide context to social cues and norms that we non-Japanese might miss.

It also helps that I love Japan and Japanese culture, so Terrace House is truly a delightful treat for me.

Dataism and freedom of information

Dataism is the new religion of the 21st century. The greatest good it upholds? Freedom of information.

You may not agree with it, but Dataism is current scientific dogma that is most firmly entrenched in its two mother disciplines of computer science and biology. Dataism sees organisms are algorithms. Homo sapiens is neither the apex of creation nor the precursor of a future Homo deus. Instead, humans are tools for creating the Internet-of-All-Things, with which we will eventually merge.

“By equating the human experience with data patterns, Dataism undermines our primary source of authority and meaning and heralds a tremendous religious revolution, the like of which has not been seen since the eighteenth century. In the days of Locke, Hume and Voltaire humanists argued that ‘God is a product of the human imagination’. Dataism now gives humanists a taste of their own medicine, and tells them: ‘Yes, God is a product of the human imagination, but human imagination in turn is just the product of biochemical algorithms.’ In the eighteenth century, humanism sidelined God by shifting from a deo-centric to a homo-centric world view. In the twenty-first century, Dataism may sideline humans by shifting from a homo-centric to a data-centric view.”

“Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow” by Yuval Noah Harari is the fourth book I’ve finished this year. Just 56 more to go.

Read this book on Scribd.

CHiC reunion

Catching up with my former CHiC colleagues.

With Judy Sto. Domingo, Joel Wayne Ganibe, Oli Samaniego, Edward Dela Cuesta, Alex Gatpandan, Espie Gatpandan, and Olie’s granddaughter Ashley.

My first job was as a staff writer at CHiC, which was an English-language women’s magazine published by Graphic Arts Service, Inc. or, as it was more popularly known, GASI.

Favorite comic strips

What are your three favorite comic strips of all time?

My all-time favorite is Calvin and Hobbes, which my wife Ellen introduced to me when we met in 1995. I’m happy to share that our collection of Calvin and Hobbes books was inherited by our daughter Sam, who also fell in love with our favorite boy and his tiger 😃

Coming in at No. 2 is The Far Side, which combines my passion for science with my love for the absurd.

As for No. 3, honestly it’s hard to pick one, but I’ll go with Baby Blues, though it could also have been Bloom County.

Of first jobs and college friends

The one where I met Miss Australia 1994 Michelle van Eimeren.

Michelle is one of the nicest people I’ve met, and I’m glad I was able to get a photo with her. This was during my very first job. I was a staff writer for CHiC, an English-language magazine for women (and for men, too!) published by Graphic Arts Service, Inc. or, as it was more popularly known, GASI.

It was actually an unlikely job for me, because I was supposed to go to UP Law after passing the Law Aptitude Exam and panel interview, and getting my invitation to enroll. Also, I was never interested in lifestyle and showbiz stories, and was having second thoughts during the interview with CHiC Editor-in-Chief Alexander Aurelia Gatpandan (who, by the way, was also from UP Diliman), when he told me that part of my job was to interview celebrities for the cover story.

Honestly, I was panicking at the thought of interviewing celebrities and getting a job which didn’t exactly involve the topics that I liked. But I’m glad I broke out of my comfort zone, because I learned a lot from this first job and my CHiC family. I gained more self-confidence and realized I could write about any topic, cover different kinds of events, and interact with celebrities without getting intimidated.

It also helped that Alex was kind enough to approve my proposal to come up with a new column, where I critiqued pop culture and discussed ideas and theories, including my own insights on Roland Barthes’ essay on pro wrestling, and a column piece on “Why I Am A Male Feminist”. Plus Ray Alegado Jimeno became my best friend at CHiC, and was always there to support me. Pareng Ray gave me a lot of advice, taught me how to cover events, and drank many bottles of beer with me hehe!

Another factor that encouraged me to stick with the job, apart of course from the fact that I needed to earn money, was my best friend since college, Raffy Lirag. He got a kick out of the fact that I was meeting different celebrities. I was supposed to be a batch behind him in UP Law, and while he initially thought sayang di ko itinuloy, he was glad this was my first job.

“Ang cool nga ng job niya!” he would tell his younger brother Mon, our friends, and his law classmates. He would point out that I was actually getting paid to do something I loved, which was writing, and meeting celebrities, to boot.

I even got to meet one celebrity we both liked, Donita Rose, though sadly I don’t have a picture with her hehe! It was a different era, when we didn’t have camera phones, and it wasn’t the usual practice then for journalists to have our photo taken with the people we interviewed 😃

Also, Donita’s schedule was so hectic that I conducted the short interview while she was getting made up for the photo shoot. She was very nice, however, and signed a file photo of hers that I got for Raf. She also said sorry for the rushed interview, and gave me her phone number in case I had additional questions.

So when I went to Raf’s house to give him the autographed photo and to hang out and play video games with him and Mon, I asked him if I could use the phone. I went to their living room and called up Donita. After thanking her again and asking a few questions, I went back to the room.

“O, sino yung kausap mo?” Raf asked.

“Oh, si Donita Rose,” I replied. “Sabi niya kasi I could call if I had additional questions.”

The look on Raf’s face was priceless. It was one of the rare times he was speechless for a moment.

Finally, he said: “Kausap mo si Donita Rose? On our phone?” And then added incredulously: “And you talked to her like she’s a normal person?”

I’m grateful to Raf for many things, and one of them is that he kept telling people how awesome my job was. Aside, of course, for always making me laugh.

We would joke around, make fun of each other and things, and only talk about “light stuff” like comic books, Dungeons & Dragons (and, later on, Magic: The Gathering), video games, science fiction, Agatha Christie (he was actually the one who introduced me to her books, and since then she’s been one of my all-time favorite authors while Hercule Poirot is one of my all-time favorite characters), anime, movies, and TV shows. None of the “deep stuff” or “sentimental stuff” hehe because that’s not what our friendship was about, but our friendship has endured over the decades.

Raf’s smart and a smart aleck, but he also has one of the kindest hearts.

I thought it would be too senti to share this when I was called on stage at Raf’s 50th birthday celebration hahaha! At least now he doesn’t have to hear this in person and in front of all those people 😃

In my 48 years, I’ve been blessed to have met many kind people in my life. This 2020 and beyond, I will continue my journey of becoming a kinder person—and returning all your kindness.

‘Tinkers’ on Scribd

“Tinkers” by Paul Harding is the third book I’ve finished this year. Just 57 more to go.

Here’s an excerpt:

“Howard thought, Is it not true: A move of the head, a step to the left or right, and we change from wise, decent, loyal people to conceited fools? Light changes, our eyes blink and see the world from the slightest difference of perspective and our place in it has changed infinitely: Sun catches cheap plate flaking—I am a tinker; the moon is an egg glowing in its nest of leafless trees—I am a poet; a brochure for an asylum is on the dresser—I am an epileptic, insane; the house is behind me—I am a fugitive. His despair had not come from the fact that he was a fool; he knew he was a fool. His despair came from the fact that his wife saw him as a fool, as a useless tinker, a copier of bad verse from two-penny religious magazines, an epileptic, and could find no reason to turn her head and see him as something better.”

Harding’s lyrical debut novel, which came out in 2009, is the first independently published Pulitzer Prize winner since “A Confederacy of Dunces” received the award in 1981.

Incidentally, “A Confederacy of Dunces”, which was published posthumously 11 years after the suicide of its author John Kennedy Toole, is one of my favorite books.

Read this book on Scribd.

Pre-Hispanic Philippines: Our golden past

The history of the pre-Hispanic Philippines has always fascinated me, and I’m enjoying reading up on it again as part of my research for a new short story I’m working on.

One of the things I’m grateful for was being able to see the “Gold of the Ancestors” exhibit twice at the Ayala Museum—the first time with Ellen and Sam, and then a few years later again with Sam.

It was a breathtaking and eye-opening experience, that made me realize even more how much of our past has been hidden from us Filipinos—whether because of the efforts of our conquerors and colonizers and/or because of our own ignorance and indifference.

For instance, when I was in school, the elementary and high school history books barely taught us the thriving pre-Hispanic cultures and different kingdoms, rajahnates, and sultanates of our ancestors.

The fact that Manila was a Muslim kingdom is glossed over. Selurong, the Muslim city that would later become Manila, was established by the Sultanate of Brunei under Sultan Bolkiah when it attacked the Tagalog Kingdom of Tondo.

In the Visayas, you had the Rajahnate of Cebu founded by Sri Lumay, a minor prince of the Chola dynasty in Sumatra, who was the grandfather of Rajah Humabon—the ruler of Cebu whom Ferdinand Magellan met when he “discovered” the Philippines.

Meanwhile, in Mindanao, the Sultanate of Sulu, the largest Islamic kingdom in the islands that would later be called the Philippines, encompassed parts of the Philippines, Indonesia, and Malaysia.

Many items from “Gold of the Ancestors” were included in the “Philippine Gold: Treasures of Forgotten Kingdoms” exhibit in New York in 2015 organized by the Asia Society and the Ayala Museum.

Here’s an excerpt from the New York Times article about that exhibit, from which the photo I used was also taken.

“How was it that knowledge of a culture — or collection of cultures — capable of such exquisite and sophisticated metalworking was forgotten and left without a name? That is a tangled tale.

“Gold was always plentiful in the Philippines, readily collected by panning. Today the country is said to have the world’s second richest gold deposits. When the Spanish landed, they found natives sporting much gold jewelry and regalia. Illustrations in a book from around 1590 called ‘The Boxer Codex,’ on view in the exhibition, depict indigenous people wearing ostentatious gold adornments over flowing, colorful garments. But the Spanish colonizers wasted little time in decimating the native cultures and making off with their gold, which they melted down for their own purposes.”

Here’s hoping that we’ll discover more of our past, and that we will be inspired to work together to build a brighter future for the Philippines.