Thursday, January 30, 2014

EDITORIAL | Why I Refuse to join the Vhong Navarro fiasco

Haven't you had enough of this Vhong Navarro fiasco?

I know you've had enough, especially since both television and social media have been pestering us with various versions of this story since last weekend. I know the eerie, tiresome feeling of watching 24-hour news channels replaying and rehashing the same news throughout the day. That's why I stopped watching television this week and scrolled past the articles in Facebook and Twitter about this scandal. Why the hell do I need to catch up on the news when my coworkers themselves have become their own commentators, investigators, and judges in this case?

I made a conscious decision not to speak up about this fiasco. I am taking the initiative of censoring myself from making any comments in favor or against the parties involved in this mess. Not that I don't care about this issue; just like any other scandal in this country, this has implications on our culture, about how we view rape as a crime, and how we see the people involved in this kind of trouble. It also has implications on another issue that is already a given in our society: the use of connections and networks in the abuse of one's authority. Nevertheless, I refuse to elaborate on these implications anymore and will distance myself from further making statements for the following reasons:

Apparently, media is the new justice system these days. Anyone can become Sherlock Holmes or Judge Judy with just information presented to us on-screen. However, I have not seen the merits of the evidences in this case. So why the hell would I jump to the conclusion that Vhong Navarro is a rapist, or that Deniece Cornejo is such a promiscuous lass? I don't even know these people personally other than what and how they've presented themselves on TV. While I could exercise skills in analysis by scrutinizing the information media has made available about this case, will my comments help improve the merits of this case, when I am neither trained in crime investigation or judicial procedures?

If I comment in favor or against any of the parties in this scandal, will it bring about the truth? Will it bring forth justice for both sides or am I just being vindictive by trying to insist that one side is right and the other wrong? Will my action further inflame the situation or bring about humility, forgiveness, and reconciliation?

Hey, all the annexes of the Bangsamoro Framework Agreement have been signed by both the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front! Oh my God! A hate crime has just been committed against a gay Filipino in New York! Gee, frost has been killing the livelihood of local farmers in the Cordilleras for weeks now!

Thanks to it, we know less about other issues that we should actually care about and be part of as a solution. Well, it's not so bad to read about this mess on the newspaper or the Internet; after all, we are multitaskers. But you have to admit, even as we multitask, this issue takes more time and energy to focus on than other news out there. It really does take much of your attention away from other concerns we should care about.

I've heard some people around me lately, saying, "She doesn't look and sound like a rape victim to me!" or "He's long been known for his philandering; no wonder, he was accused of rape." I've known these people as morally upright men and women, who I thought would make objective statements about this case and not based solely on news reports that don't really give us the complete picture. What can we make of these people making such hasty generalizations? Do you seriously want to be part of this gang?

Just as I said in #3, there are other problems this nation is facing: problems that need resources such as time, money, energy, and property in order to be solved. I don't think the big three networks are helping solve these other problems by giving more airtime to this fiasco, which (if not for the celebrity status of those involved) is actually more fitting in the blotter section of the news. In other countries, you won't even see this kind of news being reported in their prime time national newscast. I hope the networks can harness their resources to more pressing concerns so that people can act more positively about it, just like what happened when Typhoon Yolanda struck.

Let's be honest. My reasons won't be enough to deter you from dipping your hands to this mess. I am not expecting my words to stop you anyway. After all, you know better than me. Ask yourself: Are you going to be part of the Vhong Navarro fiasco or not? TSS

Sunday, January 26, 2014

MOVIE REVIEW | The Secret Life of Walter Mitty

We tend to underestimate people.

It did happen to me several times. A friend or acquaintance would introduce someone who seemed more like an ordinary girl or guy with a somewhat monotonous, homey lifestyle but then suddenly turns out to have even way cooler, more extraordinary life experiences: a computer technician/weekend backpacker, a staff at some BPO human resource office/prolific writer and avid jogging junkie, an accountant who has climbed more mountains in the Philippines than I am, a teacher at a Catholic school with an admirable track record of serving kids with special needs.

[Spoiler Alert!]

This is the premise I saw in Ben Stiller’s latest comedy “The Secret of Life of Walter Mitty”. Stiller produces, directs, and stars in the film (based on James Thurber’s 1939 short story of the same name) as Walter Mitty, an unassuming employee at the negative assets department of Life magazine. He has a habit of zoning out and daydreaming of adventures he never had the chance to take, which usually involves his secret office crush, Cheryl Melhoff (played by the lovely, quirky Kristin Wiig).

Soon, news breaks out that Life is transitioning from print to online and will be retrenching some employees as part of corporate restructuring led by the unsavory transition manager Ted Hendricks (played by Parks and Recreation’s Adam Scott). Walter receives a wallet as a gift from renowned photographer and regular contributor Sean O’Connell (played by Sean Penn) containing a series of negatives for his masterpiece “The Quintessence of Life” which the he suggested as the feature for Life’s last print issue. When Walter examines the negative roll, he realizes that the last negative is missing.

With pressure mounting from Hendricks and advice from Cheryl, Walter is convinced he must find Sean using the other negatives as clues. This leads him to embark on a sudden adventure that would take him to a helicopter ride in Greenland, an up close view of the eruption of Eyjafjallaj√∂kull volcano in Iceland, and a trek on the Himalayas mountains in ungoverned Afghanistan where he finally finds Sean. Walter’s epic adventures, combined with an enthusiastic soundtrack from Theodore Shapiro and Jose Gonzales, could pass for an extended cut for a GoPro commercial. The movie’s hilarious plot twists, coupled with compelling screen performances from Stiller, Penn, and Scott, saves it from the predictable unassuming-guy-gets-the-cool-quirky-girl melodrama and noticeable array of product placements.

One would initially think that this movie is about a guy, who, out of boredom for the monotony of his reality, finds escape through his overactive imagination. The secret here isn't Walter’s fantasies but his realities. He unlocks opportunities for experiences even greater than he imagined by conquering his fears and circumstances. It is a reminder for all us that we can become more than what we imagine if we turn our visions into reality. That each of us can become our own Walters.

Hence, whether you’re working the dishes at your local fast food joint or receiving long distance calls from insurance subscribers at midnight, these are no alibis for not living the life you imagined. Because I do know a number of real life Walter Mittys who despite their circumstances have been to places and experiences you can only dream about.

When you've reached this point in this review, grab a pen and a Post It, look at your desk calendar, and start listing and scheduling adventures you've only fantasized having, because you, my friend, are going places! TSS

“To see the world, things dangerous to come to, to see behind walls, draw closer, to find each other, and to feel. That is the purpose of life. - Walter Mitty

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