Wednesday, 31 December 2014

"Malamig Ang Simoy Ng Hangin...."

"Malamig ang simoy ng hangin....kay saya ng bawa't damdamin..." (The breeze is cool and every emotion is joyful).

Those are the first two lines a Filipino Christmas carol sung by a Filipino singing trio, Apo Hiking Society, that come to mind every time I am home in the Philippines spending my Christmas holidays. I know it's freezing back in Korea, but having cool breezes in the Philippines is sort of a break the whole archipelago gets from the hot tropical temperatures all year-round.

And one night I ventured out into the city plaza of my hometown, where there weren't only cool breezes but also a slight drizzle that accompanied the singing of Christmas carols by competing choirs made up of some barangay officials and their constituents.

I just had to watch the competition. My Mom was singing! She watched me during my chorale singing days when I was at university. Tonight, it was her turn to sing and my turn to watch. Ha-ha-ha!

Well, not all barangays sent their representatives, but those who made it to the stage that night added a 'simoy' twist to the night breezes that blew over the city and the outlying haciendas. Although it was originally a competition, the organizers decided to award the cash prizes evenly among the participants.
This is how we celebrate Christmas in the Philippines. As if singing Christmas carols since September wasn't enough, we make sure singing the most popular ones over and over again in one night, coupling them with some funny choreography, which added not just entertainment to Christmas festivities of the city but also letting these barangay officials perform in a friendly competition during the merriest month of the year.
                                                         (My mom's group)
My Mom's group was a combination of officials from Barangays 3 and 6; and after their performance, I decided to call it a holy night and headed home. And as I took a few more photos of the huge Christmas tree in the center of the plaza, I still continued to feel the cool Christmas breezes.
And wherever you may be as you read this, I share with you a few more lines to the Christmas carol and hope you're enjoying your holidays, too!

"Malamig ang simoy ng hanging...
kay saya ng bawa't damdamin. 
Ang tibok ng puso sa dibdib
(the heart beat in the chest)
Parang bang hulog ng langit...
(seems like heaven-sent).

Sunday, 28 December 2014

The Grinch And Some Movie Characters 2014 Christmas Party!

Our theme for our 2014 Christmas party was originally Christmas movie characters. But some friends wanted to stretch it to non-Christmas movie characters as they thought characters from the Christmas movies were limited; I stuck to Christmas movie. Why? I had an interesting idea.

In 2000, Ron Howard turned Dr. Seuss' tale into a fun movie starring Jim Carrey. I thought How The Grinch Stole Christmas was a good idea. 

So, last month, before it went all freezing in Seoul, I roamed the Dongmyo and Dongdaemun areas in search for the Grinch costume that was easy to put together. I wasn't prepared to spend a lot as I didn't have the costume budget of Universal Pictures. Ha-ha-ha! But I was prepared to face-paint like a real Grinch; I got this idea during the 2014 Asian Games when Gilas Pilipinas fans face-painted ourselves in the spirit of fun.

I didn't know it was that easy. The Grinch face, that is. Thanks to Arlene for her huge living mirror and red lipstick, the Alpha stationery store for the face-paint colors, a Grinch photo from the internet that I copied, and of course, my steady right hand. Yes, I did it myself. Do I get an Oscar nomination for best makeup for this? Ha-ha-ha!

And it was party time!

Last year's Christmas party was an easy one. This year, the Murphys came as The Scarecrow, Dorothy, The Lion and The Tin Man from The Wizard of Oz; the Nardos were the Minions, the Orchards came as the Shrek, Fiona and Baby Shrek; the Sabados were the Flinstones, Minerva came as Katniss Everdeen, Wendy as Mary Poppins, the Woods were Tarzan, Jane and family, and the Garcias were snowmen from Frozen, and Forrest Gump.
          (Yes, that's me. How I wanted to walk home wearing 
           this and see my neighbors' reaction. Ha-ha-ha!)
                                       (The Minions)
                                       (The Tin Man)
                      (The Tin Man, the Lion and the Grinch)
            (The Scarecrow, Dorothy, the Lion and the Tin Man 
                                   from Wizard of Oz)
                                 (Frozen's Olaf snowmen and Forrest Gump)
                                          (Tarzan, Jane and their babies)
                        (Shrek, Fiona and Baby Shrek)
                         (Mary Poppins and her wards)

And as in any Filipino party, we had games for the kids, exchange of gifts with all the families, and lots of food for everyone! Roast beef, fried lumpia, lasagna, paella, chicken, salad and a few more dishes my memory has forgotten, but my palate has not. Ha-ha-ha!

For us, this isn't just a party, where everyone gets together to have fun, but this is a special occasion for us to celebrate our friendship and be thankful that we all survived another year of living away from our home countries. 
                                 (The kids were happy with their prizes)
                                    (The Grinch, the Tin Man and the Lion 
                     tabulating the votes for best costume)
                 ("The Grinch says....give your mums a hug" game!)

                               (The Grinch wasn't pleased as the Shrek 
                         and Fiona won the best costume)

Although our Christmas get-together was meant to be fun, we were a bit sad that some friends are moving on to other countries, which year, we may see new movie characters in our party! :-)

(The Philippine Ambassador Raul Hernandez 
graciously  dropped by our party and joined 
these movie characters in a group photo) 

And to everyone in Korea and anywhere else around the world, my friends and I wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! 

Enjoy your holidays, too!

P.S. Thanks to Vanji for some of the photos above!

Monday, 22 December 2014

A Pinoy At The Movies: Theory Of Everything

            (The movie poster on the Seoul subway station)

A few weeks back there was the incredibly good, Interstellar, which took us all into other planets outside our solar system. 

This one, Theory of Everything, didn't send me out into outer space but into the mind of one of the most intelligent human beings ever, which in my list, includes Albert Einstein, and the inventors of the wheel, air travel and chocolate truffle cakes. Ha-ha-ha!

Stephen Hawking, one of my two favorite authors, wrote A Brief History of Time, his book that attempts to educate his fellow human beings whose IQ levels are way below his. Played by Eddie Redmayne, Hawking seemed to have breezed through his doctorate degree just like I breezed through the short quizzes of my Level 4 Spanish classes at Instituto Cervantes in Manila. Of course, no comparison. Ha-ha-ha!

Eddie Redmayne was superlatively good in this film. From the start until the second hour of the film, where Hawking had to endure a life of paralysis while trapped in a wheelchair suffering from a motor neurone disease. Redmayne's performance reminded me of Daniel Day-Lewis' portrayal of Christy Brown in the film, My Left Foot. That performance earned Day-Lewis the first of his three best actor Oscars; he also won for There Will Be Blood and Lincoln.

Two years ago, on Les Miserables, I was impressed with Redmayne's performance. But in his work for Theory of Everything, I have a feeling he will go on to win a major acting award as he had the whole film to display his English talent playing another famous English man. It seems that Academy members favor actors playing real characters. Remember Meryl Streep playing Margaret Thatcher in The Iron Lady? Or Colin Firth playing King Edward in The King's Speech? They both won.

Theory of Everything is an autobiography of Hawking's life. He breezed through his academics as he was a genius; but he struggled when it came to his emotions and later on, on his physicality. But all this handicap didn't and until now, doesn't hinder his quest for "a single unifying equation that explains everything in the universe."

It was -6'C all over Seoul when I hurried down to the CGV Cinemas at the Yongsan Station to catch this film. Straight from work, I didn't have dinner yet. I just grabbed a tall size green tea frappuccino from Starbucks just to fill in my tummy (and to complete my 17-sticker requirement for a free 2015 Starbucks diary!). But all throughout the 123 minutes of English life and theoretical equations on the blackboard, the movie seemed to have just flashed through the screen before me and in between my sips of my green tea frappuccino. A mark of a beautifully made film.

Cambridge. English tea. English life. Lou Gehrig's disease. Wheelchairs. Cosmology and blackholes. And a lot of talented actors and dialogues. All those made this film enjoyable to watch. This might even make me re-read A Brief History of Time again.

But before I do, I'd like to recommend to you that you watch this film, too!
                 (The huge poster for the new Hobbit film now 
               showing at the cinemas. I didn't catch it. Yet.)

Thursday, 18 December 2014

The Plaza's Pikachu Paparazzi!

Thousands of Pikachu fans gathered at Dongdaemun Design Plaza in Seoul, Korea, that weekend hoping to take selfies with this cuddly looking Pokeman character. In their yellow suits and wobbly making their way around the Plaza, they were swarmed by the huge crowd.

Unfortunately, although those ten Pikachus walking through the crowd were not overwhelmed, the staff of the Plaza were. They had to cancel the mini-parade.

Instead of parading these Pikachus, they assigned specific areas (five, I think), where the fans can have their photos with the character in a less crowded atmosphere. The fans just had to line up.

The cancellation of the mini-parades was due to safety concerns. The people behind the event might have been worried about any stampede and unmanageable crowd. I think they were right. With all these accidents in Korea happening this year, it was wise for them to instead change their plans. 

This event was actually held to celebrate a Korean whamming the Pokemon world championship, and they chose the Dongdaemun Design Plaza as the venue where they could parade these characters.

As I stood there watching and taking photographs of the fans posing with Pikachu, I noticed that every after a few minutes, the Pikachu went inside the building and came out again. I was thinking that, with the heavy Pikachu costume, whoever was inside needed to rest from this costume, which didn't seem to have an obvious ventilation. I later learned from the news that they required women who were about 160 centimeters tall to fit inside the Pikachu costume.

If you're the person inside the costume, you would also need to sit, eat, drink and the most important thing of all, unload your bladder! Obviously, in that costume, sitting is impossible. You would need to get out of it. Worse, you wouldn't be able sit on a loo with that!

So, as everyone had fun posing and taking selfies with the Pikachu costume, I wondered what the woman inside it must have been thinking. Or feeling. I was sure, comfort wasn't one of them. It's a tough job.

Around the Myeongdong shopping area, I'd also see costumed characters inviting shoppers and tourists into a store or restaurant. This I see even during the scorching summer season.

For those of you who enjoyed and posed with Pikachu at the Dongdaemun Design Plaza, I hoped you were able to thank the person inside the heavy, uncomfortable costume for your photo, which I am sure became popular in your Facebook, Instagram, Twitter or blog accounts. 

And for those ten ladies inside the Pikachu costume, good job, ladies! 

Tuesday, 16 December 2014

"You're All I Want For Christmas....."

"You're all I want for Christmas...."

Christmas costume, that is!

That Christmas song has been playing on my mind lately. It's because the season of the year has come again when my friends and I had to decide on our theme for our annual Christmas party!

Last year, 2013, was an easy one: ugly sweater Christmas party. The year before that, 'wear your Christmas carol'. I think it was easier thinking about a Christmas carol, than decorating a sweater.
Over the years, my friends here in Seoul found ways to really enjoy our time here in Korea. After all, being expatriates living away from our home countries, we all have each other for support, friendship!

I guess, all this time, my own creativity was tested (and pushed!) by these themed parties. From our Jimi Hendrix party, Oscars' Movie Night and one of the most fun ever, our super heroes and villains Halloween party.  

And sometimes, it was a relief when the theme was easy like Ruth's summer Hawaiian party or the Purple Valentine party.


We decided that our theme for 2014 would be Christmas movie characters. Well, it was easy to be Santa Claus or one of his elves. But since there are only a handful of movies about Christmas, we extended it to non-Christmas movies. 


I decided that my costume would be from a Christmas movie; I thought it would be easier. Plus, I know where I could source my costume or its accessories. Dongmyo's toy alley is always reliable for this, and the adjacent area of Dongdaemun Station has lots of shops where you can find unique accessories for a costume. I now know this Dongdaemun area very well. I love it there; the food stalls sell yummy goodies at cheaper prices, plus these are made by Korean ajummas who are the best at what they cook.
 (Found this dakkoyaki stall on the street! I had to get some!)

I wandered around the Dongmyo toy alley and the Dongdaemun Station area for a couple of weekends, not only to look for my costume, but also to enjoy some keran-ppang (bread with a whole cooked egg inside), bungeo-ppang (fish bread with red bean paste inside) and mandu (dumplings)! I couldn't believe a dish of six bite-sized mandu sells only for KRW1,000! I ordered three for take-out! Or was it four? Ha-ha-ha!

Not only is this place a bus ride away from where I live. This place is full of mom-and-pop shops, which I'd rather patronize .
After roaming for two weekends, I was finally able to assemble my Christmas party costume. Actually, looking for a costume in that area was just an excuse to visit. Ha-ha-ha! The Christmas costume seemed secondary. My tummy was the priority. Ha-ha-ha!
Now, I am ready for the party! I'm not sure if I have the guts to share in this blog how I'll look like in my Christmas movie character costume. Ha-ha-ha!

And just because I finally found my costume doesn't mean I have to stop humming this jingle. I like that classic!

"You're all I want for Christmas... All I want my whole life through...."