Friday, 25 March 2016

To Philippine Politicians: Huwag Magnakaw!

Ngayong semana santa, ang isa sa mga hinihiling ko sa mga opisyales nating naka-upo at sa mga gustong umupo ay 'huwag magnakaw'.

Pero, sa palagay ko, huli na ako sa paghiling ko kasi yung mga naka-upo ngayon at yung mga nag-retire na ay yumaman na at lalo pang yumayaman!

Hay, naku. Kelan pa ba tayo magbabago? Sana ang i-halal natin ay yung tapat sa serbisyo at hindi yung mga kawatan na yan.

Siguro, kung puede natin ipako sa cruz yung mga kawatan sa gobyerno ay kukulangin tayo sa kahoy at pako. Ha-ha-ha!

Kaya, isama na lang natin sa dasal ngayong semana santa ay sana magising yung mga bobotante at ihalal ang matapat sa serbisyo publiko at totoong magaling sa paglilingkod sa bayan, at hindi yung magaling magnakaw.

Good luck, Pilipinas!

Saturday, 19 March 2016

A Pinoy @ The Theater: Benedict Cumberbatch as HAMLET

              (From across the street, 
          Benedict Cumberbatch and 
             Tom Hiddleston's posters)

When I was in Grade 6, Miss Maroma, our English teacher, introduced my classmates and me to the works of William Shakespeare, including Merchant of Venice, where Portia successfully defended Antonio from being butchered by Shylock. 
         (Cumberbatch fans ascending 
       the steps of the National Theater)

But during the other weekend, I was no longer in a classroom; I was at the National Theater of Korea. And it wasn't Merchant of Venice; I was watching NTLive's Hamlet! With Benedict Cumberbatch in the title role, no less!

Just like Coriolanus, the National Theater Live was also featuring Hamlet. NTLive is a live performance filmed and then later shown to audiences around the world. And this time, the lucky audiences were in the National Theater of Korea in Seoul!

Although it was chilly that day, the audience braved freezing temperatures. Why? Everyone didn't want to miss Benedict Cumberbatch's performance!

I watched him on TV as Sherlock Holmes, and a couple of years back, he was impressive as Alan Turing in Imitation Game. Definitely, nobody wanted to miss this award-winning actor's performance as Hamlet!
                  (My Hamlet ticket)

Even though it was freezing and snowing outside, the intensity of the cast's performance was sizzling inside the theater, especially with Benedict's signature deep voice that resonated across the hall and his emotions that were commanding from all angles. Since most audience members were non-English speaking, there were subtitles at the bottom of the screen. 

Benedict Cumberbatch was the voice of Smaug in The Hobbit, and he was emotionless and superhuman as Khan in Star Trek Into Darkness. Here was an actor with a special kind of presence, and that day, I was a witness to his amazing gift of acting: voice, emotions and all!

Although the play lasted three hours, there was nary a dull moment. After all, instead of flying to London to watch Shakespeare, we were all lucky that NTLive brought Shakespeare and Benedict over to Seoul! And even though it was all a videoed performance, the local audience still showed their appreciation and applauded like the whole cast was just right there within hearing distance.
           (Huge posters at the lobby of 
                 the National Theater)

After the performance, everyone headed home to a snowed Seoul with paths a little bit slippery, but nobody complained. We were treated, not just to this unique NTLive's staging of William Shakespeare's longest play, but also to Benedict Cumberbatch's sublime performance.

Wednesday, 16 March 2016

Photo of the Day: Pomeranians at a Seoul Roundabout

"How much is that doggie in the window? 
The one with the waggly tail..."
That must be the song that played in the heads of the people who saw these cute brown pomeranians sitting on a vendor's cart at the Hyewha roundabout in the Jongno District in Seoul. 

Their master, an old man, sold cooked chestnuts on the street, while they just sat there, quietly watching passers-by and, at times, ogled at their master's customers. 

It was a chilly day when I passed by their spot, but with their seats next to the hot oven that cooked the chestnuts, they were just sitting pretty and warm, and simply watched the world go by.

Sunday, 13 March 2016

A Pinoy @ The Theater: Tom Hiddleston in Shakespeare's CORIOLANUS

      (Giant Benedict Cumberbatch and 
        Tom Hiddleston's posters at the 
     National Theater of Korea entrance)

Last month, as my bus was passing by the National Theater of Korea in Seoul, a huge poster caught my eye. The two men in the poster looked familiar! 

It was Benedict Cumberbatch and Tom Hiddleston! Benedict Cumberbatch was Sherlock Holmes on TV's Sherlock and was brilliant as Alan Turing on Imitation Game, while Tom Hiddleston was, well, bossy as Loki of Asgard in The Avengers. From my bus window, I took a photo of the poster to see what it was all about. Because with two big names and recognizable faces on the huge posters, who wouldn't want to pass up the chance to see them?

The poster was for the performances of Coriolanus and Hamlet for the National Theater Live, or NTLive, which is a filmed live performance at a London stage and shown at other theaters around the world. And this time, in Seoul, NTLive was showing Shakespeare's Coriolanus and Hamlet!

When I got home that day, I immediately logged on to the website of the National Theater of Korea and just got lucky that, over the play dates, there were a few seats left for Coriolanus and one, yes, one-unexplainable-mysteriously-available-seat for Hamlet! Whew! Of course, I bought the available seats immediately! It's Shakespeare!

And on the play date for Coriolanus, the main theater was packed! 
Coriolanus is a tragedy, and I didn't expect Tom to show up as a god from Asgard complete with horns and cape. Here, Tom Hiddleston was a successful Roman general and was spilling out Shakespeare's words like they were meant to be his. Since NTLive had close-ups, Tom's intensity was magnified all over the big screen. His words and emotions jumped out of the screen and reached even those sitting at the farthest corner of the theater (perhaps they also bought their tickets late!). Tom, as an angry Coriolanus, still pierced them on their seats with his emotions as if they were sitting up front. I even told myself, I liked this NTLive! I didn't have to fly to London to watch Shakespeare! Ha-ha-ha! 

A familiar face in the cast caught my attention: Alfred Enoch, who played a student at Viola Davis's How To Get Away With Murder drama series. I didn't know he was English. I thought he was an African-American who happened to attend Viola Davis's law class at a Philadelphia university and later got involved in a murder plot in that drama. Here, in Coriolanus, Alfred plays Titus Lartius, another Roman general.
  (Brochures for Hamlet and Coriolanus)

Although Tom Hiddleston plays the main character, his mom, Volumnia, played by Deborah Findlay matched his performance word-for-word. Miss Findlay stole the scene from Tom a few times, and for a very good reason: she was very good! And in each of her scene, she made sure the audience knew who she was: an ambitious mother to Coriolanus and a very good stage actress.

After the play, I realized I was lucky to have looked out the window that day and spotted the poster, or I wouldn't have had the opportunity to experience and enjoy NTLive's Coriolanus.
     (My tickets for NTLive performances)

I started reading Shakespeare at 12 during my grade school years. Our English teacher, Miss Maroma, would read with us the plays during class and made us understand those centuries-old Shakespearian words. But that night, among the audience made up of Koreans and a few foreigners, I watched and enjoyed not just another Shakespeare work, but performances and a production of the highest quality even William Shakespeare would have been proud of.

                         * * * * *

Next play, Benedict Cumberbatch as Hamlet!

Sunday, 6 March 2016

Glow In The Dark: The Night Palace Tours

Last week, I called up Korea Tourism Organization's #1330 hotline to ask about the night tours of Changdeokgung Palace. The female operator handling the English hotline told me that tickets were made available days before and they were sold out. 

Something in me didn't believe her. Why? All my professional life I was trained not to believe unless I see evidence. And unless she told me her source and verified it myself, I didn't believe a word she said. Ha-ha-ha!

(Photographers and onlookers standing on the rooftop of the National Museum of Korean Contemporary History)
And I was right not to believe her.

Yesterday, I logged on into Interpark's website and, viola! I was able to buy a ticket! For a night tour of Changdeok Palace! They weren't sold out after all!

       (Gyeongbuk Palace lighted at night)
I wanted to call back #1330 and tell that female operator to stop informing her callers that tickets were sold out. Because if she did, those tourists and visitors to Korea who wanted to experience walking around the Changdeok Palace at night would just forego the experience of discovering the Palace's nocturnal character.

The temperatures in Seoul are getting warmer these days, and it should be comfortable walking around the palatial grounds even at night. 

And maybe when it's really quiet and calm at the Palace, perhaps, it won't only be the tour guide's voice that the visitors would be able to hear. We should also be able to hear the voices of the past residents and the stories they wanted to tell the visitors.
     (The main gate of Gyeongbuk Palace 
                            at night)

Details of the night tour: