Play it by ear

.. just stop and listen.

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TV’s music

It always happens.

I watch an episode of my favorite TV show, when suddenly I hear the song. Usually it starts with the faint strums of a guitar and then the clear and beautiful vocals. Back in the day, I would wait for the episode credits to see who sang what. Now, it will just be a Google away.  

The most recent “discovery” I made was while watching the season finale of Hart of Dixie, a lighthearted tv series that hubby and I enjoy watching together I later find out that the song is called “Unbreakable” by Jamie Scott.  

I don’t have Spotify nor Amazon. I only get my songs in iTunes. It is not available on iTunes!   For now, I have to contend with listening to it via YouTube. The singer fits the mold that I like in artists – a man (or woman) in casual wear with an acoustic guitar strapped to his body singing great music with beautifully written lyrics..

Hart of Dixie has always used a great selection of music over the last three seasons. I love that the show gives its viewers a fix of country rock or folksy songs. (not to mention Rachel Bilson’s amazing fashion sense.) I remember years ago, another show was popular not just for its great script and acting but also for its music – the show, Ally McBeal.. (I have a uhm.. tape of the show’s soundtrack, actually). Parenthood churns out great music too. And House, of course. Sometimes, the show Criminal Minds had good song selections too.

Long after the Miley Cyruses or the Rihannas or Biebers have gone, what remains will be good music from talented people like Sara Bareilles and Jason Mraz. The gimmicky will lose its appeal and famous singers will fade but true talent will stay. 

Speaking of talented singer/songwriters, I was also able to watch the latest season of American Idol. While I loved the personality and voices of the top 2 who sang in the finale, my favorite was Alex Preston who finished third. I was glad he didn’t win. That way, he will not be pulled from different directions by the powers that be of that franchise. He can just make music his own artistic way.   I watched him sing with his favorite singer/songwriter, Jason Mraz.   I liked what they sang. It is called Love Someone.

I watch too much (American) TV, I know. I also can’t last a day without my daily dose of good music. We all have our guilty pleasures. Some love their FBs, IGs or tweets or tablets and phablets or whatnot.  I like my remote and my white earbuds.


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Lessons from a deathbed

My aunt passed away on the first of May.  She was 81.

We found out that she had a terminal illness.  She knew that she had it but never bothered to tell us. Nor was she interested in getting treatment. She didn’t want any biopsies done. Doctors couldn’t perform CT scan because of her extremely elevated creatinine level.  We knew her days were numbered so we took every opportunity to visit her or stay with her at the hospital.  To talk to her. Share the Word of God to her. To us, that was most important.

She was admitted at the hospital on April 14, her first hospital confinement. It would also be her last. The day she was placed on a ventilator/respirator she wanted it removed right away. Even after telling her that she wouldn’t be able to breath if we remove the tube. At one point, she signaled with her hands, quite forcefully, that she wanted to just die.  That she wanted the respirator removed so she can die.   I could recall her furrowed brows and the constant shifting of her body in her bed — her way of insisting that we remove her respirator.  And her apparent frustration when she realized that we had no plans of giving into her requests — which very rarely happened before.  My aunt was one VERY tough cookie.  She gave orders, not the other way around.  She was, after all, the eldest of seven children, who made a lot of sacrifices to take care of her younger siblings, including my father.

I had to admit for a moment though, I agreed with her — to remove the respirator because it was just a means to prolong her dying. But my elder siblings and cousins would have none of that. On her fourth day on the respirator, in the early afternoon of May 1, she passed away. My aunt lived a long, good life.  Even after retiring 20 years ago, she was always cared for by her siblings and lately, by her nieces and nephews.  She was there when I got married. She was there during my youngest sister’s college graduation. We picked her up regularly at her sister’s place in Binangonan during her birthdays and during the holidays. We even gave her a fab 80th birthday celebration. Pampering her was like pampering my own parents who passed away years ago.

But when she died — I felt a different kind of sadness. I grieved not just because she has left this world but — with the choices she made just days before she passed away.  I was with her during her last few days.  I was one of those she spoke to last, until she had to be supported by a mechanical respirator. She gave me her last instructions — instructions that I didn’t quite agree with. In the end, her last words to me were, well .. not doable.

Seeing someone ready to face death but refusing to relinquish control, or fully trust – it was a heartbreaking thing to witness. I realized  that you learn most about a person when you see how he/she responds during these critical moments. You learn about him/her based on how friends and family respond to her impending passing. My family realized that my aunt kept a lot of things in her heart. five days after she died, we still wonder how much we truly knew about our aunt.

Losing someone in the family is always painful. My aunt is the fourth person in my family who passed on in a span of what — 9 years. I am not sure if trauma is the right word for it but you can say that the last 9 years have given us wounds in our hearts that we could never really recover from. While we know that death is inevitable, in my family’s case, death seem to be just well…around our corner.

Nothing can prepare you for the loss of a loved one. Nothing. But what it did for me this time was remind me again, quite glaringly, that life is fleeting. It reminded me that the value of the tangible things I cherish in this world are just — earthbound. If you believe in eternity and in the afterlife like me, you remember what matters. You remember love and loving . You remember relationships. You remember to create many moments of togetherness and intimacy. You choose forgiveness. You let go of worries. You choose joy. You choose to trust.

My siblings and I learned a lot during my aunt’s last few days.  We saw how differently we respond and decide on certain instances. We realized that we needed to know what each one of us thinks about sickness and dying. Best of all, we all realized how important it is to always get together. To celebrate events and milestones, no matter how simple. And create memories.

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This Man of Steel

Here’s the gist — I liked Man of Steel!

That is not to say that it has taken over that special spot in my heart where Christopher Reeve’s Superman series dwells. I LOVED that Superman.   Superman 2 may actually be one of the first movies that I have watched inside a movie theater with my older brother interpreting the dialogues for me (when he felt liked it). We had a Superman collection in Betamax so I had more time to watch the movies over and over and over again (ala Star Wars ep 4-6)

But I was ready and curious to see who this new man of steel is. It helped that I have been seeing teasers of this reboot since late last year plus the fact that Christopher Nolan will be behind it.   I knew what to expect.

This new movie is reminiscent of the James Bond’s shift from my favorite Pierce Brosnan to who-is-this-not-so-good-looking Daniel Craig. I had way more attachment to the James Bond character than Superman’s so I was ready to hate on Daniel Craig’s take on Bond.   But when I saw Casino Royale,  Craig’s first Bond movie — I loved it. And I loved Daniel Craig.  After the movie ended, I was ready to say goodbye to the charming-but-whose-suit-never-gets-dirty James Bond.  It was time for something different.

Reeve’s Clark Kent was this tall, awkward guy who periodically adjusts his fake prescription glasses,  who bumps into a taxi while crossing a street and finds himself apologizing to the driver for the damage to the car or finds the nearest phone booth so he can change into his bright blue and red suit.  He was endearing.

Recall also that in 2006, Brandon Routh donned the Superman cape for Superman Returns.  That was a pretty decent film.  It made modest earnings maybe that is why there was no follow up to it.  Problem with Routh was, he reminded me so much more of Reeve.

Meanwhile, Man of Steel’s Henry Cavill, while also gifted with a chiseled face, seem more interesting to me as Clark Kent than Routh’s version. He doesn’t aim to be like Christopher Reeve.  His take was more serious which I think is quite realistic.

I appreciated how the director presented the Clark Kent’s backstory.  In fact liked all the flashbacks!

Speaking of back story.  I mean, when you know that you are different and can’t explain it, how would you feel? When you were bullied as a kid and asked by your father to reign it in, how frustrated and confused would you be?  When you know you can save your father but was asked not to, how painful would that be?  (I loved that it had those emotional scenes which gave the character more depth.) When you couldn’t truly understand who you are, wouldn’t you feel alone?  When he led a nomadic life, I thought that made sense too.  He had a lonely journey ahead which I felt made sense too.

Still, like Reeve’s Kent, he loved the mother he grew up knowing.  I remember Reeve’s character telling someone in the Daily Planet to send his paycheck to Martha Kent which I thought was sweet. This recent reboot allowed more minutes to develop his relationship with his mother.  It showed a very human side to Kent and how very protective he was towards Martha.

I also liked General Zod and Jor-el’s back story.  In Superman 2, it was only shown that General Zod and his two cohorts committed treason and was sentenced to the Phantom Zone (where they were imprisoned inside a mirror — sorry that was how i remembered it) but no provided no other details.  Marlon Brando only had a few minutes screen time as Jor-el but was paid a hefty sum for his services.  Which reminds me, I think Man of Steel’s Ursa was awesome!  Way more awesome than the Sarah Douglas version of Ursa.  Loved her.

What I wasn’t too crazy about?  Pretty much a consensus i think.  He killed Zod. And with his bare hands.

Zod wasn’t killed in the old version.  He was just sent back to the Phantom Zone with his two side kicks.  Superman usually doesnt kill, my husband (who is not a DC fan) said that.  He is right.  Plus, I mean, by breaking his neck?

I enjoyed the aerial fight between Zod and Superman but midway through it, I thought — there is just so much damage.  How will Metropolis have enough time to rebuild in time for Part 2?

I understand that the movie didn’t have the lighter side that the old one had. I get that. Christopher Reeve as Superman will always be my beloved childhood memory.  But I can’t not like Man of Steel.  I hope part 2 will have Lex Luthor since I distinctly saw a LexCorp truck hauled by General Zod.  (maybe a clue of things to come?).

Lastly, when Henry Cavill’s Kent put on his horn-rimmed eyeglasses and smiled at Lois Lane– sigh.   He has the potential to totally win me over with his charm.

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Ohh my gas!

First of all, pardon the title. It is pretty pathetic but I couldn’t help it.  Because, well, this blog is about it — gas. LOL!

A week ago, I felt that weird feeling in my stomach. (Yes! It’s that kind of gas.)  I felt bloated first of all and very uncomfortably heavy at the middle.  I laid on my stomach with a pillow underneath, my vain attempt to deal with the discomfort. 

The next morning, around 3am I woke up feeling like I was about to vomit but not really.  Mr. C woke up, rubbed my back and asked me what was wrong.

Then — I made a big major BURP.  

Whoa! That sounded different but it sure felt good.  I have NEVER felt that way in my life.  And then a few seconds later, I burped again… and again.   

Gas pain, Mr C told me.  Really? Why? I asked him.

He said it must be something I ate.  It felt bizarre after that episode but so glad that I got the air out of the way — literally.  

Something I ate? Hmm..The one thing I can identify as culprit was the chicken I had at this restaurant the night before.  It was buffalo wings.  I used to love Don Henrico’s buffalo wings ( it is a best seller there).  Must have been years since I had them and now — this.  I found it too salty now.  They either changed their recipe or my stomach just changed its mind about it.  So, well, i have mentally written off buffalo wings in my list.  

I wonder how many more dishes I will write off in the coming years.  Arrgh! Noooo!



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Waiting for Gatsby

Finally,  I saw the teaser of Leonardo DiCaprio’s next movie, an adaptation of The Great Gatsby, an F. Scott Fitzgerald classic. I have eagerly waited for this film’s release since I first learned that the project is in the works with DiCaprio playing Jay Gatsby.

Two years ago, while on a plane from LAX to Incheon and with many more hours to spare before touchdown, I reluctantly watched an earlier remake of same movie featuring Robert Redford.  Reluctant, because the movie was set in the 1920’s and because I knew that it was a serious film with loads of conversations — no car chases or jumping from skyscrapers or moving trains (blame it on Tom Cruise and Daniel Craig).

Midway through the movie, I remember rolling my eyes and my thought balloon going “Oh c’mon, where is this film heading?  It is moving sooo painfully slow and the plot is so complex.”   (I was on a long haul flight with a restless teenage Korean boy as my seat mate, my patience was wearing thin.)

BUT, two things pushed me to finish the film. First is the narrative.   One of the main characters, Nick Carraway provided the narration and his words were poetic and eloquent.  The writing was special.

And the second reason?  Nostalgia.  My father raved about this book and film when I was still in grade school.    I remember seeing the book at our old home in Sampaloc, Manila.  I remember keeping the book with the intention of reading it.  I guess, it was a way of relating to my father.  But sadly, I never read the book.  With our constant moving from apartment to apartment back then, I eventually lost the copy.  Call it an unfinished business, I was determined to find out why my father liked the story.

I was very pensive, angry and sad even several hours after the watching film.  It was that kind of story. The author’s sobering conclusions will make you think. The story may have been set in the 1920’s but the plot continues to describe today’s reality — it is about undying love, the quench for power, the lure of riches, fidelity, justice or the lack of it.

I remember the essence of the narration towards the last part of the film that really made me stop and think. It summarizes the entire film.  I searched through google hoping to find the exact words…. Found it!

“I couldn’t forgive him or like him, but I saw that what he had done was, to him, entirely justified. It was all very careless and confused. They were careless people, Tom and Daisy—they smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back into their money or their vast carelessness, or whatever it was that kept them together, and let other people clean up the mess they had made.” – F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby

I am curious how the 2013 remake can make this story relevant enough to capture today’s audience. But as for me, the next thing to do really is to read the novel.

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The songs I used to hear

It was very interesting to see the legendary Freddie Aguilar fight back tears as he shares the story behind his award-winning song, Anak, the song that changed his life.  Mr. C and I were watching the Mel Tiangco show, Powerhouse on GMANewsTV.

Freddie says that the song was his peace offering to his dad — his own genius way of making amends and admitting the error of his youthful ways.  He showed the lyrics to his dad and of course his dad loved it.  Never mind that Anak was written three decades ago, Freddie’s emotion remained raw on camera as he talked with Ms.Mel Tiangco.

In this one hour interview, I learned that he submitted the song to the Metro Manila Popular Music Song Festival.  I have been a fan of that competition in the mid 80’s but I cannot recall Anak as an entry. I was surprised to learn that the song never even placed third!

Freddie said that when the winner was about to be announced, the people were shouting “Anak! Anak!” and then started booing when a different song was announced.  Of course, Mr. Aguilar didn’t say what song that was.

“Poor winner. Who won that year?” my husband said.

I shook my head, incredulous, “What song can beat Anak??!” And then I paused.  Well unless it is Ngayon at Kailanman by George Canseco, I can understand. That has to be one of the best songs composed by a Filipino. Or Kayganda ng Ating Musika by Ryan Cayabyab. That is a pop classic.

Our curiosity piqued, we googled immediately and – HAH!  It was the Ryan Cayabyab song. That was in 1978, the first Metro Pop Music competition that launched the careers of so many people and brought attention to our wonderful composers. It also began the historic journey of Mr. Freddie Aguilar to the international stage.

Over the next few minutes, I feasted on the information in front of the computer screen and gushed at how great the songs were, even the songs that didn’t win.  The Apo Hiking Society (or The Apo), placed second in 1979 for “Ewan” — giving composer Louie Ocampo the break that he needed.  I also loved  Bulag, Pipi at Bingi, Lupa, Hahanapin ko, “Til I Met You, Magsimula Ka.

I couldn’t help but think about the current dearth of great OPM songs. We still have those talented composers in the country but sadly, our local music industry is on life support. Piracy is sucking the life out of it.  There is little money to be had for our composers and lyricists. Music from foreign acts is also so accessible.

Will we ever have those golden years of OPM back?  I don’t know.  But I am glad I know these great old songs to remind me of how great we can be — again.

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The green sofa I hated


That was my first thought the first time I laid my eyes on the green sofa in the apartment that I moved into with my husband three years ago.  There was nothing wrong with this three-piece furniture set, really.  It’s just that — green is not my favorite color.

Over the entire course of my life so far, I have, at some point, grown fond of pretty much all the colors of the rainbow. But somehow, I skipped green — unfairly not giving the color my time of day.

Apart from the sofa, the apartment already had a six-seater dining table. These are stuff that Mr. C bought second-hand from the previous lessee when he took the apartment a year before we were married.  We could have easily replaced them when I moved but as is usually the case, my practicality kicked in and opted to just have the sofa cleaned.  Besides, the previous owner was only able use it for a year.  The previous owner also happens to be the younger sister of our best man.  Plus, she works for one of the 5-star hotels in the city which accounts for her excellent taste in dining tables. Okay sofa, too.

All of my friends, who were eager to see my “horrible” sofa agree that it isn’t so bad.  In fact, it looks rather wonderful in the apartment.  It was also the knowledge that we will be moving to a place of our own soon which meant giving up the sofa entirely. Whoopee.  Couldnt wait for that!

Until something happened.

The sofa grew on me.

Before I knew it, I was buying pillow cases and choosing curtains that complements the sofa. I thought that the microfiber material of the sofa is perfect, easy to maintain and more importantly, works well with my favorite colors — beige and orange.

Over the last three years, it has inevitably become the ubiquitous object in most of the photos taken with family and friends at home.

Until it was time to leave the place we had rented for three years and move into our own place.  It was also time to give away my sofa.  Its soft green microfiber material remain in good condition despite the many house guests it had accommodated.  After getting help from MyClean Bed, a professional cleaning service, to have the sofa cleaned, the movers picked the three pieces and moved to a familiar address — my sisters’.

My new sofa in our new apartment is customized to suit the room’s requirements.  It is beige and made of nylon or cotton, not really sure. However, a part of living room wall was painted with an accent of color to liven up the place and make it look bigger  – a green accent.