Starbucks brings back a PH Christmas Tradition with the 2021 Planners and Organizers

In an uncertain time when activities are still limited due to a global pandemic, many people question the need for planners and organizers. But the thing is, our lives keep going even if our world has drastically changed. We may have to cancel our travel plans, we may be forced to work from home or even lose our jobs, and we may need to overhaul our whole lives but beyond all that, life goes on. There is no pause button. We do the best that we can and move forward. If we are lucky, we get to throw in a semblance of normalcy by having that regular cup of Starbucks or celebrate the holidays the way we used to.

For my friends and I, collecting the Starbucks planners and organizers is part of the holiday tradition. They do end up more as notebooks nowadays but then the fun part is in collecting and getting them. We weren’t sure we were getting them this year but luckily, Starbucks just unveiled their best looking Philippine-exclusive designs yet.

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PPP recycles films for its first online edition starting tomorrow

Although the pandemic remains to be a threat anywhere in the world, most particularly to countries such as ours, with erratic government practices in mitigating any crises,  its film media arm, Film Development Council of the Philippines is pushing through the 4th Pista ng Pelikulang Pilipino (PPP) with its all-new online edition, and according to the agency is a response to the restrictions on the operations of cinemas given the current situation. The films can be watched on their film channel: www.fdcpchannel.ph

More than 100 films will be screened for one week. Liza Dino Seguerra flashily reported that in the last three years, the PPP has showcased 37 full-length feature films to more than 2.5 million audiences, which grossed over P420 million. Dino Seguerra, a former bit actress, proudly declared that the festival’s well-received top grossers are “100 Tula Para kay Stella” (2017) and “The Day After Valentine’s” (2018) both by the contentiously fluff filmmaker Jason Paul Laxamana, and “The Panti Sisters” (2019) by Jun Robles Lana. Some PPP films have been chosen as the country’s  representative  to the Academy Awards which include “Birdshot” by Mikhail Red in 2017, “Signal Rock” by Chito Roño in 2018, and “Verdict” by Raymund Ribay Gutierrez in 2019.

Accordingly, PPP will also feature Sine Kabataan short features from young filmmakers which focus on societal themes that in reality the present government fails to address.

“We certainly had high hopes and grand plans this year for PPP 4, especially since it would have coincided with the closing of the Philippine Cinema Centennial celebration. Although cinemas remain closed and there are no press conferences, premiere nights, PPP Grand FanCon, and block screenings, we at the FDCP still resolved to push through with the PPP no matter what. Tuloy na tuloy ang Pista!,” Dino Seguerra indicated in her press statement.

Amid the pandemic, the national film agency wishes to showcase the diversity of our local films. And as the country officially closed the celebration of One Hundred Years of Philippine Cinema in September, the FDCP aims for the PPP to be the platform to gather the entire film industry together as it looks to the future of the next hundred years.

Aptly dubbed “PPP 4, Sama All!” the festival will recycle 145 titles (67 full-length films and 78 shorts) films previously screened in other local film festivals  such as the Cinemalaya Philippine Independent Film Festival, QCinema International Film Festival, Cinema One Originals Film Festival, Sinag Maynila Film Festival, CineFilipino Film Festival, ToFarm Film Festival, and Metro Manila Film Festival.  Films from CineMarya Women’s Film Festival will also be re-screened.

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NATIONAL PAGEANT-FIRST: Miss Universe Philippines front-runner comes out as bisexual


A former college cheerleader, and someone who would rather choose to fly domestic as a flight attendant to enjoy more free time for herself, has publicly come out as bisexual during the pageant’s preliminary interview rounds currently being held in Baguio City.

Kimberly “Billie” Hakenson, Miss Universe Philippines Cavite, is the first national-pageant contestant in the Philippines to come out as LGBTQ during the contest. Previously, Beatrice Luigi Gomez came out as gay during the Q and A portion of Binibining Cebu 2020. Coincidentally, Hakenson is also Cebu-based, although she is representing her hometown of Cavite.


“I am Billie Hakenson, and I am bisexual, and I’m proud to be here,” Hakenson proudly declared in front of a judges panel and while being filmed for the Episode 6 of the Ring Light Series of the Miss Universe Philippines.

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Miss Universe Philippines Ring Light series reveals backstage stories

I was commissioned to write the scripts of the 5-episode documentary primer for the Miss Universe Philippines in December 2019. As early as that – a month before the first COVID case in the Philippines was tested positive, I had already started writing preliminaries and outlines for what would become the Ring Light Series, which officially premieres tonight at 8pm-ish on www.empire.ph .

By January, I have finished writing spiels for what supposed to have been the first episode, the runway challenge, which would culminate on February 2020 by the sidewalks of Uptown Mall in BGC, Taguig City.  The coronation night was originally intended to be held in May.  It was also my last time before the lockdown to socialize in Manila, or anywhere. Two weeks later, one of the strictest pandemic lockdowns in the world happened in our midst for at least 3 months, and now six months later – we are on the verge of reopening the business centers to the new normal.

Technically, as I share this, I am still supplying some cells on the script of the last episode, which would all have been uploaded and streamed by October 11 and the weeks after that. If writing and story producing for the Ring Light seemed a tough endeavor to accomplish during the pandemic – given how scarce and limited the exchange of contents there have been – filming the actual clips for the episodes have been extra-challenging for the contestants and the filmmakers themselves.  At least a few runs before the lockdown, the contestants have already retreated to their provincial bases. Only about two dozen are based in the NCR – and they could only be scheduled a few times, with all health safety protocols strictly monitored, on the Empire BGC headquarters of the Miss Universe Philippines.  The girls who are in the provinces as far as Zamboanga and Batanes have been teamed up with their local videographers to finish their submissions.

The contestants will be featured proportionately in at least 3 episodes, the remaining two will also be participated in without as much sound-bytes compared to those who are assigned for their special episodes.  One episode is devoted for each girl for their on-camera spiels, 2 questions each for the sit-down interviews, and a substantial amount of camera sessions that would feature them beyond the usual pageant core drills. Indeed, the Ring Light series is about their combined personal and MUP journeys. We can see them in their earlier pageant training, at home doing other activities, aside from doing workouts and participating in online training sessions and workshops.

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Social Media Apps that share money

Why share your digital content for free when you can earn from them with every time you post, and each time a follower hits the like button, or rates it, or supports you by watching the ads clipped to it. You don’t even have to be a largely-followed celebrity. You just need a striking original content, enough to gain attention and support.

Back in the day, advertising inserts are targeted to audience’s online behavior. With the introduction of the click-per-post schemes, content creators are given a portion of the allotted profit from every ad budget, once the target viewers are encouraged by their own interests to click.

TSU: The Social That Pays

Now, whether a viewer is targeted or not, regardless of their processed internet activities; they are now compelled by their own accord to click the ads and even finish the whole 45-seconders without even skipping. That seems to be the appeal of TSU, which prides itself as “Social that Pays.”

TSU was actually founded in 2013 and headquartered in Norwalk, Connecticut, USA. Tsū was oddly comparable to Facebook in terms of their integral features and user interface. The unique proposition of Tsu, however, is its exceptional ability to share ad revenue among its users. The original compensation structure “was to keep 10 percent of the total ad revenue for itself, while half the remainder went to users and the other half to the network that brought the content creator to the platform. It was re-launched in September 2019, after a brief decline and complaints by other social networking platforms as “spam.” Having experienced such major setback, TSU incorporated a virtually “spam-free” protection guarantees.

Subscribers can earn from “supported contents” from other subscribers and “dividends” from every ad revenue. A usual heavy user can earn at least a dollar a week. We have tried TSU (account: archiemarx) and in a span of 2 weeks, we earned about 50 cents. The key seems to engage your followers to #support you by asking them for a mutual cooperation. We are not very particularly certain if such activity is platform-supported, but given its purpose and nature – there isn’t oddly any discord or technicality to speak of at the moment.

When it comes to social media networking gratification, it almost seems instant as followers have always been energetic to “support” every post on the timeline feeds – because each click and share may almost always guarantee a returned favor. This is why TSU harbors a sentiment among subscribers as “tsufamily.”

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Gameboys BL Pair Reteams for a Movie Premiering in South Korea

While it’s greatly apparent that the exciting proliferations of gay-themed stories on digital screens, via boys love (BL) series, have renewed our burning interests on LGBTQIA issues and experiences – we may have to analyze how things have been since its original inception, at least in the dawning periods of digital cinema in the Philippines. 

Cris Pablo’s Duda/Doubt, for the record, was the first longform narrative feature in digital format – which happened to be an interweaving tale of gay sex, love, and relationships – quite in extent made it all seem possible for all independent filmmakers to literally shoot the stars and achieve a sense of goal and aspirations that filmmaking can be democratized beyond the dictums of the old and mainstream studio system.  While Pablo’s Duda interestingly seeded the cloud and rained profusely over a period of at least 7 years with the explosion of gay soft core Indies – they weren’t exactly focused on the experience of young love and coming of age. They were, in all straight-talk, a spa and splash of sex parades – which in turn became a hotbed of welcomed nudity and other unapologetic physicality on screen. Duda/Doubt was no BL. The first true-gay feature in Asia, South Korea’s Road Movie (2002) is about the experiences and confusions brought upon by the Asian Market Crash, and indeed was no BL. The harangue of criticisms later on to Pablo’s prolific churn-outs, although featuring younger characters, was more directed towards the lower-class experiences; and somewhat the highlighted centering on psychosexual fixations. When Senedy Que’s Dose tested the censorship to its core a few years later– it had a chilling effect on which particular age-group to sidestep, if the trend had to remain and survive. Even the unsolicited fetishism on visual soldering features becomes tamed and oblique. It had officially folded up as the film industry was entirely eaten up once and again by the commercial escapism of the mainstream market.

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Online Live Stream Gives Performers Ayuda in the Time of Pandemic

This pandemic has proven very challenging to live entertainment artists, including musicians and stage comedians. Their usual incomes have been reduced to virtually zero and economic survival has been a great cause of anxieties and depression. It is a good thing that live streaming platforms have given them a space and a new home to exhibit their performances on a much different plane. They’ve also made them much closer to their fans and supporters.

One of the best and most accessible live stream platforms is Kumu. It’s a social media mobile application that allows performers to share their contents live and interactive. And the most important part is the open-access opportunity for them to earn as much as what they could in their actual in-person gigs. Except now, they don’t need to leave their homes anymore and shell out for their usual spendable, like paying for PAs, transportation, meals, and costumes.

When a fan or an impressed audience to the live stream show gives them virtual gifts – a performer can rack up at least 2,000 to 5,000 “diamonds “on a single user. When a performer earns at least 50,000 diamonds, they can exchange it for at least 2,500 pesos. One live stream artist can have a minimum low of 25 audiences per minute, and they can have a peak audience of at least 50-100 and on “special occasions” one can impress from 1000 to 10,000 audiences/users.  Singer Kris Lawrence during his recent birthday show gained 3.4 million diamonds; which meant he earned at least 170,000 pesos on one night. This is on top of what he earned from previous live streams.   Even his close friend/co-performer JayR averages to 100,000 to 300,000 diamonds on a drop. A short ordinary fan-supported live show can still augment their idol’s digital income enough to buy a week’s worth of groceries.  This month’s Top Earner is Mark Michael Garcia, a Tawag ng Tanghalan finalist who earned a cumulative amount of 18.5 million diamonds (roughly 900,000 pesos – if – KUMU actually converts that to the actual purchase amount. We actually would like to account that we had no first-hand knowledge of the conversion rates given to earners, except of course, merely referencing the 2000 diamonds to 100 pesos rate).

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Gawad Urian 2020: Full List of Nominees/Winners

This year’s Gawad Urian is headlined by internationally acclaimed films and performers. Leading the pack is Kalel, 15 with nine nominations. The film previously won the Best Director award for Jun Lana at the Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival and a Best Actor award for Elijah Canlas at the Asian Film Festival held in Rome. Babae at Baril, also with nine nominations, was previously awarded the Best Director and Best Actress awards for Rae Red and Janine Gutierez respectively at the QCinema Film Festival.

Cinemalaya Best Picture John Denver Trending has six nominations. It was previously awarded the Critics and Audience awards at the 26th Vesoul International Film festival in France. Another Cinemalaya feature, Edward, has eight nominations including one for Louise Abuel who previously won the Best Actor award at the Dhaka International Film festival. Finally Venice Film Festival Golden Lion Awardee, Lav Diaz, was nominated for Best Director for Ang Hupa at the Asia Pacific Screen Awards. He is nominated for the same film at the Urian for Best Director.

Update: 9/22/2020. Ruby Ruiz, nominated for Best Actress for Iska, won at the Harlem International Film Festival in New York for the same role. She perviously bagged the Best Actress award at the 2019 Cinemalaya FIlm Festival.

Check the complete list of nominees and winners below. Winners were announced on November 10, 2020.

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Gawad Urian 2020: Altarejos shares first critics nom with perennial muse

Having been in the industry as a multi-hyphenated filmmaker for almost a decade and a half,  Joselito Altarejos finally receives his first Gawad Urian nomination that victoriously coincides with his perennial “muse” – actor Oliver Aquino’s Best Actor nomination as well.

Altarejos and Aquino worked on their fourth film together, Jino to Mari, a year before its festival release. Originally titled “Death by Gokkun,”  it had been intended to be the festival opener of Sinag Maynila when it was postponed in its 2016 edition due to failing to secure a permit to exhibit for its highly sexual content   The film is about two young sex workers who are hired to do a pornographic film on a remote island. Altarejos and Aquino’s next film, Walang Kasarian Ang Digmang Bayan, would also be pulled out by the same festival for its supposedly highly-charged political stance against the current government.

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LVHF: Video Home Festival: Films on the Quarantine Experience

Entrepreneur and producer Dr. Carl Balita is actively campaigning for the public to stay home during the start of the quarantine until today not just to contain the virus but to also to help the health and service professionals who are the frontrunners in the field. Among the many strategies he launched was the “Video Home Festival(VHF)”, a short filmmaking competition anchored on the theme “lockdown.” The challenge of the competition is to create films based on the theme while observing quarantine guidelines using immediate technology, space, and casts available for the filmmakers.

“I knew that the filmmakers were oozing with creativity in the new normal and were itching to express their craft even with all the limitations of a quarantine experience,” says Dr. Carl.  “We were surprised when after more than a month from our launch, entries came in from professionals, film students, and enthusiasts.”

Dr. Carl expounded the festival to raise funds for the industry workers through the Movie Workers Welfare Foundation (Mowelfund). Being a film producer himself and within the circle of show business, heis aware of the current plight of the industry players.  Mowelfund Board Member Boots Anson-Rodrigo and President RezCortez welcome the idea and are exploring new partnership opportunities with Dr. Carl and his company, Dr. Carl Balita Review Center (CBRC) on how to bring the collaboration to a more productive level.  Festival Director Jek David notes that some of the entries have international caliber, highlighting the quarantine experience of the filmmakers.

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Cinemalaya 2020 Reviews

Pabasa Kan Pasyon

Before the advent of sound, films were devoid of dialogs and diegesis as modern history painstakingly moved along. Intertitles were inserted long before they were followed as conventions. At most, every aspect of modern day inventions would become a learning journey toward the development of world cinema. In fact, in the earlier years, films from the post-invention had been far more superior than their more technologically equipped successors (Arnheim, 1932). They could be true in essence because of their inherent qualities and characteristics to fill what wasn’t there yet. There simply was more time and less impact of ascendancy to allow creating more spaces for expansive projects.

British filmmaker and actor, Charles Chaplin caught on earlier with the power of the language of film. Story becomes king and execution is everything. And in the more profound method of analyzing films, structural-linguistic theory is by its essence a more substantial philosophy to deliberate and consider. And by understanding the very foundation of film history and its nuclear core, there may be a conceivable inference to achieving a sort of objectivity in studying every element that a film presents as a whole.  Quite possibly, even if one or two components is missing, its effectiveness rests mostly on whether its desired effects reach it audience. A film may be subjectively incomplete, but it will always be inimitably a creation of its own.  

When one chooses to do away with conventions, a film remains a product of its reckoning when it strongly infuses creative visions and informed commentaries about life and the society and the entire human experience, regardless of what is perceived missing, or what elements are not supplied. When one decides to confront realities and their concealed meanings, the film is transformed into an interactive platform where the filmmaker and the audience carve out a better way to ponder on recreating ideas and retooling the mediums, henceforward, effectively orchestrating a well-rounded discourse in the process.

Films have now reached its highpoint – from magnetic and digital sounds, to visual and digital effects, to actually experiencing them wherever it is accessible and convenient. Even the age of modern pandemic cannot simply stifle their sustained growth – and films have become, more than ever, a powerful tool to live through documenting a much well-lived experience.

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Cinemalaya 2020 streams online on Aug 7-16

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In an attempt to still deliver quality stories amidst a global pandemic, Cinemalaya goes digital this year with 10 short films slated for its main competition. These films can be accessed via VIMEO on August 7-16, 2020. Select titles will be available via iWant and TFC after the festival.

The main entries can be rented in bundles that cost only P75. The complete package that includes retrospective shorts and full-length features, talkbacks, and fringe events costs P350.

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