Clueless About The Criminal

CLUELESS – that’s a new formula that works for me.  I find myself hanging in animated suspense watching movies absolutely in the dark about the casting and the storyline.  It spikes the thrill and excitement with the elements of surprise and unpredictability.

I have also learned that, just as the proof of the pudding is in the eating, a movie should not be judged by its title alone until viewed in its entirety.  Not all is lost even for films that can easily be dismissed as forgettables or lacking in substance.  When you scratch the surface and look beyond the apparent, the crux of the matter grips you in its raw, profound essence.  Even a violence-riddled film can speak in a hushed tone much like a gentle embrace that envelops your core.

The movie title Criminal didn’t strike my fancy at first.  But seeing that it was still running the next time I checked the movie line-up the following week, my curiosity was piqued.  I surmised, it must be enjoying good patronage to merit an extended run.  Sure enough, the cinema was full.  The appearance of actors Tommy Lee Jones, Kevin Costner and Gary Oldman on the screen reinforced the seal of quality.

The action thriller film is mentally stimulating, suspenseful, riveting, emotionally-charged and engaging all at the same time.  I have yet to learn to dissociate myself from the reel, but the reel has a way of weaving seamlessly into the real, that it strikes the heart chords within.  At the outset, it confronts the audience with a jigsaw puzzle to solve.  As the story progresses, bits and pieces start falling into place.

CIA agent Bill Pope (Ryan Reynolds) is on his way to deliver the money and new identity for “Dutchman,” the cyber-hacker who has the key to subvert the enemy’s computer program that is poised to launch a nuclear warhead.  The minions of Russian anarchist Hagbardaka Heimbahl (Jordi Molla) track Bill down and successfully blocks his efforts to accomplish his mission through an ambush.  The CIA led by bureau head Quaker Wells (Gary Oldman) is faced with a blank wall as it races for time to get to the Dutchman first before the enemy camp does.  With medical science’s intervention, the brainchild of neurosurgeon Dr. Franks (portrayed by Tommy Lee Jones), dead Bill’s memory brain is transplanted into the brain cells of handpicked basket case of an ex-convict Jericho (played by Kevin Costner).  They pin their hopes on Jericho to pick up from where Bill left off to foil the evil plot.

Heartless thug Jericho with a criminal mind and beastly instinct who eats violence for breakfast, when wired with the mind of caring family man Bill through memory transference, eventually imbibes the soft stuff that Bill was made of.  His close encounters with Bill’s charming wife Jill (Gal Gadot) and adorable daughter Emily (Lara Decaro) activates the mind of Bill. and draws out emotions from Jericho for the first time.  Although Jericho tries to do horrible things to mother and child, Bill’s memories prevailed upon him.  Jill gives him the benefit of the doubt when Jericho displays Bill’s unique mannerisms and breaks secret codes known only to them.  Jericho’s inner being gradually changes as Jill and Emily start to warm up to him.

But as fate would have it, with the failure of CIA agent Bill to deliver the goods to the Dutchman as promised, the Dutchman turns traitor and tries to sell his program to the Russians.  Jill and Emily would later fall into the hands of the enemies.  Jericho not only saves Bill’s widow and daughter but also saves the world from a nuclear holocaust.  Surprisingly, he was permanently transformed into a better person with the capacity to love.  The film wraps up with a dramatic, tear-jerking  scene that formed a lump in my throat.

Whittling down to the subliminal, insightful message underscored in the film, there is hope of life transformation for “worthless” scums of the earth when they get a taste of acceptance and affection from humanity.  But this is one of those occasions where I wish they had left out the graphic, gory details of brutal manslaughter and bloodshed.  Nonetheless, my verdict for The Criminal: a very good must-watch material.


Cultured & Artsy For A Day (Part 2)

Picking up from our first leg of our museum tour after a late lunch, we walked over to the majestic structure adjacent to the National Museum of Anthropology – the Old Legislative Building located at Padre Burgos Drive across the Walled City of Intramuros, fronting the Manila City Hall.  For those not in the know, this was the previous address of both Houses of Congress and Senate.   We queued under the scorching afternoon sun for about 30 minutes for the second part of our tour to view the National Fine Arts Collection.

The stately Old Legislative Building, now the National Museum of the Philippines

The stately Old Legislative Building, now the National Museum of the Philippines

On exhibit here are some of the masterpieces of illustrious icons in visual arts, for which they are hailed as national artists.  Greeting visitors in the foyer of the main hall is an imposing sculpture of a winged goddess by Guillermo Tolentino, who was the same artistic genius behind the Bonifacio Monument in Caloocan City.  Once inside the inner chamber or what used to be the Senate Hall, one can’t help but be regaled by the humongous sight.  Sprawled across the wide, wide wall is the art galleries’ piece de resistance – Juan Luna’s priceless, world-renowned and critically-acclaimed masterpiece, the Spolarium.


Statue by Guillermo Tolentino

World-renowned critically-acclaimed Spolarium by Juan Luna

The Spolarium, world-acclaimed priceless painting by National Artist Juan Luna

The next gallery is dedicated to the works of the old masters, Juan Luna and Felix Hidalgo.  Much of Luna’s pieces depict life in Paris, where he maintained an atelier in his flat during his prolific days.  It helped that I caught an episode of the TV documentary program, Front Row, where producer-host Howie Severino went on an expedition to Paris to get an inside look at the private life of Filipino-blooded hero-artist Luna.  I felt privileged to come face-to-face with some of the oil-on-canvass paintings I only previously saw on the TV screen and be privy to the stories behind them. Hidalgo’s paintings, on the other hand, while they showcased his adept brush strokes, used predominantly subdued, muted colors and subjects that failed to personally connect with me.

Portrait of a Lady (aka Mi Novia or Portrait of Paz Pardo de Tavera)  oil on canvass c. 1882 by Juan N. Luna

Portrait of a Lady also known as Mi Novia or Portrait of Paz Pardo De Tavera, an oil on canvass painting by Juan Luna

There’s another side of our national hero, Jose Rizal, that I didn’t know much about until this tour.  As a visual artist, he definitely has mastery and sensitivity, both as painter and sculptor.  However, only one precious, carefully-preserved artwork with the Berlin Square as subject, was available for viewing.  It felt frustrating to take a picture of it, because its protective glass encasing glared from the lights and the reflection of the window across it marred the photographic image.  But what really amazed me was Rizal’s small but meticulously-sculpted terracotta piece titled “Pablo el Ermitaňo,” where attention to detail is visibly evident.

Terracotta sculpture of Jose P. Rizal titled San Pablo el Ermitano

Pablo El Ermitano, a terracotta sculpture by Jose P. Rizal

Several other artists also shared the limelight in their own designated areas – Juvenal Sanso, Vicente Manansala, Carlos “Botong” Francisco, Napoleon Abueva, Victorio Edades, Cesar Legaspi, Mauro Malang Santos, Anita Magsaysay-Ho, Impy Pilapil, Romulo Olazo……….just to name a few of those I have become familiar with.  I was introduced to a handful of period as well as modern artists whose names I have encountered for the very first time.

Watercolor portrait of Abe Cruz by Vicente S. Manansala

Watercolor portrait of Abe Cruz by Vicente Manansala

Oil on canvass painting by Carlos Botong V. Francisco

An oil on canvass painting by Carlos “Botong” V. Francisco

Torso, an adobe stone sculpture c. 1952 by Napoleon V. Abueva

Torso, an adobe stone sculpture by Napoleon V. Abueva

Superstition oil on canvass c. 1982 by Cesar T. Legaspi

Superstition, an oil on canvass piece by Cesar T. Legaspi

Mother and Child oil on canvass painting by Mauro Malang Santos

Mother and Child oil painting by Mauro Malang Santos

A visit to the National Museum is not only educational, enlightening and enriching, but it likewise leaves you with a sense of pride for being a Filipino.  It is ­­­good to be reminded of our Filipino roots and our identity as a nation through our historical past and rich cultural heritage.  It is also highly recommended as a de-stressing therapy.  Regrettably, I was not able to cover all grounds.  A day’s tour is not an ample enough time to browse through all the museum’s open chambers, especially for someone like me who takes pains either to take photos or appreciate and absorb what I find captivating.

A massive antiquated church altar with intricate details

A massive antiquated church altar with intricate details

Triumphal arch of the Commonwealth of the Philippines

Triumphal arch of the Commonwealth of the Philippines

The National Museum is open daily from Tuesday to Sunday from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.  There is a regular entrance fee of P150.00 during weekdays (with discounts for students, senior citizens and groups).  On Sundays, it is open to the general public for free.

Cultured & Artsy for a Day (Part 1)

Upon the invitation of a friend, a visit to the National Museum of the Philippines was arranged for a day of immersion in the culture and arts.  It was reminiscent of educational field trips of school days long gone by.  I was in child-like wonder over some of the attractions my eyes laid on.  My tour buddy and I felt no different from most of the museum-goers who were unmistakably students with their school uniforms on, age gap notwithstanding.  Some schoolchildren came in busloads.  A handful of foreign tourists stuck out from the crowd.

The National Museum of the Philippines is divided into two major sections, and reasonably so, because it occupies two buildings.  The first leg of our tour took us to The National Museum of Anthropology (or Museum of the Filipino People), housed at the former Department of Finance Building bounded by Taft Avenue and Finance Road, at the periphery of the Rizal Park.  The first chamber we entered transported us into another world and another era.  The cavernous ceilings, gothic architectural designs, stained glass windows and antique chandeliers stirred my fascination for old world charm.  But hogging the spotlight in that hall is Section No. 22 of the Berlin Wall, or part of the Great Divide that separated East and West Germany during the Cold War.  It was donated by the German government to the Philippines in 2014, or 24 years after Germany’s reunification in 1990, as inspired by the Philippines’ bloodless People Power Revolt in EDSA in 1986.

Berlin Wall

Much of the historical artifacts and archaeological finds from the distant to the recent past, as well as dossiers of national value and general interest, are remnants of the galleon trade era.  Not to be missed are the Treasures of the San Diego Galleon, discovered in 1992 in the deep waters of Palawan.  (The San Diego Galleon was built as a trading ship but was quickly converted into a warship.  On December 1600, San Diego sank southwest of Manila after it was engaged by the Dutch warship Mauritius.)  The collection consists of a great number of artifacts and ecofacts recovered from the shipwreck, including Chinese porcelain and celadon ware dated as early as the 11th century, religious relics, Japanese katanas, Portuguese cannon and Mexican coin.  Previous to its permanent home in the National Museum of the Philippines, The San Diego Exhibition had been on a global tour.  Miniature replicas of galleons used in the ivory and galleon trade are high in appreciation value for visitors like me.




But what truly cinched my interest the most, and where I naturally lingered much longer, was the Lumad exhibit (Bangsamoro Art from the National Ethnographic Collection) that featured the diversity and ethnicity of the tribal communities in Mindanao.  Their customs and traditions, as evident in their fashion, homestead, jewelry, accessories, tools, and musical instruments, speak of their fondness for vibrant colors, elaborate and ornate designs, and use of indigenous materials.  All these highlight the distinct artistry and creative genius of the people, not to mention their exotic and almost sacred uniqueness.


Coconut grater

Carrying bag

Fashion ensemble.1

Too engrossed to notice the time, our lunch came at almost 2 p.m.  As I pause for a short break, watch out for the next leg of our tour as we cover the next building, the National Museum of Fine Arts (also known as National Art Gallery).


Dateless at the Cinema

It’s been ages ago since I first braved the idea of watching a movie in the cinema all by lonesome self – a feat I found liberating. Hence, I was excited at the prospect of doing a repeat, having forgotten what it was like to be without any date inside a movie house.

I went on a weekday to catch the first screening so I won’t have to contend with a packed audience.  Prior to my trip to the cinema, I was totally unaware of the movie titles on exhibit.  London Has Fallen won me over.  I did not have the chance to either see a trailer of it or read a synopsis or film review about it.  But at the conclusion of the flick, I was glad about my pick.

London Has Fallen

It is easy enough to guess what the film’s plot hinges on, as the first few frames are splattered with news reports and video images of terrorist attacks in different parts of the globe (take note, with mention of Manila, Philippines).

I am not so much a fan of action films, but this is one of those few and far between productions that got me hooked from beginning to end, considering that the screening time was immediately after lunch.  There was not a dull or dragging scene.  Sequences were tight and action-packed, keeping me awake, upright and at the edge of my seat as I held bated breath in anticipation of what would happen next.  Tender scenes between Mike Banning (Gerard Butler) and his wife Leah (Radha Mitchell), Mike’s bitter farewell to his dying superior (Angela Bassett), and later on, the arrival of Mike’s and Leah’s firstborn, provide the soft element to temper the harsh component of the entire movie.

The cast did a superb acting job. Apart from Gerard Butler and Aaron Eckhart, worth citing for their convincing character portrayals are Morgan Freeman as US Vice-President Allan Trumbull, Angela Bassett as US Secret Service Director, Charlotte Riley as British M16 agent, and Radha Mitchell as wife of Mike Banning.  Not to be outdone are the villainous father and son characters of Alon Moni Aboutboul as Aamir Barkawi and Waleed Zuaiter as Barkawi’s son Kamran.   But as is common in action movies that verge on the superhero fiction genre, the major characters are just too indestructibly invincible.

This motion picture confronts us with the ugly face of terrorism.  It sends down shivers down the spine because the reality of misguided forces waging war against an innocent world stares us in the face, especially in the wake of the spate of violent attacks in different parts of the world, the most recent of which were in Paris and Brussels.  The film’s security breaches in communications, infiltration by a band of mercenaries of an entire police force and the undetected ground works clandestinely laid down by the terrorist group in preparation for D-day may appear like the product of an ultra-imaginative mind.  Yet we can only wonder if any place, even in the First World countries, has the intelligence capability to monitor and subvert any such attack of a major scale, let alone the readiness to respond.

But we all know that evil can never win, even if it seems to get the upper hand for now.  At the final round, the outcome had been revealed in Scriptures – the powers of darkness in this world will one day be trampled underfoot once and for all.

Prelude to a Blogger’s Journey

Hello, world!  It’s good to finally break into this virtual space after a long wait.  A lot of friends have urged me to start my own blog years ago, but so much was going on in my life then to give it much thought.  Now that I’ve retired from the corporate world, there’s plenty of time in my hands so I might as well make the minutes count.  This preoccupation provides just the right stimulus for my brain cells to engage in mental calisthenics to keep me from slipping into a sedentary lifestyle and prevent me from hitting the doldrums.

As I start writing on a fresh, new slate, let me just state that I’m not out to please or impress; I will not even attempt to compete.  Out there is an expanse vast enough to accommodate anyone and everyone who wish to stake a claim over this medium of self-expression.  As cliché-ish as it may sound, “Different strokes for different folks” offers a sound argument.  Still, with every activity comes responsibility.  Everything is subject to interpretation.  A lot of times, the meaning gets lost in the translation.  At the end of the day, after all is said and done, what will render judgment is good conscience.  With ears close to the ground to sharpen sensitivity to sensibilities, due respect for others will keep us above board and within ethical bounds.

In the days ahead, as often as opportunity permits, I look forward to serving a slice of life from my 4 I’s menu: (real-life) Incidents, Insights and Inspirations plus (tidbits of) Information.  Be they random thought bubbles, day-to-day occurrences and dalliances, or files retrieved from my data bank, may they make or save even just one soul’s day.

Till next……..