Friday, January 30, 2009

‘NAMETS’, a film of Life, Love and Food comes to L.A.

Angel Jacob and Christian Vazquez

By Jay Fermin (FMG)

Everyone with a heartbeat has experienced the depth and passion of a good movie. You are not only sitting and watching – but you are intertwined in the story, smiling, with a flood of memories of the place, the culture, the love, and of course the food.

‘Namets’ (an Ilonggo term which means delicious) is a film by celebrated Director Jay Abello that was shot entirely in Bacolod City in Central Philippines and was one of the finalists at Cinemalaya 2008. He has worked with other directors including Erik Matti, Yam Laranas, Laurice Guillen, and Peque Gallaga (Oro,Plata, Mata) who hails from Bacolod himself. Jay’s cinematographic and photography background gave the film the mood and framing needed to seam together the playful snippets of the script into a heartwarming and sometimes bittersweet love story.

Making a movie about a place and its culinary culture is indeed a challenge. The key, Director Jay Abello confides, is in the casting. ‘Namets’ stars Christian Vazquez and Angel Jacob, two dueling chefs in the heartwarming romantic comedy. The story revolves around the character of Jacko Teves (Christian Vazquez) who tries to save his Italian restaurant from being garnished by Big Boss Dolpo (Peque Gallaga) due to a gambling debt.

The plot thickens when Cassie Labayen (Angel Jacob), another chef, is hired as a consultant to transform Jacko’s Italian restaurant into a place where traditional Negrense food is served with a unique twist. The script (written by multi-awarded Ilonggo Vicente Garcia Groyon) follows the adversarial flirting of the two chefs as they try to grasp the vast scope of the Ilonggo culinary sphere and rekindling along the way the love they had lost during their high school years.

The film is amazingly appealing inspite of the challenges of being an independent production. Shot in its entirety in Bacolod, home to all of the characters of the movie, except for Angel Jacob who is from Manila, it showcased the amazing talent that the province has contributed to Philippine Cinema including actor Joel Torre (who plays a small part in the opening scene), Director Peque Gallaga who for a change, has an acting role as Boss Dolpo in the film.

With the dialogue set in ‘Hiligaynon’, the dialect of Ilonggos, Angel Jacob had to download her lines into her Ipod and listen in; and although at times her punctuations and punch-lines were not true to form, she delivers a believable rendition of the script by her superb acting, creating a building up of love chemistry between her and ‘Jacko’ (Christian Vasquez).

Through their search for the best culinary delights, and interspaced with snippets of the Ilonggo way of dining, from the simple but world famous ‘Inasal’ (chicken barbeque) to the complex recipes handed down from generations past, ‘Namets’ lets you peak into the unique cultural mix that is Bacolod, not only thru its food but also thru its people. The movie is a must see light-hearted but heart warmed love comedy which is quite different from most movies. You will not only be watching after all. The movie will swoon you and you will be craving for more…. More love. More laughter. And most of all, you will be craving for Ilonggo food !!

The only U.S. screening will on February 7, 2009 at the historic Rialto Theatre, 1023 Fair Oaks Avenue in South Pasadena, California at 6 p.m.. Advance tickets can be purchased by calling the Babes of Bacolod at 818-636-3939 or email at
(Namets is subtitled in English)

Bon Appetit. See you at the movie.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Pacman Meets Rocky

PerryScope: By Perry Diaz

Wow! I can't believe it when I was invited to attend Manny "Pacman" Pacquiao's meeting with Sylvester "Rocky" Stallone at the latter's office in Los Angeles. Pacman greeted me, "Kumusta bro, I'm glad to see you again," and he gave me a high-five which almost knocked me down. "Okey lang, Manny," I replied. I was impressed by Pacman's expensive-looking pin-striped suit. He looked like a big-time Pinoy politician.

The amenities between Pacman and Rocky went well except for a few funny moments when Pacman greeted his host, "Hello, Rocky, you look shorter than what people were saying about you -- a movie giant." Rocky laughed and said, "Well, Manny, you seem bigger than what I thought. You're in the flyweight division, is that correct?" Pacman was taken aback. He regained his composure, shrugged his shoulders, and said. "I may be small but I can knock out a heavyweight with my bolo punch. You want me to try that on you?" "Ha ha ha… Manny, relax," Rocky laughed and said, "Just kidding, ok? Care for a drink? How about a Johnny Walker Blue?" Pacman replied, "Do you have Chavez?" Rocky said, "Chavez? Or do you mean Chivas Regal?" "Same thing, make it double and no rocks, please," Pacman asked. Rocky said, "No rocks? You mean 'no ice,' right?" "Same thing," Pacman said.

After a few sips, Rocky asked, "Okay, now, to what do I owe your visit, Manny?" Pacman quickly responded, "Excuse me but I didn't come here to collect a debt. You owe me nothing, Rocky. This is just a curiosity call." Rocky looked confused and looked at me with raised brows. I explained, "He meant 'courtesy call,' Mr. Stallone." Pacman gave me a dirty look. Whew! I told myself, "I'm not going to open my mouth again and let these two bozos handle their own communication problems."

"Well, let's get down to business then. I just had an idea, Manny," Rocky said, "Why don't we do a movie together? We'll call it 'Rocky Thrills Manila.' You'll be my trainer, okay?"

Pacman turned red and started sweating, his eyes squinting. "No way, man! You're too old to fight. Besides, you're not a real boxer. I am a real boxer so I can be a better actor than you! I bet you can't even throw a punch in real life." Rocky was flabbergasted but kept his cool and said, "Okay, okay, let's not do a boxing movie then. How about a 'Rambo' movie. Say, you're the President of the Philippines and you want to wipe out that terrorist group…" "Abu Sayyaf!" Pacman blurted out. "Yeah, yeah, that's it," Rocky said, "Let's say that you are President Pacquio and you hired me to go after these terrorists…" "Hold it!" Pacman interrupted him and said, "My name is Pacquiao. It's pronounced PAKYAW, not PAKYU. Get that straight!" Rocky was apologetic and said, "I'm so sorry. You know I have a little bit of a speech problem since I was a kid. I have a hard time pronouncing your name. Can I just call you Manny like in Money?" "I like that. I got plenty of that too, he he he…" Pacman replied with a wide grin, "Can I just call you Baloney, Mr. Stalloney? Just kidding. He he he…" Rocky was not amused and replied, "That's not funny, Mr. Pac... Forget it. Let's move on, okay?"

"Let's be serious here," Rocky said, "Now, back to our movie. How about calling it 'Rambo Rumbles in Mindanao.' Do you like that?" Pacman thought for a while and then said, "It should be 'Pacman and Rambo' since I will be the President and you'll just be my sidekick." Rocky was irked and said, "Me? Your sidekick? No way, pal! Either I get top billing or no movie."

"Well, Rocky… or Rambo, I wanna tell you something nobody knows about yet," said Pacman with his trademark grin. "Oh? Let's hear it," Rocky said, seemingly amused. "I'm going to run for President of the Philippines," Pacman deadpanned. Rocky asked, "For real or just in the movie?" "Of course it's for real," Pacman answered, "I already talked to Ate Glo -- you know, President Gloria Arroyo -- and she thought I'll win with no hands." Rocky was confused again and looked at me. I explained, "Manny meant 'with hands down,' Mr. Stallone." This time Pacman pointed his finger at me and warned me, "One more time and I'll knock you out!" I quickly said, "I'm sorry, I won't do it again… never again." Whew!

Rocky then asked, "I didn't know you're a politician, Manny?" "As I said before…" Pacman answered, "I'm not really a politician but my people love me. Actually, I ran for Congress two years ago." "Did you win?" Rocky asked. "Well, I lost," Pacman replied, "But you see, that was just a sample balloon." Rocky corrected him, "You mean 'trial balloon,' right?" "No, it was not a trial. I never committed a crime in my life. I'm a very religious person, see…" and he lifted his 4-inch wide tie to reveal a large diamond-studded gold crucifix dangling from his neck. "This is a St. Benedict medallion crucifix," he said, "It protects me from Satan and evil spirits."

"Well, do you think that you're going to win this time with the help of St. Benedict?" Rocky asked. Pacman was getting agitated. "As I said before…" Pacman said, "Ate Glo told me that I will win…" "Hands down," Rocky said. "No!" Pacman blurted, "It's 'hands up' like what I do every time I beat my opponent in the ring," raising both arms with clenched fists in a victory sign.

Rocky started laughing and then asked, "Well, tell me then -- what's kind of a platform would you sell to the people?" "Platform, huh? Ahhh…" Pacman pondered the question for a moment and then said, "As I said before… I'm not a salesman and I don't sell platforms. Actually, I'm a buyer… I buy the people's votes. He he he…" "What?" Rocky said shouting at the top of his voice, "You're going to buy votes? Look pal, that's cheating! You should be ashamed of yourself." "Hey, hey, hey!" Pacman shouted back, "Let me tell you this, Mr. Baloney: if I don't buy votes, my opponent will buy them. Politics is like boxing, if I don't punch, my opponent will punch me. I'll be the number one pound-for-pound politician in the Philippines. Get that?"

Rocky was fuming mad. He stood up and told me, "You'd better get this shorty out of my office right now or I'll throw both of you out!" Pacman stood up and said, "You want me to show you what a shorty can do to an overweight old man like you, Mr. Baloney?"

Suddenly, I realized that I was standing between Pacman and Rocky. I told myself, "Oh, no! I'd better get out of here." I was just about to run when I heard my jawbone crack. I was falling and suddenly the room was dark. I saw thousands of twinkling little stars. And before I hit the floor, the bell rang. I was saved by the bell. I sat up on the floor. Pacman and Rocky were gone. And my alarm clock was still ringing. I must have had another Pacman nightmare.


Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Hail to American Caesar!

PerryScope: By Perry Diaz

Taking over the reign of power of the greatest country on Earth at a time of economic implosion and seemingly endless wars in Iraq and Afghanistan could be too much to bear for any man in this day and age. But that's what Barack Obama did at noon on January 20, 2009, when he took his oath as the 44th President -- and the first President of African descent -- of the United Sates of America. And to signify the symbolic meaning of his meteoric rise to lead the nation, he took the oath of office using the same Bible used by Abraham Lincoln in 1861. And with confidence and self-assurance, President Obama declared during his inaugural address: "Starting today, we must pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off and begin the work of remaking America."

While Lincoln would have presided over the reconstruction of a reunited country devastated by a bloody civil war, President Obama is going to preside over a disunited people shattered by an economic crisis of catastrophic proportion.

While Lincoln issued the "Emancipation Proclamation" during the Civil War to free the African slaves from human bondage, President Obama wants to emancipate America's middle class besieged from financial bondage.

Although the Civil War ended in 1865 ending slavery in the nation, it took another 100 years before the African-Americans gained political empowerment with the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. And it took another 44 years before an African-American ascended to the pinnacle of power of the most powerful nation on Earth.

The historic -- and spectacular -- election of President Obama last November 4, 2008, has the widest margin for a non-incumbent presidential candidate, more than 9 million votes over John McCain. It was the desire for change that eventually convinced the American voters to elect President Obama who's message, "Change we can believe in," resonated with the people.

And "change" did President Obama start to make. By the time he named the members of Team Obama, 80% of Americans approved of what he was doing. Clearly, President Obama -- the son of a Kenyan father and a Caucasian American mother -- was on the right track. And if he stays on course, the American people will stay with him all the way. But it's not going to be a piece of cake. The road to recovery is going to be difficult to travel.

To begin with, President Obama's number one priority is to jump-start the moribund economy. He and his economic team are putting together the "American Recovery and Reinvestment Plan" -- estimated at $800 billion -- which will put millions of Americans to work. "We need an American Recovery and Reinvestment Plan that not only creates jobs in the short-term but spurs economic growth and competitiveness in the long-term," he said.

Then he has to grapple with the political realities of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan which is draining the U.S. treasury $10 billion a month. He is aware that these wars cannot be won militarily. He knows the lessons America learned from the Vietnam War and the lessons Russia learned from its invasion of Afghanistan.

Then he has to deal with the age-old conflict between Israel and the Palestinians. Can peace be achieved during his presidency? The crux of the matter is: Can there be peace without a resolution to the question of the Palestinian refugees' "right of return," who were driven out by the Israelis in 1948 and are now living in squalid camps in Lebanon? The issue is complicated when Israel said it will never allow the Palestinian refugees to return to Israel and Hamas said that there will be no peace unless all of Israel is returned to the Palestinians.

In addition, how is President Obama going to deal with Iran who is hell-bent in developing its nuclear weapons which she will used against Israel in the event that its puppets -- Hamas and Hezbollah -- are unable to annihilate Israel by conventional means.

How is he going to deal with a re-emerging superpower Russia who wants to regain its economic hegemony over the former republics of the defunct Soviet Union? Can he trust Vladimir Putin?

How about the soon-to-be superpower China, the most populous country on Earth that is hungry for oil and other natural resources she doesn't not have. Are we seeing the revival of the concept of "Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere" which would be led by China this time around? The oil and natural gas-rich Spratly archipelago in the South China Sea is claimed by China as part of its continental shelf. What would prevent her from claiming the entire South China Sea? With dwindling supply of crude oil, it is anticipated that this could be the next major trouble spot which would pit China against the United States.

Indeed, President Obama is faced with gargantuan problems. However, they're not insurmountable. It would take a great leader with a grand vision and diplomatic skills to solve these problems. But like Emperor Septimius Severus of Rome 1,900 years ago, President Obama could bring stability to America and peace in the Middle East during his presidency.

Septimius Severus was born in Leptis Magna in what is now Libya in 145 AD. Like President Obama, he was of mixed raced -- Libyan father and mother of Italian descent. In 193 AD, when Emperor Commodus' assassination was followed by the murder of his successor, Pertinax, who only reigned for three months, a civil war erupted between Generals Septimius Severus and Pescennius Niger when both of them were declared emperor by their legions. Septimius Severus won and he became the first African Roman emperor.

He was credited for restoring stability in the empire. Rome was then at war with Parthia, which included Mesopotamia (Iraq). In 197 AD, he won and annexed the conquered lands -- including Mesopotamia -- to the Roman empire; thus, increasing Rome's military and financial burdens. But he was able to meet these responsibilities and Rome prospered. He died peacefully in Britain in 211 AD.

Indeed, President Obama could learn from the reign of Septimius Severus and restore stability in the U.S. and turn its economy around. If President Obama succeeds, he could become the modern-day American Caesar. Hail Caesar!