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Blackpink is back in your area with ‘Square Up’

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Photo from BLACKPINK's ‘뚜두뚜두 (DDU-DU DDU-DU)’ official music video.

After various false alarms and 10 years of being locked up in YG Entertainment’s dungeons, Blackpink is finally back in our area with a brand new music video and a mini-album with four new songs…which is a bit of a let-down to say the least, especially for fans who eagerly waited for the quartet’s long-overdue comeback.

With that out of the way, Square Up comes nearly a year after Blackpink’s last comeback, As If It’s Your Last, and while the single saw the group veering  into poppier territory than their previous releases, Square Up fully commits itself to a more hip-hop and trap-heavy sound typical of YG releases.

Title track Ddu-du Ddu-du best exemplifies this sound. Reading like a diss track to Blackpink’s haters, the song indulges in trap beats as well as stronger and sharper rapping lines from Jennie and Lisa, with lyrics laced with in-your-face braggadocio, showcasing the quarter in a fiercer image reminiscent of their debut singles Boombayah and Whistle, and perhaps even senior labelmates 2NE1.

While the track also turns the spotlight on the group’s vocal chops as Rosé and Jisoo take turns in belting out the song’s soaring pre-chorus, the best part of Ddu-du Ddu-du, however, is its raga-inspired dance break in the outro, giving the song its much needed climax.

The album’s second track, Forever Young, is arguably the strongest cut from the album. The track kicks off with Jennie’s soulful vocals and trades the swagger of Ddu-du Ddu-du for a euphoric us-against-the-world dancehall anthem that recalls As If It’s Your Last.

Just as when the song’s romantic tone begins to feel a bit cloying, Forever Young abruptly shifts gears as it transitions to a sultry revolutionary call-to-arms before exploding into a full-blown dance party, complete with horns, chants, and hints of oriental synths buried in the background. Almost every element of the song makes perfect sense, and it stands out as one of Blackpink’s best efforts so far.

Nonetheless, growing pains emerge with the mini album’s latter half, as the last two tracks simply do not possess the energy of the first half.

Breezy trap ballad Really slows things down following Forever Young’s high-octane dance break, which only highlights the song’s blandness and middle-of-the-road quality. It has its charms, nonetheless, and it takes numerous listens to be fully appreciated – like Jisoo trying a bit of rap-singing in the verses to Lisa’s romantic bars – but it lacks charisma and swagger that would’ve otherwise turned the song into an empowering love song. It also painfully sounds like a 2NE1 outtake; as much as the song fits nicely with Blackpink’s concept, it’s hard not to imagine the song being sung by their seniors who could probably pull off the song’s innate swagger without much effort.

The mini album’s closing kiss-off track, See U Later, shows promise in its night-drive moody verses but its abrupt shift to a trap chorus makes the song messy and disjointed, and is ultimately forgettable for a closing track.

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Photo from BLACKPINK’s ‘뚜두뚜두 (DDU-DU DDU-DU)’ official music video.

It is, perhaps, understandable why opinion on Square Up is noticeably divided even among fans, as the mini album sees Blackpink move further into merely emulating the “YG sound” without letting them explore a musical and artistic identity that would otherwise set the quartet apart not only from their contemporaries but also from their predecessors.

Tempering the aggressive swagger of their seniors, Blackpink’s braggadocio in tracks like Ddu-du Ddu-du is an attempt to differentiate the group from the dominantly cute and sexy concepts of other popular girl groups, but their bragging feels empty – they haven’t exactly proven that much to brag about, and their attempts to execute fierceness during live performances feels awfully forced.

What has worked for Blackpink so far are dramatic songs like Playing With Fire, As If It’s Your Last and Forever Young which saw Blackpink flirting less with hip-hop and more with poppier sounds and genres not usually associated with YG or Teddy Park’s production.

However, much of the group’s oeuvre would show that they still exist in the shadows of 2NE1 – and it is disappointing that, two years into their career, YG is still holding them back from releasing a full album and is purposefully grooming them to fill the niche carved and left by 2NE1.

Nonetheless, Square Up is quality material, and it shows strong promise and potential: It allows Blackpink to put one feet on an already successful but unoriginal formula and another on trying new sounds and concepts that could otherwise cement their place in K-pop as a standalone group.

Perhaps, Square Up is a beta test – which could probably explain why YG only allows Blackpink to release only few songs every once in a while: To evaluate and tap into current and emerging trends that the group could incorporate in the future. Only time can tell when Blackpink will finally be the revolution they proudly proclaimed.

 

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7 Filipino children shows we surely miss

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Art by Justice Gravador/TomasinoWeb.

Kuya Bodjie, Kiko Matsing, Agatom, Ms. Math Tinik—these are just some of the iconic characters every 90s kid almost, if not totally, considered as the “second teacher” of his or her days. But now, it seems the road to becoming “forgotten men” instead is unblocked and all clear for them.

Despite its mission to “inform, inspire and empower our people and nation,” the state-run People’s Television Network agreed to showcase Chinese shows to “better understand its people and their history, culture and endeavour,” thus, creating a clear look at other’s culture while ours is thrown to the muds.

Although there had been decline in terms of ratings and sponsorship in these Filipino shows before, no one can contest that nothing can beat this way of learning!

1. Batibot

 Photo from When In Manila.

Inspired by American children’s show Sesame Street, Batibot made the childhood of the 80s and the 90s generation truly fun and educational with various dance and song numbers, role playing of characters—Ate Sienna (Sienna Olaso), Kuya Bodjie (Bodjie Pascua), Pong Pagong, Kiko Matsing (Pocholo Gonzales), among others—and its successful trademark, puppets! The incomparable show, which discussed almost anything under the sun, inevitably won the hearts of many as it lasted for more than a decade.

2. Sineskwela

Screenshot grabbed from a Sineskwela video uploaded in the official YouTube account of Knowledge Channel.

“Tayo na sa Sineskwela. Tuklasin natin ang siyensiya!”

Who can forget this iconic song?

In collaboration with the Department of Education and the Department of Science and Technology, Sineskwela made the biology, chemistry, sound energies, travel of light, astronomy, energy transformation, principles of electricity—need I say more?—easy for viewers to understand! With its easy-to-digest visuals, one-of-a-kind experiments and creative dramatizations, the scientific show became a vital addition to every school’s list of movies to watch. Nothing’s more exciting than the “viewing day” especially when the teacher holds up the school’s (somewhat-aging) copy of Sineskwela.

3. Epol Apple

Photo from When In Manila.

Focusing on basic and conversational English, Epol Apple was designed to improve a child’s skills in listening, speaking and, most especially, grammar. The show taught the proper usage of the language, like the “in,” “on” and “at” of writing a home address. The show made the learning interactive as Bodjie Pascual as Tito Luis did entertaining stories and fun activities with his horn-bill friend, Porfirio.

4. Bayani

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Photo from When In Manila.

With ABS-CBN’s Bayani, who will dare to say that learning history is boring?

As the title stated, it is a children’s show presenting the life of our heroes and their contributions to the country. With the show’s protagonists, Noli and Ana, they leapt through time where they had the opportunity to meet  and interact with the heroes and relive historical events. Aside from narrating and discovering Philippine history, the show also highlighted the value of Filipino identity and heroism.

5. Hiraya Manawari

Photo from The Filipino Channel.

Hiraya Manawari, which figuratively means “reach your dreams,” is a show that uses different legends to incorporate values such as honesty, humility, courage, love, and respect. Each episode highlighted one virtue. Just like today’s fantasy anthology, Wansapanataym, the show creatively used myths as a way to infuse morals on its viewers.

6. Math Tinik

Photo from When In Manila.

Some students tremble upon hearing the word  “Mathematics” but thanks to Math Tinik, 90s kids now know how to multiply by simply just aligning their fingers! Counting and solving numeration, addition, multiplication, decimals, and fractions will never be fun without Charlie, Patricia and their cool teacher, Ms. Math Tinik.

7. Art Angel

Photo from PEP.ph.

It’s Saturday. Armed with bond paper, crayola, and scissors, the children are brimming with excitement as they wait for the Art Angel to play on those television screens.

With hosts Kuya Tonipet and Ate Pia, and their trusty friend, Pintado, they turned every kid’s 30 minutes filled with beauty of colors and creativity. Running for a total of 370 episodes, it gained numerous recognitions, and also the hearts of the people.

Cartoons are one of the avenues where children start to learn since the playful themes make learning less intimidating and more interactive. During these early stages of learning, children are quick to absorb information through language, graphics and values being presented.

With the decision of PTV to showcase Chinese cartoons, will the upcoming generation ever have the chance to experience the beauty of our own culture before anyone else’s anymore?

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Continuing to break the silence

As we come near the end of Women’s Month, Danielle Baranda looks back on the continuing impact of the #MeToo movement.

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Photo courtesy of Mark Raslton/AFP.

This month is a celebration.

This month, women from all over the globe unite and stand together as one solid frontier. This month is a reminder of the change continuing to unfold right in front of us—we are reminded and we celebrate women of all races and skin color. We tip our hats off to those brave voices we heard just last year, and further elevate those who are still falling short.

All it took was one voice that mustered the courage to speak up. A voice that resonated among a mass of silenced victims, a voice that would point out its oppressor and lead to several others following suit—several voices crying out, “Me too!”

Just as 2017 ended, we at TomasinoWeb looked back at this movement in its entirety (READ: #TWenty: The 2017 TomasinoWeb Year-ender—#MeToo). The fast pace of how allegations surfaced left and right was overwhelming that attempting to summarize it in one whole article proved to be difficult, but that was a good thing and it still is.

Three months into the year and the stories still keep on coming. Come to think of it, it has become the new normal. In our first analysis of the #MeToo movement, the sad normal reality we had come to conclude at the time was that people were dismissing these stories as nothing out of the ordinary.

A lot has changed since then, and admittedly, not everyone is happy about it.

Last January, Taken actor Liam Neeson went on the record in defense of his friend Dustin Hoffman. He dismissed the still growing #MeToo movement as having turned into a witch hunt, but has it?

The idea of gray zone sex recently resurfaced after an online post regarding an uncomfortable sexual encounter involving Parks and Recreations actor Aziz Ansari went viral. According to an article from The New York Times, the gray zone is defined as a sexual encounter that cannot necessarily be filed under the tag of sexual assault but is also a little too disconcerting to be simply named as a bad date either.

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Another allegation that initially floated around last year which still found its way this year involved American Idol host Ryan Seacrest. Although coming out of the allegations relatively unscathed due to a two month investigation instigated by the E! Network which ended in favor of Seacrest, still there are persistent skeptics.

It is important to take note that Ryan Seacrest is the producer of everyone’s beloved Keeping Up With the Kardashians, making him a key stakeholder within the network which brings me to the very point of this little update—like everything else, the #MeToo movement is not perfect, but that does not mean that it is a witch hunt nor is it a trend that’ll one day just fade away.

It is our duty to listen to these voices still coming forward. Yes, there may be discrepancies when it comes to their stories, but let us not forget that these women are trying to recall and retell a story of how they were abused. And that will never be an easy one to share.

Let us make it easier for them and learn how to listen better. Let us continue to raise questions and look at things critically. Despite these movements, women still face great challenges when it comes to speaking out and taking a stand for themselves.

Before you question a woman’s authenticity, please take a moment to stop and think about how much she is risking to do what she is doing because I can assure you, she is probably risking more than she will be getting in return.

We left 2017 by starting something bigger than ourselves. As previously stated, it is far from perfect, but that cannot negate the giant leaps it has brought for women everywhere. The end goal was never to tip the scales entirely in our favor—it was, and always has been to merely balance those said scales. We are almost there, ladies. Keep fighting.

 

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Film Fridays: Enjoying films underneath the stars

Sometimes, a chill Friday after an exhausting week is all we need—a rest for the mind and feast for the eyes.

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Photo by Elizabeth Nicole Regudo/TomasinoWeb.

It was Friday… again.

It was the day where all responsibilities were crammed within the 24-hour period, with only caffeine and the thought of “weekend” to survive.

But it was not just any ordinary Friday.

Lounging at a grassy field underneath the starry night while watching good films, Thomasian Film Society’s Film Fridays gave me life.

Snacks were given to the first 150 participants and also you’d get to watch spectacular films under the night sky. Sitting on the grass, side by side with your friends or even your significant other—well, in my case, only just a bag of popcorn in my hand while The Blanks performed covers as well as their original songs.

We all know that the company of good food and good music could always make us feel better, right?

Sineng Sine Films like Bilang, Bakokang and Larawan were featured during the first Friday of the event. These three managed to make the viewers hold their tears as the audience was moved with each of the film’s stories. A plot involving death, betrayal, and lies within a family would always make everyone shift in their seats.

After the film showing, award-winning directors Nerisa Picadizo, Jaynus Olaivar and Marvin Cabangunay shared their experiences on filmmaking where their stories inspired the aspiring filmmakers.

“Go out there and do it!” Picadizo exclaimed. Her voice was filled with so much enthusiasm that everyone can’t help feeling the same way.

Well, have I mentioned that this was not a one-night thing? After the first day, everyone was ecstatic as the 2nd of March came knocking on our doors as Mikhail Red, the director of internationally-recognized and award-winning film Birdshot, came to town.

The director gave us the opportunity to look upon his journey as a filmmaker and shared to us the hell he—together with his crew—went through before, during and after every film.

Starting at a very young age, he started filmmaking at 15 years old and after a decade he’s still doing the very first thing he fell in love with—creating unique films with a touch of Western flavor.

Listening to his story wasn’t the only thing he prepared for the attendees of Film Fridays. He even generously shared to us the trailers for his films like Rekorder and Neomanila—and it didn’t stop there! Aside from sharing a secret with us (which you’ll never know until before the end of the year, he also teased us with his new film in the works, Eerie, a “not your typical Filipino horror film” as well as his future projects.

But with all the upcoming short films, wouldn’t you feel restless, too? Despite that, I know all of these were worth waiting for.

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