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Empowerment 2015: Innovating skills, pursuing passions

FOUR seminars opened the minds of students to innovate their skills in the fields of web technology, writing, digital arts and photography.



FOUR seminars opened the minds of students to innovate their skills in the fields of web technology, writing, digital arts and photography. An event titled “Empowerment 2015: Exploring beyond the Box”, presented and organized by TomasinoWeb, let the students think out of the ordinary and go beyond their horizons.

Web technology, worth the venture

Despite the modern world accustomed to smart phones, tablets, WiFi, and the Internet, let’s admit that Web Technology is something that will not catch everybody’s attention. However, speakers such as Aaron Baltazar, Maylene Macalino, Patrick Tulabot, Jed Herradura and Karl Salazar, all from iConcept Global Advertising Inc., proved this notion wrong as they shared insights about the basic principles of web design, content management system, Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and social media marketing, implying that there is more to discover in the realm of web design.

Baltazar, equipped with a presentation made in HTML, said an aspiring web designer should start the trend with his/her own ideas.

“Wag mo sundin yung trend, minsan ikaw ang magsimula ng trend. Kunin mo muna yung idea ng trends ngayon para makasimula ng bagong trend,” Baltazar explained. “Ang idea, parang umiikot lang yan. May makakahanap na panibago, i-iimprove niya.”

Some part-time educators from the University of Santo Tomas (UST) like Marikit Valmadrid, Kristian Guevarra and Joseph Buluran also gave inspiring talks to students who wanted to pursue their careers in web technology.

Valmadrid, who is also a community manager at the Philippine Web Designers Association, emphasized that the fundamentals in web technology cannot be learned in a short time, saying that it is a continuous learning process. To make her discussion more appealing to the audience, she used Web design tips with one-liners that double as romantic innuendos.

Moreover, Potatocodes web designers Juan Miguel Alvarez and Mhariell Mosqueriola mentioned that “patience is a must when developing the web.”

“Do something that thrills you, not something that you have to do,” Mosqueriola said.

Writing to change the society

The youth today reside in the noisy, vast community of World Wide Web where all kinds of information are free- flowing and where almost everyone can be considered as a writer. Consequently, it would take some “exploring beyond the box” to come through and be heard in this sea of words and ideas.

Palanca awardee and UST professor Eros Atalia emphasized the present decentralization and democratization of the cyberspace, which weakens the power of taste-setters, canons, editors, teachers, and critics.

“Pwede na kayong magsulat nang hindi humihingi ng basbas ng mga gatekeepers. Pwede na kayong magsulat at magbahagi ng kwento na mas malaking parte ng daigdig ang magbabasa,” he said.

Business Journalism Awards recipient and Philippine Star reporter Alexis Romero also told the delegates that due to the availability of resources, news is being democratized, and we are all potential “news gatherers.”

“We have to go beyond those basic facts because we are now competing with mobile technology,” he added. “And by the time the news comes out, alam na ng mga tao ang basic, so we have to go beyond the blotter to become relevant in this information age.”

Likewise, multimedia reporter Natashya Gutierrez of Rappler believes that making sense of the noise is how a writer could advance the conversation. She also encouraged the audience to use all the means available, especially that in online, “the more skills, the better.”

Another Palanca Awardee and Philippine Star columnist Carlomar Daoana reminded the delegates that in feature writing, it’s advisable to use the creative approach.

Moreover, Jonathan Geronimo, fictionist and UST professor, refuted the common notion on personal essay writing and discussed the need to include significant insights in it.

“Basically, lahat ng baguhang manunulat, ganito ‘yung tingin sa pagsusulat: mag-express lang,” he said. “Ngunit sinasabi din na mero [itong] malinaw na point of view; may pananaw ang isang personal essay, hindi lang simpleng ekspresyon ng sarili. Dapat may insights.”

The Manila Times columnist and blogger Katrina Stuart Santiago, on the other hand, believes that a writer should read, engage, listen, and root to write effectively.

In this fast-paced world, it is important to bear in mind that change is inevitable even in the medium of writing. The need to convey critical matters are readily met in the most accessible way without barriers.

The realm of creativity

Aspiring art enthusiasts were opened to the highs and lows of being in design by distinguished guests from the creative pool.

Rian Gonzales, UST College of Fine Arts and Design (CFAD) alumna, advised the delegates to “post everywhere” and “make their online presence felt.”

Likewise, Jump Digital Inc. founding director Christian San Jose shared his experience of being discovered through social media, which paved way for his clientele-building, at age 16.

“Always design. Don’t spend a day not designing,” he said during his lecture.

Plus63 Design Co co-founder Dan Matutina, meanwhile, shared how he started as an artist during his high school days. He even showed his previous works and explained how it improved due to technology.

Rob Cham, who has illustrated for various publications such as the Philippine Star (Young Star) and Hinge Inquirer’s Scout Magazine, recounted how he discovered his own style by taking inspiration from other artists.

“Lahat ng influences na ‘yun, I started putting it into my art,” Cham said, stressing on the idea that “nothing is original.”

Scout Magazine art director Martin Diegor urged the delegates to keep making changes and to never stop improving in the field while National Digital Arts Awards-recipient Vincent Aseo stressed on perseverance as the key to be successful.

Aseo challenged the delegates to determine which sub-fields of design they want to specialize in, making mention of illustration, calligraphy and 3D animation.

Other speakers were art director for advertising company TBWA\SMP Terence Eduarte and Vector X Vexel Philippines Artist of the Year Jan Carlo Ramos.

Different fields and angles of photography

There’s more to photography than camera lenses alone. It’s a continuous relationship between determination, skill, and creativity that tops a good portrait and a photographer. Big names such as Aya Cabauatan, Alexis Lim, Art Oca, Jash Manuel, Paul Ryan Tan, Joseph Silverio, and Bjorn Bedayo shared their experiences on photography despite having varying genres and styles while a similar uniting factor is present, which is passion in what they do.

Getting a new and fresh perspective on the way things are seen is what Cabauatan shared as a step to define one’s style. Oca’s nightlife photography portrays a ‘moment’ at a quick-paced, jam-packed club or festival yet it gives a “boom” on these photos. Lim’s discussion explained the things about being resourcefulness and learning how to maximize your means partnered with continuous practice.

Moreover, Tan and Silverio’s affinity for Sports photography emphasized “timing” as a crucial part in taking shots while Bedayo and his stunning photographs about fashion created another dimension of a purely different take on stylistic forms and expressions.

It’s easy to call yourself a photographer once you actually own a camera. But what’s more challenging is to be branded as a photographer depending on the quality of photos you produce. It doesn’t just come with a hobby itself. It’s a constant learning process, experience, and good company.

The series of seminars took place on February 21 for web technology; February 28 for writing; March 7 for creatives and March 14 for photography.



Sila-Sila in its spectrum

Being under the constant waves of change, companionship paves through distances and personal struggles. The movie emphasizes that ‘ghosting’ also happens between friends and rekindling episodes are a challenge.



Screengrab from Sila-Sila movie trailer

Giancarlo Abrahan’s entry for Cinema One Originals Film Festival Sila-Sila is a groundbreaking film that sprouts a queer narrative molded by queer people. Anchored to the intimate stories of real people, this ghosting film pierces through the lens of post-breakup experiences.

Its lead actors, Gio Gahol and Topper Fabregas had a harmonious rhythm as Gabriel and Jared inside one frame. With Gab being helplessly displaced and Jared as someone who craves settlement, they were in an endless loop of push-and-pull, making every scene burst in different colors of expectations.  

The film revolves around the story of Gab (Gahol), as he tries to reconcile with his friends (Phi Palmos and Dwein Baltazar) and his ex-boyfriend, Jared (Fabregas) after ‘ghosting’ them for almost a year. Fueled by guilt and regret, the old lovers find themselves igniting a fire that once burned the bridges that connected their lives.

Five minutes in and the sensual relationship between Gab and Topper will cuff the audience with its bare exposure of same-sex actualities. These characters played by both theater artists allow the scenes to flourish with remarkable nuance.

The scenarios in the film allow you to peek at realities that manifest through Gab’s life as a person who fails to find his roots being settled in one place. As his portrayal walks you through the story of uncertainties, the progress of the film lets you trace into a deep contemplation whether or not you may be the Gab or Jared in your own story.

Despite having fragments of scenarios that lowers the momentum of the film, it serves as a breath of fresh air as Gab undergoes the phase of vacillation. Gab’s journey of finding a home in people he once felt was is a cycle anyone can relate to. His doubts linger in trust issues and the feeling of not belonging. It soon uncovers that the quest of settling in places, people, and experiences will be unending unless one finds their sense of home.

Phi Palmos and Dwein Baltazar’s characters are spices to the story as they portray a decade-long friendship of overcoming tendencies. Being under the constant waves of change, companionship paves through distances and personal struggles. The movie emphasizes that ‘ghosting’ also happens between friends and rekindling episodes are a challenge.

Sila Sila won the Best Picture Award. Its undeniably well-plated palette satisfies the eye of the audience. A lot of scenes will tickle one’s humor especially if you are used to friendships that blatantly roast each other as a way of showing one’s love language.

Alongside its award-winning cinematography, Sila Sila also received the Audience Choice Award and Best Screenplay by scriptwriter Daniel Saniana. Also, Fabregas was recognized as Best Supporting Actor for his role.

“We’ll always love each other, however it manifests, it’s just always going to be there.”, this line by Jared carves through the hearts of those who had to let go of a person but never the love that they have for them. Gab’s relationship with Jared shows that there is never just one way of loving someone. Every day, with every version of themselves, love prevails. 

Distance can never make things small. It only deceives you from thinking that you’ve escaped your troubles. One way or another, you will find yourself crawling back because time never lets anyone off its claws—Sila-Sila teaches this. Furthermore, sometimes, having no closure is not the closure.

The character of Gab serves as an example that a person will remain trapped in the past unless they find closure from people and from themselves. People are bound to face the naked truth that we need to find our sense of home in this world that is full of broken fragments of imperfect individuals.


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Metamorphosis, a film that challenges the conventional

Tiglao tells this story through the never-before-seen character of a Filipino intersex teenager, and he tells it almost flawlessly, with the scenes that make you nostalgic, like you’ve been there before—a sort of déjà vu.



Screengrab from Metamorphosis Trailer

As a coming-of-age film that probes more extensively into the adolescent psychosexual conflict, J.E. Tiglao’s Metamorphosis is dangerously daring. The film stirred a wave of controversy when the Movie and Television Review and Classification Board (MTRCB) classified it as X-rated for exploring intersexuality, later on, it was reclassified into R-16, permitting its screening in local cinemas. 

It opens with a scene at a waterfall in a 1:1 aspect ratio and ends in the same setting, where we find the protagonist, Adam, exceptionally portrayed by Gold Azeron, no longer irresolute. Supporting actress Iana Bernardez, who plays Angel, complements Azaron almost naturally—Adam isn’t without Angel, vice versa. However, the gorgeous visuals of Metamorphosis overshadow the disarray that’s often ignored in the film.

Tiglao tells this story through the never-before-seen character of a Filipino intersex teenager, and he tells it almost flawlessly, with the scenes that make you nostalgic, like you’ve been there before—a sort of déjà vu. Apart from the brilliant footwork of Tey Clamor, the film’s cinematographer, the musical score by Divino Dayacap, from the University of Santo Tomas Conservatory of Music, gave the film its oomph: as if the music understood the complexity of emotions portrayed, and the aesthetics with it.

Tiglao almost easily got away with poor writing by compensating for the other elements in the film. Instead of sustaining its relaxed delicateness, it lost its momentum when Adam’s exploration into his intersexuality was hastily overturned by uncalled-for predatory themes, and sexual awakening was realized by means of harassment.

The film relied heavily on aesthetics while leaving the plot unsustained and undernourished. It undermined the audience’s capacity to understand beyond the script because there was very little depth to it—the metaphors were surface-level and revealed themselves too easily. Some scenes appeared to over-explain themselves because expository writing was brought to an excess. Nevertheless, the film communicated what it sought to: the magnitude of embracing your own uniqueness in pursuit of self-acceptance.

Perhaps one of the most moving scenes in the film was when Adam’s father, a conservative Catholic and a pastor with a strongly-held vision for Adam to reverse his intersexuality – an “Ok, boomer” moment – abandons his unyielding bigoted principles at long last, giving Adam the autonomy to decide on and for his own. Here, the conservative adult matures with the troubled adolescent—and it is this shared acceptance that is unique to Metamorphosis.

Although the film suffers from tacky dialogue and some questionable subplots, it does exactly what a coming-of-age film is supposed to: the audience becomes an echo chamber, where we feel for the protagonist while accompanying him into growth and resolution. 

Metamorphosis, along with its stillness and vulgarity, makes for an ample directorial debut. The “I” in LGBTQIA+ rarely gets talked about, but Tiglao changed that by giving us Metamorphosis: it contests machismo without overemphasizing the feminine, it astounds without unnerving, and most of all it is unrestrained. Metamorphosis, even with its sloppy writing, is sufficiently beautiful—it questions and challenges the conventional, and it does it without fear.



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Tayo Muna Habang Hindi Pa Tayo: An Endless Cycle

Falling in love in this generation is like using a trial and error method that gets you nowhere. In the emergence of dating apps such as Tinder and Bumble and websites like Omegle, finding a prospective partner has become fairly easy but also quick to lose.



Screengrab from Tayo Muna Habang Hindi Pa Tayo official trailer

Labels. There is a silent debate going on about whether labels are important or a factor for complications. Though there is a need to define relationships to know where to draw the line between friends and lovers, it is often terrifying to know what the truth really is. The word ‘commitment’ may seem an intimidating word for some, but it is also loved by many. 

Tayo Muna Habang Hindi Pa Tayo is one of the entries for the Cinema One Originals 2019. Written and directed by Denise O’Hara, who won an award for Best Director in this year’s Gawad Urian for a movie called Mamang, a film about dementia and the struggles of remembering one’s life. 

The film festival ran from November 7 until November 17 in selected malls and microcinemas. Starring Jane Oineza and JC Santos as Alex and Carlo, the story portrays the characters’ struggle in the process of falling in love, falling out, being confused, and being sure at the same time. 

Falling in love in this generation is like using a trial and error method that gets you nowhere. In the emergence of dating apps such as Tinder and Bumble and websites like Omegle, finding a prospective partner has become fairly easy but also quick to lose. 

Alex, played by Jane Oineza, is a woman with big dreams and ambitions, eager to prove to the world that she is more than just a pretty face. Carlo, played by JC Santos, on the other hand, is your typical go-with-the-flow kind of guy who works in the field of graphic design and freelance work. The story progresses as the two create something that neither of them knows what is and what to call. 

By slowly cracking her shell and breaking down her walls, Carlo manages to see the parts of Alex that no one really sees. Underneath her cold gazes and intimidating aura, lies a sappy and marupok girl. One night, after planning and talking about the design for Alex’s upcoming project, a cockroach scare prompts a rush to the bedroom; ensuing a somewhat emotional conversation that turns the atmosphere into purple and red hazes. 

After that night, awkwardness sits between them in the office. Alex, trying to figure out what happened, asks Carlo directly; as to his reply, along with the words “Masaya pa rin naman ‘diba?” creates a questionable feeling both to the characters and the audience. 

Stemming from the title itself, the movie—from start to finish—draws a problematic and complicated cycle that reflects dating and almost-dating. The dialogues lacked a bit of emotional appeal and the concreteness of thought cannot be easily grasped. The movie has a back and forth sequence, showing the past and the present, how the moments came to be, what arguments were thrown out to get to the scene where they chase each other in the sidewalk with pain and hesitation in their eyes. 

Cinematography-wise, the color palette of the film shifts along with the emotion that is being presented on the screen, making up for the lack of substance in the exchange of dialogues. It is a mess, paralleling to Alex and Carlos’ relationship, the shaky camera angles and the abrupt shift from one scene to another provides support in pulling off the movie’s complicated narrative. It could have had more backstory and fewer gaps in the storyline but it somehow works as it leaves you hanging and still questioning what happened. It keeps you in the cycle even though you have stepped out of the cinema already. 

Filled with contradictions and trouble waiting to happen, O’Hara’s work garners attention from those who are in the same position. The film dwells on complex-minded characters, pretty much like our generation, and their decisions on whether they should leave or keep fighting for something that is vague. It is a ticking time bomb of tears and regret or maybe, just maybe, something magical and worthwhile. 


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