Mahjong at Nengkoy’s & The Crazy Rich Asian Movie Scene

Mahjong is my family’s game played in Nengkoy’s house very Friday night.  The shuffling sound of mahjong tiles reverberating inside my mother’s living room area every Friday night is literally a weekly occurrence.  Every child of Nengkoy (including me) does in fact know how to play this old and traditional Asian game.

And every member of my family seated to play this game would in some way transform into someone different.  We would be more focused, more fierce, somewhat smart and strategic as if in a funny attack mode.  This is especially true with Nengkoy.  She would be so engrossed, she would not mind a word you say if you try asking her what she has done all day or what food has she prepared for dinner.

With our being so well versed with Mahjong, it was easy for us to process and easily understood the mahjong scene representations made by the director of the movie Crazy Rich Asians when my whole family watched this groundbreaking movie last Saturday.

strategize….
nengkoy! pong!
rachel chu playing mahjong scene in crazy rich asian

In that mahjong scene between the characters of Rachel Chu (the NY-based Asian-American) and Eleanor (the overbearing matriarch and fearsome mother of Rachel’s boyfriend), we right away understood that Rachelle did the ultimate sacrifice when she let Eleanor win the mahjong game.  Rachelle gave up her love, would-be wealth and basically her future with Eleanor’s son.  She picked the needed 8-sticks tile to win the game yet she threw and discard it away so that Eleanor could win.

My whole family laughed when we heard Eleanor (played by Michelle Yeoh) uttered “Pong!”  The scene would have actually been better if the characters can do the “sinasalat” act.  It is a classic mahjong act in which players would be able to determine the tile they picked without looking at it but by merely using the sense of touch, i.e. by sliding the tile’s character through the player’s finger tips.

If in other Asian movies the fight scene can be so literal – in the form of Karate, Judo or other martial arts – I consider the mahjong scene in Crazy Rich Asian as the ultimate fight scene between the protagonist and the antagonist of the story.  This scene actually unleashes the dragon in Rachel and ultimately tamed the bitchiness of Eleanor.

channeling the eleanor young in me

I was seated beside Nengkoy inside the movie house when Rachelle picked her “puro” (the needed tile to win).  I heard Nengkoy say, Todas na Sya! Bunot Pa! (Translation: she wins! and with a higher pay).

And since mahjong is played by my family every Friday night, the mahjong scene in Crazy Rich Asian even made me further love this delightful film.  The movie was definitely a Todas! Bunot! All-Up! and Syete Pares!

Todas!

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Pinoy Elements in Villa Escudero

If I am to choose a place where to bring a foreigner-friend so as to fully immerse him to the culture of the Philippines, I would choose Villa Escudero in Tiaong Quezon. 

team langit in front of the museum

Villa Escudero seem to contain and characterize a wide assortment of a true Filipino culture.  Employees from engineering, to servers, to housekeeping and receptionists are all comfortably dressed in the traditional “patadyong” for the ladies and the colorful “camisa de chino” are worn by the guys.

The structures of Villa Escudero room accommodations are all native, characteristic of the traditional Filipino house known as “Bahay Kubo”.  Villa Escudero also boasts of a marvelous museum collection, majority of which are about the rich Filipino religion, clothings, history and even fauna.

After a glorious Filipino buffet lunch right in the middle of a river with a man-made waterfalls as a backdrop, guests will get to enjoy and watch a Filipino show inside a humongous pavilion.  The show features various uniquely Filipino dances, costumes and customs.  I particularly loved the energetic TInikling dance, the funny vignette about Sabong, the robust and brawny Maglalatik and of course the singing of the song Filipinas at the end of the show.  The show boasts about its authenticity for it was conceptualized and choreographed by the late Filipino National Artist for Dance, Mr. Ramon Obusan. 

Then later in the afternoon, guests would get to enjoy and listen to a “harana” (a serenade).  In the old days in the Philippines, a way for a suitor to woo a lady is by having a visit in the lady’s house.  But prior to being allowed inside the lady’s abode, the suitor needs to sing by the lady’s window otherwise known as the Harana

If the young lass showed up through her window, it means that the admirer will be welcomed inside the house after he finish his singing.  But if the lady refuse to show up and face the singing dude by her window, it signifies that she is not interested towards the guy singing outside. In Villa Escudero, their male employees get to sing old and traditional Filipino song in front of the houses where guests are billeted as if they are doing a “harana”.

But what I am most impressed about the authentic Filipino element present in Villa Escudero was its excellent food selection during breakfast.  Never have I seen a buffet breakfast as Filipino as that of the selection of dishes served in Villa Escudero! 

pinoy breakfast!

It seem that all remarkable Filipino breakfast dishes are featured in their buffet.  Aside from the usual fruits, yogurt, cereals, jams, milk and eggs, there were Filipino breakfast varieties like Champorado, Singangag, Lannganisa, Lugaw, Gatas Ng Calabao, Suman Sa Lihiya, Bibingka, Crispy Danggit, Crispy Dilis, Quesong Puti and of course Kapeng Barako.

Why do I know all these?  It is because Villa Escudero was again the chosen venue of Nengkoy for her to celebrate her 81st birthday.  Six years ago, this was the same venue for Nengkoy’s 75th birthday.  Villa Escudero no matter what year we visit still has the same authentic Filipino elements for everybody to enjoy.

nengkoy having buffet lunch by the water falls
i love it here…

Ay Lab Bilya Eskudero…

Still Majestic & Magical in Bagac, Bataan

It’s been 5 long years after my return to Las Casas Filipinas De Acuzar.  Five years ago the resort located at the edge of the Philippines radiates a feeling of how majestic and magical Filipino culture is.  And with my recent visit, five years later, the beautiful resort in Bagac Bataan has massively expanded offering more Filipino architectural wonders of the past.

In my second visit (this time with Beth, Wlillie and JB), I was again at awe on the richness and beauty of the Filipino culture and architecture.

beautiful
the building where we were billeted
my personal favorite… casa la drillo
the bagac gang selfie
still majestic… the former hotel where i and travel buddy karen was billeted 5 years ago
serene…

There has been some arguments on whether Filipinos are Pacific Islanders or South East Asians, but when one visits Las Casas Filipinas De Acuzar, one would realize that Philippines has a different character that is unique and of its own.  The architectural wonders along with the culture and customs linked to it as featured in Las Casas Filipinas are uniquely Filipino and could not be found anywhere in the Pacific Islands neither in the neighboring countries of south east Asia.

The best thing I like about Las Casas De Acuzar is that there is no ugly photo that we have shot.  One need not be a professional photographer to obtain an excellent photo.  Because of the beauty and stylishness of the place, every photo is Instagram worthy!

sunset… one of my instagram entries
a new thing near the lobby
strike a pose muna
magical! (with beth and willie)
will be back…

I don’t know if Las Casas Filipinas De Acuzar is a popular foreign tourist destination.  I have yet to realize that because when we were there, all I could see are domestic tourists or Filipinos living abroad doing a short vacay in the Philippines.  This place has yet to be tapped by the foreigners.  And in case I would have a foreign visitor, Las Casas De Acuzar would be one awesome option for a destination!

Grabe! Ang ganda!

Ringing the Massive Bell of Bosingak

One of the beautiful highlights of my recent Seoul trip was something unplanned and unexpected.  Me and my colleagues were lucky enough to be at the right place and at the right time when we happen to experience one traditional South Korean ceremony.

bonsingak: a totally different belfry
bonsingak: a totally different belfry

During the Joseon Dynasty, the Bosingak Belfry was used to keep time.  In the very old days when Seoul was still enclosed by 4 main gates, the bell of Bosingak would ring 33 times at 4:00 AM so as to signify that people can be allowed to enter Seoul.  And by 10:00 PM, the bell again would ring 28 times to alert the public that the gates to the city are closing.

On our way to Insadong (one shopping capital in Seoul), just outside Jonggak subway station, we happen to pass by one oriental-looking structure.  Being first timers and tourists of South Korea, we of course were lured to take photos of the massive building.  When we were called to step in at the rather old compound and was informed that entrance for free, we temporarily suspended our shopping itinerary at Insadong and instead marveled at the beautiful structure in front of us.

i love the colors...
i love the colors…
ring my bell... hahaha!
ring my bell… hahaha!
high fashion!
high fashion!

While taking photos of ourselves, the buildings and the guards in traditional and colorful Korean clothing, we were told that we can participate in the day’s ringing of the bell ceremony.  But before we were allowed to hit the bell with a massive wooden log suspended from the ceiling, we were told to first change into Korean traditional costumes.  The changing into colorful Korean clothes even made this awesome experience more unforgettable.

And at 12 high noon, we were hitting the massive bell of Bosingak to alarm the whole Seoul, South Korea!  And after this awesome experience, we were so inspired, ended up buying lots of traditional South Korean goodies at Insadong.

Kampanerang kuba ang peg!

Tuos: An Exotic 2016 Cinemalaya Entry

I have always believed that a superb art no matter what medium it is should be something that emits emotion subject to the sensors’ perception.  It should be an art that is open to the subjective interpretation by the people who experiences it.

This precept is especially true of the Filipino film entitled Tuos, an official entry in the 2016 Cinemalaya Film Festival presently running at the Cultural Center of the Philippines.  The conduct of the story as well as the moods of each of the characters in the film are all subject to the interpretation by the viewers.

cultural!!!
cultural!!!
exotica!
exotica!

Directed by Derick Cabrido, I consider Tuos as one of the most exotic Filipino film from among the Filipino films that I have seen.  Though the movie has the tendency to get quite dragging, some of the rich colors of the Filipino customs and culture were shrewdly presented.

And aside from the impeccable acting of the legendary Filipino actress, Nora Aunor who plays Pina-Ilog in the movie, what particularly impressed me by Tuos were the additional layers of art that were fittingly mixed in the story.  The landscape presented in a modern visual art and the haunting old folklore of a song mixed together during the animation portion of the movie were pure brilliance.  These layers of art added up to the already rich texture of the movie.

When the movie ended and was already rolling its credits, I was left s mystified, stunned and thinking.  With my limited cerebral capacity, I tried interpreting the scenes and the narratives that were presented.  And there’s one last thing that I realized about Tuos, that it is indeed one exotic and powerful movie that only the smart and brainy human beings would be able to appreciate.

Sori na lang sa mga bobo, pang matalino lang ang pelikulang ito.

A Rare Black Dude at the J. Paul Getty Museum

Every time I am in a country for the first time, I always try my best to visit a museum.  When me and Karen (one of my super travel buddies) are together on an out-of-the-country-adventure we would call it “the cultural day”.  Since it’s the day to appreciate high culture – some pieces of art of outstanding quality or historical importance – which in some ways feed our soul, we would somehow dress up a notch higher than the usual.

Of course my first-time visit to Los Angeles, California was no different from my other first-time visits to other countries.  It is because I and my super travel friends had a cultural day. We went to the one of the most visited museums in USA, the renowned and reputed J. Paul Getty Museum.

j. paul getty museum, los angeles, california
j. paul getty museum, los angeles, california
karen & joesel going up the hill via tram on a "cultural day"
karen & joesel going up the hill via tram on a “cultural day”
some fashion posing on a cultural day at the getty
feeding our soul with some fine art at the getty
(count how many bellies are there in this photo)

As I feed my soul from the captivating pieces of art, the one piece that moved me more than any other is the 1758 black stone sculpture entitled “Bust of a Man” made by an English dude named Francis Harwood.

Apart from the innate beauty of the bust, it struck me how unusual it was to see a sculpted figure of a gorgeous black man at that point of Western art history.  It would definitely be rare to see a man of African descent depicted as a person during the time it was sculpted because black Africans then (as I understand) were considered objects of slavery. 

I stood next to this man for quite a long time and instinctively absorb what it transmits and evokes.

me and the rare black dude
me and the rare black dude
bust of a man by francis harwood
bust of a man by francis harwood

What moved me is that the depicted features of the face conveys adversities, past terrors and destitutions.  But the neck and the massive muscle features of the chest sends messages of poise, strength and self-reliance.  While the strong jaw and up-turned head conveys conviction, audacity and nobility with an almost squire and patrician bearing.  A valiant vision perhaps of numerous centuries that it would take before equality would turn from wish to reality.

O di ba… ang itim pero dramatik…

Some Polished Culture

The Philippine Madrigal Singers has long been a musical ambassador of my country.  They have brought countless honors to Philippines.  They are my country’s representatives who imparts to the world through their majestic musicality that there is more to the Philippines than mega-disasters, mega-traffic and mega-corruption.

Through the Philippine Madrigal Singers, let me place a piece of polished culture in this blog.  Just watch and listen! Their incredibly refined musical harmony can simply be compared to a gourmet food fit for an aching spirit.

I’m pretty sure after listening to this short musical showcase, you can say that… all is well and good with the world.

‘Tangna! Napa-nga-nga ko dun ha!