Tuesday, November 22, 2016

The last of the new romantics: We Are Imaginary return with an album to learn and sing

The last of the new romantics: We Are Imaginary return with an album to learn and sing
by rick olivares

Indie rock band We Are Imaginary’s third album, “Death to Romanticism” opens with some lines from the Michel Gondry film, “The Science of Sleep”…

“Now don’t play me. This is never gonna happen. Are you trying to give me hope?”

“Maybe we should try.”

And well… this is album is your happy pill to the crumbling world around us.

We Are Imaginary are back with their third album (after their debut, “One Dreamy Indeterminate Hum” and their sophomore release, “The Silence is a Villain”) that shimmers with delight and optimism. Sick and tired of the news of the world? Then press play on “Death to Romanticism”; an oxymoron of a title. And that’s fine.

If the first album was an ode to innocence and brimmed with youthful optimism, the second album was edgier, as the band, in lead singer and guitarist Ahmad Tanji’s words, “was trying to find our footing”, then “Death to Romanticism” is a combination of both.

“It’s edgy but it retains the sweetness of youth,” adds Tanji; a sweetener to the angst of line-up changes and the life and times of an indie band in search of a pop dream. “I describe the album as hummable noise.”

In writing about this band’s previous efforts, I’ve oft spoke of the soft-loud dynamics of the Pixies, Weezer yet with the bittersweet harmony of Fil-Am rockers Versus. We Are Imaginary feels that way minus the eccentricities and instead waxes poetic and hopeful. If the Bard were alive today, he’d be also listening to We Are Imaginary (and perhaps, to Sting and the Verve among others).

The strength in this band is their songwriting that are deep and emotive. And when you wax that kind of eloquence, you reel people in. Furthermore, the musicianship, more than ever -- from drummer Eric Po, bassist Vhal Bugtong, and guitarists Ahmad and Khalid Tanji – is solid. In short, We Are Imaginary have a gift for hooks. Hummable noise indeed.

The album opens with the rocker, “Press Play” with some wailing vocals by guest vocalist Mary Whitney and a scrumptious interplay with Tanji. “I forgot to breathe…” they both sing. And thankfully, music, allows you to breathe when life sucks.

“Sunny Where You Are” somehow reminds me of Gondry’s other well-known film “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. It’s a yearning as the songs goes, A Woody Allen film, a Jeff Buckley song – signposts of good days or moments that bring a smile to one’s lips.

“Pencil Me In” is in that vein too.

Lest you think that it is all bright and sunny, the band somewhat steps on the breaks with pensive ditties “Danger Signs”, “Episodes”, and “A Good Kind of Sad” are a reality check. But this isn’t “We Aren’t Imaginary” if they don’t have this wistful take despite the tough times.

Life isn’t all sunny weather, the seasons, as Stevie Nicks once wrote for an entire generation of daydreamers in “Landslide,” it’s about handling the seasons of our lives. And handle it well is what We Are Imaginary does. It is what this band is all about. Just because the world around us sucks, it doesn’t mean we can’t work and hope for a better one.

Au contraire, romanticism is alive and well.

Now get the album and press play.


CDs of the new album can be purchased at Satchmi (Megamall), Team Manila (MOA, SM North & Trinoma), Four Strings (Cubao X), and Crazy Katsu (Maginhawa St).

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Project Re-imagination is up and running

If you went with me to Ateneo, you would know how music plays a large part of my life and my formation. Played with my class band in high school and in college but never had a music career.
I've had this music project (actually one of three -- one is a personal one where I am writing and recording an album of lullabies and night music. I have written three songs and have recorded them on my Garage Band), one I've wanted to do. Planned this over three years ago and it's finally happening. And hopefully, this one will be a game changer.
I get to do this with one of my heroes - Jim Paredes. There will be a few more people involved and there will be a proper time for the announcement. I hope you support this. It represents the direction where I am headed.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Reminiscing: New York Days Part 2

There was a time when we ran some street tours in New York City. It was called “See New York on $20”. These were off the beaten track tours where we had the Rock ‘N Roll Tour, the Movie Tour, and so on. These were essentially walking tours (although we also took the subway using tampered subway cards. Yes, I know it was a risk because if we got caught we were staring at some jail time. Nevertheless we ran it for a few weeks, me and a friend of mine from Tibet named, Sirene, until we nearly got caught. Yep, we decided to do something more legal after that without using tampered subway cards. 
We posted our tours on Craig’s List. For example, for the Rock ‘N Roll Tour we took tourists to the Brill Building in Times Square where composers like Gerry Goffin, Carole King, Burt Bacharach, and others wrote pop classics. We took them to CBGB’s that was at that time still open. There was the Chelsea Hotel where Sex Pistols bassist Sid Vicious murdered his girlfriend Nanc Spungen. 
One of the more favorite places we’d go to was the Queensboro Bridge and while sititng on the benches we’d play Simon and Garfunkel’s “The 59th Street Bridge song (Feeling Groovy)” that has to be one of the happiest, hummable, sing-alongable, and did I say happiest songs ever? That sure was fun. 
And now I’m playing “The 59th Street Bridge Song” and reminiscing. Them golden days. And yes, I am feeling groovy.

What a memory! What a time! What a song!

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Reminiscing: New York Days Part 1

There was a time I was doing a lot of odd jobs just to eke out a living in New York. One of my dad's classmates from the Ateneo, Fil-Am writer Ronnie Alejandro had this lovely flat in Greenwich Village. I did odd jobs for him such as cataloguing his massive book collection of which he paid me $50 for several hours of work. Once I was done with that, I'd move over to SeƱor Swanky's (a bar) for the late afternoon up to 10pm where I got to serve Matt LeBlanc one time. 
If you want to know, I was a fucking terrible bartender. And that bar along Bleecker Street is now closed. 

Amyways, when I didn't have a sked, I'd play hoops at West 4th. I did so a couple of times in one of the most famous playgrounds. Had to shift to playing the PG position cause I was small. And I wore those K-Swiss high tops, man. For real! Those days were golden!
Around this time of the year, I oft think of the times Tito Ronnie helped me out or when I hung out in Greenwich Village. There was this one time, he moved flats and me and two other dudes had to physically carry all his stuff to the new apartment. I think I hurt my back because I was so skinny at that time. 
Around the time that we had completed the move, he treated me out to dinner at a nearby bar and you'd never believe who was performing! It was Tears For Fear's Curt Smith! Turned out that he moved to NYC at that time (this was before the reunion with Roland Orzabal that begat the album Everybody Loves A Happy Ending).
Curt performed all the TFF classics and his solo hit, "Calling Out". That was an amazing show. And a few nights later, the LA-indie band Ivy performed there too! It was a small place like the old Club Dredd along EDSA.
Why did I suddenly remember all of this? Tito Ronnie passed away on October 11, 2009. And today's his death anniversary.
He really helped me out during a very difficult time of my life. At this time, I was working three jobs a day and writing an endless number of short stories and comic book scripts (Yes, I used to stalk Joe Quesada outside the corporate offices of Marvel Comics along Park Avenue). Hell, I even had a letter printed in the Philadelphia Inquirer! Fortunately, there was this convenience store in Trenton that sold the Philadelphia Inquirer and I clipped it and showed it to Tito Ronnie. Anything to get published!
Thanks, Tito Ronnie. You were and are a lifesaver. Keep writing up there in the Great Beyond.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

My heart went out to this street dog

The other night during my customary evening walk with my own dog, this street urchin followed us. I was a little worried, not sure if it was a rabid one. But I kinda figured out that it wasn't by just looking at him wagging his tail. I also figured he was attracted to my dog, Lougee, who is female. 

Now last Wednesday night, I went out to buy something when I noticed the dog following me. Maybe it could smell the scent of my dog on me. Taking a closer look, I noticed it had some wounds on it. Not sure how he got that. He was also malnourished. I bade it to follow me. And quickly brought out some dog food and water. He wolfed down everything (I gave it a pouch of pedigree and some other treats Lougee likes) and nearly finished the bowl of ice cold water. 

After which it lay down content.

This dog didn't seem to be a nasty one that would bite people (of course, I was being careful as well). I could sense it was friendly. I didn't get too overly close when giving it food. My dog is well behaved and doesn't jump up or snap at you when you hand it food. She patiently waits for it or will even eat it off my hand.

In someways, this dog was like that.

I have this soft spot for people and animals in need. Wish I had a lot of dough to help them out. 

I told my kids that if I am not around to check outside at night if this stray dog is there and to feed it.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

At Taco Vengo!

I love Tacos! I think they are one of the world's best food creations (along with pizza). Now, I am very particular about tacos. You'd think that it's something easy to slap together and it is. But taste and quality -- that isn't easy. It takes the right kind of heating taco shells and prepping the ingredients.

And that brings me to Taco Vengo! a designer type of taco that is very flavorful and mouth-watering. The old retso is located along United Street in Kapitolyo, Pasig but by September 28 are moving to Williams street a few blocks away.

The taco above is the Pork Belly Taco. I know, right? Veggies, egg! A brilliant concoction. I could eat a bunch of these! 

This is the Lamb Taco and it's good!

Nachos with cheese! Love this. It's sinful though.

Saturday, June 25, 2016

La Lucha Libre! A cool and offbeat site in Paris!

I could live right in the Latin Quarter of Paris (St. Genevieve). Lots of cool shops and restos with a variety of food. Along Rue de la Montage are three restos -- two Tibetan and this - La Lucha Libre. 

Years ago I collected a comic that was re-published by Image Comics titled, "Lucha Libre". Incredibly, it was a French comic book. The cool thing was it was set in East Los Angeles. Being a fan of those comics, I just had to check out this restaurant.

I've been to a Mexican Luchadore wrestling match in Mexico and this took me back to 2003. Like some places in Mexico City, there's a bar with a small ring (not the regulation size wrestling ring). The "fight" area is small and they can accommodate about 40-50 people so it's first come, first served in terms of tickets. 

If you've been to the Cavern in Liverpool, the section where the band performs, it's like that. So the "fights" but not the all-out type with aerial action. It's good entertainment though. Heard they even have sumo wrestling! 

The wrestling is every first and third Friday of the month (got to go on the third Friday so lucky me!). Sumo stuff is everyday If I am not mistaken.

Food's all right (a little expensive though if you compare of say the local McDonald's where you will spend about & euros; here it's 5 and up with the burgers fetching for more than 10 euros). Me? I just got some chicken wings and a mojito. Under 15 Euros.

Service is all right. Just don't expect the wait staff to be warm and friendly. 

If pro wrestling is your thing you'll get a kick out of it.

I did!

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Have you seen my missing dog?

Have you seen my missing dog? 
by rick olivares

Do you know what it is like when your beloved pet dog goes missing? 

For Jennette Pe and her beloved dog Kimberly, a crossbreed between a Japanese Spitz and mongrel, it was a 17-day ordeal where the owner endured sleepless nights and long hours combing the streets and alleyways of San Juan even in the unholiest of hours.

For as long as she has lived, JP, as Jennette likes to be called, has been surrounded by dogs. “I grew up in a house where we had pet dogs all the time,” she recounted. “At one time, I even had more than 20 dogs at home!”  

Only after the daily or even the monthly pooch budget began to strain her purse did she cut down on the number of her pets. “Being unattached is a painful lesson to learn,” she dryly noted.

Late in the evening of May 19, Kimberly, who had turned 42 years old (in dog years) last April 1st, snuck out as at the back gate when it was left momentarily open. However, it was only the following day that it was discovered that Kimberly was missing. Compounding matters was that other members of the household not informing JP immediately of her pet’s disappearance.

It was only when JP got home from work in the early hours of the morning when she learned of the bad news.  Distraught, she immediately went out to look for her dog.  JP combed the streets up to the Puregold Supermarket along N. Domingo Street (she lives near the Aquinas School and Dominican College area). “There was hardly anyone outside but that didn’t stop me from looking,” she shared while recounting the rising fear in her gut.  “My poor dog was gone and I felt so sad, helpless… unhappy."

The following day, JP went to the nearby Barangay Hall where the tanods recommended that she come out with a flyer to aid her in her search.  The flyer put her in touch with many concerned dog owners including one who physically joined her in her search.  She offered a small reward for any lead for her missing pet.

For days on end, JP, Joy, and even her brothers joined her search for the missing dog to no avail.  “During the first few days, my hopes were high that I’d see Kimberly on the streets.  But as the days went on, there was this sickening empty feeling inside of me.  For the first time in my life, I knew the name of every street in San Juan.  I went back and forth until I became so familiar with the neighborhood.” 

If her missing pet wasn’t serious business, JP would have laughed at the thought of knowing the city streets like the back of her hand.

"I blamed myself,” she flagellated herself during moments of quiet introspection. “I slept very lightly.  I’d wake up as soon as my phone rang or received a text.  I was searching for any sign. Anything.  For a so-called dog-owner, I had become complacent.  I have been so busy with work that I never got to walk her.  Walking her around the neighborhood would have familiarized her with the surrounding area.  And Kimberly didn’t even have a dog tag."

Then the recriminations gave way to morbid thoughts.  “Did she get rained on (there were consecutive days when the rain fell hard)?  Did she eat at all?  Where was she drinking water?  I wondered if my dog had been slaughtered for food.  I also thought that someone might have picked her up and now took her for their own pet.  Or even worse, she could have been attacked by packs of stray dogs or even run over by a car.”

As it was, the street was a curious, inviting, strange yet deadly new world for Kimberly.

Later, word filtered back from some street urchins that a dog that matched the animal on the flyer was run over somewhere along Kalentong.  Some street kids, without care to themselves, lifted the dog to safety.  The dog was hurt but thankfully, the injury wasn’t fatal.  It soon picked itself up and left under her own power.

JP once more took to the streets with her house helper but still no luck.

As the days dragged on, there were numerous sightings here and there. And she took every text sighting of her dog seriously even if she never saw a glimpse of Kimberly.  Eventually, her brothers got tired of the search and even chided her for paying off an anonymous tip that didn’t amount to any thing.

“Seventeen days had passed, that’s a long time. But I never gave up hope.”

Kimberly's "odyssey"
On the evening of the 4th of June, JP received another text message from someone who said he took in a stray dog for three days only to see it runaway at the first opportunity.  But he knew where the dog had sought refuge — near the BDO bank along Shaw Boulevard and Kalentong.  JP was still at work so she begged her brother to accompany Joy, her house helper who had also spent an inordinate amount of time searching for the pet, to the site where the dog had supposedly sought shelter.

Her brother was a little upset because they had acted on every tip they’ve received and turned up nothing.  

Furthermore, it was almost midnight and he should be hitting the sack instead of searching for a dog that in all likelihood was gone.

When they got to the area, the person who texted the tip to JP pointed to the car where the dog sought refuge.  Joy looked underneath and did see the shape of a dog.  When she called out, "Kimberly!” the dog reacted.  “My heart jumped,” recalled Joy.  “I knew this was Kimberly.” 

She called JP’s brother, Joseph, who was at the wheel of the car. Jennette’s brother  Joseph alighted and called out to the dog.  Kimberly ran towards him Joseph — confirming that it was indeed the missing pet. Yet, strangely, the dog ran back underneath the car.  With the help of some locals, they managed to pull the dog out.

JP then received that phone call she had been waiting for 17 days now. Kimberly, lost and missing, was now found! As soon as she got home, she ran to her dog, emaciated from the lack of food and water, and clearly traumatized from her ordeal. The pet owner hugged, kissed, and held on tight to her pet for dear life.

Kimberly was found a good 1,600 meters — about a 20 minute walk away but across winding roads -- from where Jennette lived. 

It took a few days, and a couple of visits to the animal doctor to clean her wounds and to ease her way back to her normal world.  “She’s still a little traumatized from what she went through,” said JP.  “But she’s getting better. After this, I hope for a joyful reunion of all missing pets with their owners as what happened to me and my dog Kimberly.  I am touched by the kindness of strangers who offered prayers and went out of their way to find my dog.  I am very grateful. Not many people get second chances with their missing pets.  I am going to make the most of this. " 

Monday, June 6, 2016

Commemorative coins from the Allied Landings of Normandy during WWII

Commemorative coins I got from Normandy in 2015. Posting this on the 72nd Anniversary of the Allied Landings of Hitler's Fortress Europe this June 6, 2016.

Friday, April 15, 2016

Bilibid inmate’s art helps support his family

Author’s note before reading: This article isn’t to substantiate anyone’s innocence. Nor is it written to elicit sympathy. This is about art and a man’s coming to terms with his fate in life.

Bilibid inmate’s art helps support his family
by rick olivares

One of the many classrooms of the Alternative Learning System at the New Bilibid Prison is used for electrical class and the art department. On the wall are a couple of dozen impressive paintings of different themes ranging from landscape to religious imagery to people.

In one corner of the room sits Ariel Cabiluna who’s busy at work. None of his works are on display. “They go real fast,” shared one inmate who goes by the name of Boyet. “That’s how in demand Ariel’s works are."

Cabiluna is currently working on a portrait for the Congregatio Immaculati Cordis Mariae (CICM), a Belgian-based Catholic mission that has been serving in the Philippines for several decades now. The portrait features over two dozen of its members. The likenesses and detail is incredible. More so when you realize that the technique that Cabiluna uses is rather uncommon. It’s called pyrography, the art of illustration or design using burn marks created by soldering pens. 

The 40-year old from Talisay City, Cebu, has been working on the portrait for over a month now. It has been time consuming because of the number of people and his attention to detail. When done in a few days’ time, it should fetch for several tens of thousands of pesos. “That should help my family pay for the bills and their needs for a little bit of time,” hoped Cabiluna in the vernacular.

The Cebuano is one of the more celebrated inmates at the Maximum Security Compound of the New Bilibid, not for crime that he vehemently denies to this day (I spoke with 15 inmates and everyone admitted to their crime; Cabiluna is the only one who maintains his innocence), but because of his art. The restorative justice program of the Bureau of Corrections provides inmates a means to earn a living and to support their families outside.

Cabiluna’s claim to “fame” was during the visit of Pope Francis when he created an impressive likeness of the Holy See using pyrography. Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle received the work of art from Cabiluna on behalf of the Pope. Since then, Cabiluna has created other portraits of other notable people including President Benigno Aquino III and Bro. Armin Luistro, the Secretary of the Department of Education among others. 

“When I was still free, I used to drive tricycles or work as a conductor in a jeep,” recounted Ariel. “I used to sketch but I never took it seriously.”

When he was jailed, Cabiluna admitted that in those first few months, his mind was a mess. “My thoughts were constantly about death and I wished I would die. I didn’t know how to get through one day to the next. While walking around the compound, I met a man named Jesus Negro (since transferred to a medium security facility) who was engaged in wood burn art. I was fascinated and asked if he could teach me the craft. Jesus took me under his wing and I soaked in everything he taught me."

It took Ariel five months to learn pyrography. And the skill later greatly helped him care for his family. It is while in jail that he married his girlfriend from Cebu with whom he later had a daughter named Ariana Mariz. The separation tears at his heart but he’s learned to cope after being in Bilibid for almost two decades now.  And through his art, Cabiluna is able to support his daughter’s schooling and her needs."

“When I think about it, if I was outside, I am not sure how being a tricycle driver or conductor can support my family or even send my daughter to school. It’s really ironic when you think about that in here, I learned something that really helps us. It’s a painful trade off. But you learn to cope."

Sunday, April 10, 2016

An afternoon at Single Origin

I had lunch with my friend Raj at Bonifacio High Street. The resto we were looking for, Beso, had closed down. So we chose Single Origin that was the one really busy resto in this side of BGC. 

I had a BLT salad and a vanilla latte for lunch while Raj had a salad of his own. 

Single Origin -- what a weird name though -- has that homey feel. It's spacious and with very good seating that has two areas -- the air-conditioned inside and the outdoor for smokers. Because of the humid weather, it's best to stay indoors although it cooled down towards the late afternoon. It's funny because what was supposed to be just lunch took six hours and 30 minutes! Yep. We were gabbing all afternoon long so that meant ordering a breakfast dough pizza. Anything with arugula I will eat!

The food was good. At least for what we ordered. The service was excellent. The wait staff was quite attentive and very speedy in their service. Having worked in a New York City restaurant where service is king, I can really appreciate that. 

One thing we noticed was that all throughout the afternoon, there was a steady stream of diners. Like I said earlier, it was the one restaurant in this area that was very busy. A crowd must mean something, right?

Price-wise. Expect that you'll spend a minimum of PhP 350 for one meal and a drink. 

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Raissa Robles launches “Marcos Martial Law: Never Again” at UP

Raissa Robles launches “Marcos Martial Law: Never Again” at UP
by rick olivares

After a false start with a delayed book launch at the Ateneo De Manila University last March 28 due to a bomb threat, journalist and political blogger Raissa Robles’ book, “Marcos Martial Law: Never Again” was finally unveiled to the public at the Balay Kalinaw inside the University of the Philippines campus in Quezon City last Monday, April 4.

A crowd of about a hundred people attended the launch of the 268-page book that is a brief illustrated history of the late former president Ferdinand Marcos’ regime that was beset with human rights violations and corruption. The author, with the aid of husband, Alan who served as editor, made use of books, documents, and official records and transcripts with many key players during those years all the way to the post-1986 Edsa People Power Revolution that overthrew the dictator.

“When I was doing this, I didn’t think it would be a timely project since the late president Marcos’ son, Bongbong, is running for the vice presidency,” said Robles in an interview with philstar.com. “This is but one means of correcting the revisionist history that is going around where people are saying that the Marcos years were a golden age for the Filipino people.”

“I was able to interview all the past Philippine presidents about this issue, former military men, as well as victims and survivors of human rights abuses. It is about as thorough as one can be.”

Robles laboriously and in great detail wrote about the rise of Marcos to the Martial Law years to the ills of the New Society all the way to its end during the People Power Revolution. “It is a timely book as well since it is published on the 30th year after the 1986 Revolution,” pointed out the author. 

Aside from Robles, the book launch prominently featured engineer and social activist Roberto “Obet” Verzola, human rights lawyer and Senator Rene Saguisag, noted writer, poet, journalist, and screenwriter Pete Lacaba, writer-director Bonifacio Ilagan, and Dean Ronald Mendoza of the Ateneo School of Government. Verzola, Lacaba, and Ilagan spoke about their being detained and tortured by agents of the Marcos regime that brooked no dissent no matter how little.

Other prominent people who attended included former Chairman of the Commission on Elections Christian Monsod, political journalist Belinda Olivares-Cunanan, and Cecile Guidote Alvarez, the wife of former Senator Heherson “Sonny” Alvarez who along with her husband fled the Philippines soon after Martial Law was declared. Chito Gascon, former UP Student Council head and current Chair of the Human Rights Commission of the Philippines, was also in attendance.

“It is sad that today’s generation doesn’t know what happened during those dark years,” shared Saguisag who at the height of Martial Law formed the Movement of Attorneys for Brotherhood, Integrity, Nationalism, Inc. that represented the victims of human rights abuse. “I think many quarters failed to communicate that and this is the result. This book by Raissa is a good one to use in teaching today’s generation about what transpired. Or else, as the philosopher George Santayana once said, ‘Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it.’” 

Robles bared that she personally gave a copy of the book to several of the VP aspirants by going to the Senate. “I gave copies of the book to Senators Alan Cayetano, Francis Escudero, Gregorio Honasan, Antonio Trillanes, and Bongbong Marcos. The only person I was unable to give a copy was to Leni Robredo. And yes, I have signed forms that the Senators received the books.”


A limited “Collector’s Edition” of Marcos Martial Law: Never Again in coffee table-sized book form is available for P2,500 each. 

A “Student Edition” – a black and white version, soft cover edition of the exact same book will be out shortly. For more details and inquiries, please go to raissarobles.com.