May 2009

Pinoy jdorama addicts are thrilled that Matsumoto Jun is playing a smairuFilipino-Japanese character in his latest series, Smile (or Sumairu) currently being shown in Japan every Friday at the TBS Network).  And that includes me, of course!

Naturally, I wasted no time and managed to watch two episodes. Here is what’s happening so far:

MatsuJun plays a role of a young man, Hayakawa Bito (or Vito) whose father is a Filipino immigrant while his mother is Japanese.  He grew up fending for himself since his dad left them when he was young while his mother was too busy to care about him.  He was forced to live a life among gang members as a teen and as a result, had brush-ins with the law.  However, he is naturally a good person and wanted to live a normal life as best as he could. He found a job as a worker in a food company, a family who ‘adopted’ and cares for him, as well as loyal friends, including a love interest (played by Arakagi Yui) who lost her ability to speak due to a traumatic experience yet to be revealed.  However, fate is not so kind to Bito since his past and underground connections still catch up to him, and as a result, he was accused of crimes he did not commit.

In the first episode, his character is shown still locked up in jail (the year is bito2015) serving his sentence for alleged food poisoning.  Later scenes show intermittent flashbacks of the past to explain his history.  His lawyer (played by Kiichi Nakai) is helping him gain his freedom.  Despite his predicament, Bito is still hopeful of being set free.

MatsuJun’s  optimistic character, Bito (right) is always ready to flash his beguiling and child-like smile (hence, the title) to the prison guards, which prompted one to comment (that is, according to a fansubber’s translation):  “Filipinos usually have bright eyes, don’t they? They’re cheerful and positive. If someone’s troubled or has no money, they’ll treat them to food or even beer.”

The drama tackles the issue of discrimination in Japan.  It shows how a racially-mixed character like Bito is being discriminated upon by authorities (i.e. ethnic profiling, unfair treatment,  slow justice). For example, in one scene, he was stopped on the street by a cop who was suspicious of his ‘foreign’ looks, thinking that he might be an illegal alien (personally, I am not sure how Bito could be mistaken for being ‘foreign-looking’ but obviously MatsuJun looked like he gave himself a nice tan for the role).   In the first episode alone, he was called “Filipino bastard” (or Filipino a@@hole–depending on whose translation you’re watching) around three times, but only by the baddies and evil cops (one bad cop even kind of reasoned out that that WAS the gangsta nickname he supposedly acquired when he was a troubled teen).

This looked like a heavy emotional role that MatsuJun gets to play (in one scene, he was crying non-stop for like almost five minutes).  He gets to be cursed at and mistreated (in-between sobs, he goes: “Will anyone believe a half-Filipino like me?“). I am not sure if this is how Fil-Japs are really being treated in Japan but one source (日刊サイゾー) says that Smile is not as “visual (?)” as Jun’s past doramas, and its portrayal of discrimination is  quite “uncomfortable” to watch and may be a bit foul or considered “exaggerated fiction.”  I think the source also says that it is not doing so well in the ratings, ranking only third behind other current dramas, Konkatsu and The Quiz Show. < (゚□゚*) > ~oh no!~

By the way, here are my personal insights:

With regards to Bito being jailed for food poisoning… Apparently, the sekihan (red glutinous rice similar to our own biko) he helped make and deliver was tainted and consequently, poisoned some schoolchildren.  The writer of the dorama probably got this idea from the heart-breaking food poisoning tragedy that happened in the town of Mabini, Bohol, wherein 27 schoolchildren died after eating cassava snacks sold by a food vendor in 2005. The vendor had mistaken pesticide for flour (read story here) when he cooked the cassava, and in Smile, the sekihan was also tainted with pesticide.

I also think that the story will not focus much on Bito’s Filipino heritage (he grew up in Japan and not in the Phils.).  From the looks of it, he doesn’t seem to know anything much about being a Filipino and there is no indication that he’s interested at all to learn more about it.  The focus is more on the injustice and maltreatment of his character, and how he will survive this predicament through the help of his loyal friends.  Pinoy fans will not likely get to see and hear him speak Tagalog… or visit the Phils.  Anyway, that’s just my guess. It would be cool if he did though. (^-^)

Here is a theme song from the series’s opening credits.  It’s weird not having Arashi sing the theme song of MatsuJun’s doramas.  But I’m sure you’ll see that Ariamaru Tomi by Shiina Ringo goes perfectly well with the series’ opening credits which you’ll find so cute that you just can’t help but… smile 🙂


1 liter of tears tv drama posterAnother jdorama to be shown on GMA (starting tonight May 25) is the 2005 mini-series, 1 Liter of Tears (Icchi Rittoro no Namida).  It is based on the inspiring 1986 book that contains diary entries of Kito Aya whose youthful dreams and happiness were shattered by a cruel degenerative disease, putting a slow and tragic end to what could have been a bright and promising life.  The jdorama version (there was also a 2004 movie on this) starred Sawajiri Erika as Ikeuchi Aya and Nishikido Ryou as Asou Haruto.  It differs from the book and movie by adding a love angle to it in the form real-aya-kito-1-liter-of-tearsof Ryou.  It was a nice touch–resembling that other tear-jerker “A Walk to Remember.”

The real Aya (right): “I write because writing is evidence that I’m still alive.”

If you’re going to follow the drama on TV, better prepare your tissue box and hankies for the rest of the coming weeks.  I was crying my eyes out as the story unfolded, giving me a good dose of badly-needed catharsis (the last time was when I watched–for the nth time–Full House! *blush* don’t ask me why…it’s such a long story).  We all need a good cry once in a while. Besides, according to research, crying is a natural process and a great form of stress reliever. But for me, when I have a good cry, I get in touch with my human side. Sometimes when you steel yourself up for work and life’s challenges (especially when you are expected to be objective and uncompromising), you tend to be stoic and unemotionally absent. Watching tearjerkers like 1 Liter can help me do a Spock–to channel my inner human hidden inside my otherwise Vulcan demeanor.  (^.^)

Gryo nishikido oing back to 1 Liter, I could relate with it since I went through a similar crisis– losing a loved one who happened to be my mom. She suffered a stroke at age 51, became paralyzed and was bed-ridden for several months before she passed away a year later (around the same time as the real Aya). It is a difficult ordeal that you wish and pray that no family would ever have to go through.

And I cry most easily when I see grown men weep.  My heart just breaks watching the lovable dad (played well by Jinnai Takanori) shed tears watching his daughter go through the ordeal, knowing there is little that he can do.

Ryou (left) is such a terrific actor, too.  His crying scenes were real and heartfelt.  With his dark looks and emoesque charm, he is one talented actor that will definitely go a long way.

The songs play an important role in the series, too.   We may not know the language but they give the emotional scenes more power to pull even the most stubborn of all heartstrings: Only Human by K (ending theme), Konayuki (Powdered Snow) by Remioromen (Aya and Haruto’s love theme); and March 9, also by Remioromen.  Since it is my LSS of the week, the latter is what I want to share with you, along with the lyrics (English translation can be found here) and song for your sing-along pleasure.  Have a good Catharsis! \(T‿T)/~sniffles~

Sangatsu Kokonoka (March 9)

Nagareru kisetsu no mannaka de
Futo hi no nagasa wo kanjimasu
Sewashiku sugiru hibi no naka ni
Watashi to anata de yume wo egaku
Sangatsu no kaze ni omoi wo nosete
Sakura no tsubomi wa haru he to tsudzukimasu
Afuredasu hikari no tsubu ga
Sukoshizutsu asa wo atatamemasu
Ookina akubi wo shita ato ni
Sukoshi tereteru anata no yoko de
Arata na sekai no iriguchi ni tachi
Kidzuita koto wa hitori ja nai tte koto
Hitomi wo tojireba anata ga
Mabuta no ura ni iru koto de
Dore hodo tsuyoku nareta deshou
Anata ni totte watashi mo sou de aritai
Sunabokori hakobu tsumuji kaze
Sentaku mono ni karamarimasu ga
Hirumae no sora no shiroi tsuki wa
Nan daka kirei de mitoremashita
Umaku wa ikanu koto mo aru keredo
Ten wo aogeba sore sae chiisakute
Aoi sora wa rinto sunde
Hitsuji kumo wa shizuka ni yureru
Hanasaku wo matsu yorokobi wo
Wakachiaeru no de areba sore wa shiawase
Kono saki mo tonari de sotto hohoende
Hitomi wo tojireba anata ga
Mabuta no ura ni iru koto de
Dore hodo tsuyoku nareta deshou
Anata ni totte watashi mo sou de aritai

It was just recently I got to use Google’s Language Translator service.  Apparently someone who speaks Spanish googled up Satoshi Tsumabuki’s name and used Google’s free translation service to read my post on him.  And this is what it looked like:


En Mi Paleta: My blog in Spanish

Increíble, ¿no? Google’s Translator can supposedly translate many languages (Albanian, German, Vietnamese, Filipino, etc.) to your own native tongue and vice versa.  But I wonder how accurate the translation was.  I’m sure there’s no way this could be 100% accurate, considering the differences in syntax and sentence structure in every language.

So I did a little investigating…to see if this really works.

1) Spanish webpage from NotiCine:


English translation by Google:

The Berlin Film Festival announced on Friday its first ten titles in its Official Selection, in its 59 edition, which will take place from 5 to February 15 next year. Among them, apart from the Mexican film starring Gael Garcia Bernal “Mammoth,” Lukas Moodysson’s Swedish is a skillful combination of top-level filmmakers (Theo Angelopoulos, Sally Potter, Chen Kaige… Stephen Daldry) with international stars.

Including the breakdown of the top ten bands are selected to Judi Dench, Jude Law, Dianne Wiest….

Verdict: Although there are still kinks in the grammar, I think the English translation from Spanish is highly passable and can be well understood. (And oh, by the way, mi actor favorito, Gael Garcia Bernal‘s new movie, Mammoth, had scenes that were shot in the Philippines! See trailer here)

2) Japanese webpage from Inoue Mao’s official homepage:


English translation by Google:

2009 March 28. Mao-chan, graduated from college in one piece… Four years we both had a lot of work has to be hard. Or going to class and have the spare time taking pictures, going to school or just in day out all night. It was doing homework and reports at the scene, and now good memories. Who had supported Mao in her school, the friendly fivesome (KYANDIZU). Happy Graduation! By the way, is shooting the film today. Report of the scene, later to.

Verdict: Hmm. Puede na. I think I can get the gist of most of what it was about. But this was easy to translate though. Almost all the other entries on this webpage was just too hard to understand (“Mao-chan on the cover of this magazine is made of steel only for the day” Huh?).

3) French webpage from doctissimo:


Filipino translation by Google:

Ang pag-inom ng kape ay mapanganib sa iyong kalusugan? Siyentipiko ay isasaalang-alang pa rin ang mga bagay na ito. Habang ang mga certainties mukhang lumitaw, ang science ay pa rin sa maitim.

Kape at Parkinson’s Sakit: Isang Pangkontra Epekto? Ang kape ay nagsasama ng isang pangharang epekto sa mga sakay sa sintomas ng Parkinson’s disease…

Verdict: Passable.  And a bit impressive–even the English translation on this was fairly accurate.  Nevertheless, some phrases may be deemed laughable (like “science ay pa rin sa maitim“) and it would take one’s stock knowledge to infer what these actually mean (“science is still in the dark?”).

Over-all, I think this is really a useful tool for us especially for those who are into research and sharing of knowledge.  But I guess from now on, we should also be wary of what we write. Some of us use our native tongue when we do not want others to read what we wrote (especially when we are talking about them).  Who knows where this new tech may lead–An end to the confusion of tongues? Or maybe even more divisiveness?


This is MOM who also got to travel to Banaue in the 70’s.  The colors may have faded but this is still one of my favorite pics of her probably taken by an uncle (and this is the pic that taught me early on how to properly take pictures when traveling–that is, to include the background and not just yourself).  She may be smiling but it took some guts for her to pose so near the edge of this cliff. Well, that’s my MAMA! Miss you super much ƸӜƷ !!!

•*”˜˜”*°•. ˜”*°•♥•°*”˜ .•°*”˜˜”*°•.
**♥** Happy Mother’s Day! **♥**
.•°*”˜.•°*”˜.•°*”˜♥ ˜”*°•.˜”*°•.˜”*°•.

Done watching Star Trek… The reviews are positively BEAMING (couldn’t resist-sorry!) and the trekkies are happy.

But what do I think about it?

Mr. Spock: “Hmm… Fascinating.”

You’re damn right it is!

PS. Can’t wait for more. And Karl Urban (remember him as Lord of the Rings‘ Eomer?) is freakingly flawless as Dr. McCoy! The actors are all lucky. They’ll be employed for life.  All supporting characters had amazing parts in the story except for Uhura (Zoe Saldana – who played a trekkie in The Terminal).  All she did was pucker up and kiss Spock (!).  Hope she gets more action time in the next movie.

Here is a link to cartoonist Ward Sutton‘s take on the movie \\//, (^^)  Enjoy!:

Note: This is a continuation of Part 6pict0679

Finally, we left Sagada before 12 noon.

We were taking the same reliable yellow jeepney (right) that we took and through the same route (Bontoc, Banaue and Nueva Vizcaya) that we passed before on our way to Sagada.  The weather gradually became less cold as we journeyed back down to the lowlands.

pikchxWe had lunch again at Tchayapan Restaurant. This time we had pinikpikan chicken dish with broth and vegetables (left).  And this time, too, we had more time to stroll around Bontoc Proper—visit the local market, chill out and chit-chat.

While walking, we were stopped on the street by a food vendor riding a pedicab.  We found out that her name ibataan-056s Brenda, and that this young lady is also a teacher.  She passes her summer vacation productively (siempre, ininterview namin!) by selling specialty foods like blackberry yogurt, polvoron, and delicious turon made NOT of banana but of glutinous rice (Right Pic) along the streets of Bontoc.  Her enthusiastic spirit and amiable personality (She speaks perfect English, too—ahem!) was so evident that we can’t help but be delighted with her.  All of us gladly bought out all her wares!

brndaSOLD-OUT: An enterprising lady, Brenda, her pedicab, and blackberry yogurt (P25).  Keep up the good work, Brenda, at yayaman ka talaga!

Waah! Ang init nanaman uli!: passing the time crmlynby cooling off with some ice cream from Creamline, a Baguio-based company.

We also had another stop-over at Mt. Polis. This time we found ourselves running into a low-lying cloud.  May it be a cloud or fog (later on, we realized that it was actually a raincloud), we felt like little kids again, basking in it, taking pictures and having fun.

We also bought some organic vegetables sold at really low prices:


Lady in the Mist: The Mt. Polis Virgin Mary statue enveloped in the cloud:


The surrounding cloud suddenly felt cold and damp.  I could tell it was3098_1123750926303_1002990736_30399602_3639559_n2 going to rain.  And true enough, it did rain the rest of the way to Banaue.

We were supposed to stroll around Banaue while waiting for our 6 pm bus to take us to Manila (we got home on Easter Sunday at 4 am).  But rainbwbecause of the rain, we were forced to sit it out and had coffee instead at Banaue Hotel.

After the rain passed, a rainbow appeared outside the hotel’s window… which for me was a fitting end to our little adventure.

By the way, here is a video of us stopping by Mt. Polis:

Postscript: AND just one more for the road….


The Gang in Banaue 🙂  It was a pleasure ‘nature-trippin’ with you all!

Special thanks: to Lori, Melo, Noel P. and Ale M. for some of their pix posted here.  To Violet, our Wildflower tour organizer for a job well-done.  Emj and Zbeth for helping me realize my dream to visit Sagada. And to God, for letting me survive and get away with just a minor scratch—haha!;  for granting us a safe and fun-filled trip; for giving me the chance to meet and gain new friends during this trip; and for allowing me see how lucky we are that we’re living in such a beautiful country like the Philippines.

Here’s to more adventures ahead! Hanggang sa susunod na paglalakbay! Yehey!

Note: This is a continuation of Part 5

3098_1124268979254_1002990736_30401122_3333835_nWe were set to leave before noon but there were still some places we haven’t visited yet. So we started out early on Black Saturday morning.

Every Saturday is Market Day in Sagada. Farmers, sellers and merchants would come in from other towns and gather in the main road, set up ‘shop,’ and lay down their wares, such as tea, coffee, fruits like 3098_1124269059256_1002990736_30401124_6954535_nblueberries (for only 15 pesos in a cup!), vegetables, fish, meat, stuff from China, wooden crafts, sweaters, dvds of movies and Cordillera music, etc.

It was 6 in the morning when EmJ, Zbeth and I passed by; some were still in the process of setting up.  We decided to buy a pre-breakfast snack (if there is such a thing) from them—cinnamon bread and hot Sagada brew served in styro cups—to be eaten while strolling along the St. Mary’s Episcopalian Church grounds (left).

Built at the turn of the 20th century, the church pretty much looks the same as it did a hundred years ago (see old pics of it via this vid).

A peek inside: The Church with stone walls and Rose windows:



The church grounds where one can contemplate and meditate:3098_1124269099257_1002990736_30401125_7916920_n

Then, we went back to St. Jo’s to take our last breakfast of fried rice, and 3098_1124268619245_1002990736_30401113_8108847_nall-you-can-eat danggit. Next off we went to pack our stuff so we can get ready to check out at 11.  But since there was still time to spare, we decided to go for one last trek.

We passed beyond the church grounds to see the cemetery and as shown on the right, the big cross at Calgary Hill (which was ruined because of a hideous communications tower said to be from Globe built behind it):

cliff-087Watch your step!: Just the previous night, there was somebody who fell down around these parts. Fortunately, he survived.  A local manghihilot was all they needed to patch him up.

And then, off we went for a short hike towards Echo Valley, so-called because it is where you can hear echoes of your own loud shouting and screams (and yes, we tried it, of course!).  And from our viewing point, one can see from a distance, the Hanging Coffins of Sagada (the unique burial custom of the locals) at a limestone cliff (pic courtesy of Lori B):


3098_1124329380764_1002990736_30401337_2391447_nThe last thing we did was visit the Ganduyan Museum.  Here, we found out that before the Spaniards came, Ganduyan, was the original name of Sagada.  Artist and owner/curator, Cristina Aben (at left), showed us around and gave a very enlightening talk about Igorot history and local customs, as well as indigenous artifacts and items in her collection displayed in her museum. A small monetary donation is asked of you in lieu of an entrance fee.

Travel tip no. 3—make it a point museumto visit a local museum or attend a cultural show every time you travel.  If traveling in Sagada, I recommend to include Ganduyan Museum in your itinerary.  I found it a very informative and worthwhile experience that capped off our Sagada vacation perfectly.

Just one more… Part 7 (The Journey Home)

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