Tuesday, August 29, 2006

A real flying carpet at "Aladdin Jr" by Repertory Philippines

Rating: 11111
Repertory Children's Theater's presentation of Disney's Aladdin Jr was a shining, shimmering, splendid shindig that brought the audience to a whole new world!

Two weeks ago, I went with Agent A to Greenbelt's Onstage theater to catch the 7:30pm Saturday night show. The last Rep Children's play that I saw, Emperor's New Clothes, was mediocre so I had no expectations as I took my seat.

But from the moment the house lights dimmed, and the theater filled with belly dancers holding candles that danced like fireflies in the dark and the familiar strains of "Arabian Nights" began to play... I had a funny feeling that this was going to be an excellent show!

Martin Esteva's lighting design coupled with Johann Quisumbing's magical set instantly transported us into "that land in a far away place..." Everything was perfectly executed and the set changes in between scene transitions were flawless!

Most of the stuff that I can remember from Disney's movie was captured in the play-- the clueless sultan, sulking Jasmine, Jafar and even his sidekick parrot Iago played by a puppet controlled by an actor clad head-to-toe in black!

I've seen quite a lot of impressive sets in the many plays that i've watched but this time I must say that Repertory Philippines has raised the bar even higher! During the scene when Aladdin discovers the genie from the magic lamp in the cave, my jaw dropped in amazement as the blue genie (yes... he was glowing blue!) magically pops out of nowhere and starts to sing "Friend Like Me". Then the ethereal backup dancers (which had Crazy Horse inspired dance moves) appeared like they were floating! And then when the magic carpet appears and starts to dance... hanep! You could hear the oooohs and the aaaahhhss from the audience as we all struggled to figure out how they did that!

(Yeah, yeah... Agent A says glow in the dark fabrics, black light, and exploiting the inherent darkness of the theater but I still think it was magic.)

I must agree with Agent A when she says that instead of Aladdin (Rem Zamora/Joel Trinidad), it was the genie (Oliver Usison with Nelson Caruncho alternating) that carried the play. Aladdin lacked that presence deserving of the title role. Niccolo Manahan captured Jafar's sinister comic-ness and his maniacal muwahaha laughter was infectious.

But for me, the real star of the show was the magnificent chorus. Excellent choral singing (kudos to the vocal coach) and the choreography was perfectly executed (I'm sure they made Douglas Nierras proud!). The young cast danced with so much energy and gusto (even if some of the dances struck me as more Egyptian than Arabian) and their singing had such passion that Agent A had to restrain me from climbing up the stage to join them make way for Prince Ali!

Five pawikan points for Aladdin Jr. I know it's a great play because 80% of the audience was under 10 years of age and this usually restless and easily distracted bunch all sat quietly enthralled throughout the hour long performance. My only regret is that I couldn't get a chance to have my photo-op with the blue genie because of the kids jostling all around!

(Aladdin Jr is playing until December 15, 2006. I highly recommend this for a wholesome family night out or for a perfect first-date/blind date.)

Monday, August 28, 2006

Security Theater at Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA)

Rating: 11100
Sept 3 UPDATE: The Philippine Daily Inquirer reports that: "A MAN WEARING a jacket and carrying a bag was able to sneak a bomb onto a flight from Manila to Davao City last month at the height of the nationwide security alert after Britain uncovered a plot to blow up transatlantic planes.

The man pulled off the same stunt on the return flight to Manila."
(He was hired by the goverment to audit the security of the airport.)
Bruce Schneier has the perfect term for it: security theater or ways of making people feel safer without actually improving anything and as wikipedia puts it succintly: is related to and has some similarities with superstition. This was the pervading thought in my head as I dutifully plodded through NAIA's security.

Then again, security theater is at least supposed to make me feel secure yet I barely felt safer even though I went through four layers of security on my Jetstar flight from Manila to Singapore.

First layer
As my car pulled into the perimeter of the airport, we encountered a long queue because each vehicle entering (whether arrival or departure) had to stop, pop open the trunk and open up the glove compartment after which two security guards would have a cursory glance and wave you through. (Because in the Philippines, everybody knows that the only place to store explosives would be in the glove compartment. Duh.)

photo courtesy of http://www.abs-cbnnews.com/STORYPAGE.ASPX?STORYID=47185Second Layer
I entered the crowded OFW lounge and I was greeted by a simple walk-through metal detector and a pair of security screeners busily chattering about Kris Aquino. I did not bother to remove my solid metal watch, metal belt buckle, coins and handphone in my pocket. I went through, and surprisingly the metal detector was silent! Anyway I stood with my arms out so I could be wanded. They gave me a perplexed look and waved me through. Pucha kung sa Landmark nga dinudutdot ang bag ko nung kanilang mahiwagang stick, bakit hindi ginagawa dito sa paliparan?!

I found myself in the airport building in the midst of a bustling crowd of Philippines' modern day heroes holding my check-in luggage which hadn't passed through any x-ray machines. I was hoping that the alisbayan boxes littered about me contained chocnut, cornicks and the usual Pinoy fare instead of anything bomba because frankly at this point all I had was hope.

photo courtesy of http://www.abs-cbnnews.com/STORYPAGE.ASPX?STORYID=47185Third Layer
From the OFW lounge, I moved on to the next layer of security before the check-in counters. These had the big x-ray machines, the multi-colored, multi-beep, walk-through detectors and the courteous security screeners. So far this has been the most significant and stringent security checks and to NAIA's credit, the passengers were moving swiftly through it. Although the lines were long, it was moving fast and I was through in less than 10 minutes.

Fourth Layer
After clearing immigration, I was surprised to see that there was a layer of security before we entered the duty free shops. This is where the rules about bringing liquids and gels were being enforced. Bottled water, softdrinks and juices in tetra-paks were being discarded. Hair gels, cosmetics and bottles of perfume that couldn't be thrown away were labelled, packed into envelopes and supposedly you would get these when you reached your final destination.


Being a spartan traveller (and unlike the Korean ladies who went after me who had all sorts of creams and lotions), I went through without any hassle. I proceeded to my gate... and lo and behold! There was no security!

Ayos. Looks like the x-ray machines that were before each gate were moved to the checkpoint after immigration and there was no further security from the duty free shops and cafes to the airplane door! So I bought a sandwich, some soup, a bottle of water and a can of sprite. I could have brought these on the plane if I wanted to since nobody was checking anyway.

I'm not a security expert but wouldn't you think that it's better to place your security at the boarding gate instead of right after immigration? How hard would it be to 'borrow' a kitchen knife (maybe even some lighter fluid) from the many coffee shops and restaurants and bring it on board the plane?

In fairness, my personal experience with NAIA's security wasn't bad at all. It's certainly far from the horror stories happening at airports abroad. The process was relatively quick and it took me less then an hour to get from airport to boarding gate also aided by the fact that the queues at immigration were strangely very short.

I'm not saying that we don't need security. What i'm trying to say is that we don't need the charade.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

"You arrived sometime ago. So ummm.. you're here!" EH? Ano daw???

Rating: 10000
singapore idol logoIf there's someone who should be booted out from season 2 of Singapore Idol, it's that third Judge Jacintha!

She doesn't know how to end her sentences, she looks uncomfortable, she's incoherent, coming close to babbling unintelligibly and when she's not doing that, she fills the airtime with awkward, uncomfortable silences! Ack! What a disaster!

Her take on Jay in the wildcard performance: "Ummm 3 quarters of you is there.. its just a little bit of holding back which is too cold for me.. so umm. i just wish you'd just give it everything. but it was quite felt."

She just doesn't make any sense.

Here's what she said on Mathilda's jazz performance: "you arrived some time ago. so umm... youre here... and umm... i just wanted to see a different facet. because we know you can.. .we know you can give it to us. ahh i wanted to... i wanted to see something... yeah... a little... perhaps a little less dramatic."

Well if you think about it, that kinda makes sense. Since you arrived, you must already be... you know... here!

She finally ran out of things to say with Rahima's performance: "Your intensisty is great. your passion always overrides your.. your. .your uh.. ability to... make it not so technical. ha! happy national day!"


One pawikan point. I originally thought of just giving half a point but Twohill is entertaining (even if he can't sing), Mathilda's a good singer (even if she doesn't have that x-factor) and because I think Hady will win.

(BTW, it seems that I'm not the only one who feels this way about our illustrious judges. Check out Mr Brown's, the stomp forum, and Lucky Tan's take on Ken Lim.) If you want to watch some real talent unfold, check out Philippine Idol videos on youtube courtesy of Bituin and simoncowell26.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Fireworks Festival at Marina Bay

Rating: 11110

Last Tuesday, I hopped over to the Esplanade to catch Team Singapore's fireworks show as part of the National Day celebrations.

As this was my first time, I didn't really know where to go for the best view but i can tell you one thing-- the place was packed and I ended up squeezing myself somewhere across Glutton's bay which I think was a great choice.

It was near enough that i was even hit by small specks of paper from the pyrotechnics and there were times that my whole field of vision was filled with the colors exploding in the sky.. but it was also far enough from the mob that it afforded me a quick exit when the masses started their exodus towards the MRT station.
Since I enjoyed Tuesday's show, I decided to check out Team New Caledonia earlier this evening.

This time, I scouted for a new location so I could get decent photographs. I chanced upon Bacchus Boathouse wine bar and I went up to their balcony, ordered a cold Tiger beer ($10) and sat back in comfort as the show unfolded before my eyes.

Unlike last Tuesday's show, I got to hear the music this time! There wasn't any difference to me in terms of beauty and impressiveness because I couldn't "feel" the choreography of the fireworks with the music but it was a treat for the eyes nonetheless.

Four pawikan points for the pretty pyrotechnics. Plus points because I realized that I spent a three hour commute for a fifteen minute show. (Ahhh... the things I do when I've got nothing better to do.)