Review: Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami

Kafka on the Shore Hoshino and the Cats

It’s been over five years that I’ve last read Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami. I remember then tagging it as coming-of-age – about teenagers who’re lost, confused, angry and irrational.  Most of the time, these characters rely on their guts. They always believe the world is out to get them. More often than not, they meet characters who’ll help them shape who they’re going to be at the end of the story. Whether it will be for their better or worse, it’s up to them and the readers to decide.

Kafka on the Shore: The Second Time is the Charm

Kafka on the Shore -- The Boy Named Crow

This story is exciting, kind of like an adventure to the unknown. Both are true in varying degrees for Kafka and Nakata – the lead characters.

It’s a journey that starts from being lost, to finding a safe place and losing it again. The important thing is to keep going until your role is fulfilled.

Rereading the story reminded me of details that I’ve forgotten, meanings I’ve missed and lessons that are very nice to reflect on once again. I used to favor Kafka a lot before, but I’m torn between Oshima and Hoshino right now. These are two peripheral characters who’s influence and help are vital to the lead characters. I also like the contrast between Oshima’s self-acquired knowledge and Hoshino’s willful ignorance.  

I didn’t change my mind about this being a coming-of-age story though. But I deeply appreciate Nakata’s role on how the story unfolds. His charm and mystery made the diluted world in the story bearable.

Much importantly, the story’s underlying themes of emptiness, separation, and memories give a good kind of hurt that will make you want to revisit it time and again.

Haruki Murakami

Haruki Murakami is one of most brilliant contemporary writers that we have. Or I don’t know, some identify his works as post-modern. I love his fantastic style, but more importantly, I admire him for how he weaves his themes – powerful, seamless and the uncanny ability to catch you off guard. Like details on a cloth that you’ll only see upon closer inspection or when light hits it at a different angle.

Murakami’s imagined worlds are wonderful to visit sometimes, but a place where you don’t want to stay for long, because more often than not, they’re depressing and confusing.

What makes his stories unique is their knack in blending fantasy and pragmatism, the way he balances the make-believe and real-life worlds. The way he creates a character that speaks to cats but also cooks like any other person puts a vivid contrast in the imagination. I wouldn’t say he’s as great as Tolkien in terms of world-building skills, but I’ll take Murakami’s colors and nuances anytime.

I definitely agree with the author when he says that this story can have different meanings as there are different types of readers out there. Kafka on the Shore is not like some statement novel that opens your eyes to a radical idea, not something that will rally a group of people because they agree on the one, same thing even without further consultation. It has an inward take, a subjective take, a defining characteristic of Japanese literature like In a Grove, where truth or meaning is relevant.

I highly recommend that you read this wonderful story. It’s like an introduction to Murakami’s works. Check out Kafka on the Shore in Amazon.

Just Released

Or if you’ve been a long time fan, Murakami just released another book, Killing Commendatore. Quite sensational from what I’ve heard because of indecency. Oh well, I don’t know how indecent it is. Murakami seems to live for the details. It’s the same relish that he shows when writing about food or sex – basic, primal, and at times, mechanical.

As always, thanks for dropping by!


Featured Photo by Hannah Troupe

Inset by Saúl Venegas

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Top 100 Brands in the Philippines 2018

Top 100 Brands in the Philippines 2018

Campaign Asia- Pacific’s Top 1000 Brands has released the top 100 brands in the Philippines this 2018! In collaboration with Nielsen, this research claims to be the most comprehensive in terms of consumer brand perception. The study explores consumers’ attitudes in 14 specific market, with 400 respondents from Philippines. It includes 15 major brand categories and 81 sub-categories.The respondents were given these following questions:

Question 1:

“When you think of the following category, which is the best brand that comes to your mind? By best, we mean the one that you trust the most or the one that has the best reputation in this category.”

Question 2:

“Apart from the best brand that you entered, which brand do you consider to be the second best brand in the category?”

Top 100 Brands in the Philippines in 2018

Philippines Top 100 Brands 2018. Image from Campaign Asia Pacific Page. No copyright infringement intended.
Philippines Top 100 Brands in 2018. Image from Campaign Asia-Pacific Page. No copyright infringement intended.

The list is dominated by global Consumer Electronics and Household and Personal Care brands. I’m a little bit surprised that only one brand from the food category made it to the top 10. And with Nike as the top apparel brand to boot. Well, that furthers Filipinos shift to an active and hopefully, healthier lifestyle.

It’s just sad that local brands are way further down. We got BDO and BPI in the 17th and 18th place respectively. And from the Food Category, we got Magnolia at 24th and Lucky Me at the 29th place. Jollibee’s at 41st while it’s rival, foreign brand McDo’s at 55th place. There’s also a dedicated page about the strongest home-grown brands in the Philippines and there they cited Jollibee at the top. A bit confusing when you see the actual rank, to be honest.

Philippines’ page also contains information about demographics, spending behavior, average income disposal, FMCG growth, consumer confidence index, etc.

As per United Nations 2017 Population Prospects there’s about 105 million Filipinos, dominated by 0 -14 years of age which consists 32%. This is followed by Gen Y, or those that are 20 to 34 years old at 25%. It’s important to note though that in terms of direct buying power, you want to bet with Gen Y and Gen X markets (age range: 20 to 49 years old) as they consist 44.7% of the population combined. And this market is what would actually back the demand or the influence on consumption from the younger ones because of their purchasing power.

It’s really nice to know that behind Food and Education, Filipinos are now more into Savings and Investment. And contrary to what many of us believe, only 3.2% of the respondents spend on pleasure travel or vacation. This is much lower than the ones who enjoy dining out at 6%.

Reports are also in for Australia, China, Hong Kong, Japan, and Singapore. And we’re about to see the drill down on the following markets in the next few weeks: India, Indonesia, Korea, Malaysia, New Zealand, Taiwan, Thailand and Vietnam.

I strongly recommend you visit Campaign Asia-Pacific’s 1000 Top Brands because it would also allow you to compare brands per year and by APAC market or category. You can also pit brands against each other. It’s really a marketer’s and advertiser’s haven. Happy exploring!

P.S. Congratulations Samsung! And Apple, keep up! Though what I really want to say is, we Filipinos should love our own products more. It’ll be nice if the top 10 are all home-growns.

P.P.S. Of course, as in any other research, please take the result with a pinch of salt, because if there’s only 400 respondents from the Philippines and there’s already 105M of us, that means, the sample isn’t even 1% of the population, hardly a solid representation of the country.

As always, thanks for dropping by!


I used Canva to create the Featured Image

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Successfully Adulting or Not

Adulting v. to do the things an adult is expected to do. This includes holding a job, taking care of the bills, maybe starting a family, going for your dreams, etc. It used to be called growing up. But really, it’s all about getting your life together. 

If you’re anything like me, you’ll soon find that it’s not the easiest thing to do. So often have I wished for a ‘Skip Adulting for Today’ button. If I have one though, I doubt it’s still working because I may have broken it by now.

What Helps Me Through Adulting

So much has been said about adulting. But I still find myself looking for an adultier adult, because it can get seriously frustrating sometimes. The following may sound preachy, but what isn’t? So far, they’re pulling me through:

Patience

Man, do I need to be reminded of this time and again. I used to be a firm believer that now is as good as any time. But I learned that knowing the “right time” is also a form of intelligence.

If you’ll be able to wait willingly and hold out with a good attitude, the outcome may surprise you. This doesn’t just apply to timing. It’s also about interacting with people. Like, how you learn to respond with grace even though you’re this close to hitting, punching or stabbing someone.

Or when you’re so excited to get approval from the boss, but the boss isn’t in the best mood to listen. It can also be about enduring the leg work now for all the wisdom and experiences that it will give you further down your career. Patience, my dear, is inevitably tied to delayed gratification. And in most times, you’ll realize that the end gratifies greatly, indeed.

Discipline

Or doing the right thing, at the right way, all the time. It’s about doing the thing that needs to be done, even if you don’t want to do it. Going to work on Mondays is a perfect example.

In some cultures, discipline means creating an order within you. It helps you put first things first and avoid making excuses. That’s why to me, discipline means honoring your commitments, your deadlines, your promises. It’s the ultimate test on following-through.

Determination

The kind that answers the questions: How badly do you want something? How much are you willing to pay (sacrifice) for it? These questions also test the quality of your decision-making. How firm you are in your decision affects how determined you are to accomplish it. I’m far from mastering this determination thing. Because I usually change my mind about everything. As we all know, motivation doesn’t last. But determination helps you persists.

Gratitude

…for everything because being alive is enough reason to feel blessed. There are bad circumstances, sure. But these downsides help us appreciate this one life that we’re given. Failure teaches you lessons. Success teaches you humility. ‘You live, you learn’ as the song goes.

 

Final Thought:

Nobody can escape this period and it will make up most of our lives. Granted, adulting can really be scary and tough, but hey, I’m with you, we’re still here. We’re going to be okay. Afterall, all of us is still a work in progress.

As always, thanks for dropping by!

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Ukiyo-e and Woodblock Printing: Japanese Magnificent Works of Art

Woodblock printing is one of the oldest publishing techniques. It came to Japan in the 8th century, used primarily in producing existing Buddhist texts and books of Chinese origins. But it’s not until the Late Edo period (17th to 19th century) that woodblock printing achieved the height of its potential as an art technique through the original works of Japanese artists called ukiyo-e.

UKIYO-E PRODUCTION

It used to be that ukiyo-e is produced through a complex collaboration between the publisher, artist, engraver and printer. So it’s the norm for artists to work in a studio during those days. But as time progressed, there are those who chose to create their work from start to finish. This video is an interview with Takuji Hamanaka, showing the traditional technique for woodblock printing:

 

UKIYO-E: THEMES AND CHARACTERISTICS

Ukiyo-e literally means ‘pictures of the floating world’. Originally, ukiyo was a Buddhist term to express the impermanence of human life. However during the Edo period, it became synonymous to hedonistic pleasures of people who embraced them all the more for their ever changing nature. Also, people at this time enjoyed peace. People were able to read and enjoy leisure time. Ukiyo-e became the most sought-after art form among the commoners and became the most affordable, fastest medium of spreading fashion trends and information.

Ukiyo-e focused on the ordinary things in life. Images usually depict colored narratives and include animals, birds, landscapes and people from lower classes, like courtesans, sumo wrestlers or Kabuki actors. Generally, the artists use exaggerated foreshortening, asymmetry of design, imaginative cropping of figures and areas of flat (unshaded) color. 

What follows are some works found at Ukiyo-e.org .It’s a database of over 200,000 prints, grouped according to artists and the time period they were made. It compiled works from the Early Mid-1700’s to the present time.

UKIYO-E ARTISTS

KITAGAWA UTAMARO (1753- 1806)

He is best known for his idealized portrayal of women in his works. It’s said that no one before him has ever captured a woman’s beauty as deeply as he did. According to Dieter Wanczura, he had experimented with some new techniques to display the flesh tones of his woman portraits in a different and softer manner.

Woodblock Printing and Ukiyo-e themindcatalog.com
Hitomoto of the Monji-ro, 1799
Vertical ôban; 38.4 x 25.1 cm (15 1/8 x 9 7/8 in.)
Woodblock print (nishiki-e); ink and color on paper
Source: Museum of Fine Arts Boston

 

Woodblock Printing and Ukiyo-e themindcatalog.com
Travellers on the Road at Miho no Matsubara, 1787-88
Vertical ôban diptych; 38 x 51 cm (14 15/16 x 20 1/16 in.)
Woodblock print (nishiki-e); ink and color on paper
Source: Museum of Fine Arts Boston

 

Woodblock Printing and Ukiyo-e themindcatalog.com
The Full Moon at the Time of the Imo Harvest, 8th month of 1789
9 1/4 x 14 3/4 in. (23.5 x 37.5 cm)
Polychrome woodblock print; ink and color on paper
Source: Metropolitan Museum of Art

 

KITAO MASAYOSHI (1764 – 1824)

Ukiyo-e and Woodblock Pringing themindcatalog.com
The Sixth Month (Rokugatsu), from the series Women’s Customs: Flower Viewing Parties, 1790
Vertical chûban; 25.7 x 19 cm (10 1/8 x 7 1/2 in.)
Woodblock print (nishiki-e); ink and color on paper
Source: Museum of Fine Arts Boston

 

No.4, Pulling Rice Seedlings from the Seedling Bed from the Series Women Farming
Vertical chûban; 22.4 x 16 cm (8 13/16 x 6 5/16 in.)
Woodblock print (nishiki-e); ink and color on paper
Source: Museum of Fine Arts Boston

UTAGAWA HIROSHIGE (1797 – 1858)

He’s dubbed as “the artist of rain, snow and mist”. His most popular series is the Fifty Three Stations of the Tokaido, which catapulted him to contemporary success.

Birds and Irises in Rain
Originally in Edo period. This one was recarved edition made in c.1930s.
Source: Ukiyo-e.org and Artelino Japanese Prints

 

Nihonbashi: Daimyo Procession Setting Out, Fifty Three Stations of the Tokaido Road, also known as the First Tokaido or Great Tokaido, 1833 – 34
Horizontal ôban; 22.9 x 35.3 cm (9 x 13 7/8 in.)
Woodblock print (nishiki-e); ink and color on paper
Source: Museum of Fine Arts Boston

 

Boshu Yasuda no Kaigan/ Fuji Sanjurokkei, 1858
Rural landscape. Fuji from Yasuda Beach in Awa province
Woodblock print; Nishiki-e on paper
Source: British Museum

 

Hakone; Kosui ca 1833 -34
Source: Ukiyo-e.org and Japanese website
KEISAI EISEN (1790 – 1848)

He’s notable for his works that feature bijin (beautiful women).

Woman Opening an Umbrella, Edo Period
Vertical ôban, upright diptych; 71.4 x 23.8 cm (28 1/8 x 9 3/8 in.)
Woodblock print (nishiki-e)
Ink and color on paper
Source: Museum of Fine Arts Boston

 

Autumn Moon At Mount Atago, from the series of Eight Views of Edo, 1843 – 47
Horizontal ôban; 24 x 35.9 cm (9 7/16 x 14 1/8 in.)
Woodblock print (nishiki-e); ink and color on paper
Source: Museum of Fine Arts Boston

 

Toda River Crossing, 1835 – 1838
Horizontal ôban; 23.6 x 36.3 cm (9 5/16 x 14 5/16 in.)
Woodblock print (nishiki-e); ink and color on paper
Source: Museum of Fine Arts Boston

KATSUSHIKA HOKUSAI (1760 – 1849)

He’s the greatest master of Japanese landscape woodblock prints. His best work is the series, 36 Views of Mount Fuji.

Self Portrait as a Fisherman, 1835
21.3 x 18.43 cm
Color woodblock print with metallic pigments
Source: Art Institute of Chicago

Among his works, this my favorite. There is that serene contentment on the face of the subject though we know there is much to be desired from being a lowly fisherman. And this mood seemed to be reinforced by the gentle flow of the water in the background.

Fuji from Kanaya on the Tokaido, 1830 – 1832
25 x 37.1 cm (image); 26.3 x 38 cm (sheet)
Color Woodcut Reproduction
Source: Legion of Honor, Fine Arts Museum of San Francisco

 

Umezawa Manor in Sagami Province 1830 – 31
Horizontal ôban; 25.2 x 37.7 cm (9 15/16 x 14 13/16 in.)
Woodblock print (nishiki-e); ink and color on paper
Source: Museum of Fine Arts Boston

 

Kajikazawa in Kai Province (Kôshû Kajikazawa), 1830 – 31
Horizontal ôban; 26 x 38.5 cm (10 1/4 x 15 3/16 in.)
Woodblock print (nishiki-e); ink and color on paper
Source: Museum of Fine Arts Boston

And of course, his work that made him immortal:

Under the Wave Off Kanagawa, 1830 – 32
Color woodblock print; oban
25.4 x 37.6 cm (10 x 14 3/4 in.)
Source: Art Institute of Chicago

WORKS OF CONTEMPORARY UKIYO-E ARTISTS

Here we can see how the technology has progressed and how Western artistic styles influenced the modern woodblock prints.

Yoshimoto Masao
Fuji From Lake Ashi, c 1952
Woodblock
Source: Japanese Artist Open Database
Morozumi Osamu b. 1948
Rice Field in Hakuba Village – Japan, 1995
Source: Ukiyo-e.org and Artelino

 

Paul Binnie
A Great Mirror of the Actors of the Heisei Period: Bando Tamasaburo as the Heron Maiden
oban tate-e 16 7/8 by 12 1/4 in., 43 by 31 cm
Source: Scholten

 

Two Cats
Inagaki Tomoo (1902 – 1980)
6” x 4”, Woodblock
Source: Japan Art Online Database

 

Crouching Woman, 20th Century
44.5 x 35.7 cm, Color Woodcut
Source: Legion of Honor, Fine Arts Museum of San Francisco

I hope you find this collection interesting. Complement this article with Japanese byobu art we featured previously. May this deepen your appreciation of Asian art.

As always, thanks so much for dropping by!


Please see credits for featured image on the body of the article.

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All the Bright Places: Thoughts and Reviews

All the Bright Places

It’s been awhile since I picked up a young adult work of fiction. I was expecting Jennifer Niven’s All the Bright Places to move along the same cheesy story lines. The ones that follows the plot of boy meets girl, boy loses girl, but boy still wins girl at the end.

But no.

It seems nobody wins at the end of this story. And sadly, it may be happening to someone you know right now.

I never expected the book to be about suicide – a topic that has become so prevalent this past years.

Growing up, I know the issue is real. As real as bullying or domestic violence or cancer. I think every one of us has some level of experience with the topics I mentioned. It may only be the names, places or situations that may be different.

The book is a bit too cruel. Imagine having to deal with deaths that took place within roughly a year of each other? How can you even begin to find the sense in learning to lean onto someone and then having that someone taken away forever?

But as painful as the story is, it also teaches you to hope, to reach out and to move on.

All the Bright Places to Hope For

Going someplace new and different doesn’t just change what’s outside. More importantly, it moves something within us. It allows our minds to open up to new perspectives, to increase our appreciation of what we have and long for the possibilities in the future. It develops our depth as a person and the relationship we have with the person whom we experience them with.

Just like how Violet’s and Finch’s project of wandering over Indiana allowed them to explore themselves, too.

All the Bright Places to Reach Out To

As with Dr. Seuss’ poems, we can’t always expect to win every time. There would be moments when we’ll fall and fail. When this happens, it’s so easy to fall in the trap of negative thinking, to feel like you’re lost and worthless. What the book never failed to show is that there are always, always people and groups who are ready to help you out. It may not be something you will immediately like. But know and remember that you’re not alone.

Sometimes, it can be disappointing that the people you expect help from are the same people turning you away. They may be in denial (like Finch’s family) or they may just be ignorant (like Roamer and his friends). But knowing this doesn’t make the pain any less or the confusion any clearer. I think the key is to never stop trying to reach out to anyone who you think may help you. There would always be other friends, other responsible adults, experts and organizations who’d be willing to hear you out.

There are several organizations that Niven listed in her book. Locally, here are some useful links and hotlines you may check out: Manila Lifeline Center  and  HOPELINE.

All the Bright Places to Move On To

Niven’s characters are about to graduate high school. Most of them have already submitted applications to different Universities in and out of Indiana. I like how Violet decided to finish the project she started with Finch. She may just be hoping for closure but I knew she was able to find more than that – peace and strength to move on. After all, she still has her own mountain to climb.

What I most like about the book is how Violet’s family is always ready to listen and at the end, all the tragedies have made them better and stronger.

Dealing with Death

Of course you never just get over with a loved one’s death. You just get used to it. And in between life and remembrance, we may find solace on the thoughts and memories they have shared with us. All those times we may never take back but may just give us the push to move on-wards with life.

You can get your own copy of Jennifer Niven’s All the Bright Places at National Bookstore or through Amazon.com.

Add to that Dr. Seuss’ Oh, the Places You’ll Go!

As always, thanks for dropping by!


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BATANGAS: YOUR GO-TO PLACE FOR QUICK GETAWAYS

WHY BATANGAS?

Batangas is our family’s go-to place for a quick weekend getaway ever since I can remember. My childhood memories are filled with blue skies and wide horizons, fresh, gusty wind and country rides. Batangas would always be a special place to me because of this and more.

There are a number of attractions on this place, most are family friendly but some can be exciting enough for a weekend getaway with friends or co-workers.

I like Batangas because it’s just two hours away from Manila. You can either take  Star Tollway or the Tagaytay route, either of which will give you a pleasant country ride. And there are so many types of public transportation and routes you can choose from so you’ll definitely find one that suits you best.

Also, Batangas is not so rural anymore so everything else is fairly convenient. Lodging and accommodations are decent enough. Not to mention the restaurants you can stop over along the way. They make the best lomi in this part of the country, by the way.

Here are the places that we’ve visited the past years. Hope you can also drop by these amazing places with your family:

LA VIRGINIA RESORT

La Virginia is an 8-ha property full of  pools and various structured attractions, all overlooking Taal Volcano. It’s a little bit difficult to get to, considering how many transfers you need to take when you’re commuting. Renting a vehicle would be a very good idea when going to this place. Its popular among the locals so asking for directions should be no problem.

The resort has several sections, each with a unique theme. The one where we stayed in is called Casas de las Flores which features flowers. We stayed at the Orchid, which can house up to 15 to 20 pax. It is also airconditioned and got at least 3 comfort rooms. There are TV, ref and griller. There’s also the Karaoke machine which you can use for an additional fee of P1,000.00.

La Virginia, Bronze Buddha Statue
The serenity of this giant bronze Buddha statue is further emphasize by the lush, green scenery from behind.
La Virginia, Pools and Cottages
The pool over at Casas delas Flores. This place must be so magical for children.
La Virginia, Concrete Hanging Bridge
Though most structures are made of concrete, the resort more than makes it up for the details and paints they put on each of the installation, like this hanging bridge right here.

One other section features a huge Buddha statue, with the green, lush woods as its background.  Then there’s a castle and Marvel superheroes. If you’re for something homegrown, there are accommodations designed after Ifugao houses.

La Virginia also has a hotel, an infinity pool and this concrete hanging bridge (if it’s your thing).

It’s a nice place to explore with the family, but be prepared with the steep slopes. They might really get your joints aching after a while.

But with a view this breathtaking, your trip would definitely be worth it.

View from La Virginia Resort, Batangas
Heart-stopping view of Taal. Isn’t it so perfect?

TALI BEACH

How about a staycation on one of ‘em huge townhouses? If you’re prepared to go the miles and hike up those steep slopes and trek down the beach front, then maybe a trip to Tali Beach may be good for you.

The townhouse we rented costs around P40,000.00 but we’re like 50pax. It comes with everything – rooms, kitchen, spacious lawn, and a pool. So you can host a mini party with the family and arrange an island hopping tour the next morning.

 

Tali Beach Subdivision Townhouse
Well, we got to own the place for a day. That’s my sister at the steps. I can’t remember whose house this is, though. But thanks for the experience.
Tali Beach Subdivision
The place is really well-kept and strolling along this type of street can really be a joy.
Tali beachfront.
Tali beachfront.
Tali Beach Resort
Most men from the family tried to jump from this place. But the waters full of tagulabay.

MUNTING BUHANGIN

So we we’re on the lookout for a white sand beach nearby and this is the place we found. And since it’s also in that part of Batangas where roads just have to be so steep and winding, it would really take a skilled driver to get to and from the place. But of course, it’s Batangas – it can never disappoint. Just make sure that you’re up for a bit of a hike.

Accommodation is really good at this place and there are lots of activities you can engage in. The beach looks so nice and peaceful, too. Great place for little children to wade in.

 

Munting Buhangin Beach Camp, Island Hopping
My sisters having their “One Piece” moment at one of the islands we went to during our visit at Munting Buhangin.
Batangas waters, Munting Buhangin Beach Camp
This is what I love about Batangas waters in fair weather – smooth, calm and crystal.
Island Tour, Munting Buhangin Beach Camp
It’s a family day!

MATABUNGKAY

This place is where everything started. It’s like our very own family pilgrimage – driving back to Matabungkay every two years, spending time, sharing moments and reminiscing with the homies. I can’t remember any other place the whole, as in the whole, family go to whenever we want to hold an impromptu reunion.

My childhood vacations were spent on a balsa in the middle of the sea, eating salted eggs with tomatoes, playing with cousins or just staring out at the blue clear waters. I’m lucky if a little crab would pass by.

Matabungkay Beach
Matabungkay Beach
Sunset, Matabungkay Beach
Sunset, Matabungkay Beach

We just used to go for a day tour but when the family got bigger, everyone just wanted to stay a little longer, as if more time spent on this place would bring back some of those moments from long ago.  

I like the coast here and the mornings especially. You can see something like an atoll when the tide is low. My cousins and I would go the farthest point we can. Sometimes we come home with loads of pebbles and shells. Most little ones would bring with them fish and other slimy things they found on the shore.

So not only the places but the memories that were created on those places made Batangas one fine place for me. It would always be my go-to place for a quick weekend getaway!

As always, thanks for dropping by!


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The Magic and Nostalgia that Are the Vinyl Records

I’ve never listened to a vinyl before. It’s only in old movies or retro-themed films that I get to listen to one. And even then, the audio would sound so smooth and flawless. I never knew how different the music sounds like coming from these records.

I discovered vinyl records aren’t perfect. Often there’d be that static noise in the background. You can even hear them crackle sometimes. They’re the audio equivalent of those silver screen movies – filled with vertical lines at one time or bursting with bright lights the next. They can be distracting but I guess, it’s part of their appeal.

It’s a totally new experience, something that definitely increased my appreciation for this particular medium. It’s not just the kind of music that’s on record, but the quality on which they were produced. Of course, they’re nothing like the audio we have now.

But at some point, the records made me long for a time I never knew. It’s poignant and mysterious and “old”. Old in a very, very good way – just like how memories of summer afternoons in childhood bring nostalgia or how Sunday morning rain can sometimes bring comfort and melancholy.

The Great 78 Project

A simple search on YouTube can give you a taste of vinyl experience. But the effort of Internet Archive with their Great 78 Project would surely cater to your curiosity. They’ve uploaded over 25,000 78s of wide genre. Most date back to 1939. It’s the aim of the project to preserve the cultural value of these records. They were digitized mainly for preservation, research and discovery.

I specially liked the following from the collections:

Somewhere Over the Rainbow:

La Vie En Rose:

Spellbound:

As always, thanks for dropping by!


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The 6 Benefits of Building a Team

If you’re familiar with John Maxwell’s The 17 Indisputable Laws of Teamwork, then you must know about the first law: The Law of Significance. It states that one is too small a number to achieve greatness, thus the importance of forming a team. And how effective this team on achieving the goal depends on the quality of their teamwork and manifesting the other 16 laws.

But what is a team?

In simple words, a team is consists of people who work together to achieve a specific goal. And relationships between people are strengthened and made even more special when they start to work as a team.

Isn’t it better to work alone?

Photo by Elisabetta Foco

Whenever we hear stories of individuals who’ve achieved so much, we’re always fascinated on how they seemingly overcame all the challenges by themselves. But Maxwell proved that notion is wrong. There’s no such thing as self-made man. The Lone Ranger is a myth. And as a  Chinese proverb states, “Behind an able man there are always other able men.”

Maxwell also cited some of the reasons some people prefer to work on their goals alone. Factors such as ego, insecurity, naiveté and temperament hinder us from working well with others. But if we’re willing to give ourselves and others the chance, we’ll soon find out that we’re only capable of achieving something of any significance when we start to reach out and ask for help.

The 6 Benefits of Building a Team


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The following are the six (6) ways on which we can always benefit from creating a team. These are based from C. Gene Wilkes’ work, Jesus on Leadership:

  1. Teams involve more people, thus affording more resources, ideas and energy than would an individual.

  2. Teams maximize a leader’s potential and minimize their weaknesses. Strengths and weaknesses are more exposed in individuals.

  3. Teams provide multiple perspective on how to meet a need or reach a goal, thus devising several alternatives for each situation. Individual insight is seldom as broad and deep as a group’s when it takes on a problem.

  4. Teams share the credit for victories and the blame for losses. This fosters genuine humility and authentic community. Individuals take credit and blame alone. This fosters pride and sometimes a sense of failure.

  5. Teams keep leaders accountable for the goal. Individuals connected to no one can change the goal without accountability.

  6. Teams can simply do more than an individual.  

Understanding the significance of working with others is fundamental on achieving success. The rest of the Indisputable Laws of Teamwork would help a leader make the team more efficient and effective in achieving the goal. You may check out the book at Amazon.com.

You may also share this article as an infographic:

As always, thanks for dropping by!


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5 Amazing Ted Talks That You Absolutely Can’t Miss

You can always find interesting, funny and amazing talks at Ted.com. What follows is a list of my all-time favorites. They span a wide range of disciplines and ideas but you’re sure to benefit from them. If you have time to spare, watch and read on.

The Happy Secret to Better Work

This talk re-frames our perspective on how to achieve happiness. We’re raised to believe that the harder we work, the more successful we get, the happier we become. But Shawn Achor would like to reverse that formula. He says that being happy starts with training the brain to become more positive.

According to his study, “… our brains work in the opposite order. If you can raise somebody’s level of positivity in the present, then their brain experiences what we now call a happiness advantage, which is your brain at positive performs significantly better than at negative, neutral or stressed. Your intelligence rises, your creativity rises, your energy levels rise. In fact, we’ve found that every single business outcome improves. Your brain at positive is 31% more productive than your brain at negative, neutral or stressed. You’re 37% better at sales. Doctors are 19 percent faster, more accurate at coming up with the correct diagnosis when positive instead of negative, neutral or stressed.”

How then can we achieve this happiness advantage? He gives us the following recommendations:

  1. List three new things you’re grateful for 21 days in a row. This way the brain would learn to scan the world not for the negative, but for the positive first.
  2. Journal about your positive experiences so that the brain re-lives the way it feels.
  3. Meditation and exercise.
  4. Random acts of kindness.

Why Good Leaders Make You Feel Safe

“When we feel safe inside the organization, we will naturally combine our talents and our strengths and work tirelessly to face the dangers outside and seize the opportunities.” – Simon Sinek

To make your people feel safe and taken care of are signs of good leadership. I couldn’t agree more when he said that when leaders decide to put people first, when they show willingness to sacrifice comforts and tangible results so that people remain and feel safe and feel that they belong, remarkable things happen.

He’s cited two companies who’re so good at this principle and they’re thriving businesses right now. Just imagine working for that particular company that’s willing to keep you for a lifetime.

Also he’s given a damn good definition of leadership. Leadership is never about the rank. Like him, I’ve encountered so many people who occupy higher rungs in a company. They’re people of authority for sure, but definitely not leaders. Leadership is a choice – to go first, to make sacrifices so your people may gain and succeed. And what do leaders gain from all this? It’s the absolute willingness of their people to do the same for them.

Your Elusive Creative Genius

From the author of Eat, Pray, Love, this talk tackles the daunting issue that every artist face after creating their best, most acclaimed work by far: Will they ever surpass their most recent achievement?

This thought is certainly scary and puts a lot of pressure on the artist while getting the “next big work” out there.

According to her, life need not to be full of anguish if you never happen to believe that the most extraordinary aspect of your being comes from you. In some ancient cultures, they have the idea of a disembodied creative creature called genius. While in some places, artists  can have that single, transcendent moment when they seem to become a vessel so spectators can have a glimpse of God. And so in recognizing this distance between the artist and the work, artists may be able to retain that sanity, that courage to get on with the work and just stubbornly show up until it is done.

Beautiful Minds Are Free From Fear

Sometimes, fear can be so strong and paralyzing. When it hits, Robert Grant gives the following recommendations on how to overcome fear:

  1. Practice gratitude. It’s impossible to be fearful and grateful at the same time.
  2. Intentional Decision. Anything that can happen to you in your life can either the best or the worst thing. You decide which is which. Every day you wake up, you get to decide whether it’s going to be a good day or a bad day. It’s all up to you.

How to Stop Screwing Yourself Over 

Whenever you feel stuck or dissatisfied with your life, Mel Robbins says that you gotta force yourself out of the following:

  1. Out of your head. Most especially when you’re just wallowing on your negative thoughts.
  2. Past your feelings. Because you’re never gonna feel like getting what you want when you’re so focused on your emotions.
  3. Out of your comfort zone. Because that’s where everything starts to happen.

And she says it’s very important to act on our impulse. Because if we don’t marry the impulse with a physical action, we’re going to trigger our emergency break and we’ll never get to do what we want to do in the first place.

You  may have your own set of Ted Talks favorites. Put them on the comment section or send them my way so I can add them here.

As always, thanks for dropping by!


Featured Photo by Avi Richards

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4 Brand Campaigns That Try to Break Social Norms

Break the Norm

Norms.

It’s one of the most influential factors that shape who we are, the society and the times we live in. We grow up and we just accept that there’s always a certain way of doing things. Or we hold on to beliefs, no matter how limiting they are, because so many people are holding on to the same truths.

So we go on passively accepting that such is life. We tell ourselves: life isn’t always fair, there are more questions than answers, time’s ticking away and we got to get on with it.

But the beauty of time is that it brings change. Change that can take the form of a revolution – one that can either be subtle or really violent. And often times, the most disruptive changes are brought about not by arms or force, but by thoughts and emotions.

What follows are four brand campaigns trying to break social norms. Each brand tries to put an idea out there. All aiming to encourage audiences to take a stand, to do something whether it’s for or against the beliefs that we find to be true, meaningful and important in our lives.

Brand Campaign 1: Dove’s Real Beauty 

Arguably, one of the most controversial ideas ever to puzzle mankind is the definition of beauty. The royals, the artists, even the lay people on streets have their own take on what makes someone or something beautiful. For the most part, it is a subjective evaluation, but society also pushes the “ideal” standards of beauty that everyone feels pressured to strive for.

Dove’s campaign for real beauty is not only groundbreaking. It’s also brave. Definitely edgy. And most of all dynamic. It all started with this time lapse video of a model. And from then on, the brand never stopped it’s advocacy on telling women all over the world that beauty cannot be put in a box, or measured, or even labeled. The brand’s message is to forever appreciate yourself and be proud of who you are.

Here are a couple of newer ads from Dove:

Brand Campaign 2: SK-II’s Change Destiny

I’d like to believe that the tradition of marrying off daughters springs from a very positive, loving place. But we all know history. Women were often given away for dowries, for political gains, or simply to lessen the burden from their own families.

Asian societies, no matter how open and advanced they’ve become, still stick to the notion that women are homemakers. And they must be married off at a certain age. Otherwise, they’re not fulfilling their duty to the society because they did not do what they’re expected to do.

In this very moving brand campaign, “leftover women” tries to reach their parents hearts – trying to make them see the reason behind their choices and assuring them that it’s still okay. They’re still going to be productive, meaningful individuals even without husbands or families. Being single past the marrying age doesn’t reduce who they are and doesn’t make them lesser members of the society.

Brand Campaign 3: P&G’s My Black is Beautiful

Launched at the height nationalistic sentiment, biases and prejudice, this campaign aims to encourage everyone to speak up and find ways on how to get along amidst all the differences. It makes the audiences uncomfortable because it highlights a social issue that was once considered taboo. As the ad says, “It’s time for everyone to talk about bias.”

Brand Campaign 4: Always’ Like A Girl

You’ve heard it before. When you’re acting so soft, so sentimental or weak, you’re more likely to be called a “girl”. Here’s a brave re-frame of the that notorious term by Always. It gives emphasis on a girl’s strength and amazing potential.

Most of  these ads may have been all about women and their rights, but don’t think that I’m discriminating other genders or belittling other social issues. If you’ve come across a campaign that truly inspired you, let us know about them. You can either put them in the comments or send me a personal message so I can add them on the list.

As always, thanks for dropping by!


Featured Photo by Jilbert Ebrahimi

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