Sunday, January 19, 2020

Dis-Enchanted About Enchanted Kingdom (1/12/2020)

I really wish this could have been just another travel blog, but it's not -- as you will find out.

I personally HAD some very fond memories about Enchanted Kingdom, a theme park located in Santa Rosa Laguna, Philippines, which is accessible via a 40-minute bus or car ride from Manila. We first set foot there when I was just in grade school and a second time when I was in High School (technically, it would be Jr. High nowadays.) 

My favorite attraction had always been the Rialto rumble seat/movie ride and hanging out at the arcade. Unfortunately, I am not here today to reminisce about those... more pristine times.

Last January 12, 2020 would mark my third trip to Enchanted Kingdom together with my sister and her family. The trip was especially for my 11 year-old niece from Canada, who had actually been through her fair share of theme parks including a few Disneylands and Universal Studios. Still, she doesn't discriminate and enjoys thrilling rides anyway -- and EK had quite a few to offer.

We booked a grabcar ride (our answer to UBER) to get there, but we had to use the booth at the hotel because there were no six-seater cars available via the Phone app.

When we arrived at about 1:00 AM, something immediately felt off for me. I was a bit lightheaded and I'd concluded that it might be due to the searing heat or that it might be from high blood pressure. 

I was fine during the bumper car ride. (I let my niece drive and we didn't really get anywhere. Also, her mom bumped into us several times on purpose lol).

She wanted to ride a small roller coaster as well. I wasn't feeling quite up to it, so I skipped that ride.

Also, some kids from a local high school overheard my sister talking to us in English and started mocking her for it in typical non-confrontational Pinoy style. My mother saw this and well... my sister wouldn't stand up for it and took pics of them and got up close and personal right in their faces. The kids were like shoulder level next to her and about chest level next to me. Still, the one who actually initiated the heckling stood his ground and looked like he was ready to "put em up."

I just took a bladed stance with my hands down and nonchalant -- ready to put a kid in a hospital if he tried anything funny. Eventually, one of them walked off... and then returned to the same spot again with four other friends around the same size as him. (Really, kid? Bring your whole class next time.)

With that said, it seems the group was just there to bail him out and give him an excuse to move away. They went on their way and we went on ours with no actual confrontation.

Unfortunately, as the day wore on, I felt more and more nauseous to the point that I was on the verge of throwing up just as we were lining up for the Rialto.

I chose to back out of the ride and my sister suggested that I eat some ice cream. We went into an ice cream parlor within the theme park and waited for my niece and her dad to finish the Rialto ride and join up with us in there. Inside, my mother started massaging my head and I immediately started feeling better. This is when she asked me to take off my socks so she could massage my feet -- when I discovered that my socks were all wet. I felt better almost instantly after taking them off.

After this, we wanted to try out the go-karts, but you actually had to pay extra to use those -- we thought that was a total rip-off and decided to go for the Rio Grande Rapids ride instead. I forgot to mention this, but the lines for the rides were super long on that day. 

When it was our turn, we found the ride to be pretty enjoyable, except there was some kind of muck that was piling up and getting into our clothes and hair. After the ride, we were informed by some people who were there too that it was due to the ashfall, Mt. Taal, an active Philippine volcano that was just an island away had erupted mildly.

We decided to call it a day after that and leave the place to get back to our hotel in Manila and prepare for a meeting with my aunt at SM Megamall. Unfortunately, when we were outside the park grounds, we soon realized that no Grab Cars/Taxis were taking any bookings nearby. Also, all the buses were going to provinces outside of Manila.

We were out of the theme park by 6:00 PM. They made an announcement that it would close at 6:30. Having no means of transportation away from the place, we were forced to call for help from my aunt. She informed us that she'd booked a taxi and was on the way over to help.

As the sky grew darker and darker on that day, we soon realized that this was a real crisis and were in real danger of being stranded in this place. Reports via internet sources showed the true extent of the ashfall and we were experiencing it first-hand. It was like the sky was spraying brownish-black powder everywhere. Our only shelter were the small tents in the waiting area of Enchanted Kingdom with a few seats and tables. Not really sufficient when the wind was blowing ashes every which way. The ash would get on our skin, into our clothes and our bags and personal belongings. 

All around us, people were doing there best to take shelter from the ashes, but they were better off than us because they had friends and family come to fetch them -- we were still waiting. 

We also saw that inside of EK, the employees were each messaging people via phone to come and pick them up. People were leaving the park in droves as we sat there helplessly waiting for rescue. The amusing part is that many individuals there were just casually walking through the ashfall and treating it as though it was rain.

At some point, a security guard came by and started asking people with cars and motorcycles  who were there to fetch their friends and family for their parking tickets. Many had to fumble around because they'd forgotten all about their parking tickets in the middle of the crisis. Apparently, to the authorities of Enchanted Kingdom, parking tickets are still important even though the entire area was literally getting covered with volcanic ash.

By 8:30 PM, we were definitely the only ones left in the park except for the guards on duty. My niece was just playing with her phone  to pass the time while the adults (that's us) kept occupied trying to shield the ashes with an umbrella and using the comfort rooms every now and then to wash off the ashes from our skin and faces. It was getting so bad, that you could see the ash flying through the air and into your eyes.

In any case, the guards and other employees still on duty had it much better than us. We were almost fully exposed to the ashes while the EK employees were inside their little glass enclosed buildings all nice and snug while waiting for rescue. Also, they had EK-issued raincoats to protect themselves and of course, they couldn't be bothered to invite us inside the buildings because the park was closed and protocol and security is of UTMOST importance in a crisis.

After all, we had already paid our entrance fees and exited the park. It's not like we were Enchanted Kingdom's responsibility at this point. Thanks, EK!

Oh, and there was one person still selling pies amidst all the ash flying all around us. There was one group on a table right behind us who actually had dinner (from plastic pouches that they'd brought along) before leaving in their car.

My aunt finally arrived at 9:00 PM in the taxi. There were five of us (seven including my aunt and the taxi driver) so we had to squeeze into a five-seater Toyota Vios.

The long drive took us until midnight to get to our hotel since the car could only move at up to 50 kph it seems. The driver claimed it was overloaded, which it was, but I suspect it's also because he had no idea how to use the clutch and accelerator together in first gear in a manual vehicle. I could tell from the way the car was coughing and lurching forward every time he had to switch to first gear.

There was almost zero visibility the whole time because of the thickness of the ashes. It was like driving through brownish, black smoke and we were the slowest vehicle on the road to the point that ordinary jeepneys also rushing to escape the ashfall were overtaking us left and right.

We had to refuel once and unbelievably, there were still people at the Jollibee, Max's and KFC that we passed by -- ordering and casually enjoying their meals inside the premises -- with ash flying all around outside.

Still, we did get to our destination eventually... no thanks to Enchanted Kingdom and its conscientious staff.

Of course, some may argue that when you go to Enchanted Kingdom, you are expected to have a car or some other means of transportation ready for when you exit because it's a "far-flung location," and to these people I say: "thank you for your victim-blaming ways. Society thanks you."

Friday, December 6, 2019

Helping Out A Fellow Artist: Robert as posted by kwenTAO

Here's something a little different. So I was scrolling through my Facebook Timeline as usual when I came upon this article shared by a friend. 

So basically, it's about Robert, a 20 year-old kid who is down on his luck. He used to be a call center agent but he got bullied out of work and his life has really slid downhill since. 

Nowadays, art is the only thing that brings him happiness. Now you might think that this is pretty normal -- but consider this excerpt from KwentongTao's interview with him:

"We have no electricity at home, so every night, I spend time in front of our neighbor’s house to have some light when I draw and when I read books. Until some Police officers confront me that it is not allowed to stay outside because of the new Oplan-Sita. So I decided to spend my time here in front of 7/11 store. Atleast no one will notice even you spend so many hours. And then, since I don’t have money, I decided to ask for alms. And some people buy my arts for 5 pesos and sometimes, they give me 20 pesos for one piece of art.
I don’t have money to get my requirements to apply for a new job. If I just have money to get requirements, maybe I already applied for a new job. But for now, maybe I don’t want to apply again with call center companies. I think I will be bullied again there. I just want to apply to a job as a cashier or store merchandiser."
Fortunately, Ernesse, the friend who shared this post had the idea of gathering used art materials from artist friends in Iloilo and pooling our resources together to send them to Robert. Of course, I jumped upon this opportunity to help out a fellow artist.

Now to be completely honest with you, I can definitely relate with the part of being an artist and how art brings joy to my life, but as for the bullying part -- let's just say that if I were in Robert's shoes, I'd probably be fired from my job for indiscriminate and very brutal use of force.
Still, it was a chance to help out someone in need and so we all agreed to meet up at SM City Iloilo just a few hours ago this 6th of December 2019. 

Initially, I went to the wrong area, but eventually Ernesse found me and introduced me to the group. Here are some pics of the event. I got to meet up with Ernesse and Antonio's friends and fellow artists Reese, Denzee, Mia, and Marvin... also, pardon me if I forgot someone, guys. I know Clarisse wasn't there. 
We decided to try Philpost at SM first, but they wouldn't accept some of the paints I was giving away, so we hauled all our stuff onto the car and drove on over to AP Cargo where we were able to successfully send it off. By the way, Reese sent a really huge trolley bag over. I'm sure Robert will make good use of it.

With that said, here are the things I sent: 

  • -Faber Castell 24 Classic Colored Pencils
  • -Colokit Watercolor Set
  • -Colour Sparx Colored Pencil Set
  • -Prang Watercolor Set with Mission Gold Titanium White in one pan
  • -Set of different pencils and an eraser
  • -Nagi fanart in watercolors with a little message for Robert

Also, a shoutout to Jimmie from MyArtLife. I'm sure you'll be glad to know that the art materials that I won from your channel raffle are in good hands. If any of you still remember, I actually reviewed one of those materials in one of my older videos. 

To Ernesse and company, thank you for the opportunity. To Robert, I hope you get back on your feet soon, bro. Have a Merry Christmas, from all of us.

Original Post from Kwentong Tao:
MyArtLife by Jimmie
Video review by me of the Colokit Watercolors

Monday, December 2, 2019

ナギちゃん お誕生日おめでとうございます! 12/3 Happy Birthday 2019, Nagi!

I may not have a whole lot of time for blogging anymore nowadays, but I will never forget the girl I fell in love. Here's some fanart for her birthday along with a video of me painting her. Born on December 3, 1991 in the manga's timeline, Nagi would be 28 years old now in our time. I bet she's older than most of you.

Also, I will never forget to inform the entire world that on April 12, 2017, Hayate x Nagi officially became a couple along with the canon ending of Hayate The Combat Butler.

I wish I could have done more, but I'm so pressed for time nowadays with my new job. 

I've also managed to obtain the last official Nagi figure: the third repaint of her cat version from Orca Toys. Got it used from Solaris Japan, but unfortunately, it doesn't seem to have arrived yet. I'll be sure to take pictures when it arrives sometime this month -- I assume.

Digital version
For the digital version of her, I just stuck with 2D hard colors. i know many people prefer the more painterly feel of other artists, but honestly, although I am capable of it, it just doesn't sit well with me.
Watercolors on paper
This is the original version of the artwork -- the one that you see me painting in the video. Also, the pose is not quite original. I copied it from a Miku digital fanart that was doing the exact same pose. Of course, I did use my own figure for the reference.

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Hayate Reflections: Watercolor Painting Nagi

For some reason, I forgot to post this video on my blog. Here I am painting Nagi again as usual. Her pose and expression are based on the Miku noodle stopper figure.

Wednesday, October 2, 2019

Video Only - Orca Toys Nagi Sanzen'in White Cat Version

Just a short video to break the curse of me not uploading any new videos recently. I got a new revolving solar display stand for my favorite Nagi figure recently and thought I'd show her off. Apparently, only 3000 copies of this figure were ever made -- quite appropriate since Sanzen 三千 means 3000.  

Monday, September 2, 2019

Weathering With You 天気の子 Spoiler-Free Review and Some Hina Fanart

For the record, I personally don't care about spoilers, but I'm not one to impose my personal ideals upon others -- and if you disagree with me, then that's the difference between you and me. Food for thought.

Just got back from the cinemas and… “sensually enchanting” would be the most appropriate adjectives that come to mind when it comes to Makoto Shinkai’s latest piece, “天気の子,”  (which was translated to “Weathering With You” for some reason. The accurate translation is “child of the weather” or “weather’s child” or even “girl of the weather”). With that aside, the production values definitely live up to the hype. The movie is basically an audio-visual feast for the senses with an entrancing soundtrack, breathtaking animation, and the cool, calming, yet extremely detailed scenery (and product placements) that anyone familiar with Makoto Shinkai’s previous works might have come to expect. Therefore, over-all, I’d say that the movie was simply a delight to watch and actually quite timely since we’re in the rainy season right now in the Philippines.

The Supernatural And The Mundane

A common motif in Makoto Shinkai’s movies is the marriage of the supernatural and the mundane and this latest movie is no exception. Set in Tokyo, “Weathering With You” presents life in the big city with a tongue-in-cheek approach. We get to see glimpses of the actual living conditions of the everyman (sorry lgbt bbq+, not everyone is interested in your inclusive exclusivity) in Tokyo and particularly, we get to see how life must be like for two teenage runaways, the main characters Hodaka and Hina, and the common problems they face, such as difficulty in finding employment because of being underage. In fact, the movie shows several adult-themes including a brothel, a love hotel (basically a hotel that specializes in romantic couples) and some degree of violence against a minor as well as gunshots.

With that said, these elements all mingle quite naturally with its supernatural elements based on Japanese folklore, which is quite evident in Hina’s apparent power to control the weather.

Strong Supporting Cast

Drawing a comparison to Shinkai’s previous work, while Your Name was all about the two main characters with an only mildly memorable supporting cast, the same cannot be said for Weathering With You. Hina’s ladies man of a little brother Nagi, the ornery yet ultimately kind-hearted Suga, and the charming Natsumi are all very likable characters in their own right who each play a vital role in moving the movie’s plot forward.

A Less Than Stellar But Ultimately Satisfying Plot

Speaking of the plot in general – this is perhaps the movie’s weakest point. While it is by no means a train-wreck of a story, it can get dragging at certain points because of the linear nature of the storytelling. Furthermore, while it can get cathartic at times, it doesn’t really achieve the heights of Shinkai’s older masterpieces such as “5 Centimeters Per Second.”

Yet, while it might not be technically an aesthetically beautiful story, the strongest plot point of this film lies in the final choice made by Hodaka.  I love the fact that he chooses the selfish route and affirms that he’s fine with this in exchange for “changing the world forever.”  This is literally the kind of stuff that got me hooked on anime in the first place. Sometimes it’s not just about saving the world, being the altruistic one and thinking of the common good, nor restoring the status quo – sometimes it’s just about what really makes you happy – and I’m personally quite delighted that Hodaka chose to follow his heart rather than his mind in the movie’s climax.

Fanservice and Nods

Fans who rode the hype train to this movie from Your Name will definitely not be disappointed as far as fanservice goes because you will see some very familiar faces that give subtle nods to the co-existence of the Makoto Shinkaiverse across different films.

Personally, I was amused at the two Pretty Cure cosplayers who enlisted Hina’s service.

Also, it amuses me that main female character is Hina and her little brother is Nagi :)

Some Minor Complaints

I do have some minor complaints about this movie, of course. While the soundtrack is a joy to listen to, I do feel that the use of an insert-song while portraying a timelapse is a bit overused and jarring. It was used only two times in the movie, but that was twice too much for me – especially since I’ve seen it used before in almost the very same fashion in Your Name. It’s not enough to put me off on this movie, but it was a bit distracting.

Furthermore, while the lore behind the supernatural elements in Your Name was fully-fleshed out within the movie, the same cannot be said for Weathering With You. There were definitely attempt at subtle exposition here and there and the lore itself was quite interesting, but I feel that there just wasn’t enough of it crammed into this 2 hour movie for me to feel any sense of connection to the supernatural lore.

Also, as usual, the translation is a bit iffy in spots. Why do they always insist on listing the full name of the character whenever someone says “onee-chan” or uses some similar honorific? I know that calling someone “big sister” doesn’t sound that natural in English, but it’s also pretty off-putting when the subtitles say one thing and the character is obviously saying another. For the record, I don't agree with any of these conventions established by fansubbers as well as professional translators.

Over-all impressions

The lore aside, Hina is cute and that’s a plus for me – always. Over-all, Weathering With You is an aesthetically pleasing feel-good movie with a story that will have you leaving the cinema with a smile on your face.  If you were expecting another “Your Name,” you might feel a bit disappointed, but watch the movie for what it is, and I guarantee you’ll find it quite enjoyable.

Nagi approves of this movie