The Queen and her Indian Servant

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Its movie trailer sparked my interest when I was inside a movie theater waiting for the showing of a juvenile film during  the weekend. This is the kind of movie I have wanted to watch since I’m now sick and tired of ones that are more on fantasy and cruel and bloody action. I was even more surprised to find out that it is based on a biography written by Shrabani Basu: Victoria And Abdul: The True Story Of The Queens’ Closest Confidant. So, it is another book on my list  I’m going to find  in my stomping ground. I wish to beat it to its movie showing in September. I’m  fairly sure that if the movie becomes a hit, the price of the book  will be diabolical. But, I’d be better off watching the film first .There are times that I throw my arms in dismay when the film turns out to be terrible after reading  the book .

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One of the reasons why it caught my attention is that its theme is about the real-life friendship between the Queen and her  Indian servant. I do love movies, music, and books that deal with friendship.

The story is about Abdul Karim who arrives from India to take part  in Queen Victoria’s golden jubilee. He will be surprised to win favor with the queen herself. When their friendship deepens, the queen begins to realize a lot of things about her life. Abdul will be a teacher while the Queen , his student. 

Its initial release is scheduled in the UK on September 15, 2017.

The movie is starred by Judi Dench as Queen Victoria and Ali Fazal as Abdul Karim, the queen’s servant.

As of yet, no information has been available when it is going to be shown in some Asian countries including the Philippines.

I may not be a movie snob but this is something new to me. So, I’m now looking forward to its showing!  🙂

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Little Women II: Jo’s Boys and the Other 1990’s Japanese Animations

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This was one of the Japanese animated television series my cousins, young sister, and I were always excited to watch at its regular  time slot in the 1990’s. My young sister and I would hurry to my cousins’ house as fast as we could  to not miss its episodes, for , at that time,we still did not have a telly tube. A black-and-white TV was still the fashionable one. Even my older brother who was not really fond of  it would come along with us. We would all huddle around on the floor  in the living room, nestling one another because the tube was suspended above us.

The anime has marked in my memory since then because it had a major influence in my interest in reading books and aspiring to become a doctor, (the dream I have considered castles in the air.) The anime usually deals with a group of students who live in Plumfield under Mrs. Josephine and Mr. Fritz  Bhaer’s tutelage. Both of the teachers are good teachers who  make a big difference to their life by giving importance on education and their future. I will never forget those students: Nan, Dan, Nat, Demi, Daisy, Tommy, Stuffy, Ned, Jack, Franz, and Emil. Of course, I will not forget to include Mr. and Ms. Bhaer’s cute, kind children: Rob and Teddy. Each of them has his or her own qualities and dreams. However, it had been a long time , so I could no longer remember the whole stories , especially about their characters. The only ones who has etched in my mind were Nan and Dan.

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Nan  is my favorite among the characters. She is a tomboy and the bravest among the students. She taught me how to appreciate the importance of reading books. She even caught my interest in becoming a  doctor because this is what she wants to be. I really liked what she does in one episode: she produces herbal medicine to treat her  friends as her patients. Laugh me as loudly as you can, but I imitated her then. I would also read books on herbal plants and study how to produce medicine out of them. (laughs) Most importantly, she showed me how to be a positive and cheerful person in any circumstances. I liken her to Judy Abbot of Daddy-Long-Legs. Both of them take the world as a playground.

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Dan. I can never forget him because  he is a bad boy in the story. But I liked him  because he became close to Nan. Besides, his role is memorable because he changed in the story; he became like a tame lamb. In fact, as far as I remember, my older cousin would giggle when she saw him on TV; she must have found him attractive.

Since then, this anime had always intruded on my peaceful waking hours. Thanks to our modern technology. I  had the good chance to watch it again. There are some full videos  available on You Tube uploaded by people who may also be nostalgic about it.

After finishing its all episodes during the long weekend-thanks to the holiday- there is some information I believed in for a long time has  become crystal-clear. It’s not Ann, but Nan. It’s  not Dim but Nat who married Daisy. Dan turns out to be a scientist, not a druggist. It’s Mr. Page who boosted Dan’s interest in nature and animals.

All episodes are worth watching as its novel is worth reading. They are not only entertaining but also rectifying. You can feel like one of Ms. Jo’s students because you will learn a whole lot when you usually make a mistake in your life, typical of us when we were still young. Likewise, you can learn how to be a good teacher because of the wisdom Jo and her husband possess.

If Nan sparkled my interest in books and medicine then, now, they are Mrs. Josephine and Mr. Fritz Bhaer for being the symbols of virtues,  the paragons of what a good teacher is like. In the anime, they are magnanimous, understanding, thoughtful, considerate. For them, they are not just teachers but also parents to their students. They believe in the philosophy of education that all children have potential to become good persons. I won’t forget Ms. Jo’s favorite saying, “ The sun and the water are the natural way to grow flowers.”  , and her belief that students  have to love what they are studying, for when you’re truly curious about something, the words you can say can become your teacher. I think they adopted Italian educator Maria Montessori’s educational approach.

I have now some favorite scenes and symbolized objects in the story.  For the scenes that had an impact on me, when Nan becomes a teacher to her classmates and Mrs. and Mrs. Bhaer, when Nat succeeds in pulling himself together after his life being a vagrant, when Dan comes back to Plumfield holding the flower same as what Ms. Jo always puts in his vase, when Dan stays at Mr. Page’s house and becomes interested in nature and animals, when Dan kisses Ms. Jo and calls her mother, when Dan has the courage to ask Mr. Bhaer’s forgiveness, when Nan realizes that she wants to become a doctor, when Dan has to leave Plumfield and says farewell, and when Ms. Jo delivers her farewell speech. Oops… I’m now a spoiler.

As to the  symbolized objects,  First, the flower Ms. Jo puts in Dan’s vase. I don’t have the foggiest idea of that flower’s name. Does anybody here happen to know its name? 🙂 Second, the books Mr. Page lent to Dan to study. Finally, the ring Nan gave to Dan. I even made its pale imitation and gave it to my older cousin.

I’m not a big fan of Louisa May Alcott, but I have read her Little Women or , one of the springboards for my desire to read all the classic  books I haven’t read yet. So, after watching this anime again, I have now this seething flush of excitement to read Little Men or  Life at Plumfield with Jo’s Boys. In fact, I’m now more excited after learning that it has even a sequel:  Jo’s Boys, and How They Turned Out. It must be all about the students above after leaving Plumfield. I wonder what happened to Nan and Dan.

I’m also planning to read The Little Princes and Little Lord Fauntleroy by Frances Hodgson Burnett, The Black Brothers by Liza Tetzner, Heidi by Johanna Spyri, Daddy-Long-Legs by Jean Webster and The Swiss Family Robinson by Johann David Wyss: I have watched their Japanese animated television series.  Gee, you may find me odd, for I’m talking like an effeminate child again. ( blushing)

Are there other 1990’s Japanese animations I have missed on my list? Let me know then. 🙂

 

 

 

 

How Ode to My Father Gained my Respect for Koreans

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I’ve been teaching  English to Koreans  for 8 years. So, getting along with them has given me the opportunity to understand their rich culture, custom, and history. I’ve been trying to learn how to speak,  read , and write  basic Hangul. I’ve even loved  their food ,and…allow me to cite the ones I always crave such as ssamkyupsal ( 삼겹살), ttakbeoki (떡볶이), panjeon (파전), jjajangmyeon ( 자장면) , ramen (그리고 라멘), and to name a few. Hmmm… My mouth is now watering. ..And I am even now trying to be a pale imitation of their fashion. Jeez whiz, I still haven’t  let myself be eaten by their system completely.

There is one thing that makes  Koreans  differ from us Filipinos: Their deep history that has molded their consciousness. That’s why it has been hard  for me to understand them in terms of their socio-cultural and economical policies. Koreans place too much value on familial hierarchy. Young people address the elderly with respect, patently obvious in their language- the custom  which is somehow no longer a big deal in the Philippines. Also, almost all Koreans are under pressure to conform to the standards of their educational system. Students go to academy ( 학원: Hag won)  to equip themselves with more skills. They even take part in more extra-curricular activities as another credentials once they look for lucrative jobs because hunting a job  is suicidal. Their  (close) friends can be even their frenemy in all aspects of  life should the need arise that they have to  consider their own interest. So, time is not more than gold, something I was not even used to when I started working for them. The long and the short of it, Koreans have been taught how to hit the ground running by this kind of  dog-eat-dog culture.

Right after watching the movie,  Ode to My Father, I sent a message to my beloved Korean students that I cried over it, and because of this movie, I respect their country, especially their history more. I explained further that this is a blinding revelation to me; I learned from this movie  how Koreans transformed themselves into new blood after the long period of extreme poverty during the Korean war.  It shows how the  war shaped Koreans’ philosophies in life  beyond their powers of endurance and resiliency. For instance, due to extreme poverty, they had to work hard to make their ends meet. They had to sacrifice by living away from their families while working abroad. They had to consider their families’ future no matter how life-threatening the available jobs were. They were  all determined to pull out the load weighing them down –the fighting spirit that has been observably inherent in their characters even up to this day. Perhaps, after this horrible chapter of  their history, it’s now their cultural “meme” that they should never let something like this pass again.

People must learn many moral lessons from the movie. The one that etched on my mind is that we can come up with alternative solutions to our problems. In the movie, Hwang Jung-min, the main character, found ways of how he could help alleviate his family’s miserable  life condition. I believe that  he can as well be the representation of all Koreans who did the same way. 🙂

The movie even made me break into tears as though the hem of my cloth was not enough to dampen my eyes. So, make sure that when you watch it, a hankie is not enough , but a diaper will do. It shows how the first Korean families were separated from one another after the 38th parallel, demarcating North and South Korea.  I could not stop blinking  my tears away some lachrymose scenes such as  when Hwang Jung-min  looked for his younger sister who had been missing for many years, and eventually found her on TV and when he  stayed in his room and  had an apparition talk with his father. They were heart-breaking. T_T

Would that  the movie were novelized, it would be more compelling and deeper, and I would surely wet its pages because of the emotional scenes conveyed in  beautiful sentences.

Rating: 5/ 5 stars ( It’s amazing.)

 

We have to Smash our Silent Voice

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This movie intrigued me when I saw it feasted on by Japanese manga lovers’ eyes on Facebook. It turned out to be the most-awaited manga-series movie adaptation this year, which was initially released last year. Supposedly, it was to be shown in the Philippines last March , but the showing was postponed without any clear reason.

On its first showing day, it was a block-buster. When  I gave its trailer a try on You Tube, its concept stirred me: A deaf girl wants to befriend a bully boy.

The first thing that I liked about the movie is its  characters:  Shōko Nishimiya and Shōya Ishida. I could relate to Shoko, for I also have problem with my ears. Despite her handicap, she tries to be optimistic  and genial. She wants to live as ordinarily as what her classmates do. On the other hand, Shoya is a bully who has no interest in others. All he wants to do is to make fun of his classmates. He feels a certain amount of animosity toward Shoya, especially whenever she is so friendly to him. It’s a kind of yin-yang scenario.

But what gave me a significant impact is Shoya’s existential crisis. After Shoko transferred to other school in light of his persistent bullying, he became the butt of others’ bullying. He became an outcast. He lost his friends , especially the ones he usually spent time together with. Then,he would look at the people he was no longer close to with an X over their faces. In addition, he began to question himself about the real meaning of being a “friend” and life. He found his life meaningless. Or he may be bothered by the specter of his conscience after what he did to Shoko. Consequently, he attempted to take his life by jumping over a bridge, but realized that there is life he needs to attend to: his mother.

In a deeper context, the title itself is not only about Shoko’s being a hearing-impaired, unable to give voice to her personal hopes, fears, and dreams, but also about all the characters  who are inextricably intertwined with the story. All of them are interrelated to their hidden, deep-seated acrimony.  For instance, Shoya had never been apologetic about his being a bully causing his classmates to have been stuck in a past they could never let go of. Miyoko Sahara, the only student who befriended Shoko for a short time, had to confront the fact that she ran away from Shoko in fear of her classmates’ bully. Miki Kawai  whom Shoya referred to as a hypocrite for not doing anything when Shoko was being bullied, for the only thing she would love to do is to be praised for her beauty. Naoka Ueno, who secretly loves Shoya,  hates and blames Shoko for making  Shoya sad. But , in truth, she  also abhors her for  being weak , unable to protect herself. Those major characters , aside from the others, contributed to the deafening silence, to the broken past leading them to not move on in their  life. To lead a happy, normal life, all they had to do is to smash their silent voice to smithereens  by sharing  their life with one another again, shattering the illusions of fears, egotism, hopelessness . In the end, Shoya mustered up enough courage to face the people he would always look at with an X over their faces. The ending was redemption.

It’s  my first time to review an animation adaptation movie  despite that  I haven’t read its manga series yet. Personally speaking, it is not as gripping and exhilarating as the other Japanese anime I have watched such as Your Name by Makoto Shinkai and Spirited Away by Hayao Miyazaki. It is a bit boring since  the title itself  has major  relevance to the totality of the movie. Nevertheless, its characters and the story replete with  deeper moral values  highlight the movie. Therefore, it  is still  worth watching. 🙂

Rating: 3/ 5 stars ( I liked it.)

 

 

My Family’s Slave by Alex Tizon: A Memoir Review

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It’s been a month, I guess,  since the late Pulitzer-prize winner Alex Tizon’s article about Lola went  viral on social media . His article was posthumously published as the cover story of the June 2017 issue of The Atlantic .

I showed interest in reading his article when it had a ground swell of opinions that he had been complicit with his parents’ crime in a sense that he did not do anything to help her out. Rather, he did so right after his  parents kicked  the bucket. Besides, his article bears hypocrisy  inasmuch as he simultaneously  did hide her existence from his friends. Thus, his article suggests that his family, especially his parents, deprived Lola of her humanity.

After reading the article. I  found out that the “bashers” could be right that Lola had a miserable life with Alex’s family. She served them for 56 years , taking care of him and his siblings without pay,  having no  good opportunity to return to the Philippines as what his parents had promised her. The revealing and revolting   fact is that she was not even allowed to  pay respect to her parents’ death – a heart-rending situation whoever will experience  doesn’t want to miss in her/ his life.  So, who can’t be furious about this unimaginably cruel  truth?

However, the problem with the bashers is that they incriminate Alex in a crime he had been innocent of. Bear in mind that he was too young to understand the situation he found bizarre. Besides, he was too obedient to stand up to his parents who were both overweeningly ambitious.  His father was a busy business man hobnobbing with the elitists whereas his mother an inspiring doctor , striving to get a better streak. He only mustered up  enough courage to defend Lola when they both berated her for not feeding his younger sister. Therefore, pin the blame on his parents who are now somewhere in heaven.

There’s been even a speculation that Alex wrote Lola’s story  for his own interest since he was an award-winning journalist. Those bashers must be deluded into the notion that he must have wanted to put himself on the literary pedestal. Whatever it is that makes them delusional and irrational, in my book, what I see is that he must have wanted to imply that Lola could be the apotheosis of a caring “yaya” or ” kasambahay“. He must have wanted us to deeply understand the sacrifices our “katulong‘, “yaya” , and “kasambahay” does for us. Besides,  I’m pretty sure that Alex  was aware of  that what his parents’ treatment toward Lola was cruel  and inhuman. Thus, I’m pretty sure that what he wanted us to do is to  consider her  as part of the family as to what he did to Lola contrary to the ideal value his  parents  unconsciously  inculcated in him.

Given that Lola had a miserable life with the Tizon family, I do believe that Lola came to the point that she accepted her fate, for she was borne upon the idea that she was a “slave”. She learned to love the family she had served for many years. She had almost stood as the biological parents to Alex and his siblings when his parents were up to their ears in work. Also, I do believe that she was even considered part of the family based on the pictures Alex shared on the social media. Lola had sweet and wide smiles showing how she did not look like a slave but a loving and understanding grandma to them. Plus, remember, her world turned upside down when Alex’s mother was in great distress. Lola was the only one whom she could turn to for comfort. It was like a scene in a movie when the antagonist turned into a lamb, moved by the oppressed’s magnanimity.  In other words, bashers must be  grossly literally exaggerated.

Alex Tizon’s memoir is deeply moving and well-written. It even incites bittersweet memories of  childhood; I was impressed by his scrupulous use of vivid descriptions. Also, since it is a short memoir, he made sure that he was able to write it well-balanced, bearing his award-winning journalistic skills. No wonder the bashers are  irrationally taking it for granted. However, I’m almost familiar with how he circulated the story by blending the past and the present time.

My family and I have never had any nanny, helper, or maid since only rich and well-to-do family can afford to pay their service. However, I grew out of the stereotype that the last resort a woman who is desperate for  working  herself through university or an old woman who lives with a poor family and is expected to be the “bread winner of her family”  is to be employed as “ katulong ”  “ kasambahay” or “ yaya” . So, I never thought of that having this kind of job was a form of slavery. I was just  taught that this symbolizes your economic status in society. In short, you’re poor.  After reading Pulitzer-prize winner, Alex Tizon’s memoir on his family’s big secret, a simplistic and laughable realization came to me that we must,  indeed,  take their case seriously. The word slavery itself has a wider scope we must muse over in the context of  social sciences.

Rating: 4/ 5 stars ( I really liked it. )