Provocative play “Cock” pulsates with emotion

Topper Fabregas and Niccolo Manahan in a scene from “Cock.” Handout photo by Raul Victor Montesa

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

MANILA — I can think of so many puns to spin the title of this play by British playwright Mike Bartlett. It’s really hard not to run crazy with the title “Cock.” Although the title stimulated my curiosity, it was the story that got me quivering with excitement to watch Red Turnip theater company’s latest production.

Here’s the lowdown: John (played by Topper Fabregas) is in a longtime relationship. They hit a rocky patch. They break up.

John meets someone new and quickly falls in love. But John gets scared and has second thoughts. He must decide: Does he wants to get back together with his longtime partner or move forward with this new relationship?

So goes the basic plot of this Olivier award-winning play. Heard this tale before? Not quite.

Here’s the thing: John is gay. As gay as butterflies, rainbows and Cher. John has a boyfriend of seven years (played by Niccolo Manahan), but he’s unhappy. They decide to cool off.

A casual encounter with a woman (played by Jenny Jamora) leads John towards unchartered territory. The friendship turns into something intimate. Scary at first, then, to John’s surprise, intoxicatingly wonderful.

John’s boyfriend is flabbergasted, and the whole messy affair blows up in one awkward dinner where all three of them meet to slug it out and force John to make a choice.

It’s a brave, modern and witty play, and a good choice for Red Turnip, a young local company, to gamble on. The play examines the labels that we ascribe to people with respect to who they choose to love. On the surface, the conflict is about going gay or straight, choosing gay lover or female lover.

The play is performed on a big, bare circle on the floor, with the audience surrounding the actors, as it was staged by The Royal Court Theater in London. It is discomfiting to see the faces of audience members across you, a nod to the voyeuristic nature of watching the lives of the characters.

Rem Zamora, in his directorial debut, put together a talented cast of actors.

Topper Fabregas, Niccolo Manahan and Jenny Jamora in a scene from “Cock.” Handout photo by Raul Victor Montesa

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fabregas is good in the role of John (it is interesting to note that John is the only character with a name in the play), who is the younger of the two male lovers. He does have a tendency to play his doe-eyed but tortured character to the hilt oftentimes, but he is worthy of empathy as he tries to extricate himself out of this conflict.

Jamora as “W” brings a breezy quality to the role. But what appears as fragility, at first, is replaced by a feisty woman who thirsts for love and will fight for her man.

Manahan captivates the audience with his thoughtful portrayal of “M.” Though a bit pompous with his characterization at times, Manahan is a strong, polished actor with a velvety voice, and his “M” is a delicate balance between endearing and vulnerable, on one hand, and domineering and condescending, on the other.

Audie Gemora. Handout photo by Raul Victor Montesa

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There’s a fourth character, “F,” the father of M (played by veteran actor Audie Gemora) who joins the uneasy dinner to make a case for his son. Even without the bold, at times excessive gesticulations of his younger co-actors, Gemora hooks the audience with his solid, nuanced portrayal of a father who has come to accept, even support, his son’s life choices.

While the title of play is risqué, the delicate scenes are stylized innovatively. There are sex scenes but absolutely no nudity. This allows the viewer to focus more on the playwright’s intent, and the most that you would see is two guys in a tender kiss.

When you take away the labels we ascribe to people, the play explores the dynamics of any relationship, gay or straight.

Ultimately, the conflict is something that most people will relate to: What is one’s measure of happiness in a relationship? Does one go for something unsettlingly familiar, or gamble on something frighteningly uncertain?

“Cock” runs until April 6 at Whitespace in Makati City.

(This article was originally published on abs-cbnnews.com: http://www.abs-cbnnews.com/lifestyle/03/03/14/review-cock-pulsates-emotion )

DULAANG UP’S ‘ANG NAWALANG KAPATID:’ BREATHLESS FROM START TO END

A scene from “Ang Nawalang Kapatid.” Photo by Vlad Gonzales

MANILA — How does one recreate the great Indian epic “Mahabharata,” described as the longest epic poem ever written, into a two-act stage musical in Filipino? How does one capture the layers and complexities of Indian tradition without being contrived?

And how does one fuse all of the epic’s philosophical musings on love, war, family, duty, divinity and spirituality into a tight and cohesive piece?

Throw in the fact that Dulaang UP’s staging of “Ang Nawalang Kapatid,” based on the “Mahabharata,” features an all-student cast and crew, and you have a recipe for one big pseudo-Bollywood hot mess.

Thankfully, playwright and lyricist Floy Quintos, director Dexter Santos and composer Ceejay Javier acquitted themselves and came up with an elegant and regal Filipino adaptation.

Quintos distilled the epic poem and focused on themes that Filipino audiences can easily connect with: the warring saga between the royal clans of the Pandavas and Khauravas, and the moral dilemma of the “lost brother” Karna if he will uphold family ties and blood lines or his obligations to self and state.

Highlight other elements such as kings and queens consumed by vanity and punished by gods; and children born out of “mysterious” circumstances, given away and then found again after several years, and you have one gripping teleserye-like tale.

In this adaptation, Karna — born as a curse to his mother Queen Kunti for having slighted a goddess — is thrown away as a baby. He grows up to be a good warrior under the care of monkey king Hanuman.

When he comes of age, he travels to a distant kingdom. Because of his fighting skills, Karna is taken in as a brother by Kaurava prince, Duryodhana, who in turn is in a bitter battle against his cousin, Yudhisthira of the Pandava clan over the love of princess Draupadi.

Because of madness and lust, the battle over love escalates into a full-blown war over the kingdom. It is in the thick of war that Karna discovers that his enemies, the Pandava brothers, are his brothers, too.

A scene from “Ang Nawalang Kapatid.” Photo by Vlad Gonzales

Santos’ breathless direction from start to finish was a daring move. The pace is kept tight and gripping, with nary a dull moment. The opening number, “Dakilang Kasaysayan ng Sangkatauhan,” which establishes the entire back story of the birth of the royal cousins in one big sweep, is a feat in itself.

It took five choreographers (Santos, Jeffrey Hernandez, Albernard Garcia, Vincent Kevin Pajara and Stephen Vinas) to stage the numbers, and I can understand why. The long numbers are a test of stamina for any performer, and the styles run the gamut from tribal to Asian, from graceful to acrobatic. Even the scenes with spoken dialogue are imbued with courtly, balletic gestures.

The show is rife with vivid imagery. Among them, the birthing scenes of Queens Kunti and Ghandari, and the “disrobing” scene of princess Draupadi where god Krishna intervenes and spares her from shame by weaving an endless trail of cloth.

But the most stellar visuals in the show come from the climactic battle scene where blood, earth and rain create an intense tapestry of violence and death.

Javier’s music is not your expected Indian cliche. The sitar is used sparingly, mainly to punctuate spoken lines, but the rest of the songs have that world music, pop rock, tribal Filipino feel. But with all the heavy panting in the show, it’s the ballads such as “Lukso ng Dugo” which give audiences (and the actors) the breathing space.

The ladies in the show shine with their presence and voices, namely Teetin Villanueva as Draupadi and Ronah Adiel Rostata as Reyna Kunti (though Rostata needs to hone her technique. Performing with a hoarse voice in Act 2 could damage her vocal chords.)

The gentlemen in the show are balls of energy. There’s a propensity, though, for most of the male actors to equate urgency of dialogue with speed and volume, much to the detriment of clarity and nuance. They will grow into more refined performers with more training and technique. Still, there were good moments from Jules dela Paz as Vyasa, Ross Pesigan as Karna, Jon Abella as Yudhisthira, Vincent Kevin Pajara sa Duryodhana, Mark Dalacat as Haring Pandu, Marvin Olaes as Dritarastra, John Paul Basco as Krishna, and the rest of the male cast.

“Ang Nawalang Kapatid” is on its final weekend at the Wilfredo Ma. Guerrero Theater at the University of the Philippines.

(The above post was originally published on abs-cbnnews.com: http://www.abs-cbnnews.com/lifestyle/02/20/14/review-dulaang-musical-breathless-start-end )

WHY PEOPLE CAN RELATE TO ‘STARTING OVER AGAIN’

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Toni Gonzaga as Ginny and Piolo Pascual as Marco in a scene from ‘Starting Over Again.’ Screen capture from movie trailer.

“Do we still have a second chance?  Naniniwala ka rin ba na (do you also believe) our love story deserves a better ending?”  And with that, Ginny (portrayed by Toni Gonzaga) turns the world of her ex-boyfriend Marco (Piolo Pascual) askew in the box-office hit movie ‘Starting Over Again.’

After four years, Ginny returns to Manila from Barcelona, and discovers that Marco has moved on.  He’s in a wonderful relationship with Patty (Iza Calzado).  To make the blows harsher, Patty turns out to be kind, smart, successful and, yes, “kamukha ni (looks like) Mama Mary.”  Life is indeed unfair.

Do we still have a second chance?  It’s a line, perhaps, that has been replayed many times in your mind when you think of your ex.  You might even have said it out loud to that person.  It’s hard to let go of someone you love, someone who has touched your heart so deeply, that’s why you hold on to every last shred of hope.

This romantic film directed by Olivia Lamasan does not spare audiences from the depths of anguish, even if it is frighteningly painful.  Many people accept the fact that perfect endings are hard to come by.  I would have stormed out of the theater had this film chosen a different ending.

Why do many people relate so personally to the film?  Let me count the ways:

1. It’s not always love at first sight.  Sometimes, it’s love after irritation.

How many times have you found someone annoying, even obnoxious, only to fall crazy in love with that person? Indeed, thin is the line between love and hate.  It’s just like Marco who admits in his email to Ginny that he disliked her initially.

Sometimes, irritation is just a defense mechanism.  Often we are attracted to someone who mirrors our own qualities, the good and bad.  We can’t help it.  It’s part of our narcissistic nature.  And sometimes, if we’re lucky, the person we detested but have fallen for turns out to be a great person beneath the hard surface.

2.  Everything is perfect, until fear sets in and you run away.

Things were going rosy for Marco and Ginny.  They started making plans for a lifetime of togetherness, until familiarity set in.  Ginny saw too much of her failure-of-a-father in Marco that she had to escape.  As a friend once said, many would rather go for the easy way out, rather than the uncertainty of hard choices but with the potential to makes us truly happy.

When things fail, we beat ourselves up and realize how cowardly we were.  Toni was brilliant in her breakdown-in-bed scene.

3.  When you miss someone you love, every little thing can be a reminder of that person.

The smallest thing can trigger the deepest memories with that person: a scent, a word, a place, a time of day, a season, a food or drink, a color, a sound, a laugh, a smile, a gaze, a look.

Ginny learned from Marco that tastes and flavors of food evoke sensual memories of a person.  For Marco, a picture, a sketch on a paper that’s yellowing with age can open the floodgates of memories.

4.  Dealing with a break-up is indeed like grieving over the loss of a loved one.

When you break-up with a partner, the void is palpable, like a gaping hole in the heart. “I almost died,” Marco cried out to Ginny in their confrontation scene.  And no matter how hard you try, no matter how much love and support you get from family and friends, no matter how hard you count your blessings, nothing can seem to fill that empty space.

And you do go through the stages of grief, albeit unconsciously: denial, anger, depression, and if all proceeds well, you reach acceptance.  But before you reach acceptance…

5.  You will bargain, plead, even settle for scraps,  just to reclaim that person and win him/her back into your life.

What an amazing kitchen confrontation scene between Ginny and Patty.  My eyes almost popped out of their sockets and my ears couldn’t believe what they were hearing as Ginny tried to mess with Patty’s mind, break her confidence in Marco and eventually driver her to give Marco up.

Many people have those embarrassing moments when pride goes flying out the window, and you sink to the lowest depths to get your ex to love you again.  It doesn’t always work out, but somehow, you think it’s better to do it and fail, than wonder what could have been and have regrets later on.

6.  Just when you think you’ve moved on, life plays a trick on you.

There’s a chance encounter; a text, call or email out of the blue.  Often, this tests your resolve and you start seeing signs (or signs you want to see):  Why did we have to meet each other again?  Maybe we’re meant to get back together…

Ginny asked herself that question over and over again.  You convince yourself that you’ve gotten over a person, but seeing him/her with someone else makes your chest feel like it’s going to explode.

You pretend you’re cool, but you’re a ball of nerves when you see each other again.  You dress your best, you try to look more gorgeous and successful to make the other person regret breaking-up with you, but secretly you want him/her back.  You just have to test the water if there’s still spark or magic between you two.

7.  You’ll know when it’s time to give up, lick your wounds and move on.

Often you just want closure, for not everyone can deal with open-ended questions and unfinished business.  Ginny and Marco had the benefit of closure.  What a bittersweet hospital scene that was.

But not everyone is as fortunate as to have that opportunity to settle score.  What to do?  When do you stop trying and finally let go?  You realize eventually that you set your own limits.  You’ll know when you’ve given as much as you could, and tried as hard as you can.

When you’ve done all you could, hopefully you can pick up the pieces, get back on your feet, cherish the good memories, look back without regrets, and gaze into the future, if not with hope, then at least with the knowledge that you will soon be okay.

You will eventually learn to love yourself, and be your own best friend.  And if you’re lucky, you’ll meet someone special again.

(Follow the author on twitter @Paulhenson and instagram @heaveninawildflower)

TEN YEARS OF FACEBOOK: A TOUR OF FACEBOOK’S SILICON VALLEY CAMPUS

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This way to Facebook

There’s a downside to giving my mother a new tablet device.  She’s now more addicted to social networking than I.  There’s this eager impulse to post and share photos as quickly as possible.  I also get the incessant questions on how to do this and that function.  Such is the handiwork of Facebook.

On February 4, Facebook celebrated its tenth anniversary.  Has it only been ten years?  Facebook is such a part of life now that many would find it hard to imagine a day without it.

In his personal Facebook page, Mark Zuckerberg, wrote on the day of Facebook’s anniversary that he never thought that the social networking site would be as big as it is today.  He just cared more about wanting to connect people.

Zuckerberg said he’s even more excited about the next ten years.  “The first ten years were about bootstrapping this network. Now we have the resources to help people across the world solve even bigger and more important problems,” Zuckerberg wrote.

Big words for an enterprise that began in a Harvard dorm room.  Now Facebook’s headquarters sits on a sprawling property in Menlo Park, California.  It’s fondly called “campus” by Facebook denizens not just because of its size and feel but, in all likelihood, because of the mindset of the people working there.

I had the chance to visit this temple of social networking last fall along with other foreign journalists.  The street sign revealed the fact that we’ve reached Facebook’s famous digs:  It’s a big blue and white thumbs-up sign, now the universal symbol for “like,” and the street name reads “1 Hacker Way.”

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Welcome to Facebook. The receiving area.

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Welcome treats

The receiving area is modest, but there are treats on the reception counter: tiny boxes of assorted jelly beans and foil-wrapped chocolate truffles.  Very whimsical.

But the main ‘treat’ is when you step out into the main campus bathed in the San Francisco, California sun.  It’s like stepping into Disney Land’s Main Street:  A complex of low-rise buildings with splashes of bright, primary colors here and there, the streets lined with trees and manicured lawns, and an assortment of enticing shops and establishments.

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The Facebook campus

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We were hoping that a Facebook executive (maybe even Zuckerberg himself) would sit down with us for an interview.  Many of us were raring to discuss issues on journalism in the social media world, and the business and economics of social networking, but we were disappointed when no face time was granted to us, and all we got was a walking tour.

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One of Facebook’s dining outlets

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FB burger shack

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So what did we see in Facebook’s campus?  There are several dining outlets, all free for employees: a café, barbeque place, sushi restaurant, burger shack, American-style diner, pizzeria, coffee shop, and a very popular sweets shop where one can have a fill of cakes, cookies, ice cream and yoghurt with an assortment of mix-ins.

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The sweets shop

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And if, after all that, you still get hungry in the office, there are pantries packed with snacks, fruits and drinks that you can grab as you please.

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The offices have lots of capricious touches all around, perhaps to encourage creativity and out-of-the-box thinking: a graffiti wall, a phone booth with a Superman costume, various wall art, Ping Pong tables, treadmill machines, etc.

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And as if the entertainment was not enough, there’s an arcade with video games where weekly ‘tournaments’ are held, an arts and crafts workshop, and many more.  With all the attractions (and distractions), I wonder how people there get any work done.

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The video arcade center

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I’m amazed (sometimes baffled) that Facebook, the single biggest social network in the world which has changed life as we know it, churns out its work from this veritable playground slash amusement park.

And yet when you listen to Zuckerberg, playtime is farthest from his mind.  “Today, social networks are mostly about sharing moments. In the next decade, they’ll also help you answer questions and solve complex problems… In the next decade, technology will enable us to create many more ways to capture and communicate new kinds of experiences,” Zuckerberg wrote.

Perhaps this is the key to Zuckerberg’s success: he sees the glass half full, he views the world with rose colored glasses, he sees opportunities when people see stumbling blocks.

And it seems there are stumbling blocks ahead.  A report from Reuters showed a number of people who are unsure of Facebook’s future.  “I don’t like Facebook anymore… it was a good way to get in contact with my friends, but now it seems like it just distracts me when I need to get work done,” one user said.

Another one had this to say: “I started using (Facebook) every day, and checking how many likes I got, and it made me feel like I was a superficial person.”

Still another said, “There’s a lot of unnecessary pages, too many ads, and then of course, all the stuff about your privacy being invaded, that’s not good either.”

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The yellow brick road

There was another design element in Facebook’s campus that I almost forgot to mention:  It’s a yellow brick road much like in the “Wizard of Oz” which took Dorothy to the Emerald City where the Wizard resides.  Perhaps it’s a metaphor to Facebook, a social networking behemoth of seemingly infinite possibilities, straddling the road between real and imagined, fantasy and reality.

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FILIPINA ‘X-FACTOR ISRAEL’ WINNER BREAKS ‘MY WAY’ MURDEROUS JINX

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The notoriety of Frank Sinatra’s ‘My Way’ is apparently known, not just in karaoke bars in the Philippines, but elsewhere.

The lowdown is that the enduring classic of Ol’ Blue Eyes has gained a reputation for sparking drunken brawls and gun-toting in many a singing joint in the Philippines, sometimes, even leading to deaths.

A New York Times piece by Norimitsu Onishi entitled “Sinatra Song Often Strikes Deadly Chord” notes “… the news media have recorded at least half a dozen victims (of killings) in the past decade and includes them in a subcategory of crime called the ‘My Way Killings.’”

The article further asks, “Are the killings the natural byproduct of the country’s culture of violence, drinking and machismo?  Or is there something inherently sinister in the song?”

I think it’s because of a number of factors that, when put together, make a fatal combination.

One, the heady mix of booze and cocktails in karaoke bars easily gives way to violent tendencies.

Two, admit it, many of us are hypercritical (pintasero or, in current jargon, ma-okray).  We often have very narrow views on how others should look, dress up, speak, pronounce words, sound, laugh and, yes, sing.  When someone or something doesn’t fit certain “standards,” we are often quick to judge, criticize, laugh or exchange snarky looks or whispers.

Three, while many Filipinos are naturally gifted when it comes to singing (and many around the world will acknowledge this), there are also a lot who sadly aren’t.  How many nights could you not sleep a wink because your next door neighbor was belting an Aegis song like a mad dog?

Despite the auditory torture, we will exercise maximum tolerance because we’re usually non-confrontational as a people… until we snap and all hell breaks loose.

The New York Times piece offers another theory.  The article says “My Way” is an “arrogant” song.  Take a look at the lyrics:  There were times, I’m sure you knew/ When I bit off more than I can chew/ And through it all, when there was doubt/ I ate it up and spit it out.

Quoting Butch Albarracin of the Center for Pop, the article says, “The lyrics evoke feelings of pride and arrogance in the singer, as if you’re somebody when you’re really nobody.  It covers up your failures.  That’s why it leads to fights.”

For now, at least, ‘My Way’ takes on a new significance as it was the winning song that cinched the ‘X-Factor Israel’ title for Filipino caregiver Rose Fostanes.

Fostanes, who cares for an ailing woman in Tel Aviv, has been working in the Middle East for twenty years: four years in Egypt, ten years in Lebanon and the last six years in Israel, according to her girlfriend Mel Adel (yes, Fostanes is out and proud).

With 2.2 million Filipinos working overseas, their stories of struggle and hardship, and abuse for some, are sad realities for many Filipino families.

A Reuters report notes, Fostanes’ victory could help break the stereotype of Filipino as being synonymous with caregiver.  Fostanes says, “Everybody in the world will know that Filipinos, even working as a cleaner … can also share their talents.”

I take another look at the lyrics of ‘My Way’ and I can see why it resonates so much:  I’ve lived a life that’s full/ I traveled each and every highway…/ I’ve loved, I’ve laughed and cried/ I’ve had my fill, my share of losing/ And now, as tears subside, I find it all so amusing…”

And so, yes, a rendition of ‘My Way’ can also lead to a happy and triumphant finish.

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(Photo: screen grab from Youtube-X-Factor Israel finals)

BLESSED ARE THOSE WHO GO TO QUIAPO

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(Millions of devotees join the procession on the feast day of the Black Nazarene in Quiapo, Manila.  Photo by Jeff Canoy) 

Do not engage in a religious debate; no one wins, it’s been said.  But when traveling together with opinionated individuals of different faiths, a heated discussion on religion is bound to happen.

I found myself in this situation after weeks of being with other foreign journalists of contrasting beliefs: Catholic, Muslim, Jewish, Christian from a socialist state, agnostic of Jewish heritage, atheist, Eastern Orthodox, Anglican.

I find myself reflecting about my own faith as a Filipino Roman Catholic as we approach the feast day of the Black Nazarene in Quiapo, Manila, a day of deep devotion for many, as it is about fanaticism for others. 

On January 9th, millions will once again join the procession of the Black Nazarene.  They will brave the violent, sometimes deadly, surge of the crowds in a march that may take 18 hours, just to be able to touch the image of the Nazarene to give thanks, to ask for favors, or to seek repentance for sins.

These extreme expressions of faith by Filipinos do not go unnoticed.  A journalism fellow asked me, is it true that some Filipinos perform self-flagellation and have themselves crucified just like Christ? 

It seemed bizarre to him, but I explained that it is a tradition for some devotees in the province of Pampanga during Holy Week.  They believe that it is a way to atone for their sins and be one with Christ’s passion.

There are, perhaps, two things which are most puzzling to a foreign eye: One, are these expressions of blind faith?  And, two, do these expressions lead to real conversion?

 Individualistic societies may scoff at such intense displays of faith.  Some will say that faith has nothing to do with one’s fortune in life – it is a result of decision, action, hard work and perseverance.

Some will question if real spiritual transformation takes place, or do we live out an “a la carte Catholicism.”  Are we free to pick and choose the Christian teachings we want to follow, and dismiss others when they are inconvenient? 

In one of our heated after-dinner discussions, one journalist fellow asked if, for example, it is acceptable to be a gay Catholic? Enter counter-arguments to the tune of Pope Francis’ recent pronouncement, “Who am I to judge a gay person of goodwill who seeks the Lord?”

In a similar vein, can a thief forego criminal activities on the feast day of the Nazarene to join the procession, then return to his old ways the next day?

Perhaps, there is no way to explain faith except to live humbly by example.  We are all sinners, but we also believe that God’s love and mercy are greater and wider than our sins.  And God’s gifts of forgiveness and redemption are open for us to receive freely anytime, and cannot be earned, won or deserved despite the very best of efforts.

I also believe that faith without action counts for nothing.  On Sunday’s solemnity of the Epiphany, when the magi saw and worshipped the baby Jesus, they went home using a different route.  The encounter with the blessed infant moved them so much, they altered their destiny by taking a new path.

And as today’s Gospel reading of Jesus’ multiplication of the loaves and fish reminds me, after the five thousand were fed, the disciples filled twelve baskets more of leftovers.  God’s love and generosity are more than enough to satisfy us.  This is an incentive big enough for us to get up, take responsibility for our lives and do something meaningful for others.

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1ST FILIPINO ASTRONAUT CHINO ROQUE AND WHAT HE DREADS IN OUTER SPACE

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(Chino Roque, 2nd from left, on the set of Bandila with, L-R, Julius Babao, Karen Davila and Boy Abunda.  Photo credit: @iamkarendavila on Instagram)

I spoke with soon-to-be astronaut Chino Roque a few minutes before his guesting on Bandila’s Ikaw Na! segment and asked him if he’s nervous (I was referring to the space mission) and he said he’s more nervous about fumbling his answers and lines during his live TV news interview.  If I were in his space suit, I’d be more concerned about reentering the earth’s orbit.  Indeed Chino is charming, not in an out-of-this-world manner, but in a down to earth sort of way. 

Obviously, Chino has not yet been bitten by the celebrity bug.  Between now and his space launch over a year from now, he will have to focus on training for this endeavor.  I asked him if he watched Sandra Bullock and George Clooney’s space blockbuster flick “Gravity” and he said yes.  What happened in that disaster movie is highly possible, Chino said.    

He and 23 other astronauts from different countries, selected from a competition, will train intensively at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.  They will each get a chance to board a 2-seater reusable space shuttle with a trained pilot, but they will not just be passive passengers because, as Chino says, they also have to learn “which buttons to push.”  They also need to prepare for the physical rigors of space flight.

Veteran astronauts have lectured to them and they were told that one of the hardest things to do in space is going (as in doing your toilet business).  Imagine doing it in zero gravity (they better have good aim because you don’t want stuff floating around in an enclosed space).  Another challenge is reentry into the earth’s orbit because the pressure shocks the body and causes muscle atrophy.

Our talk was cut short when the live newscast started.  Chino sat with Boy Abunda for the interview and carried himself well despite the nerves.  Boy asked him if he has a girlfriend and Chino admitted he’s courting someone.  He was asked, given the choice to take a showbiz personality to space, who would that be?  He paused, was obviously at a loss for words, then finally said he really had not thought about it.  Evidently, hindi pa siya showbiz (and hopefully he’ll stay that way).

Boy asked a different question.  “If you saw the face of God when you fly to space, what would you tell Him?”  Chino answered that he wants to be able to give back as much as he could from that experience.  He says he will tell God, “I am down on both knees even if it is zero gravity.”  It’s been said that being in space is an encounter with God.  We have the right man for the job.

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