Goodbye, 2010. Hello, 2011.

One final day before the year ends and here I am planning my 2011. While 2010 has certainly been a great year, it certainly has its bad memories, most of which I do not want to think about anymore. So thinking out loud, here are my plans for the incoming year.

1. Practice Buddhism. I want to have peace of mind and only positive thoughts in my head so this I have to start soon.

2. Live healthily. This includes eating the right kinds of food and staying away from unhealthy ones, exercising regularly, and sleeping early. This I predict will be a difficult adjustment because it means I have to stay away from cakes, brownies, frappes, donuts, and cupcakes. But no, I have to be really determined. I have no problems staying away from pork since I’m more of a chicken-and-fish type of person. Before the month ends, I need to enroll myself in a boxing gym.

3. Save. I now have two jobs to help me save for the future. While working at home has its drawbacks (including mothers constantly pestering you to do household chores and implying that you are just actually playing rather than working), this kind of job fits best with my academic schedule. I need to be more disciplined in waking up early because my 2nd job requires me to log in at a certain time in the afternoon so I have to do everything in the morning. All reading and paper assignments can be done while I’m on my 2nd job which is another reason why I love it. I also think I’ve bought every techie gadget I want this year so I won’t be longing for anything expensive next year. Except for the Amazon Kindle. Yes, I’m still dying to have that one. I don’t want my hundreds of e-books to go to waste. And yes, I want to read them all.

4. Thesis. My academic life is my life – well, aside from my girlfriend, my cousins, my dogs, and my friends. Books, believe it or not, turn me on. So this year, I want to focus on finishing my MA degree. The first step, of course, is to think of a thesis topic, which I have not done yet. I partly use my thesis as justification to buy an Amazon Kindle. HAHA.

5. Travel, travel, and more travel. 2010 was the first year I traveled out of the country without my family and I greatly enjoyed the experience. This year, I want to visit two more countries: Thailand and Indonesia. I will be going to Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia (and hopefully Brunei) with Love on the first week of March as part of our 2-year anniversary celebration (it’s on every 7th of April, in case you’re interested) and I want to celebrate our 2 years together by also visiting Sagada and see the hanging coffins. Can someone suggest a cold place where I can make use of my numerous scarves? I don’t want them to just be kept in the closet. There’s a reason why I bought them and that is to wear them in style.

Ok, I can’t think of anything else at the moment but I’m sure one or two will pop up anytime soon. As for my dear friends and those who show me so much love, I only wish you the best for 2011. I hope this is the year all, if not most, of our dreams come true. Thank you for making this year a really good one for me.

Religion, Atheism, and Buddhism

There are two things I hate being discussed among friends and family: religion and politics. Religion is the opium of the masses. This I truly believe which is why I do not believe in religion and all its hullabaloo. Politics, on the other hand, is the dirtiest game man can ever play.

I certainly do not mean to offend anyone in saying this but I do salute our Muslim brothers for their belief in self-sacrifice for the love of their religion and nation. This practice, however, has serve more damage than good as many innocent lives are killed in the process. Not that that’s anything new to religion. How many people died from the Catholic Inquisition in the 12th to 19th centuries? Thousands, hundreds of thousands. We’ll never know. But anyway, that’s going to far from today’s blog post.

What I really want to say is that my disappointment in religion has turned me into an atheist. I started being a non-practicing Catholic many years ago , becoming more disappointed as scandal after scandal broke in the Vatican. Pedophilia, I never realized, was a common practice in the Catholic church. A good friend told me that those in the seminary were given daily doses of papaya to extinguish the “urges” they feel while in prison, I mean religious school. That disbelief in the Catholic church turned me against everything I believed in.

Soon after, I realized I don’t need to pray to any god to make things happen. While fate is an ironic concept I believe in, I still think that people can make dreams come true if only they are determined to make it happen. No one needs to pray to a higher being to make something happen. I know faith is believing in something you have not seen nor felt, but faith also means in trusting yourself and believing in yourself that you can make things happen. When my dog Hershey became really sick last June, my mom placed a rosary on her wrist, hoping it will help her live. I told myself, this may be a call to go back to Catholicism – provided she live. Except she didn’t. She still died. Medicine couldn’t save her but at least her vet tried. The rosary became nothing but an accessory. It didn’t help a single bit. And that’s when I told myself never again to hope on something as invisible as a god. I climbed the highest temple of Angkor Wat and when I was about to get down (I’m scared of heights, you see), I was deciding between praying and cursing. I decided to curse. I’m still breathing, aren’t I?

Glee’s episode on religion (“Grilled Cheesus”) made me love Kurt more. I especially loved the part when he said that he didn’t believe in God but he believed in what he and his father has. And his father woke up from coma soon after that. Religion is imposing, impractical, and deadly, among other things.

I say I’m an atheist but I have been planning to practice Buddhism for months now, specifically since I got home from my Angkor Wat excavation. I was so inspired by the Khmer people and how they venerated Buddha and the teachings of the religion. Sure, they don’t follow everything they’re supposed to do but I felt the respect they have for Buddhism. Buddhism may be a religion but I see it as a way of life. Buddhism is certainly my top priority for 2011.

UPDATE: A dear friend just gave me a Dhammapada text. I am so happy. A Dhammapada is a Buddhist scripture from the Theravada canon, sabi ng Wiki. 😛

My 2010 in a Nutshell

The year 2010 is drawing to a close. Just as everyone starts to do their wishlists for the holidays, I want to make a checklist of the major events that happened to me this year. It will help determine if my 2010 has been a good or bad year, all in all. First, let’s list down everything I gained this year.

1. A happy one-year anniversary for me and my girlfriend – April 7, 2010 in Batangas
2. Gadgets – Blackberry 9700, Sony DSC-H20 Digicam, Sony Playstation 3, Shiba upgraded to 2gb, Sony Headphones from KL, and a couple of cheap phones
3. 2 major excavations – San Juan, Batangas and Angkor Wat, Siem Reap, Cambodia
4. Friends from all over the world – Cambodia, USA, France, Singapore, Malaysia, Vietnam/Belgium
5. 4 countries visited in a month – Vietnam, Cambodia, Singapore, Malaysia
6. High grades in all classes this semester – 1.25 for Archaeo 202, 1.00 for Archaeo 220, 1.25 for Archaeo 207, and 1.75 for Archaeo 206
7. Course completion – Archaeo 206 and 207
8. 2 Binalot Talks presentation – Archaeo 207 and Greater Angkor Project
9. Volunteer instead of a field schooler for Batangas excavation
10. Bruno – a half-Pomeranian/half-Japanese Spitz puppy
11. Baguio, SG, & KL vacations with Love
12. 9th Katipunan Arkeologist ng Pilipinas (KAPI) Conference organizer
13. Weight – lots of it

Now, let’s see what I’ve lost so far:
1. Hershey – my German Shepherd who died June 7th
2. Tatay – my lolo who died July 10th (as soon as I left Ho Chi Minh)
3. Money – lots of it!
4. Scholarship to France
5. Theo & Dora’s hamster pups – 2x she gave birth, not one survived. Yet.
6. Physically hit someone – definitely not my proudest moment
7. Approval of my girlfriend’s family

It’s funny how I gained a lot weight AND lost a lot of money at the same time. Goes to show where most of my money went. Lol.

So far I couldn’t think of anything else, and so far, I think 2010 is one of my best years. In spite of being my very expensive year to date, every single cent was worth it. I may have lost a few but I know there are reasons why it happened. I understand that I can never have everything but at least I’m trying to achieve those that I can. Next stop: resolutions for next year. I know what would top it though: SAVE!!!

Posted with WordPress for BlackBerry.

My Amnesia Girl: A Movie Review

Why did I want to do a movie review on My Amnesia Girl? This is the only Tagalog film I took the initiative to purposely watch at the cinemas. Simply put, I watched it out of my own doing. I wasn’t given free passes, I wasn’t forced to watch it by someone else, and I didn’t watch just because I was bored. Why am I sharing this? Because I don’t watch Filipino films, especially if I have to shell out money. I wanted to watch My Amnesia Girl for the simple reason of seeing Toni Gonzaga’s kissing scenes with John Lloyd. Everyone was making a big deal how this movie is Toni’s “most daring” film. Shallow, right?

Call me a b!tch for not loving my own but Filipino films, unless independently produced, are very predictable, shallow, and unoriginal. I graduated from the College of Mass Communication so I know very well what makes quality films and television shows. Anyway, moving on, let’s find out what makes My Amnesia Girl special.

If I’m not mistaken, this Star Cinema-produced film is the first team up of John Lloyd Cruz and Toni Gonzaga. While both have successful films under their names, it’s a risk to put them together in a film without knowing how much their chemistry is. It may be a bit early but I think the JLC-Toni loveteam is already a hit.

My Amnesia Girl is, by my opinion, an original film by Star Cinema. I went inside the moviehouse not knowing what the film is about and I wasn’t disappointed. The title itself is intriguing, kind of reminded me of My Sassy Girl, except with a totally different story. The story revolves around JLC and how is looking for the right girl. Being too picky, friends helped him remember a few of his girlfriends from the past. Then there was Irene played by Toni Gonzaga. Everything was perfect, a love story bound for the altar. But JLC’s character Apollo left her at the altar. Two years later, they accidentally saw each other at the supermarket. Apollo approached Irene and, shocked as she was, told him she is suffering from amnesia and apologized if she could not recognize him. That’s where everything starts. The way Apollo tried to right his wrong and win Toni’s heart (he got exhausted being Irene’s go-to-guy during a photoshoot) was heart-breaking – until you realized it was his fault in the first place so you would be easily torn whether to forgive and pity this dude or not for what Irene was putting him through.

The music is great, I just love Nicole Hyala’s Mahal Kita Kasi. From her tweets though, it seems that Star Cinema never asked for her permission to use it in the movie. With the corny but funny pick-up lines (“Para kang tae, d kayang paglaruan”), I find the movie really entertaining and heartbreaking. There’s a hint of unpredictability because you don’t know whether JLC will ever admit he’s that guy who broke her heart or if she’ll even admit she’s *SPOILER ALERT* not really suffering from amnesia, or if they could ever fall in love with each other again after everything that happened.

Toni is great with comedy and so is Lloydie. While Toni looks slightly awkward when she cries, I felt for her. For a moment, I could feel her pain. Her tears were so real that it made you feel it happened to you too. And Lloydie, his words just transcend the screen. You think he’s addressing you but he’s not. Toni’s bubbly character and JLC’s boy-next-door personality is the perfect formula to make this movie work. Everything from the script, to the plot, and to the characters is solid. My Amnesia Girl, in summary, teaches you to love, get hurt, learn forgiveness, and find that second chance in love – and when you do, don’t let it go, because it truly is amazing how in this big world, you are meant to have that one person who will love you deeply and unconditionally. So was it worth my money? Definitely.

Sunday Stealing…on a Sunday

Choosing the right topic for a blog is very difficult, especially for me because I am interested in multitude of things. So I searched online on what possible topics I could blog about aside from those that I’m interested in (take note: I like archaeology, history, books, movies, pets, and travel) and found this. I like answering questions. I’m honestly addicted to slumbooks and this is just the perfect meme. So here goes the Baker’s Meme.

1. If you could interview anyone on your blog (alive or dead) who would you chose and why?

Oprah Winfrey. I like Oprah because she started from nothing, went through a horrible time before she got to be where she is now. And now that she’s one of the richest persons on the planet, she doesn’t keep all the money, fame, and glory to herself. She shares.

2. What do you feel is your strength as a blogger?

I think clearly when I write. It helps organize my thoughts. I may like many things but I make sure that I excel in everything I do. Sharing my thoughts, opinions, and ideas to the world helps me know myself better. Oh, and I know I write perfectly good English.

3. Can you share a little bit about yourself that you have not already mentioned on your blog?

It took me a while before I finally found myself and now that I’m comfortable with who I really am, I’m thankful for everything that happened to get me where I am now.

4. If you were forced to change the name of your blog, what would you change it to? Why?

I’d change it to my real name because I want people to remember who I am and know that in the future I will be famous. And my name’s unique too. I love it.

5. What do you think is the most fulfilling part of being a blogger?

Knowing that you inspire readers to write and know themselves better with what you share.

6. What would you do with your last day if you found you had only one more day to live?

Ride the Space Shuttle. I’d die anyway so why not do it earlier?

7. You’ve been doing medical research for decades and have finally found a cure. What was it that you found a cure for and why did you choose this particular ailment?

HIV-AIDS, because I just finished reading Steve Berry‘s The Venetian Betrayal that talks about biological warfare and creating a cure for this disease. Not only is this disease incurable but those who suffer from it need tons of money just to lengthen their survive.

8. What is your most guilty pleasure?

I love celebrity gossips, especially those about personalities I don’t really like. EG: Mariel Rodriguez.

9. Answer only one. What is your favorite book, movie or TV show?

Movie: The Notebook. It shows how an old man shows his love for his wife who doesn’t even remember him by telling the story of their love – every single day.

10. What do you think is the very best smell in the world? The one smell that can take you back to a time and place of a very vivid memory in your past?

The smell of my dogs. It always reminds of the time when I only had Tanya as my dog. Now I have four. It’s a blessing.

Tanya

Greater Angkor Project: The GAP 2010 Angkor Wat Excavation

Let me share with you a positive article on Cambodia to somehow make up for the very sad event that recently happened in Phnom Penh. The day the news broke I saw the headlines on both Twitter and Yahoo!. The next day my friend who knows how much I “love Cambodia so much” shared the news with me AND my Khmer friend actually sms’d me straight from Cambodia to tell me about the news too. I seriously hope that no one among my Khmer friends were hurt. To give everyone a short break from all the Khmer tragedy, I’ll just blog about my personal experience excavating Angkor Wat this year.

So today I finally did my Binalot Talks presentation on my Cambodia trip. From July 12 – Aug. 8, 2010, I was very fortunate to become a crew member of the first ever archaeological team to excavate on Angkor Wat – the largest religious structure in the world that houses hundreds of Buddha statues and carvings of the Khmer history.

As an overview, the GAP or Greater Angkor Project is an organization composed of scholars from France, Cambodia, and Australia. Some of GAP’s resident archaeologists are Ang Choulean (an expert on Khmer history and anthropology), Dr. Li Baoping (an expert on Chinese ceramics analysis), Dougald O’Reilly (whose interests lie on Khmer Iron Age sites), Christophe Pottier (a Khmer expert on architecture and archaeology), and Damian Evans (whose expertise lie on remote sensing and regional survey). The aim of GAP is to better understand the reason behind the ancient civilization’s collapse between the 15th and 17th centuries by doing various archaeological methods, just to name a few. GAP works with the Authority for Protection and Management of Angkor and the Region of Siem Reap (APSARA), École Française d’Extrême-Orient (EFEO) and the University of Sydney. Together they explore the archaeology of Angkor as well as protect its cultural heritage. Visit GAP’s official website to know more about the organization.

The GAP 2010 Field Season was supervised by Dr. Miriam Stark from the University of Hawai’i-Mānoa and Chhay Rachna from APSARA. The 8 senior crew members who participated were Charlotte Minh Ha Pham (my roommate who specializes in marine archaeology), Charlotte Wong and Shawn Fehrenbach (both from UH), Jeanna Loyer (a newly-graduated French who is similarly interested in Human Osteology and Prehistory), Noel Hidalgo Tan and Nick Gani (both newly-graduated MA degree holders from Universiti Sains Malaysia), Thinguoc Mai Son (a newly-graduated half-Khmer/half-American), and me. The senior crew members stayed at the Robert Christie Research Centre while the RUFA students stayed at the EFEO headquarters. A total of 25 local Khmer excavators and pottery washers were employed though the number fluctuated from time to time as workers were added as more units were opened. Finally, a total of 13 undergraduate Royal University of Fine Arts (RUFA) students participated each week to gain field experience in archaeology.

The GAP 2010 crew opened a total of eight (8) units. Dougald O’Reilly excavated prior to our arrival and he opened the first unit located on the Western Gopura of Angkor Wat. Unit 2 lies a few meter adjacent to Unit 1 and these two units got the most number of visitors because this is the main entrance to the temple. The rest of the units experienced less disturbance from tourists as they were all situated at areas unfriendly to visitors. Units 3,4,5 and 6 were located at the Eastern Gopura so by the time tourists got to see our units, they were exhausted from all the walking they did on the temple – and touring Angkor Wat is no joke. A day isn’t enough to appreciate the vast and mind-blowing religious structure.

Our schedule is as follows:

630-7AM = (Yummy) Breakfast at camp

7-715AM = Head to the site

715-745 = Proceed to units

1130AM-1230PM =Lunch

1230-230PM = Work

230-3PM = Pack up and go home

330-430/5PM = Bag and record artifacts, do photolog (Basic post-excavation paperworks)

5-6PM = Free time (Shower time, actually)

6-7PM = Dinner

7PM Onwards = Free time (Mostly consisted of beer-drinking and card-playing activities)

Excavation methods included archaeological survey, mapping, recording, coring, and actual excavations. Shawn and Charlotte were the ones primarily responsible for surveying and mapping transects on the NE and Eastern quadrants of Angkor Wat to find out which areas were conducive for archaeological excavation. They were assisted by Rachna and a couple of excavators because coring is actually hard work. Once cores were recorded, test units were set up (Units 3,4,5, 6, 7, & 8 ) and senior crew members were assigned to supervised their own units. Before being assigned to our own trenches, however, Dr. Stark made sure that we were comfortable and confident enough to handle our own teams. Additionally, we needed to learn the proper recording and bagging of artifacts – the paperworks, basically. I was assigned to supervise Units 4 & 5 and I eventually transferred to Unit 7. Char supervised Unit 3 while Mai and Jeanna were in charge  of Units 4 and 6, respectively. Nick eventually ran Units 7 & 8 together with Charlotte.

The excavators who worked with us previously worked under Dougald O’Reilly so they were the ones who knew more about the units than we did. So equipped with sufficient archaeological excavations plus a good background of their own Khmer history, senior excavators Mr. Pov and Chenda were primarily the ones who interpreted the stratigraphy, features, and artifacts recovered from the site. Because the units were located so far from each other, updates were done over lunch and before packing up. Everyone returned to Unit 2 to pick up the tools and artifacts and other crew members as well. Instructions were given on the way to the site, when we were literally inside the vehicle. The senior crew members’ daily duties consisted of preparing the tools and paperworks, record, photograph, and measure layers, profile the unit, and bag artifacts. We were also instructed to help and teach RUFA students how to properly conduct an excavation. Basically, we just sat around as we watched the excavators and students work themselves off under the heat of the sun. It was a pity, actually, because some layers consisted of sandstone chips which were very hard to excavate. Even hoes gave up to these layers.

The day-to-day experience of seeing Angkor Wat AND excavating on the site is the most valuable experience one could ever have. I couldn’t help but gush over the magnificence of Angkor Wat and learn something new about its history and archaeology everyday. The Khmers are not only a group of happy people, but their hospitality transcends that of our own. The heat may have been the only objectionable part of visiting about Cambodia. It was so intense that the workers were so worried for us they had to be “umbrella men” while some of us were out in the sun. Boxes and boxes of water or tea were available at all times to make sure no passed out from too much heat. Complain about a headache or a stomachache and you will immediately be sent home (though I only got to use this card once – and I actually got sick on my last week there. Boo).

There is a lot more to be done for GAP Angkor Wat and I personally hope that I get to participate in future excavations again. I did not post the preliminary results of the project as they are still unpublished and despite Dr. Stark personally giving me a copy of her unpublished report, I deem it professional that she gets to share it to the online archaeological community first before I do since I only asked permission to use the report for my Binalot Talks presentation. So in summary, I thank you Angkor Wat for making me a better archaeological student. PROOF: I did not have any incomplete grades this semester. In fact, my grades soared high this semester. I even managed to complete a course I took last year. Fabulous. I love you Cambodia. I will see you soon.

*ALL PHOTOS ARE LINKED TO THE OWNERS

Welcome, indeed!

So I’ve finally managed to tweak my WordPress blog after what seemed like forever. Since I have no friggin’ idea where to start, why not post an old blog? It’s kind of a checklist of the things I want to accomplish. This was written 2 years ago (12th of January 2008 to be exact) and I can proudly say that I have indeed achieved some of what’s listed in here. Thank you Livejournal. Those in italics are considered done and

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Things I hope to accomplish before I die

Jan. 12th, 2008 at 6:46 PM

Apologize to all the people I’ve hurt.
Take a vacation in Bahamas.
Go backpacking in Europe. – If I push through with my France scholarship, this might actually happen. Wee!
Perform streetdance onstage.
Make a music video.
Write a screenplay.
Direct a film.
Produce a documentary.
Do production work in NatGeo/Discovery Channel.
Do volunteer work at PAWS or any NGOs geared towards children and women.
Build a foundation that aims to help animals, children and women.
Acquire a Master’s Degree or PhD. – Getting there.
Get another degree. (Film, History, Archaelogy) – Back then I didn’t even know how to spell Archaeology correctly.
Go to Camiguin, Palawan, Siargao, and Pagudpud.
Ride EK’s Space Shuttle.
Buy a house and lot for my parents.
Build a kennel for animals.
Watch Kylie Minogue, U2, Aerosmith, Rihanna, Chris Brown, Usher, JT perform live. – I’ve seen Rihanna and Chris Brown already.
Give birth and have kids.
Learn the drums and guitar.
Meet Oprah Winfrey, Angelina Jolie and Nicole Kidman.
Be a UN/Unicef Goodwill Ambassador.
Have my own production outfit.
Learn breakdancing.
Bring friends to Bahamas.
Bring family to Europe.
Amass a fortune worth $1B and a shoe collection that will take Imelda Marcos off Guinness.
Party like a rockstar and get drunk till I pass out. – March 28, 2009 anyone?
Own a house consisting only of Hello Kitty items.
Die beautiful, sexy and hot.
Stay away from pirated goodies and collect original DVD copies of favorite movies. – I don’t think I can do this anymore.
Own state of the art technology – home theater system, lazy boy chairs, macbook, recording studio
Donate half of my savings to charity.
Eat all the chocolate cake I can on the eve of my death.
Get a brazilian wax.
Try odd jobs such as car washing, gasoline girl, and sell samalamig during summer.
Try bungee jumping/sky diving.
Finish the Bible.
Build my own library.
Have my own mausoleum.
Travel to 3rd world countries to do charity work.
Go to Disneyland, Hongkong flea market and see the 7 wonders of the world.
Tell the family that I’m blue. – At least I have, to my mom.
Make peace with my brother.
Teach preschool kids.
Adopt homeless children or provide them shelter, at least.

Eto pahabol.

Stargazing with the most important person in my life. Or watching a meteor shower would be better. – Already have, in Subic.