Sunday, February 22, 2015

The Micetro: Survivor Meets Whose Line Is It Anyway?

.:The Micetro:.

If I moved a bit closer, I would look even fatter than I already do.

I don't think I've ever felt happier to be in the improv scene than I did during last night's Micetro.

It wasn't because I came in second, with the extremely talented Ariel Diccion rightfully winning the Micetro that night. It wasn't because I had a breakthrough night where #hugot became the order of the day, and in telling the truth, I was connecting with audiences in ways I never have before as a comedian, whether in standup or improv.

It was because after the first elimination of participants to the final six, four of them were from Switch.

And therein lies the rub: as Gabe Mercado himself put it, even winning the Micetro doesn't necessarily mean you're the better improviser. But getting that far in Micetro means that Switch Improv is here to play, and here to contribute to this burgeoning improv community in its own way.

After all the growing pains of Switch Improv, the most important statement we could make is "we're here to play." Whether it's within the group or with the rest of the improv scene both here and abroad, it's that willingness to just throw yourself out there that really marks the turning point for our group, and I couldn't be happier.

There were times where playing was something we feared. Oh, no! Could we remember the rules? Could we memorize our lines as we're asked to reverse our scenes? Could we make a scene without just standing around like aimlessly talking heads?

Recently, though, a lightbulb collectively went off in our heads, and we realized that asking "could we?" was the wrong question. The right question to ask was "why couldn't we?" and then we proceed to not answer the question. Ever, because apparently, we could.

And yes, it's obvious we have a lot more growing to do as improvisers, but the growth we've managed in recent months really showed how hard work pays off. A few months ago, I was never comfortable with making myself feel so vulnerable onstage, with everyone seeing me for the bag of issues I can sometimes be. But that's my truth. I am a self-aware Reader's Digest, with possibly even more issues, but it's that self-awareness that allows me to learn from it, and impart what I learn from every misadventure my life inadvertently finds itself in.

You had to be there. Even if I put the entire show on video, it wouldn't do justice to the moment that has already passed, when a chance reference to "cheesecake" in the middle of a conversation about Sugarfree led to a perfect retort. Or when "sexism" gave way to "gender racism," because improv isn't about being always correct. Or when a person who only took improv workshops debuted in impressive fashion in front of a live, appreciative audience for the very first time. These were moments that you could never quite recapture again, but they will remain in the memories of everyone in that room for a very long time.

SPIT. Switch. One And A Half Men. The Katipunan Improv Collective. Anthony from New York. It was a night where improv utterly lived up to its own name, as nobody watching that night knew if the people playing onstage have been playing with each other for years or only for the first time in their lives. Everyone was in sync. Everyone was about making their partners look good. Everyone was about building something. The so-called star players weren't just scoring 30 in a night. They were dropping 20 dimes and collecting 20 boards, triple-doubling their way to making everyone onstage look great, and not just themselves. And yes, I can safely say there were 13 star players that night.

But allow me to dwell on my #hugot night, not because I managed to become the runner-up Micetro for the night, but because everything I drew from that night came from, believe it or not, a good place. It came from a place of hurt and hope. A place of shadows because you need light in your life to find shadows. A place of despair and optimism. And it was through Switch improv that I felt a kind of trust in laying it all out there with my improv partners and the audience, without fear of rebuke or exploitation, but only in perhaps touching someone's life in that manner. Maybe they would laugh. Maybe they would hold back a tear. Either way, that connection comes from something deep within all of us, and that is the magic of improv.

When I was left heartbroken earlier this year, I was hurt. Angry. Devastated. But it was the first time in my life, where I looked forward to rebuilding myself instead of just wallowing in misery and self-loathing. So each time I drew from the most bitter of moments in my recent history, it wasn't me reliving the pain so I could just stew in self-pity. It was me laughing in the face of it, because I knew I was better than that, and I deserved better than that. It's in all of us: the pain. The pessimism. The cynicism. These are part and parcel of us, but in channeling that energy towards telling the truth, towards telling the world, "this is real, this is me, and I'm exactly where I'm supposed to be now," we create something beautiful from that morass of wretchedness.

So thank you. Thank you, Switch, thank you, SPIT, thank you, Ariel, thank you, Agnes and JR, thank you, Katipunan Improv, thank you, One And A Half Men, and thank you, Anthony from New York. Thank you, "One More Chance," thank you, "English Only, Please," thank you, "Starting Over Again," and thank you, "That Thing Called Tadhana."

And yes, thank you, to the people who broke my heart, and I don't just mean that romantically. The people who have hurt me have only proven the saying that what doesn't kill me makes me stronger, and I will keep on keeping on. And I say this with no hint of regret or even ill will towards these people. For the chips on my shoulder, for the monkeys on my back, for the fire in my gut, thank you.

If there was one thing I have won last night, it was my never-ending battle with being my own worst critic. That, in and by itself, is something I treasure from Micetro night.

Tuesday, February 03, 2015



Insert penis joke here.

It's easy to rage and to hate the president not for what he has done, but for what he has not done. To say that the legacy of President Noynoy Aquino is one of omission would be a massive understatement.

For the longest time, I have been nothing but even-handed with how I would critique the president's performance. He was handed a huge responsibility, practically on a lark, after his mother died. Mistakes will be made. This is natural and par for the course.

What I never expected, though, was his apparent inability to correct these mistakes. And his uncanny talent of repeating them throughout his term. And true, nobody will probably ever accuse him of the same kind of horrors Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo was routinely battered with, but his obstinacy and refusal to do even the most common-sensical of things in the face of crisis speaks volumes about his woeful lack of leadership qualities.

There is an upwelling of outrage against PNoy lately: one that simply cannot be handwaved any longer. It is an upwelling of people who felt betrayed after they were told that they were the boss. It is an upwelling of people who believed with all their heart that the son of Ninoy Aquino and Cory Aquino could not possibly be so backwards that he would practically disgrace the not-even-blameless names of his own parents – despite the fact that Kris Aquino is already running around as a realization of this possibility.

And in the infinite wisdom of the palace, they decided to dismiss this upwelling as “microscopic.”




Which leads me to ask... what the hell are you smoking?!? Let's assume for a minute that this anger fomenting over the president's sins of omission truly were microscopic. Does this in any way invalidate that anger? Does saying only “a few” people were peeved at what PNoy did or did not do mean that these few are absolutely wrong? Do we not protect the majority and the minority alike? Or do we only give a damn what most people are saying?

It didn't matter at all if only one person felt put off by what PNoy did, if that one person had a valid point. Especially not if that person were one of the men who almost did not live to tell the tale of what happened to the #Fallen44. Or if that one person were a family member who did not choose to wait for the president anymore. Or if that one person was someone who was supposedly the “boss” of this president, as his own words indicated.

To this very moment, there is this sense of impunity and even smugness emanating from the Aquino camp that you can't help but notice. After all, even at his worst approval ratings, he is still leaps and bounds better off in public perception than Gloria ever was, once she assumed the presidency. But therein lies the rub: setting Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo as your bar is so ridiculously and insultingly low to the Filipino people.

We expected better than that. Much, much better. And let's not mince words here: we were promised that by the president himself. “Daang Matuwid” was supposed to be a battlecry to right the wrongs and to change the system from within, but it became clear early on that this attempt at righting the wrongs affected only those on the wrong side of the party line. If somehow, you were on the president's good side, you can be every bit as terrible as you want, but a slap on the wrist for you is already pushing it.

So when the Palace says that this anger is “microscopic,” it doesn't change the fact that this anger is valid. Neither does this change the fact that the anger is not microscopic, by any means. When my 8List alone gets 200,000 views and an unprecedented number of outraged comments whether or not they understand the real intent of the list, then you can't just ignore numbers like those. And that's just me. Imagine how much more mileage other more established writers had as they eviscerated the president for a job not done.

To put this in perspective, only about 5 of the 400 or so 8Lists currently published on the site have ever broken the 100,000 barrier. When something hits that number on the site, you just know it hit a nerve somehow, for whatever reason. When 200,000 people direct their outrage towards one venue, nobody would ever call that microscopic.

What is microscopic, though? Is it the viewpoint of the Palace? Is it their “mercy and compassion,” which only highlights how utterly meaningless the Pope's visit was to them, no matter what they ay or do? Is it Mar Roxas's chances of winning in 2016? Or is it PNoy's odds of finding a date this February 14?

I don't give a damn. Because all I know is that this anger and this outrage is not microscopic and to dismiss our grievances so cavalierly is a slap in the face of the people our president claims to be his “boss.” And I will keep on harping on that point until I turn blue because he said those things himself, and no matter how much he can try to handwave that statement as merely a figure of speech, he can never undo going back on his word as unequivocally as he has when the Palace decided that there is no need to care what a “microscopic” number of people feel – not because their points have no merit, but only because they aren't “significant” enough.

This is something you would never say to your boss, no matter how small the power she holds over you may be.

And ultimately, when you say that hundreds of thousands of people being angry is merely “microscopic” in scale, do you not subsequently imply that the deaths of a “mere” 44 policemen is even more “microscopic?” Do these lives somehow not count?

If so, then there is no discussion left to be had: this is not the mentality of a statesman. This is simply the kind of thinking of someone who has successfully fallen for his own hype.

A Few Good Men

A Few Good Men
by Kel

“We live in a world with walls, and these walls need to be guarded by men with guns,” said he.
Who's gonna do it? You? You? Me? Me? Do we?
And in the middle of every bribe and abuse and indiscretion we see
We forget that when push comes to shove, a few good men will rise inevitably
Forty-four lives lost! Forty-four, forsooth!

And so the least their noble leader can do for you is to honor
That none may forget the #Fallen44 and the horror
That only comes from strife and the unavoidable human error
Yet instead, absence. Neglect. A cavalier sort of tenor
Forty-four were discarded, belated balms can never soothe

We use words like honor, code, loyalty for a life spent defending
And now, one of you wonders, “was the sacrifice worth making?”
Where was he, o great one, when the forty-four were needing
Little more than your compassion; a few good men lost to politicking?
Forty-four lives, microscopic? Ridiculously uncouth!

We are not he. We cannot pretend to be great, but we benefit
From rising and sleeping under the protection of your blanket
And though from time to time, we may question it,
Today we forget for a moment and instead thank a few good men, we cannot ever forget:

To the forty-four we thank you; we can handle the truth