wanderlust: rome

rome. magnificent rome. bella italia. where do i start?


ive been to rome and venice in 2006, joining brillante mendoza in presenting his 2nd film, KALELDO, to that year’s rome international film festival. it would be my first time outside asia, having only travelled to hong kong the year before because of mendoza’s first film as well, MASAHISTA, which was screened there.  we travelled with producer, ferdie lapuz, and actress, cherry pie picache. staying for around 4 days, we were in rome for 3 days, saw the vatican, and a day in venice plus visiting murano island. needless to say it was a very short stay and we were just skimming over what we could discover and see in italy.


this year, carlo and i worked on production design for bradley liew’s first feature film, SINGING IN GRAVEYARDS. a gorgeous portrait of an aging impersonator, joey “pepe” smith, who performs in bars as aging rockstar, joey “pepe” smith. i say gorgeous because the range of emotions we got from pepe smith’s non-acting acting is sublime and the environment (including our design work on the sets) captured on anamorphic lenses on a 2.39:1 aspect ratio is breathtaking. char. bradley claims he did not grade larry manda’s camera work. this film was included in the critic’s week section of the 73rd venice international film festival this year, which was why bradley, bianca balbuena (brad’s co-writer, producer, & girlfriend), mickey (sound design), tracy, (executive producer), and carlo and myself (production designers) plus pepe smith flew to italy to attend the festival.


we finally got our screening schedules and the film was gonna be premiering towards the latter half of the festival. our visas granted us around 15 days to be in italy so carlo and i decided to max out that opportunity and see more of italy so we flew to rome and milan first before heading to venice for the festival.

after 10 years, im finally back in rome!


rome was monumental and grand and delicate and massive and really the superpower history books said it was during the age of empires and gladiators and eating off grapes from the hands of slaves. while we stayed 2.5 days in rome and saw a lot of stuff, we still missed out on other sights and exhibits in the city. our milan hosts reckon we needed maybe 7 days to explore more of rome and i think i agree with him.


the altar of the fatherland. only got to see this from afar before. it’s sooooo big. everything is big in rome. you can imagine what the great caesars wanted to impose on humanity back in the day for what rome represented.


im loving the landscape of rome. those trees in the far distance evoke memories from childhood storybooks and pictures from encyclopedia, now real and alive and tangible. no wonder artists drew like that. id probably say the same when i get to visit japan. lol. walking around laurel trees, it was strangely amusing to smell them and be reminded of home and adobo. i think i will plant laurel trees in my home. and cypress. and this pine thing. and olive trees if i can find it in mindanao. awesome to see them mixed with calachuchi and calamansi bushes and talisay. i think i need a bigger piece of land.


umm, this painting was gorgeous. hi kuya 😉 we probably followed this guy from here in the vatican museum all the way to the sistine chapel. then we lost him. then he passed by us again while we were having dinner near the pantheon. choz. he nodded at us and we would have invited him over for pasta had he not walked so fast. see, we’re not stalkers. lol


a detail of a wall painting of raphael (one of the ninja turles) in the vatican museum. that’s him in the black hat looking at us from the corner.


every inch in the vatican museum is art. the church is the biggest patron of the arts, evident here in every room of the museum. i do wonder how nudity got to be so taboo when a lot of the depictions in art in the most holy of places are in the nude. paintings and sculpture of men and women all naked, loved by popes and the clergy. on display.

no pics of the sistine chapel, pinagbabawal. there were a few who defied and stole some photos but carlo and i felt we were too enthralled by michelangelo’s frescoes to bother taking photos. a lot of times, we felt photos do not give justice to the masterpieces on display, esp the frescoes in the sistine chapel. we stayed maybe an hour just looking up. gorgeous gorgeous gorgeous.


the tapestries in this room is grabe na! dako kaayu!


mosaic detail on the floor.


a marble sculpture of laocoon and his sons, excavated in rome and now on permanent display at the vatican museum. gorgeous! according to google/wikipedia, this is in the hellenistic baroque style. char.


wandered into a music shop near our airbnb in rome. always fascinated by shops in europe, they carry a lot of items despite its size. sa pilipinas, it would have to be some big franchise shop to carry this much varied merchandise in good condition. even the 2nd hand shops in cubao dont carry this kind of working, usable condition of merch.



this time i got to see the colosseo up close and personal. chos. ancient rome is crazy, i tell you, to build such a massive building where people battled and died all in the name of entertainment. bloody thirsty masses watching and deciding the lives of slaves and warriors. hmmm, how very pilipinas lang now. never knew we became so blood thirsty, thrilled of the numbers of dead people popping up in the streets of manila. and how we ridicule and humiliate and curse at people on social media. wow. like the ancient romans? in my lifetime? but going back, maganda. pero masakit. the church with its riches despite the massive poor struggling to make ends meet. the relics of a mighty stadium reminds us of a brutal past. and we dont really learn from it.


the oculus at the pantheon. i wasnt able to visit this in 2006 and this turned out to be absolutely one of my favorites in rome. i was surprised with the interiors, with the different colored marble sculptures and niches and that impressive hole in the ceiling.


ang olive oil sa italy. bow. i heard a little about the olive oil mafia in italy, where the version we have commercially available isnt pure olive oil anymore. and only one family is supposedly controlling the olive oil industry. while in florence, our host told us not to use the cheap olive oil and instead use his stock of a slightly higher priced olive oil for our pasta. granted masarap nga. pero yung sinasabi niyang cheap oil ay isa na sa mahaling brand available sa pinas (bertolli). so ano nalang kaya yung mahalin sa kanila? wohoo. coconut oil nalang.

IMG_6280.jpg#gwapulis. in the vatican museum.


local art in the neighborhood. diba kalorks. instant beauty everywhere. ingani ilang street art. atoa kay struggling but getting there. nothing wrong with mmda art really and sometimes i like that, ako ay engineer ako ay nurse thing. we need more subversive art though. lol.


one cannot be in italia without eating gelato. the difference is that gelatos in italy are not as sweet as we have in manila. big difference for me kay dili kaayu ko tig-kaon ug ice cream. a bit cheaper also in italy. 150 to 200 pesos up per cone. mahal diay gihapon. haha


thankfully they finished renovating/fixing the trevi fountain, one of the most gorgeous sights in rome, made more famous because making wishes at this fountain is 86% more effective than in other fountains. i made that up.

i did throw my coins back in 2006 (not in 2005 as i originally thought). and here i am back in italy. dreams come true, especially when you work for it and aim for it and save up for it and everything else in between.


for more pics, check out my facebook photodump album for rome. cheers and leave me a comment here in my blog if you like this sort of thing. char.

up next: milan, dahlin’, milan.

art & design, filmmaking, musings, travel

wanderlust: rome

movies, musings


watched INTERSTELLAR (2014, christopher nolan) last november 13 and never got to blog about it. for the most part, i got lazy. but maybe also because it took me a long time to recover haha so did i like it?


i did not like it. i loved it! i just posted a list of my favorite sci-fi movies here weeks before watching and i need to revise it now. first of all, i wont start comparing it to 2001: a space odyssey because i dont think anything else can compare to that 1968 masterpiece. my cousin asked me if INTERSTELLAR reminded me of contact too. surprisingly it did not, knowing that jodi foster movie is in my list of favorites. in parts, i was more reminded of sunshine, sphere, and moon. i was mostly excited that the young murphy grew up to be jessica chastain. how awesome is that, right? i avoided reading about the movie prior to watching because im now easily dissuaded to love it esp if a lot more people are saying the movie is pretty good because i tend to be disappointed instead. the end went a bit off for me but i enjoyed the movie already too much to be bothered about it too much.

mcconaughey and chastain were great casting choices, hathaway was kinda meh. damon was a surprise. the rest of the cast were wonderful. hans zimmer’s musical score was great, as usual. on closer look, the redesigned space suits and their textures were gorgeous, courtesy of costume designer mary zophres. kudos to the design team with nathan crowley (also having worked with nolan in the batman series) as production designer, set decorator gary fettis, and art director superviser dean wolcott.

i wont bother explaining the film, in general it was pretty straightforward although carlo and i had to discuss lengthily afterwards on some things, which after doing research we were right on our presumptions. read here if you indeed wanna understand the film. the graph can get crazy but like the film, you might need to be in a certain mood to absorb the information. click on the photo below.


mmff 2014

looked forward to watching some movies in last year’s mmff mainly because i was involved in one of them. then because some of my friends were involved in other films too. our views can get biased but i could also be rather honest. here’s my two cents’ worth. dont worry, di ako mataas magscore talaga. lol.



2015-01-06 21.04.33


casting wise, erich gonzales made a pretty ahas. in parts i liked her acting but i didnt like her swaying motions. the ahas design was good and i especially liked when dad ariel was holding the baby ahas in his arms. i didnt catch if alice dixon died or left the family, generally i just thought she was underused. i wished they could have shot in a better looking mall. i liked the cg statue. the set design of the ahas lair was pretty well made. this was one movie this year that referenced gollum’s schizofreakazoid conversations with himself. the other was kubot. writing for this could have been better actually. least favorite of the three. score 2/5


this was the episode we were involved in. jerrold tarog directed his script written with zig marasigan. mackie galvez shot the movie with me as production designer, carlo working on costumes, and carmen on makeup and prosthetics. technically very well made and well-fleshed out script. editing was well paced and color grading was pretty and spot on. im impressed how tight dennis and carla’s performances were in the film. chanda was lovely to work with and extraordinary onscreen. i asked her to not put makeup on, i felt it would help her character. carlo built the aling lina look out of her dusters and aprons. i always hated lengthy climactic expositions. for someone who have read the script before, despite how well made it came out, i take off 1 brownie point. i love you, guys 😉 an epilogue was shot but was taken out of the final cut. also, if this was lined up as the 3rd episode, SRRXV would have been a better movie. score 3.5/5


i loved this episode, especially because they were able to shoot in a plane. there wouldnt really be a point shooting this material if they werent able to get that location! from the get-go, from the minute joy viado stepped into frame i got it this was a cray cray episode and i enjoyed it. silly and no logic whatsoever. you just had to enjoy it. the epilogue was totally unnecessary (SPOILER: -may isospoil pa ba ang formula films?- when rocky salumbides as a halimaw appears at the end) hence the score 3.5/5

overall, SRRXV was a surprise because i enjoyed it. and writing this “review” article is already getting me bored. moving on.



2015-01-06 21.05.27

this was a real crowd pleaser. there were also a lot of people behind this film that are friends. i know tonette jadaone from college because she submitted a short film to our film festival competition thing at UP. i used to call her, “jada-one,” (referenced to padawans from star wars, whatever). this is a romcom but it broke all sorts of romcom formulas and although you know how it would probably end, you just smile through the movie and marvel at derek’s broad shoulders. ok, also jennylyn’s porselana skin. the writing is particularly smart and maybe it can still do a little more tweaking but it’s almost perfect. im not sure if derek should have won best actor but he was better than robin in bonifacio. sorry, robin. on hindsight, i applaud derek ramsay’s subtle acting as a fil-am business guy taking a 30 day off vacay to forget his girlfriend by flying to the philippines and hoped to blow her off with tagalog. and not sweating at all in humid weather. tonette, ano to? lol. but his accent was just right and his abs rounded it off for a rather convincing performance. whut? jennylyn was awesome in this movie. she was disarmingly cute and still smart despite being tanga in love. the design was very colorful but on another note, it looked too much like a star cinema movie and im not sure if they were aiming to be that or not. nevertheless, the design could have helped define characters more than just putting pretty colors everywhere. i am in awe that this production got to shoot in an actual SM mall. im so jealous haha generally, all the awards this film got was well deserved. score: 4/5



2015-01-07 16.42.35

this i looked forward to. worked on the first movie (tiktik aswang chronicles) as designer alongside peter colias (scenic designer for moulin rouge, the matrix and whatnot). this sequel went much more crazy than the first one and it was awesome. maybe the movie could have been edited a tad bit shorter and that factory sequence a bit tighter but overall it was all fun. the concept on the design was awesome. it doesnt make sense that the roof of a hut on a building’s rooftop would be made with window blinds but it worked. that gorgeous opening scene was something out of ridley scott’s prometheus! but as wonderful as the design on the kubot clan were, i was kinda perplexed on the too subtle differences the character design were for the remaining aswang clans. nevertheless, isabel looked awesome and id love to have her home’s curtains! lotlot was outstanding in this movie. congrats direk erik! kudos to ericson navarro and his art department for wining best pd and makeup, and the naked dave yu (naked in that factory scene; some things you can never unsee hahaha) for best visual effects. deserving win as well. score: 3.5/5



2015-01-07 16.43.30

technically this was the movie i saw first but posting last because of the picture above. lol. this movie had a lot of potential to be truly awesome. gorgeous sweeping shots, soaring orchestrations, the works. yet, sometimes, nothing can mask a rather weak script. one thing i thought of after the movie ended was that, that was it? yun lang ba dinaanan ni bonifacio sa buhay niya? it felt rather thin. and those present day sequences were unnecessary. early on in the movie, i loved the musical score. however, towards the end i started sensing a familiar motiff and then it hit me. the da vinci code! even the katipunan museum “steadicam” shot was reminiscent of that camera swoop through the louvre. nevertheless, i know von de guzman along with wildsound deserved their best music and sound design wins. special mention to carlo mendoza winning for cinematography, enhancing roy lachica’s wonderful sets. vina morales could have easily won best actress for this, i have to admit. her scenes were heartbreaking. robin, however well-intentioned, remained robin padilla, not andres bonifacio. i have to say, the controversy raised by this production was rather awkward and embarrassing. huwag na pagpilitan ang mga bagay na di naman para sa inyo. i feel tama ang pagbigay ng lahat ng mga awards this year. besides, bonifacio already reaped most of the awards. be content. honestly, because of this sourgraping, i was turned off a lot by this movie. hayy. back to regular programming. ay tapos na pala. score 2.5/5

so durr. carlo has a lot more to add but he might as well write another blog about it. i might just catch the amazing praybeyt benjamin on tv soon enough. feng shui 2 as well. i enjoyed the first one. just a sad reality (though nothing serious) for the mmff to be more of a sequel festival than showcasing original material. if the new template would be ENGLISH ONLY PLEASE, then im hoping next year wala nang sequels/prequels or rehashed formula films. dapat original material lahat. but dont hold your breath. asa ka pa. 😉 ok, quiet na ako. cheers and have a happy new year.

ps. at centrio mall in cagayan de oro, movie tickets cost only P151. that’s watching in an ayala mall cinema with awesome sound and seats! gateway cubao tickets cost us P231 per head. cinemas 6 and 7 (where srr and kubot were shown) was a much more smaller theater but had a great projector (a bit cropped though), crystal clear and bright image projection, and awesome sound system. cinema 1 (where EOP) was rather bad: dull colors, sound not as good as the other cinemas.


this is it


waiting for interstellar to start. so this would be the first movie carlo and i are watching in a cineplex since mariquina in august but that was at the UP film center so it’s sort of not counted. before that, we watched k’na and kasal during the cinemalaya film festival at the ccp in june. so that’s sort of also not counted. i watched lucy with my mom first week of july though. awesome. excited for interstellar! nolan, let’s do dis!

art & design, filmmaking, movies, musings, sketch

random drawing luna 201404XX

while doing research and working out the production design for the feature film, heneral luna, i got inspired by a scene from the script and decided to draw a sketch with antonio luna lost in thought playing his guitar and is about to be interrupted by his mother at the door. sketch is obviously unfinished but up to today i dont have the heart to finish it.


there are giants in the sky

excited to see a much more meatier trailer for INTO THE WOODS now out on youtube.


INTO THE WOODS, written by stephen sondheim (words and music) and james lapine (book), is a musical originally staged on broadway in 1987. disney picked up the material about this subversive entanglement of fairy tale characters, most of which theyve made famous in animated features, and decided to produce the movie version with rob marshall (chicago) directing.

ive seen the awesome PBS recorded version of the broadway show so many times we might actually have stretched the betamax magnetic strip to render it unviewable. the original cast (bernadette peters, chip zien, joanna gleason, etc.) holds a special place in my heart so i do struggle thinking how this film might water down so many nuances and bold, adult themes and the trailer right now looks too serious for such a funny (and serious) material and it may turn out to be an inferior version. the film cast may be promising but the original broadway cast’s performance was so perfect, so, however, still, regardless, i have mixed feelings of excitement and fear and am anxious and thrilled and constipated and giddy and doing an i-have-to-pee dance in fevered anticipation. ugh. cant wait!

if you wanna see the PBS show before this movie comes out in the theaters, come by the house to watch. special screening!

sometimes the things you most wish for are not to be touched.

careful the things you say, children will listen. careful the things you do, children will see and learn.

filmmaking, movies, musings



people lambast a movie with an adapted screenplay when it fails at capturing the essence of the original book from which it was based on. some are successful, especially if the screenplay is written by the same author of the book. what happens when the same author not only writes the screenplay but also directs the movie and does a damn good job at it? we get this.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower Movie Stills (12)

i watched this movie this afternoon and i had to take a break just so i could process my emotions. perhaps the last time i felt this way was when i watched AMERICAN BEAUTY way back in 1999. incidentally, the novel from which this film was based on was published that same year.  PERKS OF BEING A WALLFLOWER is about misfits and wallflowers towards the end of an era in their lives dealing with issues of love, loss, sexuality and relationships. apart from chbosky’s genius, the biggest draw here are the strong performances of the three leads, logan lerman, emma watson, and ezra miller. i especially love lerman’s performance here, it’s rare to see someone so young with that gamut of emotions.


this story was just so beautifully written it hurts. there were moments though where i had to scream, “hipster,” but the movie goes on and these characters just became real to me. love the music too, reminds me of that era when i was in college and we fell in love with everything textured and vintage, except that this movie is set a decade before this.  mixed tapes, typewriters, floral printed blouses and boots, the smiths, rocky horror picture show, slr cameras, and everything made hazy by the mist machine. it’s so gorgeous and heartbreaking and life affirming that i could only express myself by quoting ricky fitts from american beauty:

Sometimes there’s so much beauty in the world, I feel like I can’t take it, and my heart is just going to cave in.


and the only way to celebrate this is to listen to david bowie’s “heroes,” get on somebody’s truck, zip through the mandaluyong tunnel and scream, “im the king of the world.”

Right now we are alive and in this moment I swear we are infinite.

filmmaking, movies


Screen shot 2013-05-01 at 4.48.50 PM

this is a horror film. no ghosts, no psychopaths. no people wielding knives or chainsaws. no white ladies, no flying creatures in the night. this is a movie where mother nature wreaks havok and thousands die. this is a horror film. now watch this and thank God we live to see another day. naomi watts is fantastic. tom holland, who played her son, lucas, is A. MA.ZING. and i dont know how they shot this, it’s crazy. and amazing.

Screen shot 2013-05-01 at 4.46.38 PM

although the event struck in southeast asia and affected more locals than tourists, this movie centers on this particular english family vacationing khao lak, thailand and not the thousands of people who lost houses, livestock, and family members. the real family that this movie was based on were actually spanish and the wife chose naomi watts to play her in the movie. a documentary about the tsunami in thailand (you can find this in youtube) showed the wave’s approach not as fast nor as crazy as it was in the film but maybe because it’s a movie. but it happened. and either way, you cant turn your head and not look.

filmmaking, movies


Screen shot 2013-05-01 at 3.38.51 PM

this is soo awesome! audrey plaza the lead actually reminded me of a friend, Ica Fernandez haha SAFETY NOT GUARANTEED is a small indie movie from the makers of little miss sunshine and is about a journalist and his interns investigating a newspaper ad posted by a guy who claimed to have gone back in time.

safety not guaranteed

the whole thing feels like it used to be graphic novel by daniel clowes or something, the characters are fun and the actors are actually really good. the movie is deceptively simple but funny and lots of heart, there were scenes where i just laughed out loud (LOL would be appropriate pero i like to spell it out). rotten tomatoes actually gave this a 91% rating! the song on the sitar was really nice as well. there might be small details i would have preferred, changed or smoothened out for the ending but still, this movie rocks.

art & design, filmmaking, movies, musings

ABOVE THE CLOUDS Production Diary #1

here’s a behind the scenes video produced to promote the film we are currently working on. we’ve already done about 80% of the movie and we’re down to the last 8 days of shoot by may 2013. here’s the first video released on the making of ABOVE THE CLOUDS.