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Saturday, November 18, 2017

ASEAN Chairmanship Passes from PHILIPPINES to SINGAPORE


At the conclusion of the 31st Summit of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in Manila earlier this week, President Rodrigo Duterte turned over his chairmanship of the regional intergovernmental association to the next in line, Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong. This has been the mandated routine of ASEAN, with chairmanship rotating between the incumbent heads of government of the ten member nations every year. This also indicates that the new chairman’s nation will serve as the host country for the next ASEAN Summit, the 32nd since its inception.
As CNN Philippines tells it, President Duterte and Prime Minister Lee underwent the ceremonial handover of chairmanship at the closing phase of the 31st ASEAN Summit last Tuesday, November 14. “As the Philippines’ chairmanship of ASEAN draws to a close,” Duterte noted in his turnover speech, “I reiterate my commitment that my country, as ASEAN Chair, will remain steadfast in upholding the ideals and values we hold dear and in working for the realization of our shared aspirations.” Afterwards he presented the symbolic ASEAN Chairman’s gavel to Lee, who then congratulated the Philippines for their excellent chairmanship of the association and hosting of the recently-concluded summit.
On his own acceptance speech for Singapore’s new leadership role for the coming year, Prime Minister Lee thanked the host nation’s contributions to the three “pillars” of ASEAN that were forged in the summit. These included the finalized Code of Conduct for Parties in the South China Sea, a new ASEAN-Hong Kong trade agreement, and a consensus between the member countries on migrant workers’ rights and protection. For the part of Singapore’s future chairmanship duties, he promised both innovation and resilience and a renewed push for full economic integration, the current ASEAN Holy Grail of agreements.
Also included in the handover ceremony was PM Lee’s announcement of the new ASEAN secretary-general to serve at their Jakarta headquarters, Brunei Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade permanent secretary Lim Jock Hoi. He will succeed Vietnam’s Lee Luong Minh for a three-year term.
The ASEAN chairmanship handover followed other Philippine-hosted gatherings with the association and other world nations such as the commemorative meeting with representatives of the European Union, and the East Asia Summit, both of which took place earlier that day of November 14. Another important summit that Tuesday was the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) Summit, between the ASEAN nations and other major Asia-Pacific countries with interests in the region.
Photo courtesy of Manila Bulletin News

It’s Happening: AUSTRALIA VOTES “YES” to SAME-SEX MARRIAGE


It has been a source of contention between more open-minded Australians and their notoriously conservative government, something that has been granted already to a lot of countries in the world that have English as one of their official languages. Certain Australian celebrities like pop idol Kylie Minogue have spoken out against the numerous barriers that they feel have greatly stifled the LGBT community Down Under. Ultimately however, a national postal survey was carried out asking Aussies if they would like same-sex marriage to be approved in the country. The answer that came back: Gay marriage in Australia is a go.
CNN Philippines reports that the results for the mailed-in survey votes were announced by the Australian Bureau of Statistics on Wednesday, November 15. In it, 61% of the survey responders voted to allow same-sex marriage in Australia, with 38% voting against the measure. It has been determined that the total number of survey responders amounted to 12.7 million people, or 79.5% of Australia’s population across every state and territory. That makes the 61% “Yes” vote a majority, spurring the government to finally begin legislation on legalizing same-sex marriage in the country.
Celebrations erupted with gatherings in every major Australian city, but more so in Melbourne. Hundreds of the city’s LGBT community gathered with supporters to hear the results being released, and the announcement of “Yes” winning resulted in fireworks with rainbow-colored smoke, confetti showers, and loud cheers from a sector of Australian society feeling their relationships finally gaining a modicum of legal protection.
Among the jubilant celebrants are an LGBT couple, Jane Mahoney, 28, and Josie Lennie, 26, who hugged each other with tears in their eyes at the survey’s triumphant result. Asked by CNN what they plan to do next, they simply answered that they would tie the knot, and would likely wait for a few gay weddings to take place first while they look them over for ideas to use on their own ceremony.
With the will of the people known, Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Trumbull accepted the survey results of an overwhelming “Yes” vote, and called on the Parliament to complete legislation legalizing same-sex marriages before Christmastime. Speaking to reporters, Trumbull, who called for the national postal vote back in August, remarked that the public voted “Yes” for fairness, commitment and love, and now it was Parliament’s turn to see things done.
The mail-in survey started on September 12 with forms sent out to all Aussies who are registered voters at the time. They had until November 7 to return the surveys with their votes.
Photo courtesy of motherjones.com

FAMILY FESTIVE PACKAGE AT BINTAN LAGOON RESORT FOR DECEMBER


‘TIS THE SEASON TO BE JOLLY AT BINTAN LAGOON RESORT THIS DECEMBER 2017 
Book this tropical family festive 3D2N package from IDR 8,450,000 ($845) per family
Get into the tropical festive spirit with this year-end all-inclusive family festive package at Bintan Lagoon Resort. The cool, breezy month of December at the picturesque Resort provides a perfect backdrop for unwinding after a busy year.
Relax on a direct 75-minute ferry ride from Singapore for the start of a meaningful family vacay. With over 50 recreational activities on land and sea as well as two award-winning golf courses and a day spa, families will be kept thoroughly occupied. Indulge in a special festive program for children including appearances by Santa Claus and carols by the Christmas choir. Guests can pick from a wide range of wining and dining options from Indonesian Rijstaffel to Western and from buffets to bar food including festive favourites. For nightlife, dance to live band music in Silk or sing away at the Karaoke Lounge. To top off the festive mood, watch fireworks lighting up the sky in a spectacular display on the eves of both Christmas and New Year including a lively countdown on the last day of the year!
The Family Festive package comprises ferry tickets, breakfast buffets, festive activities, 1 festive set dinner* and 1 festive set lunch* as well as complimentary activities such as beach soccer, futsal, paddle boat, canoe, billiards, basketball, mahjong, Jungle Gym for kids and lots more.
3D2N Family Festive Package Price
2 Adults + 1 Child (below 12 years old) –  IDR 8,450,000 (approximately SGD845)
2 Adults + 2 Child (below 12 years old) – IDR 10,250,000 (approximately SGD1,025)
Valid for 23 – 27 December 2017 or 30 December 2017 – 3 January 2018
*at outlet of your choice with alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages included.


Book by 20 December. For more details and bookings, visit https://www.bintanlagoon.com/bintan-packages/family-packages/family-festive-package/ 
Terms and conditions apply.
About Bintan Lagoon Resort
Sprawled over 300 hectares of beachfront gardens in the tropical paradise of Bintan, Bintan Lagoon Resort is the premier lifestyle destination for leisure, golf and corporate meetings & incentives with its own ferry terminal. A 75-minute direct ferry ride from Singapore, Bintan Lagoon Resort boasts 470 contemporary rooms, suites and villas complemented by an impressive range of 14 wining & dining options, nine function rooms and a dedicated MICE (meetings, incentives, conventions and exhibitions) Centre. For leisure, there are two world-renowned 18-hole golf courses designed by Jack Nicklaus and Ian Baker-Finch comprising the Bintan Lagoon Golf Club and a slew of over 50 sea sports and land activities including a day spa.



Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Latest POKEMON Anime Movie Stuns Western Audiences with TALKING PIKACHU


Earlier this year, back in July, Toho and OLM released the twentieth full-length animated movie of the massively sprawling “Pokémon” franchise. Subtitled “I Choose You!” the film is an alternative retelling of the original start of the multi-season-spanning journey of the anime’s main character Ash Ketchum (Satoshi in Japanese), and how he forms a strong bond with his starter Pokémon, franchise mascot Pikachu. For longtime fans of the anime, the endearingly cute sound of Pikachu saying its own name is synonymous with the franchise itself, which is why Western audiences were flabbergasted to hear Pikachu seemingly talk coherently in one scene of the movie, according to tech website The Verge.
It’s not entirely impossible for one of the franchise’s various Pocket Monster creatures to talk like human in the anime. One of the recurring bad guys is a smart-mouthed Meowth after all. But for the most part Pokémon are supposed to communicate just by saying their names over and over in different intonations to create nuances. When “Pokémon the Movie: I Choose You!” got a limited screening in US cinemas this November however, moviegoers were bowled over to hear Pikachu talking in a cutesy voice to his trainer Ash, causing a stir on social media.
During the film’s climactic act, when a dark Pokémon has driven the other Pokémon in its surroundings to go berserk and attack nearby humans including Ash, the young trainer gets walloped trying to protect Pikachu, who is unaffected by the mind-control. When the wounded and nearly delirious Ash tries to protect Pikachu by storing him in a Poke-ball (something the electrical creature has hated all throughout the anime run), he asks why the lightning rodent doesn’t want to get inside it. Here Pikachu suddenly blurts out that the reason for his quarrel with Poke-balls is that he wants to be outside always, with Ash.
Reactions of audiences that have posted on social media have expressed opinions tilted slightly against the notion of a talking Pikachu. Some even went so far as to suspect it was an unnecessary addition to the English dub used for the short US release of “I Choose You!” though it has been confirmed that the talking line exists in the original Japanese dub. Pikachu’s voice is provided by notable vocal actress Ikue Otani, whose “Pikachu” sounds are oft reused in non-Japanese dubs of the “Pokémon” anime. Voice actress Kate Bristol dubs the spoken line in English for the film.
Strangely enough, there already exists an alternative version of the Pikachu character who can talk like a human. A 2013 Pokémon spinoff on the Nintendo 3DS has a Detective Pikachu sporting a deep Japanese voice. Legendary Entertainment even got US film rights to make a live action/CGI movie adaptation of the game, and is discussing the possibility of having Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson become Detective Pikachu’s English voice actor.
Photo courtesy of theguardian.com

AMAZON Planning “LORD OF THE RINGS” Streaming Series on PRIME VIDEO


The legend is coming to an end on HBO, as the cable network makes ready to produce the final season of its mature fantasy TV series “Game of Thrones” which may not premiere until late next year or early 2019. While they’re trying to keep viewers invested on the greater franchise, based on the books by George R.R. Martin, by trying to develop spinoffs set in the show’s universe, other media providers are looking to launch their own fantasy shows to take the place of “Thrones”, among them being Amazon, which is planning to develop a streaming series based on JRR Tolkien’s “The Lord of the Rings”.
CNBC reports that Amazon Studios, which produces original programming for its on-demand Amazon Video service, has inked a deal with the Tolkien Estate and Trust, as well as HarperCollins and New Line Cinema (which produced the 2001-03 film trilogy directed by Peter Jackson) to develop a streaming TV series based on “The Lord of the Rings” featuring new storylines. The announcement was made on Monday, November 13. With this, Amazon was given global TV rights for such a project, which is expected to run for several seasons. The resulting show on Amazon Video will be accessible only to Prime subscribers.
While not confirmed by Amazon, a report on Deadline intimates that the global retail and multimedia platform may have paid around $250 million to acquire the rights to a “Lord of the Rings” TV series. The sum does not include potential production costs, and no financial terms and tentative release schedules were disclosed either. Amazon does elaborate that the planned show shall explore story events in the spirit of the works of JRR Tolkien, taking place before the start of the first book and film, “The Fellowship of the Ring.” Whether said show might try to take a page from the mature content depicted in “Game of Thrones” is uncertain, though the production approach leaves that option open.
There’re also the potential possibilities being offered by Amazon including New Line Cinema in the collaborative effort, in that they might be able to connect certain elements and plots in the show to the original film trilogy and perhaps even the “Hobbit” trilogy of 2012-14. This ties into other initiatives being undertaken by Amazon that include the development of a free version of Amazon Video (Amazon Prime Video overseas) that would have its media content supported by ad revenues.
Amazon seems dead set into expanding its footprint with regards to original streaming media content. It’s going to take a concerted effort to put it in parity with similar plans by Netflix and Disney, among numerous other companies.
Photo courtesy of collider.com

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

31st ASEAN SUMMIT Opens in Manila


While the major players have already begun arriving in the country over the weekend, it was this Monday that President Rodrigo Duterte formally opened the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit, with guest heads of state from other nations of note in the Asia-Pacific region. This is the thirty-first ASEAN gathering and the first to be held in the Philippines under the Duterte Administration. In many ways it represents a prime opportunity for the first Mindanaoan President of the country to make an impression as host of a major international conference, barely a year and a half in office.
As CNN Philippines tells it, President Duterte during his opening address for the 31st ASEAN Summit at the Cultural Center of the Philippines this November 13 was quick and blunt in bringing up security concerns in the region, particularly the Marawi Crisis, in order to make his initial points for the summit.
“I only want to emphasize that our meetings…present an excellent opportunity for us to engage meaningful discussion on matters of regional and international importance,” said Duterte during his introductory remarks, wherein he also noted the present dangers of armed robbery, piracy and illegal drugs where regional and international commerce is concerned. He then thanked the other countries who have offered both support to the government during the five-month long siege of Marawi, and assistance in the rebuilding of the battered city.
There are currently ten member nations in ASEAN, and each annual summit brings them together along with other countries that have a vested interest in the developments of the region. As per previous summits, foremost issues include the stemming of religious extremism, territorial disputes in the South China Sea, and the Korean peninsula standoff, plus trade and other important matters. This gathering will take place over two days, ending on Wednesday, November 15.
Before the start of the 31st ASEAN Summit proper today, there had been a gala dinner to welcome the delegates last Sunday evening. Some of the highlights in that occasion include President Duterte indulging US President Donald Trump’s request to sing a duet with one of the featured entertainers that evening, Pilita Corales. They performed a rendition of the song “Ikaw” to grand applause.

Earlier that Sunday, another guest head of state, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, made quite the impression on Filipino social media when, upon arriving for the Summit at 2PM of November 12, he passed the time between then and the ASEAN Gala Dinner by visiting a Canadian-funded local women’s health center and eating at a Jollibee fast-food restaurant while interacting with the staff and other diners. He even ordered takeout.
Photo courtesy of philstar.com

Sunday, November 5, 2017

THOR RAGNAROK Rocks Your World and the Rest of the Nine Realms


It’s that usual time of the year again (somewhat) for Marvel Studios to unleash the latest installment of their now-sprawling Cinematic Universe. Recently released on cinemas is “Thor: Ragnarok,” the third film headlined by the Marvel Comics Norse god/superhero in the MCU, and likely the last if following the pattern of three films for “Iron Man” and then “Captain America.” Anyway, if this is the final “Thor” film, then it certainly makes for a grand send-off in terms of storyline and definitely production value. Seriously, “Ragnarok” is like a composition of all the various elements that make different MCU movie awesome audience pleasers, all in one flick.
Now, “Thor: Ragnarok” is a feature-length chapter of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, therefore it takes story cues from past movies of the franchise, in particular “Thor: The Dark World” and “Avengers: Age of Ultron.” The former establishes at its ending that the rule of Thor’s realm of Asgard has been secretly usurped, and the latter sets down what Thor (Chris Hemsworth) has been up to while a superhero “civil war” was going on. There are six relics of power in the universe, the Infinity Stones, and a great evil is looking for them so Thor must find them first.
At least that’s how he tells the story at the start, when he is held prisoner by the fire giant Surtur. Surtur is trying to carry out the prophesied end of Asgard – Ragnarok – and Thor is taking time out from searching for the Infinity Stones to stop that. In doing so he learns that his thought-dead brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston) is pretending to be their father and ruling Asgard.
Exposing Loki’s deception, Thor ropes him into retrieving Odin (Anthony Hopkins) from Earth (with help from Doctor Strange in a bit appearance by Benedict Cumberbatch, elaborating on the post-credits scene from his own movie back in 2016). They find their old man just in time for another threat to Asgard, long imprisoned, to make her presence known: Odin’s firstborn, the Goddess of Death Hela, portrayed by Cate Blanchett in fine form as the first main villainess in the movie side of the MCU. Just so you know, Sigourney Weaver was first in the Marvel Netflix streaming TV series, but I digress.
What happens next pretty much throws the Norse Mythology concept of the past “Thor” movies out of the window in favor for something more cosmic in scale, like what the “Guardians of the Galaxy” have shown MCU audiences as late as this May. In an attempt to fight Hela, Thor’s trusty hammer Mjolnir is destroyed, and a mishap while retreating to Asgard throws Thor and Loki out into the wider universe to land in the planet of Sakaar, arriving there several days apart.
Thor, who appears later than Loki, finds himself captured by a bounty hunter whom he later recognizes as a Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson) of Asgard, who sells him off as a slave gladiator to the lord of Sakaar, the Grandmaster. Played by Jeff Goldblum, Grandmaster comes off as a hedonistic man-child who lives his extremely long life only to be entertained, at the expense of his “prisoners with jobs.” With his hammer gone, having a taser on his body to compel obedience, and seeing how Loki has managed to ingratiate himself with the Grandmaster while refusing to aid him, Thor is brought into the Contest of Champions to face Sakaar’s defending champion in battle.
The trailers have made such a major deal with this scene, where the God of Thunder finds himself facing off against a “friend from work,” the Hulk (Mark Ruffalo). From this point on, more changes happen that really throws the path Thor must take to a loop, Back in Asgard, Hela is establishing her tyranny, but is frustrated in her plans to start conquering the universe by Heimdall (Idris Elba) sealing off the Bifrost dimensional bridge, necessitating her sending her appointed executioner, the unappreciated Asgardian Skurge (Karl Urban) to hunt him down. And even as Thor tries to get Loki, Valkyrie and Hulk to help him out with escaping from Sakaar, returning to Asgard and facing Hela, there is still the matter of the prophecy concerning Ragnarok. Thor has stalled it, but what if it’s something that must be allowed to happen?
As if it hadn’t been made quite clear, “Thor: Ragnarok” is cut from a totally different cloth than the previous films starring Hemsworth’s thunder god. Aside from the Norse mythological apocalypse hanging over Asgard’s collective head, the real meat of the plot is Thor and company being sidetracked by a stay in an arena planet, trying to get back to confronting the borderline-mad Hela before she starts conquering other worlds. It sounds like a flimsy story, but the directorial efforts of New Zealand’s Taika Waititi (who also voices an alien and Thor’s fellow gladiator) have inexplicably elevated it into a narratively sound crow-pleaser.
Perhaps one of the major points for “Ragnarok” was in how seamlessly integrated the humor is with the flow of the narrative, and the fact that it plays off of the length of time that the characters involved have known each other in-universe. Any comedy between Thor and Loki (and Hulk) is fueled by their familiarity while his scenes with Doctor Strange and the Grandmaster are from the fact that they are strangers. Waititi is not ashamed to admit that he was making a big deal with the humor for the movie, and it shows every time something funny happens onscreen.
Visuals for the film take plenty of inspiration from the style of legendary comic artist Jack Kirby, who worked with Larry Lieber and Stan Lee to create the Thor character in Atlas (now Marvel) Comics back in 1962. Speaking of Stan the Man, yes he is in the film, along with inspired cameos from Sam Neill, Matt Damon and Chris’s brother Luke Hemsworth. The soundtrack also gets a shakeup in the fact that most of the background is drawn from Led Zeppelin’s “Immigrant Song” which has lyrics appropriately mentioning Norse myth. It certainly intensifies the action scenes where it tends to play.

All in all, “Thor: Ragnarok” is shaping up to signal a renaissance of sorts for the now long-running Marvel Cinematic Universe. It really does seem to need one, with how long its Phase 3 myth arc involving Thanos seems to be taking to wrap up. The fantastic cinematography, acting, set aesthetics and music has combined to give birth to a new sort of MCU installment that might just be the new bar for its successors to follow. And while this may be the last time we see Chris Hemsworth as Thor headlining a film for the character, at least it ends on a high note.
Photo courtesy of cinemascomics.com

Thursday, November 2, 2017

APPLE iPHONE 8 and 8 PLUS Now Available in the PHILIPPINES Courtesy of SMART

It’s getting to be old news, but yes, Apple has had its successor unit to the iPhone 7 line, the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus phablet, have been coming into the global market since as early as last September. After quite some time of waiting however, the latest Apple smartphones are coming to Philippine shores this November, and Smart is ready and waiting to get them to you!
That’s right; the latest Apple gadgets will soon be made available through Smart Communications starting this November 17. As that big day approaches however, Smart subscribers and customers can begin to pre-order their very own iPhone 8 smartphone or iPhone 8 plus phablet starting next Friday, November 10. All they have to do is drop by at any Smart Store nationwide for inquiries, or preorder online through the Smart Online Store.


Apple’s iPhone 8 comes with a new True Tone technology upgrade for its Retina HD Display, and a new camera sensor. Improvements on the camera hardware for both the 8 and 8 Plus enable them to record 4K and 1080p video, slow-motion and time-lapse. They also come with Qi-standard wireless charging, IP67-rated water resistance, iOS 11.0, and a snazzy glass back.

Both phone and phablet versions come in either 64GB or 256GB storage options, and colors in silver, gold and space gray. Find out more about what iPhone 8 variants are available for you in the Smart Online Store at (store.smart.com.ph). #SmartiPhone8