Friday, May 13, 2022



The year 2019 was a big moment for the country’s national athletes, thanks to the 30th Southeast Asian Games being hosted here in the Philippines. Despite misgivings about the cost of providing venues for competitors from 11 participating SEA nations, it became worth it when Team PH scored enough medals to become overall SEA Games champion, a feat only topped by the first Philippine Olympic Gold in Tokyo 2020/21. But when the COVID pandemic struck in 2020, it caused next SEA Games host Vietnam to put off the original 2021 date. After some uncertainty, the games finally opened this past Thursday, with the Philippines off to a good start medal-wise.

According to, Team Philippines currently stands at fourth place in that overall medal tally for the 31st Southeast Asian Games in Hanoi. Filipino athletes thus far have won 3 gold medals and 9 each from silver and bronze for a total SEA Games take of 21. One gold medal can be attributed to gymnastics prodigy and Tokyo 2021/21 Olympian Carlos Yulo, who wowed during the Men’s Artistic Gymnastics All-Around this Friday, May 13. Another top medalist today was Jack Escarpe. He bagged gold for the Kurash Central-Asian wrestling event, in the 73-kilogram men’s division.

If one wonders at the medals earned by the Philippines when the SEA Games only officially opened the evening of May 12, then that is because some events were already contested as early as Tuesday, May 10. Before the opening ceremony, events such as Kurash, Pencak Silat, Rowing and Beach Handball were already held. For each respective event, Team PH also claimed 3 silver and 3 bronze (Kurash men and women), a gold and bronze (Pencak Silat men and women), a silver and bronze (Rowing men and women), and a silver (Beach Handball). Mary Francine Cezar Padios (Women’s Single Pencak Silat) gained first PH gold this SEA Games, May 11.

In addition to his solo win, Carlos Yulo as part of the Philippine Men’s Artistic Gymnastics Team secured a silver in that event. This makes Yulo a multiple medalist for the Vietnam SEA Games 2021/22, alongside rower CJ Jasmin. More silver and bronze medals were also secured by the nation’s athletes in Men’s Wushu as well as in Men and Women’s Kickboxing, in addition to other aforementioned Kurash and Rowing events that were contested Friday.

While good, the Philippines has a ways to go to catch up with the Top three medal countries: host Vietnam (22G/11S/16B=49), Malaysia (11G/5S/10B=26), and Indonesia (7G/9S/2B=18). The 31st SEA Games will play out until May 23, two Mondays from now.

Image from Vietnam Investment Review

Friday, March 11, 2022

AECC GLOBAL Celebrates NEW GENSAN OFFICE as they Continue Offering Consultancy for GENERALS to STUDY ABROAD


While planning to find employment overseas has long been part of the international Filipino experience, the idea of getting an education overseas has, perhaps for some time, be limited in scope. A Filipino going to high school or college studies abroad tends to be perceived as being wealthy enough to do so. Or maybe they have relatives already living and working in the countries they plan to enroll in. More recently however, the idea of studying abroad has become a more tangible reality for many. That does not mean getting into a foreign school is easy now. For many aspiring students, they will need help.

And help they are sure to get – help that many others before have been getting – courtesy of AECC Global. They are a leading overseas education consultancy, helping young and ambitious minds get a shot at international studies since the mid-2010s, in major centers across the Philippines: Metro Manila, the Visayas and even in Mindanao. In fact, AECC Global has already been quite established here in GenSan, only shutting down office operations during the COVID pandemic. Now however, they are back in action, and from a new accessible location to boot. They will not let a pandemic get in the way of Filipinos getting overseas education.

So how does AECC Global help in realizing that Filipino dream of studying internationally? Maybe a prospective student already has an overseas educational institution of choice. Or maybe they just have a country they have in mind to study in but no idea which school to choose from. AECC Global’s consultancy services can give recommendation institutes to the undecided. In any case, they will help the aspirant in their school application, from gathering required personal and financial documents, travel and accommodation arrangements, and even getting student visas if necessary. And they will do this for applicants completely free of charge!

You read that right. True, applicants will still dole out cash expenses for the school application, partial tuition, student visa and medical exam/insurance (if required), airfare and accommodation (if they have no relatives/acquaintances to stay with at their destination countries. But these expenses will go straight to the educational institution/the DFA/airline/et cetera. AECC Global will not charge any fee of their own for their consultancy services. Students can apply for any overseas educational level, from primary school to college, vocational and postgraduate courses. This is made possible by the wide selection of their partner institutes.

To give an idea, AECC Global consultation can help any Filipino apply to study at quality schools in Australia, New Zealand, Canada, the US and UK. And their help does not stop at just getting the student in. Assistance will persist throughout the applicant’s overseas student life. Many AECC Global partner institutions allow their students to pursue part-time employment. That is already a potential avenue to make money while studying. And for students who have no overseas relatives for living arrangements, the consultancy can also point them to local communities of the Filipino diaspora, so that applicants need not be strangers in a strange land.

With the world slowly opening up again as the worst of the pandemic begins to fade away, there is no better time than now for students to contemplate the possibility of getting their diplomas abroad. If they mean to pursue the OFW path then such qualifications can only be a big boon.

If you are in GenSan or from neighboring municipalities and are interested in knowing more about how AECC Global can help you study internationally, visit them at their new office in the second floor of Microtel, along the National Highway. You may also contact them by phone at (083) 823-3977 (landline) or 0917-1437751 (mobile). Or you can reach them via email at and visit their official website.

Image from the Writer, official AECC Global Facebook page

Wednesday, March 9, 2022



“Cowboy Bebop,” the live-action adaptation of the legendary 1998 anime series, was quietly cancelled after one cliff-hanging season finale on streaming giant Netflix. This perceived failure, as indicated by mixed and negative reviews despite praise for the cast, was seized by naysayers as vindication, alongside the 2017 “Death Note” movie, of their dislike for Netflix and its experiments in turning already-good anime into shows with live actors. But Netflix is not quite done with this phase yet, having its next project being the adaption of Eiichiro Oda’s manga (and long-running anime series) “One Piece.” Its main stars were announced back in November last year, and now the supporting cast too.

IGN has it that Netflix has revealed more names to the cast of “One Piece,” the fantastical pirate adventure anime that they are adapting for live-action. The main cast was introduced in November 2021, as an international ensemble of TV and film stars including Iñaki Godoy (Mexico), Mackenyu (Japan) and Emily Rudd (US). They play Monkey D. Luffy and his Straw Hat Pirates, sailing the world to search for the treasure of Gold Roger, the Pirate King, while encountering monstrous sea-life, other pirates and the World Government’s ruthless Marine fleet.

The supporting cast portrays characters Luffy and his would-be crewmembers meet as they themselves assemble into their own team. Australian Morgan Davies plays Koby, a boy befriended by Luffy who later joins the Marines. Ilia Isorelýs Paulino costars as Alvida, a grotesquely obese female pirate captain and Luffy’s first opponent. Jeff Ward (“Agents of SHIELD”) will be Buggy, another pirate empowered by a Devil Fruit. McKinley Belcher III (“Ozark”) is Arlong, a cruel fishman and pirate warlord. Aidan Scott portrays Helmeppo, son of a Marine officer and eventual companion of Koby’s. Lastly, British actor Vincent Regan (soon on 2022’s “Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom”) takes the role of Garp, Luffy’s grandfather and a Marine Admiral.

“One Piece” on Netflix was announced back in 2020, after plans for a live-action series were floated in 2017 during the original manga’s 20th anniversary. Creator Eiichiro Oda joins an executive producer team including Marty Adelstein (“Prison Break,” “Teen Wolf”) and Steven Maeda (“Lost”). Despite the short life of its live-action adaptation predecessor “Cowboy Bebop,” this production looks to be all systems go, although Netflix has yet to give a definite premiere date.” The series also stars Jacob Romero Gibson (Ussop) and Taz Skylar (Sanji).

Other Netflix live-action ideas from existing anime includes “Yu Yu Hakusho” (1992-94 anime) by Japanese production studio Robot Communications, and a take on “Mobile Suit Gundam” with Jordan Vogt-Roberts (2017’s “Kong: Skull Island”) as director.

Image courtesy of Yahoo! News

Monday, February 28, 2022



In the business world, the merger of two companies into a greater whole is often a significant enough occurrence to catch the eye of the news. Contrary to the usual perception, mergers are not always the last desperate measure of one or both of the companies involved in order to survive even as merely part of a new entity. Sometimes, companies merge because they each have strengths or advantages that the other needs, with their union leading to mutual benefits. This is the reason in the official decision from last year to merge government-controlled banking institutions Landbank and United Coconut Planters Bank (UCPB), the reality of which will happen tomorrow.

The Manila Bulletin has it that Landbank of the Philippines and United Coconut Planters Bank are both ready to go for their Presidentially-mandated merger effective March 1. This is the fruit of Presidential Executive Order No. 142, which President Rodrigo Duterte signed June 25, 2021, in which UCPB will be absorbed into Landbank. The latter’s President and CEO Cecilia Borromeo gave a statement this Monday, February 28, reiterating the purpose of the merger to more effectively fund agriculture and rural development with strong, unified capital and resources, plus greater resiliency.

And the value involved is no mean amount. The Landbank-UCPB merger will see the former go up to P2.9 trillion worth in terms of total assets. With the conversion of UCPB branches, Landbank will soon have 677 branches nationwide, along with 2,800 ATMs and 228 cash deposit machines. With this significantly increased reach, according to Borromeo, Landbank will be able to service more farmers, fishing industry, and the rest of the agri-business value chain network. In this regard, the unified banking entity can play a greater role in the development and financial inclusion plans being undertaken by the National Government.

Post-merger with UCPB, Landbank will further cement itself as the second-largest lending institution in the Philippines, just behind BDO Unibank, privately held by the SM Group. Even after the two banks become one in March 1, UCPB branches will continue operating under the name to serve UCPB clients, while system integration and accounts migration are ongoing. Until then, UCPB ATM cardholders will still be charged service fees when using their cards on Landbank ATMs. Landbank hopes to make  a further public announcement soon regarding which UCBP branches will finish conversion into Lanbank branches to begin serving customers from the latter.

Image courtesy of BusinessWorld Online

Winning, Notable Films, Shows at 2022 SCREEN ACTORS GUILD AWARDS


Just in case you think we may have forgotten: we have not. It is this early part of the year that is famous for being awards season, where media productions of the past year get their deserved accolades: film, television, music and so on. This past Sunday, it was the turn of the Screen Actors Guild to hand out their awards for performances in the big screen and small, for the 2021 films and shows that rose above the rest while the pandemic was still being fought. Some notable awardees include a bloody Korean streaming survival drama on Netflix and a dramatic film with actual non-hearing performers portraying deaf characters.

As we learn from The Hollywood Reporter, the 28th Screen Actors Guild Awards this February 27 gives props to films and TV shows of the past year, with formidable nominees and properly accorded winners from each category. Cinema-wise, a lot of strong productions got nomination nods from MGM’s “House of Gucci” to Steven Spielberg’s epic adaptation of “West Side Story,” and even two MCU superhero movies. For television, HBO scored plenty of nominees, fighting back against the streaming platform plurality. Even so, Netflix K-Drama “Squid Game” got some big victories.

Veteran actor Will Smith looks to be back in his groove as an actor and performer of father roles, winning Outstanding Performance – Lead Male Actor for Warner Bros. biopic “King Richard,” about the Williams sisters’ dad. For Supporting Roles, Ariana DeBose wins the Female Actor half for portraying the tragic Anita in “West Side Story,” alleviating the movie’s box-office bomb. The Male Supporting Actor Award went to deaf performer Troy Kotsur. He and his cast-mates, some of them also hard of hearing, triumphed in Outstanding Cast Performance for Apple TV+’s “CODA,” about a hearing child in a deaf family. Daniel Craig’s James Bond Swan song “No Time to Die” had its Stunt Ensemble beat “Black Widow,” “Shang-Chi,” “Dune” and even “The Matrix Resurrection” for honors.

Again, Hwang Dong-hyuk’s “Squid Game” on Netflix was near-unbeatable in this year’s SAG Awards thanks to winning Outstanding Male and Female Actors – Drama Series as well as TV Stunt Ensemble. “Ted Lasso” on Apple TV+ is the other multi-winner in this segment, with Jason Sudeikis again winning Outstanding Male Actor for Comedy. This time, the “Ted Lasso” cast prevailed in the Comedy Series Ensemble. Michael Keaton (Hulu’s “Dopesick”) and Kate Winslet (HBO’s “Mare of Eastown”) were the Oustanding Performances for TV Movie/Limited Series. Finally, the SAG Life Achievement Award this year went to Helen Mirren.

Some of the film nominees and winners of the Screen Actors Guild Awards this year will soon be going after bigger statuette game, with the 94th Academy Awards approaching late next month, at March 27.

Image courtesy of LA Times

Thursday, February 24, 2022

STAR MAGIC Talent CHANTAL Continues to Shine in KPOP IDOL Training with MLD ENTERTAINMENT


Notable highlights of Philippine entertainment news on a wider scope would often involve Filipino talents wowing international critics and audiences on an international stage. Sometimes it does not even need to be a homegrown personage. Celebrities of Filipino blood doing well in their performances and ventures can also be cheered upon. Then we have those local talent hopefuls that get once-in-a-lifetime opportunities to be refined in their craft by overseas agencies. We have a recent example in SB19, the ShowBT-trained P-Pop boy band. Another young Pinoy star getting the South Korean-style star power development is a Kapamilya, singer-actress Chantal Videla.

The Philippine Star reports that Chantal Videla is well on her way to becoming a K-Pop-style idol. Her development is in the capable hands of MLD Entertainment (Duble Sidekick), which includes among its talents the K-Pop girl group MOMOLAND. In fact, MLD has been giving “Chanty” quite the push since her introduction to South Korean audiences in November of 2021. Already there is speculation that the label is shaping Videla up to become part of a new group in the vein of MOMOLAND. Reinforcing this is Chantal recently being seen with Shana Nonaka, a Japanese contestant of South Korean reality talent competition “Girls Planet 999.”

Chantal Videla has been a solid presence in many teleseryes produced over the years by ABS-CBN, like “Hiwaga ng Kambat” and “Starla” and other series developed under Dreamscape Entertainment. But Chanty, of Filipino-Argentian stock, is also a singer, and now her performances under MLD are building a grand online following through their YouTube channel. While there is no concrete hint yet that Videla would eventually become part of this new MLD girl group, the feeling is strong where her fans are concerned. MLD and ABS-CBN have been pretty tight ever since they inked a co-management agreement for MOMOLAND in 2019.

Image from MLD Entertainment YouTube channel



Before there was a Disney+, when Disney and its subsidiary production arms like Marvel needed a platform for their series, they would either go to Disney’s cable channels (mainly for animation) or get on board a streaming service or two (for live-action). The most notable streaming collaboration in this vein was Marvel Television developing several MCU series based on street-level Marvel superheroes that were carried by streaming giant Netflix. This arrangement got us “Daredevil”, “The Punisher,” “Jessica Jones,” “Luke Cage,” “Iron Fist,” and “The Defenders.” Said shows remained on Netflix even as Disney eventually consolidated Marvel media with the rest of Disney on Disney+. But even that may be changing.

The Verge tells us that the streaming rights to the Marvel-Netflix MCU series, that ran 2015 to 2019, will soon be reverting to Marvel, and its parent company Disney by extension. They will be removed from Netflix’s digital library effective March 1, and will gradually begin streaming on Disney+ by region. It appears the first area covered by Disney+ to get to watch the adventures of Daredevil and friends will be Canada, with their streaming premiere being on March 16.

Following the cancellation of all Marvel-Netflix productions by 2019 and the folding of Marvel Television into Marvel Studios, said shows fell into a sort of limbo. The lack of mention for the characters and events of said series in the main MCU gave the impression that the productions have fallen out of continuity. This situation only changed in late 2021, when Marvel Studios’ “Spider-Man: Far from Home” saw actor Charlie Cox reprise his role as Matt Murdock/Daredevil in a brief appearance. On Disney+ itself, the MCU miniseries “Hawkeye” heralded the return of “Daredevil” big bad Wilson Fisk/Kingpin, as portrayed by Vincent D’Onofrio. These cameos promise possible further integration of the Netflix show plots into the MCU narrative this Phase 4.

Aside from Netflix, Marvel also developed some series with other streaming platforms. The next big digital venue of these pre-Disney+ Marvel series is Hulu, home to “Helstrom” and “Runaways,” both already cancelled. Finally, “Cloak & Dagger” streamed on Freeform (2018-19). All these series also featured Marvel characters beyond the primary stars such as Spider-Man, the Avengers or the X-Men.

There is no word yet on when these shows might be pulled and brought over to Disney+. This platform is also busy churning out more MCU-based series, in synergy with the cinema-released films. The next upcoming MCU series is “Moon Knight,” releasing on March 30; the latest MCU film will be “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness,” premiering May 6.

Image courtesy of Mashable

Wednesday, February 16, 2022

PH COVID Positivity Rate at LOWEST Percent Yet for 2022


Ever since the COVID-19 virus swept across the world, people took whatever precautions and followed whatever protocols existed, while looking forward to when the pandemic finally blows over. The wait for such a time has been long and arduous. First the world waited for the vaccines. Then it waited for enough people to be immunized. The latter portion was made complicated by new COVID strains and the resurgence of new cases of infection, every time restrictions were loosened or holidays came and went. The Philippines has endured nearly two years of the above, but brighter days seem to be coming.

According to CNN Philippines, the Department of Health (DOH) has recorded the lowest positivity rate in COVID-19 and variant infections yet for this year. Based on results of 25,629 COVID tests reported done this past Valentine’s Day, February 14, the rate has gone down to 9.6%. Of the results, the new COVID cases numbered 2,610 with infection having occurred over the past 14 days (Feb. 3-16). As before, Luzon counted the top three locations with the most new cases, in order, Metro Manila (622), Calabarzon (323) and Central Luzon (287). Still, it must be reiterated that 9.6% is the lowest the positivity rate has decreased for 2022, especially after the Christmas-New Year period of celebration.

Of course, that matters rather little when compared to the current number of actively ill COVID patients across the country: 68.829 when adding the new positives as laid out in the DOH’s Wednesday bulletin. Removed from the last recorded count are 6,130 patients that have recovered from COVID, and 77 that have passed away. Furthermore, while all testing laboratories nationwide were active, six failed to submit data to the COVID-19 Document Repository System, and those would contain more test results over the same 14-day period.

And the lowest positivity rate may not matter soon enough, as the newest period of “necessary” mass public gatherings and close physical contact has already begun with the recent start of the Election campaign period. Despite new ground rules and restrictions laid down by the Commission on Elections regarding close proximity, physical contact and passing of food and drink, campaign activities which began February 8 have been much the same, with some candidates reporting being bruised by rough contact with supporters. Time will tell if the low positivity rate continues its hopeful trend, or if it will rise anew as the year 2022 goes on.

Image courtesy of ABS-CBN News

Thursday, February 10, 2022

More Details Out for “X-MEN ‘97” Animated Series REVIVAL on DISNEY+


In the year 1992, Marvel Entertainment Group and Saban Entertainment premiered a new animated series on Fox Kids Network. This was “X-Men,” based on the Marvel Comics superhero team of the same name, and at the time the foremost Marvel characters in the brand’s fandom, greater than even the Avengers. The animated “X-Men” series adapted key storylines of the comic book in 76 episodes across five seasons, lasting until 1997. Then last year, Disney+ announced plans to revive the show as “X-Men ’97,” reassembling the original creative team and voice cast. Now, further details of the revival have been revealed.

Comic Book Resources has it that the writing team of the 1992-97 “X-Men” animated series has dropped hints on what to expect from the unexpected revival “X-Men ’97,” coming to Disney+. Eric and Julia Lewald were interviewed on YouTube by Justin Underwood last week, where they added more specifics to the 2023 premiere window announced in late 2021’s Disney+ Day. If things go to schedule, the inaugural season of the revival will arrive in the middle of next year, with 10 episodes expected to run. The Lewalds also reiterated that “X-Men ‘97” will pick up from the finale of their original 1990s series, which offers some storytelling challenges as well.

"There is great love and affection and respect from an entire group of people that are doing this show, starting at the top with Beau DeMayo as the showrunner,” says the writing tandem. News of DeMayo as show-runner of “X-Men ‘97” should also raise heads, being part of the writing team for Netflix’s live-action and animated “The Witcher” streaming series. Equally exciting is the return of the original cast, led by voice actor Cal Dodd, who gave a memorable performance as the mutant Wolverine, before Hugh Jackman and the movies.

“X-Men” became a hit with 1990s TV audiences of a wide age demographic due to its adaptation of classic comic-book storylines for younger audiences, without talking down to them. Among longtime Marvel fans, this series is considered one of the best adaptations of the original comics. It is yet to be revealed if “X-Men’97” will adapt later storylines like its predecessor, or launch into an all-original narrative. What is known is that it will stream exclusive on Disney+, giving the service yet another hotly-anticipated media to encourage new subscribers worldwide.

Image courtesy of SuperHeroHype

Wednesday, February 9, 2022



With the ongoing epidemic, despite increasing numbers of vaccinated people, and some businesses opening their cinemas to moviegoers, watching films in public remains something of a tough sell. Even then, many of the movies in theater right now hail from overseas, as the local motion picture industry continues to struggle back on its feet. In the meantime, some film productions have decided to forego cinemas for a platform accessible by viewers at home: online digital streaming. Viva Entertainment’s Vivamax has been doing well in this regard, with several new movies premiering there. Another one starring Nadine Lustre and Diego Loyzaga will be joining them soon.

That film, according to, is “Greed” from Viva Films. A brief teaser to the movie was shared on social media this Wednesday, February 9, by its director Yam Laranas. In “Greed,” Nadine Lustre and Diego Loyzaga play a rural couple, quite loving despite struggling in near squalor at the farm. Their sole luxury spending lies in joining the lottery, which leads to them marking their calendar religiously. Good fortune apparently comes when they seemingly hit the lottery jackpot. But being winners of big money in a poverty-stricken area can lead to potentially dangerous entanglements.

“Greed” was first revealed by Laranas back in October of last year. The teaser consisted of a virtual script read featuring Lustre, Loyzaga and their costar Epy Quizon. Although Viva Films has yet to mark a premiere date, “Greed” is a surefire exclusive release on the Vivamax streaming service.

The movie marks the end of a lengthy big-screen hiatus for Nadine, who last graced cinemas in 2019 alongside Sam Concepcion in another Viva production, “Indak.” This also demonstrates the normalization of relationship between Lustre and Viva Artists Agency (VAA), following a legal dispute in 2020. After settlement, the actress now retains the right to “decide her own branding and image.”

Image from The Fanboy SEO



Back in 1995, Walt Disney Pictures and Pixar Studios released an animated movie unlike any other. “Toy Story” was a light-hearted romp featuring toys that come alive when their owners are not looking. Still, it made history as the first feature-length film done entirely in 3D computer animation. One of its main characters, action figure Buzz Lightyear, went on to star in his own animated spinoff series; or rather, the fictional character based on the toy. While “Toy Story” went on to have several sequels, “Buzz Lightyear of Star Command” remained one-off. Then Disney-Pixar teased a reboot origin story animated film for the Lightyear character last year, followed by a full trailer just this week.

Yahoo! News has it that a trailer for “Lightyear,” about the character that inspired the Buzz Lightyear toy from “Toy Story,” dropped on Tuesday, February 8. It shows more scenes regarding the initial adventures of then-rookie Space Ranger Buzz Lightyear, as voiced by Chris Evans (MCU Captain America) taking over for Tim Allen (“Toy Story”) and Patrick Warburton (animated series). Where the teaser focused on Buzz going on a space flight to the tune of David Bowie’s “Starman,” the trailer adds context to the scenes.

It would seem that Buzz Lightyear and a large Star Command contingent have been marooned for a year on a desert planet. The world has hostile life forms, from giant insects to long sentient vines that snag people to drag them underground. Buzz is selected to pilot a warp spacecraft to seek help from the rest of Star Command. But space has become a dangerous place. Buzz and his fellow Rangers are pursued by a malevolent masked army, led by a giant robot. “Toy Story” and “Buzz Lightyear of Star Command” might recognize the robot as the Evil Emperor Zurg.

Following the earlier reveal of “Lightyear” in 2021, Chris Evans needed to clarify where the film stands in the “Toy Story” franchise. “Just to be clear, this isn’t Buzz Lightyear the toy,” says Evans. “This is the origin story of the human Buzz Lightyear that the toy is based on.”

Pixar regulars Angus McLane and Pete Docter direct and write the film respectively, with Michael Giacchino (MCU films) composing the score. Joining Evans on the cast are Keke Palmer, Taika Waititi, Peter Sohn, Dale Soules, Isaiah Whitlock Jr., and James Brolin, the very last of which is rumored to be voicing Buzz’s nemesis Emperor Zurg. “Lightyear” will premiere June 17.

Image courtesy of The Wrap

Tuesday, February 1, 2022



There was a time when association football, or soccer, was not perceived to be a sport that Filipinos could have a strong competitive standing internationally. Then in the 2010s everything changed. The men’s national football team was bolstered by memorably skilled players and performed surprisingly well in tournaments. Thus was the legend of the “Azkals” born, and suddenly Filipinos were talking about the country getting into the FIFA World Cup. That has not happened yet. Meanwhile, the Azkal success spurred the development of the women’s national team, nicknamed the “Malditas.” Despite trials and lesser exposure, this squad persevered in all international competitions they participated in.

And now, according to The Manila Times, those efforts have finally borne fruit. The Philippine Women’s National Football Team “Malditas” advanced to the semifinals for the Women’s Asian Cup and in doing so secured for itself a slot in the upcoming FIFA Women’s World Cup. This came about January 31 at Shree Shiv Chhatrapati Sports Complex, India, when the Malditas won their Women’s Asian Cup quarterfinal match against Chinese Taipei, triumphing 4-3 by shootout following a 1-1 game. It is the greatest feat of the PH women’s soccer team, currently ranked at World number 64.

The Malditas delivered their goal at minute 49 of the match courtesy of Quinley Quindoza with Katrina Gillou assisting. But on minute 82 the World number 39 Chinese Taipei team equalized with a shot from Zhuo Li-Ping. When no further goals were forthcoming for the rest of regulation plus 30-minute overtime, the game went to penalty kicks, where Malditas goalie Olivia McDaniel was instrumental to foiling key kickers from the other squad. She even got her own strike in, evening the shootout score at 3-3 to keep the dream alive following a Chinese Taipei lead. Sarina Bolden would score the 4-3 kick and set the Philippines to the World Cup.

PWNFT head coach Alen Stajcic called the win an unbelievable achievement. "The group is really proud of each other,” he says. “But we are more proud that we can inspire the next generation of players." The Malditas’ journey through the Women’s Asian Cup was a series of ups and downs, beating Thailand in their first game (1-0), then losing to Australia (0-4) and getting to the quarterfinals over Indonesia (6-0). They must face South Korea in the semifinals but they are now sure to go to Australia-New Zealand for the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup.

Image from Philippine Star



In November of last year, Walt Disney Animation Studios released their latest animated feature to join the long-running Disney Canon. “Encanto” tells the story of a family in Colombia, blessed with a magical home and supernatural powers save for young Mirabel. Despite being “ungifted,” Mirabel finds herself having to save the day when the titular encanto empowering her family begins to disappear. Music fans may perhaps remember this film for having original songs written by Lin-Manuel Miranda of “Hamilton” fame. One song in particular has seen a meteoric rise in the months since the movie’s release, to the point of topping the Billboard Hot 100.

Entertainment Weekly tells us that “We Don’t Talk About Bruno,” a song from the November 2021 Disney animated film “Encanto,” has reached the number 1 spot on the Billboard Hot 100 by January 31. This is notable as the only other time a Disney animated film song pulled off this feat on Billboard was way back in 1993, when “A Whole New World” (credits version) from “Aladdin” ruled the chart. “We Don’t Talk About Bruno” entered the Hot 100 in January 8, and its making the Number 1 spot dethroned “Easy on Me” by Adele.

It certainly helped that the song, one of several written for “Encanto” by Lin-Manuel Miranda, gained some viral popularity that lasted long after the film’s cinematic run. The Latin beat was a given plus point; so too perhaps the catchy refrain. (“We don’t talk about Bruno, no, no no!”) The context of the song as sung in the movie might also be another reason for its popularity. In the associated scene, the Madrigal Family explains to Mirabel why her disappeared Uncle Bruno is not spoken of within the family, a familiar sentiment perhaps to many.

The ascendancy of “We Don’t Talk About Bruno” on the Billboard Hot 100 was very surprising indeed. Listeners took notice when it passed the highest chart position of memorable ear-worm “Let It Go” from 2013’s “Frozen.” This would come as a relief to “Frozen”-fatigued parents as their children find another (less high-note) song to sing repeatedly. “Bruno” also now holds the distinction of having the most credited performers on a Hot 100 top song, as it was performed by seven cast members of “Encanto” (or their singing voice-talents). Elsewhere, “Bruno” also rules the Official UK Singles Chart, and is now on its second week, even.

Image from Variety


Monday, January 31, 2022

SM Entertainment Opens GLOBAL AUDITION for KPOP Stars of Tomorrow


South Korean Pop Music, or K-Pop for short, has come a long way towards becoming something the whole world enjoys. It achieved dominance in its home country through its masterful blend of music, vocals, dance, fashion and marketing. Thanks to a rise of Korean artists gaining English fluency, K-Pop began to expand, first in Asia via regional music channels. With the rise of streaming and then social media, K-Pop blew up globally, with names from Wonder Girls to PSY to BTS entrenching the genre with an international audience. Now, South Korean entertainment labels are taking their search for new K-Pop stars on a worldwide scale.

CNN Philippines reports that South Korean mega-label SM Entertainment made known, over the weekend, their planned audition for aspiring K-Pop talent that will encompass the whole world. A post on their official Twitter page dated January 30 announced the “2022 SM Global Audition KWANGYA,” which will start online registration this Monday, the 31st. This application period will last for most of next month, ending on February 20. Would-be K-Pop stars, wherever they may be, need to be born between the years 2003 and 2011 to be eligible for the audition.

SME’s KWANGYA audition will be divided into two phases. The initial round calls for the applicants to submit photos of themselves along with a video of them performing, whether in song, dance, rap or acting. Those aspirants chosen will go to the second round of audition. It will primarily be done offline with the prospective talents travelling to SME audition sites, although provisions will be made to allow those who cannot come to be evaluated via Zoom video teleconferencing. International K-Pop dreamers are in good hands with SM Entertainment, which counts among its talents familiar names like Super Junior, Girls Generation, Shinee and EXO among many other hit K-Pop groups.

Signing up for SME KWANGYA Global Audition 2022 will be an exciting yet highly challenging venture. It is already well known to international audiences that South Korean talents undergo intense development and regimented lifestyles. International applicants will need to keep that in mind. Further details on the SM Entertainment global audition may be found here.

Interestingly, SME is at this point catching up with other South Korean entertainment companies that have taken their search for new talent worldwide. Back in 2021 YG Entertainment (Blackpink) opened similar auditions to form a new boy group. Big Hit Entertainment (BTS) has done the same, even partnering with Universal Music Group to do so.

Image: SM Entertainment Twitter page

PARAMOUNT Releases FIRST TRAILER for “HALO” Series Premiering in MARCH


At the turn of the millennium, when Microsoft geared up its entry into the home gaming market, they needed killer-app titles for their debut Xbox console. Developer Bungie took up the call, giving Microsoft Xbox and the world “Halo: Combat Evolved” in 2001. That videogame gave birth to a multimedia giant, with books, comics, an animated series and even inroads towards live-action production. A movie project was attempted, but thus far only two web series have been completed. A full live-action series was announced for Showtime, then moved to Paramount+ streaming. After filming began last year, the first trailer was released, revealing its premiere date.

The Verge reports that Paramount+ has put up two previews for their TV series adaptation of Microsoft Xbox game franchise “Halo.” The first was a mere 1-minute teaser, intercutting scenes from a full trailer with a reminder to watch the whole version. Said long trailer would premiere during Halftime at the NFL AFC Championship game between the Kansas City Chiefs and Cincinnati Bengals on January 30. It was then put up on Twitter for social media to enjoy. The “Halo” series adapts into live-action the hit Xbox game franchise, from the start of the story.

The trailer shows the series set in the galaxy during the 26th Century, when humans have spread from Earth across numerous colony planets. On one of these worlds, humanity encounters a highly-advanced theocratic alien alliance called the Covenant. For seemingly random reasons the Covenant declares the existence of mankind as a sin against their religion, and launches a campaign of genocide. Spearheading the UNSC’s desperate resistance against Covenant attacks are the Spartans, genetically augmented super-soldiers wearing powered armor. A Spartan-II, MCPO John-117 (“Master Chief”), makes contact with a buried artifact the Covenant was excavating, then encounters an AI named Cortana that is assigned to him.

“Halo” the series stars Pablo Schreiber (“American Gods”) as Master Chief, Natascha McElhone as Spartan-II program director Dr. Halsey, Yerin Ha as Kwan Ha Boo, Shaban Azmi as Admiral Paragonsky, Rafael Fernandez as Capt. Jacob Keyes, Olive Gray as Miranda Keyes, Bokeem Woodbine, Kate Kennedy, Natasha Kulzac and Bentley Kalu as other Spartans, and Jen Taylor reprising her voice role in the Xbox games as Cortana. Steven Spielberg is among the executive producers for Amblin Television, with writers/show-runners Kyle Killen and Steven Kane. The trailer reveals “Halo” will premiere on Paramount+ streaming this March 24.

Image courtesy of Entertainment Weekly

Friday, January 28, 2022



It may seem hard to believe, but there are still many multinational businesses and brands that are yet to set up shop here in the Philippines. Until lately, one of these big-name brands is IKEA, the Swedish-Dutch conglomerate that specializes in ready-to-assemble furniture, among other household essentials. Their entry into the Philippine market has been one anticipated by those who would know the IKEA name. It also helps that they partnered with SM Prime Holdings in opening their very first store in the country. There was a problem however. They started operations this December last year, during the COVID pandemic.

And as the Philippine Star now has it, the side-effects of the global pandemic have resulted in supply issues that have the IKEA Philippine flagship store in Pasay City suffering stock shortages. IKEA Philippines released a statement this past Thursday, January 27, urging their customers to exercise patience should any items they are looking for are not available. Their supply bottleneck is but a drop in a massive ocean of international supply issues affecting delivery of new stocks, with other big brands like LEGO feeling the pinch. Addressing “availability” challenges even as their stock inventory depletes has been a challenge for IKEA Philippines this year.

The retailer’s statement, posted on Facebook, notes how many businesses are adversely affected like them. “The global transport crisis has led to availability challenges in our stores," announced IKEA Philippines. "We assure you we are doing everything we possibly can to continue to improve the situation." Furthermore, the Philippine store is but one of more than 400 IKEA stores located across 49 countries around the world. The supply problem therefore goes beyond the Philippines too.

With COVID stretching its welcome globally due to having a succession of variants like the current Omicron strain, resultant lockdowns and travel restrictions, particularly in places where IKEA gets its raw materials or stores its stock for distribution must contend with shipping container space and seaports clogged with cargo vessels, not to mention rising costs of freight. Bank of the Philippine Islands (BPI) lead economist Jun Neri remarks that a continuing increasing in shipping expenses could lead to businesses relying on such freight to raise prices on goods to compensate. Fortunately, said freight costs apparently are slowly decreasing. IKEA Philippines also adds assurances that their stock availability should get better as the days go by.

Image courtesy of IKEA

Wednesday, January 19, 2022



When Warner Bros. Pictures adapted J.K. Rowling’s “Harry Potter” books into film, they cast British child actor Daniel Radcliffe for the title role. The first film released in 2001, and the movie series lasted until 2011. In that decade, audiences and fans saw Radcliffe grow into a solid young star. He was also determined not to be remembered solely as The Boy Who Lived. He got plenty of attention when joining the cast of a theatrical revival for the play “Equus” which ran 2007-09 from West End to Broadway. Radcliffe continues to look for challenging roles. Who would have thought that it would include portraying America’s most famous parody singer-songwriter?

Variety tells us that Daniel Radcliffe has been cast to play Weird Al Yankovic in “Weird: The Al Yankovic Story,” a biopic original film to stream on Roku. Yankovic himself is co-writer for the movie’s story with director Eric Appel, for a production under Funny Or Die and Tango. This is the first original biopic being done for The Roku Channel, an exclusive streaming hub by the digital media player company which was expanded last year when Roku acquired the library of mobile streaming platform Quibi following its 2020 shutdown.

With reputations of being both the most famous boy wizard in film and a guy who got naked with a horse in stage theatre, Radcliffe’s acting credentials make him seem apparently qualified to take on the role of Weird Al. While Yankovic to the general public is a famed musical parodist (turning Michael Jackson’s “Beat It” to “Eat It” for instance), he also had a quirky private life, including multiple celebrity affairs. While appearing in many films, Weird Al’s sole starring/written movie had been 1989’s “UHF,” a box-office bomb and later cult classic. Yankovic claims in a statement that “Weird” on Roku falls 33 years after “UHF,” following his supposed pledge to space his motion picture productions in that period.

In any case, Weird Al Yankovic is happy that Daniel Radcliffe is playing him on “Weird,” claiming that this would overwrite the latter’s fame in “Harry Potter” and “Equus.” Roku Head of Original Scripted Programming Colin Davis is also positive with the prospects of the biopic, both in Yankovic writing his own life story and Radcliffe bringing it to life. This is sincerely the ultimate combination of talent, creativity, and friends, coming together to make something genuinely funny and we could not be prouder to call this film a Roku Original,” says Davis in interview.

“Weird: The Al Yankovic Story” is expected to begin production in Los Angeles by February.

Image: New York Times