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