“Wonder Woman” is the hero we need right now

IMG_0365

Although I’ve always been more of a Marvel fan than a DC fan (mostly because my introduction to superheroes came primarily from movies and animated shows rather than comic books), I really have been rooting for the DCEU to come into its own because (1) I love superhero films, and (2) DC has a lot of great heroes in its stable.

When I first heard that DC was planning on making a “Wonder Woman” movie, I rejoiced. Wonder Woman is one of the most iconic and popular superheroes so why shouldn’t she have her own movie?! If Batman, Superman, and Spider-man can have multiple big screen versions, why shouldn’t Wonder Woman get a franchise of her own?

Anyway, now that Diana’s solo movie has finally debuted, I’m happy to report that, despite the fact that it took so long for this movie to get made, “Wonder Woman” is most definitely worth the wait!

“Wonder Woman” is the story of Diana (Gal Gadot), the princess of Themiscyra, an island inhabited by female warriors called Amazons. Her mother Hippolyta (Connie Nielsen) molded her from clay and prayed to Zeus to bring her life. Being the only child in the entire island (and the daughter of the queen) meant that Diana lived a very sheltered life, unaware of the dangers that lurked beyond the borders of their island paradise. Nevertheless, when an American soldier named Steve Trevor (Chris Pine) accidentally crash-landed his plane in their realm and made her aware of the war going on in the man’s world, Diana knew that she had to help them and that she had to find a way to prevent more innocent people from getting killed.

I’ve always thought that what made DC’s superheroes stand apart from Marvel’s is the fact that they work best when they are portrayed as symbols and ideals to aspire to. For me, Marvel heroes seemed more human, grounded, messy and flawed while DC heroes seemed like they were created to represent the best that humanity has to offer. The “Wonder Woman” movie is at its best whenever it embraces this.

Diana is both a fighter and a pacifist, a princess and a servant, a realist and an optimist. Gal Gadot manages to portray the duality of Diana’s nature magnificently well. She exudes elegance, competence, and compassion.

While Diana is most definitely not perfect (she can often be naïve and bull-headed), much like other DC heroes (Superman in particular), she is an inspiring figure. Her story and character arc in this movie feel very relevant to the current political climate in our country.

Human beings are complicated. We are all of the same species but we are all so different. We tend to do terrible things to our fellow humans.  By the end of the movie, Diana finally understands that humanity is not as black-and-white as she had been led to believe.

We often hear of corruption, poverty, war, terrorism, and crime. We are privy to all the darkness that exists in the world so I don’t blame people for growing cynical and weary but, as Diana soon realizes, humanity is not beyond hope.  Yes, we are capable of such great cruelty and hatred BUT, in the same vein, we are also capable of great kindness, empathy, compassion, and love.

I highly recommend that you go see “Wonder Woman” in the theaters. Not only is it a fun, entertaining origin story but it also has a great central message that relates well to the state of the Philippines (and of the world, really).

“Wonder Woman” is, to me, the best DCEU movie so far and one of the best superhero movies period. As for Diana, as said in the movie, we really don’t deserve her… but she truly is the hero we need right now.

Reminder: Don’t be too hard on yourself

201211-orig-deepak-chopra9-949x534

For the past months or so, I had been feeling down. Things weren’t going well in my life and although obviously I know that life isn’t always a ride in the park, my first few months in the so-called “adult world” had been pretty rough.

I almost lost my best friend to suicide. My parents are stressed out because of unpaid debts. I didn’t get hired for the job I really, really, really wanted. I was rejected for the scholarship I had applied for. And on top of all that, I am bothered by the news of all the awful things happening in my country.

Yes, I know that my problems aren’t that big compared to what a lot of other people go through but, despite trying my best to keep smiling and moving forward, I couldn’t help but worry about everything.

And whenever I worry, I write.

 

Writing has always been my therapy. Ever since I was a kid, whenever I was feeling sad or lost or stressed or anxious, I’d write. I used to write only in my private journals but as I grew older, I became more open to sharing my writings with the world.

It can often be hard for artists to share their art because they fear rejection and/or judgment but I want to share my works because I like thinking that perhaps there are other people out there who are going through the same things I’m going through. Perhaps those people also need to hear these words that I’m writing for myself. Perhaps other people also need this reminder:

 

DON’T BE TOO HARD ON YOURSELF.

Yes, you. Don’t be too hard on yourself.

Everyone goes through difficulties and hardships so don’t blame yourself for everything. If you feel helpless or hopeless, it’s okay. Things will be okay.

Once more, I repeat: Don’t be too hard on yourself.

 

Life is tough, okay? Challenges cannot be avoided. There are plenty of things we can’t control. The only thing we can really control is how we respond to our situation.

When we run into an obstacle, we ought to keep moving forward.

But before moving forward, don’t be afraid to FEEL your feelings. Allow yourself to feel the hurt, the pain, the sadness, the anger. Take it all in.

We are only human. No matter how hard we try, we can’t be happy 100% of the time. Negative emotions are part of the package. Don’t avoid them. Don’t keep them inside.

Breathe them in… and breathe them out.

 

Once you’ve allowed yourself to feel, REFLECT. Do not linger on what you’ve lost but think of what you’ve gained. Remind yourself of what you’ve learned from the situation. Have the wisdom to discern what you’ve done well, what you could’ve done better, and what was out of your control.

What’s next, you ask? Well, here’s the hard part: We keep living.

We are human. We feel, we hurt, we stumble… Then we keep going.

 

I know I need this reminder. I know you need this reminder. Whoever you are, wherever you are in the world, I don’t know what you’re going through… but I believe in you.

Do not despair. We can do it.

I’m not giving up on you.

d64fddcc9b400a2ae432bb5b496c603b

We met when we were both in our first year of high school. We were about 11 or 12 years old. Neither of us really had any genuinely close friendships at the time. It was probably because we were both weird. It could’ve been because we were both bullied when we were younger. For whatever reason, we met, became friends, and, though I didn’t realize it at the time, I had found someone who understood me completely.

Years went by and we were still close. Throughout our last three years of high school, we and our three other best friends were practically inseparable.

We went through a lot together. We kept our grades up together, withstood social bullying together, and encouraged each other to pursue our passions. I know that without you and without our friends, high school would’ve been my Hell. Instead, my high school years were some of the most fun times of my life.

 

I still remember all those times we spent together doing group projects, eating Hong Kong noodles, filming a movie for our class, talking about random things like Japanese game shows.

I remember we had a fight once, though I don’t remember what we fought about. I only remember how lonely it felt when we didn’t talk to each other for a few days. Whatever we fought about was probably a petty matter and I regret that we didn’t make up sooner. It makes me sad thinking about those few days we lost.

Thankfully, after a while, things got back to the way they were. I was so relieved to have my best friend back.

 

Even after we graduated high school and went to different colleges, we still kept in touch. Every weekend, we’d talk over the phone. We’d talk for hours and hours. I would rant about how hard things are in UP and you’d brag (hahaha kidding) about your awesome grades. We’d talk about movies, books and TV shows.

We didn’t get to hang out a lot in person because college kept us both busy but, thankfully, when we did hang out, it felt as if we had never been apart at all.

 

Then, I remember you telling me that you were moving to Canada. I didn’t show it at the time but I felt devastated.

I remember coming to your house with one of our other best friends. We came to say our goodbyes. We brought you gifts and you gave us letters. I remember squeezing you tightly while we were walking together. I held you from behind and whispered “Please don’t go”.

Of course, you had to go. I understood.

 

At first, I found it difficult living so far away from you but, soon enough, we found a way to communicate with each other regularly. (Thank you, Facebook Messenger!)

Though it was still hard, we found a way to make things work. We talked a lot about silly things. We talked about things we liked. I’d tell you about how UP had been draining my energy, and you’d tell me about school and work.

Our conversations used to be a lot simpler. We talked about our feelings but our feelings weren’t as complex back then. Happy, sad, angry, tired, etc.

I noticed that as more time went on, our conversations grew more complex. We talked about anxiety, both in social situations and in other personal situations. We talked about our worries in the present and our even more complicated worries for the future. We talked about regret and how we wished we could turn back time and do some things differently. We talked about life and death, and how people seemed to view those two concepts as opposites instead of as natural extensions of the other. We talked about depression and how hard it was to keep surviving.

We talked to each other about things we would never be comfortable telling other people.

 

You told me about your therapist and I told you about my counsellor. You told me that you told your doctor about me and she assumed that we were lesbian lovers. I guess it can be hard for some people to fully grasp how intimate and enriching a friendship can be. Then again, you are more than a best friend to me, more than a sister. I don’t think there really is a word for who we are to each other (Best friends? Soul Sisters? Life Partners?).

 

We promised each other that no matter how hard things get, we’ll always be there for each other. We promised to keep each other from imploding. We promised that we would survive.

 

On Tuesday (May 9), I woke up thinking that it was just going to be another ordinary day. After brunch, I decided to check my FB messenger, knowing that you’d have left me a message. And you did. But it wasn’t the one I was expecting.

You thanked me for living and surviving with you. You apologized for not being able to keep your promises. “But I don’t expect you to forgive me”, you added.

Your final words to me were “I love and miss you. Good bye.

 

I really can’t bear the thought of being without you. Losing you would be like losing a piece of my soul. When I first read what you wrote, it was like our lives flashed before my eyes and I suddenly had to imagine a world without you and it was a world I didn’t want to be part of.

We have plans. We have so much we still have yet to do. You were going to be a veterinarian. I was going to be a filmmaker. We were going to save up enough money so we could visit each other.

We were going to go travel around the world, visit places like Macchu Picchu, Paris, Italy, wherever else.

And once we turn a hundred years old, we’d sit together in our porch and reminisce on all our memories together. You’d say to me “Hey, do you want to go to the cinema and watch Avengers 35? We can use our Senior Citizen cards and get in for free!” and I’d say “WHATTT? I can’t hear you! Can you pass me my hearing aid?

You’d shake your head while handing me my hearing aid. Then, we’d go to the theatre and I’d laugh while you throw out your back because you laughed too hard at a quip that the newly-rebooted Spider-man blurted out.

 

I know that you are still healing right now. So I won’t expect you to talk to me yet.

I just want you to know that I am not giving up on you.

I know that you will get through this.

 

I love you. I miss you. But this is not Good Bye.

A Letter to My Best Friend

large

Dear you,

Have you ever met someone who understood you so well that you wondered whether you knew this person in another time, another place, another reality?

Perhaps you had known each other in your previous lives. You’ve forged a bond so strong that one lifetime was not enough. Even in death, you couldn’t leave the other alone. So, in your next life, you sought to find each other and, once you did, you vowed to never leave the other’s side through all your many lifetimes.

Perhaps you had been created from the same grain of sand. While God was shaping your mind, body, and soul, He realized that you couldn’t survive the harsh realities of life without someone to aid you on your journey. And so, from the same grains of sand He used to mold you, He created another with a different mind and a different body but a similar soul.

Perhaps you had evolved from comparable particles. You both used to be made of particles that have been around since the universe had first been formed. Though those atoms were once lightyears away, somehow they found a way to travel through time and space to create two human beings who were intended to keep each other afloat.

 

For some inexplicable reason, I found you. Or you found me.

It could’ve been by chance but I’d like to think that there was a reason our paths intersected.

Though we are far apart, I rarely ever feel like you’re away.

Thank you for often knowing the right words to say. Thank you for sitting with me in silence when you do not.

Thank you for keeping me from drowning in my own sea of fears and worries.

Thank you for constantly reminding me that I needn’t carry the weight of the world on my shoulders.

 

Sincerely yours,

Me 🙂

 

UNPOPULAR OPINION: Has there been an increase in teenage depression and suicide in recent years?

Tie-a-Noose-Step-10-Version-2.jpg

Depression and suicide among teens is currently a popular topic in my social media newsfeed due to the recently-released Netflix series “13 Reasons Why”. Some people have been praising its frankness and honesty in dealing with the topic while others felt that the series failed to show that there is a way for teens who are contemplating suicide to get help. I have not seen the show yet but I have read the book so I’ll probably share my thoughts on this debate later on in this post.

For now, I’m going to talk about my own personal experiences and struggles. (DISCLAIMER: Clinically speaking, I do not have depression because I have not been diagnosed by any mental health professionals.)

There are times in my life where I’ve felt empty–like everything I used to love doing suddenly became meaningless and tedious, like nothing I do would make any difference in the world, like my life had no purpose and that I had nothing else left to live for. This feeling–this intense, overwhelming feeling of helplessness and isolation–would come and go. At times, It’d last for only a day but sometimes it’d span weeks and months. This has been going on ever since I was in high school.

Now, I have not been diagnosed by any mental health professionals because I have not sought them out, mostly because I can function well enough but also because I feel like my problems aren’t big enough to warrant therapy and/or serious professional help. I can cope somewhat well enough on my own.

To my surprise, whenever I’d try opening up about how I feel to my peers, a lot of them have felt the same way. Some peers of mine have even been actually diagnosed with clinical depression. A lot of them have seriously contemplated suicide.

The frequency of cases I’ve personally encountered coupled with posts/accounts I’ve read online got me to start believing that depression and suicidal ideation among Filipino millennials is a lot more common than adults care to admit. Why is this happening?

One Psychology professor of mine seems baffled by this phenomenon as well. He posted on Facebook that he has been encountering teen depression cases a lot more frequently and he wondered why this was going on. People commented on his post (most of them adults). Some of them said that this was a generational thing–that previous generations have also had mental health problems but were simply taught proper coping mechanisms, unlike today’s teens. Others have suggested that it was due to social media and teens’ lack of exercise.

In an interview with The Philippine Star, Dr. Violeta Bautista, a clinical psychologist and the director of the University of the Philippines (UP) Office of Counseling and Guidance, gave her opinion on the reason why there seems to be such an increase in teen suicide. She said:

“Globalization exposes young people to different lifestyles, beliefs… there is no ready, available person to help process such information. Parents are busy. OFW is not bad, but if there is no creative response to the challenge of parents being absent, then children are adversely affected; it really becomes a problem when both parents leave for overseas work. New developments, such as LGBT, are not matched with education that helps teens understand and deal with actual-life challenges. The pace of life is also faster, with higher demands on children. Technology speeds up life, makes learning more challenging, and young people need to keep pace. Old values are being challenged and there are not enough venues for intelligent and health discussions.”

In my opinion, teens nowadays may not necessarily be more prone to depression than previous generations. It’s just that people weren’t as open about discussing mental health issues back then as they are now because of the stigma attached to those who experience such problems and the previous generations’ lack of awareness on the subject matter. Then again, I also believe that there is some truth in what my Psychology professor and Dr. Bautista have said. There may be some facets of millennial culture that directly and indirectly contribute to greater increase in teenage depression.

Much like Dr. Bautista, I also believe that greater globalization has affected how teens today view things. One such view is the Western idea that “anyone can achieve anything as long as you work hard” which is a contrast to the more Filipino viewpoint that “some things are out of your control so just leave it to God“. This may be why this generation’s teens are more sensitive to rejection, conflict & failure. We have been led to believe that our failure is our problem and ours alone, not the product of circumstances beyond our control or other variables in the situation.

Now, let’s get back to “13 Reasons Why” and its depiction of teenage suicide. I believe that there is truth in both sides of the debate. The book does indeed fail at showing that there are ways for depressed teens to get help. On the other hand, I also feel that this book was not written for the purpose of getting depressed teens to seek out professional help but as a way for not-depressed teens to develop greater empathy for those who are experiencing depression and to become more mindful of their words and actions toward their peers. I believe that there should be room in our culture for these kind of books but there also should be more books written for the purpose of helping depressed teens find help.

Whatever the reason may be for the seeming increase in teenage depression and suicide (whether there are thirteen reasons or only one), what we really need to do is find a way to help those who are experiencing this. As my professor once pointed out, theory without action is virtually meaningless.

 

(P.S. DOH has launched a suicide prevention hotline. The hotline may be reached at (02) 804-4637; 0917-5584673; and 2919 for Globe and TM subscribers.)

 

“Beauty and the Beast” (2017): A Tale As Old As Time Gets A Modern Update

landscape-1478512906-beauty-and-the-beast-movie

If I were to be fully honest, I wasn’t too keen on seeing this new “Beauty and the Beast” remake. This was mostly because the original animated Disney movie is one of my all-time favorite films. I already thought that the original was the greatest–the songs, the characters, the visuals, everything about that movie was amazing! So when I heard that Disney planned on making a live-action version of the classic, my reaction was… let’s just say “far from enthusiastic”.

Anyway, now that I’ve actually seen the film… I’m happy to say that I really liked it! Was it different enough from the original? No. Was it really necessary? Not really. Was it enjoyable? Definitely yes!

Here’s what I loved about 2017’s Beauty and the Beast: Though it is about 85% similar to the animated movie, it managed to add in more details that I felt brought greater depth to the characters. For instance, (spoilers ahead!) in the original animated movie, there was no stated reason for why Mrs. Potts, Lumiere, Cogsworth and the other castle staff were included in the curse. In this movie, we are told that it is because, since they pretty much helped to raise the prince after his mother’s death but only stood idly by while his father taught him to be vain and cruel, they were indirectly responsible for how he turned out as an adult.

I thought that was an interesting detail to add. Not only does it resolve a plot hole in the original, it also adds layers to the castle staff’s plight. In the original, it seemed as though the castle staff only helped the Beast gain Belle’s affection in order to get out of their curse. But in this movie, the castle staff’s efforts to help the Beast seemed more like a genuine effort to not only help the Beast become a better person but also to make right the fact that they did not help the prince while he was still a vulnerable little boy.

Another detail I enjoyed was the fact that they added more scenes of Beast and Belle bonding. In the original movie, even though I do love that film, Beast and Belle’s emotional connection felt a bit too sudden for me. One moment she’s running away from him, then after he saves her from wolves, they’re already in love. In this film, I was happy to see little moments of intimacy like them connecting over books they’ve both read, their childhood memories, and their shared status as outsiders in their respective homes.

Emma Watson was, predictably, great as Belle. Despite not being the best singer, she brings a real spunk to the role. Dan Stevens’ Beast was also very well done. The actor was best at selling the Beast’s more vulnerable side. All of the supporting cast (like Kevin Kline, Emma Thompson, Ewan McGregor, Ian McKellen) were spot-on (though Ewan McGregor’s French accent was a bit iffy).

Overall, I thought it was a solid modern update on the classic tale. Though I still feel like it was an unnecessary remake, it did manage to add a lot of new details that I thought worked very well. Go see it!

Note to Self: Keep Going

keepgoing

Dear you,

Yes, YOU! I know it is much easier said than done but KEEP GOING.

Keep going even though you feel like a failure. You are not. Just because you’ve stumbled once or twice doesn’t mean that you’ll never be able to stand back up again.

Keep going even though you don’t know where you are headed. Life is a labyrinth–full of twists and turns. And although you are unsure of what’s in store for you at the end, you must continue moving forward.

Keep going even though you feel like the world is conspiring against you. Yes, there are things in life that we cannot control… but there are things that we can change. We each are given different burdens in life and we must learn to deal with the cards we’re dealt.

Keep going even though you feel like you can’t. Things do get better even though it doesn’t seem that way from where you’re standing right now.

Keep going. Life is a battlefield but it’s one you can win.

Keep going. I believe in you.