The Mid-Range Phone Dilemma

How is the Asus smartphone faring in the Philippine market? Not so well, primarily because, hey, they haven’t quite started yet.

Personally, I’ve been following news about their Zenfone line since it was announced at the last CES. Then the unthinkable happened. Absolutely nothing. At least not until April, when they officially announced/released the phones in China, Taiwan, and Southeast Asia — there was however no sign of it in the Philippine market despite being a Southeast Asian country, apart from a little teaser-ish survey about smartphones that has since been removed from their Facebook page. There is considerable interest, as there was a time when every other post on their wall involved the Zenfone. (They instead kept pushing their newly refreshed phablet, the Asus Fonepad 7.)

In May, PH tech sites reported that though there isn’t a set release date yet, we should expect the Zenfone line to debut in these parts in June. It is June, and no news yet.

I want the Zenfone 5. I’ve wanted it since its debut in China, and I’ve been tempted a couple of times to buy one (two, actually) online and have it shipped or to have an overseas-based friend to buy one for me.

But now I’m torn. I’ve been waiting for the Zenfone 5, but Xiaomi, a Chinese consumer electronics company, has just opened their PH website and their own PH Facebook page. While waiting for the Zenfone, I had stumbled upon the Xiaomi Mi3’s positive reviews. It’s often compared to the Zenfone 5 since they’re in the same size division and the same general price range, give or take a few thousand pesos.

The Xiaomi line (from Xiaomi’s Facebook page)

Compared to the Zenfone, the Mi3 has a higher screen 1080p resolution, a faster 2.3 GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 processor, more RAM, and a bigger 3050 mAh li-ion battery. Reviews say that the OS can be updated to Android 4.4 KitKat. The higher specced Zenfone 5 (A500CG), the one with a 2.0 GHz Intel Atom Z2580 CPU and 2 GB of RAM, is more comparable but it probably won’t land here any time soon, considering Asus’ seeming disinterest on this part of the Pacific.

Anyway, I’d forgive the Mi3’s lack of an SD card slot if they price it reasonably (it’s actually a flagship phone, but the lower spectrum model is arguably mid-range). According to Xiaomi, they’re going to release their products here one by one. So again, the question goes back to, “When?” I’ve been holding out getting a new (mid-range) phone since the start of this year.

No one seems to want my money.

Before Midnight (Not a Review)

I come from a generation that had been fed fairy tales. We all thought that true love was as easy as making a deal with the sea witch and trading your voice for a pair of legs, kissing the beast to get the prince, and maybe even riding a magic carpet – shining, shimmering, fucking splendid. Then we grew up and realized that nope, it doesn’t quite work that way. You have to date, kiss a multitude of beasts and frogs and find out that they were no more than beasts and frogs.

Last night, I saw Before Midnight, the last installment of the Before series. Now, the Before series follows the story of Jesse and Celine. The first one, Before Sunrise, explored magic. How two people can meet by chance, and have such a great connection. It wasn’t quite like a fairy tale, Jesse didn’t ride a white horse and save Celine from a dragon. (Actually, I think she’s more than capable of taking care of herself, and Jesse, though he has a flair for grand romantic gestures, isn’t quite the type.) The story isn’t fairy tale-ish, but it is something we all wish for at some point: Meeting your soulmate – or at least, somebody who looks like him or her – on the train.


The second one, Before Sunset, made us question this entire soulmate business. (Spoiler alert. But then again, why are you reading this if you haven’t seen any of the films?) If they had been so meant for each other, then how come they didn’t live happily ever after? They’re the opposite of happily ever after, in fact, they’re miserable. Over the course of film though, we see that they’ve grown older, wiser, and aren’t quite so starry eyed anymore. In the end though, we’re about 99% sure that they’re going to end up together. I mean, after that song, we were all ready to marry Julie Delpy.

Then comes the third and last installment, Before Midnight. It’s a love story we so rarely see – between two middle aged people… with issues. This is not a rom-com. There is no slapstick humor or comedy of errors. Just two people starring in their own love story. It isn’t the pretty part of the story either, no cutesy-fied scenes and definitely no chasing each other on the beach. Just an honest portrayal of a middle-age couple. Watching the film felt like voyeurism of some sort, like we’re watching private moments. They’re not strangers to us, and we’ve heard this story before, but as I walked out of the cinema after having watched the film, I realized that this must be the most realistic love story I’ve seen outside of real life. No castles, no shining white horses, no singing dwarves. Just the kind of love that takes hard work to keep going. The kind with teeth grinding compromise and plain old vicious arguing.

Is it a happy ending? Depends on your general outlook on these things, really. It’s hardly the end, rather, it’s a new beginning.

Hung-over Sugarfree: A Sa Wakas Review

I’ve always believed that everybody comes with their own background music. There are some days that seem to follow the rhythm of Hit Me Baby One More Time or Don’t Cha – no judging – and there are times when whole swaths of your life seem to be outright rip-offs of a two-bit song. Whole sweeping segments of your life told in every lyric word, in every note, in every falsetto. This seems especially true in the happiest moments and ironically, in the most tragic as well. As we’ve discussed before, Sugarfree has chronicled those (mostly love-related) moments and have therefore provided the songs of both triumphs and tribulations for an entire generation. Specifically, mine.

Sa Wakas, A Pinoy Rock Musical
When I saw the teasers for Sa Wakas, a rock musical featuring the songs of Sugarfree, I immediately went into fangirl mode. I must watch this. They better not mess this up, I said, for a thousand Sugarfree fangirls (and fanboys) will descend upon them. Our hate mail will blot out the sun! Yesterday, we watched Sa Wakas, and this is not a rage-fueled, vitriol-laced review.
The Story
Sa Wakas revolves around the lives of three yuppies: Topper (Fred Lo), a photographer working to make a name for himself; Lexi (Caisa Borromeo), a doctor having trouble juggling her relationship and her career; and Gabbi (Kyla Rivera), a magazine editor hoping to find inspiration. It’s all about passion for these three, passion in their chosen careers, passion for their hopes and dreams, and passion for their relationships and in their selves. It’s a story we all know, a story we’ve heard from a friend or have played a lead role in.
Intertwined (more like embedded) in their story is the music of Sugarfree. Relationships are falling apart before us, and Sugarfree hits every note. I’ve always had a vague suspicion that Ebe Dancel, Sugarfree frontman and main lyricist, had looked into the most vulnerable parts of our lives – the breakups, the hung-over musings, and the longing for long lost loves – and wrote them into swak-sa-banga, sapul-sa-mukha songs.
We see the characters at their most vulnerable moments, at their weakest and most miserable, and I was sure that every single person in the audience could relate to at least one of them. We could all relate to those moments when the Universe throws everything at us, including the kitchen sink and the kitchen.
The Characters
Topper, bless him, knowingly plays the Asshat. He’s the guy in the middle of every drama like this. He knows he’s wrong, and for that I could not find it in myself to sympathize with him. At the end of the first act, I felt he deserved testicular cancer. Lexi on the other hand is a girl who knows what she wants. There are times when I felt she would have fit better in a medical drama, but we all know the feeling of wanting to excel in both our personal and professional lives and failing catastrophically in one (in more tragic stories, we fail in both). Sadly, she cannot have her cake and eat it too. Then Gabbi. I found her character very sympathetic, despite never having been in her situation. She exemplifies all of our bad timing and our wrong-place-wrong-time decisions that often lead us to disaster.
At the end of the play, I felt my applause was not enough to show my appreciation. The actors were effective – awful, playful, and funny in just the right parts. Kyla Rivera is adorable and has great comedic timing, and Fred Lo too, as I laughed when I wasn’t busy hating his character. Caisa Borromeo embraces the role of a woman not defined by her relationship status and I found myself empathizing with her as a victim of circumstance and indecision.
The Play
Sa Wakas didn’t need to impress me with the music, I already love Sugarfree, but still it did. The band and the ensemble were awesome. The arrangements were well thought out and the execution was great. It was surprising at times, with the transitions sometimes jumping from hopeful to sad to sadder. It works though. The music, set design, and lighting made for an altogether immersive experience.
The ballsiest move on the part of the producers and writers is the storytelling itself. Personally, I was confused until the first few strums of the second act. Upon our exit from the PETA Theater, the buzz was intoxicating, but I couldn’t help overhearing some fellow audience members asking what exactly happened to the characters. While it probably wasn’t the best way to tell the story, it worked for me. For the most part, it worked for me because of the poignant ending. It wasn’t the closing of a book and the opening of a new one, instead it was a painful and emphatic period (as in, The End, period.).
Sa Wakas works. It works because it tells us the story of ourselves, or at least, the stories told to us that nestle close to our hearts (like One More Chance). It shows us that things aren’t as simple as pushing the big red button marked “Self-Destruct,” it’s a long and drawn out process of things that go wrong, things that feel right, things unsaid, and things screamed at each other.
That said, why haven’t you watched it yet? Even if you aren’t a fan of Sugarfree, I’d recommend you to watch it anyway. There are exactly four more shows left. Go, dammit.
Notes:
  • Sa Wakas is brought to us by Culture Shock Productions and FringeMNL. If they made more plays like this, I’d probably watch more theatre.
  • If you are driving to the PETA Theater, be sure to get there early. Parking slots are few and far between.