La La Land:So Good it Hurts (spoiler alert)

La La Land struck chords with aching familiarity and I’m pretty sure it hit home for many of the audiences as well. After having watched it, it came to no surprise it won  7 Golden Globes, among other nominations and international awards. What was surprising however, was the atypical ending of the movie that caught us all off guard. It’s a film supposedly patterned after the Golden Age of Hollywood where boy meets girl, love conquers all, and audiences get exactly what they paid to see.

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What makes this film so good is it revives 1940’s anla-la-land-trailer-13jul16-06d 50’s film elements such as the set, singing, tap dancing, jazz music and style, but infused modern storytelling elements that veered away from thematic cliches ever so present in old Hollywood movies. While some movies offer an escape from our mundane lives, this one brought us right back to the core of some of life’s realities. For those who have watched it, you know what I’m talking about. That. Friggin. Epilogue. 5 years after.

At first, it shattered me. What was the point of having all those recurring universe-conspired encounters of Mia (Emma Stone) and Sebastian (Ryan Gosling) and ultimately changing the course of each other’s lives? What a let down to find that 5 years after their parting, after having succeeded in their chosen careers, Mia is happily married to another man, now raising a child. Mia and Seb were supposed to be destined for each other. Earlier scenes foreshadowed a happy ending. By that part, in my mind, I was still hoping for some pixie dust to change this unfamiliar scenario. But story gets even more tense. Right just when the universe conspired again for them to see each other at Sebastian’s successful jazz club, Seb nostalgically plays their theme on the piano and the scene shifts to an alternate perfect life path flashed before us. At this point, I was hoping for some magical realism to change the ending (Like the scene in 13 Going on 30. Haha.) to what should have been. The alternative recap ends, reality sinks in as we are thrown back to the jazz club with Seb onstage, finishing his last note. Mia and her husband stand up to leave, but upon reaching the door, she stops and glances back at Seb with a peaceful smile. Seb returns a bittersweet one.

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Right then, I knew it just had to end that way. I could not think of a better ending. I understand why many felt betrayed, but here’s why I wasn’t anymore:

The Golden Age of Hollywood typically depicts two lovers that surmount all kinds of struggles in the name of love, however impractical and crazy it may be. La La Land deviated from the usual plot. In fact, I would say the story was not even about Mia and Sebastian’s romance. It’s about the winding journey we face as we set to follow our dreams.

La La Land overthrows the notion that only that one true romantic love can give happiness and satisfaction to our lives. The movie is also very representative of our time where women can now freely choose and find satisfaction in pursuing careers first over, say, romance, or having children and nurturing a family. 

“But they could have worked it out long distance! They didn’t have to give up on their love.”, my friend, Macy, whimpered.

I know right?! But his brings me to my second point: unlike the old movies before where the primary focus were relationships itself, the film emphasizes and makes us appreciate the beauty that is brought about by relationships. Some relationships, no matter how destined they may seem to be, are simply not meant to be. Yet, we are reminded that we would not be where or who we are without them. Mia and Seb’s smile exchange at the end comforts and reminds us to not to regret anything that has in someway, touched and changed our lives.

In the alternative ending, everything went smoothly, not a tear shed, ending on a high note where they live happily ever after. As my friend, Imma, pointed out, that scene was the real “La La Land.” The alternate life path flash was representative of the “perfect world” we otherwise would have wanted for the characters, and for ourselves (that’s why it was so painful to watch! Huhu). But we do not live in a perfect world. Even Hollywood stars, with all their beauty, fame and fortune, even as we envision as demigods on pedestals, are not exempt from the struggles of being human. We make plans, relationships, big dreams – sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. Such are the pains and gains of the journey.

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What I truly loved about La La Land is that is was real and wasn’t cloaked in romanticizing failed but good relationships. This brings me to question, did the relationship fail or was it successful in the sense that it served its purpose? 

I appreciate that it ended on a bittersweet and hopeful tone, giving us the space to imagine happy separate lives for both of them. We may not live in a perfect world, and uncertainties of life may lead us to the most unexpected places, but we can always be hopeful and may I add, joyful, that things will turn out for the best, and the mess will make sense in the end. Here’s to the ones that dream, here’s to the hearts that ache, here’s to the mess we make!

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On Sleepless Nights

Perhaps you are tired of trying
These efforts to perfection.
Fulfilling it is to create such beauty
If these attempts do not prove futille.
Yet how terrifying it is also on this stage you live
Where mistakes are hung out on a clothesline
for everyone to see
and spit upon like dirt,
As if it were such a crime
to be imperfect
As if it were a sin
to be momentarily lost.
Perhaps it so happens you are just tired
Much needed sleep awaits
For when the sun rises tomorrow
We must keep on thriving
Like sunflowers in June.

I Dream of Goodness

image Another dream. I was in a church, one of those dim churches where scarce light only penetrated through the open entrance doors and through the humble amount of stained glass windows. I was getting stressed because the mass was about to start in a few minutes and my choir, the Liturgical Choir, was not yet complete. The girls weren’t properly positioned and there was much noise. “Go to your proper places!”, I said out loud and added, “lets do a sound check of the entrance song now!”

We were situated in an enclosed area at the right corner at the back of the church, right beside the towering entrance doors. I signaled for the choir to start “Bayan Umawit”. To check if they were heard and if the mix of the mics were good, I walked further, towards the altar, through the middle aisle of the church.

What was odd was, halfway towards the altar, there were actually no benches to sit or kneel on. The midsection of the church was empty while a small section of benches, maybe a meager 4 or 5 rows, were right in front of the altar. The people who attended were just enough to fill those benches. In that sense, you could say the church was full.

The acoustics of the mics were terrible,I thought to myself. I could hear some voices sticking out – I needed to fix that. I realized that the people were already standing and the priest had already marched towards the eucharistic table. They thought that we already started when it was actually just a soundcheck.

As I headed back to my choir, I saw 2 men who seemed like monks, wearing brown robes with hoods on, seated facing my choristers. They seemed harmless and it was as if they were waiting for me.

“When did you get back from Europe?”, asked the first one. I could not make out how he looked as both of them were covered in hoods.

“A couple of weeks ago.”, I replied.

“Did you find any good there?”, he asked.

I don’t recall giving him a distinct answer. I remained silent. He turned to his companion and said, “How come she was there for a month and did not find any good, yet I have met you for only just one day and I have found all the goodness to be found?”

With a voice that showed much more maturity and wisdom than the first, the other man read out loud a note on his hand that wrote, “When your eyes are a witness to my world, And my eyes a witness to yours, Then we have found goodness.”

Below the note scribbled a very familiar name – Nelson Mandela. I was talking to Nelson Mandela in my dream.

I woke up and thought about those words about goodness. Curious how a dream, being just a dream, could make so much sense.

In Search of Light

For those  of you who have happened to randomly read my blog entries and for those who followed me, hello! I figured it is only proper for me to introduce myself to you. My name is Cel. I am 26 years old. I graduated from the University of the Philippines with a degree in music, specializing in piano performance. Now, I mainly sing and travel around the world with the national choir. As part time job, I also teach an all-female liturgical high school chorale. Like any other artist, my lifestyle is quite different from those who work in corporations and institutions. My days are comprised of rehearsing 3 times a week, performing every other day and teaching. In certain parts of the year, I am out of the country with my choir doing concerts in different corners of the globe. So far its been an incredible experience to have music, travel and outrageously talented and amazing people all rolled into my life. I can never be too grateful for it.

In between those activities, when I am alone and doing particularly nothing, (yes i still have so much free time I sometimes don’t know what to do with it) I have a good relationship with my laptop, ipad and facebook. Occasionally, I go out and have dinner/coffee/movie night with my small circle of friends and endlessly talk about everything and anything from careers to love to life to sex to people and philosophies.

Every now and then, I like to upload in facebook the photos of the places I’ve been to, the people I’m with or people I have met and crossed paths with. Perhaps because of this, there is a born impression that I have it better than other people my age, most of which  are known to be undergoing some sort of quarter life crisis… I have had old acquaintances from high school telling me how they are envious of how I’m able to travel the world, and I’ve had people assume that my life is somewhat perfect since I also belong to this quite prestigious choir. Facebook, as well as other types of media, has a way of distorting and sensationalizing reality and deviating from what exactly is. I do not deny the fact that I am truly blessed and fortunate to have such an opportunity and such rich experiences, however, my life is far from perfect and I do not consider myself as someone who is extraordinary. In fact, as opposed to what I thought of as a child, I consider myself quite average and common, and ironically, on bad days, I feel that I am too different and a misfit.

So here is the truth:

I am 26, single and who is in possession of a diploma which I worked had for for 5 years and have not benefited from since the day i graduated 2 years ago. Sometimes, I do not want to wake up and prefer to sleep all day and dream, reflect and think. There are moments when I constantly question why I am doing what I am doing. There are moments too when I wish I could disappear from the world and  hibernate in the mountains or the woods where life can be much simpler . As much as I love music and travel, I don’t think I’ve found that thing that would drive me to wake up in mornings and immerse myself in so deeply that I would forget about time. I look at my friends surrounding me (most of whom are musicians and artists), the best at their own fields and who have quite figured out what they’re going to do with their lives. I, on the other hand, am a clueless scatterbrain who wants to try out everything and has become nothing but average in different fields. I envy people who have found their purpose in life. Those who have something to obsess about, even if its something weird or outrageous like being obsessively against killing sharks and dolphins. I envy people who’s eyes light up when they’re immersed and  just profoundly in love with their own craft. I have yet to figure out mine. Maybe I’ve found it already and perhaps just forgotten, I don’t know. I keep trying to figure out whats wrong with me. Like perhaps, I may  have ADD as I get bored easily with tasks. Right now, I basically feel that life is pointless and I have no idea which direction I’m heading. I’m in a serious case of quarter life crisis.

I guess what I’m driving at is, I want to be a master of  something. I want to be unreasonably passionate with a skill, a  craft, an art or about some cause.  I want to fall in love, not only in the romantic sense, but I want to fall in love with life.

So heres what I want this blog to be about: finding LOVE, enLIGHTenment and PASSION. I do hope that by my constant searching, trying new things and writing,  I would eventually discover my corner of the sky.

If you’ve reached this part of the entry, thanks for reading. I personally believe each of us has a purpose. I guess most of us are in the same boat in searching for it. I could only hope we will not give up in our search for our calling. If you do have any insights and stories you want to share, please feel free to comment.

With love,

This is me at the Kilometre Zero at Puerta del Sol, Madrid Spain. The Spaniards used this point as the marker to measure distances. Right now, I feel like I am back to point zero in my life, directionless still wondering where I go from here. Nevertheless, I am still happily traversing the world with a smile on my face. :)

This is me at the Kilometre Zero at Puerta del Sol, Madrid Spain. The Spaniards used this point as the marker to measure distances. Right now, I feel like I am back to point zero myself, directionless still wondering where I go from here. Nevertheless, I am still happily traversing the world with a smile on my face. 🙂

Cel

Calling

Half of the people
wipe windows
And clean kitchens
And scrub toilets
Whistling a simple tune
While they hang wet clothes
Or put the baby to sleep.
Willingly and joyfully
They send every penny earned
To their own family in need

The other half

Educated and free

Poses a myriad of questions

Travels to places far away

Wondering and constantly searching

For their purpose in life.
Perhaps a calling
Echoes more
Inside the walls of a dark cave
Than in a vast field of sunflowers

On Failure

Bumped into my 6th grade math teacher today. Under her tutelage, I experienced my first ever traumatic academic failure. As in “need special help” status marked on my report card- the lowest possible grade a teacher can give. I really got depressed since I was also forced to quit a musical that i was involved in. I was a bit tempted to tell her that in high school, I rocked algebra, geometry and trigonometry with a series of A’s. Instead, I just gave her a polite hello, a bit of small talk and went on walking. It didnt matter anymore, anyway. Looking back now, I realized she unknowingly taught me an important lesson in life: to never ever let failure define one’s potential and capabilities. And that failures, as with other things in life, lose their significance in time.