SKE48: The Comeback is Real at the AKB48 49th Senbatsu Sousenkyo

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SKE48 in the top 16 of the Senbatsu. Image from the Twitter account of @andare_p (https://twitter.com/andare_p)

SKE48 refuses to die even after Rena Matsui (one half of WMatsui) graduated in 2015. It thrives despite decreasing sales and being overtaken in popularity by Nogizaka46 and Keyakizaka46. Results at the recently concluded AKB48 49th Senbatsu Sousenkyo attest to the resilience of the girls from Sakae, Nagoya.

While there was no upset (Rino Sashihara of HKT48 retains her crown for three consecutive years), the 49th Single Senbatsu Sousenkyo or 9th Senbatsu Election marked the return of SKE48 in the top 16. Led by Jurina Matsui who retained her 3rd place finish, SKE48 landed 5 positions, with 2 in the Kami 7 (top 7):

  • #3 – Matsui Jurina
  • #6 – Suda Akari
  • #8 – Souda Sarina
  • #14 – Furuhata Nao
  • #15 – Takayanagi Akane

In the 2014 and 2015 editions, the group held 4 positions. In 2016, they had 2 positions (HKT48 had 3).  This year, with 5 positions, they attain the plurality and more importantly, the chance to regain lost ground.

Victory pose: SKE48 cover for second album “Kakumei no Oka”

Sign of renewed success to come? Since the departure of Rena Matsui, SKE48 has been lackluster. I almost lost my love for Jurina Matsui and company, although she remains as one of my favorite members in the whole 48 universe and SKE48, one of my favorite Jpop groups. I admit the excitement has faded, and they have not released material to my liking.

Or is it that my love for SKE48 is never that strong? That I do not believe in them at their worst? What kind of a supporter that I am? If I can’t support them at their worst, why should I support them at their best?

With the results of the Senbatsu election, I hope to regain my enthusiasm for the Nagoya squad. I hope to renew my faith in SKE48… my interest in their music… my love for Jurina, Ryoha Kitagawa, and Oya Masana.

I want SKE48 to release better material this time. It’s time to make the Senbatsu orange again.

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Confirmed Cast of Marvel’s Black Panther: More Than Beautiful

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Ladies and gentlemen, the confirmed cast of Black Panther.

Marvel’s much-anticipated superhero film Black Panther is slated for release next year, and fans can hardly contain their excitement. Moviegoers need something new, something fresh to watch, and it’s not the Avengers or anything that has to do with the X-Men. We’re tired of that.

In the coming days, fans will troop to the cinema halls for Wonder Woman and Justice League. Our piggy banks are getting full. We want to savor the anticipation for the two upcoming superhero flicks from the DC Extended Universe.

About Black Panther, the Marvel Cinematic Universe has just announced the confirmed cast for the film, as what you can see in the photo. Chadwick Boseman, who played baseball icon Jackie Robinson in the 2013 film 42, takes the lead role of the titular character. Michael B. Jordan, who played the black Johnny Storm in the ill-fated 2015 Fantastic Four, plays the antagonist. Andy Serkis (The Lord of The Rings trilogy), Forest Whitaker (The Last King of Scotland, Zulu, and Taken 3), and Lupita Nyong’o (12 Years a Slave) are among the confirmed cast.

It’s one of the best castings in a superhero film if you ask me. Perhaps second to the Justice League, but nonetheless beautiful… more than beautiful. It’s a description that entered my mind every time I look at the picture, and I can’t be wrong. It’s aesthetically relieving too.

I don’t know if Black Panther is the second superhero film to feature an African-American playing the lead role. If I’m not mistaken, the 1997 supernatural superhero film Spawn was the first. It has been a longtime coming. The standalone Cyborg film of the DC extended universe features an African-American in the lead role, and is expected to be shown on theaters in 2020.

Too bad Denzel Washington, Morgan Freeman, Orlando Jones, and Tyler Perry are never considered for a role in Black Panther or any superhero film. But they’re bigger than superheroes anyway. Of Samuel L. Jackson, he’s got the Avengers.

I can’t wait to watch Black Panther next year. I can’t afford to miss it. But first, I need to watch Wonder Woman and Justice League. Because of Gal Gadot. That’s why.

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SAN DIEGO, CA – JULY 23: Actress Gal Gadot from the 2017 feature film Wonder Woman signs autographs for fans in DC’s 2016 San Diego Comic-Con booth at San Diego Convention Center on July 23, 2016 in San Diego, California. (Photo by Charley Gallay/Getty Images for DC Entertainment)

Philippine Politicians Are World-Class Experts on Creating More Taxes (Additional Burden)

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Filipino politicians gather. Image from http://www.gmanetwork.com

Word is out that Filipino politicians, many of them supporters of President Duterte, are all set to tax sugary drinks. While I am not against it (because I rarely consume sugar-sweetened beverages), I believe it is unnecessary at the moment. The Philippine government has yet to streamline its tax collection and run after big tax evaders, including eight-division world champion boxer and Senator Manny Pacquiao, who is eyeing a compromise with the Bureau of Internal Revenues. Since he’s an ally, President Duterte didn’t harass him much.

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People’s Champ Manny Pacquiao owes the government 2.2 billion pesos. Image from http://getrealphilippines.com

The levy on sugar-sweetened drinks as part of the Duterte administration’s comprehensive tax reform program will not only help increase revenues but also reduce consumption of sugary beverages that contribute to obesity, cardiovascular disease, and other health related problems. Filipinos die from these conditions because they cannot moderate their consumption.

However, this also means money for corrupt and turncoat politicians and burden for the beverage industry, made up of restaurants, small stores, mall kiosks, sidewalk vendors, distributors, producers, and sugar farmers. As long as Filipinos do not know how to control their consumption of or addiction to Coca-Cola and Pepsi, we need this kind of tax and everyone’s gonna get hurt, especially us who drink sugar-sweetened drinks to relieve our “pain” and “sadness”, if you know what I mean.

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Philippines House of Representatives in session. Image from http://newsinfo.inquirer.net

But do we need such a tax? For me, I don’t think so. Not now, especially when we still have corrupt, turncoat and incompetent politicians in the Philippine government. Many of them no longer earn the ire of Duterte supporters (“Dutertetards”) because they already allied themselves with the man from Davao City. These Filipino politicians, they are a great pain in the ass, heart, and brain.

And these Filipino politicians are the same fools who proposed a 10- to 30-percent excise tax on beauty products and services (Vanity Tax) and additional taxes on excessive buying of electronic gadgets, which includes smartphones, appliances, and other gadgets. These fools, they are going to tax my two laptops and three smartphones.

Ladies and gentlemen, exercise your Filipino Pride: Filipino politicians are the best in creating additional problems to the people.

Don’t Even Think About Failing – by Warren Bennis and Burt Nanus

Those who walk the road to success look ahead, not back.

Ray Meyer, a legendary American basketball coach, led his team to 37 winning seasons. One year, when his team dropped its first game after 29 straight home court victories, we asked how he felt about it. His reply: “Great! Now we can concentrate on winning rather than on not losing.”

For many people, the word “failure” carries with it a sense of finality. But for the successful leader, failure is a beginning, the springboard to renewed efforts. Leaders simply don’t think about failure. This became clear to us after we had interviewed and studied 90 successful men and women – executives, politicians, sports stars and others – for our book on leadership. Indeed, those who lead don’t even use the word, relying on such synonyms as “mistake”, “false start”, and “setback”.

One of them told us: “If I have an art form on leadership, it is to make as many mistakes as quickly as I can in order to learn.” Another recalled Harry Truman’s famous maxim: Whenever I make a bum decision, I just go out and make another one.”

Fletcher Byrom, retired chairman of Koppers, a construction materials and services company, was asked what was the hardest decision he ever had to make. He responded : “I don’t know what a hard decision is. All I can do is the best I can. To worry puts obstacles in the way of clear thinking.”

William Smithburg, chairman of Quaker Oats, took responsibility for two “mistakes” – the acquisition of a video-game business he has since closed down, and a pet-accessory business he bought and then wrote off. Later he told his employees: “I want you to take risks. There isn’t one senior manager in this company who hasn’t been associated with a product that flopped. That includes me. It’s like learning to ski. If you’re not falling down, you’re not learning.

While we can’t say the leaders we interviewed hailed their failures, they were convinced they and their people could learn from mistakes. Some years ago, a promising IBM junior executive lost the company several million dollars in a risky venture. Thomas Watson, IBM’s founder, called the executive into his office, and the young man blurted out, “I guess you want my resignation?” Watson replied , “You can’t be serious. We’ve just spent millions of dollars educating you.”

Another attitude shared by these leaders is that they value the adventure of pouring their energies into a task. In each, we found a fusion of work and play. They enjoy what they’re doing too much to worry about failure.

They are walking the leadership tightrope without fear.

From Leaders: The Strategies of Taking Charge, copyright 1985. Published by Harper and Row Ltd, London.

12 Best Jpop Songs I’ve Heard in 2016

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Nanami Hashimoto and company showing their stuff in their first ever million-selling single, “Sayonara no Imi”.

New year, new songs. In my case, there are songs that are the year’s issues while some songs are old gems waiting to be discovered. If I hear them for the first time in any year, I consider them ‘new’ – new to my ears, that is.

Any song that is new to my ears will have fighting chance to land in the list of the best I have heard in a given year. Since I listen to Jpop material, I compiled this Jpop list. I could have come up with a list of all songs I have heard this year but the number of non-Jpop songs I like failed to reach double digits (not even half). I have even left out many Jpop songs from this list. They are all good but not as good as the ones that make it to this list.

The ones I include in this list are all LSS material. They are songs I want to listen to whenever I am in my element or when I turn my player on. In alphabetical order according to artists’ names, I present to you the 12 best Jpop songs I have heard this year:

+Plus, “Fiesta

We Filipinos love fiestas but I wonder how many of us have even heard this song. Perhaps only anime and manga enthusiasts, especially fans of Fairy Tail. This has got to be the most partiest pop-rock song I have ever heard. This is a worthy videoke staple.

AAA, “Lil’ Infinity

AAA is one of the best pop vocal bands I have ever listened to. Watching them perform in their music videos brings me back memories of pop music groups such as Steps, S Club 7, A*Teens, and Jump5. Their songs are easy-listening and their vocals are more than amazing – they all blend harmoniously. They are a wholesome act.

I’d like to suggest that AAA bring in two more ladies to the line-up, if that is not too much to ask.

Keyakizaka46, “Silent Majority

This song is one of the three most anticipated 48/46 singles (in my opinion), the other two being from AKB48 and Nogizaka46 (the group’s elder sister act). Keyakizaka46’s debut single impressed me but they failed to deliver on their succeeding singles. Nevertheless, “Silent Majority” ranks second in the best 48/46 songs released this year (again, in my opinion).

Kobayashi Tatsuyuki & Konimi Suzuki, “NEVER-END TALE

If you are a Fairy Tail fan, you will recognize this as the anime’s opening theme #20. This is Natsu and company’s most powerful opening theme to date. The energy of the song and the vocal prowess of the two artists bring into mind the struggles Fairy Tail endured in their battle against the Nine Demon Gates of Tartaros. Listen to this song multiple times and you will really feel the ferocity of their battles, the magnitude of their losses, the impact of their hard-earned victories, and the intensity of their emotions.

Mikuni Shimokawa, “Kimi ga Iru kara

Fairy Tail’s closing theme #4 is the most soulful of all the anime’s closing themes as if it is being graced by the beauty and melody of Mirajane, one of its most beautiful and powerful characters. The soulful melody and the sweetness of the singer’s vocals give me warmth and I feel it from many angles. From one angle, this is a song to sing when parting ways with friends after a struggle is overcome and a battle is won. From another angle, this is a song to sing to a loved one who is going through a very hard time in life. I imagine this song being sung amidst the sunset.

Nogizaka AKB, “Mazariau Mono

The aces of AKB48, SKE48, HKT48, and Nogizaka46 combine to deliver what I consider to be the best song out of AKB48’s 10th anniversary single. I cannot imagine the 48 gals donning outfits and dancing steps the Nogizaka46 way. And if you ask me, this is a 46 material, not a 48 one. On the other side, Kojiharunyan is so adorable, don’t you think?

Nogizaka46, “Buranko

A standout song from the Under Members. I cannot imagine the Senbatsu members belting out this track. In other words, this is specifically composed for the second unit. With its edgy R&B feel, this should become one of Nogizaka46’s signature songs.

Nogizaka46, “Kakikoori no Kataomoi

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Album cover of Nogizaka46’s second album (Image from http://www.stage48.net)

Heartbreak songs and songs about unrequited love are best sung by a girl – by the girls of Nogizaka46, that is. This song is better than the group’s another song about one-way love (“Kidzuitara Kataomoi”, their 8th single released in 2014). This one’s not mushy unlike the other one.

Nogizaka46, “Sayonara no Imi

This is my most favorite Nogizaka46 song now. Nanami Hashimoto’s last single with the group – and their first million-selling single – is the best Jpop song of 2016. No contest. If not, the best by a female act, by a duo or group, or by a 48/46 group.

SKE48, “Sotsugyoushiki no Wasuremono

This coupling song off SKE48’s 5th single released in 2011 is the thing I need to get over Rena Matsui’s departure last year and forget about the group’s declining sales and popularity this year.

SKE48, “Temodemo no Namida

This AKB48 (Team B) original has spawned multiple versions but I identify it as an SKE48 song due to its edgy pop sound – and because it’s them I heard singing this song when I was browsing YouTube months ago. I fell in love with the SKE version in one of my most memorable days of 2016.

SOLIDEMO, “Landscape

Fairy Tail fans recognize this as Fairy Tail Zero’s closing theme. The lyrics and the melody of this song perfectly sum up the joys and miracles of friendship and the comfort of companionship. But try to ‘embrace’ the melody and you will feel the pain of parting.
So that’s it, my dear friends! It has been a great year for me when it comes to my music discovery. I believe there are songs that I haven’t listened to yet and I hope to find – and appreciate – them in 2017. Hope you can check out my list for 2017.

Advance Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you and your loved ones!

St Boniface and The Christmas Tree (an article by Steve Weidenkopf)

St. Boniface & the Little Fir Tree Illusrated Children's book

St. Boniface & the Little Fir Tree Illusrated Children’s book (Image from http://www.sundryshop.com)

(Note: While looking for a Christmas topic to write about, I stumbled upon this article by Steve Weidenkopf on the Internet. Since I never knew about the origins of the Christmas Tree (holiday tree is another term) plus I always love to read stories about the origins of things, I read it. I am impressed by the main character’s missionary zeal and commitment to his priestly vocation but I am more impressed with his martyrdom. He died in service and away from his native England. Okay, imagine how many people are going to spend Christmas far away from their loved ones. Anyway, I hope you love this story as much as I do. May it uplift your Christmas spirit and inspire you in your current profession.)

While he is well known as a great bishop and evangelizer, Catholic legend, based on actual historical events, also holds that Boniface is the founder of the use of a Christmas tree to celebrate the birth of the Christ Child.

The story of the Christmas tree begins in England, where the very young Winfrid decided to enter a Benedictine monastery over the objections of his parents. Winfrid grew in holiness and piety but yearned to leave the monastery and bring the light of Christ to the pagan Germans just as the monks had brought the Faith to England a century earlier.

Winfrid heard reports that Pope Gregory II (r. 715-731) had sent missionaries to Bavaria in 716 and decided to travel to Rome to become a missionary to the Germans. Pope Gregory was delighted at the arrival of the eager Winfrid and after a period of time commissioned him to preach the Gospel in the regions of Thuringia, Bavaria, Franconia, and Hesse. In recognition of his special missionary commission the pope also changed Winfrid’s name to Boniface.

The newly named monk travelled to Hesse (central Germany) in 721 and “with his tireless activity, his gift for organization, and his adaptable, friendly, yet firm character” achieved great success, including the conversion of the twin chieftains Dettic and Deorulf. Boniface also established Benedictine monasteries throughout his area of evangelization, including the great monastery of Fulda in 744. News of his great achievements reached Rome, where he was recalled by Pope Gregory to provide a status report. Impressed and pleased with Boniface’s efforts, Gregory consecrated him archbishop for all Germany east of the Rhine (without a specific episcopal seat) and placed his territory under the pope’s jurisdiction. Imbued with this new authority and pontifical mandate, Boniface returned to Germany in 723.

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St Boniface cuts down Thor’s Oak (Donar’s Oak or Jove’s Oak in other terms) (Image from historywallcharts.eu)

Boniface spent the rest of his life evangelizing the areas of modern Germany and parts of the Netherlands. He also became a friend of the Frankish court and helped reform and reorganized the Church in that area. From his missionary travels, Boniface knew that in winter the inhabitants of the village of Geismar gathered around a huge old oak tree (known as the “Thunder Oak”) dedicated to the god Thor. This annual event of worship centered on sacrificing a human, usually a small child, to the pagan god. Boniface desired to convert the village by destroying the Thunder Oak, which the pagans had previously boasted the God of Boniface could not destroy, so he gathered a few companions and journeyed to Geismar.

His fellow missionaries were scared and fearful that the Germans might kill them, so they balked when they reached the outskirts of the village on Christmas Eve. Boniface steadied the nerves of his friends and as they approached the pagan gathering he said, “Here is the Thunder Oak; and here the cross of Christ shall break the hammer of the false god Thor.” Boniface and his friends arrived at the time of the sacrifice, which was interrupted by their presence. In a show of great trust in God and born from a desire to enkindle the fire of Christ in the German pagans, Boniface grabbed an axe and chopped down the Thunder Oak of mighty Thor.

The Germans were astounded. The holy bishop preached the Gospel to the people and used a little fir tree that was behind the now felled oak tree as a tool of evangelization. Pointing to it he said,

This little tree, a young child of the forest, shall be your holy tree tonight. It is the wood of peace… It is the sign of an endless life, for its leaves are ever green. See how it points upward to heaven. Let this be called the tree of the Christ-child; gather about it, not in the wild wood, but in your own homes; there it will shelter no deeds of blood, but loving gifts and rites of kindness.

Awed by the destruction of the oak tree and Boniface’s preaching, the Germans were baptized.

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The Martyrdom of St Boniface, Apostle of the Germans (Image from http://www.saintboniface.org)

Boniface continued his missionary efforts into old age when in 754, he left for a trip to Frisia with fifty monks. Their work was successful and many pagans agreed to receive baptism. When the appointed time came to celebrate the sacrament, a large armed crowd of pagans approached the missionaries. Knowing his time to die was at hand, Boniface discouraged his followers from fighting and said, “Cease my sons, from fighting, give up warfare for the witness of Scripture recommends that we do not give an eye for an eye but rather good for evil. Here is the long awaited day; the time of our end has now come; courage in the Lord!” The ferocious pagan attack left Boniface and his fellow companions dead and celebrated as martyrs for the Faith.

His later biographer, Othlo, recalled Boniface’s deep love for the people who he endeavored for so long to bring to Christ:

The holy bishop Boniface can call himself father of all the inhabitants of Germany, for it was he who first brought them forth in Christ with the words of his holy preaching; he strengthened them with his example; and lastly, he gave his life for them; no greater love than this can be shown.

In the centuries that followed, the Catholic tradition of using an evergreen tree to celebrate the birth of Jesus spread throughout Germany, and German immigrants in the eighteenth century brought the custom to the New World. Although there are many stories, legends, and myths surrounding the founding of the Christmas tree, including the claim that the custom originated with Martin Luther, there is only one story rooted in a real person and a real event: Boniface, converter of the Germans, who destroyed Thor’s mighty oak.

Miss Earth Angelia Ong, hurt by Miss Universe Pia Wurtzbach’s win? My reaction

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Miss Earth 2015 Angelia Ong (image from Rappler)

Miss Earth Angelia Ong overshadowed by Miss Universe Pia Wurtzbach?

I do not always write about beauty pageants or beauty queens, but when I do, I criticize whatever bullshit I could find regarding the topic matter. Months ago, I had written a post about my opposition to a tax exemption bill for Miss Universe Pia Wurtzbach. The nincompoops who proposed that, I hope they are now in the hospital, writhing in pain over a terminal illness. With due respect to Wurtzbach, she never asked for a tax exemption.

Beauty pageants victories are shallow victories. A win in an international beauty pageant cannot equate to a gold medal won in the Olympics, World Championships, Asian Games, or South East Asian (SEA) Games, not even a Nobel Prize or a medal won in a science and math competition.

However, I will take leave of my criticisms if my favorite Jpop stars take part in the contest. AKB48’s Haruna Kojima and Nogizaka46’s Nanami Hashimoto are graduating. Japan should field them in Miss Universe or Miss World. AKB48, Nogizaka46, and their sister groups have enough girls, blessed with beauty, talent, and special skills, to dominate all pageants. Their global fandom will throw their support behind their oshimen, not their own countrymen.

Enough of the long intro. I’m getting to the heart of the matter of this post.

Why Miss Earth Angelia Ong felt hurt when Pia won Miss Universe? Last year, the latter ended the Philippines’ decades-long drought in the Miss Universe tilt, just two weeks after the former won back-to-back Miss Earth titles for the country. Well, if you have watched last year’s broadcast, you would know how and why Pia was thrown into the limelight. She won the crown in an unusual fashion and created a history of sorts too.

Winning back-to-back titles in any competition is one thing, but ending a title drought is another. It’s a big thing. Just ask Barangay Ginebra San Miguel. Just ask Olympic silver medalist Hidilyn Diaz. Ask the Golden State Warriors. And don’t forget to ask the Chicago Cubs or the Cleveland Indians later.

People talked more about Pia’s victory than that of Ong’s. I’d talk about it too. People always love a title-drought ending story. If you are a PBA (Philippine Basketball Association) fan, you would know why people and media talked more about Ginebra’s latest championship than Purefoods Star Hotshots’ grand slam.

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Angelia Ong crowned by fellow Filipina, Miss Earth 2014 Jamie Harrell (image from OPMB Worldwide)

Feeling bad for Miss Earth Angelia Ong

But after reading the news article from ABS-CBN, I feel bad for Miss Earth 2015. Of course, who wouldn’t? I know people and organizations who experienced the same sadness. If you are in the same situation as Ong, you couldn’t help but cry too. In a setting like this, there is the temptation to compare one’s self to another, and this could lead to envy.

To the beauty pageant fanatics, where were you when Ong arrived home from Austria after her win? To the management of Miss Philippines Earth, why didn’t you bring in the crowd to give Ong a queen’s welcome? A rousing welcome at the airport would be enough. There is no need for a motorcade. Welcome her with a band and a dance contingent, with flowers and media coverage. After all, it isn’t easy for the Philippines to win back-to-back beauty titles.

Or perhaps the management of Miss Philippines Earth cannot conduct such a program for Ong. Why not hire an events specialist or choreographer to plan out the whole thing? Why couldn’t they polish Ong’s visit to Malacañang to pay a courtesy call to the President?

Miss Earth Angelia Ong is human. She felt sad. She felt hurt and she cried over it. She was not given a grand parade. She didn’t I believe she questioned her self-worth too. She might have thought it was better not to win so she would not feel that way.

Miss Earth Angelia Ong’s reason for joining Miss Earth

But what I did, I went back to the reason why I did this. It’s not just about fame or about the attention, I joined not only for myself and my family but also for the advocacy of the pageant, which is protecting the environment.

Protecting the environment is a noble cause. Everyone can do their part for Mother Nature. Everyone can show their love for the planet in many different ways. Angelia Ong’s way was to join a beauty pageant dedicated to the cause.

But Miss Earth could have just joined a non-government organization or cause-oriented group. She could just join Greenpeace, WWF, Bantay Kalikasan or any other group. But if it is to stir up greater participation among the populace, if it is to bring greater attention to the matter, joining a beauty pageant could help the cause.

It is up to Angelia Ong to live up to the ideals of her advocacy. Her love for the environment should go beyond her reign as Miss Earth, as a beauty queen. She is, after all, a child of the earth like all of us.

She has her way of promoting environment conservation. It is up to her to live up her love for Mother Nature. Hope she has made the most out of her reign.

What’s next for the out-going Miss Earth? Endorse eco-sustainable transport. May she get her parade one day – in an electric vehicle.

To outgoing Miss Earth Angelia Ong, it is never an important thing to meet presidents or politicians. They come and go. They get replaced like diapers, so why pay them a courtesy visit? They could even be anti-environment. Prepare to meet the Creator and Mother Nature – they are the ones you should meet, not president Duterte nor former President Aquino.

What I can say about those graduation announcements (and my thoughts on Jonishi Kei)

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Fukagawai Mai, center, at her graduation concert. (Image from Nogizaka46 Club Twitter account @NogiClub)

A flurry of graduation news (and ceremonies)

I am a Jpop listener, but I admit I am not often updated with the happenings about AKB48, Nogizaka46, and other acts that I listen to. I am not a fanatic of singers or groups. I am just a fan of songs, but I stand behind the people who sing the songs that I like. And I also happen to be an admirer of beauty – Jpop beauty, that is.

Lately, I have been reading news items about some 48G and 46G members who had announced their intent to graduate: Nanami Hashimoto (Nogizaka46), Haruna Kojima (AKB48), Haruka Shimazaki (AKB48) and Jonishi Kei (NMB48). Hmm, pretty girls, aren’t they? Too bad they won’t be staying long with their respective groups, and their fans cannot help but feel sad over their looming departure. And while grieving over the news of Nanami’s graduation, I recalled some other members who have graduated this year: Takahashi Minami and Iwasa Misaki (AKB48), Shibata Aya (SKE48), Miyazawa Sae (AKB48, SKE48 and SNH48), Aki Takajo (AKB48 and JKT48), Miyuki Watanabe (NMB48), and Fukagawa Mai (Nogizaka46), among others. Wow, a lot of notable graduations this year. I wonder how many fans have committed or are contemplating suicide (just a jest).

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Rena Matsui announced her graduation from SKE48 during a radio broadcast last year. (Image from Twitter account of @mah48j38)

Well, we cannot stop our girls from departing. Who are we to stop them from pursuing a life and a career outside of 48G and 46G? Best we can do is to recall all the good times we had listening to them and watching them live, on TV or online, wish them luck, pray for their future success, and most importantly, make the most out of the time leading to their graduation. Now is the best time to hoard whatever products they promote or merchandises of their likeness to serve as a remembrance of our love and support for the girls.

The reason for graduation

If I remember right, Atsuko Maeda (AKB48), Rena Matsui (SKE48, AKB48 and Nogizaka46), and Aki Takajo graduated in 2012, 2015 and 2016, respectively, to take up acting. It is the same career path Miss Haruka will be taking once she graduate at the end of this year. Iwasa Misaki left this year to pursue the path of an enka singer. I even recalled one member who departed from her group in order to prepare herself for college.

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Atsuko Maeda, left, being comforted by Minami Takahashi as the former made her graduation announcement last year. (Image from http://mewmewhyorin.blogspot.com/)

Other girls want to live a normal life (a reason given by Nanami Hashimoto) or to pursue a new goal which they find while being active in their group (Nana Yamada of NMB48 and SKE48). Others want to make something new happen to her life and graduation from the group is that way to do that and it is unavoidable (as in the case of Fukagawa Mai). There are others who decide to graduate based on their assessment of their surrounding and situation (as what I can interpret in the case of Miyuki Watanabe).

Well, different girls, different reasons for their departure, but only one word and only one emotion: graduation and sadness.

As what one fan had noted in Facebook a few weeks ago, girls join AKB48 or any 48G/46G group for a number of reasons. They join to gain skills and build confidence in pursuing career paths in acting, singing, broadcasting, etc. Some girls join just to take a dare or because they have been rejected by other music groups. It is their launchpad for a career they want to pursue.

My thoughts on Jonishi Kei’s graduation announcement

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Jonishi Kei announced her graduation during NMB48’s 6th anniversary concert. (Image from http://fyp-kun.tumblr.com/)

I do not listen much to NMB48, though I like four songs from their discography, and I only know recognize two members of that group. While reading graduation announcements of certain 48G/46G members, I came up Jonishi Kei’s. She announced tearfully:

I have decided to take the next step. I became satisfied with my current position and environment. If I stay this way, my fans will grow distant, and I myself will end here. That’s why I have decided to take the next step.

Such an announcement struck me hard. I have been giving it a lot of thought since I first read it, even thinking about it when I go to sleep. Her statement pushed me to assess the course of my life, to think what I have done or accomplished so far in my career. I cannot compare myself to Miss Jonishi or my situation to her’s, but the gist, the thought or the message behind her graduation announcement is universal – it’s for everyone to bear it.

While pondering on Miss Jonishi’s graduation announcement, I recall two past events relating to my employment. Thrice I decided to leave employers on my own accord, not having them to terminate me. It was those times I felt something new or something better should happen in my life, and I was brave enough to take that step then. I was looking for new challenges, new opportunities, and new atmosphere or ambiance to awaken the sleeping giant in me, to realize my hidden potential. I’d love a good adventure.

I was not only looking for greener pastures but a field where I can plant and harvest the fruits of my labor. I’d love to see barren fields become verdant not only through my own efforts but also with the help of the people who did not give up on me.

I didn’t pay too much attention to the monetary aspects because I believe monetary rewards will come as I strive. I have always taken a pay cut into every new job, with the firm hope that I’d get an increase upon regularization. As long as my body can take it, as long as I can manage my time and finances well, I am willing and ready to sacrifice a bit.

I admit I always feel sad when I leave an employer for another employer and anxious when I depart from one job to another. but the saddest part is saying goodbye to workmates. So to take from Miss Jonishi:

I don’t know if I will be able to see everyone again. But if we get to see each other again someday, please tell me ‘okaeri’ (‘welcome back’).

Many times I wish employers who had terminated me would take me back. Many times I wish former workmates would contact me for sideline jobs or invite me to non-company outings with former workmates too. But I never have such opportunity, and former workmates are strangers now.

Listeners and fans of 48G and 46G could only wish their idols keep in touch with their former groups. We can pray for some sort of reunion to happen, where former members can perform together again and where they can connect with current members.

Like them, we should be strong enough in taking a big step in our personal and professional lives. We should learn from them.

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NMB48 will miss the beauty that is Jonishi Kei. (Image from http://stage48.net/)

It must have been hard for Miss Jonishi and other 1st generation members to depart from their groups, but graduation is unavoidable for both idol and fan, and it is a normal occurrence – something that serious and sentimental fans bear with sadness.

But hey, should not we be happy for them, for all the happiness they have given to us over all these years?

Nanami Hashimoto of Nogizaka46 is graduating???

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Nanami Hashimoto, the fair rose of Hokkaido, Japan, her birthplace.

Nanami Hashimoto saying goodbye?

That can’t be true. Hours after I celebrated the end of the 8-year title drought of Barangay Ginebra San Miguel, I stumbled upon the news of Miss Nanami Hashimoto‘s graduation announcement on Facebook. She was just chosen as the center of Nogizaka46‘s upcoming 6th single, “Sayonara no Imi“.

I just recovered from a bout of flu, and I got well just only to hear this news? Ok, let me get back to suffering.

Honestly, it is not what I expected. Miss Nanami is just getting her share of the limelight after being overshadowed by Miss Ikoma Rina, Miss Shiraishi Mai, Miss Nishino Nanase, and Miss Saito Asuka for a long time. And her selection as center of the 16th single is an honor befitting one of the original members of the group and one of the most beautiful and stylish ladies of Nogizaka46. Her looks remind me of Miss Mariko Shinoda, formerly of AKB48. Miss Nanami is one of the three ladies I idolize a lot in AKB48’s official rival. The other two are Miss Rina and Miss Rena Matsui.

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Nanami Hashimoto, at far left, with other members of Nogizaka46 in a photoshoot.

Graduation blues

The graduation bug first hit me in 2012, when my first ever oshimen, Miss Atsuko Maeda, graduated. I was still unaware of the graduation thing of Jpop groups. I eventually caught up to understand that graduation, in the Jpop lingo, is more than a farewell ceremony, but a heartful moment of gratitude and camaraderie. For the graduating group member, the graduation ceremony is the last time she will perform as a member of the group and with the group so she ought to give out her very best. To her adoring fans, it will be the last time they will see her with the group before she returns to normal life, move to another career, etc.

I do not idolize a lot of people in Nogizaka46, AKB48 or SKE48, but I do feel sad whenever a member is graduating, especially if that member is one from the first batch and sings in a track that I like very much. I want the first batch members to stay until the very end, but that’s the nature of Jpop groups. The veterans need to give way to the neophytes, the group needs to replenish itself of new talents…or one needs to move on as her life does not entirely belong to the group.

Miss Nanami intends to graduate so she can return to normal life. Anyways, her life does not entirely belong to Nogizaka46. Miss Rena does not entirely belong to SKE48, and Miss Miyuki Watanabe does not see a future being a member of NMB48 forever.

Single is a premonition?

The upcoming 16th single, Sayonara no Imi, may have something to do with teary goodbye. The word “sayonara” and the tune of the song really say it all. Was Miss Nanami looking for a sign and the time to say goodbye to Nogizaka46? Did she time her graduation announcement with her centership and the choice of song? A fitting, well-planned farewell, if you ask me.

Will she say goodbye after the release of the 16th single? Or will there be a single dedicated to her graduation as in the case of Miss Mai Fukagawa? Nogizaka46 fans should not miss the developments that will follow.

Barangay Ginebra San Miguel win first PBA title in 8 years

Barangay Ginebra is 2016 PBA Governors’ Cup champs

Minutes ago, Barangay Ginebra San Miguel Kings won their first PBA title in 8 years, thanks to a three-point buzzer beater courtesy of their import Justin Brownlee. The Gin Kings ended their 8-year title drought, which started in 2008, with a 91-88 Game 6 victory over the Meralco Bolts, a team owned by Manny V. Pangilinan, one of the richest men in the Philippines.

Barangay Ginebra coach Tim Cone won his 19th PBA crown, a league record. Veteran LA Tenorio was hailed as MVP.

Helterbrand and Caguiao: veterans never forgotten

Only two players from the 2008 championship squad remained: Jayjay Helterbrand and Mark Caguioa. These veterans are long the faces of Barangay Ginebra. They have endured taunts throughout the drought, entertained the thought of retirement without a repeat title, and suffered heartbreaks and defeats after the seasons that followed their 2008 title.

The duo, popularly known as The Fast and The Furious, provided much-needed championship experience to the present squad, finally bearing fruit. They never came short in the series against Meralco, putting in big baskets and empowering the crowd with their dazzling vintage moves. In the series against Meralco, they brought energy, excitement, and experience to the court. They are a testament to the axiom, “never say die“.

It seems like it’s Helterbrand and Caguioa’s last ride – and they have enjoyed it to the fullest. They have helped their team reclaim the throne.

Kangkong no more

The Barangay Ginebra San Miguel Gin Kings have long been the butt of jokes and memes due to their inability to repeat as champions following their 2008 win. Memes likes the ones below circulated in social media:

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The old Nobita wanted to go to the future where Ginebra wins a championship, but the old Doraemon replied that have been there – and Ginebra still haven’t won another championship.

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Ginebra team asked: When was your last championship? Ginebra’s reply: We don’t know.

Because the Gin Kings won again, it is time to put all those kangkong memes to the grave. They have resurrected their championship spirit. Even if Helterbrand and Caguioa decide to call it quits, Ginebra still has enough players who are capable of winning another crown, especially in the person of Scottie Thompson, who was inspired in Game 5 thanks to a video message of support from Liza Soberano, one of the most popular teen stars in the country.

As Caguioa exclaimed, “wala nang kangkungan” (no more kangkong or in other words, no more losing).

Will Barangay Ginebra repeat as champs?

That remains to be seen or else we have to exhume those kangkong memes in the next few months or years. Will be it another drought? Will die-hard Ginebra fans have to wait again for years? Will it be kangkong again?

#WeAreOneGinebra

#KangkongNoMore

#WalaNgKangkungan

#NeverSayDie

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