Sunday, August 28, 2016

The Dating Game, The Gaming Date: One Saturday at Ludo Makati

What is up with all of these board game cafes? asks The Atlantic. I've wondered about this myself. For example, here is a list of 13 newly opened board game cafes for 2016. Thirteen! In addition to the fourteen or so board game cafes you can already visit.

(It also feels like a primarily urban phenomenon. When I think of board game cafes in the province, I think of storeowners or tricycle drivers playing chess. With bottles of beer.)

Mary Flanagan, a Professor of Film and Media Studies at Dartmouth College offers an interesting insight (you can read more in the Atlantic article I linked above): “Board games structure social interaction in a really safe and helpful way. Face to face conversation is getting weirder and weirder...Board games help us get along and communicate.”

One "weird" communication set-up is well, the set-up, or the blind date. (J and I met through a blind date.) It's a communication land mine. One wrong step and--

We visited Ludo Makati on a Saturday afternoon to try out several board games for two. You may want to just sit down for coffee on your first date, but consider these games for your subsequent meet-ups (when you're more comfortable to cut each other's throats, gamewise).

Ludo Board Game Bar & Bistro
No. 38 Jupiter St. Corner Planet St. 
Brgy. Bel-Air, 1209 
Makati, Philippines

  The Philippine Readers & Writers Festival + Ludo Makati

I haven't gone to all the board game cafes out there, but Ludo Makati has an extensive gaming library. (I know we should respect each other's choices, but whenever I see a table of adults playing Monopoly, I die a little inside.)

  The Philippine Readers & Writers Festival + Ludo Makati

Look at the beautiful Mysterium cards blown up here.

  The Philippine Readers & Writers Festival + Ludo Makati

In Ludo, there is no table charge, but you are required to buy a drink or meal from their menu to keep the table and play the games. (I got nachos and coffee, and J got a rootbeer float. We stayed for around three hours.)

On to the games!

The Philippine Readers & Writers Festival + Ludo Makati

Time: 15 to 30 minutes
Objective: Create a quilt through patches with the most number of buttons at the end of the game Gameplay: Tetris with retaso

Easy game with minimal setup. (Although the objective itself does not tie neatly with the gameplay. Buttons? Why would you need buttons in a patch?)

The Philippine Readers & Writers Festival + Ludo Makati

Tip: you can ask for a cart like this if the game is too big for your table.

The Philippine Readers & Writers Festival + Ludo Makati

Tip: If you don't know how to play a game, Ludo has Game Gurus who walk around the floor, ready to help clarify game rules, or even sit down for a game if you don't have enough players.

2. Jaipur

The Philippine Readers & Writers Festival + Ludo Makati

Time: 30 minutes
Objective: Receive two Seals of Excellence from the Maharaja by having the most money at the end of the round
Gameplay: Trading at the marketplace, with surprise camels

The Philippine Readers & Writers Festival + Ludo Makati

The Philippine Readers & Writers Festival + Ludo Makati

The Philippine Readers & Writers Festival + Ludo Makati

The Philippine Readers & Writers Festival + Ludo Makati

This was fun. Beautiful art on the cards and the game pieces.

3. Lost Cities

The Philippine Readers & Writers Festival + Ludo Makati

The Philippine Readers & Writers Festival + Ludo Makati

Time: 30 minutes
Objective: Have the most number of expedition points
Gameplay: "Are you going to just invest in this expedition or are you going to move your butt and join us???"

Another game with minimal setup (you just have the one board and a deck of cards). Fast and simple game. I liked the idea that putting down Investment cards without putting down Expedition cards will get you a penalty.

4. Suburbia

Time: 90 minutes
Objective: Turn a small town into a major metropolis
Gameplay: Like in life, can quickly turn from "I need more money" to "I need to have better reputation"

The Philippine Readers & Writers Festival + Ludo Makati

The Philippine Readers & Writers Festival + Ludo Makati

The Philippine Readers & Writers Festival + Ludo Makati

The Philippine Readers & Writers Festival + Ludo Makati

It took me a while to understand what was going on because of all the moving parts, but this was engrossing, and a bit more challenging than the earlier games I mentioned.

So there you have it. If you have other recommendations for board games for two, let me know in the comments. 

The Philippine Readers & Writers Festival 2016: On Writing the Real, and the Filipino Literary Bingo

I recently joined National Book Store and Raffles Makati's Philippine Readers and Writers Festival on August 26 as panelist for the University of the Philippines Press's "Lines of Flight: The Practice and Limits of Realism in Philippine Fiction", moderated by Prof. J. Neil Garcia.

The Philippine Readers & Writers Festival + Ludo Makati

Here are some thoughts I shared in the panel (based on my rambly introduction and my squiggly notes):
  • I'd like to start with the realism vs speculative fiction dichotomy, and the charge that "all fiction is speculative". 
  • It depends on what is being speculated upon. For speculative fiction, you speculate on what happens when you change the rules of the world. 
  • It's about extending the what-if. What if you are a nun who falls in love? A beautiful premise for a realist story. Extend the what if: What if you are a nun who falls in love so much that you explode? What if you find a dead body in your house? Realist. Probably crime fiction, a thriller. What if your essence or soul can jump from one body to the next, and the body you jump into has a house, and in that house is a dead body? (This is Dwellers.) Now we have speculative fiction. You changed the rules of the world. (People don't literally explode just because they love so much. People can't make their soul jump from one body to the next.)
  • I write not only to re-shape the world, but to re-shape the rules of the world.
  • In realist fiction, you try to find the extraordinary in the ordinary; in the stories I write, I place them side by side.
  • Reasons for why I write this: I grew up with these stories (the sirena, the mangkukulam); I grew up reading a lot before eventually writing my own stories, and always I ask, what else can I do to contribute something new to Philippine letters?
  • Certain genres follow certain beats, and they can serve as a shared language to draw people in. You may not be particularly drawn to Filipino culture, but you may pick up Mythspace because the shared language of the space opera draws you in. (Even though this particular space opera has elements you may not be familiar with, like the aswang in spacesuits.)
  • Certain readers who read a certain portion of Philippine literature seem to play the Filipino Literary Bingo when thinking of our local lit. May sapa ba? May kalabaw? May magsasaka? I enjoy these stories, but these are not the only stories we can tell.
  • Look at how Einstein interpreted the world. How was he able to share what he understood? Through stories. What if you move so fast time slows down for you? These stories are backed by theory; our stories--be it realist or speculative fiction--need to be backed by an honest, open-eyed examination of the human condition.
We write to reach illumination, said Prof. Garcia. Through stories, you can resolve not just the plot, but also how you viewed the world, said Prof. Sicat-Cleto.

This panel was recorded, and the transcript will appear in the next issue of the Likhaan journal. A fantastic idea, as we hardly record ourselves, and lose fantastic discussions like this to the ether.

ANNOUNCEMENT: Speaking of speculative fiction, I will be serving as panelist for the first Amelia Lapeña-Bonifacio Writers Workshop in October, which will close to submissions TOMORROW, AUGUST 30. Go submit!

The deadline for the Amelia Lapeña-Bonifacio Writers Workshop has been extended to August 30. This year’s focus is on speculative fiction.

The Workshop Director is Charlson Ong, with award-winning writers Eliza Victoria, Nikki Alfar, Will Ortiz, and Vladimeir Gonzales serving as panelists and teaching staff.

The Amelia Lapeña-Bonifacio Writers Workshop will accept 12 fellows: six writers in English and six in Filipino. Application is open both to published and unpublished writers who are between 18 and 35 years old as of August 15, 2016. Entries must be two unpublished stories (in English or Filipino, but not a combination of both) with a length of 3,000 to 10,000 words per story. The portfolio must be accompanied by a short bionote, not more than 150 words. The author’s name must not appear anywhere on the stories.

The workshop is set for October 14 to 16, 2016. Successful applicants will receive a modest stipend, as well as board and lodging at the workshop venue.

Photo from Gabby Lee.
L-R: Charlson Ong, Luna Sicat-Cleto, Dean Alfar, J. Neil Garcia, Gabriela Lee, me! and Jaime An Lin
The Philippine Readers & Writers Festival + Ludo Makati

The Philippine Readers & Writers Festival + Ludo Makati
Olive from UP Press introducing the panelists
UP Press loot
Thank you UP Press!

I also dropped by to listen to Anvil Publishing's "Teaching Young Adult Literature" with Carla Pacis, Cyan Abad-Jugo, and Sophia Lee.

Cyan Abad-Jugo shared this interesting study:

The Philippine Readers & Writers Festival + Ludo Makati  

On August 27, I returned for the official launch of my book, Wounded Little Gods. I read from the book's first chapter and answered some questions. 

Thank you to those who dropped by!

The Philippine Readers & Writers Festival + Ludo Makati
Gabriela Lee launching her first short story collection, Instructions on How to Disappear
The Philippine Readers & Writers Festival + Ludo Makati
John Jack Wigley launching his Filipino essay collection, Lait Chronicles (lait = Filipino word for "insult"; these are not essays about milk!)
The Philippine Readers & Writers Festival + Ludo Makati

From Gabby Lee
L-R: Siege Malvar, Nida Ramirez, Joey Arguelles, me!, Gabriela Lee, Carljoe Javier, Jack Wigley

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Hong Kong: Day 4 (Hong Kong Disneyland, Part 2) and Home

Read Hong Kong: Day 4 (Hong Kong Disneyland).

I read up on Hong Kong Disneyland online, and my main takeaway was, The place is huge. There's no way you can explore Disneyland's every nook and cranny in one day, so just take it easy.

Oh, and it's better to come in early and on a weekday.

Disneyland is so big that the night before, J asked me what I wanted to accomplish (he had been to HK Disneyland years ago with his family) and we actually plotted it out on Google Maps so we could see how far we had to walk from one location to the next.

(I wanted to tell our Tim Ho Wan seatmates--and the young 'uns out there--that when you're close to turning thirty? There will be days when you want to be in bed by, like, seven? And you're tired all the time? Totally. Snapchat!)

I don't quite know how Snapchat works.

We could have done more, obviously, but I want to be drinking beer by seven.

So from Hong Kong Station, you get on the line heading to Sunny Bay. From Sunny Bay you transfer to the pink line heading to the Disneyland station.

The train's destination is unmistakable.

I mean, just look at it.



There is a bag check prior to entering the theme park. This was the only bag check I experienced in Hong Kong.



Hot, fresh, delicious Vader.


Everything is expensive! So if on a tight budget, just eat before heading to the park.


I'm more interested in the shows than the rides. (Also, I no longer have the stamina/patience to wait hours in line for a ride.)

Tip: check the play times first!

I highly recommend the following:

Mickey and the Wondrous Book (Fantasyland)

Mickey Mouse and Goofy find a book and--basically this show is an excuse to include Disney's well-loved songs in one 30-minute musical. Great production value. (And I'm pretty sure three or four of the biriteras are Filipinos.) I love the Disney princesses medley. (This is a new production, so this already features Tangled, Frozen and Brave.)

The production we saw was in Cantonese. Mickey and Goofy speaking Cantonese! It was great. (Subtitles appear on the screens onstage.)
"A peek inside won't hurt!"

Festival of the Lion King (Adventureland)

aka The Lion King summarized in a 30-minute play. If there's something Disney knows how to do well, it's spectacle. This has fire dancers, aerial dancers, a spinning stage, puppets, animatronics, probably a stage manager developing an ulcer from all the cues they have to take note of.



Flights of Fantasy Parade (Main St.)

I didn't take a lot of photos because I wanted to just stand there and watch it. 



These cute Buzz Lightyears made my day.


After browsing the shops--I was surprised that there were so many shops! I thought there'd be more food places--we briefly looked into the Art of Animation displays.



 Below is the Toy Story Zoetrope in action. 

What is zoetrope?

a 19th-century optical toy consisting of a cylinder with a series of pictures on the inner surface that, when viewed through slits with the cylinder rotating, give an impression of continuous motion. 


 It started to pour, so we decided to head home. (And get those beers!)



The next day

We took the Airport Express this time.


Some airlines (not ours) already have check-in counters at the MTR Airport Station. Very convenient.

Oh, Hong Kong. We'll be back. I'm still dreaming of those steamed rice rolls.

Till next time, then.

HK 2016
I saw this cute silicon mug lid in one of the stores in the airport. My personal souvenir. 
HK 2016
Got this sticky note from HK Disneyland after buying some pasalubong. (They show you a roulette on a tablet at the cashier after you pay, and you can win small prizes.) (Not sure if there are big prizes.) (Bahay at lupa, ganyan.)

I never win anything, so adding this here for posterity's sake.