In the movie Limitless, the main character takes a miracle drug and ended up being able to access the full capabilities of his brain. He was able to transform into a financial wizard from being an unknown struggling writer. Like in all things, not everything will be good all the time.

Who wouldn't want to be limitless in every "good" aspect of life? Intelligence, physical attributes, and of course, riches... material things and all the perks of having access to unlimited amount of money, these are just some of the most desired by people. This is especially so in the latter with some people saying that money can take care of getting more brains and beauty.

Do We Need a Miracle Pill to Become Limitless in Finance?

I 'm sure many will be tempted if such a miracle pill existed. However, there is still the old-fashioned way of doings without the negative side effects. Of course, it would take work, caution, and perseverance but who says we can't have fun while doing it. While I'm working on financial stability, I make it a point to relax and play games on the side.

Four players battle it out to be the first to build a specific number of farms, gold mines, lumber mills, and mountain ranges. In each turn, players get a limited number of gold, lumber, stone, and grains automatically, as well as one dice roll. The amounts increase as more building are set.

The fun comes from the fact that it involves four online players instead of just AI-controlled players, which makes the gameplay a bit more unpredictable. Though a fair bit of luck is involved, the challenge comes in choosing wisely how much resources will be spent to reach the goal, and from whom you can steal from to gain an advantage.

Overall, this is a fairly simple game that never overstays its welcome. While it may get repetitive in succeeding games, the involvement of other players online evoke the same kind of fun I had when I play Uno or Monopoly with friends from school. Most importantly, its simple yet consistently engaging gameplay is able to paint one important message clear: spend wisely!

What if Papa's Burgeria was stressful and painful for the fingers? Perhaps the hardest game I've played in the website, Ultra Pixel Burgeria is what you'd expect from a game of its caliber: accept orders, cook burgers, fill-up drinks, and serve quickly. But how could a simple game about cooking burgers be so challenging? Unlike the popular Papa's games that simply involve stacking the ingredients, Ultra Pixel Burgeria requires players to prepare the dough and minced meat. Specifically, players have to drag them to the cutting board then click continuously until they're chopped: a process that takes-up too much of the one-to-two minute time window. In all honesty, perhaps what made the game difficult for me was the decision to play it on a laptop that did not have a portable mouse. This in-turn made the in-game ingredients much more difficult to click-on or drag across the screen, and eventually, made it nearly impossible to get a perfect rank. Due to this, I'd recommend to play this on a tablet, since it'd be much easier to maneuver, or a computer with a mouse. As someone who is open to challenging games, this is indeed one heck of a game!

Ben Tennyson finds himself trapped in a computer world, and players must help him escape through the use of codes! But wait, what does this have to do with finance? Coding, like every other activity, opens the door to numerous career opportunities. In this case, Ben 10 Omnicode, while not even close to a crash course in web design or social media marketing that you may expect, is a colorful and fun logic puzzle that can bring-out the creative side in a child. Heavily inspired by the Scratch programming language, players are tasked with dictating the titular hero's moves through a specific sequence of codes while collecting points for a higher score. As expected from the franchise, players can unlock and use Ben's transformations like Cannonbolt and Four Arms to navigate through the levels. Though simple in design, its dazzling visuals, as well as its wide assortment of challenges will keep players invested. In my case, though programming is not my cup of tea, this game made me recall the times I tried and failed running different Scratch programs to rebuild simple flash games. Now, after playing a bunch of levels, I kind of want to go back and give Scratch another go!

I will definitely be back for more games as I make my way to my fun financial journey and make my own version of Limitless.

Since 2014, I have been doing something that I love to do very much which is to review movies through Dateline Movies. As my personal responsibilities increased through the years, however, I wasn't able to dedicate as much time as I used to. This led me to think on what my blog can do better for the year 2023.

Photo by Alvaro Reyes on Unsplash

Since I have every intention of continuing this passion of my mine, here are some of the things my blog will do better for the year 2023.

Watch More, Review More

There is no question that I watch movies every chance that I get. Whether it is during family time, in-between class schedules, or just relaxing before I sleep. Watching films is my go-to activity. In truth, I still get to watch a lot of them.

The problem is I don't have much time left in my hands to write about what I watched, much less to do a review. I decided that I will set aside a specific weekly schedule for my blog. After all, giving time is essential to this kind of goal.

Improve Blog Look

The look is one of the most important elements of a blog. Aside from time, this would require funding. A professional yet viewer-attractive look is what I am hoping to achieve this year. I guess I will need to start saving up for this expense.

I have actually started reading on how to save more. This brought me to Savings Calculator from Hopefully, I will be able to save enough to get professional assistance this year. One thing I'm sure of though, I will not stop trying to improve the look of my blog for my readers.

Better Content

While I know that  blogging is essentially a writer's format for sharing, I will not forget to think of my readers when doing so. I plan to discover ways on how to express my views which could be more helpful or entertaining to my readers. But of course, this will not be at the expense of creating content just to please.

I love writing too much to reduce it to such level. The result should be something that I care enough to write about and that readers should consider worthy enough to spend time reading or viewing. To my mind, this is how blogs continue to exist.

Not everyone is born a natural genius, especially when it comes to math. People like the character Will Hunting from the critically-acclaimed movie Good Will Hunting are rare. The rarer scenario is having self-taught geniuses surprising professors and students who are expected to fare better in finding the solutions.

Most of us have to learn math the hard way, staring with dazed eyes on computations being presented in what appears to be very easy to arrive at. That is of course until we try solving the math problems ourselves. From this point on, it's either we give up or decide to have fun in trying and learning.

Math Games Equal Fun Learning

Effective teachers of young learners have known for quite some time that making learning fun provides better results. This is more so with a school subject like math, and math games are a lot more accessible even at home. This makes it easier to convince children to "study" under a fun environment.

The choices are many and difficulties vary. The young and not-so-young will find themselves spending much time and effort trying to reach the highest scores. Here are two games that piqued my curiosity.

Math Speed

Math Speed is the perfect game for students to learn and practice adding, subtracting, dividing, and multiplying numbers. In this game, a fox will lose one of its three lives with every wrong answer, and it's up to the player to win the game. This is one of the easiest games to play that it is almost therapeutic due to its fun challenges and gameplay.

Number in Order

Number in Order is quite challenging even for an adult, given the time constraints and ever-changing instructions. Players must click on the balls either in increasing or decreasing order as indicated by the instructions found at the bottom of the screen. Alertness and attentiveness are the two keys to winning: something I found-out the hard way after many, many tries. 

All the games offer are playable without the need to log-in or to download new applications,

Practice Makes Perfect

There are many aspects in life where the old saying "practice makes perfect" hold true, especially when it comes to mathematics. We don't need to struggle every step of the way in doing this. Sometimes we can have fun while learning.

When buying a car either for personal, family, or business use, there may be situations where you may have to consider whether it will be wiser to buy a used car or a new one. It wouldn't be a hard decision if the car to be purchased will be crash and burn, like with what we've seen on films like Fast and Furious. To my mind, choosing used cars is the more production cost-effective option.

Of course, the use of new cars to smash in films for the sake of authenticity is not totally unheard of. Let's veer the discussion for now from cars used in films to real life. If given the choice, will it be a new or used car for you?

New vs Used Cars

Curb Appeal

New cars expectedly fare better than used cars in this aspect. Nothing screams "status symbol" than having the latest car model in your garage. The smell and feel are fresh, the paint is shiny, and the accompanying latest automotive technology can be pure pleasure.

Used cars can still have its own physical appeal, as long as the previous owner did not neglect maintenance. Not all new car technology is needed for a satisfying drive anyway. Anything new usually adds to the cost of the car.


New cars also have an edge over used cars in the reliability aspect. Should any concern comes up, there is the manufacturer's warranty. If the car actually becomes a lemon, then replacement is an option.

Buyers can go for certified pre-owned cars. They are more expensive than other used cars but still cheaper than new units. There is also the assurance that the car has been thoroughly inspected which is very important since there is no absolute way of knowing just exactly how the previous owner took care of the car.

Cost of Purchase

Used cars are far friendlier than new cars in terms of purchase. This is because taxes, insurance, and down payment tend to be lower. It follows that monthly payments are lower. 

Consider using a Car Payment Calculator to have a general idea of monthly payments when buying a car. I actually found one online where I got the chance to play games. Once buyers understand the financial obligations involved, it will be easier to arrive at a decision. 

Access to Reviews

Buyers can get more information to a car's performance from reviews. Because used cars have been in the market for some time, buyers get authentic reviews from actual users. This may be more difficult to obtain for new cars because of the lack of readily available information.

What buyers would see about new cars are marketing information about their features. The cost of depreciation and experience hits the original owners more than succeeding owners. The important thing is to know the critical information before buyers let go of their money.

So if you want to maximize your money's worth for a car purchase, make sure you take the time to consider the pros and cons of new and used cars. Frequent change of cars may be a luxury reserved for the rich or people like Dominic Toretto who live for street racing and heists, aside from family.

The lyrics of "No More", one of the official songs of the biographical musical drama film - Tick, Tick...Boom!, encapsulates what often prompts people to transfer houses and upgrade. Desire for convenience, better facilities, more space, or neighborhood upgrade, are common reasons for such decisions. It is safe to say that comfortable living space  plays a big part in the enjoyment of quality life.

A life that involves "no more faulty wiring, no more painted floors, no more spitting out [anybody's] Ultra Brite."

When change is needed to accomplish this, there are two options available. It is either you upgrade your existing home or relocate to a new home that will fit current needs. Both would result to expense which is still highly advantageous long-term if played right.

 Upgrade Existing Home

Homeowners who prefer to stay in their current location and have options to make the necessary upgrade without transferring are a perfect fit.  A clear idea of the possible cost involved is critical especially if a loan is needed to make it happen. Mortgage Calculator has the Repayment Calculator with Amortization to help in calculating expected monthly payments.

Using the existing property as collateral for the loan allows owners to make their property work for them as a way to obtain the loan. Monthly payments will of course be coming from regular income. It is important therefore to obtain a loan based on actual capacity to avoid possible financial issues.

Buy Dream House

On the other hand, those who opt to have a change of environment or whose current location cannot accommodate desired changes to size and style may be better off hunting for properties elsewhere. Leading property websites such as Rightmove reports that homes are selling faster than ever. This is very encouraging considering that the world is not yet fully safe from the threats and effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Photo by Jacques Bopp on Unsplash

As life happens, plans will change. Whether it be additional household members, career shift such as that made by the character Michael in the film from the performing arts to the corporate world, or simply to enjoy a beautiful home, the question of upgrading or not is a decision that will have to be made.  To Archive Filipino Films, Old and New

Yvonne Yuchengco of Yuchengco Museum has announced that the museum will soon launch, a digital platform that would cater to audiences looking to access quality local movies.  Starting February 22, 2022, movie fans can watch a variety of titles from renowned directors as well as up-and-coming student filmmakers for free via a 7-day online filmfest called Y2M (Yes2Movies), which will run until February 28, 2022.

Says Ms. Yuchengco, “We feel this auspicious date would be a good way to get started with our mission-vision to archive Filipino films, old and new.”

Some of the featured works in the inaugural festival include some of its groundbreaking and critically-acclaimed works from TBA Studios, one of the Philippines’ leading film production and distribution companies. Among the TBA Studios titles that movie fans can access are the historical epic “Heneral Luna,” quirky romcom “I’m Drunk, I Love You,” award-winning drama “Women of The Weeping River,” romantic film “Write About Love”, and TBA Studios’ latest legacy project, “Habambuhay: Remembering Philippine Cinema.”


Ms. Yuchengco added, “We have solicited and gotten the support of TBA Studios. Our website will drive its visitors to the link that will enable them to watch their films for free on their channel.” In response, Mr. Ting Nebrida, executive consultant for TBA Studios, said “We’re pleased to align ourselves with the goal of which is to bring together Filipino films and make them available to all.  We’re just glad to help jumpstart the process of getting the ball rolling on this important mission-vision.” 

After the 7-day Y2M filmfest, will reopen itself officially sometime in April 2022, when it will already have a wider and longer list of available Filipino film titles.


Also included in the Y2M filmfest are four works from this year’s batch of student films (features and shorts) from CineMapua.  Schools and students nationwide are encouraged to submit their films for archiving in Yuchengco Museum’s website. 


Y2M is available globally and will be accessible 24 hours a day for free on the website.  


For further info, please contact Yuchengco Museum


Ph:  (8)889.1234 / (8) 887.5144. 

There are times I wonder what would happen if I consider doing the unthinkable like making a complete 360 degree turn in career choice. For most of my life, I found myself drawn to Journalism. That is of course not counting the years where I dreamt of becoming an engineer, a lawyer, or a priest at different phases of my very young life.

I'm not exactly sure as to what prompted me to imagine myself donning a chef's hat. After all, what could be more impossible than a rat in a chef's hat but here I am re-watching the movie "Ratatouille," oblivious to the incredulity of the story line. Next to that, me considering a culinary career might not be impossible after all. This may also be in part due to a website I came across recently- which provide so much information for those who would consider embarking on a culinary career.

The website also has a wide variety of features that would cater to Internet users from all across the world. Besides workout monitors and tipping calculators, cooking aspirants can easily search for schools depending on the US state where they are located.

The website also has something for the youngsters, which I myself took a lot more time looking into. That is the wide collection of food-themed video games, featuring original and even licensed properties (official HTML-5 games from Cartoon Network and Nickelodeon among others) that features different genres. Some are more educational while others harken more to our golden days of playing the classic Diner Dash.

Just to give an idea of the types of games that their large collection has in store, here are my top six picks:

Adventure Time Rumble in the Nightosphere

What's the first thing I think of when it comes to culinary careers? Food? Maybe, but this game is not just all about sugar, spice, and everything nice.

Based on the critically acclaimed Adventure Time series from Cartoon Network, Adventure Time Rumble in the Nightosphere is a rather short platformer game that has players take on the role of the mysterious Peppermint Butler, as he fights the possessed Cinnamon Bun and his army of monsters. Unlike the other games I played, this one can have two players, with the partner playing as series minor character Starchy.

To clear each level, players must recall their Super Mario Bros. lessons and stomp on their enemies (depending on the enemy type, some have to be stomped on more than once). In a twist of the formula, players must keep pressing either the up or W button and carefully hover each character across the stage while making use of the sides of the screen to teleport to the other side of the stage.

While the game is surprisingly short and quite repetitive (outside of the final boss battle), the game makes up for it with challenging and exciting gameplay that forces players to think twice before mashing buttons on the keyboard.

Honestly, the controls are sometimes difficult to work with, especially when it comes to maneuvering the characters midair and keeping the characters' ghostly gliders safe from harm. Nevertheless, who doesn't want a good challenge? This one is definitely best played with a friend. 

We Bare Bears Chocolate Artist

Now for a game that's perfect for the cold weather. After all, who needs Starbucks when we have the always reliable Grizz, Panda, and Ice Bear to keep us company.

Based on the Cartoon Network show "We Bare Bears," Chocolate Artist tasks players in serving hot chocolate to customers by holding the left mouse button and swiping into the direction displayed in the thought bubbles. They can also get combos by performing the specified move for a larger number of customers.

With only three tries before it's game over, players must serve as many customers as they can and fill up the star bar at the bottom right corner of the screen.

Besides the inclusion of the three lovable bears, the game makes use of its mouse-based gameplay very well. It tests players to act faster each round, while also asking them to be very careful with each stroke of the mouse. It's a sweet blend of warm cartoon aesthetics with polished task-management gameplay that is sure to delight casual players.

Perhaps, the fun part is that each level becomes even more difficult. It is designed to keep players on their toes and intrigued from start to finish.

I also just love the sound effects of the game whenever I get combos of twos, threes, and so on and so forth.

Lunch Shop

Being a sandwich lover, I have quite the soft spot for sandwich-themed games (if my history for casual cooking and time management games would suggest). Fortunately, Lunch Shop did not disappoint.

A simple fast food simulator game, Lunch Shop tasks players to prepare dishes based on a customer's order on the rightmost part of the screen. This is done by basically clicking on any of the items on the ingredients table, then clicking the check mark once orders are ready. Sounds easy enough, right?

While players are treated to the all too familiar "stack 'em up" gameplay 'ala the Papa's Pizzeria franchise, the game also adds not one, but two timers to keep players alert. Besides the need to finish orders before the yellow timer runs out, players must also be on the look out for the clocking down purple timer at the top. If that runs out, then it's game over.

That's not all, though, as players must strictly sort all ingredients from top to bottom, according to how they are sorted in the order. For instance, if an order asks for a hamburger and some fries but the latter is at the bottom, then players must first click the fries pack then the fries themselves. Serve the order with the hamburger being sorted first would give you a poop emoji for failing.

In all honesty, this game gave me a difficult time for awhile, but I eventually got around to being careful in selecting the ingredients. If you are in search of a fun food-themed game that is spiced with a side of decent challenges, then Lunch Shop is the game for you.

Water the Village

Of course, how can one prepare food without having to use one of the most important compounds known to humankind: water?

In the game that I would call as my personal favorite of them all, Water the Village is a puzzle-based game that requires players to distribute water based on what each house wants (i.e. the red-colored hot water and the blue cold water) while diverting the green waste water to the nearest filter. To do this, players must connect the filters, houses, and water sources through a limited number of pipes, while also closely monitoring their different types.

Players can also make use of different power-ups to change water temperature or flow speed, and can collect coins for bonus points.

As a huge fan of strategy games, Water the Village is definitely a doozy, especially with its trial and error-based gameplay. What makes the game even more exciting is the addition of timers for each water source, which challenge players to analyze the resources available and to connect the pipes quickly before time runs out.

I have to also highlight one level that involved hot and cold water going through one connecting pipe. As these water types would not mix in-game, it took me a few minutes to realize that I had to release the hot water earlier due to the lengthy path it has to take before the cold water blocks it. It is a nice touch that shows that the game goes above and beyond a call to deliver not just a fun experience, but also a casually puzzling time.

The Casagrandes Mercado Mayhem 

No ingredients? No problem. Head on over to the Casagrande family's Mercado and be treated to some hospitable superstore service to cater to your culinary needs.

Now imagine Night of the Consumers, but more family-friendly and not horror-themed. You would get Mercado Mayhem, a game based on the Loud House animated spin-off "The Casagrandes."

Here, players tend to the titular family's mini-market and have to help customers finish their groceries. The young girl Ronnie can be tasked to pick-up the customers' orders, while the older Bobby can be moved to restock supplies after every order. 

The game is a simple time-management adventure, wherein one simply has to click around the environment in order to get to the goal. While it is mired by some lagging issues and sometimes characters are not as responsive as they should be, Mercado Mayhem is still a fun superstore simulator that is supported by the show's colorful and lively art style.

SpongeBob SquarePants Krabby Patty Crisis

Finally, what food-themed game collection would it be without the lovable sponge himself.

In this fast-paced tower defense game, players control the Krusty Krab's best and only fry cook as he dishes out Krabby Patties left and right to insatiably hungry customers. While keeping customers away from the barrier at the bottommost part of the screen, players have to mind how much Krabby Patties it would take to make them happy and how much they can keep before their "ammo" runs out.

Players can also collect power-ups to blast customers in a near instant or slow them down during each round. A more challenging mode that involves protecting Mr. Krabs from the customers while he wanders around the screen is also available, but I do recommend both versions.

Out of all the games I played, this one definitely takes the cake in being the most difficult. Although I made it to about three rounds in the normal version before eventually getting a game over, the one where I had to protect Mr. Krabs did not even spare me in the first round. Maybe my gaming skills simply needed a polish, but I nevertheless found Krabby Patty Crisis as a challenging yet rewarding experience.

Photo by Michael Browning on Unsplash

Who knows what the future really holds? What is there to stop me from being a Chef-Journalist? As I work to obtain my degree in Communications, let me settle for now in playing food-themed video games.

Image courtesy of UP INTERNET and EngageMedia


                   Look Into the Light

                             [This in-depth review contains MAJOR SPOILERS for all four films.]

From November 20 to 27, 2021, we got the chance to watch four different short films in Tech Tales: Films About Digital Rights in the Asia-Pacific. A collaboration between the UP Internet Freedom Network (UP INTERNET) and non-profit media group EngageMedia, this served as a showcase of movies that discuss issues of digital rights across countries in the Asian Pacific.

Although it was originally teased to be showcasing a total of eight entries, only the films from India, Myanmar, the Philippines, and Thailand were released to the public. Meanwhile, the ones from Australia, Cambodia, Indonesia, and Malaysia were not screened in the first week but are now free to watch in Cinemata from December 10 to 18, 2021 in celebration of Human Rights Day.

In the words of UP INTERNET’s Founding President Mac Arboleda, Tech Tales was meant to engage viewers in discussing the worsening human rights violations in recent years and even now in the time of the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as to “speculate” as to what will happen if we do not act now. 

In the same way that most techno-thrillers and digital dramas uncover the terrors of being vulnerable in cyberspace, Tech Tales serves as a collective call to action for viewers to uncover the growing darkness in the digital age.

However, there is a certain level of intrigue that separates Tech Tales from your standard science fiction outings. What if there is no Matrix to jack into? No time-traveling rogue artificial intelligence to beat? No darkly comedic punchline to give a satirical bite? 

In the likes of The Matrix or The Terminator films, talks on digital rights are often relegated to hero versus villains stories. In Tech Tales, the fight for humanity’s survival is not defined by stylish fights in the rain nor by hunting robots in dark alleys, but by facing the evil that lies behind the machines. The ones that know if you were bad or good, demanding that you better be good for governments' sakes.

These four films ask us to fight through the darkness and look into the light.

Image courtesy of UP INTERNET and EngageMedia

Act I:

         Appa and His Invisible Mundu

- Directed by Varun Kurtkoti

We begin with a child’s call for change, all the way from India. The viewing order was based entirely on how they are arranged in the film playlist. Though it may not mean much at first, I found this as the best way to watch all four films at once, and I will explain why later on.

Directed by Varun Kurtkoti, we listen to the mostly unseen eight-year-old Kuri tells the tale of her father’s fight against the malevolent Dineshan, a giant newspaper clippings collage of an all-seeing eye that closely monitors Kuri’s Appa’s cyber-activity.

In Kuri’s eyes, the world is a massive sketchbook excellently brought to animated life by pastel colors and pencil art. With fluid movements and flashy transitions, these wild and colorful sequences perfectly capture the fun and adventurous feeling of being a child trying to understand the world in their own little ways.

This somehow brings to mind most SNES-era RPGs like Earthbound ground their stories through a child’s fantasy-laced lens.

In Kuri’s eyes, her Appa is a superhero who is blessed with a Mundu (a type of South Indian garment) that allows him to be unseen from his enemies, even the all-powerful Dineshan. After Kuri gives us a brief day in the life of her Appa, from his work as an autorickshaw driver to his phone activities, things take a sharp turn for the worse when her Appa is plagued by the cute yet monstrous yessing managers that are controlled by Dineshan.

Despite Appa refusing to have the yessing managers look into his data, Dineshan retaliated by destroying Appa’s reputation, after the latter shared “something” that Dineshan itself would be appalled at.

Dineshan, as a concept, brings to mind the Big Brother-like Central Monitoring System (CMS) in India.

As detailed in Addison Litton’s 2015 paper “The State of Surveillance in India: The Central Monitoring System’s Chilling Effect on Self-Expression,” there are some parallels to this. Specifically, Dineshan accessing Appa’s sensitive information even without his consent is somewhat similar to how the Indian government monitors citizens through telecommunication networks as declared in their IT Act.

Despite all of these, however, I felt that the film was not able to frame its themes of digital surveillance and online privacy in the context of India per se. Although there are high-context concepts such as Dineshan (a concept that even after attempting to search through Google I still have no idea what it may be referring to specifically) or Mundu was thrown into the mix, in essence, Appa and His Invisible Mundu was unable to set its themes apart from the ones that countries such as the Philippines, where censorship from the state remains a big deal, face.

In other words, while the film may be easy to understand, for the most part, there is not much that would give average viewers a firmer grasp on the situation in India. One way that the movie could resolve this is by going further into the implications and consequences of their IT Act’s Section 66A, which technically means that citizens can be prosecuted for their social media activity. Subtopics can include how else “Dineshan” monitors and profiles people through social media and the arrests and even deaths that followed.

Digging deeper into the meat of things would not only contextualize the film but I believe that it would also provide a more complex image of Big Brother Dineshan instead of the seemingly easy-to-beat character that was shown at the end. In my opinion, at least, I find that presenting a more complicated situation while being easy-to-follow can educate people more about the seriousness of a contemporary issue and engage those unfamiliar by letting them see how different circumstances are between countries and cultures.

Overall, this film serves as a strong but perhaps a tad bit straightforward opener. If one were to look at all four films as four distinct acts of a stage play, then Appa and the Invisible Mundu is the bright and colorful collective call to action that is bolstered by stunning animation and an uplifting direction.

All capped off with Appa and the rest of Dineshan’s victims blanketing Dineshan’s view, with Kuri eerily asking the audience: can we?Can we stand together and fight? 

This then brings us to …

Image courtesy of UP INTERNET and EngageMedia

Act II: Pattani Calling - Directed by Vijitra Duangdee

We continue into the deep south of Thailand, where Malay Muslims stand against the implementation of a biometrics security system that puts all of their lives on the line.

Directed by Vijitra Duangdee, we look into the lives of Malay Muslims being caught in the crossfire of a years-long bloody conflict between local authorities and insurgents in the titular Thai city, through the eyes of a mostly hidden protagonist. We journey with them from one heavily guarded checkpoint after another, across the seemingly quiet streets of Pattani.

The protagonist constantly fears the possibility of being snatched whenever driving across borders to work, accessing public Wi-Fi in convenience stores, and contacting their family through public payphones. This is because the protagonist is one of the many who does not trust the government’s latest counterinsurgency effort known as the “two-shot identification” system.

Here, citizens are required to register their SIM cards, giving local authorities access to biodata as a means to track suspected insurgents who may use phone-activated devices to kill innocents. 

To truly understand the significance of the two-point identification system is to look into the extremely complex history that led to it being implemented in the first place. Given Pattani Calling’s limited runtime, it is completely understandable that the film would only focus on the basic aspects of the wider story. At the same time, it is because of this scope that I am completely unfit to discuss the context behind the film any further.

To at least get a sense of seriousness, however, I find that Pattani Calling must at least be able to evoke specific emotions in audiences by showcasing certain elements. It resorts more to telling rather than showing much of the problems that Malay Muslims are facing, which prevented me from connecting with the themes more. There is an underlying sense of eeriness that was established by the first testimony, but that feeling in me did not stick for too long.

This is not to say that the movie should contain graphic imagery or footage (excluding the brief news clips of violence) for shock value nor invalidate the interviewees’ insights. In fact, Pattani Calling has relevant insights from people who are facing these issues, from human rights defenders to different "digital rebels."

Rather, I believe that the film could have included more recollections from the unseen protagonist or from additional sources to paint a more concrete picture of life in Pattani, especially when it comes to the discrimination that Malay Muslims face at the hands of authorities.

The act of ceaselessly monitoring citizens’ data is unjust in and of itself, but most unfamiliar viewers may not feel as enraged as the filmmakers’ intended after just hearing statements of condemnation. Justifying discrimination towards a community on the basis of peace and security is unquestionably wrong, but some people may not see how damaging being discriminated against in Pattani is without hearing how exactly it happens.

If I were to suggest, perhaps the movie could have also compared the implementation of the two-identification system to the GT2000 scandal of 2007 to 2010. As explained by an activist in a 2020 New Mandala article, this referred to the explosive detection devices used by authorities to round-up suspected insurgents along with the provinces in the southern Thai borders. After discovering that GT2000 units only had a 20% success rate in 2010, it has since been believed that much of the arrests and deaths are baseless.

I feel that this added historical context would have given viewers some insight as to why most Pattani citizens would not trust something as horrifying as the two-shot identification system. After all, the idea of something eerily similar to an event spells terrifying implications, more so if people who experienced the 2007 to 2010 incidents shared their thoughts.

Another suggestion would be to frame the story in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, covering how the two-shot identification system adversely affected citizens. Something that was also covered in New Mandala’s story.

If Appa and His Invisible Mundu was the colorful opening act that hooks viewers, then Pattani Calling is the well-intentioned yet somewhat incomplete first act. Here, audiences are further acquainted with the terrors that linger in cyberspace but, as in my case, may find it a challenge to be able to immerse themselves with the same level of fury as the filmmakers

I believe the rage against the state's machine is evident, but I also feel that might have been indirectly muted by a lack of clarity.

This then brings us to ...

Image courtesy of UP INTERNET and EngageMedia

Act III: Black Out - Directed by Anonymous Filmmaker

We continue with perhaps my personal favorite out of the four, wherein we see a mother and daughter struggling to understand the chaos unfolding just outside their door.

We open with brief news broadcasts of an ongoing media Black Out in Myanmar. At the center of the commotion is single mother Hnin and her activist daughter Mon. They both debate as to whether or not they should have Internet service installed in their home as television screens go dark and with Hnin only relying on text messages to get a hint of what is happening in their country.

We spend the whole chunk of the movie in Hnin and Mon’s house, with the mother’s and daughter’s faces completely obscured either by shadows or by their heads being faced against the camera. There are neither colorful visuals like in Appa and His Invisible Mundu nor multiple perspectives to fill the tune runtime like in Pattani Calling. Instead, we are trapped in a claustrophobic and isolated setting with a silence that is only occasionally broken by sounds of cheers and gunfire in a distance, ambiance, and the two characters conversing with each other.

This simple set-up, combined with the use of mostly still shots, effectively conveys a sense of dread that lasts all throughout Black Out. Due to the lack of traditional music that encourages viewers to be angry or sad and theatrics that tends to deter from the seriousness of the subject matter, audiences are forced to be just as scared and confused as Hnin and Mon. 

The obscuring of faces also works in the film’s favor. In addition to the reality subtext behind this and the film crew’s decision to credit themselves anonymously, not seeing their faces gives the actors a chance to convey much more emotion through their voices. A move that I believe stuck the landing.

As news broadcasts give further updates, Hnin and Mon hear cheers but they have no clue as to why. A text Hnin receives tells her that this was after a leader was set to be released from custody, but she and the friend who sent the message speculate that this may be an act of psychological warfare. Later on, the sound of gunfire replaces the thunderous cheers, with Hnin learning that this may all be a ruse. 

A moment that reflects the surge of disinformation and propaganda in the country, which we will get to shortly.

It is not only until Mon attempted to encourage Hnin to take the fight to the streets and the very last broadcast that the audience is finally told the truth: Black Out takes place at the height of the 2021 Myanmar coup d'état.

The gist is that the nation’s military, Tatmadaw, claimed that the National League for Democracy party’s (NLD) electoral victory last November 2020 was baseless. This hostile takeover, the latest development in Myanmar’s lengthy fight for genuine democracy, led to widespread protests across the country. As of writing, more than 1,000 innocents were killed by military forces, with both Myanmar’s president and state councilor currently incarcerated. 

Although it was fairly obvious from the beginning what the film will be about, especially if one was already updated with world news, Black Out does a phenomenal job in engaging audiences in just the first few minutes. “Phenomenal,” in the sense that even if one was unfamiliar with the context, by the time the credits roll, viewers would definitely feel something that may compel them to know more about the issue.

Instead of resorting to exposition, the film slowly builds up the tension through the news broadcasts becoming clearer and clearer in context and through Hnin and Mon becoming more and more alarmed. Black Out, much like all of the films in this event, is unsubtle in its discussion, as seen with Hnin and Mon discussing how reliable the news that they get is. However, it never feels forced nor does it feel incomplete.

That tension culminates with a chilling, uncertain conclusion, with Hnin having to run out one night in search of Mon after she did not return home from a protest. The film simply fades to black after a few seconds from Hnin leaving home. If Appa and His Invisible Mundu was the prologue and Pattani Calling was the first act, Black Out feels more like the climactic second act that calls to viewers …

To face the truth and step out into the dark.

This finally brings us to …

Image courtesy of UP INTERNET and EngageMedia

Act IV:

                                        Panulukan (Crossroads)

- Directed by Richard Soriano Legaspi

    [TRIGGER WARNING: Mentions of rape and suicide]

    We end with the fourth act of this hypothetical stage play. With Black Out as the unnerving transition, Panulukan should serve as a quasi-resolution to much of the themes in the entire catalogue.

    Directed by Richard Soriano Legaspi, we open with two friends (a man and a woman) hitching a ride with two strangers on their way to Manila. Unknown to the two at first, their newfound “friends” are actually paid internet trolls. Their job? To spread lies and propaganda to support the heightened state of impunity in the Philippines, specifically extrajudicial killings (EJKs) of suspected drug addicts.

    As we go along for the ride, we learn that the male passenger lost some of his loved ones and his family’s land at the hands of the state. We are asked to sympathize with him because of the tragedies he experienced, but the film immediately tears viewers when one of the trolls recalls how his sister was raped by a drug addict, then committed suicide not long after.

    At the front seat is a decently executed moral dilemma between two people with valid and understandable grievances. Was the male passenger right to slam the trolls for what they are doing because of what he had to endure or was the troll right to support the state’s killing crusade as a way out of his misfortunes? While the film clearly and rightfully sides with the former, Panulukan invites audiences in a way that none of the previous three films did: to see them (supporters of corrupt states among others) as people.

    Given these, Panulukan has a tough balancing act between discussing EJKs in the country and the dangers of internet trolling, and for me, was initially set to be one of the most thought-provoking films on the list. 

    It is not hard to see a connection between the EJKs and the rise of internet trolls in the Philippines. As the movie showed, trolls would create false narratives of peace and order by way of bloodshed as a means to sell an ideal, bastardized version of reality. If it was making drug-addicted boogeymen out of poor, innocent people back in the 2016 Philippine Drug War, then there is the continued red-tagging of critics in the state’s ill-conceived counterinsurgency campaign.

    It is through this lens that Panulukan attempted to affirm that behind every piece of state propaganda is a human being whose story is being twisted. However, it is in their attempt to connect both the truth behind EJKs and the socioeconomic roots of digital injustice under 15 minutes that I felt that the short may have been trying to cover too much ground.

    There is an imbalance between the two themes, with the film feeling so much more like a debate as to whether or not EJKs are "necessary" that I felt that the trolling aspect was almost entirely overlooked. If Panulukan wanted to link Internet trolling propaganda into the mix, then I feel that it would have been best to have the male passenger condemn the trolls for trolling instead of condemning their support for killings (e.g. instead of the fate of his sister in the film, maybe the troll would have justified his actions by saying she died pennilessly and that he did not want to suffer the same way).

    As a side-note, something similar to my suggestion above was hinted in the very last line from one of the trolls, wherein his partner convinced the other to "fulfill their quota" to pay for the latter's mother's hospital bills. That itself already brings to mind how paid trolls are becoming a thing of the present due to various socioeconomic inequalities. Since there was no mention of his mother beforehand, I think this detail came out of nowhere.

    It is also through this imbalance that I felt that the movie became excessively unsubtle in its stance, especially in the final sequence. Here, Panulukan jams three different pieces of symbolism in one go: a nearly 10-second shot of a street sign with the names of real-life Drug War victims Kian delos Santos and Carl Arnaiz, a rap song about injustices in the country playing in the background, and the Waze app glitching to mislabel the victim as a dead animal.

    The latter is one that my father personally found jarring since, according to him, anybody familiar with Waze would know that the app never magically mislabels nor even detects specific blocks on the road. In my case, this is especially so considering that the movie started and progressed in a fairly grounded execution and that there is no in-universe logic to establish why Waze behaved as it is in the movie other than to make it explicitly clear that technology should not be trusted (just like what the male passenger said very early into the movie).

    None of the films in this playlist are expected to be subtle, considering that each film focuses on region-locked issues. However, because we already had more than 10 minutes of characters directly addressing the matter, I saw no reason to go any further than that. Even though the visual references to delos Santos and Arnaiz are not some things that most viewers would understand immediately, the lack of proper context behind their mentions in the film may render these lost in translation.

    Overall, Panalukan presents a serious ethical dilemma regarding whether or not we are intentionally or unintentionally invalidating the grievances of other victims of corrupt states. It is a resolution with a gripping set-up that challenges viewers to go beyond our echo chambers and directly address the elephants in the room.

    But with too much going on in too little time, some viewers may be left confused in piecing together the point of it all. A flawed but nevertheless worthwhile fourth act that serves as a dark reprise of Appa and His Invisible Mundu's asking if we can stand together and fight, and serve as the audiences' way ...

    ... out of the dark ... for now.

                       Out of the Dark

    In UP INTERNET and EngageMedia's screening, viewers were asked to look closely at our digital screens and see the light in every story. One tech tale that serves as a fearless and colorful call for change and a motion to stand united against common threats. Another is a record of a community's rage at being caught in the crossfire over and over again. Yet another serves as a mother and her daughter's spiel of suspicions when facing the seemingly unstoppable unknown. Finally, a lucid look-back on the world outside the safety of our digital screens.

    Even with the comments and suggestions I have shared, praise must be given for all of the artists who have poured their hearts and souls into (and even risked their lives for) each of these projects. Ones that I hope will be released to the public once more, as there is a lot to discuss when it comes to the likes of the 2021 Myanmar coup d'état, the heightened cyber-surveillance in India, the ongoing carnage in Thailand, and the rise of state supporting internet trolls in the Philippines alongside the other four initially unscreened films.

    These are movies that can encourage viewers to look further into different social issues and ones that can court viewers in fighting for genuine social change. After all, everything that I have discussed so far are merely my opnions only and none are meant to say that I "know better" than the artists themselves. As such, I highly encourage everyone to watch all of them whenever and however they can and make their own interpretations on these movies.

    Tech Tales: Films About Digital Rights in the Asia-Pacific made us see the light behind each issue. But even if we all dared to glaze, will we be able to unite and march our way out of the dark?

And that is ... the Dateline!