My thoughts on Rurouni Kenshin: Kyoto Inferno

Rurouni Kenshin Kyoto Inferno

“I will never let you go to Kyoto.” — Kaoru

If my adolescent years had a single, most notable highlight, it would be anime. I rushed home after school to catch episodes of series like Ghost Sweeper on AXN, Magic Knight Rayearth on ABS-CBN, and Flame of Recca on GMA. I spent so much (of my parents’) money buying original manga and soundtrack CDs from Comic Alley. My cousin, Alexis, and I would go to anime cons at the old SM Megatrade Hall, and while we did not go into cosplaying, we did participate in other contests (like singing the opening song to Rayearth in front of the crowd, cue “Tomaaaaaaraaanaiiii“). Heck, my first email address had the word “otaku” on it it.

Now, given my obsession over anime, it would speak volumes to say that my most favorite anime/manga of all time is definitely Rurouni Kenshin. I know the lyrics to every opening and ending song (even the 2nd verses and 2nd choruses that weren’t even played in the anime). I have seen every single RuroKen OVA and have read the entire manga. I loved even the post-Shishio, Shogo Amakusa arc that many fans didn’t like. When I was active in a chat channel called LinkTV back in the early 2000s, I used ‘Misao’ as a screen name, while ate Alexis used ‘Sayo’ (Shogo’s sister). And we had online MU with some guys who used ‘Aoshi’ and ‘Sanosuke’ — please don’t judge. LOL.

I cannot stress how much of a fan I am. Last year, I saw the first live action film with my fiance, another big Kenshin fan who re-read the entire manga the same time I did. We geeked out over how good it was and how it paralleled the anime/manga.

We’ve also already seen the 2nd installment and it was undeniably well-produced and well-acted. However, as a huge fan (and as a very emotional lady), I felt down about a couple of things. (warning: potential spoilers ahead)

Kenshin Kaoru Fireflies Farewell

No fireflies and tearful goodbyes in the movie :(

First up, WHERE ARE THE FIREFLIES? I realized that they were non-existent in the famous farewell scene between Kenshin and Kaoru when I first saw the movie trailer — and that the scene was shot in broad daylight. So I decided to rewatch this exact scene in the anime via YouTube and it made me tear up. I could be getting a little too melodramatic here but that scene is just too iconic to be changed. Plus Kaoru did not cry after Kenshin walked away. :(

Kenshin Kaoru Farewell

But okay, it was still very sweet and touching. #KenKaoForever

Also, in the anime, Kaoru did not “act like nothing happened,” as Sanosuke suggested in the movie. On the contrary, she acted like the world has ended and was depressed — until Megumi almost-slaps and talks her out of it, telling her that she should be thankful that Kenshin even said goodbye to her. So yeah, no drama between Kaoru and Megumi over Kenshin here. (Plus Megumi already seems into Sano in the movie.)

Now, because it wasn’t shown how devastated Kaoru was about Kenshin leaving, the filmmakers had to find a way to add more depth into the Kenshin-Kaoru relationship. So they added a new, and the biggest, twist to the movie — which is Kaoru getting kidnapped by Sojiro.

I personally think that that was just too cliche. While Kaoru has been a damsel-in-distress one too many times in the entire anime series, this certain part of the story actually showed her stronger side by going against some members of the Juppongatana alongside the Onibawanshu.

Don’t get me wrong, though; I most definitely enjoyed every bit of Kyoto Inferno. In spite of my tiny complaints, the movie gave the anime justice with its exciting action scenes, stunning production sets and costumes, and spot-on acting (everyone did so well, but Sojiro and Hoji in this particular film were probably my favorites). Also, if you’ve followed the series as religiously as I did, you will appreciate details like the flashback with Tomoe in it (similar to the first movie) and accurate adaptations of scenes such as when Sojiro killed Okubo inside the carriage.

I can’t say I’d still spend as much time and money on anime today. But nostalgia can be a wonderful thing, and I’m definitely going to see the next movie to see how the changes from the anime to the movie will come full circle in it. September 24 cannot come soon enough.

The Civil Wars is breaking my heart

civil-wars

Image via NPR

Joy and John Paul of The Civil Wars are definitely my favorite musical duo in the entire history of the world (and Inara and Greg of The Bird and the Bee comes a close second). They make the most beautiful harmonies over an acoustic guitar — and sometimes a piano — and nothing more.

While I know that they have been on indefinite hiatus since 2012 because of professional differences, I only just found out about the statement on their website that have decided to “permanently part ways.” Joy seems really sad about what happened and even commended JP as a “tremendous musician” and that she is thankful for the music they were able to make. John Paul, on the other hand, did not even mention Joy’s name in his statement and expressed “thanks to all who were a part of the arc of The Civil Wars—from the beginning, to the end, and all points in between.”

This breaks my heart.

And this interview with Joy Williams shatters it.

I fell in love with every single song on their first album, Barton Hollow, and I know all the lyrics to the songs by heart. Soon after, I chanced upon The Edge of Tomorrow, a young adult novel that featured Poison & Wine and Barton Hollow as part of the story’s main plot. Their 2013 self-titled album is no less of a beauty. Their music is so raw and feels so real.

Over the last couple of weeks, while I’m writing, I play videos of them performing live in the background — their Liveset concert one more often than not — and it really sets the mood for me. Today, I came across their “tour diary” videos, and played specifically this one that turned out to be very emotional.

“For whatever reason, when I do things with Joy, it’s, like, bigger than me. It becomes something that I could never do by myself or be able to create by myself.” — John Paul

“I really do feel like we’re each other’s opposite — in every way, actually. I don’t really know how this whole thing works, but I hope that it keeps working for a really long time. I would like to be singing night after night after night with my friend.” — Joy

“It’s like this weird, magical alchemy that happens when she and I share a stage.” — John Paul

I know they are married to other people and all but I still ship these two so hard. Their relationship is not romantic, yes, but I think how they see and relate to each other is just wonderful and something I would want to be able to share with my husband-to-be as well.

If you’ve ever watched Joy and John Paul together on stage, you’ll know that they have this undeniable connection that translates to the music they sing and play. It’s really sad now they have officially broken up. And even sadder for me that I didn’t get the chance to see them perform live.

While I look forward to any music that either of them will release in the future, I feel like it won’t be anything like the “magical alchemy” they were able to create together.

How he popped the question

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset

While waiting for the rest of our VGmates at a sisig place last Tuesday, the lights suddenly went out. Then Ate Ann said, “Oh my! Baka may mag-ppropose!” Grace and I burst out laughing. Sabi ko pa, “Namatay lang ilaw may magppropose na? At sa King Sisig talaga?!” We even told the rest of the group later on and they also laughed with us.

Turns out someone WAS going to propose. It just didn’t happen that night.


The following Saturday, I got up at around 8:30am. I ran through the chords for Sunday’s lineup of songs, took a shower, wore a plain white shirt and denim shorts, and left for the 10am music team practice. JC was already in the lobby area as soon as I got there.

Some of our music teammates were also already there by the time kuya Jared arrived. He informs us that his baby is sick so Ate Judith, his wife and our worship leader, will be late for practice that day.

He proceeds to let us know that we can start with the special number, which has apparently been changed by Ate Bern (our worship coordinator) to John Legend’s “All of Me”. I wasn’t surprised by the change at all, because Ate Judith asked me if I knew the chords to the song around 2 weeks ago and we might play it in church at some point.

So we practiced. I played the keys as usual, Ronnelle played the acoustic guitar and Tim sang. In the middle of the song, JC got on one of the microphones and suggested that we insert a solo after the 2nd chorus. I remember saying, “I think that would ruin the integrity of the song.” He then says that he just wants to try it out for the day.

I was looking at the keyboards by the time the 2nd chorus ended, and I didn’t even hear him starting a speech on the mic! By the time I noticed how everyone was looking at either me or him, I just stopped playing and blurted out loud, “What is happening?” Ronnelle just smiled at me as he kept playing the guitar.

I could transcribe everything he said in that speech, but what I want to share with you is what touched my heart the most:

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset

“I know this isn’t your typical grand, flashmob-y proposal, but I felt that I didn’t need to impress you now, because I should be impressing you and our children for the rest of our lives. With that said, I wanna marry you. Will you marry me?”

  Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset

I started crying like a little girl. It was all kind of a blur after that, but I remember him coming up to me, going down on one knee, and asking the question again. I said, “Of course, I will,” and then I ask with a nervous laugh (my heart was beating out of my chest), “Which hand does it go? Right or left?” We didn’t care and he just placed it on my left ring finger. I could be biased, but the ring was beautiful. He also gave me a bouquet of pink and white roses, all of which are showing no signs of wilting 4 days later (at this time of writing).

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset

The surprise was a success. I was absolutely, completely clueless about what was about to happen (not to mention what was happening when it came to that). Heck, I was even just wearing a shirt and shorts with zero makeup on! There were so many hints but I didn’t even pick any of it up.

Turns out we didn’t really have a scheduled practice that day. In fact, we weren’t even playing that Sunday. The whole team was on it, including our sound tech guy, kuya Ronnie, who recorded the audio of entire thing, while John Rey/Ate Dhaize took a video (which I thought was because they just loved the song and wanted to have it recorded). Of course,  “All of Me” was not going to be played in church as well — Ate Judith asked me about the song 2 weeks ago as part of the big plan (clever!). Most importantly, JC also arrived super early in church, which should have been the biggest clue! He almost never gets there before I do, unless we went together. Ha ha.

If there’s one thing you should know about me, I hate spoilers. Every single one of my favorite novels, movies and TV shows has that surprise factor. So when JC asked me how I felt about his proposal later on, all I could say was, “I loved it.”

The team prayed for us as thanksgiving for this momentous event in our life. I could feel JC shaking next to me, which led me to ask why. He tells me that he was excited about this since he bought the ring 3 weeks ago, but that morning he actually felt very nervous. I don’t think I’ve ever heard him say he was nervous about anything except for the time we got held up (but that’s another story). I found it adorable. :)

We went ahead to go to my place and let my mom, the rest of my family and closest friends know. I also got to speak to my papa, who works abroad, via Skype and he also blessed us with his approval. As a side note, my papa has actually been telling me and JC things like, “Oh alam niyo na, 50 na ako. Gusto ko na magka-apo.” Ha ha.

We eventually made our engagement public that night by posting it as a life event on Facebook. It warms my heart to know so many people supports our decision. Here are some of my favorite reactions:

Most favorite reaction awardee:

“Natutuwa ako kasi ginawa ni JC sa church and involved din si Jared, which just proves his sincerity.” -Mommy, right after we broke the news

Most touching reaction awardees:

“Kayong dalawa ‘yung dahilan kung bakit naniniwala pa ako sa true love.” -Niña, my housemate of 3 years, via Facebook

“I remember when you both broke up in college and you told me, if you were meant to end up together, you will. You are both proof of the bridge you build to the one you love – destiny. So happy to see you both on your way to your happily ever after!” -Hydra, my best classmate forever (BCF), via Facebook

“Always knew you would end up together.” -Dani, my cousin, via Facebook

“True love exists. I cry.” -Jishi, one of my best-est friends, via Viber

Most possessive reaction awardee:

“Iiwan mo na ako!” -Samantha, my 12-year-old sister, with an upset face

Funniest reaction awardees:

“My closest friend in the world got engaged today. I am so happy for her. But I would also like to share the highlight of my day.” Joyce, one of my best-est friends, captioned on her 4096 screenshot via Instagram

“You don’t know how happy I am right now. Pero hindi ko matanggap ‘te, hindi ako ang pinili ni JC. Charot.” -Rain, my good friend, on Twitter

Whether you are on this list or not, we want to say thank you for your greetings and well-wishes. We appreciate each and everyone of you. :) God bless!

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset

Have you looked in the “black mirror” today? Definitely yes.

A screenshot from Black Mirror 2x2

A screenshot from Black Mirror 2×2: The Entire History of You

Black Mirror is a UK television show that explores how the world interacts with technology, and presents the dark side of this interaction to its viewers. You may not be familiar with the show, but you’re definitely familiar with the “black mirror” referred to on the title. You’ll find it on your palm, on every desk, on every wall. You’re even looking straight at it right now: the cold, shiny screen of your computer monitor, tablet or smartphone.

Every episode has a different cast and a different plot, and unless you’ve spoiled yourself with previews and recaps, you never really know what you’re going to get with this show. It’s been over a year since I saw all six episodes of Black Mirror, but the feeling of discomfort and unnerving after watching each of them never left me.

I’ve always been a self-proclaimed tech geek (see sidebar). And just very recently, it hit me just how utterly technology-dependent I have become. I absolutely cannot go to new places without looking it up on Google Maps first and I use looloo or Around Me to find nearby restaurants or ATMs in locations I don’t frequent. I log every single thing I have to do (from work-related tasks to chores and errands) on my Reminders app and create calendar events fro every meeting, interview, deadline, concert or upcoming movie that I can’t miss. I do my reading on either my laptop or tablet. My morning paper? Twitter. I discover new music using 8tracks and I’m subscribed to Spotify. I like to take pictures using my phone, and I like to edit them on VSCO Cam and then post them on Facebook or Instagram afterwards. I connect my keyboards to my laptop with a USB MIDI interface cable so I can use Logic Pro X instruments when I play music. I will choose a high speed internet connection over a cable TV subscription with a gazillion different channels any day.

But I asked myself, is that a good thing? My boyfriend hates it when we’re supposed to spending time with each other, but I can’t keep myself from checking Twitter or editing photos I just took. I often find myself mindlessly and endlessly (pun intended) scrolling through my Facebook feed. I end up not paying attention to my family when we’re hanging out because I’m too busy reading articles I’ve saved on Pocket.

So, with some free time in my hands last week, I re-watched the three Black Mirror episodes that stayed with me. As each episode ended with the eerie silence of the black screen with end credits, a shiver-inducing thought lingered in the mind: Charlie Brooker’s fictional show is slowly, but very surely, starting to become a reality.

Spoiler alert! If you haven’t seen Black Mirror, you may want to stop reading and remedy that. But I’ll try not to give away too much.

Black Mirror and Google Glass

The first season finale, The Entire History of You (1×3), is set in the near future where people have the capability to record every moment captured by their eyes and ears, and play them on any screen. It’s like having a photographic memory, and I imagine how this can be useful. For one, you’ll never forget where you left the TV remote (not that I watch a lot of TV), your keys or your phone. You won’t have to consciously remember your professor’s lecture, the grocery items your mom asked you to get, the phone number a colleague gave you — you just have to rewind and replay memories at will and there they are.

But how much would we actually want to remember about our life? I, for one, wouldn’t want to remember any kind of pain that I’ve felt in the past. Nobody likes the wrong things they’ve done rubbed on their faces, and I wouldn’t want the hurtful things I’ve said to other people replayed to me (I specifically thought about this because of the scene in the episode where the husband and wife were arguing and the husband called the wife a “bitch” and regretted it, but the wife replayed the scene over and over again to him).

We may not have a technology as advanced as this (yet). But most of us routinely leave a trail of personal information behind us – from emails to idle thoughts on Facebook, to our selfies posted on Instagram. Go to a concert or a live gig and you’ll see people recording the proceedings on their smartphones (I know I do).

Image via

Image via ExtremeTech

More importantly, have you seen how Google Glass works? I know I’ve mentioned to a couple of friends who has seen Black Mirror how this creeps me out. The device allows users to record events as they occur, from their perspective, using voice commands that removes any sign that one might be recording. The invention (and continuous innovation) of Google Glass definitely makes the protagonist’s nightmare in this episode a potential reality.

Black Mirror and Facebook Shrines for the Dead

Let’s talk about the emotional second season premiere of Black Mirror, Be Right Back (2×1). The question the episode asks is this: will you be able to resist a software-generated version of your dead loved one, whose identity is based on all social media, email and other previous communications, who can chat with you, talk to you, and even physically be with you?

Screenshot from Black Mirror 2x1: Be Right Back

Screenshot from Black Mirror 2×1: Be Right Back

I remember a friend who tells me the story of a friend whose boyfriend committed suicide, and to this day leaves messages on his timeline as if he would respond. This is not uncommon. Many of us now use the Facebook profiles of our dearly departed ones as shrines to them. How long will it be until these profiles respond to messages based on the personality that the social network logged about them?

The lines between humanity and technology sometimes blur (think: Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro). But in the end, no matter how much technology connects us, it can never replace human interaction and the human experience.

Black Mirror and Taking Videos of Dying People

Finally, there’s the White Bear (2×2) episode. The form of punishment for crimes in this fictional world is definitely ruthless. But you know how there are people who are not doing anything to help the girl with amnesia and instead they’re taking videos of her on their smartphones? Well, in White Bear, that was kind of part of the punishment.

Image via

Image via this blog

Now, here’s a very creepy, very ruthless fact about society today: many would rather take a video of a bloodied man who just lost his limbs after being ran over a train, of a tourist being eaten alive by a lion, of a woman being beat up in public by a man with only her son trying to stop what was happening. Look them up if you must, but I promise you these videos are actually uploaded on social media.

Have we become more concerned about getting likes, shares and views now than helping others? Has going viral become more important than being human? Are we turning into those people on White Bear, where they see other people’s suffering as a form of entertainment?

We can only hope that even as technology continues to transform how we live our lives, we never lose what it means to be a human being.

“[Black Mirror] is about the way we live now – and the way we might be living in 10 minutes’ time if we’re clumsy.” — Charlie Brooker, creator of Black Mirror

Nicole Will Eat version 2.0

Feeling like a pro writer with Writer Pro

Feeling like a pro writer with Writer Pro

I bet you read the title the way Laida Magtalas said it (if you’re Filipino, I hope you’ve seen the movie).

It’s been almost a month since I left my full time job to do freelance work (mostly writing and design). And I realized that there is no other way to get better at doing writing and design than to actually do them on a regular basis.

With that, a decision had to be made: should I put up a new blog or continue this one?

In the end, I opted to continue Nicole Will Eat, not only because I love to eat  but because I realized that hey, we actually feed ourselves so many things on a daily basis. May it be good (or bad) food, a Bible verse, a new show on TV, a beautiful song, a BuzzFeed article, a Thought Catalog listicle, a film you just saw, the pollution along EDSA, or even a conversation with a friend, we actually digest all of that.

I think this ‘theme’ also poses a great opportunity for me to be more appreciative of the mundane things we interact with. Having a lot of free time right now makes me realize that there are so much to be thankful for everyday — and we tend to overlook all of that in the busyness of our lives.

In conclusion, Nicole Will Eat will be less of a food blog and more of a personal blog. But there will definitely be food. Nicole ALWAYS goes back to food (my Instagram feed would be substantial evidence of that).

Oh, I’ve actually considered purchasing a domain and getting paid hosting. But given my lack of long-term commitment to blogging in recent history, I’ve decided to see how long I will be able to actually commit to this first. Until then, other Nicole Baldivias (yes, there are) of the world, please don’t buy nicolebaldivia.com.

PS: Yes, I like parentheses.

PPS: Nicole Will Eat is indexed by search engines pretty nicely already. My post on 7-Eleven’s french vanilla cappuccino is ranking #20 and #16 on Google.com and Google.com.ph respectively. The marketer in me says that this is also a very good reason for me to keep running the blog instead of creating a new one. :)

7-Eleven’s French Vanilla Cappuccino

I have always loved coffee, but working in the IT industry got me into a caffeine coma. But I’m no coffee snob — give me a Starbucks latte or a Great Taste 3-in-1, I’ll be more than happy to take either! :)

My love affair with 7-Eleven’s French Vanilla Cappuccino began when my UPLB friends and I would walk all the way to a 7-Eleven in front of Olivares Mall (around 1 and a half kilometers) in ’07 or ’08 just to get our coffee fix. I think they had a venti-sized one back then, and we’d gulp the whole thing down on the way back to our apartment near campus. I got even more hooked when 7-Elevens started sprouting all over LB, including one on the corner of Halcon Street, where I used to live.

2 years later, I am working for Forward where the office building has nothing a but a 7-Eleven nearby. With a 7-4 work schedule, their French Vanilla Cappuccino is exactly what I need to jolt me out of unproductive mornings.

The large size would probably be a grande in Starbucks sizes now (no more venti, why!). The coffee has that very sweet, creamy and smooth vanilla flavor that I’ve loved since college. I repeat: it’s really sweet. Whether it’s the coffee or sugar or liquid candied crack on there, it definitely helps boost my weekday mornings. At 45 pesos for the large cup, it’s a steal considering that Starbucks or CBTL will cost me thrice the amount.

7-Eleven French Vanilla Cappuccino

It’s become such a routine for me to go straight to 7-Eleven after my morning commute, walk right up to the coffee dispenser, grab a large cup and push the button for their French Vanilla Cappuccino that I already know the crew by their names (and they know me by mine, too; they’re practically my favorite baristas now!).

Who needs an expensive cup o’ joe when you can get a large and really good one at such a reasonable price? :)