When Celine Lopez met Sean Ellis
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Guest writer: Celine Lopez shares her take on the journey to Metro Manila

Who says you don’t meet great men at parties?
Although it was far from romantic, my friendship with Sean started out in 2007 in a party at my home.
He had studied with a good friend of mine in Barcelona and immediately started gushing about how interesting Manila was.

Sean Ellis, Celine Lopez, Axel Favre
Tea time at Lusso, Greenbelt 5—from L-R: Sean Ellis, Celine Lopez, Axel Favre

Years passed. Sean made other movies and I was busy with YStyle while living in India/London part time.
Every time I saw Sean, all we could talk about was this movie project. But we couldn’t seem to get our timing in order.
Then on November 2010, Sean was free from any pending projects and I was about to call off my wedding. We said to each other, “Eff it let’s do this!”
And so began the adventure and the amazing ride of the precious movie Metro Manila.

Sean Ellis, Metro Manila

At Sundance, our first night of screening garnered a humble number of viewers who applauded when the movie ended—in unison with gasps. It was music to our ears. At that moment we were just happy to be there.
The next day, through our Sundance app, we saw that all of our screening dates had been sold out.
Our baby had taken its first step.

Jake Macapagal, Celine Lopez, John Arcilla at Sundance
At Sundance 2013: Jake Macapagal, Celine Lopez, John Arcilla

The thing that struck me the most about Sean was his sensitivity upon observing our culture.
Sean noted: what’s not being said is louder than what’s being said. He made the brave decision to shoot it in Tagalog. The undeniable talent of Jake Macapagal, Althea Vega, John Arcilla, JM Rodriguez and Ana Abad Santos took this challenge to another level.
Sean’s partner Tilly, along with the passionate production team, all took this jewel box production to heart.
What I found most interesting was seeing how everyone—from different countries, cultures and even backgrounds—all work together in this passion project.

Metro Manila at Sundance
Metro Manila’s Filipino cast, producers, and director accepting the World Cinema Dramatic Audience Award at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival

Things were difficult. Money was tight. Even time was a precious commodity.
There were terse moments always to be followed by hugs afterwards. It was a great moment for everyone, even if there were no guarantees of success.
However, we all knew we were all part of something special. We literally just did it. Bahala na!
Seeing Metro Manila grow into the hit that it is today, even noted by the Guardian as possibly the movie of 2013 has surpassed our greatest dreams.

Metro Manila family scene

What touches me the most about our film is that it has found its way in the hearts of all our viewers in Europe. The universal language of love, hope and faith has found its way to audiences who understand Tagalog in the same capacity as hieroglyphics.
Philippine cinema is definitely having its moment along with other foreign movies that have put their focus on our country.
Metro Manila is proudly the UK’s submission for the Oscars.

When Sean first arrived in Manila, I gave him a Team Manila T-shirt that said the Philippines needs more love stories.
Providentially, Metro Manila has become one of our love stories.
See the baby in theaters this October 9, 2013. Mabuhay!

Pepper Lunch October specials!
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This October, Pepper Lunch invites you to try its Fantastic Four promo.
Choose from Shrimp & Salmon Pepper Rice, Prawn & Chicken Steak, and two new chicken flavors—Spicy Chicken Steak and Black Pepper Chicken Steak. Available at Pepper Lunch restaurants only

Fantastic Four A4 FA

At Pepper Lunch Express enjoy Salmon & Shrimp Pepper Rice at a lower price this month only.

Salmon and Prawn4

To find a Pepper Lunch location near you, check the right sidebar of this site.
To know more, like
Follow: @pepperphil

Metro Manila, the movie (Part 2)
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Some movies you watch and then forget about, and some movies you think about for days after.
I was lucky to have been invited to a special screening of Metro Manila last week at SM Megamall.
I felt bad that the screening was so special, it was only half full. I wish I could’ve invited ten of my friends because it is worth seeing.
Written and directed by Academy Award nominee Sean Ellis (for his short film Cashback in 2004) Metro Manila is shot in Tagalog with English subtitles.

It tells about a poor farmer, his wife and two children who try their luck in Manila when it runs out for them in the province.
The story hits home when I think about the people working for me at home—the driver of 20+ years from Bohol, the maids from Samar, Negros, Romblon. They all left their homes, families, children to work for us, to care for our children, cook for us, wash our clothes, take our kids to school.
The movie makes you think about these people, and it hurts.
The farmer, Oscar Ramirez is played by Jake Macapagal, who looks like a Japanese matinee idol, says my friend Jude.
His portrayal will break your heart.

Jake Macapagal

I thought his wife Mai was perfectly cast in indie actress Althea Vega, who looks part bold star, part Nora Aunor.
She has that “native” face and hot body.

Althea Vega Althea Vega

When Mai is forced to work as a bar girl to feed her children, you genuinely feel bad for her and don’t want to judge another Burgos girl you come across.

Althea Vega
Althea Vega

Upon arriving in Manila, Oscar needs to find a job and a place to stay. After a string of bad luck in both departments, he ends up working as a driver of an armored truck, guided by a corrupt partner/buddy named Ong (played by John Arcilla).

John Arcilla

Ong’s was the character and portrayal I didn’t appreciate, with the fake laughter and the opera music (what Filipino armored car driver listens to opera music to keep sane?). Or maybe his acting was good because I really hated him!! You feel he is up to no good even if he’s trying to be nice.
As farmer Oscar tries to get along with Ong, he learns about the evil ways going on in Metro Manila, and how to save his family from its clutches.
The rest of the story I won’t tell, except it is a boy movie, with lots of blood and shooting, and it will break your heart many times, you wonder when will the pain ever stop. It stops in the end, thankfully.

Metro Manila poster

The movie has been selected as the UK’s official entry to the Oscar Awards’ Best Foreign Language Film category.
Whether it will make it to the final nominees will be known on January 16, 2014.
In the meantime, I encourage you to support and watch as the film shows in theaters on October 9, 2013.
Aside from getting some pop corn and ice-cold Coke, make sure you pee before the movie starts, because you don’t want to miss a thing towards end.

To know more, go to

Found: Wonderfully deserted supermarket
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With a family of five and eight house help, no wonder our grocery bills have gone sky high. But this is ridiculous!

S&R mistake

OK, so that was a computer error

S&R mistake

But seriously our grocery bills aren’t funny anymore, especially when shopping at S&R. That’s because there’s just too many temptations around, you end up buying stuff you don’t really need.
Plus all those people. Lines everywhere. And all the checkpoints at the door and exit. In other words, hassle.

Once I tried shopping at Pure Gold, Shaw Boulevard and noticed a huge savings. However, the shopping experience was on the jologs side. Too many hoarders and long queues. So I was back at S&R. (Yes, I know, same owner.)
The thing with S&R is they’re not complete. You still have to go to another supermarket to complete your list.
If you want to buy 3 Domex, you end up buying four because they’re packaged that way, and so on.
Then last month I decided to check out Puregold Jr. in Pioneer on my way home. It was nice and deserted. So clean and organized, with many deals and products you don’t see elsewhere.

Puregold Jr. at Pioneer

I loved it so much, I brought my kids there last Sunday and they had a blast putting things and snacks in their cart.

Puregold Jr.

This Sunday we went back again to do the full grocery list with the yayas. Our usual bill of 20,000 upwards became 14,500! Of course we weren’t able to buy the S&R schublig and bacon, but the rest of the stuff were there!
I even had a guy helping me put sacks of detergent under my cart because there was nothing to do.
Walang tao—I lovett!!
The kids were running around, you won’t be scared they will get lost because there is no crowd!
While the maids were at the cashier, my boys and I sat at a nearby table eating kinder eggs they bought inside.

Puregold Jr. at Pioneer

Why am I sharing this? Because it’s a good secret to share.
Puregold Jr. deserves to keep open and we deserve the convenience. What’s more, parking is free!
This is not a sponsored post by the way. I genuinely lovett!
Puregold Jr. is at 8007 Pioneer Street, Pasig City.

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