Custom Search


Mark Timothy J. Libunao is a 32-year old registered Medical Technologist, a father to a 5-year old amiable and smart little boy and a husband to a registered Physical Therapist. He is an accomplished campus journalist, student leader, businessman, salesman and most of all, a loving father and husband, an obedient son, a caring brother, a very loyal and dear friend.

An Editor-in-Chief of his high school and college publications, a student council president for three years in college, a volunteer grade school teacher and a social mobilizer who was able to spearhead various community projects in Quezon City. He led several national organizations including the Quezon City Red Cross Youth Council, College Editors' Guild of the Philippines, Jesuit Volunteers of the Philippines and Philippine Society of Medical Technology Students. His glorious years came when he was elected as a student commissioner of the National Youth Commission under the Office of the President of the Philippines last 2002 and 2003. He worked and was designated as the Chief Medical Technologist of Murphy Diagnostic & Multi-Specialty Center and Hope Medical & Multi-Specialty Center in Quezon City before he entered medical school.

He is the eldest son of Mr. Freddie Mandario Libunao & Mrs. Ma. Sonia Jaleco Jesena of Hughes St., Maasin, Iloilo. He has two siblings: Bryan Paul graduated with a Masters Degree in Integrated Marketing and Communications in the University of Asia and the Pacific and Maria Mikaela who is a second year Medical Technology student of Centro Escolar University.

His wife, Ma. Theresa Acay of Marikina City is a registered Physical Therapist while his son Mikhail Thaddeus is a pre-school pupil of Jesus Christ Saves Global Outreach Christian Academy (JCA) in Quezon City.

He finished his grade school and high school in Ateneo de Iloilo (formerly Santa Maria Catholic School). He earned his Bachelor's Degree in Medical Technology in World Citi Colleges and was awarded as the Most Outstanding Intern of the Year of Philippine Heart Center & World Citi Medical Center. He is presently on his third year Post Graduate course as Doctor of Medicine in Far Eastern University - Dr. Nicanor Reyes Medical Foundation where he served as the Treasurer of the Medicine Student Council last 2007 and 2009. He was a former faculty of the KATINKO Wellness Institute Foundation Inc. where he taught Anatomy & Physiology, Massage Economics, Microbiology, Parasitology and Public Hygiene to Massage Therapists. Presently, he is one of the board of directors of Healthville Inc., a wellness company he co-founded with his brother.

Monday, December 28, 2009

AVATAR-IZED.... Watching twice on 3D wasn't enough!

Avatar is a landmark film of tremendous value for audiences and the entertainment industry. James Cameron, the producer, writer and director has done the near-impossible by creating a truly original theatrical experience through his technical and artistic mastery of the medium of film. He does not rely on Hollywood star power or adaptations of source material from books, comics or television. He creates a vision of another world in another time which is realistic, fantastic and totally immersive using advanced 3D technology of his own design. His story is classic in structure, predictable when it needs to be but carefully crafted to heighten the dramatic conflict between the industrial world's crushing demand for resources vs. the balanced natural world of mutual co-existence.

He has used technology to create characters and environments which are real, believable and surprising. Given that half the characters are computer-generated models based on real actors, the risk of being detached from their plight is a concern, which was why Cameron waited until the creation of Gollum in Lord of the Rings before committing to making Avatar. Gollum's realistic screen presence proved the viability of alien creatures, far removed from the old Godzilla days of a stunt man in a rubber suit crushing miniature buildings.

The story of Avatar hinges on the audience engaging with the plight of the Na'vi as their exotic world of Pandora becomes the target of a mining company's plan to exploit a rare ore deposit directly under their village. It is this battle between industry and nature which drives the personal story of a soldier's transformation from a human who obeys orders to a Na'vi tribesman in a symbiotic union with an entire planet.

It is, without a doubt, the movie of the year. Looking past all the hype of how much it cost, the audience pays the same ticket price as anything else tossed at us by Hollywood. For once, we've received far more than our money's worth. I believe we all have moments in the past where we treasure our first viewing of a film, our joy of discovering a turning point in storytelling on the screen. Your first viewing of Avatar will live with you for a long time, as one of those unique and memorable events of entertainment.

The Story
Avatar starts with an eye opening, literally Jake Sully's eye opening from a deep space sleep as a great long space ship arrives at Pandora, a planet rich with life and natural minerals waiting for exploitation by humanities need for more of whatever. Handicapped by a spine injury which cannot be fixed under his soldier's medical plan, Sully has joined the expedition as a replacement for his dead twin brother, who was trained to seduce the native Na'vi tribe into relocating their village through the use of an "avatar" body, built tall, slender and blue like the Na'vi but controlled by a human mind in a pod capsule with a computerized wireless link.

The story takes time to reveal the culture and complexity of the Na'vi world, with the tribe in intimate contact with nature through the tendrils of their braided hair which co-mingles with animals and plants allowing mutual understanding to pass between them. Sully joins this tribe and learns their ways through the growing relationship with a Na'vi babe named Neytiri who is (of course) the Na'vi Chief's daughter. Together, they learn to ride lizard birds and fall through forests and eventually bond as man and wife, or surrogate being and wife to be more accurate.

At the same time, we also learn about the great mining corporation who needs a boost to their next earnings statement by exploiting the rich ore deposit and thus, are rushing to start open pit mining where the Na'vi hometree sits. This tree is enormous and spiritually bonded with the tribe so you know, we have an explosive conflict building between the immovable object and the irresistible forces commanded by a tough badass nature-is-inmy-way Colonel Quaritch. He's got the claw scars on his face to prove just how dangerous an opponent the Pandora wildlife can be. He also has a crew-cut, eliminating any chance for a hair-to-hair bond between him and the beasts of Pandora.

Once the plot moves to conflict, the story becomes a visual explosion of technology vs. nature with victories by both sides and tough choices for our main characters. Who's side are they on? We humans are the bad guys in this tale so we end up rooting for the blue tribe against the white tribe (nary a character of color on the staff of the mining company). While in Titanic, there were historical facts to follow, Cameron was free to sink or save the mother ship in Avatar and he chooses the ecologically sound solution to this conflict. By the end, we have come full circle, with a sampling of the same kind of Lion King music, as the tribe gathers to heal their wounds. Like the start of the movie, we end with an eye-opener, Sully again. Eyes wide open. Perhaps Cameron hopes his movie with open more eyes to the plight of industry vs. nature. Regardless, it is all about our eyes, taking in this exceptional movie like no other we've ever seen.

The Genre
The sci-fi genre has always been a world of wonder and imagination. We enjoy traveling to exotic worlds and unknown galaxies, populated with aliens of all sizes and colors. It is our own world reflected through the imagination of others and when done well, it is a glorious leap through hyper-space which audiences reward handsomely.
Sci-fi knows no boundaries and solves all problems with a new technology or magic or whatever the filmmakers imagine is needed to allow humans to travel, breathe and understand the great unknown. If you ask too much, audiences bail from the story in disbelief. If you offer too little, you bore people.

Avatar wins the credibility battle with audiences by creating a believable yet exotic world (yes, they have trees on Pandora just like on earth!), aliens with pretty faces (so we can overlook the blue tones because they are slim and move with a feline grace) and instantly recognizable bad guys (corporate weasels and their hired guns - hey they're not bad guys, just trying to do their jobs!)

Sci-fi fans also love technology, so the 3D presentation, the motion-capture simulation of the actors and the vivid re-imagining of the undersea world of earth as the forest of Pandora are all lures to catch the avid fans of this genre. There is also a love story, another Cameron trademark, for those who have to attend because their spouse insisted. The PG-13 rating means this film will do great business, which it deserves. The bar is now set higher again, which will thrill all sci-fi fans for the future of film.

The Overall Quality
Avatar's quality features are all on the screen for everyone to see. The acting, imagery and 3D effects all merge together into a realistic and credible experience of an alternative reality. I found I forgot about the 3D and the CGI models and all the other movie magic behind the scenes. Avatar is truly immersive for audiences. You are there, in the trees, flying over the forest, facing the gunships with your puny bows and arrows and bonding tendril to tendril with the beasts. Pandora is real, as are the characters and their conflicts.

The actors loses none of the nuances and impacts of their performances by shifting from human to avatar. You still believe Sully is still Sully even though he is tall and blue instead of crippled and white; he is still the same character, played by Sam Worthington. Zoe Saldana plays Neytiri and, unless you've seen her in Star Trek as Uhura, you might not connect her features with this blue babe with the bow and arrow, but she is recognizable as a real person, not some fake pixilated approximation. On the human side, Stephen Lang is memorable as Colonel Quaritch, getting the job done as efficiently as possible. Only Sigourney Weaver fails to connect as the cigarette-smoking head of the avatar program, looking really lame in blue.

If you've seen other 3D movies this year, you know filmmakers are tempted to toss projectiles and swords and any other crap they can at you, but Cameron resists this cheesy effect to let the depth of scene enhance the story instead of intrude through the "fourth wall". The 3D forest world is rich and vivid, with Cameron's inspiration from the depths of the ocean on display with phosphorescent plants, floating jellyfish seedlings and retracting plants. He also creates hellish hounds, emerging from the darkness in all their glistening glory as they pack-hunt Sully in his first night alone in the forest.

If there is any doubt about how innovative this movie is, stick around for the credits to see the army of people who contributed to it's creation. If you've ever wanted to get into movies, just copy down some of these job titles and get started on a new resume. These are the new faces of Hollywood magic, these visual effects wizards of our cinematic future. Perhaps a move to New Zealand is in your future, to jump-start your new career. The final measure of quality is the word of mouth: would you encourage others to see this movie? Would you go back and see it again? Yes, enthusiastically, to both questions.

Sunday, December 27, 2009


It's that time of the year again when the big networks ABS-CBN and GMA-7 partake of holiday cheer and reinforce the values of family and togetherness by unveiling their Christmas station plugs. The scale and production values of the holiday IDs have risen in direct proportion to the escalation of the network wars, becoming mini-movies in their own right.

The handles of the plugs themselves say nothing new on the surface-ABS-CBN's tagline is "Bro, Ikaw ang Star ng Pasko" while GMA's is "Sama-Sama Tayong Mag-PasaLove Ngayong Pasko." But this year presents a bigger challenge than years past: Coming from a particularly devastating typhoon season and a gloomy global economic outlook, the Christmas spirit has never seemed so far away for the Filipino audience...and never more needed.

This is perhaps the reason why both network holiday plugs have deliberately shy away from portraying lavish Christmas feasts or profligate gift giving, and instead focus more on acts of charity. In the GMA-7 plug, for instance, a family residing in a gated village come home--supposedly from a late party--and stop momentarily at the guard house so that the little boy in the backseat can drop off a present for the late-shift security guard. What's equally notable about the vignette is that nowhere in the production design do you see the car laden with presents.

The GMA-7 plug makes the admirable choice of not deploying their celebrities, instead highlighting the plight of ordinary Filipinos as they struggle to keep the Christmas spirit alive. There is nothing wrong with this creative choice per se...but it would have worked better if the plug itself had said something new, insightful, or impactful. There are vignettes showing a farmer worrying about his crop and getting a morale boost from a fellow tiller of the soil; an elderly woman getting a visit from loved ones; a pair of girlfriends walking home from a shopping trip who encounter a homeless mother and child curled up in a kariton. We've seen these vignettes--and their implied message of philanthropy and love--before. Are platitudes all GMA can offer us in these trying times?

The kariton vignette, in particular, feels tonally wrong. Yes, every little act of kindness goes a long way. Yes, it is wise to never portray the giving of money to beggars or panhandlers. But there is something vaguely Paris Hilton-esque about going on a shopping expedition with your BFF, then giving away a cardigan to the shivering child sleeping in the garbage cart. Like the rest of the plug and its generically clever message-Sama-Sama Tayong Mag-PasaLove Ngayong Pasko"--the act of charity seems to fall short; somehow it is not enough.

The ABS-CBN plug fares much better. While cynical viewers may hate themselves for getting taken in by the presence of a gazillion celebrities in choir formation a la "We Are the World," the formula undoubtedly works. But there are other formidable tricks up this mini-movie, as well. While the GMA-7 plug preferred to stay in well-trod territory by offering up a generic message of love and compassion, the ABS-CBN station ID zeroes in on something specific: the struggle to overcome the recent ravages of Ondoy and Pepeng. Interspersed with the images of Piolo Pascual and KC Concepcion singing and the subtle selling of the John Lloyd Cruz-Angel Locsin tandem as they get set for their new teleserye, we see workers tying up relief goods, a little boy picking up a parol and saluting army men as they go off on a relief mission, a community cleaning up a mud-strewn chapel. Powerful images, indeed.

Equally powerful is the jingle, co-written by advertising industry stalwart Robert Labayen. After one viewing, I immediately latched on to its chorus: "Salamat sa liwanag mo/Muling magkakakulay ang Pasko/Ang nagsindi nitong ilaw/Walang iba kundi ikaw/Dahil ikaw, bro/Ang star ng Pasko."Granted, there's something theologically unsound about the message (after all, isn't Jesus Christ the reason for the season?), and yes, station plugs are unabashed exercises in audience manipulation. But for the space of four minutes, it's touching to see celebrities pay tribute to the tireless relief worker, or the priest who is the moral center of his ravaged community. With this instantly catchy plug, ABS-CBN seems to be telling its audience that love isn't just needed this holiday season--it's something positively heroic. by Andrew Paredes

Friday, December 25, 2009