In the Philippines, only two things are sure to come this Christmas: Jose Mari Chan songs and miles of traffic. It’s inescapable, really, even if you manage the superhuman ability to wake up really early or stay out really late to avoid rush hours. Somehow, everyone’s got the same idea, so the traffic remains the same. How then, can we emerge from these daily gridlocks (partially) unscathed? We came up with a nifty solution: get busy. From our collective experience of sitting our asses in hours of traffic, we have a list of books, albums, movies, and podcasts that’ll make the long commute slightly more bearable. It may just make traffic a little more bearable — and maybe this time, Jose Mari Chan songs won’t be the only things to look forward to this Christmas.
“Chance 3” by Chance the Rapper
Best known as Kanye West’s best prodigy, Chance the Rapper made waves in the industry this year by releasing his latest album for free. You don’t even have to like hip-hop or Jesus Christ to understand the hype. While it is partially considered gospel music, Lil Chano preaches gratitude more than anything and his positivity is highly contagious. Give it a listen and, who knows, you might just feel #blessed enough to realize that 2016 hasn’t been all that bad after all.
“Papunta Pabalik” by Autotelic
Trying to catch up on the gig scene doesn’t always mean fighting your way to the front of a crowded bar. So many of today’s local artists are embracing digital streaming sites and the band Autotelic is one of them. We’re sure the album “Papunta Pabalik” is just as groovy when heard live but for Friday nights when you’d rather deal with C5 just to get your well-deserved sleep, this will have to do.
“Blond” by Frank Ocean
In his magazine Boys Don’t Cry, Frank writes: “How much of my life has happened inside of a car? I wondered if the odds are that I’ll die in one.” No one can relate to t his more than the Filipino commuter. But jokes of rotting in standstill EDSA or tweets complaining about reckless drivers aside, time spent in vehicles is also a good time to muse over the events in our lives much like Ocean. Listening to his much-anticipated album might just even inspire you to come up with something creative about your many interesting commute stories too.
“A Head Full of Ghosts” by Paul Tremblay
Here’s a creepy tale to keep you awake in C5 gridlock. A Head Full of Ghosts tells the story of a family whose life falls apart when the older daughter manifests symptoms of a demonic possession. Told from the perspective of the younger daughter, it takes a dig at the exorcism genre – exploring ideas of fraud, overexposure, and possible mental illness. Fair warning: this isn’t about cheap frights: imagine the ind of slithering fear that stays with you until after its surprise ending. When I finished it, I tweeted author Tremblay and accused him of inducing my insomnia. To which he kindly replied, “I’m sorry?”
“Why Not Me?” by Mindy Kaling
Comedian Mindy Kaling’s sense of humor has always had a very specific appeal, targeted towards single girls and the nice boyfriends they’ve yet to meet. (Totally PG-13, basically, but still very funny.) In her latest book Why Not Me?, she once again shares with us essays on topics like her dream man and her strange relationship with BJ Novak, her co-star from The Office. And much like her first book, Is Everyone Hanging Without Me (And Other Concerns)?,Kaling offers the kind of big sister advice that one doesn’t realize she needs.
“The Bronze Horseman” by Paullina Simons
Imagine how bad it gets being stuck in traffic with a full bladder and how it would be if it all happened in Soviet Russia (I mean, it could happen.) In Paullina Simmons’ novel The Bronze Horseman, two star-crossed lovers try to make it alive amdist the spectre of communism, famine and forced romances. Tatiana and Alexander, a young factory worker and a dashing soldier, respectively, find live in a hopeless place. Sounds a little depressing, but when you read at how desperately they cling to each other despite the one trillion things going against them, you’ll actually want to read till the end and root for them too.
If you’re a frustrated speed devil, EDSA during rush hour is the worst cage to be in. Escape your prison and hop on Queen Latifah’s yellow cab in Taxi, an American remake of a French film of the same name (we’d recommend the original but reading subtitles while driving is dangerous). The movie follows Elle, who soups up her ordinary taxi into pretty much a Transformer. She helps out Jimmy Fallon, who plays clumsy cop Andy Washburn, and they chase down a slew of robberies driven by Vanessa, strutted to life by Gisele Bundchen. It’s a high-octane, kinda-cringey, and funny escape for the restless in traffic.
Across the Universe (2007)
Equal parts drama, music, history, and the greatest boy band ever, Across the Universe should get you through the swerving cars and standstills with classic karaokebles from no less than The Beatles. The plot revolves around the songs of the British band – the lead’s name is Jude – and will keep you singing along as the story moves through the swinging ‘60s and ‘70s. It’s almost an epic length and scope, with over two hours of tunes and vibrant visuals. Groovy.
Les Miserables (2014)
Nothing’s more miserable than being stuck in traffic, but when life gets in your face in the middle of a revolution, it gets pretty close. The story is pretty intense — as we all know — and once you see Hugh Jackman and Anne Hathaway singing and bawling their eyes out, you forget that they once played an unfeeling Wolverine and fashion-conscious Andy Sachs. If you just want to get out of the traffic and have an out-of-body experience belting out I Dreamed a Dream at the top of your lungs, go for it — just make sure you have some tissue ready.
“Ask me another”
Yes, we know. You’d rather be in a bar with your friends than stuck in EDSA. Enter: NPR’s “Ask Me Another.” It’s like your typical community trivia night but with funner questions. Jonathan Colton, my imaginary boyfriend, creates fun musical games like “New York, New York.” The answers rhyme with the word “York” and contestants have to sing it to the tune of Frank Sinatra’s famous standard. They also have celebrity guests like Leslie Odom Jr., Adrian Tomine, and George Takei to join their games.
“Alice Isn’t Dead”
Brought to you by the same folks behind “Welcome to Night Vale,” “Alice Isn’t Dead” isn’t quite like your ordinary radio drama. The story is told from the perspective of an unnamed narrator who’s looking for her missing wife. It has dystopian and Resident Evil themes (hello, Alice?) and is set to an amazing post-rock soundtrack. At the end of each episode, they answer the question “Why did the chicken cross the road?” Make sure to listen all throughout. The answer is not what you think it is.
Finally, we have a locally produced podcast that talks about creativity. Eden and June is a new online community for artists — both established and aspiring –– to share insights and ideas about art. Every week, they post a conversation with Filipino creatives like letterer Abbey Sy, fashion blogger Jamie Catt and graphic designer Sofia Cope. Their first-ever season is just starting so there are plenty of things to look forward to.