Saturday, March 26, 2005


One of the hallmarks of modern Christianity is forgiveness. Who here hasn’t heard of the parable of the Prodigal Son? (To sum it up, son leaves father, son ends up in trouble, son goes back to father, father accepts his son’s return, no questions asked.) Yet people either misunderstands the concept or misconstrues it to suit their predicament or situation.

Perhaps one of the biggest hindrances to modern Christian belief is the existence and division of the Old Testament and the New Testament. I mean your priest or pastor tells you to read your Bible whenever you go to church. The Bible, unfortunately, is divided into two parts, namely the Old Testament and the New Testament. Of course much like any body of work, the text mentioned should be digested as a whole rather than just the individual parts. I mean I can quote a passage from the Bible but it’s totally worthless (or could possibly even mean the opposite of what the Bible is implying) unless it’s used in the right context. Strangely enough, as much as the Philippines is perhaps one of the dominant Christian countries in Asia (we’re said to have one of the most corrupt governments, by the way, but that’s not my point), Filipinos don’t really read their Bibles. At least not in its entirety (sure, we read verses, chapters, and even entire gospels, but I have yet to meet someone who’s neither a priest nor a pastor who’s read the Bible cover to cover). Okay, so maybe we can attribute that to the country’s illiteracy rate. But how about the literati? How about the educated, the college students, the people who are voracious readers and claim that they’re Christian? I’ve seen people with their reading lists, whether it’s a bunch of fiction novels, romance novels, fantasy, science-fiction, nonfiction, or even fanfics, but when was the last time that I saw the Bible in one of those lists? My point here is that we don’t do book reviews based on just reading a certain passage of a book (we stop reading the book and we complain to our friends about how horrible the writer is, but we don’t really start out writing a book review just based on reading a few pages). And in a way, it’s wrong to pass judgment on something we haven’t experienced in its totality (well, at least we can do so with a book because it has a definite beginning and ending). Unfortunately, much like a lot of things in life, we do just that. In the case of the Bible, we become selective about our interpretation of things. Just a few weeks ago, I got into an argument with my driver because he was cursing the entire time he was driving. I told him that it was wrong, that it was a sin. His excuse was that if he didn’t do so, that if he didn’t show people a piece of his mind, then they’d continue to abuse him. And much like the stereotype we see in movies, he gives me the Biblical passage in the Old Testament about an eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth. And of course disregards the rest of the New Testament.

Now I’m not saying that I’m perfect or anything, or that the Bible is wrong, but as I mentioned before, everything must be taken into context. Do the wicked deserve to be punished? Yes. But as Christians, we must also learn to forgive. And from a rational point of view, instant retaliation would only result in destruction. It’s an old and overused statement, but an eye for an eye makes the world go blind. Honestly, we all make mistakes. We’ll inevitably hurt the people around us. Retaliation can’t be our only answer. We’d only get caught in a loop of retaliation to the point that no one will even remember what triggered the initial conflict. Of course I’m not saying (and neither is God saying) that those who harm us should get away with it either. Rather, there are other institutions that mete out those kinds of punishments. There’s the law enforcement agencies and the government, for example. I’m also not saying to always depend on them. I mean there are some conflicts that can be settled peacefully, such as when you or your friend loses their temper and dukes it out one on one. Chances are, the insult can be reconciled (but not necessarily forgotten) and things can be worked out. For those that can’t, appeal to the higher authority, whoever that may be (i.e. the school officials if you’re in school, perhaps your parents in cases of squabbles with relatives, or your boss at work). If you find that the higher authority’s decision is unjust, respect it nonetheless and perhaps some sort of appeal could be made later (and hey, isn’t the Philippines famous for People Power, overthrowing its own dictatorial government in 1986?). I’m also not saying never to retaliate, but more often than not, there are other options available, and while those options could be the more difficult of choices, in the long run it might be the one most beneficial to both parties.

Of course my driver also did bring up an important point. Some people have this perception that the meek and forgiving are weak people to be abused. Well, first off, to those who share this perception, I’d just like to point out that sometimes, it takes greater courage and self-control to restrain yourself. Just because someone doesn’t retaliate doesn’t mean that they can’t. It’s possible that such people are merely being patient with you. Don’t abuse forgiveness. And hey, even the meek have their own way of retaliating. I mean no one really thought Filipinos would rebel against the reigning government in 1986 did they? I’m not saying that People Power was a total success, but it sure made a mess of the plans of the oppressors. Or as Sun Tzu would put it, don’t corner the desperate. The desperate have nothing else to live for, and while they might die, they’ll go down fighting. Of course the other people I’d like to address are the people doing the forgiving themselves. I don’t believe in extremes but more in balance. Honestly, there’s such a thing as being too forgiving. Or rather, just because you forgive doesn’t mean you don’t ask for reparations. I mean if an assassin murders your parents, should you forgive the assassin? Yes, you should. But just because you forgive the assassin doesn’t mean he’s not going to jail. There are consequences for our actions. Some people mistake that forgiving means eluding the consequences. That’s not really the case. If somebody owes you money and doesn’t pay you on time, forgive that person. But that person must still pay you the amount he or she owes you as soon as he or she is capable of doing so. And if you’re going to quote the parable of the Prodigal Son to me, remember that the prodigal son himself didn’t have an inheritance to return to once his father passed away. Sure, he got back into the family and is reunited with his father once again, but any luxuries he might have is at the mercy of his father. Once his father passes away, there’ll be nothing left for him except what the older brother, who inherited the rest of the wealth, deems fit to give him. Forgive, yes, but that doesn’t mean the person doesn’t face the consequences of their actions.

Now let’s turn the tables. Rather than the one doing the forgiving, let me take the point of view of the one being forgiven. I think that many people often overlook one vital component of forgiveness. That’s sincerity. I mean for one thing, God’s willing to forgive, but unless you realized that you did something wrong and ask for forgiveness, God’s generosity doesn’t really do you much. The same goes with asking forgiveness from those we love. I mean our parents or our friends might be willing to forgive us, but unless we realize that what we did was wrong and ask for an apology from them, it’s all worthless. Of course some people act as the better person in some situations. Even though you’re the one who was in error, they’re the ones asking for forgiveness. I think if it reaches that point, you should be ashamed of yourself, swallow your pride, and ask for forgiveness yourself. Nothing makes a reconciliation better than if both parties are sincere in their intentions. But of course one must also remember that this won’t happen all the time. If you know you’re the one who made the mistake, go ask for forgiveness yourself. And if you’re the one in the position to do the forgiving, think of what you would do in the other person’s situation, and if you need to be the better person in that situation, why hesitate?

For me sincerity is a vital component in forgiveness. Why? Because without it, there’s a huge potential for abuse. I mean many Christians are abusing it at this very moment. I mean I’ve heard people and some friends urge their own friends to do things that they won’t normally do. These aren’t exactly wholesome things but rather vices or actions that people know on some level is wrong. And what’s the ultimate excuse they give? God will forgive you anyway. And you know what, God will. But what’s the use of asking for forgiveness if you’re not sincere about it, if you’re going to do the same action again and again when given the opportunity to do so? My driver also uses that argument to avoid self-improvement. I’m only human he says. I’ll make mistakes either way. Why bother changing when God will forgive you anyway? I’ll be Kantian about this and well, the fact is, if we all used that as an excuse, no one would become a better person. Why bother with Christianity altogether if things are just going to stay the same? Christianity is not just about being saved, it’s not just about having God in your life, it’s about living your life the way God wanted it to be. I mean we all want the good things in life, we all want fairness and justice in the world, but we all know that’s not going to happen. But we can come close to that. I mean I’m sure there are places you find more comfortable than others, friends you find more agreeable than others. That’s the same with finding paradise, with finding our own personal heaven. And the only way we can achieve that is by living our lives the way we want the world to work. If I want to meet good and honest and forgiving people, I should start by being one myself. I can’t perpetually justify my errors by saying God will forgive me or this or that person will forgive me. For example, our parents provide for us but that doesn’t mean we should abuse their generosity. Just because it’s there doesn’t mean you utilize it given the chance. There’s a time and place for everything and I’m just glad that I have parents to go back to when I’m faced in such a situation, or that God will forgive me if I sin. But that’s definitely no excuse to go into debt and have your parents pay off your debt, or go commit every carnal desire you want and in the end go back to God and tell him he’ll forgive you anyway.

Can forgiveness be abused? Yes, of course! That’s why we should be responsible about it, both in giving forgiveness and asking for it. And rather than be selective about how we perceive forgiveness, we should look at the bigger picture and empathize with other people when placed in a similar situation. The spirit of the Good News isn’t in the literal text itself, but in the spirit and how it’s interpreted. In the end, anything can be misconstrued, which is why it’s important to know where you are and how you fit in the scheme of things, not just for the sake of others but for your own sake as well.

The Best of the Best: 20 Years of the Year's Best Science Fiction edited by Gardner Dozois (book review)

Year’s Best Science Fiction is perhaps one of the most-awaited science-fiction anthology every year. Like most anthologies, one doesn’t really expect to like all the stories in an anthology, but there’s a good number of gems in the anthologies compiled by Gardner Dozois. Then Best of the Best comes out, and it’s perhaps one of the most ambitious undertakings of Dozois.

The way I go through anthologies is by taking note of the stories I really liked and those that I really disliked. Perhaps midway through the anthology, I stopped taking note of the former. Because it was too many. Despite spanning two decades of fiction, Best of the Best is really just that: good science-fiction short stories. While there are a couple of the stories that I wasn’t impressed, that’s more due to personal taste than an actual weakness in writing style or technique. This anthology is a good representation of what we can expect from the science-fiction community.

Of course having said that, the strongest point of Best of the Best is its range and is actually represents the various sub-genres or styles of science-fiction. I mean on one end of the spectrum, you get stories that make you go “that was science-fiction?” On the other, you also get hard-science stories that is littered with jargon and crosses the boundary of theoretical science. If you’re a fan of a particular niche in science-fiction, you might want to pass on this anthology if you’re looking for bang for your buck. There’s three dozen short stories present and each one tries to be a representative of its time and writer’s style. No particular sub-genre really dominates the anthology, but that doesn’t mean the stories aren’t good. They’re great, in fact, but obviously, some stories won’t appeal as much to you since they’re not necessarily the type that you’re looking for or are used to.

The only thing that surprised me was the length of the anthology. It was nearly 700 pages and that didn’t seem enough. It could have been longer. But I guess along with expanding your content would be the question who else to include. Perhaps another “weakness” of Best of the Best is the fact that each writer is only allowed one story. So rather than a real hierarchy of which stories are really on top, the anthology is more of a “Best of Science-Fiction Writers” featuring a sample work of each individual author. Not that I’m complaining about that.

Was the anthology worth it? Considering I’m not really a person who’s collected Dozois’s anthology for the past 20 years, Best of the Best is a steal. But if you’ve been following the science-fiction field for more than a decade, the anthology might not be exactly the most optimum choice for you. Rather, Best of the Best is a good chance for other people to be enthralled in the body of work science-fiction manages to encompass. Or if you’re a new science-fiction fan, it’s simply a great anthology.

Thursday, March 24, 2005

Ravings of an Anime Dinosaur part 2: The Sub vs Dub War

In the 90’s, one of the most heated (and unconcluded) debates among anime fans was the issue of subtitled or dubbed anime. This mainly arose from the fact that the 1990s was a transition period for anime fans. A decade before, you got anime in one of two formats: it was either in raw Japanese, or adapted into your native language. And for all the possible errors the latter might have, no one really cared; people consumed the show without complaint (or if they did, it wasn’t necessarily because of the dubbing). But ten years later, there was more awareness (which I partly attribute to globalization) and the trend of subtitles caught on for anime. Since then, anime fans have been arguing which is better: subtitled or dubbed anime. Yet at the start of the new millennium, this conflict was cut short with the advent of DVDs, which gave both dubbed and subtitled anime in one neat little package. Yet perhaps it’s still too early to throw in the towel for technology hasn’t really caught up yet with a fan’s vision of an utopian anime culture.

While watching a show other than in the vernacular might be surprising to some people, I will explain how the subtitles vs. dubbing conflict developed, and why it’s become such an important matter to anime fans. For the Japanese, it’s not really much of a problem since anime were intended for a Japanese audience and so the language used was understandable. Unfortunately, the same can’t be said for the rest of the world. A lot of anime imported to other countries such as the US were dubbed and adapted for that audience. And while it produced a lot of cultural icons such as Speed Racer, Gigantor, and Astroboy, it also spawned a number of heavily edited and bastardized shows like Battle of the Planets (costumed heroes who uses science to defend the Earth against alien invaders became costumed heroes hopping from planet to planet to defeat the evil alien overlord… and get a robot sidekick to boot), Warriors of the Wind (a two-hour feature film by acclaimed Hayao Miyazaki loses half an hour of content and is transformed into an action/adventure story), and Robotech (three unrelated robot shows are combined to form one congruent cosmology). Of the latter three, perhaps it’s only Robotech that is perceived as redeemable (and some say superior to the original series it was based on) by anime fans. With the advent of the Internet and perhaps the breakthrough of certain cultural barriers, anime fans soon became aware of the inconsistencies between the anime they were watching locally and the anime that was being aired in Japan. While the commercial entities imported the shows and dubbed them before releasing them to the public, some anime fans decided to translate anime themselves and unleashed it to fan community. Except of course the latter didn’t have huge budgets and had to make do with what they had. Simply put, while subtitles were a good method of translation (hey, it works for foreign films), I think part of the reason why the fan community originally utilized subtitles was because it was way cheaper than dubbing the show itself (you only needed a translator, a timer, and an encoder to subtitle an anime).

The subtitling trend proved to be popular among the fans (who did it for free) and such projects would then be called fansubs. Unfortunately, fansubs were more or less a hit or miss. Some fansubbing groups were competent and produced good translations. Others, however, weren’t so fortunate (i.e. unreadable subtitles, terrible spelling and grammar, horrible translations, or simply bad timing). Meanwhile, on the commercial end, I think it’s safe to say that there were only few (if any) subtitled anime shown on local TV (mind you, local TV, since cable companies did offer subtitled anime sometimes). However, anime would make the transition from being available for free to a huge industry in itself. Companies started selling (and loaning via retail stores like Blockbuster Video) anime in video (at least in the US). While for the most part a big chunk of this market was comprised of dubbed anime, some companies listened to the fans and started releasing subtitled anime themselves. Unfortunately, the companies (whose businesses depended on being able to sell their product) soon realized that the anime fans who preferred subtitles weren’t necessarily the most profitable market. To make a long story short, dubbed anime was cheaper than their subtitle counterparts, even though it’s more expensive to produce the former (all of which is made possible by the law of supply and demand). It perhaps wouldn’t have been so bad if it weren’t for the existence of fansubbers, who made subtitled anime available in the market for free. Soon, anime fans belonged to one of two camps: those who supported subtitled anime, and those who didn’t.

While the advantages and disadvantages of each can be proven, neither camp has really given ground to the other. For example, dubbed anime has honestly had a bigger audience. Dubbed anime is the mass man’s main source of entertainment. Television, because of its sights and sounds, is a passive act. A person just needs to turn on the boob tube and everything passes by him whether he cooperates or not. Unfortunately, the same can’t be said for subtitled anime, because you have to actually read in order to understand what’s happening. Simply put, the masses don’t really want to get into that situation; television has often been a means to relax your brain cells, not to strain them (if I wanted to read, I’d get a book). And if you’re suffering from dyslexia or an eye disease, it’s not in your best interest to struggle just to understand your favorite show. Did I mention the fact that with dubbed anime, you get to appreciate everything else better, such as the art, the music, and everything else modern TV has to offer?

On the side of subtitled anime, well, while any sort of translation is really a deviation (no matter how insignificant it might seem) from the original, a good subtitled anime is more faithful to the original than a good dub. And in a certain sense, translation isn’t compromised just to make sure the dialogue matches the movement of the character’s mouths. One also gets to appreciate the original voice actors and actresses (although for most people, they won’t understand half of what’s being said). To cut a long story short, my friend Dean said it best: it’s like watching your favorite art or foreign film (such as Amelie) dubbed. A lot is lost in the dubbing, not just because of the translation, but because the dub is the vision of a different director or actor/actress (although that’s not always true).

While all these are valid, there are some points I’d like to elaborate on. The first is the translation part. Let’s face it, whether it’s going to be subtitles or dubs, there will always be something lost in the translation. If you want a complete and accurate translation of the anime you’re watching, no amount of subtitles or dubbing will solve that. The only real way to do so would be to immerse yourself in Japanese culture and familiarize yourself with the language (much like any body of work, that’s not even a guarantee because the creator might have a different perspective from the society he or she is living in). There are also instances when some words, terms, or idioms can’t be explained quickly. It could come in the form of a joke, for example. The solution a subtitle provides is through the usage of footnotes, but footnotes detracts the experience. Where do you place it? If you place it during the gag, it takes too long to digest. If you place it at the start of the episode, you’re giving some spoilers. If you place it at the credits, it’s too late to appreciate the moment. A dub would tackle it in a different manner, such as altering the joke to suit the cultural taste of its audience. Is it a deviation from the original text? Yes. But that’s not really the issue. The issue is whether the altered segment carries on the spirit of the show. Whether it is or is not depends on the skill of the translator (and the voice actors/actresses and how they execute it). While there is a chance this could be the downfall of a dub, it is also an opportunity to be a strong point. When doing translations, we must remember that there is the possibility of improving the work of the previous product.

Another hotly-debated point is that of voice acting. More often than not, the zealous anime fan will claim that the original voice actors/actress’s voice is superior to that of the dub. Which isn’t necessarily true. I mean some Japanese voice actors/actress can’t sing (or at least not too well) for example. And there’s too many instances when female characters have high, squeaky voices when a lower, rougher voice would have suited the role better. Dubbing sometimes provides an opportunity to improve the original, and portray it in a manner that the local audience (i.e. the lingua franca) can understand. Either one is not necessarily better than the other, but simply different. The same can be extended to altered songs (hey, some of your favorite music artists have done their own versions of another artist’s songs… whether you like it or not depends on taste, but just because you redo another artist’s song doesn’t mean that your version is inferior or trashy).

Ultimately, I think the subtitled vs. dubbed debate is a flawed argument. Instead of asking whether a particular show is subtitled or dubbed, the question one should be asking is who’s doing the translations? I mean if you have a horrible translator, it won’t really matter if it’s subtitled or dubbed. The former just has better damage control because ignorant fans won’t really know if the translator screwed up or not unless they can actually understand Japanese (in which case, they didn’t need the subtitles to begin with). Or similarly, a bad company might release a show with horrible subtitles or timing. That makes watching the show just as annoying as a bad dub, and perhaps even less comprehensible. I remember watching Record of the Lodoss War DVD except the copy I borrowed was one of those bootleg copies from Hong Kong. The subtitles were probably done in Hong Kong as well since the English text was just plain horrible. I switched to the English dub, which was copied from the commercial company that released it in the US. While I tend to prefer subtitles to dub, in this case, I opted for the latter, simply because the latter was more comprehensible. A bad subtitle can ruin the anime experience just as much as a bad dub can. And like my scenario watching the bootleg DVD, you only get what you pay for.

So while the masses favors dubbed anime, the elite (and perhaps more knowledgeable) fan favors subtitles, but unfortunately technology hasn’t really caught up yet to reconcile the two. I mean while DVDs are indeed capable of storing good dubs and good subtitles, it’s still no guarantee that the company releasing the anime will do both (or would even provide the option to toggle between subs and dubs). The same goes for cable channels and local stations that could possibly offer the same benefits if the viewer had the right equipment, but it’s simply not being done (because it hasn’t reached the point where doing so would be that profitable). Right now, the demand for dubs overwhelms the demand for subtitles, not just due to their physical quantities but because of purchasing power as well. I mean those who favor subtitles would probably obtain their anime for fansubbers, which in turn don’t really financially compensate themselves or the creators of the work they just translated. And so the status quo is preserved, each side continuing the silent battle between subs and dubs, the former fighting with complaints, the latter with their wallets.

So which is better, subtitled or dubbed anime? Much like a lot of things, there’s no real universal answer. Just because you prefer dubs doesn’t make you less of an anime fan; it just means there’s a difference in preference. And as I said earlier, whether it’s subtitled or dubbed isn’t as important as who’s doing the translating if it’s authenticity you’re after. Of course for the purists out there who persists, all I can do is merely quote the words of Scott Frazier, an American who used to work for renowned animation company Production I.G.: “Learn Japanese, buy the original and ignore the English releases.”

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Beyond Anime

In any subculture hobby, the masses will often have a different perspective of things. In the past, for example, anime fans have been thought of as geeks or adults who are still fascinated with cartoons. In the present, anime has perhaps been passively accepted as part of the norm, a product of the current generation.

Reach Out Otaku (ROO), an organization comprised of anime fans, is a good example that beneath all the glitz and the glamour, that anime enthusiasts can be socially responsible and still participate in their hobby. Formed in July 17, 2001, ROO began by visiting street children in Kanlungan, Erma and held some workshops for them. A year and a half later, it would also tie up with the Musmos organization based in Ateneo and would hold “Krismusmos”, a Christmas party for the street children in Katipunan. I interviewed them back in 2002, a few months after their successful Christmas party, but several months before they would host Krismusmos.

Gem, founder of ROO, was initially inspired by watching some street kids play Dragonball Z. “Parang they were imitating the anime character. So why not help, street kids sila eh. Kahit street kids sila, na-aapreciate nila yung anime. So at least natutulungan ko sila.” (“They were like imitating the anime character. So why not help since they are street kids. Even though they are street children, they apprecite anime. At least this way, we are able to help them.”) But it would only be after an anime convention that Gem would make formal plans for the organization. “Basically the idea started after Cosplay Manila. So parang, napag-isip ako, for the December party iyon, at since maraming kids nag-enenjoy seeing people cosplaying their favorite anime characters in costume, why not incorporate it with charity work? Since ‘yun nga, maraming pa lang tao na involved sa outreach programs, para at least magamit natin yung interest in anime, our hobby, as a medium to help other people. So bali iyon yung pinaka idea ko kung bakit na setup yung Reach Out Otaku.” (“Basically the idea started after Cosplay Manila. It got me thinking that for the December party, since a lot of kids were enjoying seeing people cosplaying their favorite anime characters, why not incorporate it with charity work? Apparently, a lot of people were involved in outreach programs and this way, we could at least utilize interest in anime, our hobby, as a medium to help other people. That was the fundamental idea behind setting up Reach Out Otaku.”)

This was far from a solo project though. Gem would depend on Vinnie to choose and coordinate for their venue in Kanlungan considering he had contacts with NGOs. “Ako naman since I’ve been doing that kind of volunteer work before and I have the experience, and then joining up with this group is a good thing to do for me also para maging enlightened din in a way. And to help others din, to guide other people din.” (“For me it was natural since I’ve been doing this kind of volunteer work before and I have the experience, and then joining up with this group is a good thing to do for me to becoming enlightened in a way. And to help and guide other people as well.”)

The activities of ROO wasn’t a one-shot event and Vinnie shares with us his plans back in 2002. “Since nagstart na kami sa Kanlungan para magkaroon ng activity volunteer-type with them, which is naenjoy naming before so we decided ituloy na naming, magkaroon kami ng series of visits na makakatulong din sa kanila for their learning kasi most of the kids there are not going to school for now, kaya ganun. Like recently, some of the available na members ng Reach Out, nagtambak sila ng workshops on fixing, illustrations, animation by using anime as a medium para gawin iyon. And then so far, nafullfil yung expectation na the kids grew interest sa mga recent na visits naming. They’re looking forward to the next visits na magkaroon kami ng activity ulit.” (“Since we started in the Kanlungan area so that we could have a volunteer-type activity with them, we decided to push through with the series of visits since we’re having fun and it aids in their learning considering most of the kids are not going to school. Recently, some of the available members of Reach Out held a bunch of workshops on fixing, illustrations and animation, using anime as a medium to perform just that. And so far, our expectations were fulfilled since the interest of kids grew with our recent visits. They’re looking forward to the next visits, hoping for other activities.)

Despite its popularity, ROO didn’t always start out that way. It began with a small mailing list comprised of cosplayers who then branched out and sought additional members from other anime-related mailing lists. It boasted not only anime fans, but people who are just plainly interested in outreach projects. Even winners of previous cosplay competitions participated in ROO. Not that everything was picture perfect. Coordination proved to be a big hurdle since most of the members were students and had difficulty finding a common time. Finances were another probem but Joy, Gem’s successor after she left for the US, shares this anecdote with us. “The December 15 party, that was one of the craziest and funniest thing to have happened. It was so interesting. We weren’t going to be excited but a lot of things happened, most of them we didn’t expect. And sometimes, we were worried, some of us were crying over the lack of sponsors, the lack of materials and then when the day came, we had too much food on our hands, we had too much food on our hands. And then you realize, oh, we were able to get pala so much stuff. I guess it was really cool because we didn’t expect them to happen. We were medyo discouraged to go on na and it’s already like something happened out of the blue. People started helping each other out, they volunteered themselves, like we had a lot of nonmembers with us and said kami na ang bahala rito. It was very interesting, very different.” (“The December 15 party… And then you realize, oh, we were apparently able to get so much stuff. I guess it was really cool because we didn’t expect them to happen. We were a bit discouraged to go on and it’s like something happened out of the blue. People started helping each other out, they volunteered themselves, and we had a lot of nonmembers with us and said we’re take care of this. It was very interesting, very different.”)

Gem shares with us the goals of ROO: “Our goal is to open the eyes of the people that there’s more to the world than anime. If we can use anime as a medium of helping other people out, of reaching out to the world, so that’s why we’re a bunch of otakus, we rave over the latest anime, we rave over Yue. (laughs) Or some bishonen. But basically we’re still human, we’re still ready to help people out. One of our main goals is to open the eyes of the people into helping each other.” Joy adds to that by saying “Kasi people have this thing na parang they think na, those anime people, wala naman silang ginagawa. They spend all their money, wasting their money on cartoons, and comic books and stuff like that. I guess connected with Ate Gem, we’re out to change that. Sure, we like all the cartoons, the comic books but our lives does not begin and end with them. We want to help other people also. And out to show that we’re otakus with hearts.” (“Because people have this thing, thinking that those anime people, they don’t do anything…”)

Not that outreach doesn’t have its own rewards. “Like when we were like, at the December 15 party, all these children were enjoying themselves. Seeing all the people that we got to help us out that they were enjoying themselves also. It’s really very encouraging because you kinda feel na there are people who are still into this sort of thing, who are still into helping other people,” Gem shares. “After the December party, there was these nonmembers, cosplayers during the EB, they approached me. Ate Gem, sabi nila, naalala ko yung pangalan ng partner ko. Sabi ko buti ka pa, naalala mo yung pangalan niya. Honestly, sa dami nila, I don’t even remember their names, yung mga volunteers, but they remember the names ng partners nila. Yung mga kids na partners nila.” (“After the December party, there was these nonmembers, cosplayers during the EB, they approached me. Ate Gem, they say, we remember the names of our partners. I reply good for you because I don’t remember their names. Honestly, with all their numbers, I don’t even remember their names, but the volunteers, they remember the names of their partners. The kids are their partners.”)

Perhaps one of the basic questions that must be asked from a social organization is whether they’re succeeding in helping their intended audience. “Well sa reaction ng mga bata, I think so. Not in a really big scale pero in the little things, makikita mo rin ang satisfaction nila. Sa workshop naming, makikita mo yung satisfaction nila by showing their talent and actually being recognized. Doon yung nakakatouch, I think, kasi most of these kids were victims of abuse so in their own little ways na-heheal. Wow, may kaya pala akong gawin!” (“Well based on the reactions of the children, I think so. Not in areally big scale but in the little things, you can see their satisfaction. In our workshops, you can see their satisfaction in showing their talent and actually being recognized. That’s what touches me the most, I think, because most of these kids were victims of abuse so in their own little way, they are healed. Wow, there’s actually something that I can do!”)

While ROO never made it to the newspapers, never made it to the limelights, each of its members know that they helped change someone’s life. I think that’s what reaching out is really about: it’s not about the rewards, either financial or social, but more of realizing that there’s something one can do to help those around us. And while anime fans will still probably be perceived as something unproductive by society, ROO will be an example of how any hobby, not just anime, can be made into something socially productive. In the end, it doesn’t matter what other people say, but rather what you believe in.