Thursday, June 30, 2005

Sa Aking Pagkagising Mula Sa Kamulatan

Last night I found myself at the UP Film Center with a handful of cinemaphiles. I was stuck in campus waiting for 7 o'clock so I could ply the streets to head home. With a few hours to burn I went to check what they were screening at the Film Institute. A Filipino digital film was scheduled to run.

I remember reading a very favorable review of Sa Aking Pagkagising Mula Sa Kamulatan on the Inquirer, but since good reviews can easily be bought, I read entertainment journalists with a healthy dose of skepticism. Once in a while however, they speak the truth.

This independent film by Ato Bautista is a diamond in the rough. An uncut gem whose brilliance shone through despite the weak first fifteen minutes, the sometimes off editing and the unintelligible dialogues during the first half. You don't really need to hear everything said. Most of the lines were peppered with "putang ina," "kiki ng ina," "betlog," "bayag," and "gago" anyway. The visuals speak clearly enough. Odyssy Flores' cinematography is suffused with yellow-ochre, a play of darkness and light, and the occasional use of cigarette smoke to cloak and confuse. The camera shows as much as it hides.

The story revolves around eight or so characters caught in a cycle of poverty and violence. At first, all are shown in an unfavorable light, caricatures of what we assume people from Manila's slums are all about. Petty criminals, drunk istambays, and sexual deviants. Hardly worth society's second thought or empathy. But as the story unfolds we see other facets of each character. We see lives and experiences which could be our own. No one is born evil by any means. But the merciless grip of poverty can make any one of us forsake the norms of morality to ease the pains of desolation, uncertainty or simply answer the call of a hungry stomach.

Writer Shugo Praico's slow, at times tedious exposition nevertheless kept us glued to our seats, eager to see what happens to these characters. The action picks up at the middle and we are taken for a lurid, touching, painful and sometimes funny ride. Ketchup Eusebio of Wazzup Wazzup fame is an acting revelation. I don't think I'll ever see this tadjock the same way again. I can't say the same for Archie Alemanya, also a tadjock. His portrayal was "hilaw." Lito Pimentel's sexually deviant cop is convincing and very scary. Too bad he didn't get much screentime. It's refreshing to see Kuya Bodgie again after his Batibot days.

Our linchpin to the film, probably the one with whom we "normal" people could relate to was played by Carlo Aquino. His character was oddly flat however. Such neverending patience and passivity despite the various acts of cruelty and lasciviciousness done him don't really inspire much sympathy. His is the familiar martyrdom of many "kawawa" characters in soaps. Just when you peg him for the forever willing victim, his one act of reprisal in the end comes as a surprise.

After the film's climax and the smattering of enthusiastic applause, we stayed stuck listening to the simple guitar score and looking at the credits with a mixture of pride for the filmmakers and not a little bit of awe. Wow. Pinoys can make such a film.

Sunday, June 26, 2005

Happy Accidents

I was once told I was the kindest person he has ever met, this from a middle-aged man who has lived on three continents. I have no reason to believe he was pulling my leg as he stood nothing to gain from it. So, it is quite strange how I’m always in dumbfounded disbelief each time I receive similar acts of kindness from virtual strangers. Perhaps this attests to how many times I’ve been let down by my own family and friends, which has led to my suspicious and pessimistic view of people in general. One would think that it is a dog-eat-dog world out there. And for the most part, maybe it is. Nothing leads me to believe otherwise, except for a miniscule number of happy accidents.

If you live in the general area of Metropolitan Manila, you will remember it raining hippos and elephants last Friday night. I had to pick my Mum up in Ortigas at around seven-thirty in the evening. Seeing as all roads out of Ortigas Center were full of vehicles-in-the-religious-icon-of-your-choice-procession, we tried our luck heading to C5. Ever since my mother realized her daughter has grown up, we took advantage of the alone-time to discuss things both mundane (as in, the latest celebrity gossip) and profound (as in, what a shit-hole we live in these days what can we do about it).

Being an excellent, if slow, driver, I found a relatively fast lane behind a humungous trailer truck loaded with an equally humungous part of what one would assume was a water pipe. *Cue in virtual collage of Manila Water and Maynilad maintenance repairs all over the metro.*

As various vehicles in front of us made their turns and changes of lane, we found ourselves directly behind the trailer truck, enjoying the relatively undisturbed space behind it as other motorists scrambled to get out of its way. I made sure to leave approximately a 5-meter distance between the truck’s tail and my hood. “So, do you think its Gloria on the tapes?” “No doubt, heck, how can one mistake her distinctive voice for anybody else’s?” “What’s your take on all this crap?” “My take on it is; it doesn’t matter who places his or her ass in Malacañang. It won’t change a thing. It’s the system that needs changing.”

A dark gray car made an audacious bid for my comfy position behind the trailer. Since it was drizzling, we were crawling, and I was last-workday tired, I let the other car slip in front of me. “This dumb jerk is tailing a tad too close.” Mum and I snickered. “If the truck were too back up even just a little, this guy’s bumper is a goner.” *Snicker some more.*


If you’ve had your share of car mishaps, the sound and feel of metal grinding metal is unmistakable. I glanced up at my rearview mirror. True enough, a car has mowed into my rear bumper. Great. With reluctance I got out of the car and in the rain. If you’re a female driver, then you know that in circumstances such as this, it is prudent to put on an extra-aggressive scowl on your face to compensate for having extra mounds of flesh on your chest.

“Sir, I wasn’t even moving!” “I know, I am so sorry, my pregnant wife is having stomach pains and my attention wasn’t fully on the road.” Wow. I was prepared to slug it out with whatever punk/asshole the other driver might’ve turned out to be. His instant apology and acceptance of liability caught me off-guard. “Well ok, could I see your ID please?” We exchanged ID cards and contact numbers. “I would offer to pay you now but I’ve no cash on me. If you like we could pass by an ATM.” I looked at the dent on the right side of my bumper. “But sir, I can’t really make an estimate of how much it would take to have this repaired.” Well-meaning motorists passing us were now shouting various suggestions and complaints. “Ok, maybe we can meet tomorrow to settle this. Just give me a call.” “Alright.” And that was it. No more than 5 minutes of drizzly settlement.

I got back on the car and took note of his license plate. My Mum looked at me with expectation. “He said to call him later.” Belatedly I remembered I had a camera on the backseat. “I should’ve taken photos. I should’ve asked for a letter from him, admitting his liability. If that’s a bogus number he gave, we’re fucked (Well, you don’t really say ‘fucked’ to your mother, think of a suitable Tagalog translation – except the K word!).” The rest of the drive home was quiet. My Mum tried the cellphone number, sure enough someone picked up. “He said he’ll call our landline at home.”

True enough the expectant father kept to his word and met with me the day after. At the moment my bumper is being repaired in an auto-shop near his neighborhood in Pasig. I suppose, if you’re named Honesto, it is sacrilege not to live up to your parents’ expectations.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

The Most Expensive University

According the a survery made by the Inquirer, "University of Asia and the Pacific tops the list. Its cost per unit depends on the course, but according to its registrar's office, one unit costs P2,018 on the average. With usually 27 units in one term and with two terms in an academic year, a freshman has to shell out about P108,972 for this school year's tuition alone."

Wow, that amount covers my four years of undergraduate as well as my three years of graduate studies with money left over for baon. No wonder families in the provinces invite half the town and have mini-fiestas complete with roast pig and band music when their kids make it to UP.
On A Merry Little Drive on EDSA

In an age where attention is fast consumed and discarded, it is difficult to think and reflect. Reality seems a blur, a constant change of shapes and colors zooming before our eyes. Life today is an orgy of sights and smells and dreams and ideas, all competing for our attention and our wallets. All must be purchased. Everything is for sale.

Now more than ever Life is a Market. It is natural. One must work to live. One must work hard to live comfortably. And comfort is life replete with all the “necessary” trinkets we must possess. This is common knowledge, taught us by our parents and society. Can our minds grasp the possibility of a world alternative? Probably not. You see, our minds are imprisoned by our bodies. We are slaves of appetite and bodily functions and the immediate. Where life is constantly threatened by hunger, death and ignominy, the immediate is all that matters. The mind cannot break free of the thing which anchors it in reality. And reality is a stinking pile of shit.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Hello Garci? has made available to anyone with a sense of humor in difficult times such as these the hilarious Hello Garci ringtone in their website. Enjoy!
John Legend

Fresh from Cebu, my boyfriend has sent me an excellent CD of John Legend. Maybe because I have this notion that I was a black man in the past life, I've always had an appreciation for hiphop music (and no, not the homophobic, gangsta or misogynistic kind), I am loving his music.

He is currently on local airwaves with the cut "Ordinary People." Click here for track samples of his album Get Lifted.
Revolution Redux

In preparing for my politics class I am revisited by ideals of old. I am re-learning concepts I have long ago thought I’d understood and am now considering with fresh eyes. These ideas are old friends I met in the past when my mind was a blank slate eager to wear tattoos of the new and exciting. You see, old friends are a source of comfort and assurance that all will be as it should be. Once again, I am eager. Once again, I am home.

I am reminded of the resistance I once put up, upon meeting these ideas. I resisted mightily, content to view the world through the safety of my rose-colored, bourgeois lenses. It is normal to fear the unknown. Resistance, however, was futile. There was juvenile attraction in “deviance,” in what was not the norm. Perhaps this laid claim to the first blush of attraction. Now, more seasoned, not quite as impressionable as before, I am even more convinced.

Sunday, June 19, 2005

Working his ass off in Cebu. I miss my baby bubu :(

Is that a new shirt you're wearing? I like. Do you mind that I posted your "tired" photo here? LOL. You look good enough to eat. Yum.

May 8, 2004

me: hey :)
you: hey you sparky sparks
me: was kind, what u wrote on my blog
you: :)
you: r u back?
me: i never left
you: wala lang i remembered lang when grandpa died
me: my grandma died friday before we were supposed to leave

you: oh you never did?
me: nope. mom cancelled it. baliktad..sila ang umuwi dito
you: so u still going?
you: argh or is that a good thing
me: not in the next few months. maybe sem break..october
you: aww.
me: good to see them...just a bad occasion to do so
me: i wasnt excited to go anyway
me: i'd rather go someplace else ;)
you: how u holding up? hows ur little pup?

me: my pup's pretty big now
me: she's got an identity crisis
you: haha
me: huge for a lap dog..but she absolutely insists on parking her huge arse on my lap
you: its raining hard here in makati
me: r u home?
you: yes in me studio in makati
me: not going out to drink later r u
you: why go out if you can drink here?
me: uve got a point there..but then u'll be drinking alone..when u can drink with a bunch of strangers
you: but then i wont be worried about traipsing in the street all wet from the rain and flood


me: awake he still is
you: i thought you had gone out
me: she changed her mind
you: of course im awake i keep late hours
you: its a rainy night anyway
me: we just she's watching monster's ball on our newly purchased chinese knock-off dvd player
you: keep me company?
me: for as long as i can keep awake :)
you: monster's ball is a powerful drama and that chinese knockoff player may be the best investment you made. :P
me: right u r
you: coz if u wanna get good dvds here, theyre all bootlegs
me: i sleep regular hours
you: and bootlegs play best on bootleg players

you: coz i live in the dvd bootleg capital of manila, aside from quiapo that is..
me: so have u got strange men standing on street corners pssst-ing at u as u walk by?
me: so watcha doin?
you: i was supposed to drink but i didnt
me: good good
you: nope, these guys in this mall sell it outfront in stalls
you: but they have raids on mondays
you: so they only sell tuesdays to sundays
me: flaunting it for all to see

me: what rare find have u in ur collection
you: gawd, ive gotten a lot of artfilms here that arent available in Tower or MUSIC ONE.
me: isnt that amazing
you: HMM... Kurosawa's Dreams,
you: cinema Paradiso
me: ive seen that one
me: on a lenten week. long long ago
you: Japanese and asian art films
me: i dont think ive ever seen a kurosawa film
you: have you seen lost in translation?

me: nope
you: ur missing out on life, kiddo hehehe
me: is it as good as critics say?
you: hmmm
you: yes it is.. in an understated kind of way
me: im not much into films
you: its visual and visceral
me: other than the usual stuff hollywood churns out
you: but nothing ever happens onscreen, only in ur mind
you: its cool
me: visceral...28 days later
me: seen that?
you: oh yes
you: i love 28 days later
me: so do i
you: its an independent production
you: shot for really cheap
me: visceral...figurative and literal sense..hehe
you: hahaha oh yes sabi mo pa.
me: it looked so dirty u felt the grit on ur skin

you: what does sparks do for fun?
me: i am boring
me: i do nothing
me: seriously
you: no one is boring
me: usual..go out wiht friends and family. see
me: ive had tons of coffee dates since cafes have proliferated this city
you: will you have one with me then? ;)

Saturday, June 18, 2005

Holy Smokes Batman!

Yes, I am raving, RAVING! about this film. And whether skeleton-emaciated (see below) or bar-room brawler hulk-y (see movie) I love, absolutely LOVE! Christian Bale. And since at the moment my own words can't express how much I loved this film, this is a wonderfully written review:

By Todd Gilchrist

Christian Bale is an actor I have respected since his earliest days on film; Empire of the Sun remains to this day one of my favorite movies, and signifies my own transformation from wide-eyed movie watcher to serious film student and, later, professional appreciator.

In Batman Begins, the 31-year-old Brit transforms his chiseled countenance yet again, beefing back up after his thin-man turn in The Machinist and playing both sides of the Batman coin with equal credulity. He invests us so deeply in the plight of this angry young man that we follow him willingly into the folds of the Batcave, and believe instantly that adopting this alter ego is his only way of coming to terms with his childhood trauma.

What’s more, Batman Begins boasts the best-ever cast in the history of the Batman films, and features the best collective performance from an ensemble you’re likely to see in this or any other comic book adaptation. The inclusion of Liam Neeson, Michael Caine and Morgan Freeman isn’t a simple matter of stunt casting like that of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s turn in Batman and Robin; rather, they plumb their respective talents for a wealth of credibility and a real-world tone that hasn’t been achieved before.

Bale plays Wayne as a withdrawn, bitter young man who has stature and wealth but remains powerless to regain the thing that means most to him - his parents. That part of the back story, however, has long since been established; his abilities, connections and drive, meanwhile, have never been sufficiently developed.

In the years before he straps on grey tights, a black mask and some cool gadgets, Wayne abandons his birthright, wanders the world in search of impossible answers, and lands himself in prison, where he routinely receives beatings from the other inmates. It is there that he meets Ra’s Al Ghul (Ken Watanabe), the man who offers to train him as a crime fighter and give his feelings focus.

Assisted by his henchman Ducard (Liam Neeson), Ra’s trains Wayne to fight - martial arts, stealth, etc.- and teaches him the discipline of their sacred order, which maintains a balance between the forces of light and darkness by cleansing the earth of corruption and crime. But when Wayne refuses to join their coterie of foot soldiers, who vow to employ any means necessary to accomplish their task, Ra’s is killed, his order is scattered to the four corners of the globe, and Wayne realizes that he must regain the world of the living.

Returning somewhat ceremoniously to Gotham after a seven-year hiatus, Wayne adopts his role as figurehead of Wayne Enterprises uneasily, but uses its wealth as a tool in his crime-fighting arsenal. Receiving assistance from his family butler Alfred (Michael Caine) and a slightly disenfranchised Wayne Enterprises employee named Lucius Fox (Morgan Freeman), Wayne conquers his own fears and vows in order to, as he puts it, ‘use fear against those who pray on the fearful.’ Pretending to be a rich, empty-headed playboy during the day, Wayne assembles a vast arsenal to fight crime, and takes to the skies to bring down the mob bosses and criminals who rule Gotham’s streets.

Nolan’s one shortcoming is his unease with directing action scenes; an early scuffle renders all of the participants drenched in mud and indistinguishable from one another, and some of the other segments feel assembled in the editing room rather than in the filmmaker’s imagination. But as far as the characters and story are concerned, Batman Begins achieves the kind of superlative emotional fluidity that last summer’s did, and produces the same kind of irresistible empathy that Sam Raimi was able to imbue unto Peter Parker and his web-slinging alter- ego.

As a longtime reader of the Batman comic books, I thrilled at the prospect of watching a truly new story, rather than some vaguely different installment of the same old good-versus-evil conflicts that dominated previous films and the funny papers which inspired them. Thankfully, I was fully satisfied by the film; the time Nolan takes to generate a real sense of humanity in Wayne makes for indelible viewing once the movie magic takes over. He combines viscera and palpable emotional dimension in an unforgettable cinematic alchemy, fulfilling the history of the character as well as creating a new screen mythology which will inspire decades of directors, storytellers and mythmakers for years to come.

Neeson, who prior to Kinsey has made his mark playing authority figures and mentors to troubled young men (Star Wars: Episode I, Kingdom of Heaven), here trades on that persona as a teacher whose lessons cannot be blindly followed, engendering the central moral ambiguity that exists beneath Batman’s crime-fighting certitude. Freeman, on the other hand, makes a sly play on the secretive and subtle characters he’s portrayed in films past, and turns a throwaway character into a great comedic fulcrum in a film that’s occasionally light on laughs. Meanwhile, as Wayne’s butler Alfred, Caine continues to expand his filmography with worthy turns in worthier films, and beings an irreverence, intelligence, and most of all, sensitivity to a historically stolid character.

With all of the mucky-muck character and plot business out of the way, it’s equally exciting to consider Nolan’s take on those wonderful toys, which have a three-dimensional quality that previous installments lacked, but nevertheless inflame the imagination just as much. For example the Batmobile, which must eat Humvees for breakfast, is hands down the coolest vehicle in Batman history; doubly cool is its actual existence, which highlights an important element of the film's appeal - tangibility.

Hardly can one remember a movie released in the past five years that actually performed all of its stunts, generated its effects, and imagined its conceptual universe in actual space, not created with the assistance of a team of computer animators. But Nolan does the seemingly impossible, and turns rote fight choreography and car chases into real-world scuffles and sequences that grunt and weave while - gasp! - actually obeying the laws of physics.

In the end, Batman Begins isn’t just a summer rabble-rouser, nor a quiet character study. It’s a gothic, well-acted and expertly executed epic that promises some of the most riveting drama and exciting action you will see all year. To top it off, Christian Bale brings credibility to Batman's cowl and tips off a collection of superlative turns, even from actors for whom great performances are commonplace events.

This is the best Batman movie ever, not because it’s the newest, but because it’s the most believable: the hardware, the relationships, the story all feel fully real, and that’s a rare achievement for a film of any type, much less comic book adaptations with their pulse squarely on the pocketbook of the American public. That said, the overall effectiveness of Nolan's film all but guarantees the existence of future installments, which come well-deserved.

So consider the franchise officially reborn, sing the praises of a summer spectacle, and let the Bat-mania begin for the first time, all over again.

Sunday, June 12, 2005

Birthday Rituals

My mother tells me to go to church and thank the Lord for another birthday. Mindful of my sensibilities, she reiterates I do NOT necessarily need to attend mass. I need only put my body within the church premises, perform the requisite rituals one need do in such an event; such as making the sign of the cross, kneeling, kissing or wiping with a kerchief of any one among the available figurines' hand. Upon careful observance of said rituals, any good Catholic may then pronounce I have done my religious duty as one who is celebrating another year of being alive.

My boyfriend calls and pretty much reiterates what my mother has said. Go to church and thank God for another birthday. What does this business of church-going on birthdays really mean anyway? That I should be thankful that God tolerates my living on earth? And that he or she or it has been gracious enough to make sure I do not number among the millions of other beings who have no food to eat, no shelter under which to lay, no job that generates enough to provide the aforementioned basic needs? Should I be properly thankful then that this almighty power consents that I need not steal, murder or commit other inhumane acts in order that I might live? That his or her or its beacon of blessing and endless love is shining expressly on myself, the chosen child? Whew. Such pressure indeed to do my birthday duty and go to Church.

What an ingrate I would be indeed to waste such gifts given me, most important of which is that I am still in a relatively well-preserved state of being ALIVE whereas many more are in varying states of sub-human existence. I shall do what is expected of me then, and humble myself upon the altar of such a gracious, if selective, provider.

Saturday, June 11, 2005

Twenty-five and Counting

I'll be 25 tomorrow. That's right. The Big 2-5. Twenty-five. Two decades and a half. Twenty-fucking-five. I've been around for as long as certain furniture, certain buildings along EDSA or certain dinosaurs in the Senate. A quarter of a century I am.

What's it like to be 25? I feel fragile and old. Shouldn't I feel fragile and old at 75? Well, yes, but that is expected. Fragile is when you are uncertain of the future. At 75 at least you pretty much know where you're headed; permanent retirement. But 25 is when you're supposed to charter the course your life might take. Its at time where so many decisions need to be made alone. So yeah, forgive me if I feel fragile in my uncertainty. I could be making a muck of my life right this minute. I could fuck up my life for good with a string of wrong decisions.

I also feel old. 25 is old when you feel you can no longer party like you did at, say, 23. 25 is old when you cease to use 'carefree' in your vocabulary. 25 is old when your body can no longer take as much alcohol and still stay up straight enough to make it to the toilet as it did when you were, say, 19. 25 is old when you physically can't stay up long nights, and when your body is more prone to aches and pains. 25 is old when you can no longer drink as much caffeine and inhale as much tar and expect not to have heart palpitations. 25 is old when the girls start heading south and when laughlines start making an appearance.

25 is old when you no longer have time to see old friends, and when you do all you've got in common is a shared past so all there is to do is reminisce. 25 is old when you see your own mother's mortality. 25 is old when you know the meaning of bone-tired. It's old when you know life can only get harder.

So yeah, I'm not particularly happy to be turning 25 tomorrow. It doesn't help that fuckers who like to call themselves leaders of this country are trying their damnedest to drive us all into the ground. Turning 25 is hard enough in any setting. Try turning 25 in the Philippines.

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Looks like I'll be going on air on Wednesday finally! No, I won't be a DJ (they want a guy for that), I'll be a newscaster on a local radio station. I tried out for the open auditions last March, they picked a dozen or so finalists and finally, 1 guy and 2 girls. Wish me luck. :-)

Saturday, June 04, 2005

Sick and Tired

O God. This is what it feels like to have your whole body revolt against you for abuse. The breakdown is total. The whole body is turned into mush as well as the brain, which has only started to be (somewhat) cooperative in the last 12 hours or so. But still, there is hardly an activity goin' on up there. And so I find myself marooned at home for the last 3 days with something I can only self-diagnose as Influenza, the very popular viral infection these days. I sure as hell hope it is NOT cerebral malaria. I haven't been traipsing around Palawan jungles, but still.

Yes, I have been sick. Sick as a dog. My body and mind is screaming for rest. And so rest I shall. Until the next round come second week of June. So help me God (instead of caffeine and nicotine).