Friday, December 28, 2007

Thursday, December 27, 2007

These are a few of my favorite things

My personal favorites from 2007.



PEOPLE

1. The Sumilao farmers
2. The monks of Burma
3. You, you know who you are
4. Quentin Tarantino
5. Al Gore
6. Benazir Bhutto
7. Fr. Ed Panlilio
8. Amy Winehouse
9. Melinda Doolittle
10. KC Concepcion




DEAD PEOPLE


1. Luciano Pavarotti
2. Ingmar Bergman / Michelangelo Antonioni
3. Rene Villanueva


TOP ISSUES


1. Global warming
2. Suppression of freedom
3. Crooks not being brought to justice (or just being freed)


BROUHAHA


1. Trillanes' coup-lelat
2. Shitbomb in Glorietta
3. The Ruffa-Yilmaz marital violence issue - the media attention probably gave Kris Aquino sleepless nights; also, ensured Ruffa's continuous showbiz career


EVENTS


1. Namfrel Operation Quick Count 2007
2. Cinemalaya Film Festival 2007
3. Cinemanila International Film Festival 2007


YouTube TIME SUCKERS

1. Indian Thriller



2. Japanese prank shows



3. Prison Thriller



WEBSITES

1. Multiply
2. Google
3. CNN


BLOGS (aside from mine)

1. Jessica Zafra's Jessica Rules The Universe
2. vintage vinyl audio blogs, like this and this and this and this
3. Sari-Saring Sineng Pinoy


MOVIES (2007)

There are still a lot of movies I've got to see and a ton of DVDs yet to be played. I'll come out with a list in a couple of months but here are my top 5 so far.

1. Pisay (Auraeus Solito)



2. Grindhouse: Planet Terror and Death Proof (Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino)



3. Ratatouille (Brad Bird and Jan Pinkava)



4. Zodiac (David Fincher)



5. 4 Months, 3 Weeks, and 2 Days (Cristian Mungiu)



MOVIES (Catalogue)

1. Fanny and Alexander (Ingmar Bergman)
2. Volver (Pedro Almodovar)
3. Riles (Ditsi Carolino)
4. Fellini's Roma (Federico Fellini)
5. Pink Flamingos (John Waters)


TV SHOWS

1. Saturday Night Live (syndicated)
2. Pinoy Big Brother Celebrity Edition 2 - hi hi hi (Go Gaby! Go Ruben!)
3. 30 Rock


SONGS (2007)

1. Amy Winehouse - REHAB



2. Rihanna feat. Jay-Z - UMBRELLA



3. Akon feat. Snoop Dogg - I WANNA LOVE YOU



SONGS (Catalogue)

1. Nais Ko - Basil Valdez
2. Una Kaya / Kahimanawari - Pinikpikan
3. S'werte S'werte Lang - Joel Navarro
4. Let's Do The Latin Hustle - Eddie Drennon & BBS Unlimited
5. Corazon de Melon - Rosemary Clooney & Perez Prado


BANDS

1. Pinikpikan
2. Lakbay Lahi / Unitiima
3. Kadangyan


FRONT PERSONS

1. Carol Bello, Pinikpikan
2. Bhava Mitra, Kadangyan
3. Wawi Navarroza, The Late Isabel


GIGS

1. The 3rd Backdoor Ventures Arts & Music Fest (SM Megatrade Hall, August 24-26)
2. Fete de la musique (Malate, June 23)
3. Pinikpikan in SaGuijo (September 1)


HYPES I DIDN'T GET INTO

1. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - I still haven't read a single Harry Potter book!
2. Crocs - the ugliest shoes in the world, ever
3. Emo - perennial


MALLS

1. SM Megamall pa rin talaga
2. TriNoMa
3. SM Mall of Asia - Do we really need a mall this big? Apparently, yes.


ALTERNATIVE SHOPPINGAN

1. Quiapo and Binondo - perennial
2. A couple of stores in (location withheld) - nye-he-he
3. The Sikh temple in UN Avenue - for Bollywood CDs and DVDs (and also Indian classical music)
4. mag:net Cafe / other rock joints / some booths during university fairs - Pinoy indie music CDs


PURCHASES

1. Extremely rare, near-mint Eraserheads 45rpm vinyl - for freaking 10 pesos!?!
2. Recycled bag from a booth at the UP Fair
3. The garlic buttered potatoes I shared with you, you know who you are
4. Vintage Califone 1010AV record player
5. Vinyl copy of Rosemary Clooney & Perez Prado's "A Touch of Tabasco"


COOL PINOY SHIRTS

1. The T-Shirt Project's Ang Bagong Barong series
2. Happy Days' artista shirts (Bella Flores, Ike Lozada, Rene Requiestas, etc.)
3. The T-Shirt Project's Malisya series


FOOD TRIP


1. Still my favorite Indian grocery stores (Assad, Uncle Ed's, etc.) in UN Avenue for samosas and gulab jamun; Kashmir (now at Rustan's Makati supermarket!) for samosas and dal
2. Asian Delights at Robinsons Galleria supermarket
3. 'Yung maliit na restoran sa palengke ng San Juan na nagbebenta ng sobrang mamantikang adobo. Oh my god.
4. Ubiquitous deep-fried calamares stands - worthy successor to kwek-kwek
5. Baliwag chicken combo meals


FANTASIES

1. Doing graduate studies in an Ivy League school
2. Seeing the peak of Mt. Everest outside plane window
3. Playing the djembe for a Pinoy band
4. Photo op with Quentin Tarantino
5. secret!


EXPERIENCES

1. Unearthing dusty gems at my favorite secret store (which will remain nameless for now)
2. Climax of any Pinikpikan show
3. Those rare times with you, you know who you are


WISHES FOR 2008

1. To finally be able to go back to school
2. More opportunities for travel
3. Hmmm...yes, 'yun.


Saturday, December 22, 2007

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Appreciation: Van McCoy's "The Hustle"

It's big revelation time. I listen to all kinds of music, most of them good (at least in my world), some are bad. I don't particularly care about genres; if it's good, then it's good, whether it's by Beethoven or The Clash or a one-hit wonder from the 80s. However, my favorite piece of music of all-time will probably not make it to anyone's Top 10 desert island records, or to many hipsters' MP3 player.

I'm talking about Van McCoy & The Soul City Symphony's immortal "The Hustle." Yep. There, I said it. I could probably listen to this song a million times and not hate it. When people hear The Hustle, they immediately think of the dance steps, or Dance Fever, or polyester pants and shirts. Well, I think of all those things too, but there's something very melancholic about the song that I truly love and which has put a lump in my throat many times. I also love the symmetry of the composition, much like how I feel when I listen to the 9-minute version of Underworld's "Born Slippy." If you listen carefully to it, The Hustle is a very uplifting single. It has a discernible climax that, unlike that of VST & Company's "Rock Baby Rock," is actually repeated several times throughout the song.

The song also connects me to my childhood, the earliest years of which I spent living in Pasay in an apartment along EDSA near the old BLTB bus station. I used to hear this song on the radio back then. It's melody brings back the smell of fumes long before talks of the ozone and global warming, and dusty sheets and floors and sofas covered in orange upholstery.

When I listen to it, I could also imagine a tragi-comic Pinoy movie set in the late 70s peopled with corrupt cops, desperate lovers and sexy dancers in a cabaret, like characters from a Bernal movie. If ever I make my own movie, I'll use The Hustle in its entirety as the music for the big finale, the big shebang.

And the late Van McCoy is one of the unheralded geniuses of pop music.







Putin is TIME's Person of The Year


Don't ask.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Asian idols

Anyone among the Idols from the Philippines, Malaysia, and Indonesia could have easily won in last weekend's first Asian Idol competition held in Jakarta, had the contest been judged based on merit. But since this is Idol, the winner was determined by text votes. Singapore Idol Hady Mirza shockingly won the title.

Everybody expected Indonesian Idol Mike Mohede to win. I thought so too. I was an observer in Indonesia for the Carter Center when the first Indonesian Idol happened, and the show was beyond popular; it was a force of nature. Everybody from Papua to Kalimantan was aware of it and watched it religiously, time differences and choppy satellite feeds be damned. And Mohede was a good singer and performer. In the show, he sang Mengejar Matahari (one of my favorite Indonesian pop songs) and I Believe I Can Fly, which I'm sure prompted 200 million Indonesians to reach for their ponsel. No less than President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono even watched the show live (he even sang karaoke to welcome the Idols to the palace, yikes.)

I really liked Malaysian Idol Jaclyn Victor. She looks very classy, like Motown-era Diana Ross, but with a better voice. She's supposedly a huge star now in Malaysia, and I can see why. But maybe she should stop joining international singing competitions, because a few months back she was beaten by Vina Morales at the Ikon Asean (Kjwan won for the group category).

Which brings us to Mau Marcelo, the Philippine Idol. She has the strongest voice among the contestants, and in a perfect world would have easily won the title. One of the judges though was right when he said that Mau didn't give her all. Her performance of Ako Ang Nasawi, Ako Ang Nagwagi came off as very studied and modulated, although she made up for it with her second song, Reach.

(Sidebar: The Philippine Idol franchise has been transferred to GMA-7, most probably because ABC-5 was not able to turn it into a huge hit. I thought ABC-5 did a competent-enough job with the show, and I fear GMA-7 will tweak it and make it baduy. GMA reportedly will change the title to Pinoy Idol -- maybe because they admire April Boy Regino too much -- and worse, they reportedly will not acknowledge the first show and its contestants and will not recognize Mau Marcelo as the first Philippine Idol. How fucking dare you, GMA-7.)

Singapore Idol Hady Mirza played his cards right by singing a song in Bahasa Malayu. Voting rules stated that texters should vote for two contestants, not just one, otherwise the vote would have been invalid. I think Mirza won by sheer luck: both the Malaysians and the Indonesians probably picked him as their second choice. Ok, to be honest, I also picked him as my second choice, because I figured he will never win because he had the lousiest voice and because of the fact that there are probably less Singaporeans than those who voted for Trillanes in the last election. I was dead wrong.

Did I actually just write a longish blog entry on Idol? Apparently this is a matter of great import. Here, enjoy my favorite performances:


Jaclyn Victor (Malaysian Idol) - For Once In My Life




Mike Mohede (Indonesian Idol) - Mengejar Matahari




Mike Mohede (Indonesian Idol) - I Believe I Can Fly




Mau Marcelo (Philippine Idol) - Ako Ang Nasawi, Ako Ang Nagwagi and Reach




Abhijeet Sawant (Indian Idol) - Junoon

Monday, December 17, 2007

Appreciation: A-Ha's "Take On Me" video

Many kids had Cinderella. Some had Hansel and Gretel. Others had The Ugly Duckling, Snow White, or Peter Pan. My parents never read fairy tales to me as a kid, but TV gave me something more potent: a music video.

A woman one day was having coffee at a diner. She was leafing through a comic book, about a biker who has just won a race. Suddenly, the biker winked at her, and reached out to her out of the page. She took his hand and was sucked into his world of white spaces and black lines. He showed her around. They fell in love. Then out of nowhere, the rival gang whom the guy just beat appeared to exact their revenge. Armed with monkey wrenches, they chased the couple until they came to a dead end. To save the girl, the guy made an opening through a blank wall and forced the girl to go in. The girl appeared at the diner's kitchen, beside a waste basket where the waitress had thrown the comic book after crumpling it out of anger because she thought the girl left without paying. The girl stood up, picked up the comic book and dashed for the door. Upon reaching home, she immediately leafed through the comic book to see what happened next. A monkey wrench went down. The guy was dead. The girl wept, and she looked up. The biker came back to life and struggled to get out of the comic book panels. The guy appeared in her room, looking exhausted after his ordeal. She was shocked. Their eyes locked. They went back to his world, and finally they kissed.

For many people this was silly, but for a 9-year old, it was something he hasn't seen before, an engaging wordless story soundtracked by a soaring anthem that has since etched itself in many people's mental time capsules. Along with Sesame Street and The Neverending Story (among a few others), watching A-Ha's groundbreaking "Take On Me" video over and over again was one of the defining moments of my childhood. It was fantasy. It was comics. It was pop music.

It was heaven.

Appreciation: Spandau Ballet's "Gold"

Listening to Spandau Ballet feels like home. Their sound was very smooth, laid back, with a hint of jazz (compared with Duran Duran whose concoctions were generally bombastic), and Tony Hadley's baritone truly complemented this sound. Spandau Ballet were extremely popular in the 80s (more so in the Philippines than in the US), but amazingly, I only got to know their most famous hit, "True," after P.M. Dawn incorporated its hook in their song "Set Adrift On Memory Bliss" in 1991.

I will forever associate the band though with their other huge hit, "Gold." I saw its video a lot back then, about this guy in this dusty location looking for a piece of a jigsaw puzzle made of gold. Never really understood it, even the lyrics, but every time I hear this song I become a 7-year old again, coming home from school at lunchtime to watch "MV2: The World of Music Videos" on BBC 2 (yes, that's what ABS-CBN was called during the last few years of the Marcoses). The song also reminds me of happy times in high school, when we danced the song's masterful 12-inch remix on stage, which would just be too embarrassing to recount here (it involved black leotards).

Spandau Ballet may be no more, but my heart will be shouting "Gold! (gold.)" until I die.

Time Magazine's Top 10 Web Videos for 2007

Jump to #5!



#10. Daft Hands




#9. Clark and Michael




#8. Dan Rather Collar Up





#7.
Can't Tase This





#6.
I Ran So Far





#5.
Prison Inmates' "Thriller" Video (live from the Cebu Provincial Detention and Rehabilitation Center!)





#4.
Hillary 1984





#3.
Miss South Carolina Teen USA





#2:
The Landlord





#1:
Leave Britney Alone!




See more Top 10 lists at www.time.com

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Appreciation: Madonna

Madonna is cool because she does what she wants and she's usually successful. She's an artist who is totally in-charge of all aspects of her career, from her albums, to her videos, to her hairstyles and live concerts, and to her extremely calculated career moves (favorite: wearing a cowgirl outfit on the cover of a very Euro techno album, possibly to not alienate her middle American fans). She has pushed the boundaries of pop music so many times, and there's really no one else around who could write sturdy pop songs like her.

Appreciation: Prince

Prince is a genius and quite possibly the greatest live performer ever. He could play any instrument you throw at him. He could do a full split, scream like a banshee, and offer sex to his audience all in a split second while furiously fingering his keytar. He is also an obsessive, locking himself up and his musicians for days in his studio, creating a startling amount of music that his record company could not cope with his output. There was a time when the world's favourite color was purple. I enjoyed Prince's videos in the 80s, but it wasn't until college that I became a convert (hi Tina, wherever you are). The guy never really went away, releasing at least twenty albums in the 90s. He's been topping the charts again recently, showing upstart pretenders how it's done.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Meanwhile, the world toasts and sinks at the same time...

The United States is the biggest contributor to global warming but it seems to be the least willing to contribute to efforts to come up with solutions to this huge problem. Shame. The UN Climate Change Conference concludes today in Bali but no substantial conclusion could be arrived at because the US reportedly refuses to commit wholeheartedly. Why? When will the US government stop denying that global warming is indeed happening, and at an alarming speed? What are they waiting for, for Michael Moore to step in? (Although that may be a good idea. E-mail Michael Moore at mike@michaelmoore.com).


Know more about the UN Climate Change Conference HERE.

Read the 1997 Kyoto Protocol (which the US refused to ratify) HERE.


From CNN.Com
EU, U.S. in climate deal standoff


BALI, Indonesia (CNN) -- The United Nations climate change conference headed towards its conclusion Friday, with the United States and the European Union at an impasse over how developed nations should tackle global warming.

Negotiations over an agreement to replace the 10-year-old Kyoto Protocol, which expires in 2012, continued all night, officials told CNN, but disagreements remained.

The Europeans are pushing for an agreement that contains specific numbers for emissions cuts, but Washington wants to leave maneuvering room for future negotiations, including next month's U.S.-sponsored climate talks in Hawaii.

The EU delegation has balked at that stance, saying it would render January's major emitters meeting "meaningless."

"We are disappointed that having reached this stage of the negotiations we still haven't heard from the United States," said said Humberto Rosa, a member of the European delegation and Portuguese secretary of state for the environment.

"What is their exact level of ambition or of engagement in the Bali roadmap?"

Former U.S. Vice President Al Gore, fresh from accepting the Nobel peace prize for his work on climate change awareness, sided with the Europeans.

"My own country, the United States, is principally responsible for obstructing progress here in Bali. We all know that," he said. "But my country is not the only one that can take steps to ensure that we move forward in Bali with progress and with hope."

Gore accepted the Nobel peace prize on Monday, alongside the U.N.'s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

In an interview with CNN, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon leaned toward the United States' position, stressing that Bali negotiations have to be "based on realistic and practical assessment."

"Somewhere down the road, quantifiable targets on emissions reductions" would be discussed, he said, adding that "launching the process [is] very important."

Japan and Canada have taken positions in line with the United States, while Australia's position is uncertain.

Washington is balking at suggestions by the EU that any agreement to replace the Kyoto Protocol on global warming should require developed countries to cut their emissions by 25 to 40 percent of 1990 levels by 2020.

The Bush administration says Europe is moving too fast.

"The main effort here in Bali is to get all of the countries to agree, in concept, that they will collectively support a long-term global goal for reducing emissions," said James Connaughton, the chairman of the White House Council on Environmental Quality. "That's the first step before you can then sit down and work through the specifics of what that goal might be."

The shrill tone of Thursday's public statements indicated the behind-the-doors negotiations were difficult.

Rosa said the European delegation said it is not "blackmailing" Washington, but said it is "logic[al]" that if no deal is completed in Bali, it cannot be built upon in Hawaii.

The Kyoto Protocol was passed 10 years ago by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change with the goal of limiting greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere.

While 175 nations and the European Economic Community have ratified it, the United States has not.

Appreciation: Freddie Mercury

That voice. That bravado. That moustache. Those teeth. And that name: "Freddie Mercury." Wow. Though I don't understand why he had to change his name. Could there be a more rock star name than Farrokh Bulsara?

Freddie Mercury is my favorite rock star ever because he totally embraced his role as rock star, which was to inspire and uplift humanity by rocking. Even Kurt Cobain admired Mercury's ability to go up on stage and just bask at the adulation of literally a sea of people. Just watch Queen's 1985 Live Aid performance (once voted the greatest live gig ever), specifically during Radio Ga Ga, and be convinced that there probably won't ever be a bigger rock star than Mercury.

Okay, so it should really be Queen and not just Mercury. But I'm sure Brian May and company would agree that the Indian guy in the middle of the stage was the heart and soul of the band. And don't forget that the band attempted to find a successor to Mercury after his death. The nerve; nobody's worthy.

Appreciation: Michael Jackson

It's such a tragedy that Michael Jackson has turned into such a caricature that people seemed to have forgotten how great he was. There was a time when Michael was truly the biggest star in the world, I mean REALLY big, perhaps bigger than any religion. Kids nowadays will never understand because there hasn't been anybody who came close after that (combine the popularity of Britney, Justin, the Backstreet Boys, the freaking internet and the iPod, and you're still nowhere near). The 80s would have been unimaginable without him and his videos and music. When we were kids, me and my brother would even dance in front of our TV set when his videos would come on, attaching medals and other stuff on our shirts a la Michael. Whatever Michael does next to his face and to his reputation, he will still earn the respect of a lot of people because of his songs with the Jackson 5 and the early solo stuff especially from Off The Wall and Thriller.

Appreciation: Bjork

Bjork remains my favorite female artist because she has remained artistically exciting and relevant after all these years. Her albums are never boring because not only are the individual songs painstakingly crafted to her very high standards, she also tries to do things different with each album.

The casual Bjork listener doesn't exist, because with her it's either sink or swim. It's either you like her or not. Those who like her love her to death, and those who don't probably hate her for being "weird." Many people couldn't get past Bjork's image and are scared to listen to her (I was) because they think she's too avant garde or too out there for their tastes. But what's so surprising about her music is the more her music sounds experimental, the more naked and personal her lyrics become.

Bjork also has one of the greatest voices in music, and she uses it to blend or clash with her electronic blips and squeals and the occasional string quartet, to suit whatever she's trying to achieve. Her transportive and adventurous albums Post and Homogenic are modern classics, and her songs like Hyperballad, The Modern Things, Joga, Hunter and Pagan Poetry, are masterpieces. Required listening for the human race.

Flipboy

Further proof that it is indeed cool to be Filipino, Quentin Tarantino wore a barong when he announced the nominees for the Golden Globe Awards a few hours ago. Meanwhile, in the Philippines, Martin Nievera still can't speak Tagalog.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Support the Sumilao farmers

From sumilaomarch.multiply.com:

54 farmers from Sumilao, walking for 60 days, from Bukidnon to Manila, on October 10 to December 10, covering 1,700 kilometers, to ask President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo to distribute their ancestral lands to them under the agrarian reform program...

They have braved fatigue, heat, storm. They have endured being away from home, being in uncertain places, with uncertain outcomes. Most of all, they have suffered the callousness of people who took away their land and refuse to give them what is rightfully theirs. They have nothing but the solidarity and goodness of people, and the hope that, in the end, truth and social justice will prevail.

Let us support them in this struggle!

Click here to read about theSumilao case: http://sumilaomarch.multiply.com/journal/item/2/Full_Position_Paper_of_SUMILAO_FARMERS

Click here to read the latest updates: http://sumilaomarch.multiply.com/journal

Sign the online petition here: http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/sumilaofarmers/

Click here to make a contribution to the fund-raising initiative of AB Development Students from Ateneo: http://sumilaomarch.multiply.com/journal/item/5/SUPPORT_the_SUMILAO_FARMERS_MARCH

Click here for acknowledgements and list of supporters: http://sumilaomarch.multiply.com/journal/item/74/Acknowledgements

Friday, November 30, 2007

Flushing the coup b'etat

It's quite fashionable nowadays to ask the President to step down, but if it's only Trillanes and cohorts who would initiate another uprising in a manner like yesterday's event, honestly, I'd rather stay home and sip tsokolate while watching all the drama unfold on TV. It's one thing to express dissent and to act on it -- hey, didn't we do just that in EDSA 2? -- but for a duly elected senator to walk out of a court proceeding, and take over a hotel with armed men -- I think we should draw the line. This was the same guy who struck fear among the citizenry by planting explosives around a Makati mall complex a few years back in a similar attempt to take power from a legally-sitting president, however spotty her reputation is. If I were still the impressionable UP freshman who was constantly exposed to ideas that we should fight for our rights, that the government is evil and change should start with the people (and so on), I would have said "Go Trillanes! Down with the Government! Behead the bastards!" But the years have made me realize that the most effective way to initiate change is from the inside. He was already there, for some reason allowed to run for office and actually won as senator, but he blew his chances. Okay, so he said he wasn't allowed to do his job as senator. But with his history of mouthing slogans, conspiracy theories, disrupting peace and disrespecting procedures that the law (which he is expected to uphold) has put in place, I think that's understandable. And staging a coup attempt on the eve of Bonifacio's birth anniversary? How tacky! So does he think he's the new Bonifacio?

The police reaction to the attempted coup was understandable, but admittedly a bit overkill. Trillanes' men were armed, and the state has the right to defend itself from those who would attempt to seize control of the government. But to ram a tank through the lobby entrance? Welcome to sunny Beirut! And what about the handcuffing of media people? Was that really necessary? The police explanation was they're just making sure that no Magdalo soldiers were pretending to be media people (indeed, two Magdalo soldiers were later discovered hiding in one of the rooms). The explanation kinda makes sense, but press people have huge IDs on their chests which would have really made it easier for them to be identified. The police could have just asked, or they could have just taken them to a nearby ballroom for identification, instead of handcuffing them and then hauling them inside a bus and taking them to police headquarters. I think the police officers were well-meaning; they just didn't see the negative impact their actions will have.

(Props to Ces Drilon et al for once again showing the true journalists they really are, as opposed to being just plain newsreaders. Take that, Korina Sanchez!)

Curfew? Again quite understandable especially as people from the slums were reportedly being made hakot (again) by the opposition to provide warm bodies for yet another People Power-ish shebang scheduled supposedly for today. But was it really legal? Enough grounds na ba ito to have curfew not just in Metro Manila but also in Central Luzon and the Calabarzon areas? Besides, curfews are scary because they remind people of Martial Law. Not now creeps, I'm trying to grow my hair long!

(Photo from philstar.com)

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Look what the cat dragged in...

Or to be precise, look what I found in Quiapo last weekend.


The band logos are stickers, so is the Billboard logo, while the Skid Row and Guns N Roses pictures are just that, pictures. I bought them in a store along Quezon Boulevard that used to be a record bar, and I think these are authentic relics from the 80s because the store still has lots of them, bundled in plastic bags, yellowing and covered in dust. Wow. I remember growing up in the province and seeing these stickers in tricycles and in my classmates' notebooks. And I remember that (badly printed) photos of bands (and also song lyrics with illustrations in them) were big with high school students in the late 80s and early 90s, buying them at the palengke and giving them away to friends and crushes with dedications at the back, or they (we) just inserted them under the plastic covers of their (our) books and notebooks.


I started high school in '89, and back then, my classmates were huge fans of hair metal bands, especially Guns N Roses (G'N'R), Skid Row, Poison, and Bon Jovi. At that time it briefly occurred to me that there must be something wrong with me because I wasn't into rock (I was heavily into...Technotronic and Roxette). But how come when Metallica released "Enter Sandman" and Nirvana came out with "Smells Like Teen Spirit" mere months apart in 1991, I immediately liked them? It was only recently that it occurred to me that maybe at that age I already had taste in music, hindi kaya? (pump up the jam, pump it up, while your feet are stompin', and the jam is pumpin', look at here the crowd is jumpin'...)


But now I appreciate those hair metal bands, in an ironic sort of way. I realized they're campy as hell. Now that they're fat and bald (serves you right for destroying the ozone with your Aqua Net!), they're now even more hilarious because some of them still seriously think that they have made a great contribution to humanity and that they were/are the bomb. Well, for a short period of time now relegated to our subconscious, they were.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Birth = Death!

November 28, 1976:

135,928 People

Strangely reassuring!

Friday, November 16, 2007

It's about time


It's that time of the year again when the editors of Time magazine deliberate on who would be its Person of the Year. Some of the names that have come up so far: Al Gore, Hillary Clinton, Steve Jobs, Condoleeza Rice, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. They're not going to give it to Ahmadinejad because, though the the Person of the Year title is given to one who had the most impact on the world (yes, world, not just America), they usually give it to someone who had a positive impact (like in 2001, when they gave it to Rudy Giuliani rather than to Osama Bin Laden). They're not going to give it to Al Gore, because they should probably have done that last year. They're not going to give it to Hillary; they'll probably wait till 2008. Last year, the distinction was given to "You." meaning us, for changing the internet through user-generated content through sites like YouTube and MySpace.

For this year, the editors of Time should consider giving the title Persons of the Year to ordinary folks who try to keep democracy alive wherever they are. I'm talking about the monks of Burma, and other demonstrators in countries like Pakistan, Malaysia, the Philippines, or wherever democracy is threatened by their own governments. I would also like to see the title given to the bloggers of the world, for tirelessly writing about things not usually covered by the media, and, especially those from places like China, the Middle East, and Africa, for fearlessly bringing to the world's attention unspeakable atrocities that their own governments try to hide. More than any other big personalities in the world, the common people, who usually only have the shirts on their back, a strong conviction (and an internet connection), without the support of influential friends and the machinery of a political party, deserve the world's praise and honor. It's about time.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Diwali Mela at Mall of Asia




I made a pilgrimage to the SM Mall of Asia last Sunday to celebrate Diwali with our Indian-Filipino brothers and sisters. Diwali, also known as Deepavali or the Festival of Lights, marks the victory of good over evil, and uplifting of spiritual darkness. Symbolically it marks the homecoming of goodwill and faith after an absence, as suggested by the story of Ramayana. It is a special occasion to worship Lord Vishnu, Lord Ganesha, and the Goddess Lakshmi. In certain parts of India, Diwali is considered the start of the new year.

(This event made me realize that, hey, there are a lot of Indian-Filipinos. That yes, they are as Filipino as you and me as many of them were already born here, and therefore, wouldn't it be nice if we could all hang out every now and then to enrich each other's Filipino experience?)

I'm a huge fan of Indian culture so it was easy for me to decide to go. The fact that Pinikpikan was also the featured band was icing on the cake. Speaking of cake, the event was also an excuse for me to wolf down authentic Indian food from Queens and Kashmir restaurants, like vegetable samosas, chicken tikka, and roti chanai (ok, this last one is actually Malaysian). Sarap!

Pinikpikan played four songs as the largely-Indian audience trickled in. They weren't their energetic selves maybe because of the crowd that probably haven't heard about them, but I really liked when they did an Indian song. I thought that was it for the band; it turned out it was just warm-up for the guys. The national anthems of the Philippines and India were played afterwards, followed by a lighting of the lamps ceremony. Several Indian dances performed by Filipino dancers followed, though I wished Indian nationals did it instead because I think Filipino dancers are too graceful for the frenetic body and hand-eye movements that characterize Indian dances. Pinikpikan then took the stage again for a scorching rendition of Kahimanawari and Maski Diin, accompanied by the dancers doing both Indian and Filipino dances. The audience liked it a lot.

After a short fashion show, then came what I would call the Bollywood Diva Showdown. Eight girls went onstage to take turns imitating popular Bollywood actresses like Aishwarya Rai, Madhuri Dixit, Sushmita Sen, Kareena Kapoor, and Priyanka Chopra. My reaction was, no, you're not Aishwarya Rai. It came this close to being hideous, but the audience's enthusiastic response to the girls saved the number (which went almost as long as a Bollywood film).

There was a very mom-and-pop feel to the program, like when there's a family celebration and the children are forced to sing or dance in front of everybody. Even the decorations seemed home-made. It feels like an authentic Indian celebration, and I feel privileged to be there.

Pinikpikan came on again, after being fittingly introduced as the best band in the Philippines (cue applause from three people including me). They launched into Una Kaya, which most of the audience took as their cue to stand up, not to dance, but to head for the food stands or make chika or beso to the other guests. The children were more appreciative, as some of them went onstage to dance with the band. The band played several more songs until finally they brought out the gangsas for Kalipay, dancing and playing among the audience.

A fireworks display followed, as I stuffed my mouth with more Indian food, a perfect way to end the night.

Or so we thought. As we were all leaving, Sing India took the stage and before we knew it, a bhangra par-tay was in full swing.

By the way, the Indian Chamber of Commerce distributed free CDs of a mix labeled Diwali Mela 2007. If you have a Multiply account, get the sounds for your next masala party HERE.

Happy Diwali everyone!

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Never underestimate the power of expression

Reposting the statement from the Asian Network for Free Elections (ANFREL) regarding the declaration of martial law in Pakistan. ANFREL was established in 1997 as Asia’s first regional network of civil society organizations. It strives to promote and support democratization at national and regional levels in Asia. Since it was founded, it has served towards strengthening the democratization of countries such as Sri Lanka, Nepal, Thailand, Malaysia, Cambodia, Pakistan, Bangladesh, East Timor and Indonesia. From 1997 onwards until today, ANFREL has also been active in contributing its efforts to capacity building of member and non-member organizations on issues related to election observation, voter/civic education, electoral reform and public awareness for good democratic governance. I have been an ANFREL international election observer in the past and am looking forward to more missions with them.


Asian Civil Society Call for People's Power to be Returned, Constitution and Fundamental Freedoms Must be Upheld in Pakistan



9 November, 2007


We, the undersigned Asian Civil Society groups and organizations, oppose the imposition of emergency rule and suspension of the fundamental rights of the people of Pakistan. General Musharraf’s use of the situation in the country and justifications for the imposition of emergency rule violate the non-derogable rights, and therefore are in contravention of the international law.

We strongly condemn the arrests of the members of civil society, lawyers and concerned citizens, all of whom can be considered human rights defenders. It has been learnt that the protestors have been badly beaten, arrested and detained. The freedoms of expression, assembly and association have been severely curtailed by the General and all private media channels are unable to relay their news and bring the facts of the events to the people of Pakistan and the international community.

According to news reports, the general elections may be held by mid-January 2008. News reports in the DAWN (daily newspaper of Pakistan) have also quoted Attorney-General Malik Abdul Qayyum as saying that the National and provincial assemblies would be dissolved in 10 days’ time and the general elections held within the next 60 days’.

We reject the sham statement of the Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz, who was quoted as saying, “We don’t want to disrupt the election process. We want a free election”. We vehemently oppose all the measures currently used by General Musharraf, which are violating the human rights and democratic principles in the country, while also stringently curtailing the freedoms of thought, expression, assembly and association, fundamental and necessary for a free and fair election in Pakistan.

We call upon the international community to apply pressure to General Musharraf to restore civilian rule and the constitutional order, and to release all the political detainees and human rights defenders. We also call for the restoration of the freedom of the media, to respect the independence of the judiciary, and to hold free and fair elections on time.

Finally, we call for the democratic environment to be re-established and full restoration of all fundamental rights to be upheld before the holding of any electoral activities.


We the undersigned


ASIAN organizations from 15 countries
(Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, Cambodia, Philippines, East Timor, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, Nepal, India, Japan, Pakistan, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Australia, 2 regional and 1 international organizations)

1. Campaign Committee for Human Rights (CCHR-Thailand)
2. Independent Committee for Election Monitoring in Indonesia (KIPP-Indonesia)
3. Human Rights & Peace Society (HURPES-Nepal)
4. International Friends for Global Peace (IFGP-Sri Lanka)
5. World Forum Democracy in Asian (WFDA- Taiwan.)
6. Taiwan Foundation for Democracy (TFD- Taiwan.)
7. Free and Fair Elections Foundation for Afghanistan (FEFA-Afghanistan)
8. The Committee for Free and Fair Elections in Cambodia (COMFREL-Cambodia)
9. The National Institute for Electoral Integrity (NIEI- Malaysia)
10. Institute for Political and Electoral Reform (IPER-Philippines)
11. Friend of the Third World (FTW –Sri Lanka)
12. InterBand (Yokohama-Japan)
13. Hong Kong Human Rights Monitor (HKHRM - Hong Kong)
14. Women Caucus for Politic in Timor Leste (WCPT-East Timor)
15. Judicial System Monitoring Program (JSMP- East Timor)
16. The Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting (PPCRV-Philippines)
17. Movement for Democracy and Anti Corruption – (MDAC- Malaysian)
18. Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC- Afghanistan)
19. Working Group on Indigenous Communities (YAKSHI -India)
20. Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU - Australia)
21. Women Working Group on Livestock Development (Anthra-India)
22. Meepura Publication (Sri Lanka)
23 Centre for Electoral Reform (CETRO - Indonesia)
24. Komunitas SIAGA (Indonesia)
25. Sahabat Tjiliwung (Indonesia)
26. Yayasan Sepakat Musara (Aceh-Indonesia)
27. Yayasan Al-Fatha (Aceh-Indonesia)
28. Yayasan Bina Tani Mandiri (Aceh Indonesia).
29. Democracy Watch (Indonesia)
30. For Indonesian Development (4-indep/Indonesia)
31. PAPAN Foundation (Aceh – Indonesia)
32. Jaringan Pendidikan Pemilih untuk Rakyat (JPPR – Indonesia)
33. Center for Peoples Dialogue (Sri Lanka)
34. Democracy and Justice (DEKA-Indonesia)
35. Kelompok Lingkar Study –(KELADI Indonesia)
36. Democratic Commission for Human Development (Pakistan)
37. Thai Action Committee for Democracy in Burma (TACDB-Thailand)
38. Working Group on Justice for Peace (WGJP-Thailand)
39. Union for Civil Society (UCL-Thailand)
40. Cross Cultural Foundation (CrCF-Thailand)
41. Young People for Democracy Movement (YPD - Thailand)
42. Human Rights and Development Foundation (HRDF-Thailand)
43. Thai Working Group for an ASEAN Human Rights Mechanism (Thailand)
44. The Midnight University (Thailand)
45. Environmental Litigation and Advocacy for the Wants (ENLAW-Thailand)
46. Student Federation of Thailand (SFT- Thailand)
47. Labor Rights Promotion Network (LPN-Thailand)
48. Asian Network for Free Elections (ANFREL- Regional)
49. Asian Institute for Human Rights (AIHR- Regional)
50. South East Asia Regional Initiatives for Community Empowerment (SEARICE-
International)

For further information pls. contact Mr. Ichal Supriadi at 085 8229002 and Mr. Metha Matkow at 081 4555928, Bangkok, Thailand

* * * * *

I would also like to repost here something I got through e-mail calling for citizens' response to the declaration of martial law. Translation follows below.


English translation as it appeared in the e-mail from Aimal Khan.

Are you afraid to Speak AGAINST the Ruling Dictatorship?

DON'T BE!!!

EXPRESS YOURSELF!

Are you concerned about the Emergency Situation Imposed by Musharraf?

Do you want to see a Better, Peaceful, Progressive and Stable Pakistan?

IF YES - THEN DON'T HESITATE TO EXPRESS YOURSELF!

As an Individual You can:

1. Tie Black Arm Bands/ Wrist Bands/ Head Bands

As a family you can:

2. Hoist a Black Flag on your Home/ Car

As a responsible citizen of Pakistan:

3. You can encourage this Peaceful Protest and spread the word on Black Bands.

REMEMBER: Silence is a form of Admission!

NEVER AGAIN TO ANOTHER DICTATOR

Never Underestimate the Power of Expression!

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Ano ga a-re?


(Note: This is the introduction to my new blog, Taaleño, which will deal with stuff about living in my hometown of Taal, Batangas. The language I will use for this blog is conversational Batangueño -- kasi, wala lang -- as spoken in our town. Stress on that one because Batangueño is spoken differently in each town; heck, even in each barrio. The blog is located at www.taaleno.blogspot.com. I'm keeping my fingers crossed that I'd actually have time to write on it.)


Areng blog na a-re ay tungkol sa aking naging buhay sa aming bayan ng Taal, Batangas, pati na ang aking pagmumuni-muni sa kung anu-anong bagay tungkol sa pamumuhay duon ngay-on. Ang ginamit kong salita ay "doon" dahil sa Maynila na ako nakatira pamula pa nuong ako'y nag-college nuong 1993, pero tinuturing ko pa rin ang sarili ko na isang Taaleño, tuto-ong Batangueño. Pa-minsan-minsan na laang akong nakaka-uwi, pag Pasko, Bagong Taon, Mahal na Araw, Araw ng mga Patay, piyesta, at pag may padasal o may namamatay sa pamilya. Pero sa tuto-o laang, kahit hindi ako umuwi, kahit saan man ako makarating, nakatali pa rin ang pusod ko sa Taal, kung saan ako nagkamuni, natutong mabuhay, at nagkalaman ang sintido.

Dahil ito'y isang blog, ang mga opinyon at saloobin dito ay sa akin laang. Hindi ko ginustong magsalita para sa aking mga kababayan. Pero kung sinu man ang magbabasa, sana naman ay may mapulot kayong bago, o maengganyong dumalaw sa aming bayan, na sa aking opinyon ay siya pa ring pinakamagandang bayan sa aming probinsya ng Batangas.


How addicted to blogging are you?

68%How Addicted to Blogging Are You?



Okay, maybe not that addicted, but anything more would be too much for me.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Mamaw



Trick or treat!

Monday, October 29, 2007

Cinema paradiso / inferno

The Cine Europa film festival is currently winding down at the Shangri-la Plaza Cineplex. This year's edition, its 10th, is probably the biggest, with 22 films from 17 countries being shown (for free as usual). It is a good mix of classics from some of the best directors ever, as well as quirky, little-known movies that the festival is known to showcase.

Here are the films I've seen so far:

Fanny and Alexander - Truly a classic from the late Swedish master director Ingmar Bergman. This was officially Bergman's last film intended for theatrical screening (Saraband, from 2003, the sort-of sequel to Scenes From a Marriage, was a TV mini-series shortened for the cinema, just like Marriage). Bergman was known for movies that dealt with existentialism, religion, art, and family, in a unique and distinctive metaphorical and almost impenetrable style that could only be called Bergmanesque. The last line from Alexander, a quote from a play, perfectly sums up the movie, and indeed, as well as Bergman's entire career and body of work:"everything can happen...everything is possible and likely...time and space do not exist...on an insignificant basis of reality the imagination spins and weaves new patterns." Beautiful beautiful beautiful.


The Leopard - Luchino Visconti's sumptuous three-hour opus depicts the end of an era for a Sicilian prince as war and a new generation take over. The film, which I admit is a bit slow for today's audiences, was the winner of the 1963 Palme d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival. Fact: This movie was one of the main influences to Francis Ford Coppola's The Godfather. That trilogy's sepia-toned chiaroscuro look came straight from The Leopard. Nino Rota also scored all films.

La Mome (La Vie En Rose) - an excellent biopic of legendary French chanteuse Edith Piaf. Marion Cotillard deserves attention come Oscar season for portraying Piaf with such intensity and conviction.

The Umbrellas of Cherbourg - the 1964 movie musical (tunes and score by Michel Legrand) hailed as the most romantic film that came out of France in the 60s and which starred a young Catherine Deneuve. It doesn't work that well today but romantics will find plenty to swoon about.

Closely Watched Trains - the naughty but tragic Oscar winner for Best Foreign Language film for 1966 from the Czech Republic when it was still behind the Iron Curtain

Jalla! Jalla!
- an engaging Swedish romantic comedy ripe for a frat pack remake

Kolya - another Oscar winner (1997). It probably won because it has a kid in it trying to teach the world a valuable lesson (see Life Is Beautiful)

Carol's Journey - an ok film from Spain wherein a girl who grew up in New York goes to her mother's hometown and learns valuable lessons...

Shooting Dogs - two words: Hotel Rwanda.

Summer With Ghosts - done in English, this Austrian movie reeks of the Disney Channel

Dead Man's Hand - a Belgian comedy about shopping and maxing out


I have been attending these film festivals since I was in college and though I've had numerous memorable experiences watching classic films from all over the world, there are some things in the film fest experience that I can certainly live without. Presenting...

The five most annoying things that people do in film festivals:

1. There are these people who laugh or giggle at the slightest hint of or vain attempt at humor, even if it's not even remotely funny. I'm not sure if they're just mababaw or if they just want other people to know that they "get" the movie. Reminds me of some Filipinos when they are with foreigners: they do this thing that is one part feeling elated and honored that they are in their company (therefore sosyal at kailangang magpasikat) and another being too accommodating that they would laugh at all the jokes to show that they are at the "same level" as the foreigners (vis-a-vis the other Filipinos around who in their mind are not on the "same level" as them just because they don't have foreigners as acquaintances).

2. Laughing at the wrong parts. I remember this particularly dreadful screening of Mike Leigh's Secrets and Lies many years ago. Most of the audience were laughing all throughout the movie at scenes that were supposed to be touching and sad. I wanted to scream.

3. Sometimes they would even have a running commentary on the movie, and would react to anything quirky (for European films, that's every other scene). The worst is the stupid girlfriend who would always ask what's going on in the movie, with the windbag boyfriend giving an explanation totally alien from what everybody is seeing.

4. Then there are these pretentious freaks who probably feel that they are insiders at the festival that while queuing and without prompting would tell you background info on the festival (which you already read from the press releases) and will even tell you the synopsis and the meaning of each film. They would even refer to the movies using their original titles even if the movies are more popularly known by their English titles. Example: "Did you already watch Festen? I watched Festen twice already and it was very good." (Festen is Lars Von Trier's movie more popularly known and publicized as Celebration).

5. Once inside the theater, there are these creeps who would repeat lines from the movie kuntodo foreign accent. Aaaargh!


Just one more thing: Can Shangri-la do something about its present system of giving out tickets to the free screenings one or two hours prior to each screening? The problem is when a movie finishes and you want to watch the next movie, when you reach the ticket booth there are zero tickets left. So what many wise festival goers do is even before the movie ends, they would already make for the exit to be able to score tickets, and then go back to their seats if the movie is still on. This not only disturbs the movie going experience, but many viewers have missed the ending of the film they're watching because they had to be outside to score a seat. And why are small children being allowed to enter even in movies like Closely Watched Trains (sex) and Shooting Dogs (murders and decapitations).


Happy watching!

Friday, October 26, 2007

We're all going to die!

Yesterday, the CNN website had a startling headline news. Excerpt:

Greenland's ice sheet melts as temperatures rise

ILULISSAT, Greenland (CNN) -- From the air, Greenland's ice sheet, the second largest on Earth, appears to be perfectly still.

But below the surface, the ice sheet is in constant motion, as ice built up in the interior pushes toward the coast in the form of massive glaciers. During warmer months, ice from these glaciers melts into the ocean.

It's an age-old process that scientists say has sped up in recent decades because of global warming.

The fear is that melting ice from Greenland and other Arctic areas could cause sea levels to rise enough to flood low-lying cities, such as Shanghai, China, and New York City, displacing millions of people in the process.

A recent report from the U.N.'s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, made up of scientists from around the world, estimates the sea level rise by 2100 could be as much as 1½ feet.

"That sea level rise is only based on melt from ice sheets, and does not include a new fast flow of ice we have detected in Greenland that is generating additional icebergs," said Dr. Konrad Steffen, a climate scientist with the University of Colorado, Boulder.

Steffen estimates sea levels could rise three feet over the next century, a stark prediction that could wreak havoc around the world if it comes to pass. Greenland holds enough ice to cause sea levels to rise 23 feet if the entire ice sheet melted, a development few scientists expect to happen anytime soon. But global sea levels have been rising at the rate of three millimeters per year since 1993.


Of course, if you've been following the issue of global warming, this news item isn't entirely new. The effects of global warming have been very obvious these past few years. In the Philippines, every summer is the hottest summer on record. Remember typhoon Milenyo? Global warming. And the rainy season always comes very late into the year. When I was in elementary and high school, it was a given that when schools open in June, it will be rainy, so our raincoats should be in our bags. Now, it doesn't rain until August or September, and when it does, pack the industrial strength umbrella and be ready to lose your shame because you're going to walk through the floods or ride the occasional makeshift boat in the middle of Kalentong (hey, I did it twice!).

It's very easy to ignore the problem of global warming because it is something that is so outside us and our homes. And for people who live in a third world country like ours, it's very difficult to think about melting glaciers when people don't even know if there's gonna be food on the table for dinner.

So what can ordinary people do about this problem? Climatecrisis.net outlines several ways. Follow the links:

Reduce your impact AT HOME
Reduce your impact WHILE ON THE MOVE
Help bring about change LOCALLY, NATIONALLY AND INTERNATIONALLY
Download these 10 SIMPLE TIPS to take with you!


This website is a project of former US Vice-President Al Gore, who was responsible for the fantastic documentary "An Inconvenient Truth," which won the Oscar for Best Documentary Feature early this year. My, my, look what a few years can do. It wasn't long ago that Al Gore was one of the most despised political figures, a favorite target of late night talk show hosts. Al Gore was said to be a bore, in contrast to Clinton who would occasionally play his sax on TV, and even admitted on MTV that he uses briefs instead of boxers. Plus he knows what to do with a cigar. There was even that time when Al Gore allegedly claimed that he invented the internet. That was a hoot. But now, Al Gore, unexpectedly, has made a dramatic comeback with one of his main advocacies, and I really applaud him for that. Last week he even won the Nobel Peace Prize for his crusade against global warming, making people take notice of this much-misunderstood and neglected problem. Wow. After watching "An Inconvenient Truth," one of my Korean students even exclaimed, "he should be president of the world!"

(Speaking of the documentary feature, I think it's one film that ought to be seen by every human being because it's quite an eye-opener. Okay, so there were portions in the movie in which Gore seem to be campaigning for public office, but honestly I didn't mind. If I were the filmmaker, I probably wouldn't even mind if people buy pirated copies of it to give away to students and politicians so that they would do something. Wink wink.)

However, and as Gore said in the documentary, probably the biggest thing that could contribute to solving the problem of global warming is if countries like the US and China will greatly reduce their carbon emissions. And he's talking to you, George W. Bush! Instead of focusing on getting Middle East oil by "liberating" people, why not spend all that money finding ways on how not to make New York City or the entire country of Maldives submerged in melted glacier?

Thursday, October 25, 2007

A slap in the people's face

Let's just hope that Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo's pardon of Joseph Estrada would indeed bring reconciliation and much needed calm in the country's political situation, although this is probably wishful thinking at best, as long as greed and hunger for power and wealth guide the actions of the usual suspects.

The presidential pardon reportedly has good intentions, but for someone like me who was in EDSA everyday that fateful January in 2001, this latest development leaves a bad taste in the mouth. Is this what we fought for? For naught? At that time, our intention was to get rid of this crook, and for the main beneficiary of the people's actions against another person to give pardon to this same person, parang mag-asawang sampal sa mukha. I love this country, but in times like these, I question whether it's all worth it.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Night out: Ishmael Bernal Gallery, UP Film Institute (10/12/07)

I made it last Friday to the benefit gig for the husband of Carol Bello, Pinikpikan lead singer and UP journalism instructor. A similar gig was held the night before at Penguin Cafe, with Cynthia Alexander among the performers. The line-up for the UP gig included Engkantada, Bayang Barrios, Spy, and Cordilleran musician Diego Lazo, a nephew of Carol's husband.

I arrived five minutes before the stipulated time, and I immediately felt disheartened to see that only about 10 people were inside the venue. The gig was to raise funds to augment the expense for surgery; I learned later that it was for colon cancer. With tickets priced at only P100.00 each, I felt sad because I knew the proceeds just won't be enough. Far from it. Should I have forwarded Carol's invitation for the gig to more email groups so that more people would have come? It was also a holiday last Friday so students weren't in school. The organizers even bought food for the musicians and there was a good sound system; I hope they didn't have to pay much for those or nothing would have been left. Thankfully, the crowd swelled to about 40 (Cynthia Alexander also attended but did not perform).

Anybody who has been confined to a hospital, or has taken care of somebody in a hospital would be able to relate to Carol's situation. Hospitalization is very costly, plus the added psychological burden of not knowing when it's going to end. Nothing screams REAL LIFE louder than illness. Just a couple of weeks ago I had to spend time at the hospital to take care of my mom, and I've had surgery before, so I know how difficult it is. I was just happy to be there for the gig because I know it would mean so much, not really because of the money, but because I know how good it feels when people try to show that one is not alone in a situation like that.

First on the lineup were Engkantada, an all-female percussion and guitars ensemble with Carol as lead vocalist. Before they performed, Carol thanked the audience for coming and said that there was really no other reason for the show but to ask for financial support for her husband's operation. Talking about her husband's illness, she even did it with humor, telling the audience the difficulty of watching over at the hospital (in "PGH, ward 2, bed 23"), availing discounts from the social service, and why her husband had to "choose" a disease na "pang-mayaman." She also confessed, "ngayon ko lang talaga naramdaman kung paano mag-alala sa isang asawa...people ask me how I feel...there are no words."

I admire Carol as an artist of great talent and depth, but her honesty and humility made me admire her more as a person. In the few occasions that I've seen her perform with Pinikpikan, I recognized right away that here was an artist with no pretenses, no artificiality, no delusions of greatness and grandeur. When Carol sings, I'm captivated by her intensity. The emotions in her performances come from a place grounded in reality. Gritty and full of angst. I could compare her to blues greats like Billie Holiday. Walang pa-cute. Galing sa sikmura, kumakawala. She's a working class musician, singing not for glamour but to live. She's very much of this world. She's one of us.

Engkantada did a handful of songs, from a rousing rendition of "Babae," to the touching "Uyayi," which Carol said she wrote as if she had a baby, as the couple never had a child.

Bayang Barrios sang two songs, backed by Spy who also did a couple of songs after. Spy, of course, was the multi-ethnic world music trio headed by Sammy Asuncion, but the current line-up has Sammy with Budeths Casinto and Louie Talan of Pinikpikan (Boy Garovillo took over Budeths' spot for this show). Spy did an acoustic set, which means it was not a typical Spy set, which I read usually end up with everybody dancing.

Diego Lazo, backed by Spy again, showed the audience how to play the kulintong, a bamboo stringed instrument, which, Diego explained, people in their community use during celebrations. He also said that they even hold kulintong playing competitions. Carol and Diego then played tungatongs, also bamboo instruments, with improvised accompaniment by Spy. The night ended with chanting, percussing, clapping, and Bayang Barrios dancing, which I doubt will ever be replicated as everything was improvisational.



* * * * * * *


How apt is it that a section of the UP Film Institute is now named after the late great director Ishmael Bernal? I saw Bernal in person only twice in my life, and they were both at the film center. The first time was during a screening of the international version of The Flor Contemplacion Story, around 1995. The second time, there were only three people at the theater: Bernal's mother, seated on her wheelchair at the cinema lobby; me; and Bernal, regally lying in his coffin at center stage, surrounded by flowers from people who owed him their careers and credibility. At that time, I still had the strongest desire to be a filmmaker. Silently, I told Bernal, "you don't know me, but you've had a big impact on me."

Indeed, Philippine cinema wouldn't be what it is now without the enduring works of Bernal and his contemporaries. Bernal was often compared with Brocka, but their styles were very different from each other. While Brocka's films were clearly inspired by the neorealists, Bernal's films had touches of surrealism and the absurd. As a young film enthusiast, I was awed by Bernal's work more than Brocka's, maybe because my idea of a good film then was, "hindi ko gaanong naintindihan, pero alam kong maganda." I love Himala. I love Manila By Night. They tackled themes that were not that different from the movies of his contemporaries, but Bernal's films had a dreamlike (nightmarish?) quality that was difficult to shake off. Each movie's milieu was familiar, but instead of feeling comfortable with this familiarity, the audience felt disoriented and disconcerted, because Bernal liked to show things in a different light, and to tell stories in a different perspective. Bernal's influence was much evident in the works of Filipino independent filmmakers in the '90s, when indie filmmaking meant breaking relatives' bank accounts to make a 10-minute (pa-art effect) surrealistic journey into the filmmaker's psyche, using film stock or Super 8. Those were the days.