Thursday, November 27, 2008

Green Christmas

For its annual Christmas tableaux, the Greenhills shopping center is doing something different: the presentation has nothing to do with Christmas. This year, they decide to focus on the environment, centered around the theme "Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle." The good thing about it is instead of the environment theme feeling tacked on, it is the Christmas theme that feels tacked on.

The simple story happens in a place called Barangay Mapuntod ("Mapuntod Village"). The place starts out as dirty, where the local priest complains "hinihika na nga ako, achoo achoo" ("I already have asthma, cough cough"). The children, along with others in the community, decide to do something about it, cleaning, planting trees, observing the three R's. In the end the place becomes pretty and everybody's happy.

Another good thing is that for once, the presentation is almost entirely done in Filipino (the message to better reach everybody), save for the narration at the beginning and in the end by Miss Earth 2007 Jessica Trisko, and the dialogue of one of the main characters, a coño kid who speaks in Tag-lish.

Now, if only Greenhills can provide more garbage cans where we can throw our trash after pigging out on shawarma and kikiam...

Meanwhile, one jeepney ride away along the same avenue, the Manila Electric Company is also putting up its own show. Aside from setting its huge building ablaze with Christmas lights, it has installed its own presentation within its compound, what it calls "Barangay Maliwanag" (literally "Bright Village"), with a tranvia (early 20th century Manila tram) moving on a rail. Fine, it's pretty. Cute.

But what gets me is Meralco's brazen call for people to waste electricity because it's Christmas. Since 2006, Meralco has been holding a Christmas promo called "Maliwanag ang Pasko" ("Christmas is Bright"), for which it gives prizes to villages who can turn up the lights the brightest. Its promo spiel reads: "(the) campaign was launched in 2006 as a way of giving recognition to those that have been lighting up during Christmas and giving brightness to their communities. With the Filipino custom of lighting up and decorating their homes in preparation for the celebration of the birth of the Child Jesus, Meralco saw this as an opportune time to be one with its customers in enlivening the Christmas tradition by encouraging more people to light up their homes and spread the joy and spirit of the season further. As Meralco is associated with everything bright or “may liwanag”, the “Maliwanag ang Pasko” campaign espouses the company’s significance as the customers’ year-long partner in providing light, comfort and convenience, not only in their homes, but in churches, streets, and basically everywhere they go... With all the negative things that are happening both globally and locally, our people need hope more than ever. The 2008 Maliwanag ang Pasko Campaign of Hope enjoins everyone to light up individually, as part of a greater community effort which aims to spread goodwill and uplift our collective spirits by making this year’s celebration the brightest and most festive they have seen and been a part of. " (emphasis mine)

Unbelievable. Are we stupid or something? Isn't this nothing but a ploy to drive electricity bills higher so that Meralco can fatten up its Christmas bonuses?

Energy -- the use of it, the source of it, the effects of it -- shapes the foreign policy of most countries at present. People are dying because of it. Countries are going to war because of it. The planet is roasting because of it. In the face of concerted global efforts to preserve energy, and to alleviate the biblically horrendous effects of its overuse, not to mention the fact that kids in schools are being taught at an early age to conserve energy and other resources, for an energy company, partially dependent on the government at that, to come out and actually encourage people to do otherwise, is OBSCENE. Shame on you Meralco. Turn off those Christmas lights!

(Uh, should we also tell Araneta Center to turn the lights off its traditional giant Christmas Tree? Ok, maybe not, I'm actually fond of it. But do change those bulbs.)

A slice of the decade's pie

A couple of months ago, I started working on my list of the best singles released this decade 2000-2009 (why? because I want to, he he), which I will publish in this blog early 2010. Singles, not songs, meaning they were actually made available in stores as physical singles and/or released to radio stations as emphasis tracks. So far, I already have about 300 in my list. However, a large chunk of the lot got less mainstream exposure/acceptance than they deserved, at least in these parts. Here are some of them, arranged in alphabetical order. I'm not going to say yet where these babies currently stand in my ranking, but at least one of these tasty treats is in the top 10.

Drop the needle to LISTEN (Multiply account required).

Monday, November 24, 2008

Isang gabi ng Patatag

The truth is I used to know next to nothing about Patatag, though I've heard about them when I was still studying in UP, and from UP friends whose student numbers betray their age (hi Nikki and Russel). I thought Patatag was a band, like Banyuhay or Asin.

Patatag (stress on the last syllable, y'all) is actually a vocal ensemble formed in 1984 in UP in the thick of anti-Marcos demonstrations made bolder by Ninoy Aquino's assassination, culminating in the 1986 EDSA revolt. Their repertoire consisted of protest songs--either originals, or poems set to music, or Filipino translations of South American protest songs such as those by Chilean martyr Victor Jara--which made the group a constant fixture in rallies. I've heard some of their songs before, my favorite being the chilling "Wala Nang Tao Sa Sta. Filomena," written and originally recorded by Joey Ayala, which recalls Billie Holiday's "Strange Fruit" in imagery and in intensity. The version by Patatag truly made me want to see them live, along with other protest singers such as Susan Fernandez-Magno and Jess Santiago, or at least listen to their albums that have long been out of print.

Wish fulfilled. After something like 18 years, Patatag held a reunion gig at 70s Bistro last Saturday, a benefit show for one of their members. They were joined by none other than Susan Fernandez, Jess Santiago, and the members' sons and daughters, the second generation of Patatag. Once again, 70s Bistro was packed, the crowd composed mainly of (middle-aged, he he) activists, NGO workers (many familiar faces but none I know personally), including former UP student council president Sen. Kiko Pangilinan. Definitely a different crowd; for once there were no annoying emo kids around in their kaffiyehs.

The group sang some of their well-known songs like Julian Makabayan and Manggagawa. A taste:

Wala Nang Tao Sa Sta. Filomena

Medley (Sorry if this is truncated by about a minute. I ran out of space in my camera.)

It's amazing how the songs have held up over the years, but that's saying less about the songs themselves than, sadly, how little has changed in Philippine society since these songs were written, that tales of injustices written decades ago sound like today's news clippings.

I was also struck by how normal everybody in the group looked. I could have bumped into any of them at the supermarket or in Greenhills and wouldn't have known that they had this past life singing these protest songs and making a dent in people's beliefs and perceptions. No tattoos in sight, no effort to "look like" artists or activists, to look "ethnic" or "tibak," concrete examples of how if you want to be somebody, there's no need to look like it, but just be. Younger people should take their cue.

Rejoice. All of Patatag's albums -- Nagbabagang Lupa, Batang Clark, and Masdan, O Yahweh -- have just been painstakingly digitized and reissued as a box set (tickets to the show came with the package). If you want copies of the albums, just e-mail A new album is in the works, and so is a 25th anniversary concert in a bigger venue slated for May next year.

(Click any image to see more pictures).

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Panalo si Elsa

As expected, Ishmael Bernal's 1982 film Himala won the award as Best Asia-Pacific Film of All Time, announced last night at the CNN-sponsored Asia Pacific Film Awards held in Australia. Himala was chosen through online poll, once again proving that Filipinos will stop at nothing if it means honoring one of our own (I myself voted for Himala several times). Witness the numerous Ms. Photogenic awards at the Miss Universe beauty pageant (voted online), and four Philippine attractions currently lording it over the New7Wonders of Nature online poll, trumping even Mt. Everest.

That's not to say that Himala does not deserve the recognition. It does. But with the competition, frankly I would have preferred seeing Akira Kurosawa's Seven Samurai win instead. What do you think?

Monday, November 10, 2008

Consider yourselves warned, earthlings

I've had the DVD lying around for more than a year, but yesterday I finally got to watch "The Day The Earth Stood Still," a 1951 sci-fi film directed by Robert Wise (West Side Story). It is truly a classic, in which a spaceship lands in Washington D.C., carrying a human-like being named Klaatu and a giant robot named Gort. They came in peace, to deliver a stern message to all the nations of the world, given by Klaatu in a speech in front of world leaders at the very last scene of the movie:

"I am leaving soon and you'll forgive me if I speak bluntly. The universe grows smaller every day and the threat of aggression by any group anywhere can no longer be tolerated. There must be security for all or no one is secure. Now this does not mean giving up any freedom, except the freedom to act irresponsibly. Your ancestors knew this when they made laws to govern themselves and hired policemen to enforce them. We, of the other planets, have long accepted this principle. We have an organization for the mutual protection of all planets and for the complete elimination of aggression. The test of any such higher authority is, of course, the police force that supports it. For our policemen we created a race of robots. Their function is to patrol the planets in spaceships like this one and preserve the peace. In matters of aggression we have given them absolute power over us. This power cannot be revoked. At the first signs of violence they act automatically against the aggressor. The penalty for provoking their action is too terrible to risk. The result is we live in peace without arms or armies, secure in the knowledge that we are free from aggression and war, free to pursue more profitable enterprises. Now, we do not pretend to have achieved perfection, but we do have a system, and it works. I came here to give you these facts. It is no concern of ours how you run your own planet, but if you threaten to extend your violence, this Earth of yours will be reduced to a burned-out cinder. Your choice is simple: join us and live in peace, or pursue your present course and face obliteration. We shall be waiting for your answer. The decision rests with you. "

The robot is made of rubber. Strings are visible. The technology is dated. But the message, though a bit hokey, is still relevant.

I have seen the trailer of the remake, showing in December. The role of Klaatu will be played by Keanu Reeves, and I'm totally not convinced that he's the perfect choice to play this role, because Klaatu is an Obama-type. Tom Hanks would have been perfect.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Beam me up, Wolf Blitzer!

On U.S. election night, CNN debuted its new technology, supposedly a hologram by which they could put anybody -- in a remote location -- right there inside the studio using dozens of cameras. Totally quaint, modern and retro at the same time, though I'm not sure if it's really hologram in the Princess Leia sense.

But think about this. Wouldn't it be nice if everybody can harness this technology? Here are some things that this hologram thingy can probably make possible:

1. No more recorded acceptance speeches in award shows. ("We're sorry we can't be there tonight...wait, we're here.)

2. No more excuses to not attend Senate hearings.

3. Video conference? How jurassic.

4. You can just hologram yourself to the office.

5. You can just hologram yourself to family gatherings and meeting future in-laws. ("Mom, Dad, this is Ken, he's in Antarctica. Say hello, Ken.")

6. Preside over a cabinet meeting or attend to a national disaster while vacationing in a ranch.

7. Attend a huge parade held in your honor while being secretly ill or dead.

8. Osama bin Laden will probably be finally caught by Bush before his term ends in January.

9. Jaded actors can just hologram a performance instead of phoning it in.

10. You can actually be indicted and not be there.

11. Thousands buy tickets to a secret "reunion gig" by The Smiths.

12. Mislead the paparazzi with your hologram while you and your same-sex lover duck into a waiting car.

13. Attend simultaneous movie premieres in four continents without leaving your house.

14. You can be an extra in your favorite movies, including Jenna Jameson's.

15. "It wasn't me. It was my hologram you saw on the kitchen table with her."

16. David Blaine can finally pull off a successful stunt without nearly dying.



19. J.D. Salinger and Elvis on a winged white unicorn jumping over a rainbow in London.

20. Black man wins U.S presidential election (people still pinching themselves, but hmmm...)

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Obama is in the House

44th President of the United States of America

(Now that America has elected a black president, could the aliens and asteroids be far behind?)