Saturday, March 15, 2008

Art Deco Restores Met

Restoration transpires in different entities, both in the living and the non-living. The films I’ve watched recently and the Sunday’s Gospel about the rise of Lazarus were indications that restoration, a return to an earlier condition, usually a better one, was a dominant theme present in my life the past days.

Amid a tight schedule, I found time to look for a Filipino architectural work I can critique. It didn’t turn out as difficult as I expected, thanks to a colleague who brought up the idea of probing the once flourishing setting of Metropolitan Theater (Met) in Manila. How fitting it was for my life’s restoration theme since the city government of Manila planned to relive the glory of Met which came to a halt 12 years ago.

Built in 1931 by Juan Arellano, Met is considered as an Art Deco construction. Art Deco, a popular design movement from 1920 to 1939 is a mélange of various styles in the early 20th century such as Art Nouveau, Bauhaus and Futurism.

Considered as a form of neo-classical structure with an application of exotic ornaments arranged in geometric patterns, Art Deco buildings embraced modernity during the time of their establishment.

The façade of Met boasts of a symmetric geometrical outline evident in most Art Deco buildings. At the same time, circular shapes forming a vertical pattern give dynamics to the structure’s outer wall even as the tiles adorning the façade exhibit rhythmic floral geometrical patterns that grant a dramatic aura to Met.

The curve and zigzag details surrounding edifice lend Met a theatrical atmosphere that played a significant role to visitors who used to watch plays, zarzuelas and vaudevilles in the theater.
Ornaments are striking characteristics of an Art Deco building. In Met, one outstanding embellishment is the Siamese Dancer, a statue created by Italian sculpture Francesco Riccardo Monti.

The move of Manila city Mayor Alfredo Lim to restore Met as a venue for zarzuelas, plays and vaudevilles is a daring act that would enrich the Filipinos’ awareness about our country’s culture.
Theater at most times caters only the elite class of the society. But Lim’s proposal of restoring Met, comes with an aim of creating a socio-cultural avenue for the Filipino masses who do not have enough money to watch expensive plays and performances at the Cultural Center of the Philippines. - ANA MAE ROA

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Friday, March 14, 2008

Piolo Pascual And Angel Locsin’s Efficient Acting In Lobo

Piolo Pascual and Angel Locsin plays the role of Noah Ortega and Lyka Raymundo who are childhood friends separated from each other because of some circumstantial events. Destiny allowed them to meet once again, only to find out that they are bound to be enemies.

Lobo is Angel Locsin’s first project with ABS-CBN after her controversial shift to the Kapamilya network. All eyes are on her now to see if she can make another hit teleserye. Angel was responsible for her former network’s (GMA-7) success in primetime because of her starring roles in their teleserye.

Piolo Pascual, amidst all the gay issues, proves once again that he is the “hunk” of primetime TV. Even if pressured with off- screen romance rumored to be happening between him and his co-star Angel Locsin, Piolo takes his character first before any other consideration. People are on the wait to see if the on-screen pairing between the two lead stars will bloom and become real.

Piolo Pascual displays what the character wants him to be: a tough man who will endure all trials to be a man to the woman he loves. Pascual’s portrayal in Lobo is one of his finest. Many women will feel head-over-heels with him because of that image. Every line he says feels like it comes from his heart. An effective actor who lets you feel the emotion he is injecting.

Angel Locsin on the other hand, gives as much as what her co-star portray. Although her portrayal is a bit exaggerated, viewers still find her acting good. In my opinion, Angel Locsin’s acting in Lobo is better than her previous projects. As one friend says, she can be confidently tagged as an “actress” and not just another pretty face that have no talent.

Lobo, because of its good lead stars and supporting characters, turns out to be a contender for primetime rating. Although it has never reached its rating’s peak, it gradually proves that Lobo is not just another teleserye produced to entertain people and gain profits from advertisers. - MARY GRACE INGARAN

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Review: Coffee Prince

Coffee Prince revolves around the story of Andie or Go Eun Chan in the original version (Yun Eun-hye), a girl who gives up her feminine image to help support her family with multiple jobs and Arthur or Choi Han Kyul (Gong Yoo) who despite being handsome and the heir of a big food company, is forced by her grandmother to settle down and arranged many dates for him; too bad for Arthur because he does not believe in a long-term relationship. After a series of encounter, Andie was mistaken for a boy by Arthur and was offered to be his gay lover to avoid dates set by his grandmother. Because Andie was desperately in need of money, she had no choice but to accept it.

Arthur’s grandmother made him in charge of a coffee shop in danger of being bankrupt. Taking this opportunity to earn more money, Andie volunteered to work in the coffee shop named Coffee Prince. After a series of events, feelings eventually started to spark between the two. But the problem is Arthur has no idea that Andie is really a girl.

GMA- 7’s Coffee Prince, one of the Korean Telenovelas shown on primetime television, is the only foreign show to land on the Top 10 primetime evening shows (AGB Nielsen survey). Koreanovelas sell in Philippines because of these two reasons: First, all the characters are good- looking, more handsome and lovely than the usual Filipinos, second, the conflicts are familiar and unique to societies ruled by social harmony and filial loyalty.

What’s good about Coffee Prince is that the story isn’t just about romance of the two main characters, but about the natural conflicts of all the characters. Andie’s charm, especially her bubbly and tomboyish character captured the heart of the Filipino viewers that made the series a consistent contender in ratings. Credits should also be given to the supporting characters and the script that gave life to the story.

When I heard that Coffee Prince is to be premiered in GMA-7, I was disappointed because I was expecting it to be aired to its rival station, ABS-CBN, where Yun Eun-hye’s other series, Princess Hours was aired. I was having thoughts that maybe the Kapuso Network won’t give justice to its dubbing and revision of lines. Just as what I have expected, the dubbing was one of the worse I have heard. The voice was not suited to the character they were voicing. It might have been better if they added subtitles than dub their speech. And the original lines were changed to fit the “primetime” showing. Although I know that there are lines in which children should not be exposed to, I wish GMA-7 should have stick with the original lines to preserve the consistency and flow of the story. Another thing is that GMA-7 should just have used the Korean names of the characters instead of using local names.

I have nothing to say about Coffee Prince’s production, it’s just that GMA-7 should have considered maintaining the series’ unique perspective which some Asian countries have followed. - MARY GRACE INGARAN

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New Television Craze

Tired of the usual poor-girl-meets-rich-boy plots, Filipinos found in Asia novelas a new kind of entertainment that is more interesting than the cliché stories portrayed by Spanish and Filipino soap operas aired on local television.

It is undeniable that Asian novelas, dramas produced in Asian countries such as Korea, Japan and Taiwan, greatly influenced the lifestyle of viewers religiously watching every episode of the shows. Asian novelas make them laugh, cry, and even imitate fashion trends presented in the dramas. Even I myself turn to Asian novelas after a long and tiring day of academic work. I laughed in the Korean series My Girl and I cried while watching the final episode of Hana Yori Dango.

But why do Filipinos get crazy over Asian novelas and their stars?

For my part, Asian novelas give their audience a brand of entertainment that is new and that makes them dream about life and love, temporarily escaping the harsh realities of life. This is not offered by local soap operas that emphasize the struggles experienced by Filipinos further pressing the burden they undergo.

While surfing the net, I bumped into a forum for Asian novella fanatics. I browsed through the page and collected thoughts why viewers like Asian novelas, they are:

“Asian novelas offer unique, straight-to-the-point, engaging storylines.”

“These dramas remain faithful to their story from start to finish.”

“They explore all kinds of emotion.”

“They portray tradition and values that reflect our own.”

With the kind of appreciation Asian novelas receive in the local television scene today, it is not impossible that these dramas would still be patronized by Filipino viewers in the years to come. - ANA MAE ROA

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Ang Teleserye Ng Totoong Buhay

Dubbed as the “teleserye ng totoong buhay,” the Freemantle franchise Big Brother hit the Philippine shores and was localized on ABS-CBN channel 2 as Pinoy Big Brother (PBB), an hour long reality show which showcases different individuals interacting and living with one another under one house, Kuya’s house.

The Philippine version differs from its foreign counterparts because of the existence of other shows that supported the program both in channel 2 and on Studio 23 like Uber and Uplate amongst others. It has three versions, the regular version, teens and celebrity, another innovation by the Laurenti Dyogi, the director of PBB.

The show was heavily criticized by the media because of its profanity. The also pointed out that the whole house was used as a giant endorsement ad because of several sponsors seen inside the house. It is also said that the reality show is scripted because it follows a certain formula.
I’ve religiously followed the show since day 1 and I’ve come to the point that I did see some formula in how an episode is presented.

It starts off with a day in the life of the housemates, the next episodes starts off with previews of what happened earlier, then we see the housemates talking, doing their tasks, and in the end there is a huge revelation, shocking enough that it will find it’s was in the tabloids.

Laurenti Dyogi has a way of showing what the people wanted to see. This repetitive format became a bore because it doesn’t show reality. It is heavily edited to fit the viewer’s tastes.
PBB also became the new talent search for channel 2, it replaced the now-defunct Star Circle Quest, as most of the housemates found themselves on TV shows, movies, and even as popular endorsers for the show’s sponsors.

PBB has found a big market in the Filipino boob tube but it never provided real reality programming. Although it has produced inspirational stars, the minute they are on seen on different shows, there stories are forgotten. - JOHN JOSHUA GUZMAN

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Vicente Manansala’s Market Scene

The Artist

Vicente Manansala was born in Pampanga in 1910 and studied at the U.P. School of Fine Arts and later continued to study in Canada and Paris. He started out with creating abstract images from realistic ones, but never attempting to discard the initial one. Later, Manansala dabbled with abstract images, which paved the way for the concept of “cubism” which basically is, “reducing reality into images” ( He died in 1981 and was only regarded as a National Artist after his death in the same year.

Market Scene

There was no prevailing ideology that influenced his art, he only believed in the power of the artist to recreate reality according to what he feels and not only on what he sees. Art, for him, was a representation of the general reality, only made personal by the artist himself. It was a communication between the reality, the artist and the colors that would breathe life to an idea.

For my part, I chose his Market Scene painting, painted in 1975. It is one of his paintings which employed “cubism” as manifested by the angles and planes floating around to form the whole picture through different shades and colors. In his painting, the edges of the cubes were made lighter and softer to create emphasis on the picture he was portraying, thus his “transparent cubism” technique. If the edges had been sharp, then his art would be reduced into an abstract image, a form of art that he had revolutionized by fusing realism and cubism.

He might not be a genius as Juan Luna and Felix Resurreccion Hidalgo were, but his use of “cubism” in the Market Scene made him unique from all his contemporaries. His painting was brilliant, with the blending of colors into shadows and shades into textures to make a picture in an otherwise abstract figure. Cubism is generally defined as the tweaking of a picture to create an abstracted representation but with Manansala’s art he fused these abstracted cubes to form one picture.

In addition, the use of cubes and planes in his painting contributed to the balance and asymmetry of colors and the painting itself. It is not too heavy, nor is it too light. Although the colors range from orange to black, the shades of blue and white make it easy to the eyes.

The emphasis lies on the life at the market area, an everyday activity. But here, Manansala made use of the traditional baro’t saya of the women, something which did not exist in the mid-70’s. Here, it can be clearly deduced that while he had moved on from doing abstracted paintings, he had not let go of his belief that art could be something else other than reality itself.

The Colors and Art

I liked how the orange and blue blended well together through the different shades and colors. Somehow, it looked so orange and dark to me, but looking at it closely, I realized that there were other shades other than yellow and orange. It took a while before the blue color registered and I regard this as a bad thing. Although they blended well together, the shades of blue were offset by the strong yellow and orange shades.

In the same vein, Manansala’s “Jeepneys” painting was characterized by strong shades of orange that filled the transparent geometric planes of his art. In “Jeepneys”, he used different shades of orange to convey the polluted area of Manila, as well as the heavy traffic that characterizes a typical city in the Philippines. To quote, “filling up the entire pictorial space, Jeepneys successfully conveyed the feeling of heat, pollution, noise and claustrophobia caused by the city’s menace – traffic” ( In the same way, Manansala employed the colors of orange, yellow and brown to show the typical market scene in the Philippines which is generally described by housewives as busy, dirty and “populated”. This image evokes the stench of dead pigs as their carcasses were hung upside down and of the stink of the freshly-caught fish while buzzes of shouts and conversations fill the air.

The Time Span

Although painted in the year 1975, Manansala’s painting was a reflection of his own time. It seemed like a depiction of a long-lost Spanish era, but Manansala’s painting was a reflection of his era, the American period, as manifested by the traditional clothes worn by the women in his painting. In 1910, life in the Philippines is on its way to modernity under the American regime. No longer were we slaves of the Spaniards, but we were under the “spell” of the Americans. In my own opinion, he painted this in 1975 to depict the ever-changing traits of the Filipino women and also to serve as a reminder of the era that’s passed.

He grew up in an environment where women were the traditional Maria Claras, but by the entrance of the “retro” period, women became undoubtedly freer and more liberal in terms of fashion, career and world view. Women served two purposes: as a household caretaker and as well as a career woman. I think Manansala wanted to bring back the time wherein women were basically caretakers of home. - ALEXIS LAURA FELICIANO

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The Lost Bohemian Ideology

As a musical and theater afficionado, I found myself reluctant to watch Mediartrix's adaptation of Moulin Rouge, a movie musical produced and directed by Baz Luhrmann. But armed with complimentary tickets from a Mediartrix actor, Nikki and I decided to give Moulin Rouge a try and caught the last full show last Feb. 28 at the Albertus Magnus Auditorium.

As it turned out, Moulin Rouge was a total failure, with most of its good points overshadowed by its debilitating weaknesses, one of which is the lack of maturity of Mediartrix itself as a school-based theater organization. Mediartrix, known as the media organization of the University of Santo Tomas, failed to consider the weight and aesthetics of the material they decided to adapt. In the past, this has happened too with Les Miserables, with their 10th anniversary production barely surviving their weak points.

Moulin Rouge And The "Bohemian" Individuality

One of the greatest weaknesses of the adaptation was the characters themselves. Tessa, who played Satine, has perfected the English lilts of conversations, much like Satine's coy outbursts. Nikki has commented that Tessa was "good" and that she "studied" the accents to present a more convincing Satine to an audience who wanted some good entertainment. However, Tessa relied too much on her "perfected line delivery", presenting the same blank expression all throughout the duration of the show.

In addition to this, Tessa was not able to justify the character of Satine. Concentrating too much on the English lilts and line delivery, Satine lost her individuality as a central character. Tessa was not personifying Satine, she was trying to be Nicole Kidman.

Dominique, the student who played Christian was not convincing either. He suffered the same "characterization conflict" as Satine did, with him trying to imitate the Scottish/English brogue of Ewan McGregor to a lesser degree. Christian as Christian was fluctuating in character, in acting and in all of him. Line delivery was dry, and his momentous reflections were reduced to monotonous recital of the script. Christian lost his "bohemian individuality", his personality reduced to a mere group member and not a central character.

Luhrmann's creation had individuality---each character present has individuality, even the can-can dancers had their respective individuality. In the Mediartrix's Moulin Rouge adaptation, the characters hardly ever had any individuality to boast of. Nini, the courtesan jealous of Satine, only shone as Nini "the bitch" when the "El Tango de Roxanne" was performed. Nini was a stark contrast to the sweet and romantic bohemian ideology but Mediartrix's Nini was a "stark bitch", a spoiler in the romance of Satine and Christian.

Zidler, played by Jose Miguel Reyes, was fluctuating both in character and in acting although among the characters, it was Miguel's character as Zidler that stood out. In some ways, Miguel was a better actor than all the actors put together. But there are moments that Zidler comes and goes, he surfaces and disappears in all his appearances. Like in 'Spectacular, Spectacular', he literally was the "spectacle" in that segment of the musicale with the others reduced into spots in their own places. In the "Like a Virgin" performance, he literally shrank, with his character diminishing with the lines that were not included in the musical adaptation. Without his mic, he would have been a "mumbling fool" on the stage, because most of the words he delivered were incomprehensible.

In summary, Moulin Rouge was a failure. Even the audience agreed, with most of them commenting that Moulin Rouge "was just another class play". The set was basically okay, but it was nothing special and nothing spectacular either. The costume, on the other hand, was bearable. The costume suffered from plainness and obvious mediocrity with the mixing and matching techniques used lacking a bohmemian creativity unique to the multi-awarded Moulin Rouge musicale. - ALEXIS LAURA FELICIANO

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Batang Rizal: A Critique

Rizal as a national hero has been portrayed in many ways. He has been placed on a pedestal both figuratively and literally with the amount of statues and monuments erected on his behalf all over the world. What happens when one of those statues accidentally got broken? What would you do?

That was the premise of the play Batang Rizal written by Christine Bellen and directed by director Duds Terana for the opening of the 40th season of the Philippine Educational Theater Association last July 2007.

The protagonist of the play Pepito, a student, played by Joseph Keith Anicoche, found his way with the use of a magical book back to the time of Jose “Pepe” Rizal after his problem with accidentally breaking the Jose Rizal statue donated to the school by Mayor Rapcu, portrayed by Jose Vicente Katipunan. He was troubled by this accident because this could cause his own and his siblings’ expulsion from their school.

The play took the audience into Pepito’s story but more importantly it was a walk down memory lane into the childhood of the hero Jose Rizal.

The setting took place during the Buwan Ng Wika which is celebrated in August. The Rizal Elementary School was busily preparing for activities usually associated with Buwan Ng Wika. This was the time that Pepito got into trouble because of Manuel, Raffy, and Ella, played by Carlon John Matobato, Norberto Portales III, and Joan Marie Bugcat respectively, who kept bullying him. They blamed Pepito as the cause of the accident with the statue.

As Pepe and Pepito walk through the life of the man we now know as Jose Rizal, the struggle between wanting to do the right thing or running away from responsibility was portrayed in Pepe’s shock when he found out he was to die a tragic yet heroic death.

These two characters represent two definitions of being a hero. One is a portrayal of the greatness of someone who can help an entire country and influence it long after his death and the other is the greatness of an ordinary citizen who through hard work was able to influence people around him to become better even in just a short period of time.

According to PETA's artistic director Maribel Legarda, it was a challenge to write the script since Rizal was such a national icon, which made it hard for her to portray the hero in his younger years.

But this aspect of Rizal’s life is important as the play showed an extraordinary man in his ordinary childhood, one that was filled with hardship and joy like the lives of the children during that time even up until now.

The way this story was told could bring the audience back to their childhoods because of the corny jokes, teasing, and the simplicity of the situations.

The simple dialogue gave the story a feel of realism despite the whole travelling and breaking through space and time continuum as one can feel the weight of the innocent words these children said throughout the play.

Pepe had doubts of returning to his time when he knew that his return would lead to his death. Moreover, he saw that nothing had changed in the society since his death. He pointed out that there were no differences in the way people lived. There were still those few people who held power over the poor majority. He felt there was no reason for him to return since his death seems to no impact on the modern society.

He didn’t get the consequences of his actions if he decided to stay in the present time. The whole Philippine history would’ve been rewritten and we could still be under the occupation of some country if Pepe decided not to go back to his time.

This gaves the play that moralizing touch for it instills in its audience the impression of how important their actions are because as living creatures everyone is connected one way or the other. But it avoided sounding or feeling preachy because of how the lines were written and how they were delivered by the actors.

The characters were easily portrayed by the actors and actresses who brought them to life. There might have been moments when the three bullies played by Matobato, Portales, and Bugcat seem to dominate the scene they were in because of their quick and witty lines but the overall feel of the acting came across as natural and entertaining.

The style of PETA of having only the minimal, important props on stage proved useful for the running around occurring during the play. It became easier to see what was happening around the stage without having to worry about props getting in the way. The only problem was during the story telling about the firefly and the monkey and turtle, as aside from the shadow puppets, there seemed to be a lot of activity happening on stage that made it hard for the audience to focus on a particular person.

The story did not seem to drag on and despite knowing the story of Rizal’s childhood this somehow gave an entertaining and refreshing way to look at his life. - JOANNA NICOLE BATAC

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ENDO: A Rejoinder

Nicole, Meg and I caught Endo at Cinevita, held last March 5-7 at the Thomas Aquinas Research Center Auditorium. Starring Jason Abalos as Leo, a dreamless contractual worker and Ina Feleo as Tanya, a dreamer who doubles as a contractual worker, Endo takes its viewers to an honest reality of love, dreams and the Filipino identity.

ENDO stands for "end of contract" typical of department stores and the like, and in the same light, Leo's life as a series of contracts. As he heads on to face his everyday challenges, he simultaneously loses his own dreams as these dreams are replaced by the need to earn for the education of Pol, his younger brother and for the medical needs of their crippled father, an ex-OFW.

Having gotten out of an Endo relationship with Candy, one of his co-workers, Leo meets Tanya, an aggressive saleslady from another stall who pursues him relentlessly until he himself has fallen for Tanya, a spirited dreamer who sees life simply and does not dream of grand houses and a beautiful life. With Tanya, Leo grows out of his unselfish reality while building his own dreams for himself and at the same time, letting go of all that had tied him with his confused state and mediocre goals.

The Bland Reality

The first time I watched Endo was in one of its Cinemalaya screening in CCP, the Cinevita screening was my second one. It was quite disappointing, however, that the Cinevtia audience was more concerned with the boldness of the love scenes rather than the turn of the story itself. In addition, the cheesiness of the lovers' dialogues were emphasized, rather than its honesty, thus making it look and sound bland to the ears of Thomasian teenagers.

But its blandness became one of its strength, with its portrayal of reality as honest and as true as it could possibly be. Reality doesn't have to be harsh, pitiful or romantic all of the time, as is expected from mainstream films which romanticize reality thus invoking resolutions and advocacies on the part of the audience. Endo, on the other hand, invites all of its audience to take reality as is it is, as we see it everyday, but at the same time, urging the viewers to open their eyes to a larger view of reality that includes the people we see but we don't actually recognize as humans. In the context of Endo, the salespersons we see on the malls who give out a hand to whatever our whims are.

It's basically a love story taken empirically, without the usual sugar-coated words that line the dialogues of mainstream films. There's honesty and sincerity in the delivery of dialogues, and the blandness is an added factor to emphasize the plainness of the characters as the social untouchables, maligned for their educational background and their blue-collared jobs. This dryness also magnified the dreams and desires of each character as they go on with their respective lives.

In an open forum in the recently held Cinevita, director Jade Castro said that Endo is a political film that tackles the unfair treatment to contractual workers. They are basically underpaid and overworked, and in addition to this, deprived of the benefits of a regular laborer (e.g. health benefits, SSS, etc.).

Though the political issue was not directly presented in the film, the viewers were able to grasp its impact through the storyline. At the end, even though there wasn’t any emphatic resolution on the part of the viewers, Endo created awareness in the viewers that made them see these workers as part of the social milieu.

Endo And Its Shortcomings

Its shortcomings can be attributed to the stilted delivery of lines. It was obvious that there was the existence of a script, and its obviousness to the viewers diminished the “natural” setting of the film. No matter how commendable the performances of the actors were, the line delivery failure became a setback to the total success of a good film. - ALEXIS LAURA FELICIANO

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End Of Contract

Endo, short for end of contract, is an independent film that mirrors the socio- economic intricacy of our country. The message was shown subtly and does not implicate any other political meaning. The main problem of the movie, which is the problem of labor contractualization, is intensely implied by the director in a modest and unpretentious manner.

Endo is a love story situated in the world of contract workers. The story revolves around Leo, whose life is a series of terminable contract. Haven’t finished college and forced to act as breadwinner of the family because of his father’s inability and mother’s abandonment, he takes on five month service-oriented jobs, one after another. His relationships with women are also the same. However, when he meets the spirited dreamer Tanya and fell in love with her, he is faced by the promise of security and permanence. The problem is, will he be able to handle it?

Endo is directed by Jade Castro under UFO Pictures. He is also one of the film’s writers together with Raymond Lee and Michiko Yamamoto. Castro delicately copes with the film’s dramatic and technical features. According to The Philippine Star (Febrauary 14, 2008), “[Castro] was able to hold the cast together and keep the performance level restrained.”

Jason Abalos played the role of Leo while Ina Feleo the role of Tanya. Both were excellent in portraying their characters. The emotions they showed were very genuine. At the same time, supporting roles and bit players contributed to the success of the movie. Cheers for the whole cast and crew of Endo! - MARY GRACE INGARAN

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Cinemalaya Frees A New Breed Of Filmmakers

Indie films are becoming more and more accepted in a society where chick flicks reign and novelty movies are produced. Now on its way to its fourth year, Cinemalaya has proven to be the nest of films, both full-length and short films that exhibit talent and substance. But the Cinemalaya 2007, together with a bigger audience and successful promotions has become more than just an indie film festival. More and more talented filmmakers are coming out of their shells to produce one of the historic moments in Philippine cinema—the indie films.

First Encounter

My first every encounter with indie films is Ang Pagdadalaga ni Maximo Oliveros which catapulted Nathan Lopez and Aureaus Solito into national popularity. I have heard that Maximo was a good watch and I watched it together with a few of my classmates. I suppose I expected too much from the reviews it was getting from national and international critics alike and expected it to be better than what I was hearing. But I was too immersed with the foreign film culture, which included chick films and no-nonsense productions that I found Maximo too bland and too “yun lang?” for my taste.

I knew it was shot by HD cameras, not the film cameras per se, but the portable ones that can be bought everywhere and anywhere but I was expecting more thrill and more visual effects from it that I found it rather boring. Although the acting skills were commendable—I have never seen such “natural” acting ability, especially Nathan Lopez who was cast in his first film with no proper Johnny M workshop.

The Two Faces Of Cinemalaya 2007

But what brought me to the “kulturang indie” as I termed it, was Cinemalaya 2007. I was sent there for an assignment for an organization, and I found myself wandering along Roxas Boulevard without companion and even without direction to guide me towards CCP. I have no one with me to alternate screenings with so I thought I might just as well stay and complete the screenings for a day since the venue is relatively decent as compared to malls and cinemas. It was, however, in the middle of nowhere, so I had to wait at the lobby for two hours for the second screening to come, eat lunch alone and the same routine until 7 in the evening.

The first screening I attended was Gulong by Sockie Fernandez and it was as heartwarming as I could describe. Maybe because hard reality was too much for me to take, Gulong served as a buffer from all these reality talk. Somehow, it offered hope, instead of the empirical explanations of reality. At the same time, Tribu, Kadin and the other Cinemalaya entries were balanced in such a way that you won’t take reality, especially the Filipino reality as hopeless and as gloomy as the gangsters of Tondo.

There’s Tribu, Tukso and Endo that were real as reality gets but there’s also Pisay, Gulong and Kadin that presents a softer side of reality.

But these films all boil down into one: the Filipino individuality and identity extensively tackled in all phases of the films. Despite the harshness or even the blandness of these films, it cannot be denied that they are value-laden, most of which emphasize Filipino identity.

Why The Indie?

I was raised in lukewarm cultural setting: I had what I could term as colonial, but went to museums and theaters alike. Outwardly, I grew up with a colonial mindset but I was unconsciously educated a Filipino and as I grew up I lamented at the lack of museums and affordable cultural shows that were truly Filipino. I suppose I was looking for what were truly ours, and not just some Filipinized colonial products like Mexican dramas and rehashed H’wood films.

With the advent of technology I found what I considered to be truly ours: the indie films. None had anything colonial to boast, and if these films did, they were done in what had been accepted as ours over the long run.

In addition to this, the films weren’t pretentious and ambitious as most of our films are. “Resiklo”, taken as an example, was ripped off by reviews. I didn’t watch Resiklo but from the poster itself, it was aiming to be a Pinoy-version of “The Transformers”. At this point, I want to emphasize the difference between an indie and a few of our mainstream films. Indie films feature what are inherently Pinoy, while a number of mainstream films try to be Filipinize what is not Pinoy.

Why Not The Indie?

For both the politically apathetic and politically sensitive viewers, indie films often contain political issues depicted extensively though subliminally in varying plots. Among the highly political indie films presented in the recent Cinemalaya 2007 was “Pisay” which tackled the parallel situation of the Philippines in Martial Law and Philippine Science High School under possible segregation. These indie films are oftentimes hard-hitting if they wanted to because these films enjoy the perks of less and yet open-minded audience.

In addition to this, indie films always get away with bad editing and bad sounds because it’s indie, which basically becomes a benchmark for aesthetically mediocre yet substantially-made films. In one of the reviews of the pink indie, the writer (Joshua Guzman) criticized the auditory elements of “Ang Lihim ni Antonio” where the natural sounds that were transmitted during the filming became the extraneous elements of the film. Some films defend the poorness the auditory element as “part of nature and natural setting” of the film and they get away with it.

There is no perfect film but there are good ones and even excellently made films, especially in the Filipino setting and indie films can be one of them. - ALEXIS LAURA FELICIANO

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Tukso -
Pisay -
Ang Pagdadalaga ni Maximo Oliveros -

Ang Lihim Ni Antonio

“Ang Lihim ni Antonio” which premiered its uncut version at the University of the Philippines Cine Adarna last February 4, 2008 and was later shown at the Robinsons Galleria last February 13, tells the story of Antonio’s struggle to explore his identity.

The film in a nutshell

The film starts with a day in the life of Antonio, played by newcomer Kenjie Garcia, who wanders around Marikina on his bicycle. The viewers are given a preview of the boy’s thoughts as he starts to question the reason of his existence. Acting as the omnipresent narrator, he asks himself if he can choose his own parents or even his sexuality because life would have been easier for him if that was the case.

He stops at a computer shop where he meets his best friend, Mike (Jiro Manio) who is a riot among his peers and another close friend, the religious but sensual Nathan (Niño Fernandez). His mother Tere (Shamaine Buencamino) comes in to remind him that they will go to the market later as Antonio promised, but as they were about to leave his father calls from overseas.

A familiar family situation was shown with the director leaving the entire scene to the audience’s imagination as he put the characters on a telephone conversation without voice-overs that establishes the main characters’ personalities. Tere was depicted as an uptight mother when it comes to money while Antonio as a diligent kid longing for the affection of his father which is often filled by the gifts he gets from abroad.

Antonio’s life is not at all easy as he grows up in a world with no role models to emulate, something his strict but loving mother cannot provide. Knowing that he is different because of his unusual desires, he is forced to discover his sexuality on his own by expressing it openly to his friend Nathan. His curiosity leads him to appreciate his friend’s physical aesthetics and eventually discovers the intricacies of his sexuality.

The arrival of Jonbert, his uncle (Josh Ivan Morales), provides a climatic twist on the life of Antonio as it reveals the hormonal changes in a 15-year-old homosexual as he experiences sexual desires and expresses it in a various subtle ways.

The side-long glances strengthen the portrayal of this desire while watching his muscular uncle taking a bath through a hole on the bathroom door gave flavor to Antonio’s curiosity.
The revelation of the hedonistic tendencies of Jonbert and the abandonment of his father became the turning point of the story, where the altruistic mother discovers the horrible actions by Jonbert. Tere kills Jonbert and Antonio admits to the crime of killing his uncle.

Reflections after watching the film

The charm of the film comes from the characters as they portray relatable and genuine people but limited to certain social classes and cultures. It has all of the downsides of being a digital film, wobbly camera angles, unnecessary sound that drowns dialogues and extras that contribute to what have been an otherwise well-made film.

Antonio’s life is filled with depressing tragedies that seems too unusual and unreal which rarely happens in reality. The story however, is done in a typical fashion where omnipresent narrators are present.

It also is possible that the director wants to establish the character’s desire and fears by placing them in form of their curiosity or in another character’s eyes but either way it is unnecessary and only adds to the clutter scattered throughout the film.

The film needed help with its editing due to some scenes that needed cropping. In addition, the sounds are a little bit disturbing especially the natural ones that were caught by film because it was a little bit loud. The dubbing was horrendous because the viewer can easily recognize the dubbed part which is reminiscent of Mexican telenovelas. But the music, especially the original song, was great because it compliments the film. The acoustic song “Awit ni Antonio,” which was played throughout the film highlights a character thoughts and emotion. It also helps the film carry an overwhelming atmosphere by adding impact to the dramatic parts of the film an example is the scene wherein Tere is touching herself which shows her longing for her husband.
The carefree writing was obviously intended for a particular audience, those who are members of the third sex and those who are just plain curious about it. The actor’s acting will not be given justice because the film will not get any recognition from uninterested viewers.

Kenjie Garcia, although new, was able to provide an outstanding performance at par with seasoned actor Buencamino, save for some scenes where he is acts robotically as if strings were attached to him.

Shamaine Buencamino, on the other hand, delivered an exceptional performance. Every scene which included her was powerful enough to stand alone as a timeless performance.

Josh Ivan Morales commanded the audience with his on-screen presence. From the promdi to the hedonistic portrayal of his character you are sure to follow him throughout the film. He was the only choice for the part and he didn’t disappoint. He served as an eye candy to the delight of the gay audience.

Jiro Manio was a surprise. The star of Magnifico, praised for his dramatic acting skills, shifted to a little comedy which was very effective. He provided comic relief which was a good break from the otherwise serious nature of the film.

The disappointment came in the form of the little exposure of dancer-turned-actor Niño Fernandez who gave a good performance. His close-to-none screen time was needed to establish the plot which was understandable.

Overall the film, although not great, has some very good points. It is the most controversial film of the year in its genre but often overshadowed by Adolfo Alix’s “Daybreak” which received great reviews and continued patronage in IndieSine. - JOHN JOSHUA GUZMAN

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There’s A Formula To It

In the age of technology, Filipino music has taken a new form. Gone are the days of soprano solo singers, dancing boy bands and really annoying novelty songs. Filipino music has now evolved into the form of rock bands. From Rivermaya to Spongecola to Parokya ni Edgar.

Filipino music has evolved into an age wherein the melody and tempo of the song is bordering on loud and sometimes screechy. There are a lot of Filipino rock bands out there. It seems that a Filipino rock band is formed every five minutes and very few of them become famous. One of the rock bands to have enjoyed the limelight is Urbandub.

Their latest album, Under the Southern Lights, is a collection of songs for the happily in love, the unhappily in love, the happily not in love and the unhappily not in love. Although most of the songs are for those that are unhappily in love. Their lyrics are full of angst and bitterness. It seems like most of their songs are about being rejected or about being cheated on.

The beat of their songs is good. Their guitar, bass and drums can all be heard individually but none of them overpower one another. However, it’s very repetitive. It’s hard to distinguish one song form the other because they all sound very similar. If you play the entire thing on your playlist, the only way to tell that its a different song is because of their lyrics.

There really is nothing special about the sound of Urbandub. The beat and the lyrics are nothing new. It sticks to a formula that is currently very popular with the youth. It’s got bitter lyrics with good sounds. Over all, Urbandub has a tried and tested formula. - MAE EDILLON

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Move Over Darna: Zaturnnah Is Here

A meteor rock falls from the heavens. A gay guy decides to swallow it, believing that it has magical powers to fulfil a wish. Lo-and behold, the rock is magical. However, it doesn’t grant wishes instead it turns him/her into a beautiful woman with superpowers. This person decides to put her new found beauty and superpowers to good use by battling giant amphibians, disgusting corpses and megalomaniac alien feminists.

Does its sound familiar? That’s because it is. It sounds like Darna, but it’s not. It’s Carlo Vergara’s graphic novel, ZsaZsa Zaturnnah. Many people believe that ZsaZsa Zaturnnah is nothing more than a rip-off of the quintessential Philippine heroine, Darna.

Of course, it’s easy to think that. The way that they acquire their superpowers is the same, their outfits look alike and they both have a knack for fighting against power-hungry women. What makes Zaturnnah different from Darna is that Zaturnnah is funnier. She has a lot more character.

However, ZsaZsa Zaturnnah isn’t just a graphic novel that makes a person laugh like crazy but it is also something that mixes classic Filipino culture with the modern Filipino culture. It takes the iconic Darna and gives it an extra oomph. Instead of having the typical pretty girl turn into a superhero, Carlos Vergara substituted the pretty girl with a fun gay character, Ada. And the result is marvellous.

The language used in ZsaZsa Zaturnnah is very easy to understand. Unlike, other Filipino literature that uses words which are rather difficult to understand and seem to be taken from a soap opera. It uses colloquial language mixed with gay lingo. This makes the graphic novel very upbeat and easy to comprehend.

ZsaZsa Zaturnnah is not just a brainless story. It also has a lesson. Although the lesson is in typical comic book corniness, it is still there. It tells the reader that one must be true to themselves. Even if you are a superheroine or a gay hairdresser. - MAE EDILLON

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Trees And Brushstrokes

A lifeless tree surrounded by colorful stones against a mountain backdrop. The set of paintings of Prudencio Lamarroza called the Amburaya Series shows just that.

This particular painting from the Amburaya series has a tree that resembles that of a Narra. The other paintings have a different tree but basically the concept is the same. A dead tree and colorful stones. One might think that it’s such a boring thing to paint. Seriously, there is nothing special about trees and stones.

However, that is the beauty of the Amburaya paintings. Its simple objects are juxtaposed by the complexity of what it signifies. The trees and stones signify the damage that nature has sustained because of people’s abuse.

The artist’s ideologies are very much present in this painting. It is a painting about the damage done to nature. And Lamarroza is a painter with a soft spot for nature. He’s an environmentalist. Lamarroza’s love for the environment is very much present in the painting.

The Amburya series actually signifies the dried up river of Aburaya in Ilocos. The dead tree shows what happened to the ecosystem of Aburaya due to the abuse of people. The colorful stones represent the remains of the once majestic river.

Lamarroza gives new aesthetic to dead trees and stones. Never has a dead tree and a bunch of stones looked so pretty. There is so much detail in the painting that one can see the really tiny dots that give texture to the painting. The use of contrasting colors really gave emphasis to its content. The tree stands out due to its texture and color.

Not only is the painting a masterpiece but it is also a stand. It is a protest for nature and never has a protest looked more been more aesthetically pleasing. - MAE EDILLON

The New Age Of Dance

Eat Bulaga, the longest running noontime-variety show on Philippine television, introduced the idea of background dancers for their segments in 1999. Originally called Chicken Sandwich Dancers, the group consisted of four girls which included Rochelle Pangilinan of the Sexbomb Dancers fame.

Joy Cancio started recruiting new faces and soon enough they became regulars in the now defunct Laban O Bawi portion of the show. The name of the group was coined by Joey De Leon, one of the show’s premier hosts, due to the popularity of the song Sexbomb by Tom Jones during that time.

The girls proved that were not only dancers because on 2002 a sub-group was formed which focused on singing and dancing called the Sexbomb singers. They also have a show in GMA 7, Daisy Siete, wherein the girls showcases their prowess in acting.

There are many detractors who showed up when the girls started to rise to fame. Their first and foremost critics are the viewers especially the parents. In time, the girls started shedding their clothes piece by piece. From the conservative ones they used to wear they changed it to skimpy outfits. Their dances were deemed too provocative. Critics label their dances as “sexual” partnered with their original songs which have strong sexual references in it due to the double-meaning lyrics.

The arrival of the Sexbomb dancers ignited the passion for novelty music and dance.

The Dance

Sexbomb provided a refreshing new genre of dance. Aside from entertainment purposes they encouraged many girls how to dance. Their routine and steps were widely appreciated across the country. They sold many dance albums and became ambassadors to different companies by promoting them through their dances.

It is very easy to follow due to repetitive and simple dance moves. Their steps are geared toward the poor and middle class due to the novelty feel of it.

But by watching it closely, most of their earlier dance moves are inappropriate because it has elements of sex in it. The way the girls gyrate their bodies seems like they mimic sexual intercourse.

The dancers outgrew that phase and ventured into different genres of dance like hip-hop and contemporary jazz coupled with rhythmic gymnastics. But the dance seems impossible to imitate and very dangerous because of their signature splits and cartwheels.

They became an institution when it comes to dancing due to the popularity of their style and its originality. They are one of the most sought-after dancers on TV and will still be as long as there is Eat Bulaga.

The Music

Their singing career did pretty well. It was a combination of dance and novelty songs which became a hit. Often partnered with dance moves popularized by the group, their music has dominated TV sets not only in Eat Bulaga but different shows.

The songs were often composed by Joey De Leon and Lito Camo. They were criticized for having double-meaning lyrics and for having no substance whatsoever. Their only purpose was to entertain which they did. - JOHN JOSHUA GUZMAN

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Why Not Listen To Tiya Dely?

Tiya Dely. It’s the name that has long been known in every Filipino household. Others, upon hearing the name, wonder if she still lives. Only a few know she has two programs aired everyday at DZRH. One program that interests this writer is her 6:30 p.m. program she dubbed as Tiya Dely at 6:30.

The program is about public information. Thus, she makes her program more like a talk show. Tiya Dely would have a doctor, a politician, or a lawyer as a guest and she would ask different questions about medicine, governance, and law that concern a typical Filipino citizen. One could learn a lot from the lady radio veteran as she skillfully pulls out unexpected answers from her respectable guests. Unfortunately, her segment acts as a public relations show when the invited guest is a politician.

When her guest suddenly falls out of his or her serious character, you know why she has become a living legend among Filipino broadcasters. She treats them in an unconventional way, so don’t expect her to be very formal; she’s smart enough to know that too much seriousness would bore the listeners. It’s a fun, interesting, and lively show that gives newfound ideas and often startling facts but public interaction is not encouraged.

Knowledge is what you get from listening to her radio show. From the health hazards of pulling out one’s pangil to the basics of public service - you’ll be glad you learned something interesting and valuable. - EDREE ESTAURA

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Singkil: Filipino Royal Dance

Think of Tinikling with double the bamboos and triple the risks. In Singkil, it’s difficult to stand up on a pair of bamboos and dance gracefully while keeping your confidence and pride intact.

Singkil, also called as the Princess Dance or The Royal Maranao Dance, was based on Maranao’s epic tale Ramayana. It was derived from Princess Gandingan’s graceful act of avoiding the falling trees and rocks in a forest during an earthquake caused by the fairies.

Singkil is a courtship dance between a Prince and a Princess. Dancers of Singkil are not encouraged to smile. Instead, they hold their chin up, signifying the seriousness and sophistication of respected women.

The famed Maranao dance is composed of three groups of dancers. The first group includes at least three bamboo dancers, the second includes at least six fan dancers, and the last includes the Princess, her maid, and the Prince. At least seven men are needed; four will be the bamboo clickers and three will be the bamboo carriers. The music’s rhythm turns faster as the dance progresses.

The presentation of the dance is divided into three parts. In the first part, the bamboo dancers perform the introductory dance. The dancers wear pointed finger accessories similar to those worn by Thai dancers. The dance steps of these bamboo dancers include hopping and stepping on the ground.

As the performance progresses, each dancer climbs on a pair of bamboos held horizontally by two men and continues to perform hand and body movements while standing on the bamboos. After this, the bamboo dancers are seated on the bamboos and wait for the fan dancers’ turn.

The fan dancers enter the stage through slow point steps and perform the fan dance. Each fan dancer holds a fan in each hand and uses her wrist to move the fan in several different ways. Fan dances include the swirling motion of the hand and wrist and the up-down movement of the fans. The fan dancers exit the scene to announce the arrival of the Princess.

The arrival of the Princess, which takes several minutes long, shows the grandeur of the Maranao royalty. The Princess, seated on a pair of bamboos, enters the stage along with a maiden who carries an umbrella for her and climbs down to dance on the ground. She dances in a stationary position, moving just her hips and her arms. Like the fan dancers, she holds a fan on each hand and swirls it along with her body movements. Then, the Prince enters the stage and dances along with the Princess. This is the highlight of the Singkil where the Prince courts the Princess and dances along with her while avoiding the clicking bamboos.

The colors and textures of the silk dresses and the intricacy of the accessories used in Singkil makes it a dance fit for the royalty. Its refined and complex dance moves define the rich Maranao culture that had marked Filipino talents and identity. - EDREE ESTAURA

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Single Step – Hop – Double Step – Hop: The Tinikling Dance

The easy way to do the Tinikling dance is to master the three basic steps: Singles, Doubles, and Hop. The combination of each basic step comprises the Tinikling dance steps.
The singles and doubles refer to the number of feet that will touch the floor at a given step. In singles, only one foot touches the floor while doubles mean both feet will touch the ground. Meanwhile, the hop step is performed to cross over the bamboo poles to complete one routine of the Tinikling dance.

It is performed by four people, usually composed of three boys and a girl. While the two boys operate the bamboo poles by hitting them to the ground in rhythm to the music, the other pair (a boy and a girl) will perform the dance.

Tinikling follows the 4/4 pattern which denotes that there are four beats in every measure and the repeated rhythmical beat goes, “slap, slap, clap, clap.” Balance is not really a requirement in this dance, teamwork, agility and good timing are.

First is teamwork. It’s important because the bamboo clappers needs to be coordinated as they hit the bamboos on the floor and then together. The dancers must also work in synch to prevent themselves from rambling. Finally, all the performers, dancers and bamboo clappers, should work as one. They must have the same speed, same beat counting, and same rhythm. Second is agility. This refers to the speed, alertness, and flexibility of the dancers. For instance, if the bamboo clappers seem to hit the bamboos on a faster pace in order to follow the rhythm of the music, dancers must adjust quickly and must increase their speed as well. Third is timing. Timing is important to prevent the feet from being hit by bamboo poles. Performers of Tinikling must have good timing as when to start doing the single step or the double step or to hop across the bamboo poles. Like in every dance, the first step is always crucial. The first step, most of the time, will reveal how the dance will end.

The dance is conceived to have developed from wide imagination of the natives in the islands of Leyte in Visayas by imitating the movements of “tikling” birds that skilfully walks around and between tree branches and some grass stems. Today, we experience the gracefulness enriched in the dance acclaimed as one of Philippines’ best known dances and feted as the country’s national dance.

Performing the dance is identified similarly with playing the jumping rope, but instead of a rope the performers use two bamboo poles. The dance is quite exhausting and since the performers are hopping from one side of the bamboo poles to another, it requires a lot of energy. - NIKKI ANGULO

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“It's Reggae Mahn, er.. ‘Tol?!”: Reggae In The Philippines

It’s Saturday night and you tune the radio. You switch from one station to another. It’s almost the same musical genres in almost all radio stations. But try to try to set the radio frequency to the farthest left of the tuner. Ahh. Finally, something different enters your ears.

New music, eh? It’s something unique. It sounds cool. The tempo makes you want to sway with the music or at the least makes you want to tap your fingers following the almost monotonous, but not boring, beat it imbibes. The music’s rhythm is consistent. The artist’s voice is sounds cool and soothing amid accent that at first you would find hard to understand.

No idea what type of music it is? Hint. Bob Marley. Still don’t know? Well, does Jamaican music ring a bell now? If you still haven’t got it yet, well, it is reggae.

Not exactly a new genre, reggae music, which started in Jamaica, has been around for approximately 50 years. But yes, it’s relatively new here in the Philippines.

Dobbie Nights aired at Jam 88.3 every Saturday night at 6:00 p.m., is a radio show that features international and local reggae music. Originally it’s just DJ Migs who hosts the show, but recently, two weeks ago actually, Tracy Abad, who is a former UAAP basketball courtside reporter, joined DJ Migs in Doobie Nights.

Dobbie Nights doesn’t have a Billboard-like top charts featuring the week’s most requested song. Why? For the reason that there aren’t much reggae songs recorded. Reggae itself is not that popular. Sure the show is not that known yet, but the fact that there are many callers that the show gets, is a good indication that Filipinos do appreciate and enjoy such a groovy kind The show mostly airs original foreign reggae songs. But there are also some mainstream songs that some artists do a “reggae-ized rendition.”

Aside from the usual, and becoming so normal, delivering of green jokes, the atmosphere that the DJs create is friendly, relaxed, and quite funny. Of course, the show is entertaining especially for music aficionados looking for a fresh sound, a hard-find nowadays in the radio industry, wherein two radio stations playing the same song at the same time, is very probable. Apart from that, the show is also a good opportunity for Filipinos to expand their knowledge on the different musical genres aside from hip hop, rap, RnB, Soul and of course, OPM. - TERESA CAMILLE NONES

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Sitti Navarro: Going Against The Flow

More often than not, “going with the flow” has a negative connotation since it is usually perceived as synonymous to imitation. It is a “practice” that suggests playing it safe.

In the Philippine-music industry, based on its history that started from the Pre-Historic era, to the Spanish Colonial Period and down to the disco and Manila sound, a common characteristic Filipinos exhibit is going with the flow of the world’s music biz. In the 1970’s, when Elvis Presley, the immortal King of Rock ruled the air waves, local rock and roll bands, such as Sampaguita and the Juan dela Cruz band, started emerging in the music scene. During the 80’s when disco music was at its height, Filipino artists started copying foreign music styles like those of the popular band Beegees. The list of how the Filipino music industry “goes with the flow” is endless, until a Sitti Navarro attempted to go against the flow. And it looks like she succeeded and continues to do so in her endeavor.

Sitti single-handedly introduced Bossa Nova to the Philippines. Bossa Nova, a cool and relaxing sound, is a musical genre that originated from Brazil. This genre, that has a touch of jazz, is also perceived as the “music for the elite,” maybe the reason why it is not a popular musical genre in the country. Come to think of it, pioneering a new, not to mention, a practically unknown genre to Filipinos took a lot of guts from this 23-year-old singer.

Although the local music arena has experienced a lot of development throughout the years, Filipino music sticks to whatever the reigning genre is. And most of the time, it will (at least for a certain time) be the only genre played on music stations. But, again, Sitti went against usual. She started her career in 2006 when local bands ruled everything in the music business. After some months, she was dubbed as the Philippine’s Queen of Bossa Nova for her very relaxing voice that fitted well the soothing sound of Bossa Nova.

It is safe to say that Sitti launched Bossa Nova in the Philippines successfully. Though she defied the norms in the country’s music industry Sitti nonetheless introduced a new musical genre that would hopefully be appreciated more by Filipinos.

Good thing Sitti went against the flow. - TERESA CAMILLE NONES

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Thursday, March 13, 2008

Living Life

It's honest and real. Think of it as our own local Carrie Bradshaw. Carissa Villacorta gives us a look into living in the city that never sleeps.

Surreality by Carissa Villacorta is a collection of columns Villacorta has written for newspapers like the Philippine Daily Inquirer and Philippine News based in the United States of America where she works and chases after her dreams in New York City.

It is a take on city life from the perspective of a 20-something yuppie trying to work around the hustle and bustle of the city. She tackles important issues that happen around the city yet its generality helps readers to overlook the setting which makes it applicable to any person in any place around the world.

This is not for the intellectuals looking for something that needs to provoke one's thoughts to fully understand its contents. This book is for one's heart.

It is a little look into the soul we seem to forget due to the distractions and banalities in our daily lives. It tries to look past race and gender as it tries to reach out to the beings inside all of us. But this is not told from a serious, preachy nor chastising manner.

The humor rises from thought-provoking and witty words like:

"I'm boring - it's expensive to be exciting."


"How has it become easier to tell our friends 'I have a business meeting,' than to tell our co-workers 'I have a Broadway date at eight?' Which pang of guilt the morning after tinges harder?" that gives the perspective of the youth and the kind of thinking of the moment. It brings the age-old issues like human relations, priorities, and following one's dreams into the modern consciousness.

What is more important is that this was told from the perspective of a Filipino living in a foreign country. This is an account of the life of a lot of Filipinos who leave the country in search of greener pastures for themselves and their families.

But Villacorta went abroad not out of necessity. It was out of the desire to go after what she wanted. She wanted to live her life and she tried to share the experience with us through her words.

This meant that she was able to bring herself and the culture she grew up in without being stifled by the demands to be like the Americans and fit in. She remained Filipino and it showed in the way she wrote this book. The importance of her family was among the main topics in the book which we all know is central in the life of Filipinos.

Villacorta purposely stayed away from any political talk. Instead, she focused on the matters mentioned above. She wanted to give her input on the timeless truths and passions that have and should never leave our sights. She ponders on these life mysteries which include its joys, conflicts, and compromises that everyone has been experienced.

She tries to remind us of these important topics in this modern and complicated world in an easy and uncomplicated manner. The no frills kind of writing made it an easy to read in one seating but it also has the ability to make a person reassess their priorities and preoccupations in life. - JOANNA NICOLE BATAC

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The Style Of Post-Modernism

“My aim is to put down on paper what I see and what I feel in the best and simplest way.”
-Ernest Hemingway

The statement above by Hemingway might be the words that rambled through Bob Ong’s mind when he wrote his six lauded books ABNKKBSNPLAKo?!, Bakit Baliktad Magbasa Ng Libro Ang Mga Pilipino, Paboritong Libro ni Hudas, Alamat Ng Gubat, Stainless Longganisa, and his latest book Mcarthur that received positive response from the Filipino audience.

Thus, my assumption is favored by Ong’s own statement when he said in one of his interviews through an email, “You read, you watch, you observe, you think, you feel—you can’t help it. Insight comes from all these. From all these, you write.”

He is considered as one of those post-modernist writers who diverged from the conventional writing style where there are rules and structures to follow and delved into a belief that the rules in writing would only suppress their freedom to express, moreover, controlling the “flow of ideas” that is already conceived. And thus, his liberal thinking reflects on the books he made.

Having read two of Ong’s book, his first and his fifth book, I may say that those are really different from the styles of writers like Bienvenido Lumbera or F. Sionil Jose. But I may have established a wrong comparison since both the two authors named have received a number of prestigious awards and have been acclaimed as national artists. Nevertheless, one may easily point out how Ong’s works are different from those done by other artists in form, style, and structure.

Ong’s style of writing is conversational. He directly communicates and tells stories with his readers which make the books easy to be read. They are also fashioned with humor to keep the readers interest. The tones, though absurd and ironic, capture more readers. And at the end of each book, I found some of his realizations that I think are a kind of moralizing. In fact, there are some who have read his books say that his works are inspirational.

Since Bob Ong is a pro-modernist writer, expect that not all elements found in every literature are present in his works.

In his book, ABNKKBSNPLAKo?!, is a narration of his scholarly life, from elementary to college, and the life he had after school and where all stories appeared to be true, although, the book cannot guise itself from being somewhat fictitious as some were exaggeratedly told. But if in any case the book will be proved to be fictitious, it might be considered as metafiction or a story-within-story.

The character. It has only one portrayed character – the “narrator” – and since I cannot refer the book as a fiction or a non-fiction, expect the term “narrator” is variedly used. Moreover, the narrator is not evenly included in the character list in short stories, novels, or plays. In the book, the writer or Ong himself is the narrator and since it has a conversational writing style, no other character has appeared except for names that are mentioned who has not done any action but only in regard with the writer’s narration.

The plot. It is defined as the incident that makes up the story. I say that the book has no plot or if there is, there would be many. By this time, I’m referring to the book as a compilation of essays about the stages of Ong’s life where in every stage has its own turning point – its own plot. But it is still arguable to say it has a plot or plots since the book is not really a short story and definitely not a novel.

The structure. It has no structure simply because it is an example of a post-modern literature which does not adhere to any structure.

The language. Ong wrote using the vernacular – Filipino, which can be understood by every Filipino in all classes and in all range of ages. In an interview by Inquirer through email, Ong referred to language as a tool wherein he associated English as a “saw” and the Filipino as a “knife” that his only aim is “to peel the turnip for merienda. And the second language cannot replace the first.”

Finally to quote another artist to relate the art of writing no matter what style, form or genre to use, F. Scott Fitzgerald said, “You don't write because you want to say something, you write because you've got something to say.” - NIKKI ANGULO

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Manila Chinese Cemetery

In one of my Manila travels, Manila Chinese Cemetery is a place I would never ever forget. Manila is basically a busy district, a bustling city of industry and businesses. For many people, Manila is just another spot on the map, a place where snatchers thrive and pirated DVDs spread all throughout the metro. But on the other part of this busy Manila district is a quiet place which is the home of the Chinese-Filipino residents. And in this area, an architectural "subdivision" can be found---the Manila Chinese Cemetery.

"Magnificently Chinese"

Being in the Manila Chinese Cemetery was a new experience to me, and it was like being transported from the Philippines to the China itself, wherein modern Chinese architectural designs which were distinctly Filipino thrive. The octagonal land area that the cemetery encompasses is home to the dead relatives of the Chinese citizens in the Philippines. But what was surprising was that the Manila Chinese Cemetery is not just another cemetery where "apartments" and graves are, but it is a full-fledged ghost subdivision where no living soul walk down the streets, save for the maintainers of the Cemetery. By the word subdivision, I meant the carefully designed and constructed "condo units" for dead Chinese relatives, one of which is a three-storey high mausoleum with a metal gate and a patriarchal bust on the side.

The Chinese Architecture

The mausoleum was tastefully done in a typically Chinese architectural design. Typically, Chinese architecture is keener in emphasizing the horizontality of a structure but the mausoleum was tall and imposing in, a clear deviation from the "horizontal emphasis". Horizontal emphasis has basically three characteristics: heavy platform, large roof and unemphasized vertical walls. But in this case, the vertical walls were emphasized although there was the presence of the heavy platform and large roof.

The roof, on the other hand, can be called the sweeping, multi-inclined roof wherein there are two inclined roofs for the three floors of the structure, with these roofs characterized by the curvature at the corners of the roof.

In addition, "enclosure" was also present, which is defined by the "taking up of an entire property but encloses open spaces within itself". Despite the limited space the mausoleum occupies, there is nevertheless little space in which a bust is strategically placed to complete the ownership and architecture of the mausoleum. The presence of a low fence is an evidence to this "enclosed" characteristic in which the fence also emphasizes the balanced design of the mausoleum. What you see on the right side is also present on the left side. Even the chairs and tables present at the left side of the 1st floor of the structure.

From what I remembered in my Manila Chinese cemetery visit, the inside of this mausoleum is particularly detailed and consistent, with green and red dotting most of the designs. There were four huge wooden columns which were painted in plain green which basically supports the whole three floors of the structure. - ALEXIS LAURA FELICIANO

Truly Rizalian

My family used to visit Rizal almost every week in my younger days in search of some property down south and besides the subdivision where I live is practically located at Taytay, Rizal already. Even when I was young, I enjoyed travelling and went places I really wanted to explore. And among the places I would never ever forget was Nemiranda's home in Angono.

I used to hear Nemiranda's name from my tito who was also an artist and when we drove up to Angono and Morong to check on potential property sites, we passed by the Balaw-Balaw restaurant that stands beside a "museum", which apparently turned out to be Nemiranda's home. The only thing I remembered from Nemiranda's home was that it was made of wood, entirely of wood, with huge carved designs on the entrance. This is typical of Rizal, where sculpted dinosaurs would seem to be trudging along some vacant lot for the pleasure of the visitors. But what is not so typical about Nemiranda's home was that the sculpted images can be found on their home entrance and not on the ground. I admit Rizal is a fascinating provice where artists unconsciously thrive everywhere, not just painters but also sculptors who do sculpting just for fun.

Among the images I remember seeing were dinosaur heads which fascinated me for I have never seen a home as weird or as interesting as Nemiranda's home. There was a blue mermaid reclining romantically over the entrance of the Miranda home and although it was a little bit modern and contemporary for a Filipino architectural design, it was still distinctly Filipino with the use of wood for its floor and ceiling and concrete for the walls.

At the same time, it was a bold decision for Nemi Miranda Jr. to use his sculptures as his architectural design as can be seen in his cafe, his home and his family museum. It was both primitive and modern, in terms of architectural design, and primitive with his use of native materials like wood and sawali for the parts of his home. In a society where bricks and cement are used for the appearance and strength of a house, Nemi Miranda Jr. has used his own tricks not only to ensure home safety but also to beautify it. - ALEXIS LAURA FELICIANO