A New Year’s poem: The Gate of the Year, by Marie Louise Haskins

And I said to the man who stood at the gate of the year:

 

“Give me a light, that I may tread safely into the unknown!”

 

And he replied:

 

“Go out into the darkness and put your hand into the Hand of God.

 

That shall be to you better than light and safer than a known way.”

 

 

 

So, I went forth, and finding the Hand of God, trod gladly into the night

 

And He led me toward the hills and the breaking of day in the lone East.

 

 

 

So, heart, be still!

 

What need our little life,

 

Our human life, to know,

 

If God hath comprehension?

 

In all the dizzy strife

 

Of things both high and low

 

God hideth His intention.

 

– M.L. Haskins

 

Happy new year everyone!

A weekend of the arts (2)

I have been having internet problems over the past few hours, and hence I am posting this from a remote location. Today’s post is a continuation of a post from Monday, and this should have been posted earlier. My apologies to readers.

***

Before I continue, I have a brief word about the work of Khavn de la Cruz. Enough ink and bytes will, I am certain, be spent on praising what he does, especially his latest film Mondomanila, now showing at the UP Film Center till Saturday, and I have a good deal of respect for his being prolific. (A source told me that Heights people received comments about four poems of his appearing in the journal’s issues, and it was retorted that he would submit about ten times that amount.) I understand, then, why there are people who are not too impressed by what he does. At the same time, there are people who understand his sensibility, film-wise, and I have come to the conclusion that I am unlike them in some ways.

So this is not my review of his latest not-a-film.

(Though for those who wish to read otherwise, especially Khavn and his friends—hello there!–I can say that it is a send-up of the genre of indie films that focus on poverty in the Philippines. And when I say “send-up”, I mean it. Everything is exaggerated, down to the swearing, the sex, and yes, even the Donna Miranda-choreographed dance number at the end of the film.)

However, it is better and more productive to talk about de la Cruz’s musical output. His sister, who has fronted a band herself, joins him as part of the duo Fando and Lis. The duo started life as an intermission performance at the late, lamented Happy Mondays poetry night, and they form the core of what has for me become the most interesting project the de la Cruz siblings have ever undertaken: the Folk U nights. I have been witness to about three or four of these shindigs and the results were mainly enjoyable.

Hosted by former DJ and photographer Jeannie Sison, the most recent Folk U night had the added attraction of guest singer/songwriter Luke Chow, a Hong Kong-based performer who performed a set that was notable for both his self-deprecating charm and his use of sound dynamics. His work is a discovery. Few male singer/songwriters I have heard of late—even the likes of John Mayer, to whom he could be likened—have left the kind of impression he has. But coming after Fando and Lis, his work could not have been more of a contrast from love songs sometimes sung with gravitas. (The duo, incidentally, moved your correspondent to tears by their rendering of one of the Piano Man’s best songs from his magnum opus.)

This particular installment had the added bonus of having all the performers doing extended sets. This meant, having seen Fando and Lis perform before, mining all of their known original material and adding a few new covers to the mix, including the aforementioned Billy Joel cover and the Counting Crows song “A Long December.” Tao Aves performed a set which was beautiful and almost hypnotic, coming late as it did in the evening to your sleep-deprived correspondent. The older de la Cruz sibling, Lei Acosta, also began her set with a couple of Beatles covers.

***

This brings us to the final review of that weekend. I would not have left the Collective (ducks to avoid shots from Cubao X fans) early enough had I not realized that Feanne’s exhibit program had quite a number of Beatles covers on the songlist. (I left to a friend singing “Let it Be,” and the caterer, a music student, singing “Nessun Dorma” which of course will always be Luciano’s.) It did not feature, as one of the worst openings at Outerspace I’d attended did, ponderous addresses and readings of artists’ statements that were there for the reading on the darn wall.

Feanne Mauricio’s pen and ink sketches were of course a departure from the kind of art that I often see, but there was something almost painfully familiar about these. (She also does watercolors, which in a way reminded me of a particularly Chinese influence, given her preference for floral subject matter.) I did get a hint of the works’ origins—she started with the kind of doodling bored high school kids tend to do. In a way, if it were not for the fact that she found a more discriminating way to craft her art, I see the continuity between those doodles and what was up on the gallery wall that night. But there is no denying that it is a throwback to aesthetics as an a priori. Even with the mandala concept that her series currently on display evokes, the effect is of something that evokes not reflection, but admiration. It is still possible for beauty to shine through bullshit.

The last long weekend—indeed this past week—was a reminder that it was still possible to speak about beauty in art, to let art speak before the reflexive moment by means of style and craft. It was also a depiction of the possibilities other forms of art offered, and the challenges it evoked.

The next week will see a number of interesting events, and I hope we can look forward to writing about them.