If there are exactly two things to read this weekend…

1. For a bit of a summary of the story so far regarding a certain Philippine senator’s mishaps, and why he should be investigated by the Senate Ethics Committee, here is this piece for Rappler by author (and recent winner of the Filipino Readers’ Choice awards) Miguel Syjuco.

2. And because I am not willing to throw my hat into a certain ring at this time, I might as well point readers to a meta-critical piece that draws attention to symptoms of a wider malaise. This is a piece by Nik, who blogs as I Write As I Write.

However, a brief note: one of the writers Nik mentions forgot (upon me reminding him) about the example of NPR as one way of how institutional structures could support local music. Actually, this is not a new suggestion from the Philippine context. Apart from Nik’s explicit mention of NPR, the blogger marocharim said that support for Filipino music must be set by example: if government invested in a genuine public broadcasting service (I assume it is of the BBC/NPR kind), it could set an example for others to follow.

But if there is a model for public broadcasting on radio and elsewhere that should be studied, it should be the NPR–which operates, it turns out, with majority of its funding from outside government.

Three things 25 – 20 August 2012

1. I am pleased to announce that Ramon de Veyra, contributing editor of Esquire Philippines, has a music video. It’s been out on the music channel Myx for some time now, and lucky fans of the band Ciudad got to see it at their album launch in early July, but tonight it is now available online. Watch it below.

Ciudad – There’s A Lonely Road To Sunday Night from Marie Jamora on Vimeo.

2. Speaking of which, last Saturday was a very interesting night. Apart from the unfortunate and increasingly common incidence of smartphone theft at a typical event of the sort, the evening proved to be a very interesting one. A friend of mine from college came over, much to a lot of people’s surprise, and so did a certain Quark Henares. (His ensemble from college, Blast Ople, was the last band to perform that night, I understand, but the lateness of the hour dissuaded me.)

The good thing was, it was very much like what I wrote before about the earlier incarnation of Dope MNL, until the crowd got dramatically bigger and I headed out for a bit to drink some sangria with fruit, being quietly offered at a nearby gallery. (I suspect that the phones were lost when the bigger bands were playing, and fortunately I figured out where to stay–mostly in less crowded parts.)

I left after the set by Ang Bandang Shirley, tired but happy. Before I left, one of my younger friends asked this question, “I was also up since 4:30 AM. What’s your excuse?” I will answer it, because I was too tired to answer at the time.

3. The first Filipino Reader’s Convention was originally a fringe event at the Manila International Book Fair. It was on the same day the band TOI played its last set, and there were only about sixty people in attendance.

This year, the second convention, held in the cozy but elegant confines of the Filipinas Heritage Library, brought a much larger crowd, including writers, students, teachers, and others who were bound by a common love of reading. I was on the program committee, and I woke up at four-thirty to get to Makati early, long before even the first registrant arrived. My task was to help make sure things ran on schedule.

Not a cowbell. Photo by Rhett de Jesus.

All I can say was, keeping time and staying alert all day was an enjoyable challenge. It was made more enjoyable by some of the afternoon’s more interesting panels, and one of these featured writer Carljoe Javier chairing a panel where three authors talked about the books that influenced them. (The other panel was chaired by Paolo Chikiamco. Both are known for their speculative fiction work.)

The conference ended with the first Filipino Reader’s Choice awards. Much to my delight, some writers I got to know these past few years won, including Bebang Siy, whose witty presentation was one of the highlights on the panel I sat in. Mina V. Esguerra, a fictionist and someone I used to see a lot around Colayco Hall in Ateneo, won for her book Fairy Tale Fail, and she brought both her husband and someone whom her Twitter followers know as the “Little Boss.” Chikiamco’s Alternative Alamat anthology also won the award for short fiction compilation, and Miguel Syjuco got the prize for the English novel. His “acceptance speech” to the Facebook announcement reads thus: “This is a fantastic honor! The best I’ve ever received, since Filipino readers are the readers I most care about. THANK YOU, Philippines!”

Yes, it was a long and tiring day, and I am grateful to everyone for making this day one of the more memorable ones this year. And after the ReaderCon, a celebration of books and reading, I went over to the Collective to celebrate other creative endeavors: music and film.

That was my excuse. Hope you could come next year and see what the fuss was all about. I’ll make sure you and everyone else are informed soon enough.

Here’s another glimpse at the second Filipino Reader’s Con, this time from the perspective of writer Eliza Victoria.

And one last announcement: if you haven’t seen the film that has angered some elements of the Left, it’s showing at selected theaters on 12 September.

Three things 24 – 15 August 2012

First, best wishes of the day to everyone I know who graduated from the Assumption College’s two campuses. It is their feast of title today.

1. Last night, I was at the Philippine Educational Theater Association‘s place to see a press conference for their upcoming adaptation of Bona, featuring Eugene Domingo. It opens next week on the 24th of August and runs until September. Excerpts viewed last night look promising, and it should be a reminder especially to those who are not too fond of her film/television work of her roots in the theater. Please visit this page from PETA’s site for ticket information.

On the sidelines of the event, I discovered, once again, that it is a small world after all.

2. Weather permitting, I will be dropping by three events at the Collective in Makati later. Apart from an opening at Vinyl on Vinyl, Kanto will be hosting an experimental short film retrospective featuring John Torres’s work and the work of some other directorsLater that night there will be a gig featuring a very familiar line-up, including the second gig Outerhope will have after their very memorable set at Attraction! Reaction! last weekend. If you missed that set, here is Bel Certeza‘s video of the whole thing.

 

3. Arigato, Hato! is selling their very lovely EP Heartsongs for Humans to raise money for the Philippine National Red Cross, who is helping with disaster relief and preparedness in the country. Please do support this project. This is a wonderful record, as a previous post noted. (Click the link of the album name to order, by the way.)

Revisiting an old piece

I realized that back in March, I anticipated a critique made of a recent Cinemalaya film (the response to which I have re-posted on this blog), and this was during the time I was more closely tied to another side of the musical divide, if you will. (The aspect of the critique I anticipated, a classic Marxist theme, was about the means of production.) What changed?

In one sense, not much. I told a friend that the one critique that had not been raised was the one that dealt with the privileging of a particular independent scene over the others. (Eventually, a left-wing cinephile took up this point in the context of the perceived absence of films set in the punk scene in Manila.) The point was driven home by another colleague from GMA News Online, who reminded a visiting German friend that there was more than one indie music scene in Manila and some of them wouldn’t have anything to do with the others.

The thing that did change though was that I watched Ang Nawawala and I had a chance, some time before that, to hear what Marie Jamora and Ramon de Veyra and others involved had to say. I began to understand why Vinny Tagle’s defense focused on why the “class divide” issue did not matter to the film as it stood. (Another left-wing feminist critic angrily dismissed as “insensitive to the flood victims” even if the article was [quietly!] posted on Pinoy Weekly just as the storm was breaking out.)

Yet what I wrote in March of this year still has some truth. I may as well quote anew what I had to say at the time:

The downside is that as we form connections, the choice must come as to whom we must include or exclude. And no matter how we may make claims to be inclusive or welcoming, there are limits to inclusivity…. The trouble with exclusion is that the choice often takes on an emotive/personal quality, one that shatters relationships, and that is crucial in our context in a greater way than elsewhere.

Eerily prophetic.

And the point came home to me over the weekend when I learned that the Ang Nawawala after-party will not be the only thing going on at the Collective this weekend. Yet I will be happy to be at the after-party. I admit that notwithstanding whatever residual idealism I have, there is something to be said for the kind of music that will be playing at that event.

Someone recently reminded me that one must separate the music from the musicians, but I do feel that this can only happen with the distance of time. For now, let me put it this way. The musicians playing at the after-party are people I respect and appreciate for several reasons. One of these is that they knew not to compromise, but were honest if they did. More importantly, in the words of the title of an upcoming album by one of those bands, they decided to say, “Tama na ang drama.”

And that, dear reader, is why I managed to make a course correction.

Dr. Tolentino’s critique, and Tagle’s response, is indeed an indication of how Ang Nawawala has spurred a discussion that is much needed about the contours of Philippine cinema, especially about the recurrence of attempts to make films in a different voice. (I avoid using the “i-word” here for that reason.) Erwin’s comments are telling–these debates have been going on for a long time. But these debates, much like the slogans for the posters I often see posted around the UP Diliman campus, endure, because in the eyes of some, we have not gotten to where we are about the true purpose of art. Here, Erwin has rightfully brought us back to the first question Tolentino asked: “For whom is art?”

Fortunately, Tagle’s reply did not directly address the ideological weight implicit in Tolentino’s question and critique. If art is meant for the masses, as a means of awakening their consciousness about their suffering and true condition of society and the need to overturn the status quo, then the art of Jamora and her peers have failed, and therefore should be disregarded. This is yet another example of Ricoeur’s characterization of Marx as a master of suspicion, where the suspicion is that art produced by the upper-middle, nay, upper class serves to keep the working class in their present state. (More generally, the suspicion is that the human condition is determined purely by hidden economic forces.)

Jamora’s film is remarkable because for a while there, the particular milieu of cinema from where it emerged was dominated by particularly strong voices that, implicitly or explicitly, privileged a particular understanding of society and art. For a different voice to emerge, from a different frame of reference, is to invite contention. Whether the quality of that expression is good or not is of course a matter of dispute, but whether an alternative understanding emerges to challenge that relationship, or to ask whether we should still persist in begging that question, is turning out to be a bit controversial. I think Jamora did not intend the film to deal with these questions, and I agree with Jerrold Tarog that her “agenda,” if one wishes, was quite simple–to tell a story from where she sits.

That sense of confidence that Ang Nawawala exudes, not only in how it told the story, but in the way the film’s makers compelled people to watch it, is what I suspect Tolentino is wary about. I hope that he and his fellow critics of a particular school would continue to write and criticize art, whatever its provenance. This should not stop Jamora and indeed other filmmakers from challenging the insularity of the counter-establishment that, for all the good it has done to address questions of injustice and inequality, is still singing from the same hymn-sheet of fifty years ago. Since then, the world has moved on.

We Talk About Movies

In his review in Pinoy Weekly, Rolando Tolentino criticizes Ang Nawawala for not possessing any substance beyond the mere glorification of the upper class, projecting their lifestyle as an object of desire for its audience to consume. He says:

Purong pabalat at artifice—purong imahen—ang pelikula…pero hanggang imahen lang, walang substansya maliban sa transformasyon ng elitistang buhay bilang kanasa-nasa sa mas higit na mayoryang umaasam lang ng ganitong buhay.

While I agree that what made Ang Nawawala distinct in this year’s Cinemalaya is its romantic treatment of the elite (unlike, say, The Animals where the elite get their comeuppance simply for being rich), I have a lot of things to say about the accusations he has lobbied against this film, some of which come from a misguided sense of what he thinks independent cinema should be (which ironically, contradicts the very notion of an independent cinema).

To say that this…

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Three things 23 – 6 August 2012

1. Today is the feast of the Transfiguration, whose timing (40 days before the feast of the Holy Cross) and origin (a battle between Christians and Muslims) is something to think about indeed–maybe because what it evokes is also particularly a fiery thing.

If one thinks about it, seeing glory is dangerous and fearful.

2. Last Saturday, I had a chance to meet three of Cinemalaya’s composers. I was at the birthday of Teresa Barrozo, who scored one film each in all of the competition categories. At the party, I met Diwa de Leon, who eventually won one of the best scoring prizes (for Raymond Red’s Kamera Obscura). Teresa Barrozo is one of the more interesting people I know, so it was a pleasure to be at her place for her birthday, along with film critics, directors, theater people, dancers, and others.

Later that evening, at what was apparently a very memorable Attraction! Reaction! gig (featuring moshing to Outerhope‘s “Twenty Years from Now”), I met the other winner (one of three) of the best scoring prize, this time in the New Breed Category, Mikey Amistoso. He was not playing, but he was there to sell both his band’s new album and the CD of his memorable solo project.

When the two worlds, music and film, collide, the result is always interesting.

3. I am listening to Radio Republic now–but there’s just a slight delay to their eight o’clock show. Do tune in to the show, and to their other features this week.