Hubad na Horror: Isang Pagbasa ng Di Ingon ‘Nato (Brandon Relucio & Ivan Zaldarriaga, 2012)


Ang pelikulang Di Ingon Nato ay isang bagong pelikula, nag-compete sa Cinema One Originals 2012. Walang duda ang impluwensya ng mga ‘zombie-post-apocalypse’ na material sa pelikula lalo na ang TV series na The Walking Dead. Nakaka-aliw ng ambisyon nito na gumawa ng isang Pinoy Zombie Movie. At walang duda rin na kung itatabi mo ito sa mga tipo ng The Walking Dead ito’y mae-etsapwera. Mahina ang suspense, and drama, medyo okay lang ang ‘gore’, at masyadong sabog ang kwento.

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Pero nagandahan pa rin ako sa Di Ingon ‘Nato. Iba ang atake nito.

Sa pagpapanood ng Di Ingon ‘Nato kailangan na i-consider na walang iisang horror genre, parating may cultural context ang mga ito. Ang iba’t ibang lipunan ay may kanya-kanyang mga ‘horrors’ or anxieties na pwedeng makita sa mga klase ng kwento na pinu-produce nila at kinu-consume. Ang mga horror movies sa US at iba pang ‘developed countries’ ay madalas tungkol sa nakakasakal na sistema ng subra-sobrang individualized na lipunan. Mga kwento tungkol sa mga teenage psychopaths na walang mga kaibigan, mga serial killers na merong malungkot or traumatic na childhood. Sa mga bansa naman tulad ng Pilipinas ang mga kwento ay tungkol sa anxieties ng pre-modernity. So ang kwento ay umiikot sa mga aswang, sumpa, kulam, multo. Kung sa ‘developed countries’ malaki ang role na ginagampanan ng police or justice (state) para maresolba ang conflict sa Pilipinas naman ang pinakapangkontra ng mga pwersa ng kadiliman ay relihiyon. Kaya trip ng mga taga-‘developed countries’ ang mga horror stories galing Japan, Korea, at Taiwan. Yan din ang dahilan bakit nagustohan nila ang mga pelikula ni Yam Laranas (Sigaw, The Road) na hindi naman naging ganun na kasikat sa bansa kung ikukumpara mo sa mga horror movies ni Chito Roño.

Ang post-apocalyptic zombie genre ay isang bagong phenomenon sa ‘developed countries’. Kung lumabas ito, say 10 years ago, walang makaka-gets nito. Siempre dyan si George A. Romero at ang kanyang mga likha pero isa lang ito sa maraming subgenre ng horror noon. Ngayon, ang end-of-the-world genre ay muling umuusbong at ang zombie movie ay isa lang sa mga permutations nito. Mula sa The Day After Tomorrow, 2012, Children of Men, nagiging uso ang mga ganitong klaseng kwento. Bakit kaya? Noon pagkatapos ng World War Two lumabas ang 1984 ni George Orwell, Brave New World ni Aldous Huxley, at noong Cold War naman ang Watchmen ni Alan Moore. Lumabas ang mga texto na to para ipakita ang matinding anxieties sa mga panahon na yon. So ano na ang problema ngayon? Sa tingin ko umuusbong ang mga end-of-the-world texts na ito sa pinakasimpleng dahilan na wala na silang problema. Or at least yun ang impression sa pinaniniwala sa kanila. Masyado nang boring ang buhay sa First World, at ang kakulangan ng ‘human drama’ na ito ay pinupunan ng mga shows tulad ng The Walking Dead.

Ngayon bakit hit ang The Walking Dead sa Pilipinas? Sa simpleng dahilan na ang maliit na porsyento ng populasyon ng bansa ay nakakarasan din ng dullness ng marangyang buhay. Ang mga taong tumatangkilik ng The Walking Dead ay yung may cable TV, or internet at laptop lang. Mga kabataan at middle-class. Hindi na swak sa taste nila ang mga ‘pre-modern’ horror stories ala Peque Gallaga na kinalakihan ng kanilang mga magulang, at patuloy na pinapanood ng mas nakakaraming Filipino. Maganda ang Di Ingon ‘Nato kasi ang sinasubvert nito ang estilo ng The Walking Dead. Bilang indie film pinaninindigan pa rin nito ang pagiging cinema of the subaltern. Kwento ito ng zombie apocalypse pero hindi tungkol sa mga (sub)urban middle-class na nagka letse-letse ang buhay dahil sa mga zombies kundi tungkol sa mga rural lower class na mahirap na nga ang buhay pinalala pa ng zombies na lumusob sa tahimik na baryo nila. Isa pa, ang pelikula ay Bisaya. Nasa sentro at hindi sa gilid ang vernacular, lahat ay nagsasalita ng Bisaya kabilang ang makilalang artista tulad ni Rez Cortes at Mercedes Cabral.

Madaling na overrun ang buong baryo, sa katapusan, tinakpan nalang ng isang bidang babae ang mata ng kasama niyang survivor na bata habang hinihintay ang tiyak na kamatayan. Ito na marahil ang pinakahubad na horror movie na napanood ko. Pinapakita ang mga buhay ng mga nasa margins (regional/vernacular/rural/lower class) ay walang redemption, walang salvation.

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Movement Along The Margin(alized)s: Colorum (Jobin Ballesteros , 2009) and Emergence of The Filipino Road Film


On The Road for Road Movies

The road movie is one of the most prominent subgenre in cinema. All the major directors at least tried their hand at this narrative structure; David Lynch has Wild at Heart, Terrence Malick has Badlands, Federico Fellini has La Strada, Ridley Scott has Thelma and Louise, Walter Salles has The Motorcycle Diaries, the list goes. The origins of the road movie would always lead back to Hollywood and the Western genre. After the Yankees ‘civilized’ the ‘Wild Wild West’ and dozens of cowboys and Indians stories they produced along the way, the postwar generation of 1950s were looking for something new. With the economic boom the US experienced after the war, younger people were able to afford automobiles and go on adventures to the ‘Westcoast’ using the highway infrastructure already in place.

A landmark cultural text that emerged was Jack Kerouac’s novel, On The Road which heavy influenced the Beatniks and the subsequent production of road movies. Walter Salles recently adapted On The Road (2012) into cinema. It is interesting to ask why didn’t the road movie didn’t spurn out localized versions in the Philippines during the time when US had political control over the islands. The answer is simple; the country didn’t experience a postwar economic boom, automobiles didn’t become affordable, and lastly there were barely roads aside from the fact that the entire colony is in ruins after the war (unlike the mother country).

There have been a number of Filipino road movies recently produced but in this essay I will focus on Jobin Ballesteros’ Colorum (2009). The said movie competed in Cinemalaya Independent Film Festival and this should be expected since without the cheaper digital filmmaking boom of the recent years, road movies would never have surfaced. These new indie road movies would bring new light to the discourse of Filipino postcolonial condition because of their different treatment of spaces and the people moving in them. It could even be said that road films like Colorum represent marginality even in a venue like Cinemalaya since the organizer’s official logo shows blue, yellow, and red boat sails.

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Going South

The opening scene we see Simon (Alfred Vargas) being interviewed by a panel of higher police officers. He explains what it means for him to be a policeman, the dangers, and his responsibility to his society. He answered conservative and ‘kiss ass’ answers but he stutters and greatly lacks confidence. He realized this and leaves the room hating himself. Then, his ‘Ninong’(Archi Adamos), which is a police colonel, assures him everything will be okay. By this time next week he will be promoted. The next scenes show Pedro (Lou Veloso), an disoriented old man walking around the city. He goes to a house looking for a man. The landlady tells him the person left a year ago and gave him the new address which is all the way in Leyte. Pedro looks the bus station, where he can get a ride to the provinces. Simon is next seen checking out a house for rent and immediately calling his fiancé, a nurse based in the US, telling her he found the perfect place for their business. He then goes on with his day, driving his colorum FX for extra income.

Night falls in the city and Pedro is still lost until Simon found him in the sidewalk and tells him there’s still room. Pedro absentmindedly got into the car. All the other passengers eventually got off and Simon asked Pedro where his headed, since his heading for the garage. Naturally Pedro replied he doesn’t have an idea. Simon felt pity and decidedly to help the old man and gave him a ‘libreng sakay’. They went in circles and started arguing until Simon hit a pedestrian. The man was knocked unconscious and bleeding. Simon panicked and Pedro became hysterical. Simon points his service firearm to Pedro to shut him up. They got into the car and left the scene. Simon called his ninong and told what happened. His ninong got furious since Simon is up for a promotion and this will certainly ruin everything, besides the FX is licensed under his name. A colonel operating a colorum vehicle isn’t a very good thing. Simon is advised to go back to their province (Cebu) with the car and cool down for a while. Everything will be okay since teritoryo natin doon. Their relatives will then ‘take care’ of Pedro, the only witness to the crime. Simon handcuffs Pedro and together they head for the south.

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By now, Colorum has established itself as a ‘running away from crime’ road movie. The hit and run incident will continue to drive the plot forward and haunt the characters. Regarding the postcolonial discourse the film tackles the Third World metropolitan-and-others. This binary system is explored thorough the film in a very subtitle manner. When they ran out of money, Simon decided to stop by some friends in Daet. His friends rent out surf boards to tourists. Everyone was glad to see Simon again. They decided to stay for the night. Over drinks, one of Simon’s friends remarked, “Buti naman napadalaw ka dito sa atin ulit. Halos wala na kaming balita mula nang umasenso ka.” Metropolitans use to serve as the center of colonial power and capital. However, after the liberation of former colonies, metropolitans still maintained the methods and standards left by the colonial experience. These capital cities now serve as centers of internal colonialism or imperialism. Simon is praised for making it in the big city, when in fact he has a meager policeman’s salary and is involved in illicit economic activities like driving a colorum vehicle. After the crime, they left to the provinces since there are less chances of justice being served. Later they met a pastor would got rich by operating a community church. The man told them he also grew up in Manila but went to the province to look for a job. Simon then remarked, “Baliktad ah.”

Keep Coming Back to Manila

This Manila-Others binary could also be the primary reason why road movies took a long time to emerge in the country. Since Manila is where most of the capital is, it only logical that movies are made in and by people in Manila. The narratives that are products of this arrangement also show a Manila-centric ideology. When a probisyano/probisyana tries her luck in the big city, she travels by boat. During pre-colonial times, coastal and river settlements developed rapidly because of the strategic advantage the body of water provides (food, transportation, and trade). The colonizers further utilized these settlements and created centers of colonial rule. Until now, the major cities in the country are near bodies of water; Manila, Cebu, Davao, Bacolod, Iloilo, etc. Natives who resisted colonial rule fled to the mountains and preserved most of their indigenous culture. The lowland-coastal city is not only the center of development but also of ‘civilization’ or you if like ‘culture’ (e.g. schools, health facilities, major religious structures, state offices, amusement including cinema). People in remote inland/highland/rural areas are the living embodiment of the subaltern: naive, fatalistic, and backward people needing guidance.

The level of marginalization is further extended considering the country’s place in the globalized world. Simon and Pedro later learned that the guy they hit was an American citizen. The Philippine state doubles it efforts to track down those who are responsible and even providing a reward. The US then sent FBI personnel to help since the lack of leads to the case; they suspect it to be an act of ‘terrorism’. Simon’s ninong calls him to hasten things up. Their relatives will now meet them in Ormoc not Mactan.

With after a conflict between the two, Simon found out Pedro is an ex-convict released after 30 years because of presidential amnesty given as a gift to prisoners who are also senior citizens by the President in celebration of the Independence Day. Pedro willingly cooperated with Simon since his son’s address is in Tolosa, Leyte. Simon got pissed off but when out of the route towards Ormoc and tried their luck looking for Pedro’s son who most likely disowned him, much to his ninong’s disappointment. When they reached the place, Pedro’s son moved again, this time to Pangasinan. When they arrived in Ormoc and Simon was about to give Pedro to be ‘taken care of’, he changed his mind and told Pedro, “Uuwi na tayo.”

Ambivalent Landscapes

Colorum is not just about the moral struggle of two subalterns but like the early road movie, the plot was used to give a social commentary on the landscapes outside the Capital and the people who move in these spaces. Along the way they met several peculiar and ‘pugartorial’ characters, a frustrated ‘nationalist’ writer (who writes nude, and has pictures of Rizal, Bonifacio, Jacinto, Mabini, Balagatas, Ninoy Aquino, and other ‘important writers’), a teen age girl going to the next town for an abortion, and a man who grew rich by pretending to be a pastor. Along the trip we see several ‘national’ symbols but when we take a deeper look actually have very ambivalent meanings. There are several shots of monuments whether by Rizal or any other ‘local’ hero, these historical monuments are juxtaposed by religious figures from different places as well. On Simon’s dashboard there is a Sto. Niño (Cebu, Visayas, province), later Pedro lends him a Black Nazarene (Manila, Quiapo?) t-shirt. Even the vehicle itself has multiple layers of meanings; a colorum Toyota Tamaraw FX.

They also pass by signs of progress established by the state; the vast San Juanico Bridge and the RO-RO ferry system. They also go by natural landmarks constructed to be national symbols particularly Mayon Volcano. But I think the richest texts are the McArthur Landing and the Romualdez Ancestral Mansion in Tacloban. McArthur and company are made of bronze and are intentionally built larger and taller than a life-size sculpture is suppose to be. Thus these American military officers, who ‘returned’ to ‘liberate’ the country in WWII, appear ‘larger-than-life’.

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They didn’t have money and sneaked into the mansion/tourist spot for a place to sleep. We see the glamour Imelda (who was supported by Marcos, whose dictatorship was also supported by US during the Cold War) built for herself. The mansion has murals, some of her family, some of religious themes. There was a shot showing religious paintings but the walls where they were displayed are made off indigenous materials. The wall appears like a banig. The Ferdinand-Imelda marriage is another feature of cultural politics of the country. It a Luzon-Visayas political team up which is still done until now (e.g. Arroyo/Negros-Macapagal/Pampanga, Roxas/Capiz-Sanchez/Manila, etc.). This clearly illustrates the geopolitics of the country which was a remnant of colonization (Luzon then Visayas then Mindanao).

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Confronting Postcolonialism

Colorums use to mean religious-political armed resistance against American rule (labeled as insurgents) but now they refer to anything illegal particularly illegal public vehicles that doesn’t go to the trouble (in the real sense of the word) of getting a permit from the government; a classic case of othering. Now, Ballesteros uses the colorum and the road movie format to again challenge the cultural hegemony. Indigenizing the road movie genre could also be a way of reviving the various epic traditions that existed in the island before colonization. Traditions which have been covertly or overtly marginalized by foreign literary forms, particularly Spanish theatrical forms. Until now, Filipino movies contain clear influence of komedya, sinakulo, saruwela, and bodabil.

In the end of the movie, Simon decided to face his crime and surrender. While in front of the police station, Pedro grabs his gun and fires at his thigh. Simon is in shock and in pain as Pedro instructs him, something like, “I will claim the responsibility. Get the cash reward, marry your fiancé, and build a life together. But please look for my son in Pangasinan and convince him that I’m not an evil person.”

Pedro goes into the police station holding the gun, one cop misreads his movements and shoots him, and others also open fired. Pedro dies in the streets. The final blow of the film is the concluding shots when the focus is Pedro’s body, his arm being pulled by a policeman, and the last split-second showed the photo of the Ninoy Aquino (another American sponsored hero like Rizal) in the tarmac. Before leaving the car, Simon got hysterical asking “Anong ginagawa mo?! Anong ginagawa mo?!”

Pedro simply said, “Bibigyan kita ng libreng sakay.”

Ballesteros’ film is a triumph because this is exactly what is it does.

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Documentary/Pornography/History


When Machiavelli first published his book The Prince, it caused a great scandal and was met with violent attacks from different groups especially the clergy, declaring it a blasphemous work. My philosophy teacher titled the discussion of Machiavelli and his core ideas as ‘Politics as Porn’. The gist of The Prince is different ways of effectively maintaining power by a monarch or political leader. During this time, Italy was greatly divided making it prone to other European powers and Machiavelli’s intention in writing the book was for a strong leader to emerge and unite the peninsula. Other people found the contents of the book revolting since it reveals things various people in power are already doing, including the clergy. The Prince is a work of pornography since it shows something that should be kept hidden. Now, pornography strictly refers to sex and its representation in mass media. A material is pornographic, when it’s primary purpose is purely sexual gratification, it has no relevance to the plot, unnecessary, and thus should be censored because it will cause moral degradation of viewers. The Marcoses and the Marcos regime are closely tied to the establishment of both pornography and censorship in the country. Imelda is a 2003 documentary exploring the personality of the infamous former first lady, and I have a reason to believe that Ramona S. Diaz’ film is pornographic.

The documentary is made of interviews of Imelda and both her friends and critics, and some archival footages when she was still first lady. The film is basically Imelda according to Imelda, occasionally juxtaposed or contrasted to Imelda according to families and friends and Imelda according to enemies and critics. The film also shows the life story of Imelda highlighting key events from WWII to meeting Marcos to building of grand projects. The documentary often blurs its intention, when Imelda talks, at times it could be read as a tribute and sometimes as a critique if not outright utilization of ‘carnivalesque humor’ (especially when she was explaining her ‘philosophy’). But in order to arrive at a conclusion of the film’s intention one must take into consideration some of the technical aspects. First, the documentary format, a format almost alien to Filipino viewing public except probably the members of the intelligentsia. And second, English as the primary medium, when personalities talk in Filipino or any other non-English language/dialect it has English subtitles. The film was made to me shown outside the country, even winning an award at the Sundance Film Festival. Diaz also happens to be based in the US. Her carnivalesque treatment’s effect is not very different from Brocka, Bernal and co.’s aesthetics of poverty approach towards international film circuits, in sense that it capitalizes on rampant exoticism of the ‘Other’. And like many material that enter the US, the film’s stand is overtly conservative and uncritical. The role that US played in Marcos’ (and other US friendly dictators during the Cold War) rise and staying in power was not discussed.

Former Philippines President Ferdinand Marcos & Imelda Marcos
photo credits: http://carmenreyesmakeup.com/2011/06/30/imelda-marcos-hair/

The film is pornographic because it dwells with the personality of the abuser not the structures of abuse giving its viewers, both Filipino and non-Filipino who may or may not had direct experience of Martial Law and its ultimate and ruthless forms, a sense of personal relief and gratification. But the thing is Imelda is real, and Martial Law was real. There were two periods when soft porn or ‘bold’ movies dominated the Filipino movie houses: at the imposition of Martial Law (early 1970s) and during its certain collapse (mid 1980s). These materials aimed to distract the mass population of the realities of the times; Imelda is an extension of this genre but in the post-EDSA period where most of the structures Marcos built are still in place (best example being an agency of censorship, MTRCB). Imelda is just another film that prevents Filipinos the opportunity of political maturity. This movie could have been differently read in a different context. But when one creates a movie like this in a time when various issues (e.g. human rights violations, cronies, hidden wealth, etc) of Martial Law hasn’t been completely resolved this movie is just pathetic, insensitive, and pornographic.


My review of E. San Juan, Jr. latest poem collection posted on his blog

THE PHILIPPINES MATRIX PROJECT

A Review of

Bukas Luwalhating Kay Ganda by E. San Juan, Jr. (Philippine Cultural Studies Center, 2013)

by
Eric P. AblajonCoverBUKAS

E. San Juan, Jr. is an established name. It is a name not only known in the country but also around the world. The collection “Bukas, Lualhating Kay Ganda” is only his fourth books of poems in his long career. He has new poems, but you should know up front, he is not doing anything revisionist or fashionably new.

He is more known as a literary critic and cultural theorist, and his body work in the said fields is impressive not to mention more massive. Some of his recent books include Rizal in Our Time (revised edition Anvil); Balikbayang Sinta: An E. San Juan Reader (Ateneo University Press); In the Wake of Terror (Lexington), Critique and Social Transformation (Mellen); From Globalization to National Liberation (U.P. Press), US Imperialism…

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Isang Alay


‘Unable to pay tuition, UPM freshie commits suicide’

Hindi kita kilala,
hindi ko nakita ang iyong mukha
or narinig ang iyong mga paniniwala
pero nang nalaman ko ang
balita na hindi mo na kinaya,
isang munting bahagi ng
aking kamalayan ay gumuho
dahil nabawasan ang ating
lumiliit na lipi
ng mga interesado
sa
Tao

At bakit siya gumagawa
ng kasaysayan para lamang
kalimutan

At bakit siya gumagawa
ng mga mito para mapanatili
lamang ang sanidad

At bakit sila gumagawa
ng sining at digmaan

At bakit hindi nila
matangap na kailangan
nila ang isa’t isa.

At bakit niya ginagawa
ang mga ginagawa niya

maraming
nalungkot, naiyak,
nagalit, natakot
at hindi kaya ng
aking tula nabigyan
silang lahat ng tinig.
Paumanhin pero
mas mabuti nang hindi
ko subukang makipagsabayan
sa mga taong paparatangan kang

sira-ulo,
kulang ng pananampalataya,
walang tiwala sa sarili,
duwag,
dahil pinili mong iwanan
ang mundong minsan
mong pinangarap
na pag-aralan,
tulungan,
at baguhin.

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photo credits: http://www.rappler.com/move-ph/23894-up-student-kills-self-unpaid-tuition

One might say that the ancient right to take life or let live was replaced by a power to foster life or disallow it to the point of death. This is perhaps what explains that disqualification of death which marks the recent wane of the rituals that accompanied it. That death is so carefully evaded is linked less to a new anxiety which makes death unbearable for our societies than to the fact that the procedures of power have not ceased to turn away from death. In the passage from this world to the other, death was the manner in which a terrestrial sovereignty was relieved by another, singularly more powerful sovereignty; the pageantry that surrounded it was in the category of political ceremony. Now it is over life, throughout its unfolding, that power establishes its dominion; death is power’s limit, the moment that escapes it; death becomes the most secret aspect of existence, the most “private.” It is not surprising that suicide-once a crime, since it was a way to usurp the power of death which the sovereign alone, whether the one here below or the Lord above, had the right to exercise-became, in the course of the nineteenth century, one of the first conducts to enter into the sphere of sociological analysis; it testified to the individual and private right to die, at the borders and in the interstices of power that was exercised over life. This determination to die, strange and yet so persistent and constant in its manifestations, and consequently so difficult to explain as being due to particular circumstances or individual accidents, was one of the first astonishments of a society in which political power had assigned itself the task of administering life. – Michel Foucault

Mga Dahilan at Damdamin


1. Mag-ingat sa taong isinusumpa
na siya’y nakapaglakad na sa ulap.

2. Ang binata kahit
hindi pa naman madasaling
tao ay bumibigkas na
tungkol sa Langit
tuwing naririnig ang tinig
ng kanyang iniibig.

Ang dalaga kahit
hindi pa rin makabasag ng baso
ay hinahalintulad na ang pangungulila
sa kanyang manliligaw sa
mga hiyaw at apoy ng Impierno.

Baka ito ang mga dahilan
bakit tayo naliligaw
sa kung saan-saan,
ang dalawang kasalanan;
paggamit ng mga
lugar na hindi pa natin napupuntahan
at
pagsamba sa mga bagay
na sa atin ay walang kinalaman
tulad ng maamong buwan.

3. kahit
nakabasa ng libro sa pisika
ang makata
ay tumutula pa rin
tungkol sa mga kislap
ng mga tala
siya mismo ang lumilikha.