Monday, December 04, 2017

the cold still lingers in summer

Anti-Love Poem
Grace Paley

Sometimes you don’t want to love the person you love
you turn your face away from that face
whose eyes lips might make you give up anger
forget insult     steal sadness of not wanting
to love     turn away then turn away     at breakfast
in the evening     don’t lift your eyes from the paper
to see that face in all its seriousness     a
sweetness of concentration     he holds his book
in his hand     the hard-knuckled winter wood-
scarred fingers     turn away     that’s all you can
do     old as you are to save yourself     from love.


We all have reasons to turn our faces away, even if sometimes we would expect that no matter the direction, we would still see what we have worked so hard to refuse to see. But that is how things go on from now. Decisions are made, and we must stick to them. Else, the fear of returning to the very beginning.  Else, the pains both necessary and unnecessary.

Saturday, November 18, 2017


After reading many of the searing reviews of "Justice League" three days ago, I went to the cinema to watch the movie for myself, with the excitement of a trip to the dentist. You'd go anyway even if you know you'd end up getting hurt because you've been through it all. But, boy, was I surprised. I liked it from start to finish. "Justice League", directed by Zack Snyder, who I think from now on should be a cinematographer instead, has the director’s staple sins: the addiction to slow-motion, the painfully obvious male gaze (do we really have to see Diana’s behind when people are having a conversation?), the third act that always falls into the DC Extended Universe (DCEU) movie rote of unsubtle CGI spectacle. Yes, there are hurried jumps from one scene to another, typical of a Snyder attention span, but I don’t quite agree with the incoherence complaint. I think it’s a sentiment that’s overblown, attributed to the frustration to finally see a great DC movie (next to Wonder Woman and Nolan's Dark Knight trilogy)—especially a Justice League movie—only to end up not being rewarded with one’s expectations. In fact, the movie is the most coherent in all DCEU movies in that it has the most simplistic story to tell. It’s so simple you can it sum it up in one sentence: Bruce and Diana have to round up a team to prevent three magical boxes from merging and stop an invasion that would literally demolish the human world. Each of the team has enough character this time—not just grim and brooding. Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman remains a wonder. She is a delight in every scene. Ezra Miller’s the Flash and Jason Momoa’s (ultra-scruffy) Aquaman got me looking forward to their solo outings. Cyborg and Batman though looked tired all the time, I feel sorry for them. As for Superman…(?) The dynamics here reminded me of the 90’s Bruce Timm Justice League animated series on Cartoon Network wherein its unsophistication makes it charming. It is quite refreshing, too, compared to the lofty mythologizing, heavy-handed philosophical musings of the previous Snyder-DC films (let’s forget about Ayer’s “Suicide Squad”). Even Danny Elfman’s score goes for the classics, closely honing on John Williams’ Superman theme and his very own Tim Burton-Batman theme. But, of course, he manages to slip in there Hans Zimmer’s now iconic piano tinkling for Superman and electric cello bursts for Wonder Woman, and I do not really mind. When I left the cinema, I totally forgot what the critics had said. I had an awesome ride. That ending got me excited, and that is something I rarely say for a DCEU movie. We need to see more. This franchise needs to be saved.

[ photo borrowed from this site ]

call for manuscripts to the 57th silliman university national writers workshop

The Silliman University National Writers Workshop is now accepting applications for the 57th Silliman University National Writers Workshop to be held from May 7 to May 18, 2018 at the Silliman University Rose Lamb Sobrepeña Writers Village and the Silliman University campus.

This Writers Workshop is offering ten fellowships to promising writers in the Philippines who want to have a chance to hone their craft and refine their style. Fellows will be provided housing, a modest stipend, and a subsidy to partially defray costs of their transportation.

To be considered, applicants should submit manuscripts on or before January 5, 2018. (Extension to the deadline will not be made.) All manuscripts should comply with the instructions stated below. (Failure to do so will automatically eliminate their entries). Applicants for Fiction and Creative Nonfiction fellowships should submit three to four (3-4) entries.

Applicants for Poetry fellowships should submit a suite of seven to ten (7-10) poems. Applicants for Drama fellowships should submit at least one (1) One-Act Play. Each fiction, creative nonfiction, or drama manuscript should not be more than 20 pages, double spaced. We encourage you to stay well below the 20 pages. Aside from manuscripts in Poetry, Fiction, Creative Nonfiction, and Drama that should be written in English, the Workshop this year will be accepting manuscripts for Balak (poetry in Binisaya). Applicants should submit a suite of seven to 10 (7-10) Balak entries with their English translations.

Manuscripts should be submitted in five (5) hard copies. They should be computerized in MS Word, double-spaced, on 8.5 x 11 inches bond paper, with approximately one-inch margin on all sides. Please indicate the category (FICTION, CREATIVE NONFICTION, POETRY, ONE-ACT DRAMA, or BALAK) immediately under the title. The page number must be typed consecutively (e.g., 1 of 30, 2 of 30, and so on) at the center of the bottom margin of each page. The font should be Book Antiqua or Palatino, and the font size should be 12.

The applicant’s real name and address must appear only in the official application form and the certification of originality of works, and must not appear on the manuscripts. Manuscripts should be accompanied by the (1) official application form, (2) a notarized certification of originality of works, and (3) the form letter of recommendation from a literature professor or an established writer. All requirements must be complete at the time of submission.

Send all applications or requests for information to the Department of English and Literature, attention Assistant Professor Lady Flor Partosa, Workshop Coordinator, 1/F Katipunan Hall, Silliman University, 6200 Dumaguete City. For inquiries, email us at or call 035-422-6002 loc. 350.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

bored boys

Kip Oebanda's "Bar Boys", the last Pista ng Pelikulang Pilipino movie I've seen, is a fine example of a missed opportunity. It features three boys and their painfully obvious travails in law school. I know there are four boys in the marketing materials, but this spoiler is not the worst of it. It doesn't help that the movie seems to be manufactured out of a pile of checklist exercises. Boisterous barkada. Check! Daddy issues. Check! Gay professor. Check! Funny bisaya. Check! Terminal illness. Check! Important speech. Check check check! There are a lot of stories out there that handle multiple narrative threads, but in this film the various strands are obvious, and they are weighing down the whole point of the film—which should be about perseverance and friendship. And the acting is strangely wooden. The saving grace here are the supporting actors like Odette Khan and Mailes Kanapi. I hope these two would get to be leads in movies someday. Lastly, this film is riddled with stereotypes. It's a chore enduring every second of it. And just like the many archaic laws of our country that are never amended, "Bar Boys" feels outdated.

[ photo borrowed from this site ]

Monday, November 06, 2017

please come in

Nothing prepared me for the boldness and elegance of Prime Cruz’s “Ang Manananggal sa Unit 23B.” It has all the elements of a regular horror flick—a recognizable myth, a moody atmosphere, two attractive leads. What veers it away from standard Filipino work of this genre is how it entirely rewrites what we expect. There are long deliberate pauses here that would make an audience uncomfortable, especially those who have been conditioned by jump scares, screams, and cries. It is no easy task, but Ryza Cenon’s Jewel and Martin del Rosario’s Nico carry these silences into a heightened performance, such as an exquisite display of an arched back here or a slumped shoulder there. It is all about the body. For a movie with a mythological self-segmenting creature in its title, it should be about the body. And one can identify that this movie leans heavily on vampire retellings like Tomas Afredson’s “Let The Right One In”—primal, brooding, sensual. It is unapologetic on how it handles sexuality, particularly female sexuality, which is a welcome surprise in this country still steeped in machismo and misogyny. This is evident in Jewel’s transformation, how her sprouting of wings is like giving birth to a new life. Although it is difficult for her, considering her newfound attraction to Nico, her decision to still go after fresh meat is wholly her own. In the Age of Trump and Duterte, the urge to inject a political slant into entertainment has become more recurring than ever that it now resembles some form of moral duty. “Manananggal” is not spared from these intimations; it has chosen a hot timely crisis (of which I won’t divulge), and yet for all its good intentions, it has not fully enriched or broadened the discussion to greater effect. In fact, it has muddled “the important politicized idea” even further. But thinking about it now, it looks like that is the point of the movie. The whole world is now a mess, and for most people who do not know what to do, aside from ignoring or screaming at each other, the wise thing to do is to straighten up our act and pick up the pieces—such as the viscera of a manananggal’s latest victim.

[photo borrowed from this site]

Monday, September 25, 2017

right on target

Mikhail Red’s “Birdshot” is a work of art. The film centers on 14-year-old Maya who lives with her father Diego in some undisclosed farmland. Diego’s wife died in childbirth, and he is getting old, so he tries everything he can to teach Maya the ways of living—and that includes hunting. One day, with her shaggy black dog Bala, Maya finds her way to the sanctuary. She needs to prove to herself that she could stand on her own, and this brings her to an irreversible decision that changes everything. She unknowingly shot a haribon, a Philippine Eagle that is now close to extinction due to urban developments, illegal logging, and forest burning. This is where police officer Mendoza and his rookie subordinate Domingo come in to investigate. It’s hard giving justice to its brilliance without spoiling it. Even if “Birdshot” utilizes the methods of a police procedural and the coming-of-age story, it propels forward to places that you’d never expect, to situations that would unnerve and jolt you. Red’s direction is close to perfect. He has the polish of Chito Roño, poetic flourishes of Lav Diaz, the critical sensibilities of Marilou Diaz-Abaya. The absence of the specificities of time and place gives “Birdshot” an almost mythic feel. Everything's not what it seems to be—scarecrows seem to come alive, shadowy figures lurk in corners—and this is best portrayed by how complacency and good intentions of a higher system can actually have deeper, more sinister motives. Idealistic minds could get corrupted. In one scene, John Arcilla’s Mendoza tells his partner, “Trabaho lang yan… iinom lang natin yan”, and you cannot help but think of our country’s nightmares that consume our waking moments—like the innocent 17-year-old Kian Delos Santos who was killed by police officers last August 16. As the end credits rolled, I suddenly felt all the wrong decisions this country has made, and just broke down and cried. Fiction creeping into reality is nothing new. But when the distinctions are blurred or altogether removed, when life becomes stranger than fiction, it is high time we stand up, speak out, and remedy the situation. “Birdshot” is that eagle’s cry we all need to hear.

[ photo borrowed from this site ]

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

beyond words

Jason Paul Laxamana’s “100 Tula Para Kay Stella” looks like it is the only movie in the Pista ng Pelikulang Pilipino lineup that aims to entice the rom-com crowd. I thought I would be naturally repulsed, even with its premise of love and literature, but it should be noted that it is more than that. Framed by early 2000’s college academic years, the story revolves around JC Santos’ Fidel, who has a speech impediment and who falls for the devil-may-care attitude of Bela Padilla's Stella. He begins to write poetry and plans to gift her with a compilation of his works. Although the titular 100 poems leave a lot to be desired and could’ve been a chance to showcase our country’s rich verse literature, the device works in that it mirrors the ups and downs of the plot (albeit too conveniently). Winning someone with poetry seems quaint at this day and age (it doesn’t work, trust me), a formula probably culled from old Hollywood romantic comedies, but you could really dismiss this complaint because of the chemistry of the two leads. Bela Padilla is that type of actress who can embody a character without the usual self-awareness that plagues her contemporary. In this film, she truly is Stella—pained but passionate, indecisive but headstrong—and you'll understand why JC Santos’ naive Fidel would go to great lengths to win her despite her flaws. And above all, one thing that separates this movie from the rest of the millennial love stories out there is this: Just like poetry, its emotions are honest and raw, and what we may learn from them may not necessarily be what we want to have. The truth does not only reveal; it also hurts.

[ photo borrowed from this site ]

from eight to X

Last Wednesday, September 13, new phones from Cupertino are finally unveiled to the world. Meet the iPhone X (pronounced as iPhone “ten”) and its younger siblings the iPhone 8 and the iPhone 8 Plus.

I personally find it funny that Apple branded its latest and most advanced iPhone with the a fancy, pompous Roman numeral “X”. Obviously it is a nod to the iPhone’s 10th anniversary in the tech world, but this move just made all the Galaxy S8s, S8 Pluses, and Note 8s of Samsung this year look inferior. Which is a brilliant marketing move. If the accompanying numbers really do matter, I encourage Samsung to name their next phones with 10 to the power of 10. Or why not jump ahead to 200? You know, like, Samsung Galaxy S10 to the nth power. Or Samsung Galaxy Note200. Let the numbers war begin! But, of course, if numbers are all the craze, they have no match to Nokia 3310 or 5110.

Kidding aside, the design language of the latest iPhones has not differed that much from its previous iterations. I like it. It remains gorgeous and easy on the eyes. But looking at my iPhone 6 right now, which was first released 2014, just makes me think I am holding a relic from a distant past. It feels ancient. It has been with me for a long, long time already, and as much as I’d like to upgrade my phone, these new editions have prices that are incredibly steep and daunting. How am I supposed to get one of these? Sell a kidney? That’s a thought. Or I might as well consider Samsung’s Galaxy Note 8. At least I’d get it for half a kidney.

[ photo borrowed from this site ]

Monday, September 18, 2017

below budget

Remember that secret jail cell in a Manila police station that illegally detained people for ransom last April? CHR discovered that. Remember that motion to bring back death penalty which somehow only favored the punishment of the underprivileged? CHR challenged that. There are several cases more, which should be enough to put into anyone’s minds how the CHR functions in this country.

Now, under the influence of Duterte, our government slashed the CHR’s budget to a puny P1,000 for an entire year not because they are not doing their jobs. They cut it down so abhorrently because they are doing their jobs really, really well. CHR is on the right track to discovering one of the biggest problems that continues making this nation sick. Whether you like it or not, CHR proved to be the light in the Duterte administration’s darkness.

When these congressmen are asked what their reasons are for voting yes to that decision, my world crumbled when I learn these people basically do not know the mandate of the Commission on Human Rights (CHR). They have no idea how the agency works. We are in the year 2017, and I guess everyone now is adept at stalking and Googling relevant information for fact-checking. A little effort goes a long way.

totally dead, totally alive

August was such a busy month I could only wish I was at two or several places at once. Also, September. That explains the minimal posts in here lately, which is regrettable since there has been a lot to talk about last month, and that includes the first ever Pista Ng Pelikulang Pilipino in the Philippines. It aims to be a festival that precedes the much-maligned, money-centric festival that arrives in December. The less we talk about that trash the better. As much as I’d like to watch all of the PPP films, I only got to see five of them. And starting today, I’d share my thought about them, starting with this one.

What an odd, little film this is. Victor Villanueva’s “Patay Na Si Hesus”, one of the films screening for Pista Ng Pelikulang Pilipino, is a black comedy that strangely works even if it combines Tagalog and Bisaya humor. There are tones of “Little Miss Sunshine” and “Sideways” here, and I am not complaining. This is definitely road-trip movie—a genre not fully mined and realized in our country’s filmmaking circles and not appreciated by moviegoers—that features a family matriarch taking her children from Cebu to Dumaguete to attend the wake of her husband. It could have been as simple as that, if not for its strange family dynamics and scatterings of visual gags that are so hilarious, so out-there. I've never laughed so hard at the sight of Legos and a TV set until today (you should see them for yourselves). And that bathroom scene early on in the film, I find it so difficult to forget considering I once knew someone who believed that practice for a while. And Chai Fonacier is a delight; although her character borders on the absurd, her decisions and consequences feel real. It is far from perfect though. It definitely needs some judicious amount of script tightening, and the editing can sometimes feel like it is rushed. You’d also get a feeling that this mostly-Bisaya film is not written by a Bisaya at all. But its irreverence, boldness, and all of the actors’ willingness to dive headfirst into the absurd all make up for these, ultimately creating a movie that is charming and one that leaves you smiling even in these tough, dark times.

[ photo borrowed from this site ]

Saturday, September 02, 2017

67th carlos palanca memorial awards for literature winners

In the Philippines, September usually heralds the special announcement of a select group of people who will be receiving some special recognition. This is the Carlos Palanca Memorial Awards for Literature, and as celebrated yesterday evening, at the Manila Peninsula Makati, it is on its 67th year.

And what a wonderful night of literature and like minds, especially to my friends who won! Shout out to Jesus and Glenn, and to my batch-mates in the Silliman Writers Workshop (47th batch, Katsubongs represent!)—Dustin, Noelle, Tokwa, and Igor! I was supposed to submit my manuscript but I forgot the deadline. Petty excuse, I know. Next time, I will make sure I have set my alarm. Here are the winners:



1st Prize: NO WINNER
2nd Prize: Carmel Joy F. Vergara, Patlang
3rd Prize: Robyn Therese V. Jocom, Sungkitin Pabalik ang Nakalipas

1st Prize: Alpheus Matthew D. Llantero, The Adventure of an Alien and the Matalino Kid
2nd Prize: Pauline Sherice Wee, Culture Redefined
3rd Prize: Marielle Fatima B. Tuazon, The Pursuit of Lucidity



1st Prize: Andrian M. Legaspi, Sa Pagitan ng Sabaw ng Chaolong at Hilab ng Tiyan
2nd Prize: Valentine Dula, Patintero
3rd Prize: Nicko M. de Guzman, Troll

1st Prize: Maryrose Jairene Cruz-Eusebio, Ang Patay-gutom
2nd Prize: Josel Luigi F. Creencia, Lato't Ginto
3rd Prize: Cheeno Marlo M. Sayuno, Si Tiya Salome

1st Prize: Eugene Y. Evasco, Ang Mapa ng Taglagas sa Aking Maleta
2nd Prize: Will P. Ortiz, Sisid
3rd Prize: Mubarak M. Tahir, Aden Bon Besen Uyag-Uyag (May Buhay Pa Pala)

1st Prize: Christian R. Vallez, Sa Pagitan ng Banal at Karnal
2nd Prize: Jason G. Tabinas, Na Inyong Ikinalulunod
3rd Prize: Rogelio Dela Rosa Jr, Tanghod at iba pang Paghihintay

1st Prize: John Vincent J. Bucal, Muwang ng Musmos
2nd Prize: Errol A. Merquita, Tagulilong: Ang mga Nawawala
3rd Prize: Paterno B. Baloloy, Jr, Agam-Agam ng Langgam

1st Prize: Eljay Castro Deldoc, Pilipinas Kong Mahal With All the Overcoat
2nd Prize: Rodolfo Carlos Vera, Indigo Child
3rd Prize: Dominique Beatrice T. La Victoria, Ang Bata Sa Drum

1st Prize: Dustin Edward D. Celestino, Ang Pangahas na si Pepe Rodriguez
2nd Prize: Joshua L. Lim So, Araw-araw, Gabi-gabi
3rd Prize: Vincent A. De Jesus, Changing Partners

1st Prize: Rodolfo Carlos Vera, Ang Aking Juan Luna
2nd Prize: Kristian Sendon Cordero, Kulto ni Santiago
3rd Prize: Avelino Mark C. Balmes Jr, Pablo Ocampo Extension



1st Prize: Jondy M. Arpilleda, Bunok
2nd Prize: Manuel M. Avenido, Jr, Panagtigi
3rd Prize: Errol A. Merquita, Aninipot

1st Prize: Jesus C. Insilada EdD, Tinuom
2nd Prize: Peter Solis Nery, Ang Milagro sa Ermita
3rd Prize: Leonard Francis M. Alcoran, Ang Itlog nga wala Nagabalibad

1st Prize: Ronelyn Ramones, Ti Lubong ni Anastasia
2nd Prize: Lilia Quindoza Santiago PhD, Siak Ti Interpreteryo
3rd Prize: Ariel Sotelo Tabag, Dado



1st Prize: John Bengan, Disguise
2nd Prize: Katrina Guiang Gomez, Misericordia
3rd Prize: Joe Bert Lazarte, Don't Blink

1st Prize: Michelle Josephine G. Rivera, In My Father's Kitchen
2nd Prize: Paul Gideon D. Lasco, The Art of "Hugot" in our Republic of "Sawi"
3rd Prize: Jade Mark B. Capiñanes, A Portrait of a Young Man as a Banak

1st Prize: Noelle Leslie dela Cruz, Sisyphus on the Penrose Stairs: Meta-Reveries
2nd Prize: Rodrigo V. Dela Peña Jr, Blood Compact
3rd Prize: Hurjay Medilo, Elegy for a Dying World

1st Prize: Cynthia Baculi-Condez, From Dawn to Dusk
2nd Prize: Patricia Celina A. Ngo, Magical Mall of Mysteries
3rd Prize: Ma. Amparo N. Warren, Animal Songs/Just So Poems

1st Prize: NO WINNER
2nd Prize: NO WINNER
3rd Prize: Joshua L. Lim So, Sa Syquia, Malate, Kabanata II: Letting The Days Go By

1st Prize: Dustin Edward D. Celestino, The Story of This Father
2nd Prize: Joachim Emilio B. Antonio,
3rd Prize: NO WINNER



Grand Prize: Eros S. Atalia, Ang Ikatlong Anti-Kristo

Grand Prize: Glenn L. Diaz, The Quiet Ones.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017


Love Poem
Richard Brautigan

It’s so nice
to wake up in the morning
all alone
and not have to tell somebody
you love them
when you don’t love them


You know what’s sharp? The words of a poet. It is July, and the ground is damp, and the air is cold. Unfortunately for some of us, some hearts are colder you could hear them crack like thin sheets of ice stepped upon by angry feet. Look, the last leaf of a tree has fallen. Look the other way.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

bad experience

It’s mind-boggling why our country's Department of Tourism (DOT) keeps on changing its tourism tagline. We had “Wow Philippines: More Than The Usual” (good) and then “Pilipinas Kay Ganda” (the worst!) and then “It’s More Fun in the Philippines” (the best!) and then, suddenly, we now have “Experience The Philippines”.

Malaysia and Thailand have been using “Malaysia, Truly Asia” and “Amazing Thailand” for several years, respectively. The Philippines, on the other hand, is on a regular Russian roulette with its tourism identity. Seriously, experience? Karanasan? As in, experience the President? Experience his mouth? Perhaps it refers to bad experience? Perhaps this is another way of spending more taxpayer money on new but unnecessary campaigns?

And speaking of taxpayer money, it is revealed that P650-million is spent on this ad campaign. Yes, almost a billion pesos worth of our money. Let that sink in.

Even if we could let those jokes shrug away, the slogan still sounded like it came from two joyless advertising interns who had a sudden realization they had chosen the wrong profession and would rather grab the nearest Pale Pilsens than do what they were told to do. There is no verve, no spunk, no imagination. It is, in short, weak and uninspired. I mean, how can we ever maintain, or at least establish, brand consistency and familiarity if we keep changing our slogan?

It is even more hilarious that this slogan holds on to the brilliant work of the previous administration’s DOT (“It’s More Fun in the Philippines”), albeit it is now written in smaller font like an after-thought that one has to squint his eyes a little harder, as if this year’s slogan decision-makers have congregated and said, “We don’t like to be associated with that work, but it’s really good noh, so let’s just keep it in there, in teeny-weeny letters, shall we?”

And just when I thought this new tourism campaign was bad enough for its squirmy, forgettable and overly sentimental nature, it turned out that the ad was almost a frame-by-frame copy of another ad from South Africa—from the narrative down to the twist in the end. Remember the budget allocated for this campaign? Let me tell you, in case you forgot: It is P650-million. You have that whopping budget and you’d still end up copying another country’s work. Palm, meet face.

Of course, the DOT and the advertising agency behind the commercial stick to their guns, claiming that their concept is original. But with universal access to information now easier than ever, and with that massive amount of disposable income, couldn’t the agency and DOT create something more original than the kind of “original” they had in mind? Because if this is their concept of original, which is actually a copy of something else, who knows what blunder they would come up next.

Truly, these are tough times. After being subjected to Ernesto Abella’s call for “creative imagination” last year and Mocha Uson’s insistence on “symbolism” a few weeks ago, just to defend their discrepancies and interpret their inconsistencies, we are now forced to accept that plagiarism can be “original”. This makes you wonder and ask yourself: Gaguhan na lang ba talaga?

Friends and loved ones, you might as well go to other countries now.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

flower vendors

Mauro Malang, born on January 20, 1928, died yesterday, June 10, 2017. It is hard to believe. I remember back in Grade 3 or 4, how I first saw his works in the arts section of a newspaper one evening, how I was floored by them all, like something in me clicked, like something just fell into the right place. There was one artwork that stuck in my head, and today I searched for it online. It is that painting above.

As a child, I enjoyed copying works that simply attracted my short attention span (Hallmark cards, cartoons, encyclopedia illustrations, even drawings by my older siblings), but the moment I saw Malang’s paintings, or at least a photographic rendering of them, I think I said to myself, “This is different.”

There was this cockiness in his lines, this wild assuredness in this brushstrokes, this mixture of humility and simmering strength in the simplicity of his subjects’ faces. From here on, I believe his artistry is what guided my methods in visualizing idea and memory, and are, along the way, further enriched upon encountering the works of Pablo Picasso, Vicente Manansala, Jose Joya, Ang Kiukok, and several other is the abstractionist vein.

Finally, I saw a couple of Malang’s works in person, in the National Museum in Ermita, Manila several years ago, and I remember being massively emotional. Today, writing this, it happened again, but this time for an entirely different reason. .

Thursday, June 01, 2017

beyond wonders

After 75 years since its inception in comic book form, we are finally blessed with a “Wonder Woman” movie. And in a milieu that often witnesses several remakes of Batman, Superman, and Spider-Man, it is refreshing that Patty Jenkins—a female director no less—finally gets the superheroine to the silver screen and gets it right. Here is a straight-up origin story; how a young resolute Amazon in mythical island nation of Themyscira becomes Diana Prince in hideous First World War-era London and ultimately becomes the savior that the story requires (and the whole Justice League narrative in the coming years). The narrative is precise, and it is a film not beleaguered by beautiful but incoherent moments, the same moments that bog down “Man of Steel” [2013], “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” [2016], and “Suicide Squad” [2016]. Credit goes to Gal Gadot who embodies Wonder Woman’s intelligence and naiveté, royalty and athleticism so effortlessly. She is born for this role. All of these traits make for a perfect foil to Chris Pine’s spirited, believably charismatic Steve Trevor. I also think this is the first time in a long while in a superhero movie that a group of women in tight and curiously skin-baring armours never felt gratuitous and vulgar, with not a single shot lingering on cleavages and derrieres. Instead, the film focuses—quite unbelievably because it has never been portrayed that way until today—on these women’s wit, strength, and above all, compassion. The past DC films have been aggressive with their philosophy, masculinity, and pandering sulkiness, as if everyone has gone cold and dead inside. But “Wonder Woman” goes the other route. Although it is not a perfect route, especially the latter part's CGI bonanza, it reaches its goal in making a necessary and relevant hero: that one needs to have heart, even in a time of hate and deception. It is a film (not just a superhero film) that is surely remembered for its message, not its minor flaws. Simply put, this film is way “above average.” If you know what I mean. 

[ image borrowed from this site ]

Thursday, March 02, 2017

this old man

If what Hugh Jackman and Patrick Stewart have said were true, that James Mangold's "Logan" will be their final movie as Wolverine and Charles Xavier, then they are definitely leaving the 17-year-old franchise with a bang. And you, breathless. This latest X-Men movie is void of the other mutants we’ve come to love and make its universe colorful. Meaning, there is no shape-shifting Mystique, there is no Magneto bending a fork. In fact, there is not much obvious (and sometimes cheap-looking) CGI at work here compared to that forgettable Apocalypse outing. In this storyline though that takes place in the year 2029, we have Jackman’s Wolverine who is now extremely rugged and is becoming increasingly cynic to everyone around him, including a Professor X who seems to have aged not so very well. Both seems to be withering not only on the outside but also deep within the recesses of their being. And we have Laura, a new mutant who could be the perfect remedy for the numerous doubts and hopelessness of Wolverine. Or not? It is hard not to see this film as a reflection of our current times—the never-ending hate towards people who are different from other people, the uncertainties that meet us in every corner, the fragile thread that connects life and death. This film is brutal, angry, and in several instances, too painful to watch, that it totally upends all of our existing notions of the strong, seemingly unbreakable superhero—which is very ironic for a character with super-healing powers. And for a character that wields sinister blades from the edges of his fists, Logan is a surprise in that we only got this kind of Wolverine movie just now. Although Mangold may have succeeded in finally shedding light on the weaknesses of iconic superheroes, this one ultimately ends on a strong, high note. I am putting this up there, next to Christopher Nolan’s “The Dark Knight” [2008] and Joe Johnston’s “Captain America: The First Avenger,” as one of the best comic-book superhero movies in recent memory.

[ image borrowed from this site ]

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

under the moon

Have you experienced something so profound you are left reeling like a top until you slow down and come to a complete stillness you never knew could happen to you? It did happen to me when the last frame of Barry Jenkin’s “Moonlight” cut to black to reveal the end credits. It is difficult to describe how I feel—except that I have felt. It tells the story of Chiron in three parts—first as a silent and unwanted boy, second as a bullied teenager, and third as a man who questions the very nature of being one. What does it mean to be masculine? How he maneuvers this mystery with the people closest to him is the tension of this gorgeous film. It does not help that he has a drug addict for a mother, a stranger who later becomes his surrogate father who also turns out to be the source of his mother’s addiction, and a bestfriend who becomes more than a bestfriend in one revelatory night. This friend’s name is Kevin, and he is the tipping point to Chiron’s journey of self-examination. The film is a work of poetry—from the strong performances of the actors, the high contrast of the landscape, to the camera lingering no longer than a few seconds on a man’s stoic face and then moving on to another one in rage, and the use of water as a metaphor for rebirth, cleansing, and desire. In one scene, a man said to Chiron, “At some point, you get to decide for yourself who you want to be. You can’t let nobody make that decision for you.” There is no other film that I can recall so far that tackles the delicate tightrope of masculinity in this manner. These days the slightest hint of weakness and vulnerability is enough reason for people to leave and abandon you, and this is the reason why the existence of “Moonlight”—which is adapted from the stage play “In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue”—makes it a highly relevant one. It is the ugly truth that the LGBTQ community rarely acknowledges. If the power of its obvious Oscar competition, Damien Chazelle’s “La La Land,” comes from putting its sentimentality on its sleeves, “Moonlight” does it by restraining its sentimentality as much as it can until it cannot hold it much longer. The emotion is close to bursting. Although the film touches on issues such as addiction, prejudice, and sexual identity, it does not aim to provoke nor does it intend to create noise. What it does instead is to show things as they are. It shows us how to feel, and it whispers to us there is nothing wrong with that.

[ image lifted from this site ]

Friday, February 03, 2017

listen to your heart sing

It is unanimous that 2016 is the year of great movies, a fact which makes for a perfect salve to the 2016 that is awful, ugly, rude in real life. One of these great movies—at least for me—was Damien Chazelle’s colorfully saturated, highly-spirited musical “La La Land.” Starring Ryan Reynolds as a jazz pianist and Emma Stone as an aspiring actress, the film is said to be a love letter to old Hollywood musicals. But there is no need to be an aficionado of its variety of references and homages. If the sight of people suddenly bursting into song on a major highway is no problem for you, then you would probably enjoy this as much as you did with the television series “Glee” or Baz Luhrmann’s “Moulin Rouge!” [2001]. All you need to do to is to dive straight into the intense sincerity of Gosling’s Sebastian and Stone’s Mia, and you’d know here lies the tension. In this time and age when superheroes and the supernatural regularly invade our movie going experience, it is impressive that “La La Land” features no villain: no hysterical wine-wielding woman, no cheating boyfriend, no scheming maniac who aims to rule over the world. Just dreams and passions, the very same things that could lift anyone to the skies in bliss. Or, as proven by many in the real world, pull each other apart. And that is the most tragic thing that could happen to anyone, whether it’s in the realm of fantasy or reality. I think this is the only film that I’ve seen in a very long while that takes a surgical, precise understanding on the pains of defining one’s priorities and the myriad of emotions that goes through the process. It is hard. “La La Land,” like many other beautiful stories, is painful to watch, but it is also stories like this that make the heart sing a memorable tune.

[ image borrowed from this site ]

Sunday, December 25, 2016

happy holidays!

It’s that familiar time of the year. Only this time, I am in very unfamiliar place. Thankfully, familiar people surround me in this season of cheers and gratitude.

Greetings from TGB

From Team Carnice in TGB and AKL to yours, along with your relatives and friends, may you have a happy, colorful, Christmas every day of the year. Being joyful and grateful for the blessings and challenges overcome are just a few of the many great gifts you can give to your loved ones all year round (and perhaps also to one’s self).

With the most beautiful birthday girl this Christmas

On top of that, I’d like to add a shout-out to my mother who is celebrating her birthday on this special holiday. Christmas is never complete without her radiating light of love and beauty from inside and out. I wish I could be witness to more of her smiles and various acts of kindness in the coming years. My love for her is as profound as the birthing of a universe.

Greetings from AKL

Once again, happy holidays! Many grand things exist in this world to (ful)fill this lifetime, and one of them is to be reminded of what’s good, honest, and precious in this world. Have a great day.

Friday, December 23, 2016

changes this christmas

I’m on Day 17 in this foreign land, with 1 day or 24 hours left before Christmas (which also happens to be my mother's birthday), and just 7 days before I welcome another year in this lifetime. It is a privilege to be here, to be in new light (the sun springs out of the shadows at five in the morning and hides back in darkness only at nine in the evening), to be thousands of kilometers away from a country that does not seem to run out of emotional upheavals, political grievances, personal (ir)responsibilities.

It is, at the same time, bittersweet to be away from my family, relatives, the usual culprits who I’ve spent many holiday seasons with in the past. Never have I been so faraway that my skin tingles at the thought of ice-cold winds in a sunny summer alone. It is like living in Baguio or Tagaytay—only taken several notches higher.

But “change” is the word that is incessantly heard all throughout this year. Like a bell that never stops tolling, it demands to be noticed. It insists to be as relevant as ever that it now verges on a kind of desire or an ideal that seems so close to our reaches but always slips out of our hands. Perhaps this time it didn’t slip, perhaps this is the change that the universe has afforded me.

It is not without hesitation though, this change of scenery. Coming here brings a baggage that is not easy to carry, both figuratively and literally. When you live in the now, there is no denying that the past is close to the present, that yesterday is just a stone’s throw away to the next day. Hence, despite the overwhelming expanse of this country, one would never know when the ugly head of the unexpected goes peeking out of a corner.

Nevertheless, the past few days have been kind, have been brimming with beautiful possibilities. Fluctuating temperatures, jet lag, and change of time zones be damned! Some people have asked me, a genuine worry in their voice, if the place is too quiet for me. I gladly respond it is what I need: Peace from all the noise of this world. From Hamilton to Matakana, from Mission Bay to Royal Oak, from Matamata to Onehunga, from Tauranga to Ngatea, from Western Springs to Rotorua, from Queen Street to Bay of Plenty, so far so good. I have the say the travels are eventful. There’s more to come, and the season’s cheers and excitement are already feeling like close to home. Christmas is here to stay, in our hearts, and I will enjoy the holidays no matter where my feet take me to.

Happy Christmas, everyone!

favorite things

This morning at Onehunga I got two of my favorite things in this world: books and cats. Big, chunky, delicious books from local writers for less than $20 and a pair of kitty bookends to prop up those books for $15. Bargain level: Expert. If I’ve known way, way earlier, I’d probably be spending the past few weeks in those hard-to-find bookshops. But all in all, it still feels like my Christmas has arrived way too early. What a day.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

find them!

In theory, David Yate’s “Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them” is a difficult material to grapple with. It is not based on an actual novel but on a fictional textbook used in a fictional school. It features weary-looking adults that we are not familiar with. And for all its heavy-lifting to connect to the Harry Potter universe, it does not feature the three main characters that have made that universe endearing in the first place. I think this is why J.K. Rowling herself, the mastermind behind said universe, is hitched to write the movie’s script. The first story that showcased Rowling’s Wizarding World was released on 1997 and the latest was in July 2016 in the form of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, a stage play performed in London and soon in New York. Now, decades have passed, and two factions have grown between the sporadic updates that Rowling expertly drops here and there: those who relished the revelations and those who grow tired of over-selling the story. As a millennial who first introduced the Harry Potter books to my elementary classmates when I was eight years old, obviously, I belong to the former. After thousands of pages of histories and back stories that all started in 1997, it is nothing short of fantastic that everything seems to connect so flawlessly into one elegant narrative, one that links the brand-new story of Newt Scamander in 1920’s New York in the “Fantastic Beasts” movie to The Boy Who Lived. Its plot is simple: a wizard goes to foreign land, accidentally unleashes mayhem, solves the problem, and stumbles upon new threats along the way. Eddie Redmayne was an odd choice to play Newt, but he proved himself capable of fitting into the world of nifflers, alohomoras, and wizard politics without standing out too much. Speaking of standing out, Alison Sudol’s mind-reading Queenie and Samantha Morton’s ultra-orthodox Mary Lou Barebones were clearly the salt and pepper that spiced up this movie. They stood out in many good ways. As for that surprise in the end? Not so much. I won’t spoil it here. There seems to be missing arcs in all the characters which drags the story from becoming truly exceptional. What is Newt’s real motivation for coming to the Big Apple? Why is the magical community in this city so backward? Why does Tina look eternally teary eyed? Despite the presence of the beasts that give the movie its bright humorous spots, there’s a veneer of sadness on each scene, or an undertone of something sinister and terrible is about to happen soon. Rowling is often accused of expanding (and milking) too much the Wizarding World, but with a tale teeming with cultural paranoia, political discontent and bigotry, this feels solid and relevant. Even with the obvious plot holes and the need for more instalments, I’d be happy to dive right into the chaos. I’m a fan.

[ photo borrowed from this site ].

Wednesday, November 02, 2016

no stranger thing

When I learned that Scott Derrickson’s “Doctor Strange” was finally screening in the local cinemas, I was genuinely excited. But one evening, upon leaving the theater, I couldn’t shake off the feeling that I’ve been through this before. You see, the latest Marvel Studio’s film is like Iron Man but only with magic—here is an arrogant man that went through disastrous circumstances and went through a period of recovery and then discovery and went on saving the world (and the reality of existence itself) and went on meeting an Avenger. This is not to say that Benedict Cumberbatch’s performance as the titular character is unimpressive. In fact, it is the opposite. He is full of wit, full of sharp, biting British humor. But then again, it feels like I’ve been through this before too. Case in point: his performance in the much-superior “Sherlock” TV series. It is a shame because this film has rounded up such an extraordinary, talented group of actors. There is Tilda Swinton who, without surprise, manages to pull off being a bald, seemingly-Oriental sorcerer but remains only as a fortune cookie wisdom-giver to our hero (which only further confirms my belief that she is Hollywood’s Meryl Streep for surreal, out-there characters). There is Mads Mikkelsen who is born to be a villain (see “Hannibal”, “Casino Royale”) but unfortunately ends up just like many of the villains in the past Marvel films: forgettable. There is Chiwetel Ejiofor who is such a solid artist in films like “12 Years A Slave” [2013] and “Children of Men” [2006] but also ends up like Mads Mikkelsen. There is Rachel McAdams who, as always, aces her job as a tough-cookie woman in a world dominated by men, just like in her past movie and television roles, only to be relegated in this movie as the obligatory love interest of our hero (which even felt forced). There is Benedict Wong who seems to be added in the cast to quiet down the controversy of having Tilda Swinton taking over the role of an Asian character. But all in all, it was an enjoyable viewing, especially if one does not think of all these little grievances or those who couldn’t care less (just like those in the audience who didn’t laugh at moments of hilarity but laughed at the sight of a black man). And those visuals, what a treat! I will not say they are original. In fact, such bombastic imagery has been previously showcased to great effect in films like The Matrix Trilogy, “Dark City” [1998], “The Adjustment Bureau” [2011], and most obviously, Christopher Nolan’s “Inception” [2010]. I think the action sequences are what saved this film from being mediocre at best—when the laws of physics are violently wrenched and broken here and there by both friendly and unfriendly sorcerers, the Rube Goldberg, M.C. Escher-like set pieces will certainly leave everyone in awe, as in literally, you will open your mouth in amazement. Which is kind of good, I guess, because it will remind you of your popcorn getting cold in the dark.

[ photo borrowed from this site ]

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

questions to ask

Last Sunday at church, during the evening worship service, I was a bit disappointed with the pastor’s sermon that I felt my heart drop into the pits of my stomach. The pastor kept referencing to Rodrigo Duterte’s methods, especially his so-called War on Drugs, as a way to achieve peace. There are many brilliant ways and references to discuss peace, and I think he should have thought of a better analogy. As I was listening to him, I wanted to grab him and tell him, “Pastor, that’s why it’s called a war! It has never been peaceful! It always results to unnecessary pain and bloodshed!”

Of course I couldn’t do that. So I remained on my seat and dismissed the thought of not sitting through the entirety of the sermon. But then there was his slight condemnation of celebrity Agot Isidro for her famous remark on the President’s insistence to end foreign aid to the Philippines. Isidro said on her social media account, “Ayaw naming magutom. Mag-isa ka nalang… You are not a bipolar. You are a psychopath.” The pastor went on criticizing her for that because, he said, she doesn’t think carefully about the implications and severity of her words. That Agot Isidro is downright insensitive. Excuse me, pastor, but have you actually heard any of the words that came out of our President’s mouth recently and in the past? Remember that rape remark, pastor? Pu**** i** diba, pastor? Bang diba?

This pastor then added that the Philippines really do not need any help from the U.S. or any foreign nation because we have our own rich resources, and that we should show to the world how we can sustain on our own. That’s another problematic statement for another post. I couldn’t believe I was hearing this inside a church. I wanted to ask him again, “Pastor, have you heard that Duterte is actually rubbing elbows China and Russia, two examples of a foreign nation?”

I thought this was the end of it, but he continued rallying for peace, that it could only be achieved by measures as drastic and sinister as Duterte’s. It was as if he suggested that drugs are indeed the sole root of all evil in this country. But what about mis-education, what about poverty, what about the rising lies, hate, pride, and intolerance advocated by our current president, the very anti-thesis to peace? It all left me thinking: did this pastor just support the idea of extra-judicial killings? Did he just imply that those thousands of deaths are okay and justifiable?

There was a lot of contradiction in his sermon’s message that I was left confused, my head spinning in all directions. It was like witnessing firsthand a brainwashing propaganda. I know each of us in that congregation has a personal political inclination, but I personally believe this pastor should’ve kept this inclination outside the church. Because the church should teach compassion, not confusion. The church should encourage love, not hate. This pastor must have forgotten about the separation between the state and the church.

I shared this sentiment online, and as expected, a Duterte rabid supporter entered the picture to argue with me, and I quote: “Bring out the thought police! Bawal ang personal opinion ng pastors! We should jail this pastor and anyone else for that matter! In fact, I find your speaking out about your intolerance for his intolerance intolerable. You should be jailed. In fact I find my speaking out about my intolerance for your intolerance for his intolerance quite intolerable. I too should be jailed.”

Pretty long, right? I would’ve laughed so hard on this rabid Duterte supporter’s comment if it was funny and witty, but unfortunately, it was not. It was flat and all noise. Just look at those exclamation points. Like many of his kind, this Duterte supporter once again missed the point. So I told him that he missed my point, and that there is no need to bring out the thought police. Why? Because we are already imprisoned by the thought that these rising number of deaths are okay.

This is not the first time I am accused of being intolerable, but for cases and causes such as this, yes, I will gladly remain intolerable. But truly, I am saddened. Because when a religious denomination suddenly sides a political ideal, whether it is Catholic or not, I think that church limits itself to only seeing things in black and white. No grey areas. And when a church somehow implies that killing is necessary to achieve peace, I think this church is not peaceful at its core.

After the service, as I left the church that evening, I felt something heavy inside me that was painful as heartbreak. For the first time in a long while, I felt betrayed by someone, something so important to me.

Monday, October 17, 2016


Last Saturday morning, October 15, at around 8AM, my mother told me that sirens wailed and bells rang all over the city in Bohol, breaking the stillness that usually welcome the weekends in the province. I wondered why. And then I realized these served as a remembrance of an event in 2013. October 15 was the day Bohol was struck by a 7.2 magnitude earthquake at around 8:12 in the morning three years ago. It was a massive heartbreaking period of loss and devastation. Fast forward to this day, Bohol and its people have not forgotten but have carried on, returning to a normalcy that is communally worked on through the years. Padayon lang.

That is why I find it so timely I’ve just recently received a snapshot of my essay titled "A (Re)Collection of Stones" in proofread print, which would soon appear in the anthology The Bohol We Love, a book edited by an award-winning, talented Boholana Ms. Marjorie Evasco, and to be published by Anvil. In a few days, this proofread copy will be sent to the printers. In here, I’ve dedicated a section of my non-fiction work to a story about the earthquake’s aftermath in Loon, one of the hardest hit towns. Seeing this photo and seeing the stunning day outside the window at the same time make my heart swell with joy. I cannot wait for the book launching on December. It’s just one of those few things to look forward to in these dire times.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

the kill list chronicles

I’ve always made a point to recount my day’s activities and musings on a journal before I go to sleep. Sometimes I’d skip an evening or two, but I would return to these missed journaling assignments and remember as much as I can how things have gone by, no matter how mundane they are. Lately, though, the blank spaces are creeping up and crowding the pages.

There are several reasons why: laziness, procrastination, too tired to even lift a pen, too many distractions and temptations, there is nothing new to say. Of course, everyone has something new to say. Filipinos are born to always have something to say, even to the point of being pointless. But living in this life right now, in the middle of a political climate that is downright suffocating, any interest to continue pushing through can easily be pronounced dead. Or killed, by default.

To make my point clear, let’s consider the latest man in highest office in our country, a man whose ego is as fragile as Chinaware (no pun intended), who also seems to be an enabler of hate and prejudice, and a champion for lack of empathy and common sense. Because of his irreverent methods on getting things done, there is no hiding the fact that the Philippines has become a bloodied den of vigilantes, injustices, and foul brazen language.

Years ago journal writing has been my refuge, my way of assessing my sanity each day. It’s like an anchor that keeps me put. But today, I do not even know where my sanity begins and where its opposite lies. All the time I track myself if I am functioning properly. Recounting my day that is preoccupied with so much hate and horror again and again can take its toll. That is why for the most part of a week I would try hard as hell to ignore the news like a former paramour who just left you without explanation but returned several years later to get your attention. You know how evil can get under your skin. There is no understating that each week leaves me sore and beat. It doesn’t also help that there is this barrage of noise from social media that could render me—or anyone, rather—emotionally and spiritually mangled.

And there is still six more years to go. I hope I could still muster the energy needed to recount what is needed to be recounted. If only it could bring back the dead.


My work “Poetry as a Lesson in Dwelling” is featured in The Kill List Chronicles, an online repository of the continuing protest literature in the Philippines. I’ve read to a small audience in a café an early version of this poem during the International Day of Peace last September 21. It was a celebration across the globe to commemorate the peace we have right now and the peace we want to achieve for the next generation. Coincidentally, it was also the very same day that former president and dictator Ferdinand Marcos declared the bloody Martial Law in the Philippines 44 years ago.

The contradictions, at least for me, were just hard to wrap around my head. 44 years have passed and yet here we are still trying to value and teach the meaning of freedom, respect, and decency. When people are supposed to keep in heart to never forget and to never repeat the history that once broke us, many backtrack instead to the primitive desire to kill without the slightest thought of implications.

This piece took me countless shots of struggling hours to get through. The poetry is personal, and the personal apparently is political. And that is hard. I always consider my works as drafts, and it has always been that way even if they are released to the open for any possible reader to stumble upon. But for this particular work I’ve had the feeling I ought to let it go, that it needs to be separated from my being. Thankfully, it found a place. I do hope we’ll find each other’s peace soon. I hope we will all learn how to dwell to get the dwelling we deserve in this country and in this world. I hope.