‘Porno’ named Young Critics Circle’s Best Film of 2013

Porno, Adolfo Alix Jr.’s triptych film of individuals linked through pornography, wins big at the Young Critics Circle’s 24th Annual Citations, bagging five of the six main awards, including Best Film and Best Performance for Carlo Aquino who tied with Jhong Hilario for Badil.

Porno2Porno also took the prizes for Best Screenplay and Best Sound and Aural Orchestration, and tied with Frasco Mortiz’s Pagpag for Best Editing.

Mel Chionglo’s Lauriana is named Best Cinematography and Visual Design.

Porno was one of the entries to the 2013 Cinemalaya Film Festival but, due to its mature content, was only exhibited in the Cultural Center of the Philippines, unlike the rest of the entries that were screened in select commercial theaters.

Alix has now won three Best Film awards from YCC, previously winning in 2009 for Adela and in 2012 for Haruo. He has also previously won for his production design in Kalayaan (2012).

Both Aquino and Hilario have been previously nominated for Best Performance by the academe-based group: Aquino for Minsan May Isang Puso (1999) and Baler (2008), and Hilario for Muro-Ami (1999).

Having previously narrowed down the year’s cinematic output to a long list of 22 films, the group last night further reduced it to a shortlist of 13, and, after more than six hours of intense deliberations, arrived at record-number nominations in most categories: Film (8), Performance (15), Screenplay (8), and Cinematography and Visual Design (11). The critics group does not confer any nomination to a film that does not qualify for the shortlist.

To encourage the growth of emerging filmmakers, YCC decided to introduce a new special category – Best First Features, to be given to the three most outstanding feature films of debuting filmmakers. This year, the recipients are Angustia (Kristian Sendon Cordero), Puti (Mike Alcazaren), and Ang Turkey Man Ay Pabo Rin (Randolph Longjas).

The awards ceremony is set on the third week of March, with the specific date and venue to be announced soon.

Below is the list of nominees for all categories:



Winner: Porno, directed by Adolfo Alix Jr. (Cinemalaya Foundation, Phoenix Features, Deus Lux Mea Films, Hong Kong-Asia Film Financing Forum, CMB Film Services, Inc.; Arleen Cuevas, producer)


Mga Anino ng Kahapon, directed by Alvin Yapan (VYAC Productions; Alemberg Ang, producer)

Babagwa, directed by Jason Paul Laxamana (Cinemalaya Foundation, Quantum Films, Kamaru Productions; Josabeth Alonso, executive producer; Ferdinand Lapuz, producer; Chad Angelic Cabigon, associate producer)

Badil, directed by Chito Roño (Film Development Council of the Philippines; Rafaela May Ocampo, executive producer; Han Salazar, producer)

Dukit, directed by Armando Lao (Centerstage Productions, Betis Galleria; Armando Lao, producer; Brillante Mendoza and Florentina Canasa Layug, executive producers; Sonny Dobles and City Heights Hotel, associate producers)

Ang Kwento ni Mabuti, directed by Mes de Guzman (CineFilipino, PLDT-Smart Foundation, Studio 5, Unitel Entertainment, Cinelarga, SampayBakod Productions; Rhea Operaña de Guzman, producer)

Pagpag, directed by Frasco Santos Mortiz (Star Cinema, Regal Films; Charo Santos-Concio, Malou Santos, Lily Monteverde, and Roselle Monteverde, executive producers; Enrico Santos and Marizel Samson-Martinez, supervising producers)

Quick Change, directed by Eduardo Roy Jr. (Cinemalaya Foundation, Found Films; Almond Derla, executive producer; Ferdinand Lapuz, producer)



Winners: Carlo Aquino, Porno and Jhong Hilario, Badil


Angel Aquino, Porno

Nora Aunor, Ang Kwento ni Mabuti

Adrian Cabido, Lauriana

Carlo Cruz, Mga Anino ng Kahapon

Allen Dizon, Lauriana

Ensemble cast of Porno

Cherie Gil, Sonata

Dick Israel, Badil

Alex Vincent Medina, Babagwa

Daniel Padilla, Pagpag

Joey Paras, Babagwa

Sue Prado, Ang Kwento ni Mabuti

TJ Trinidad, Mga Anino ng Kahapon



Winner: Porno, Ralston Jover


Mga Anino ng Kahapon, Alvin Yapan

Babagwa, Jason Paul Laxamana

Badil, Rodolfo Vera

Debosyon, Alvin Yapan

Dukit, Armando Lao and Mary Honeylyn Joy Alipio

Ang Kwento ni Mabuti, Mes de Guzman

Quick Change, Eduardo Roy Jr.



Winners: Pagpag, Jerrold Tarog and Porno, Aleks Castañeda


Badil, Carlo Francisco Manatad

Dukit, Diego Marx Dobles



Winner: Lauriana, Nap Jamir (cinematography) and Edgar Martin Littaua (production design)


Mga Anino ng Kahapon, Dexter dela Peña and Jan Tristan Pandy (cinematography), Whammy Alcazaren (production design), Frances Grace Mortel and Rita Vargas (art direction), and Phyllis Grae Grande (set decoration)

Badil, Neil Daza (cinematography), Jayvee Taduran (production design), and Donald Camon (art direction)

Debosyon, Dexter dela Peña (cinematography), Dennis Corteza and Paolo Rey Mendoza Piaña (production design), Roy Dominguiano and Pat Noveno (art direction), and Omar Aguilar (visual effects)

Dukit, Triztan Garcia, Bruno Tiotuico, Jeffrey Icawat, and Diego Dobles (cinematography), Leo Abaya and Olga Marquez (production design)

The Guerilla Is a Poet, Kiri Dalena (cinematography) and Sari Dalena (production design)

Ang Kwento ni Mabuti, Albert Banzon (cinematography), Cesar Hernando and Mes de Guzman (production design)

Pagpag, David Diaz-Abaya (cinematography), Luis Custodio IV (production design), and Daren Francis Raña (visual effects)

Porno, Albert Banzon (cinematography), Adolfo Alix Jr. (production design), and Bobet Lopez (art direction)

Quick Change, Dan Villegas (cinematography) and Harley Alcasid (production design)

Sonata, Mark Gary (cinematography), Emilio Montelibano Jr. (production design), and Richard Francia (visual effects)



Winner: Porno, Albert Michael Idioma (sound design) and Ari Trofeo (sound)


Babagwa, Lucien Letaba and Joseph Lansang (music) and Addiss Tabong (sound design)

Badil, Carmina Cuya (music) and Addiss Tabong (sound design)

Debosyon, Teresa Barrozo and Jireh Pasano (music), Ray Andrew San Miguel and Andrew Millalos (sound design)

Dukit, Armando Lao (music and sound design)

Pagpag, Francis Concio (music) and Arnel Labayo (sound design)



Winners: Angustia (Kristian Sendon Cordero), Puti (Mike Alcazaren), and Ang Turkey Man Ay Pabo Rin (Randolph Longjas)


Aside from the 12 films nominated in the main categories, one other film, Arnel Mardoquio’s Riddles of My Homecoming, is included in the shortlist.

The YCC members who took part in the selection process and in the deliberations are Skilty Labastilla (Chair), Aristotle Atienza, Patrick Flores, Tessa Maria Guazon, Lisa Ito, J. Pilapil Jacobo, Nonoy Lauzon, JPaul Manzanilla, Jema Pamintuan, and Jaime Oscar Salazar.


Posted by on 08/02/2014 in Philippine Film


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YCC and UP Art Studies to screen ‘Qiyamah’

The UP Diliman Department of Art Studies, through the Art Studies Foundation, and the Young Critics Circle present Gutierrez Mangansakan’s award-winning film Qiyamah on February 3, 2014 at the UP Diliman Cine Adarna, 3 and 6 PM.

The film chronicles the many signs that presage the apocalypse. Set in a remote Qiyamah stillvillage in the Philippine South, residents of a farming community confront the specter of doom and the seeming end of the world as foretold in the Koran. They struggle with fear and doubt and are forced to confront a complex web of moral choices: tainted pasts, fraught family ties and the sudden arrival of an evil stranger in the village. As tragedy unfolds with menacing slowness, they rediscover the bonds that kept them together. Upon the shattering glare of world’s end, they realize they are linked by mortality, dreams, absolution and nature’s inescapable revenge. Qiyamah foregrounds unwavering faith with inevitable demise in stark visual poetry and a well composed film narrative, a suitable piece for deep reflection on the precarious state of humanity in our time.

Qiyamah is YCC’s Best Film in 2012. It also won Best Editing and Best Sound and Aural Orchestration.

Mangansakan will be present for Q and A after each screening.

Tickets are available at P100. For ticket reservations, you may call 927 0581 or 981 8500 local 2115. You may also procure tickets at the venue itself.


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Posted by on 29/01/2014 in Philippine Film



Framer Framed Framing: Critique of “Porno” (Second of Two Parts)

Porno’s prelude takes us to a room in a motel where a closed-circuit television peeps into a couple engaging in the rigors of sadomasochistic practice. The role play draws an awful turn when a murder occurs off-screen and the murderer refuses to pull her gaze away from ours.  The blood in her hands is almost black in infrared light.

This scene serves as the zero degree of the pornographeme.

Such is the advance guard for a cinema whose diaphane between the erotic and death itself has become by turns porous and rigid.

Then, the ultraviolet in another motel scene provides us with the languorous milieu that entitles voluptuary non pareil Rosanna Roces to minister to the needs of a client (Yul Servo), who is paranoid about voyeurs in the adjacent room. After going through the motions of a rather awkward sex, they try to exchange post-coital pleasantries syncopated by existential meanderings until they have nothing left to say and we can no longer ignore the television frame above them whose depiction of ecstacies is infinite. Yul Servo, we discover, has failed to deliver death to an archbishop. When Rosanna leaves,the operative tasked to bring Yul back to jail kills him.

One less hitman to terminate this terminologist.


The vignette that proceeds brings the video of the coitus between Rosanna and Yul to the studio where voice talents like Aleks (Carlo Aquino) would substitute mournful sentences with euphoric vocal pyrotechniques. His director (Allan Paule) complains that his talent’s skills are limited to monotones; Carlo, it seems, can only be distracted. The mis-en-abîme tells us that a certain social script is attempting to write the pornographeme off the speech acts of sex by supplementing sounds which although are culled from a sensual syllabary are not allowed to make sense as ejaculatory passages. Words should not interrupt moans. They get in the way of the sex.

Pornophoneme is hazardous to pornographeme.

Aleks compensates his lack of energy at the studio in the social network. His chatbox is riddled with the signs of a consciousness both allured and alluring: jokes and puns drown the oohs and the aahs. Conversations extend to telephone calls of unlimited expense. His room is lit under the cool tinge of a lurid green. And it is this dark room of desire that makes up for the privations of an “excitable speech.” His desktop is a frame of the “society of the spectacle” where the self regains whatever aspect of it has been rendered as effete in the public sphere.  This savvy is undercut when Aleks witnesses before the screen the suicide of a jilted lover. As soon as Aleks leaves the dark room, he suffers a seizure.

Carlo Aquino offers a most attuned performance in his adult career by tackling a premier pornographer. His face possesses a vacancy of possibilities.The way he gives absolute licence to pleasure in a span of a third of minute sums up the totality of pain a body must deal with at various cusps of desire desiring itself and its alternate affects, including that irreducible life between enervation and rage.

And Carlo Aquino as Aleks is punctured by Angel Aquino as Alex.

Years after the seizure, he becomes the queen of Club Mwah, which runs the most fantabulous drag show in all of queer Manila. Alex keeps an Australian lover, and on the eve of the latter’s trip to Sydney, they watch the video of Rosanna and Yul that Aleks had dubbed at the studio.  Alex and the Australian dismiss the monotone. And then, we only see the hard core of movements  in the bedroom shot through a soft lens.

Aleks is father to a son. The mother calls up Alex from abroad, telling her the son wants to see Aleks on skype on the former’s birthday. That proxy self has long gone, so only Alex can show up

Could this be a scandal of the pornographeme?

One night, after missing out on an exotic  finale, Alex finds herself running toward a hall of mirrors: her face framed by her own, her tears wholeheartedly her own.

Angel Aquino is riveting as a trans-woman.

And Porno’s critical pornography is peerless.


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Framer Framed Framing

A critique of Porno (Adolfo Alix, Jr., 2013): First of two parts

J. Pilapil Jacobo

The key to understanding an apparent inconsistency in the cinema of Adolfo Borinaga Alix, Jr. is a  kind of almost vulgar unpredictability that does not allow a film in his oeuvre to proceed from the previous and augur what could be apprehended as sensible in the next.  What on earth can cathect the “prison-house of  actresses” (a colleague has quipped) in Presa to the aquarium drama that is Isda? And even within a piece, nothing is ever quite certain to be pursued in the same habit. When one is grudgingly convinced about the cellophane that stood in for water in Death March, the expressionism would revert to Capas, in full realist grain, but the incandescent angelology was there to stay!

The surprise in Porno is not so much the assault that teeters on the indulgences that will turn whoever toys with the genre tremulous with each step but on the thoughtful grace that persuades the viewer to grapple with the tightrope act from that voluptuous space between the wire and the net. Slyly, and almost too shrewdly, the film veers us away from the skills set of the sex-acrobat who is no longer so svelte to bend ligaments just to exceed the curvatures of the erotic. The pornography in Porno is frustrated every step of the way until what remains is a dimension of the surface one never expected to be there in the first place. The surface that is exploited in the mode is then relieved of its superficiality. The sex is never merely a matter of zooming in and out the skin in question, but a means to apportion to cinema in these parts in these so-called vanguard days a scale of inquiry it has not quite known to rehearse after exhausting, pace Bataille,  “visions of excess,” during a time of dictatorial duress. Some hard core of discourse should be banging on this sly surface.


Of course, various angulations of genitalia colonize Porno’s screen.  The penis and the vagina once again take over the face and the voice as loci of a primary cinematic articulation. And yet, these organs appear sans the orgasm that must complement them. Hence, the Titania of titillation’s mammaries are just those, lactating embarrassments; Rosanna Roces has got nothing left to conceal from hereon, except the forlorn memory of those years of relentless roses. And when the other characters are shown to be naked, their heads seem to have been severed from their own bodies. The picture of pleasure is incomplete; the harlot and the hustler are denied the chance to be seen with their faces. Outside sartorial sanction, and within bordello premises, an actress is obviously substituted with a body double whose corporeal proportions do not cohere with her optimal embodiment of prurience. And when a certain phallus imposes its amplitude upon most of the screen’s quadrants, its prosthetic tumescence cannot quite come to terms with the accuracy by which the pendulum swings of testosterone rage is portrayed. When the luridity of the exercise has been exhausted, so that things are reducible only to the tedium of technique, what can be magnified should be left as such, a body part that does not refer to the rest. Porno is no allegory of resistance, then, when the opportune metonymic moment is invalidated.  Nor is it spectacle of defeat, when hyberbole never quite appears to be bold enough to exhibit its convex effrontery.

The pornographic tradition is hailed from the literature on the lives of prostitutes and their purported métier, fornication itself. Pornography is the writing of sex. And further, sex writing itself.  What cinema has done to this premise is to disavow for the genre its intimacies with indeterminate erotique by removing the bar that seeks to signify pleasure incompletely, that is, again, through the synecdochic arc of metonymy.  Pornographic cinema promises to disclose the totality of the sexual act and remove the reluctance of the sexualized body. Every angle, even when marginal or posterior, is a frontal absolute. Nothing  is ever spared the violence of exposure. It is here where the prostitute becomes uninhibited. And the client who must face up to this figure demanding a reciprocal frontality. The writing that enables the vision of sex to gain the suppleness of flesh provides for a time to buy the prostitute out of the reifying conditions set in high relief by the obscene gaze. It is this time-lag of visibility that separates the pornographeme, the word that serves as signifying fundament of sex-writing, from the pornographic signified, the scene of sex summoned upon reading the sex-writing. For example, the reverie of silken neglect that would possibly be let loose after one reads “négligée” is no longer possible when the video forces its intended voyeur to see the tightest red spandex lingerie.

Alix deftly interprets the zeal that hovers above Ralston Jover’s screenplay by foregrounding within the mis-en-scène a mis-en-abîme. The scene encloses a version of itself that seeks to enlarge a discourse of the cinema through the ruse of the diminutive.  Pace Trinh T. Minh-ha, the framer is framed, and we catch him at a significant moment: framing. Alix has employed this trope in Chassis, to refute a supposed movement inherent in national progress, particularly when the subaltern is forced to reckon with scavenger ethic as the only way to apprehend the cusps of hunger and thirst. Porno departs from the kind of pornography that entitles itself to gain full scopic control over that kind of poverty by removing from the chassis the stasis that destitutes the political from the paradigmatic. The frame within the frame intrudes in the enclosure as it calculates a pace that would turn the picture to implode, and look the part of the disseminated. Porno is progressive in the sense that the mis-en-abîme is a true recursive. The frame acquits itself well as a vortex that can engineer iterations across vignettes in the diegesis. Turning to and fro into image onto narrative, the device pursues a counterintuition to one’s perspective of what a frame is.

There is something thoughtfully tropic in this Alix film.

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Posted by on 13/01/2014 in Film Review, Philippine Film


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Unbeautiful Pageant

Jaime Oscar M. Salazar

At the outset, Slumber Party (2012) establishes a situation that is not especially objectionable, and certainly contains within it the potential to be entertaining. On the eve of the Miss Universe pageant, which within the realm of the film coincides with a hostage crisis, Phi (RK Bagatsing) organizes a slumber party with Jhana (Archie Alemania), and Elle (Markki Stroem) to mark the occasion, as they have apparently not gotten together as a group since graduating from college. What looks set to be a night of companionable bitching and campy fun is interrupted when Jonel (Sef Cadayona), seeking to prove his worthiness to be admitted into a fraternity composed of neighborhood toughs, intrudes into Phi’s house in order to rob it.

The burly Jhana foils Jonel by knocking him unconscious, after which the frustrated burglar is tied to a chair with computer cables and muzzled with what appears to be a pair of frilly underwear. In spite of Elle’s initial protests, Phi, with the enthusiastic consent of Jhana, decides against turning Jonel over to the authorities, instead suggesting that showing the interloper hospitality and kindness for the duration of the night would make for a better lesson against committing crime than a jail stay. The fact that, generally, a suspect thrown behind bars would have neither been bound nor gagged occurs to exactly no one.

Slumber 7

From here on, what could have been an interesting and enjoyable exploration of the dynamics of friendship between men who identify as bakla degenerates into a heated rivalry over the attractive trespasser, interspersed with bouts of collaborative toying with the same: Jonel is reduced to the status of a thing for the trio to compete over and amuse themselves with, his thoughts and feelings of little account as his captors subject him to assorted forms of humiliation. The only way to make sense of the affection that slowly develops between Jonel and Phi, therefore, is as a manifestation of Stockholm syndrome.

The maltreatment turns shocking when Jhana, taking advantage of the absence of his friends, forces himself upon Jonel. This act of sexual assault, presented as a joke and then glossed over for the remainder of the reel, is easily the nadir of Slumber Party. As if one portrayal of abuse were not sufficient, however, the film sees Elle attempting a similar, if less invasive, deed early the next morning, though he is aggressively thwarted by his would-be victim. Whatever monstrous sensibility was at work in the concoction of these scenes should not just have been left asleep; it should have been slaughtered.

Presuming that one could bracket out these utterly offensive moments of exploitation, the film still has little to recommend it. Apart from being bloated with hysterical melodrama and strained gags, it deals with the distressing realities of gay life using a hand that is at once despicably heavy and unbearably light: while it contrives conditions where the experiences of loneliness, self-loathing, and discrimination can be introduced, it never explores these with care or fluency, though two of its screenwriters, namely Troy Espiritu and Phillippe Salvador Palmos, are gay advocates. Even HIV—an urgent issue that, it must be emphasized, everyone, no matter what gender or sexual orientation, has to attend to—is treated with disgraceful superficiality in order to elicit a cheap titter or two.

That Slumber Party is referred to as a comedy at all points up a lamentable destitution in how the term is understood in these parts: it is not enough, and indeed, it will never be enough, for a work to involve rapid-fire barb-trading, slapstick antics, an apparently happy ending, and, particularly in the case of the present object of scrutiny, ostensibly straight male actors adopting what they believe to be the distinguishing behavioral traits of the bakla—insert the usual (and questionable) professions of “certified” masculinity, performatory difficulty, extensive research, and increased understanding of and admiration for gay men here—although there may well be a farcical aspect to the continued popularity and monetary success of such productions.

The absurdity is underscored several times over when one is reminded that the Emmanuel dela Cruz–directed feature not only closed the Cinema One Originals Festival this year—it was an entry in last year’s edition—but also had a brief commercial run with an R-13 rating from the Movie and Television Review and Classification Board (MTRCB), a classification that, according to the latest Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR) of the regulatory agency, applies to films that do not “gratuitously promote or encourage any dangerous, violent, discriminatory, or otherwise offensive behavior or attitude”. In what way, one wonders, does the representation of rape—here defined as forcing another to submit to a sex act against his or her will—as funny, unleavened by any trace of irony or self-awareness, fail to promote or encourage violence, sexual or otherwise?

None of the foregoing is to suggest that comedy is in any way obliged to comfort, to console, or even to provoke raucous laughter, or that it should avoid certain topics completely—some of the best examples in the genre are notable precisely because of how they are able to simultaneously amuse and disturb in their handling of challenging or taboo themes. The crucial ingredients in such literary, theatrical, and filmic texts are sensitivity and intelligence, of which Slumber Party exhibits an appalling and deplorable lack.

Much like Zombadings I: Patayin sa Shokot si Remington (2011), its sister film from Origin8 Media, Slumber Party may have laudable aspirations, but these are everywhere undermined and ultimately defeated by the effeminophobic and homophobic assumptions from which it proceeds; notwithstanding the claim of Dela Cruz that his film proffers “a chance not to laugh at gay characters but to laugh with them, to enter their world with lesser judgment and preconceptions”, Slumber Party merely reinforces and fortifies the ghettoes, both within and without cinema, to which the bakla has long been condemned to exist.

To those interlocutors who will aver that Slumber Party ought not to be taken this seriously, there is nothing to say. For better or for worse, the right to freedom of expression necessarily embraces the license to be vacuous.


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Iisa ang Estatwa at Bailarin sa Debosyon

J. Pilapil Jacobo

Isinasalaysay ng pelikula ang buhay ni Mando (Paulo Avelino), isang deboto ng Birhen ng Peñafrancia, nang makilala niya si Saling (Mara Lopez), isang dalagang naninirahan sa paanan ng bulkan ng Mayon. Magkakapalagayang-loob silang dalawa. Matutuklasan ni Mando na ang iniibig niya palang babae ay si Oriol, ang bathalumang ahas ng epikong Ibalon. Labis na matatakot si Mando isang gabi nang ipakita ni Saling ang kanyang tunay na anyo, kaya’t lalayo siya. At labis ding malulumbay ang diyosa, malulugmok sa isang milenyal na kalaliman. Magbabalik lamang si Mando kay Saling/Oriol matapos siyang sumama sa prusisyon ng Birhen bilang isang voyador. At ipagtatapat niya kay Saling/Oriol na nakita niya sa mga mata ng imahen ni Maria ang mga mata ng kanyang sinisinta.

Debosyon 01c

Sa ganang akin, makapangyarihan ang pelikula lalo na kapag ginagamit ito ng kanyang manlilikha upang minahin ang mga katutubo at kolonyal na pagmamalay gamit ang moderno nitong teknolohiya. Sa isang anyo tulad ng pelikula natin maaaring ilugar ang Panitikang Filipino sa popular, at ang popular maiuugat natin sa kayarian ng sining ng panitikan.  Sa pelikula, ang katutubo, ang kolonyal, at ang moderno ay kontemporanyo. Nananahan sila sa iisang panahon: ang panahong sinematograpiko, na inihuhudyat ng mga pinagtagni-tagning imahen (montage) at ng mga sandaling tinapyas-tapyas (diegesis).

Ano ang tagumpay ni Alvin B. Yapan sa Debosyon?  

Binabalikan niya ang epiko na itinuturing bilang pangunahing teksto ng sinaunang Panitikang Bikolano, ang “Ibalon.” Inilalarawan sa epiko ang paglilinang ng kabihasnan ng sinaunang Bikol ayon sa panahon ng tatlong mandirigma. Kasangkot sa paglilinang na ito ang bathaluman na si Oriol. Subalit lalansiin ng bawat mandirigma ang diyosa upang lubusang maitatag ang sibilisasyong papalit sa kaayusan ng kalikasang kinakatawan ng makapangyarihang babaeng ahas.

Subalit ang uri ng paggunitang ito ni Yapan ay masalimuot, sapagkat inilalangkap niya ito sa isa pang alaala sa kamalayang Bikolnon: ang debosyon sa Mahal na Birhen ng Peñafrancia. Ang mahihinuha sa hulagwayang ito ay isang malawak at malalim na pagsipat sa kayarian ng kultura na nakasuot sa malay ng tao. Marahas ang diwa na pinalitan ng debosyon kay Maria ang debosyon kay Oriol. Subalit higit na marahas ang diwa na, kung tutuusin, iisa ang nasabing debosyon. Ang mga puwersa ng pananakop lamang ang naggugumiit ng pagkakaiba.

Upang pahindian ang kolonyal na negasyon (the negation of negation), kailangang muling isaritwal ni Mando ang kanyang debosyon para sa dalawa niya innamorata na sina Maria at Saling. Kailangan niyang isabak ang kanyang katawan kasama ang iba pang katawang lalaki ng Kabikolan sa prusisyon ng imahen sa ilog Naga. At kailangan niya ring kilalanin ang katawang bathaluman-ahas ni Saling bilang katawang tao.

Ano ang kaisipan na magsasara sa pelikula?

Ang kasaysayan ng mithi ay hindi maaaring balangkasin sa isang linyar na paraan. Dahil sa masalimuot na ugnayan ng katutubo at ng kolonyal, ang anumang pagtatangka na taluntunin ang kasaysayan ng mga damdamin, tulad na nga ng pagnanasa at ng pangungulila, ay kailangang maisadula sa isang paraan kung saan masasaksihan ang sandali ng pag-aalinsabayan, ang sandali ng katiwalagan, at ang imposibilidad din ng lahat ng palakumpasang ito.

Iisa ang estatwa at bailarin sa ngalan ng debosyon.


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Posted by on 28/11/2013 in Film Review


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One Is Not Born An Indigene

J. Pilapil Jacobo

In Ecuadorian Demetrio Aguilera Malta’s  novel Siete serpientes y siete lunas (1970), the Christ of the crucifix refuses to yield to his own gravenness upon the moment of speech. At some point, he seems to threaten to abandon the figure that the sculptor had assigned to him. His wounds can no longer be sustained in a relief so high in their fatigue. Outside the church, creatures of the most enormous testicles spar to ravage Santorontón’s final virgin.

Such scenes returned to me at the screening of Bikol poet Kristian Sendon Cordero’s debut feature Angustia (2013).

Rinconada showed me “the lost steps” to Santorontón. While Cordero’s film does not possess the saturnalian fervor of Aguilera-Malta’s marvel, it succeeds in concatenating a version of the surrea lwithin the sacred, and proceeds to tackle the mélange with risky seriousness and unquizzical confidence. Somehow I did wish the mahogany Christ would interrupt the priest’s benedictions and that the shamaness’s stones would turn out to be vaginal holes shrieking currencies out of a certain Inca coinage, but Cordero’s sudamericanese is contemporary, lavishing its already piquant accent with a prominently sibilant mannerism.

The sacerdote Victorino’s crime is akin to Amaro’s, and Gael Garcia Bernal’s incarnate is the diabolically tormented Alex Vincent Medina. Quite a stretch, if truth be told, but Cordero’s charms have been previously persuasive elsewhere, and whoever springs from the root of Crispin should be given the vastest opportunity at grandiloquy. He seizes that chance so well at the end of Act Two. All of the fury at the failure to preserve a tableau tropicaux was directed at the nonchalant aloe vera. I wanted to scream: spare the succulent sabila!

Set in 16th-century Rinconada, that region of the Bikol peninsula located between the cabeceras of Nueva Caceres (Naga) and Legazpi and most populated by the aboriginal Agta, Angustia surveys a vignette of parochial life during the early history of the reduccion, during which ethnic enclaves started to vanish in light of Christianized pueblos arresting the mountains where the Agta would take shelter and forage. Angustia is all about the autochthonous trauma that remains after all that clearing of the native encampment.


The autochthone is Dunag (Michelle Smith). Her nubility can only be anticipated by the Aztec Malinalli. She possesses an attunement to the highland tropics that ranges from the locus of mollusks to the epicenter of a tone so brassy it makes the body gyrate and refuse a bracelet strewn from the salt-white corral by Sikaw (a Victor Loquias who masters both the naive and the macabre), a pursuer in the tribe. Such knowledge can only be torrid, and Michelle Smith parses out the epistemes of such a habituation with so much relish that the character becomes an anachronism in the script that is written all over her deshabille. It is this kind of acting that distinguishes the film’s contribution to ethnographic surrealist cinema. The juxtaposition of heedless foliage and Smith’s maroon gaze cantilevering the filigree of fern makes the floral and the faunal kindred but at the same time out of joint in terms of vertiginous seriality. That the eroticism of the bosom is transferred to a delectation that hangs over the eye’s promontory is testament to that temporality when the indigenal, when something more is incepted elsewhere even after the exotic becomes so sure of itself, is born out of the always already indigenous body. I desire, Dunag tells one, and no unnatural offense is assured leverage at that contagion: looking. When one becomes a conduit of each that cannot be inhibited by shame, one cannot necessarily careen into sheer libidinal license. With those unsentimented eyes, and the somber carnality around the iris, nothing less or more, especially if it concerns prejudice, can invade.

Born and raised in Zambales, Smith is Filipina and African American, and musters the right amount of intellection from this position to coordinate the autochthone’s global racial destiny out of the archaic and into the ideology critique of the change that syncresy subjects the miscegene to complete. There is something awry then when her transport to the convent denies her of any chance to figure out what it means to be strategically defiant. There is incalculable consent and unmediated delight in the utterance of  the Christian name “Josefina” when it is fundamentally a phonetic diminution of the fosterity of her rain: “Dunag.” Colleague José Mari Cuartero interjects: “Could the problem be an inarticulation of acoustic impression?” Michelle Smith performs an apparitional method, to a fault, that the error of the look must emerge by way of an vocable practice almost bereft of irony. Could this mistake be blessed?

That Dunag is murdered by her seductee, the sacerdote, is not so much a sensationalist gesture but a political act to mark out a historical incident the perfection of which, colleague Juan Ariel Goméz would intervene, is the neo-Europe that is the Argentine predicament. This is a second moment of the indigenal, plotting out emergent grooves in Guada (an indefatigably irreverent Jazmin Llana) and residual maneuvers in Natividad (a splendidly tremulous Maria Isabel Lopez). The indigene mediates between trickstery and shamanism and reveals the indifference.

The film is imperfect, for sure (a certain nostalgia lurks around the chromatic design that the palette seems almost incompetent if not for that raucous green), but to say that “[it] comes off as a very literary venture, the theories and frameworks fueling the narrative plain enough to see [sic]” is not only irresponsible, but also indolent. When the same automatic reviewer says “the movie just isn’t very good,” he surrenders to acknowledge some truths of the cinema that has failed him: the evil that resides in the colonial church. . .and the evil that debilitates critique and seeps into the writing of such a catastrophe. The filmmaker is said to be the most terrible child the literature of the Bikol peninsula has ever bred. One wished he would abandon the childhood, and forget the terror of this leave-taking, but with this text, there are growing pains, dealt with both recklessness and grace, which can be perceived. Cordero is no Aguilera Malta, well, not yet, but his Angustia is a frenetic assault to metropolitan tastes which, pace Montaigne, relent as a matter of habit, to screen barbarities.


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Posted by on 27/11/2013 in Film Review


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