The Orchid, the Vase, the Engine

J. Pilapil Jacobo

If the digital age has witnessed a surfeit of contentious categories across erotic relations, as far as certain applications complementing android technology have come to intimate to its users procedures which may alter desire and how its humanoid extensities can be facilitated, then Ikaw Ay Akin should be seen, or at the least, argued to have anticipated Filipino notions of the “polyamorous” and the post-modernity of its rupture even within heterosexual machinations. I have seen the film several times on television and video, but its recent digital remastery has allowed me to reflect on how films “of relative domesticity,” a description felicitously phrased by my colleague Nonoy Lauzon in his own critique of the film, can still outshine the sleekness of contemporary romance peddled by some of our millennial filmmakers, affirming a suspicion that technological independence has prevented the cinematic intellection of social predicament, such as sexual politics.

Written by Jose Carreon and directed by National Artist for Film Ishmael Bernal, Ikaw Ay Akin’s preoccupation is Rex (Christopher de Leon), an orphan who has inherited a jeepney talyer. When he isn’t managing the affairs of his workshop, he finds intense gratification in skydiving. These instances of labor and leisure situate Rex within a premise of objects as determinations of character. Engines moving around on land and in the sky define the young man of dynamic ambition. And yet, the film does not only regard things as correlative aspects of person; they are also configurations of how people are led to behave in a certain way within a social arrangement. Persons are drawn to certain objects, and become custodians of a particular set of machines, because it is through this array of properties that the social can emerge.

When I say “social,” I am not flattening the discourse to the question of class. What is achieved by reducing Rex and his appurtances to bourgeois typicality? Although it is possible that this insight could be the crux in another critic’s account of the movie. Whether the dissemination of the social is through commerce, which is replete with macroeconomic assignations of polity, or through a form of consumption when the economy turns into the privations of domestic habit, an understanding of fetish can only be in order, and later, at stake. Reification, when persons are altered into things, is the core argument of the theory of fetish, and the screenplay explores with pointillist fastidiousness the strategies of alienation overdetermining the terms of commodification, particularly when Rex enters the conundrum of erotic relation as a polyamorous subject.

Rex’s confusion between two women of distinction is a symptom of the fragmentation that he cannot quite resolve even when confronted with the clarity of ethical choice. Should he remain with Teresita (Nora Aunor), the horticulturist, or could he also experiment with Sandra (Vilma Santos), the ceramic designer? The former is patient, the composure of her conviction to love is as sure as the inflorescence of her orchids, while the latter is intemperant, with a susceptibility as fragile as the make of her singularly hand-painted vases. Rex confounds the métier of each woman, subjects them to comparison, and minimizes the demarcations between Teresita’s science and Sandra’s art, to stage a proprietary competition whose rules of play are orchestrated along complex binarisms, such as the intervals which distinguish baroque music from jazz (Teresita’s rhythm as kindred to Antonio Vivaldi, and Sandra’s tempo as intimate with Cole Porter), and the syncopations which can be employed so that natural predilection (Teresita) or nurturing ambivalence (Sandra) can be referred to through the contrapuntality. In this tense pageant of which act of loving can persuade the polyamorous to decide on his erotic fate, Vilma Santos must enunciate confident speech and Nora Aunor should articulate buoyant silence. It’s only matter of time, the film intimates, before whatever remains as solid in the fragment melts into air, just like a foil character who spends his days repairing clocks, and wasting away for a love that can no longer fulfill a promise. Santos is given all the clever lines, and plentiful are her instances of frenetic acting; but with that finale screening all manner of logorrheal excess, including the man who claims he has made up his mind, Santos’s appeal to disagree with romance comes rather too late. When that happens, Christopher de Leon has already engineered a range of sentiments to implode from within a dramatic apparatus wholly his own that he earns to right to disappear from the scene of contest. With this engine gone, the orchid takes over the vase, and breaks it, my poet-friend K. S. Cordero interjects. And yet: to what end is the flowering and the shattering?

After 37 years, Ikaw Ay Akin becomes a materialist indictment of the patriarchal deceit cisgender passion must contend with, opening up the queerness that emerges from feminine confidence as zone of alternative feelings. And, of course, Nora still punctures the assault with an imperturbable will to punctuate the sentence, despite the adages of her time failing to utter competitive affection, convincing Vilma that the encounter isn’t just about female rivalry, but also masculine decadence.

Ikaw Ay Akin

Santos, de Leon, and Aunor as desire love-triangle (source:


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Defections from Difference: Critique of Cinema One Originals 2015

J. Pilapil Jacobo

The claim to Cinema One’s propagation of originality in this year’s film festival has taken a decisive turn in adopting the question of difference as principle of selectivity and rubric of discrimination. With the copy “Kakaiba Ka Ba?” brandished at every press opportunity, one is persuaded to believe that the system disbursing the film grants has evolved with a comprehension of the dialectic between notions of origin and the standards of exception the original must protect, in order to justify its paranoid attitude toward the possibility of becoming commonplace. The performative instigation of such a rhetorical statement is semaphorically indicated by two hands forming into the alphabetical-numerical combination that announces the cable television channel in abbreviated form, with the background aflash with lightning whose focal point between the two semaphores refracts into an incident of illumination, perhaps pointing to a moment of differential origin? Could that wave particle event be the cinematic text produced within the fold of televisual convention and all too familiar media? How long can distinction, if ever it even overcomes cooptative tactic, “distinguish” itself when the spoils of institutional arbitration have been uncovered by forms of critique adverse to the facilities of appeasement, and what follows as adherence, particularly when propaganda taunts them to be hailed as “distinguished” in recognizing that there indeed, in this cinema of putative origination, is difference?

Manang Biring‘s primary achievement is its defamiliarization of the traumaturgy inherent in tropologies of illness, through its rotoscopic animation of the will to survivance. However, an exoticism of the subject of suffering is inevitably committed when the traumaturg is made to act against death through the rehearsal of lumpen methodology already entrenched in practices of poverty pornography, ultimately essaying a kind of bad faith that limns the terms of decadence. In the end, the god-in-the-machine emerges as a zany doppelgänger misrecognized as one presence that can substitute the defiles of ailment with a holograph of well-being by the traumaturg herself, a horrific fulfillment of the trace that is purportedly desired to recede whenever cinema in these parts decides to animate vertiginous life, or at least aspects of its vanishing. This failure of cinematic technology to conceptualize form as critique of the real only affirms the sinister triumph of excess capital from the current televisual establishment supporting this film carnival in our forlorn metropolis.

There isn’t much to be said about The Comeback, except that it distends an already bloated filmography that demeans the affective life of the mind by valorizing the world of entertainment purveyed by televisual duress as possibly a source of some redemptive moment when all the dignity lost to women after all manner of penile envy can be resuscitated through the obliteration of compassionate femininity and the performance of such vacuousness.

Dahling Nick squanders the cinematic possibilities of the literature that is signified by the author function of Nick Joaquin by literalizing the historical script ciphered through the highly idiolectal Anglophony within Joaquin’s Hispanophilia. Intensely misunderstood is the paradoxical status of language across a body of work that only seeks to mediate autochthonous experience, or what remains of it, in spite of the opacity that renders multiple imperialisms only recognizable (and inherently, again, misrecognized) as palimpsestic. In particular, what is audible as troubled translation in a work of fiction under the sign of a tropical gothic is grossly obliterated in the screenplay that wallows in narcissism after inundating its monologues with various pitches of affectation. When literature is inverted to its absolute failure, as literality, just so cinema in these parts can project itself as exercising its sentimental education, as literate, that is where our audience (in this instance, one that willfully submits itself to this act of hailing) must arrest the allure of surface most rampant in contemporary cinema and call it out for what it really is: ideologic. As well, there is sheer distrust in the species of “veracity” (or the modes of “verification,” at the very least) cinematic representation can offer, for the filmic rendition of Joaquin’s short fiction is rendered extenuate in various interpolations of purported intimates of the author in question and the literary tradition to which they must cathect. One is led to ask what is achieved in the concealment of indigenous accents whenever the prosaics of our culture is articulated. Perhaps, the failure of post-colonial phonetics? Surely, no iota of expertise (or, heaven forbid, scholarship) is accorded to these figures of anecdotal authority when the hagiography is nothing but repetitive, pretending as if Epifanio San Juan Jr.’s critique (and Alice Guillermo’s metacommentary of the latter’s “prologomena”) from decades ago had never been written. The Catholic tenor that controls the monological tone of the docu-drama essentially unmasks the tribute, as homophobic (save for that scene where Maria Isabel Lopez sets a queer pitch against the romance of the mirror that is the source of conceit in “May Day Eve”), and, as an esteemed colleague has quipped: “in protracting to reduce the radical content of elegiac form in Joaquin, ultimately effete.” Thus, the term of endearment that lays claim to the ekphrasis can only be suspect, usurping the vision of a terminus, or a sense of limit—core arguments which set Joaquinesque historicizing to dwell in the most insecure cusps of Philippine time and place.

The uncertainty that is posited in Baka Siguro Yata is the indeterminate status of heteronormative family romance, and the forms of kinship such an arrangement can evince, after the primal scene of homosexual panic is staged. With this homophobic premise in place, the narrative despairs to recuperate the terms of intimacy most significant in the preservation of straight couplings, particularly as codified within reproductive discourses across three generations of unapologetically cisgender mindsets. While erectile dysfunction, out of wedlock pregnancy, and sexual abstinence are discussed along motifs of medical expiration and food spoilage, still, the humanization of heterosexist dominance resorts to a reconstitution of the hysterical male as patriarchal candidate, by way of situations which only seem to attenuate the possession of female virginity, the capitulation to the matrimonial imperative, and the institution of erotic proclivity as amorous fundament, all of which affirming the assignation of economic provision onto a male subject that can only assume full and unabashed responsibility for the assumption of a romantic emplotment most appropriate to the habitude of his endearments.

Set in the province of Biliran, Miss Bulalacao is a Visayan vignette speculating on the transgender sublation of the biopolitical limit that is the impossibility of childbirth, a “point de capiton” rationalizing homophobic suspicion about queer matrices which can finally disengage vestiges of the heteronormative family romance with kinship. That such a proposition is projected by the same vernacular cinema that has produced texts like Iskalawags (2013) and Soap Opera (2014) argues a self-reflexive filmic consciousness that can transform what is merely novel into what can stand on its own as alternative. Vernacularity articulates its argument as formal in the manner of pace, a dialectical relation with the time of the tropics in its nesological sense, that is, the island as possibly the site of an isolated event whose esoteric implementation can conceptualize the strategic possibilization of an altered state, which, in this case, is of course, gender whose performative iterations have turned on itself, as constative in its surrealist fulfilment. If the transgender body has been diagnosed as containing fetal life, then essential womanhood can then be claimed. The temporality of such an argument is arrayed to us in the manner of classical extrapolations of the torrid zone as “tristes tropiques,” implying a sense of retardation, of course, in contradistinction to the onrush of a metropolitan modernity that is always on the verge of committing itself to violence. And yet unlike stereotypically exoticist accounts of this sadness which are hinged upon primitivist and archaic origins, the screenplay stretches its extrapolative ambit toward the futurism of the patrilineage; the impregnation is meteoric in the sense that the germ of alterity originates from alien spermatozoon and that the uterine passageways which receive such an entrant are constructed from interstellar conduits. If one is wont to talk about the paradoxical extremities of romantic entanglement that can preserve the homonormative premise within queer desire, this set up is the perfect scenography where the antipodal relationality can be staged. As soon as the film establishes this intercourse, the alternation of consciousness falls prey to a Catholic disavowal of the discursive inveiglement of sexuality and its investments. There is nothing preternatural about the slowness. It is here where the syncopated rhythm of islandic discourse reveals itself as hopelessly controlled by a colonial mindset whose barroquism confounds the separation of the sexes and vanquishes the chiasmus of gender difference. Hence, the rehearsal of miracular mythology is no longer surprising; and a narrative that terminates with the sacerdote revelling in his role as abortionist only affirms the turning of the daring into timorous dereliction, the abandonment of a cinematic imagination that had become so wretched, its apparition was taken to be so terrifying.

What sets Sheron Dayoc’s Bukod Kang Pinagpala apart is its tenebrous appeal that grows intense between a crazed extrapolation of the thaumatologic and a romantic appraisal of the demonic, so that a sinister eroticism lurks at every possible opportunity. By turns gothic and goofy (Max Eigenmann’s “Mama, nakakatakot ka na!” is precious in this case), the aurality (mostly pitched from pianistic discordance) that emerges from this maniacal encounter can only be matched by a visual design whose iconography is painstakingly well-placed between sanctimonious ivory and libidinal blue. The tension is mediated by a fanatic whose access to the miracular is also argued as conflating the hysteric episteme that the feudal order imposes on female consciousness with the rigors of a demonic possession that delivers its intrusion as theophanic. Where the narrative refuses to engage the rationality behind why madness must coincide with such diabolical dramaturgy, that is the locus where the film taps the recesses of conventional fear, reverting to the horror of the monstrous feminine as a madwoman in the attic. It is also at this point that Paolo Paraiso’s eroticization of the false Messiah stops pretending that the regard it deserves is not scopophilic. That the film ultimately looks at syncretic faith as source of this contagion is uncalled for, if only because the antichristology is for the most part solipsistically domestic. Bing Pimentel is decisively shrill, but her augmented tone defers whatever discomfiture one can derive from an insufferable third act. Her mariological pretense is an absolute stunner, one of contemporary cinema’s most confessional performances; Max Eigenmann and Lou Veloso must also be cited, the former, for her armoreal embodiment of suspicion when the kinship with a blaspheme has become incipient, and the latter, for the sheer delight of listening to his queer irreverence.

The anatomy of corruption that is exposed in Bor Ocampo’s Dayang Asu is nothing new, but it does sound novel enough, as Kapampangan argument. The trope of a dogged life in post-catastrophic Bacolor is also forced, although the scenes of its purveyance throughout the locale are immediate and at times arresting. Hence, it is not so much how the doggedness becomes a matter of state, or how plunderbund practices dissolve into the everyday, that is made prominent in the film, but the vernacularity of the vileness, including the rural rigmarole that is passed on, from vengeance to vengeance. When animality finally settles in as analytic of the discourse on political economy and the social subjects it interpellates, the character that the writing argues as potentially ethical nonetheless descends into an act of violence, affirming lumpen tactic as the only viable option when the humanist premise falters, and every fragment of Pampango idealism is shattered.

Ralston Jover persists to explore further analytical grit within the social realist paradigm through Hamog, a diptych of narratives on street urchins living under Guadalupe Bridge in Makati. While the first arc pursues a line of storytelling similar to the director’s Bakal Boys (2009), particularly as regards the rites of bereavement deserved by young life taken away too early by random acts of recklessness in the metropolis, Zaijian Jaranilla’s essaying of a Muslim boy’s conviction to redeem himself from a culture of contempt rings with the keenest sense of empathy. Jover’s characters are written with the most confounding senses of the human, so that ethical destitution is no longer an intellectual habit even when the economic seems to totalize the experience of constraint. The second arc centered on Therese Malvar does not possess the cohesiveness that allows Jaranilla to commandeer the resolution of violence toward a dissolution of impunity, but the situational tragedy that presents itself to the young actress persuades her to choreograph the concealment of poison as gift of the servile to the ones who have seemingly gained mastery over her free spirit. While Jaranilla’s delineations are almost neoclassical in certainty, Malvar approximates the gestalt of primitivist impulses, complete with the dread that one must contain in finally hearing the acoustics of her own erotic fantasies, and all the more dreadful because fulfilled vicariously. While watching the film, I couldn’t help but remember Orlando Nadres and Leroy Salvador’s Mga Batang Yagit, (1984) a climacteric text for my generation, as it plotted out the horrors of familial abandonment and metropolitan thrownness, as well as the strange delight in the prospects of independence, in the twilight of a dictatorship. Jover does cite that emplotment, in order to revise the social script written over its deep structures, to show us that children of our contemporary streets are struggling against domestic arrangements which are no longer hospitable spaces for their brand of worldliness, and social welfare services which anticipate the adult penitentiary and therefore must be avoided by those accustomed to strategic hooliganism, because of a right to subsist against an economy that can no longer support their purity. The breakdown of such institutions rationalize the variegatory kinships children themselves set up to protect those who have always already been orphaned by the democratic state. The verses framing Jaranilla’s and Malvar’s episodes written by actor Rener R. Concepcion are highly evocative stanzas which recall the conceptual concreteness of Rolando Tinio and the abstractive objectivity of Lamberto Antonio. The metaphor of the haze correlates most efficaciously the amorphous passage of innocence in a city whose long day’s journey into night almost no longer matters, with dark intent lurking at every turn even when noon is most torrid.

Finally, Mga Rebeldeng May Kaso is Raymond Red’s lovesong to that bygone era when independent cinema in the country could only be uncompromising in the pursuit of a movement apart from the mainstream, and the label “experimental” did indicate the subjection of film form to the intensest conundrum, and not just an apposition that camouflages the will to pretense. The milieu that rises from this romantic premise is imbued further with the patina of radicality, as the Raymond Red figure played by Felix Roco is set to premiere a film in a festival of vanguard motion picture during the early days of the revolutionary government installed after the fall of the Marcos dictatorship. Instructive in the depiction of a young indie film director as he protracts the editing of his closing piece is the genealogy of cinematic technology that runs its course between serialities and discontinuities along the residual, the dominant, and the emergent—rubrics delineated by the Marxist critic Raymond Williams in his cultural materialist theory on the superstructure and its material base. When the cinematographic contraptions appear as objects of its day, far from looking as artifacts of technical memory from our presentist perspective, they are employed by the filmmaker in such a way that their utilization can distinguish the particularities of his intervention as a master machinist. In the end, the chronicle that is foretold for our contemporary gaze can only be the death of such indefatigability, with almost all of Red’s vanguardism lost to the opportunistic ethos of most of his heirs today, ingratiating the demands of a mainstream that only has so much surplus capital to suppress what is sustained by efforts to remain independent. Needless to say, even Red had to capitulate to this establishment, but only perhaps momentarily, to explore notions of being on the verge of the modern, always already aware of what becomes of the ideal, when “betrayed.” While the premiere is botched in the end by punk riot (an allegory of the obligatory failure of the avant-garde), Raymond Red provides us with a glimpse of the gender of that independence, when the prince of the homosocial affair finally pays tribute to the Nick Deocampo avatar played by Epy Quizon, acknowledging him as diva of the movement, whose queer matriarchy was part-nurturance, part-ruthlessness. How can independent cinema in this late moment ever purport itself to be teeming with sui generis difference with this confession on the intimacy of alternative origins?

Rebelde 2

Epy Quizon as Deo (source:


Posted by on 19/11/2015 in Film Review, Philippine Film


Ikaw ay Akin, The Digitally Restored, and Re-mastered

Nonoy L. Lauzon

[previously published in view original here.]

It is rare for a Filipino film of relative domesticity to be imbued with grandeur. But here, attuned to Bernal’s directorial vision, grandeur overflows from the witty repartee to the characters’ introspection, and individual quiet moments to the scenes of partying and making love.

Classics of Philippine cinema may just outshine the year’s crop of outstanding current features in the country. With the restoration efforts in full gear for certain films of yesteryears, movie-going audiences now enjoy more than ever easy access to great homegrown cinema.

Lino Brocka’s Insiang that made it to the official selection of Cannes last May upon its restoration that had been carried out in world-class laboratories of Bologna, Italy, has readily upstaged any other Philippine title as the most sought-after selection for prestigious film festivals overseas.

Olivia Lamasan’s Sana Maulit Muli, with international star Lea Salonga teaming up with Aga Muhlach has proven itself to be as much a box-office sensation as when it was first released twenty years ago during the premiere for its restored version at the University of the Philippines in Diliman last July.

Cinemalaya, more than made up for the absence of a main competition for full-length features this year, with a showcase of Marilou Diaz-Abaya’s Karnal in its full restored glory.

As the year marks the birth centennial for two of the country’s National Artists for Film, namely Lamberto Avellana and Manuel Conde, classic features under their respective directions are very much in the limelight: A Portrait of the Artist as Filipino (Avellana) and Genghis Khan (Conde).

The restoration for Avellana’s A Portrait of the Artist as Filipino has multifarious significance considering that 2015 is also the birth centenary for its producer, Manuel de Leon of LVN fame, and the film that has turned gold with its 50th year of creation is the screen adaptation of the celebrated stage play by National Artist for Literature, Nick Joaquin.  Another National Artist involved in the film is lead actress Daisy Avellana, wife of Lamberto and theater icon.

Conde’s Genghis Khan was restored in 2012. Three years thereafter, it remains in the news as it graces this year’s Venice Art Biennale, where the Philippines made a comeback some five decades after its last official national participation.

Joining this illustrious league of immortalized big-screen classics for the year is Ishmael Bernal’s Ikaw Ay Akin, from ABS-CBN Film Restoration. Premiering this Saturday, November 14, for this year’s Cinema One Originals Festival, the 1978 feature that paired movie queens Vilma Santos and Nora Aunor, must be truly hailed as the piece de resistance of the current screening season. From any which angle one may look at the film, it is every inch remarkable.

Its production must be considered not only a milestone in Philippine cinema history, but also a monumental celebration. Since it was screened to theaters across the country close to 40 years ago, it managed to have withstood the ravages of time to  be rightfully declared a national treasure.

Ikaw Ay Akin shows rivals Vilma and Nora in their thespic best, along with leading man Christopher de Leon, in a performance of a lifetime that put to shame all others in his entire career.

To appreciate Ikaw Ay Akin is to dwell an entire bright era in national cinema. Made at a time of artistic heights for the local film industry, it demonstrates that romance as a screen genre, need not be hollow, shallow and inconsequential.

The film has single-handedly radicalized the discourse on the human need for intimacy to arrive at a higher level of cinema dwelling on affairs of the heart. Along the way, it makes a statement on the feminist movement, machismo or male chauvinism, hypocrisy in society and the contending forces of trust and betrayal that seem to govern every single circumstance by which humans deal with each other.

So much wisdom oozes from the film rendering it as the realization of a thinking viewer’s idea of a romance movie, that doubles as a lesson in philosophy. Textured performances even from the bit players complement an astute play of production elements to comprise a totality of a film very much adept in nuance and meaning.

Most appropriately, the film ends with the moment of greatest grandeur of all: the exchange of glances and suspended conversation between the film’s two female leads in a duel and a duet of spectacular screen acting!


Mediations on the Question of Surface: The Young Critics Circle Film Desk Discusses “Heneral Luna”

Over the long weekend, the Film Desk of the Young Critics Circle held a virtual convention to discuss Jerrold Tarog’s “Heneral Luna,” pursue the critique initiated by our member Jaime Oscar Salazar, and address certain discourses in the public sphere which deliberately misconstrue the intervention of the critic whenever texts of popular importance are subjected to rigorous analysis. The reception of cinema must always be apprehended through an understanding of mass media auras seeking to treat publics as unmediated and install the populism derived from this multitude as democratic. When the delirious spell involves a figure imbricated in a colonial past overdetermining our historical consciousness of the collective in the present, that is where even the best of us misrecognize the encounter with predicament.

Buhat noong Biyernes, nagsulatan ang mga kasapi ng Film Desk ng Young Critics Circle upang talakayin ang “Heneral Luna” ni Jerrold Tarog, ituloy ang kritikang pinasimunuan ng aming kaligang si Jaime Oscar Salazar, at tugunan ang ilang diskurso sa social media na pilit na hindi inuunawa ang tungkulin ng kritiko sa tuwing nasisipat ng matalisik niyang pagsusuri ang mga textong lubhang mahalaga para sa nakararami na lubos namang nakakanti ng suri. Kailangang mapanghawakan ang pagtanggap sa sine nang isinasa-alang-alang ang isang pagkakaunawa sa gayuma ng kalakhang midya na ituring ang madla bilang kalipunang walang pasya’t hindi nakikipagtuos at itanghal ang populismong halaw mula sa pulutong na nabanggit bilang atas ng bayan. Kapag kasangkot sa nakalululang salamangkang ito ang isang katauhang nakalubog sa isang nagdaang mapanakop na sinasapol pa rin ang ating malay pangkasaysayan hinggil sa kolektibo sa kasalukuyan, kadalasan ay inaakalang natapos na ang suliranin, kahit ng pinakamakatwiran. JPJ

Pictorial source:

Pictorial source:

Aristotle Atienza:

Gusto kong batiin ang kasama nating si Jay Salazar sa isa na namang matalim na kritika.

Hindi ko rin nagustuhan ang pelikula.

May nag-comment na sa blog natin at tulad ng dati, parang pareho nga lang…. Sa tingin ko, sarado na ang isip ng ilan sa engagement na ginagawa ng YCC, pero hindi pa ang iba, na kung hindi man nag-aabang ay naghahanap ng gabay kung paano nga ba maaaring sangkutin ang pelikula. Sa madaling salita, mapanganib kung ang gabay na makikita nila ay matatagpuan sa iba… haha. Kung kaya sa tingin ko may pangangailangan para sa ganitong pakikisangkot. Limitado lamang ang nababasa ko online pero sa iilang nababasa ko, lagi’t laging hinahati ang puna sa anyo (form) at nilalaman (content). Pansinin din ang sagot ni Jerry Gracio sa kritika ni Jay.

Flaudette May Datuin:

Salamat sa pag-alok ninyo sa aking sumama sa balitaktakan. Mukhang nararahuyo ang marami sa “Hollywood sleekness” ng pelikula, sa madaling salita—sa anyo. Alam nating lahat na ang anyo ay hindi hiwalay sa nilalaman, kaya sa tingin ko magandang mabigyan ng gabay ang mga manunuod sa aspektong ito. Umpisahan ko sa isang koment sa sinulat ni Jay sa blog—isa naman daw kasing biopic ang pelikula kaya huwag asahang pumokus ito sa malalaking “content” tulad ng imperyalismo, nasyunalismo, atbp. Talaga naman daw kasing pokus ito sa “self” ni Luna, kasama na ang mga kahinaan at kalakasan niya.

Umpisahan nating i-unpack: Ano ba ang biopic? At anong klaseng biopic ang nakasanayan na natin—ang Hollywood biopic? Kaugnay nito, ano ba ang inaasahan natin sa biopic?

Ano ba ang “bayani” at “kabayanihan?” At ano ang representasyon nito sa ating mga sining? Halimbawa, neoklasisismo ni Guillermo Tolentino kay Andres Bonifacio hanggang sa a la Marvel superhero na tatak ni Heneral Antonio Luna buhat kay Jerrold Tarog.

Kailangan din sigurong tilarin ang “unevenness” na binanggit ni Jay, at ang “smallness” ng mundo sa maraming mga halimbawa.

Alam natin na si Luna ay ilustrado, at pangitain naman ito sa flashback sequence ng childhood residence niya na bahay-na-bato. Ngunit naka-confine sa interyor ang eksena at hindi naikabit sa labas ng dwelling—ang pagyaman ng ganitong class dahil sa pagbukas ng Suez Canal. Sabagay, naka-frame ang exposition sa nostalgia ng ina, ang lunan ng tradisyon at pagpapanatili ng kaayusan. Naka-angkla sa emosyon ang “reminiscence.” Wala namang masama rito, pero dahil sa rangya ng damit, ng hapag- kainan at dekorasyon, hindi maiangat ang diskasyon.

Pictorial source:

Pictorial source:

Ang social class na ito ay “seed” ng oligarkiya na ngayon ay ang ating political dynasty. Sinikap ni Marcos na tibagin ang oligarkiya, ngunit pati siya ay naging bagong oligarkiya. Bawal bang isalin iyon sa cinematic language, ayon sa frame ng biopic?

Tayo ang may kasalanan kung bakit tayo ay natalo, magpasahanggang ngayon. Delikado ‘yan, kasi si Marcos gano’n din ang ginawa—“massive reengineering on the wings of cultural regeneration.” May “dictatorial tendency” ang “testosterone-driven nationalism” ni Luna. Kuwidaw. Hindi rin ba kaya ng biopic na ikarga ang puntong ito, lalo na sa kasalukuyan, kung kailan inaalala natin ang Martial Law?

Fluffy ang content, kulang sa research, kulang sa analysis—parang sirang plaka na tayo; ganyan din ang obserbasyon natin sa ilang nagdaang historical films, tulad ng “Jose Rizal” ni Marilou Diaz Abaya, “Rizal sa Dapitan” ni Tikoy Aguiluz, maging ang “Bayani” at “Sakay” ni Raymond Red. Kung fluffy ang content, fluffy rin ang form. Kailangan atakihin ang form kung gayon—mag-umpisa sa mga elemento ng sine kung kailangan….

Pero ang problema ko, paano iaangat ang diskasyon kung basic ang problema. Expert kay AlDub, pero ni hindi alam kung bakit sa buong pelikula, bakit daw nakaupo lamang si Mabini?

Haaaay. At least observant si Ate….

J. Pilapil Jacobo:

Mabalos, May, sa iyong kritika.

Tutugon ako sa tanong mo hinggil sa “generic” na oryentasyon ng texto, ang “biopic.” Sa kasong ito, higit na nagkakaroon ang suliranin ang “genre” dahil sinasapol din ang “historical film,” kung kaya hindi yata maaaring tingnan ang buhay na isinasapelikula na tiwalag sa daloy ng panahon at sa pagsipat sa daloy na ito na tinataguriang makasaysayan. Sabay nito, kung “biopic” nga lamang, kailangan pa ring maapuhap ang hilatsa ng pangkalatang tiyempo na humuhubog doon sa buhay na ibinibida; kung ang panahon naman ang nakausli sa salaysay, nararapat ding itampok ang sinasabing buhay na kaugnay ng daloy o o katambal ng balaho. Dayalektikal, may pagtatalad, na nagaganap, sa pagitan ng imahen na umaangat mula sa film at ang labas na lumulubog sa akala nati’y babaw nito. Hindi lamang isang projeksiyon mula sa kung anong mahiwagang makina ang pelikula. Bilang isang projeksiyon, dala-dala nito ang isang bukod-tanging pagtingin sa buhay-sa-loob-ng-kasaysayan. Depende sa kaanyuan ng kanyang tingin, doon natin mamamalas kung malawak nga ito o makitid. Kaya lang, “bukod” kaya, at “natatangi” ang matang tumititig o tumitingala sa tampok na katauhan, si “Heneral Luna”? O inuulit lamang nito ang nakasanayan na hinggil sa gampanin niya sa himagsikan? Ano naman kung pag-uulit lamang? Puwede na ba ito? Kung namamangha tayo sa kaibhan, sa pagka-bukod-tangi ng nag-uulit lang, bakit kaya? Ano ang mayroon at wala sa mata, sa malay, ng tanaw na gayon? At bakit tila lubos ang pagkayamot kung nakaririnig ng taliwas na pagtanggap sa textong tinatabas, o inaakalang tabas na tabas, bilang makabuluhan? Iyon na muna, marahil….

Pictorial source:

Pictorial source:

Jaime Oscar Salazar:

Maraming salamat, Aris, para sa pagsisimulang ito. Susubaybayan ko na lang muna ang ‎talakayan, dahil nakapagbigay na ako ng aking pahayag.

Maaaring makatulong sa usapan, lalo na’t tinukoy na ni Ma’am May ang anyo, ang panayam na ito ni Jerrold Tarog.

Malinaw niyang binanggit dito na Marvel nga ang kanyang benchmark para sa Luna at sa ibang bahagi ng trilogy, at mahihinuha sa kanyang ibang mga tugon ang kanyang naging lapit sa paghulma ng pelikula.

Flaudette May Datuin:

Di nga ba’t Hello, Hollywood na, Jay? Aba, patulak na ang Heneral at magkikita na sila ni Oscar?

J. Pilapil Jacobo:

O, ayan, ang auteur na ang nagsalita.

Ano naman ang asiwa kung idinidiin mo lamang bilang kritiko ang sinabi niya at sinusuri ito bilang sintomas ng isang problema? Bakit ibinubunton sa iyo ang sisi na dapat ibato sa ibinubukod-tangi?

Kung Marvel nga ang “benchmark,” at kung negatibo ito sa simula, at ang pagbanggit ng kritiko rito, bilang negatibo rin, sa ikalawang sandali, ang gawain ng iba, sana, ay i-engage ka at ang auteur, ayon sa mga termino ng talakayan na inilatag ng huli, na binabanat (extend) mo lamang naman mula sa inaakalang pambabanat (attack)?

Mainam na pag-isipan, hindi ba?

Patrick D. Flores:

Thanks, May, for the sharp insight.

I am also puzzled, in fact, baffled, why there is so much admiration for the surface of Heneral Luna. I won’t call it form, because form assumes a high level of mediation. This one is just surface, plastic surface and it’s pretty generic and in some parts clumsy. Also, in light of the achievements of the films of Celso Ad Castillo and Peque Gallaga, this one pales, quite inferior compared with the plastic density and scope of Castillo’s and Gallaga’s efforts. The rest of the so-called technical details are in the same vein uninteresting, derivative of the Hollywood look, and because many times removed from the center to which it pretends, ultimately provincial: the aesthetic of the outpost, not even the trenches.

I agree with May on the point of the genre of the biopic and the understanding of the “bio” and the “picture,” as well as the aspiration to supposedly “humanize” the “hero” who is the stuff of this “bio.” This is the extensity of the “picture.” Anything smaller is, well, for smaller minds. There is so much to say about this. But I will start with the persona that portrays Antonio Luna. I think the actor is key in this predicament. He who bulks out and practically beggars the screen and the time of the film; he who turns a character into a caricature, staggering into the scene like some slab of a substance. Quite insufferable in its opacity.

More later.

Pictorial source:

Pictorial source:

J. Pilapil Jacobo:

Thanks, Pat, for raising the significance of a film historical consciousness, which requires comparative and contrapuntal thinking. It seems to me that with “Heneral Luna,” the history of the historical film has been obliterated, as far as most of current punditry is concerned. Whatever happened to the contributions, productive or otherwise, of Eddie Romero, Raymond Red, Jose Mari Avellana, even Marilou Diaz-Abaya? It’s as if time had stood still in the interim, and the cinematic critique of historical representation had never run its course, until this tremulous text, “Heneral Luna”? What is at work, or what is not at work, in this wonderment, and in the offense to correctives to this reverie of contemporary Philippine cinema?

I also agree with you on the predicament of character/caricature, as rehearsed by John Arcilla. Character is about distinction. Caricature happens when the distinction is exaggerated, perhaps because the distinction was not marked out at all, or worse, misrecognized. A spectator’s rehearsal of the misrecognition persuades us to problematize, and even surmise, such practices of cinematic perception as missing the point of mediation. Hindi nasundan ang katauhan, hindi naipaloob, kaya puro palabas na lang. Kung basta na lamang tatanggapin ang lantad na lantad, naisaloob kaya ang panunuod? Nakapanuod nga kaya? O nakinuod lamang? Inakala ang panunuod bilang iyon na, hanggan doon lang, kaya’t maniniwalang nakapagsipat na nang lubos. At nabubugnot kapag napagsasabihan na hindi yata sumapat ang pakikihamok sa textong minahal nang wala sa katinuan ang isip.

Jaime Oscar Salazar:

Maaari rin palang makatulong sa talakayan ang study guide na galing mismong web site ng “Heneral Luna.”

J. Pilapil Jacobo:

Mainam at nabanggit mo ang study guide na ito, Jay. Makatutulong sa direksiyon na nais isulong ni Aris—ang tungkol sa pedagogical tools na nararapat ituring bilang sangkap, sa isang banda, at kasangkapan, sa kabila, sa pagbasa/pagtanggap/pagsipat sa pelikulang tulad ng “Heneral Luna.”

Aristotle Atienza:

Maraming salamat mga kapatid sa panahong iniukol para dito. Naipapaalala ang mga deliberasyon na ginagawa ng YCC taun-taon. Napapaisip pang lalo sa mga puntong inilalatag dito. Ipagpatuloy lang po ang “ambagan” ng mga kritika.

Punahin ko lang ang study guide para sa “Heneral Luna.” Nakita ko ang tatlumpung pahinang gabay sa panunuod. Nakakatawa siya noong una, pero mas naging nakakabahala kung hindi man mapanganib, lalo na’t lumalabas sa klase ng pagtalakay at pagtatanong kung paanong nililikha na nito ang “Heneral Luna” bilang mahusay. Sa halip na maging gabay sa kritikal na edukasyon sa pelikula o sa kasaysayan, inililigaw lang lalo ang mambabasa at manunuod, at ipinapatanggap nang maganda nga itong pelikula. Ano nga kaya ang nagaganap na talakayan sa mga klasrum ng mga estudyanteng nanood ng pelikula? Scary.

Pictorial source:

Pictorial source:

Flaudette May Datuin:

Narito ang isa pang essay, this time mula sa Rappler.

Tungkol naman sa comment ni Aris, naisip ko rin na bukod sa isang straight review, maaari rin siguro tayong gumawa ng alternative study guide?

Aristotle Atienza:

Magandang ideya iyan, Ma’am May. Posibleng gawin nating part two iyan nitong online forum. Dagdag pa, puwedeng pag-isipang gawin ng grupo sa mga susunod na panahon ang pagsagawa ng proyekto tungkol sa paggamit ng pelikula sa pagtuturo.

Ma’am May, gusto kong ulitin din ang binuksan ninyong punto tungkol sa representasyon ng bayani at kabayanihan sa sining na maaaring maging tanong din sa kung ano nga ba kapasidad (kabilang na ang limitasyon) ng pelikula na angkinin o umangkin sa bayani, kabayanihan, o kahit maging sa kasaysayan. Káya nga kayâ? At kung kaya, ano ang kakayahan nito? At habang sinusulat ito, bumabalik ako sa “smallness of its mind” na binanggit ni Jay. Uuwi at uuwi talaga sa baka hindi nga kayang panghawakan ito ng mismong direktor. Halimbawa, Sir Patrick, paano ito nagawa nina Gallaga at Castillo? Tulad ng nabanggit ni J., parang hindi man lang umangat itong “Heneral Luna” sa mga nagawa na noon. Sir Patrick, nabanggit mo ang “surface” at hindi “form.” Baka posibleng matalakay pa natin ito rito. Gayundin, baka puwede pang pag-usapan ng pangkat itong paulit-ulit na binabanggit na “pag-humanize” sa bayani. Ito rin sa tingin ko ang hindi pino-problematize sa mga diskusyon.

Patrick D. Flores:

I share your interest in the notion of form, Aris. For me form is an ecology of elements that make up “art” or some kind of “sensible life” like film that presents itself as an event or energy, situation, experience, and not just object or thing. So definitely it’s not just surface, which is an important moment, too, but only a level or a phase in a larger sequence or scheme. Surface may be an entry point, a first impression, a visceral encounter. It may also be, however, disclosed as a technology of enchantment, a look contrived by an industry of spectacle. However way it is intuited, surface is discursive in many ways as it is affective. The task of the critic is to explain or shed light on (magpaliwanag) the consequences or ramifications of the surface. The task is not only to reduce the art to perception, but to subject it to seeing. So what is written in criticism is the activity of seeing, not the perception of surface, or its capture in cognition.

With regard to history and film, I have always been guided by the words of Robert Rosenstone: “How does film construct a historical world? What are the rules, codes, and strategies by which it brings the past to life? What does that historical construction mean to us? Only when such questions have been answered may we wish to consider the following: What does film do to and for the past that the written word cannot? How does the historical world on the screen relate to the world on the page?” These are the more productive questions needed to initiate discussions on “Heneral Luna,” and not whether it’s well-made or it’s polished, with witty camera work or great editing. The latter do not qualify as critical annotations; they are blurbs, and predictable (if not totally asinine) ones at that, to be easily appended to any other product in the market in search of consumers.

Just some quotes from the reviews of Petronilo Daroy on “Daluyong at Habagat” and Emmanuel Reyes on “Virgin Forest.” This is to remind all of us that there is a corpus of critical writing on film that sustains our archive of reading the medium across the years.

For instance, Daroy demonstrates how editing in “Daluyong at Habagat” configures class conflict in history: “Through a series of intercutting, he shows three related series of sequences—Igus rushing headlong to meet his adversary, the bourgeois Ricky Belmonte; Igus’s brother (Rez Cortez) standing at attention in a courtroom listening to a judge render a sentence on him; and the laborers going on a strike in a factory. Through the technique of intercutting, Castillo manages to show these sequences as relating to three forms of violence namely, the organized workers against the exploitative system; institutional violence against the individual; and the type of anarchistic or senseless violence that man within a given context of society perpetuates against his own kind. These final sequences are a testimony to Celso Ad Castillo’s power as an artist and his capacity to make a profound understanding of social issues. Given this equipment, he really does not have to evade historical truth.”

For his part, Reyes dwells on the potential of the motif and locus, the mise-en-scène, of the forest in “Virgin Forest” as an allegorical detail: “The forest, the dominant visual, the formidable barrier that the characters just overcome, fails to create a mystic aura as its concept demands, largely because its perception in the narrative is that of a labyrinth rather than an ethereal force that weaves control over the destiny of each character.”

So there, a springboard for critique. Not just blurbing, hyping, social climbing, and heaping of praise upon praise upon praise.

J. Pilapil Jacobo:

Daroy and Reyes offer paradigmatic schemes in the critical sensing of film. Their modes of thinking have also guided me in my acts of traversal through contemporary cinema in spite of the currency of some other styles of appreciation which dominate the primal scene of reviewing.

Petronilo Daroy points us to a mode of analysis that refuses a split between form and content while remaining open to an understanding of gradient within the unity, and one that is evinced as already there in the diegesis. In this manner, technique is no longer perceived as such, but as “equipment,” an apparatus that sets itself apart from the machine or the contraption, because it is situated within a kind of consciousness that sanctions Castillo to commit himself to the counterpoints which plot out the rhythm of historical truth.

The aporetic employment of “fail” in Emmanuel Reyes’s sentence is also instructive, for its indeterminate sense signifies a tropic shift that the critic perceives with the director as he arranges a contiguity of signs for the allegory he is setting up to propose. The turn to “barrier” from “force” anticipates the alterity of the “forest” as “labyrinth.” Gallaga’s forest is not just a milieu where the erotic rehearses an alibi of torridity, but the very site of the dissimulation that allegory performs as it painstakingly labors to “fail” to complete the reference to the event in question.

Thank you, Patrick, for reminding us that such statements on film have already been written. And that we can always draw strength from these commitments to difficulty.

Flaudette May Datuin:

Kahapon, pina-explain sa akin ng aking anak na si Ligia kung bakit ayaw natin ang “Heneral Luna.” Hindi daw kasi niya ma-gets ang review ni Jay. Hahaha. Nahirapan akong ipaliwanag ang “hagiography” sa lengguwahe ng mga bata (Hay, ang hirap maging ina!). Sinabi ko na lang, para siyang walang kasaysayan—isang superhero na sumulpot na lang at sukat, at parang “backdrop” lamang ang kasaysayan ng imperyalismo, atbp. “Human” kasi may temper; brilliant kasi marunong mag- strategize, at higit sa lahat, may pagmamahal sa bayan. Isa pang problema ang paghihiwalay ng “self” at bayan, kako. Isa pa ay hindi pinoproblema ang “nation” at “nationalism.” Nakuha naman ng bata, pero disappointed siya, kasi daw “You have ruined it for me.” Hahaha. Lubhang masakit ang demystification (parang mga presong kumalawa sa kuweba ni Plato. Nabubulag sa sikat ng araw)!

At the same time, kung “phenomenal” ang effect ng resepsyon ay maaari rin nating itong tingnan bilang sintomas ng “pagkauhaw” ng bata sa “matinong” mga sine. At dahil kulang siya sa kaalaman sa filmography ng mga nakaraang pelikula, at iba pang background. Akala niya “the best” na ang nakita niya. Pinanood nila sa Calamba bilang isang klase (sa Philippine High School for the Arts) ang “Heneral Luna”— unang unang showing…. Wala pang bandwagon….

Palagay ko, ang i-target natin ang mga guro na, malay mo, naghahanap rin ng bagay. Nang sumulpot ang study guide ni Alvin Campomanes, iyon ang nag-fill up sa vacuum. Ibig sabihin, targetin na rin natin ang mga malay at matalas ang isip. Hindi natin kayang targetin ang madla—ang mga nagtatanong kung bakit hindi tumayo si Mabini sa pelikula. Hindi naman tayo mga superhero….

Ang “crisis of reception” ay maari rin nating ihalintulad sa isang hindi matapos na pagluluksa—isang mahabang “wake” at proseso ng “mourning”—sa nasyong naudlot, sa kawalan ng bayani, sa patuloy na betrayal ng ating mga lider na nakita nilang at work sa sine. Tingnan mo na lang ang kasalukuyang circus ng eleksiyon. Ramdan ito ng mga milllenials, sa tingin ko. Kita ko ‘yan sa aking mga estudyante at sa mismong anak ko, at maging sa mga gumawa ng sine. Malalim ang “hugot,” ‘ika nga. ‘Yang “hugot” na yan ang kailangan nating i-adress.

Pictorial source:

Pictorial source:

J. Pilapil Jacobo:

Gusto ko ‘yang pahayag mo, May, tungkol sa sakit na dulot ng demistipikasyon, sa dalamhating hatid ng pagbasag sa trip ng may di akalaing (misrecognition) nahihirati pala siya sa isang mapanganib na larawan, o sa salaming may natatanging imahen, ngunit tinatanggap iyon bilang totoo, at hindi man lamang kabaligtaran nito. You’ve articulated the pitfalls of ideology, and the trauma that some of us will refuse to acknowledge when we’ve found out our place, the abyss. Hindi naman daw lubusang makakaahon mula sa di akalain, pero may atas ang kritika na itulak tayo palayo sa gayong uri ng kahiratian.

Patrick D. Flores:

May, I think you’re right about the “hugot,” or the process of drawing out something from somewhere, in other words, some kind of context of some condition or sentiment. And this has to be addressed. The film in a way attempts to be “in history” because it carves out space for a historical moment through a historical figure and tries to render it in the best way it could, and presumably in good faith. It also endeavors to be “out of history,” that is, it disrupts some kind of progressive time to intervene in its making by reflection or annotation; the device of the interview and the burning of the flag are symptoms of this disruption because they draw attention to the fiction and the facture of the film, as well as to an alternative formulation. All this is fine. And in both instances, the film is found wanting, owing perhaps to the thinness of the imaginative research of a very thick, intractable material and the inability to probe plastic potential beyond the immediate sensate (basically Hollywood) stimuli. In a way, this testifies to the conceit of the filmmakers, the misplaced temerity to mediate a material too complex for their intellectual preparation. The effort to be out of history is not without its value, but it also proves to be more dangerous because the film is only able to supplement binarist tendencies in Philippine historiography and therefore can only offer polemics on the so-called struggle in the nineteenth century. In this vacuum bereft of dialectical trouble or even just a sensitive explication of tension, the film shapes a partisan mindset and fails to be productively political. In other words, the film merely urges the audience to take sides in a duel between heroism and villainy and does not invite them to a critical conversation on the many aspects of the material that cannot be reduced to partisanship.

I also don’t understand how people could simplistically say that it’s well-made and with confidence at that. What is the basis of this so-called concise comment? It’s actually a meaningless comment if it doesn’t explain what “well-made” entails and the consequences of its supposedly fine making. What if it’s well-made? It’s a good product? That’s it? If the yardstick is Hollywood and the film succeeds to mimic it in the palest of shades, is it good enough? In a post-colonial world, such mimicry is sad and tragic. Tell me: how is it not social climbing? With the Philippine film gatecrashing the party in period costume? And the lover of Heneral Luna a closet social climber?

The other thing of course is the much-abused word: “humanize.” What does it mean to humanize really? What I discern in the film are quirks in character, with Luna portrayed as exceeding his zeal and being intemperate. Does this humanize him? Is this psychosis? Is this “naturaleza?”

My problem with “Heneral Luna” is that it misses the opportunity to provoke, and the noise around it does it in. And what takes over is the hype that lives off the frustrations of a mass audience who may have had to weave through a three-hour traffic jam just to watch the film and to suffer the paralysis of the current government and the fantasies of those who want to be president. This I think is the “hugot” that is exploited; exploited too is the impressionable mind of the student who has to be dragged to the cinema by the teacher to like the film. What a way to teach! And I say this not because critics are indifferent to what people like or respond to with pleasure, but because we are interested in how their desires are formed and how this pleasure plays out.


Posted by on 27/09/2015 in Film Review, Philippine Film



The General Lunacy of Empire

Jaime Oscar M. Salazar

Heneral Luna (2015, directed by Jerrold Tarog) is an account of the time that Antonio Luna (John Arcilla) was the commander of the Philippine Revolutionary Army at the end of the 19th century, stringing together episodes from between 1898 and 1899 in order to sketch out the struggles of the first Philippine Republic, led by President Emilio Aguinaldo (Mon Confiado). Notwithstanding the epic possibilities of the material that it plumbs, the film evinces little interest in presenting a broad canvas of the war for independence against the United States of America, which, coming into its own as an empire, was keen to consolidate its control over the archipelago that it had acquired under the Treaty of Paris with Spain. Instead, Heneral Luna is concerned with proposing a kind of hagiography for its titular figure in such a manner that is inflected, perhaps unavoidably, by the blockbuster, or at least studio budget–busting, superhero movies that Hollywood has been reliably churning out in recent years.

The endeavors of the film to flesh Luna out towards “humanness” and “relatability” as he contends against apparently powerful enemies and great odds, or as he stumbles into comic situations—including a riff on the present-day struggles of Filipinos with the English language—are nearly perfunctory in fashion, ticking off such boxes as a major character flaw, loyal sidekicks, a formidable lover, and a doting mother, to wit: a belligerent temper, Eduardo Rusca (Archie Alemania) and Paco Roman (Joem Bascon), Isabel (Mylene Dizon), and Laureana Luna (Bing Pimentel). It also provides Luna with convenient opportunities to launch into monologues about his views on the revolution through the prompting of Joven Hernando (Arron Villaflor), a young journalist who taken it upon himself to develop a profile on the general for a fledgling publication that seeks to carry on the work of the people, Luna among them, behind the pivotal periodical La Solidaridad.

The results are, to say the least, ungainly: its tone is uneven and its movement incoherent, such that one never really grasps a sense of the stakes involved, of the immense height of such stakes; no matter how mightily the visual and aural designs—remarkable in and of themselves—strain to imbue onscreen developments with gravitas, the film is marked by a certain airlessness, a diminutiveness of scale, notably given the performance of Arcilla, whose version of the infamously bellicose Luna at times leaps headlong into the abyss of cartoonishness.

Antonio Luna. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

Antonio Luna. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

What makes Heneral Luna deplorable, however, is not the smallness of its world, but the smallness of its mind. This is demonstrated in part by the way that it opens and closes: with statements attesting to its status as a work of fiction. That it insists on drawing attention to what should be patently obvious, not only for films, but also for all narratives, does not, unfortunately, suggest that it has marked out a frame within which it is able to reflect upon itself and the conventions it cleaves to or from—a gesture that would become many a cultural text in these parts, specifically those that arrogate unto themselves the authority to purvey the story of that vexed and vexing entity called “nation”. Rather, the film brandishes these disclaimers in what comes across as an attempt to carve out a vantage from which it is entitled to indulge in oracular pretensions, aided by technical spectacle and burdened by neither rigor nor nuance. Only by “a combination of the real and the imaginary”, it announces at the beginning, can “the truth” about the Philippines be disclosed. And what is this so-called truth? The fight for emancipation, Heneral Luna alleges, was doomed by the very people who waged it, owing to their propensity for internecine strife and their inability to emulate Luna in his love for country, bravery, and, above all, discipline—each Filipino, therefore, is every other Filipino’s worst enemy, especially as represented in the film by a weak Aguinaldo and the unscrupulous duo of Felipe Buencamino (Nonie Buencamino) and Pedro Paterno (Leo Martinez); Aguinaldo and Buencamino are implicated in Luna’s brutal death.

It is not that “nation” should be understood as beyond criticism, because it well deserves the sharpest possible scrutiny that we can bring to bear upon it, regardless of what we end up discovering, reconsidering, and evaluating about ourselves—a difficult task to which we have not always been equal. The radicalness in the act of truth-telling that this film deludes itself into claiming, however, lies not in the boldness to proclaim unpleasantries as such, but in the fortitude to resist the simplistic in favor of the complex, and in the courage to renounce self-loathing in favor of hope.

To lay the blame for the failure of the revolution squarely at the feet of our people, to maintain that we lacked the will and the willingness to unite under a common cause—these are assertions nourished by utterly niggardly notions of nation and nationalism, of colonialism and imperialism. The extent of the destitution is adumbrated in the character of Luna himself, who, in spite of his repeated invocations of the need for discipline, is helpless to regulate his own puerile impulses and violent rages, pointing up the self-serving nature of his declarations—for instance, a cabinet meeting that does not go according to his liking provokes him to threaten a frail old man walking through the town plaza and shoot dead the chicken that the man was carrying in a basket—but the film is brazen in its incognizance, electing to exempt Luna and, even worse, the Americans, from any sort of accountability as it drives home its appalling point: that, by killing Luna, supposedly the sole bulwark of patriotism, it became the “manifest destiny” of the Philippines to be conquered, to be oppressed, to be crushed. In its contrivance of an allusion to Spoliarium (1884), by Luna’s brother Juan, the film recasts the allegory in defeatist terms: Heneral Luna is extravagant demagoguery that functions as a ringing endorsement of empire.

Why this message seems to have resonated so positively among the people who have watched the film—some have even come away from it professing to have gained deeper insight into Philippine history and culture—is beyond the scope of this review, but the fact that it does should give cause for alarm, particularly in an electoral season that has been marked by the resurgence of popular longings for the caress of an iron hand, for the smell of “gold and blood and flame”. Why are we so besotted by authoritarianism, and what will it take to dispel our paternalist lunacies?


Jaime Oscar M. Salazar works for an international humanitarian organization.


Posted by on 22/09/2015 in Film Review, Philippine Film



Sakuna bilang Suliraning Pamanahon sa “Taklub” (2015)

J. Pilapil Jacobo

Sinisipat ng abot-tanaw ng pamemelikula ni Brillante Ma. Mendoza ang mga bakas ng sakuna na dulot ng unos na Yolanda sa “Taklub.” Sa panahong dinaratnan ng pelikula, halos isang taon na ang lumipas nang sinalanta ng sigwang Haiyan ang lungsod ng Tacloban, subalit malalim pa rin ang dalamhati ng loob ng nagsusumikap na makaalpas sa suliranin ng sakuna. Habang pinaiigting ng bumubungad na aksidenteng sunog sa tent city ang halos hindi na maaarok na dusa ng nasalanta, binubuksan naman, kahit baha-bahagya, ang ilang sitio kung saan maaaring gumapang pabalik sa rabaw ng danas ang abot-dili ng natataklubang diwa.

Kung sasaliksikin ang mga talahuluganan ng mga wika sa Visayas mula pa noong ikalabingwalong dantaon, mahihiwatigan sa mga entri sa “taclob/taclub” ang metonimiya ng proteksiyon, kung ang taklob ay pantakip, o saplot na nga sa katawan laban sa di mawaring kawalang katiyakan ng panahon sa ronang tropiko, lalo na ng Leyte, na nakalantad sa karagatang Pasipiko, kung saan unang nagwawasiwas ang mga siklon na kinatatakutan sa buong kapuluan. Naririyan din siyempre ang pagbanggit sa isang uri ng talaba na maaaring makalap mula sa baybayin ng Leyte, ang “taklobo,” na hindi malayong ituring din bilang metafora ng likas na resistans ng labas sa kabila ng pagiging delikado ng laman-loob. Kaya, interesante ang pinipiling salin sa pamagat. Bakit “trap” kaagad ang ipinalilitaw, at hindi “shelter”? Ano ang iginigiit sa balintiyakang pagpapa-aninaw na ito ng iisang panig lamang, ng bahaging “cul de sac” ng nag-iilang-diwang taguri sa gawi ng anumang katawan na takpan ang sarili sa harap ng matinding alinsangan at daluyong?

Sa isang mapanuring etnograpiya ng isang pulo sa Kabisayaan, ipinabanaag sa anyong tuluyan ni Jean-Paul Dumont ang hulagwayan ng gayong ilang-diwa, lalo na sa pagpapalawig ng danas-gugma. Tinawag niyang “Visayan vignettes” ang paghuhugis ng isinasagawa niyang metodolohiya ng pagtugaygay sa kanyang sapa-sapantaha hinggil sa “ethnographic trace.” Habang may pagmamalay sa anyo ng “sugilanon,” na maaaring katumbas ng “katha” ng mga Tagalog at ng “osipon” ng mga Bikolnon, tinurol ng antropologo ang mga bakas ng nakamihasnang ugali ng mga taga-Siquijor upang buoin ang isang ladawan ng mga damdamin/sentimyento, pakiramdam/sentido, at pagdaramdam/sentimentalidad na lumilinang sa isla bilang pulo nga ng di matataguriang pamumuhay at paghahanap-buhay sa agaw-dilim/agaw-liwanag ng gugma.

Masasabing may taglay na pagkakaunawa sa gayong “miserabilismo” ang pelikula ni Mendoza. At kung babanatin pa, maaaring narating din ng kanyang nagsusugilanong katha ang gayong sensibilidad (bagaman mapakla [at halatang piniga pa ang tamis-pait mula sa lasang ito], produktibo gilayon ang pagbabatuhan ng mga asiwang linya sa pagitan ng Waray at Tagalog, upang ipabatid na dati pa man, isa nang “contact zone,” o pook-diitan, ang Tacloban, at higit itong mananatili bilang gayon dahil sa sakuna). Ginamit na kasangkapan ng dulang pampelikula ni Honelyn Joy Alipio ang apat na kuwadro ng kasalantaan: si Renato (Lou Veloso) na kinalayo ang natitirang mga supling mula sa inanod na ngang mag-anak; si Larry (Julio Diaz) na nagkabaun-baon sa lupa ang mga mahal sa buhay; si Erwin (Aaron Rivera) na nililipad-lipad ng hangin ang papeles ng pagkautas ng kanyang mga ginikanan; at si Bebeth (Nora Aunor) na naglalaum na buhat sa nukleotidong mababakas mula sa kanyang laway ay mababatid pa rin sa wakas ang mga bangkay ng mumunting padangat na itiniwalag sa kanya ng malulupit na ragasa.

Mahusay ang sinematograper na si Odyssey Flores sa pagpipitak-pitak ng madalamhating danas ayon sa mga elemento ng ronang tropiko. Sa pamamagitan ng gayong balangkas, naisasaysay ang mahilahil pa ring pagluluwalhati na pinagdaraanan ng sinumang nababalaho sa luksa. Mayroong muling binubuo, oo, datapuwa, lagi namang natatalos ng panghuhubog ang alaala ng pinsala, kaya’t paulit-ulit na lalagapak, tulad ni Sisifo.

Alalaong-sana, nakalulundag ang pelikula lampas sa balag ng alanganin na hinahawan niya, subalit hindi. Nananatili ang tanaw-daigdig sa loob ng sakuna sa mismong kasalantaan na dahilan ng kanyang pamamanaag, at katwiran ng panganganino. Nabibigo ang salaysay ng mga napahamak na, na alpasan ang alapaap na akala niya’y nagpapalinaw ng kanyang sipat. Liban sa pagsasadula ng paglala ng burukrasya, wala nang ibang pinagbabalingan ng suri sa kung ano ang mali sa mga kalakarang panlipunan kaya ganoon na lamang ang kaguluhan. Sa pagyakap sa traumaturhiya ng mga nasakuna, ang nasasalat lamang ay pagsuko sa taumaturhiya, sa paniniwalang may panahon ng himala: maaaring hindi ngayon, maaaring hindi bukas, ngunit tiyak ang pagdatal nito, dahil nakalaan na nga ang panahong ipinangako, isasakatuparan na lamang ang nakaakda sa kalatas. Ang pinakamabuting gawin—ipasa-panginoong Maykapal na lamang ang lahat. Kaya ganoon ang wakas: isang sipi mula sa Ecclesiastes, at isang koro na magsisiawit na sasapit din ang ganap na pagkaligtas. Hindi ba’t batbat ng panganib ang ganitong maling panunumbalik sa Lumang Tipan, kung saan halos lahat naman ng desastre ay kalooban ng Diyos? Kaya pala ang taklub dito ay walang pakundangang bitag. Ito na ang puno’t dulo ng isang katha na wala namang inihahandog na dahilan sa antas ng kayarian, kung bakit lumiwag ang kasalantaan, kung bakit ganoon pa rin ang kalagayan—sakuna, at sakuna lamang—kaya ibinabalik sa isang teolohikal na paglalahad ang dapat sana’y napaglalaanang bukod-tanging pormasyon ng pagpapasya sa mga ipinakilala sa simula bilang biktima. Ganoon na lamang ba ang sakuna, galing sa kalikasan, kaya’t ipapaubaya na lamang din sa pag-inog ng mundo’t pagdausdos ng panahon?

Ganito man ang pangkalahatang suliranin ng pelikula hinggil sa tagal (tenure) ng sakuna, hindi naman matatawaran ang pagkiling nito sa kasandalian ng lunan, kahit pansamantala lamang, lalo na sa kapangyarihan nito na himatungin ang damdam ng hindi na magpapagaping kalooban. Kung gugma nga ang kalagayang pinapangarap sa kabila ng lahat ng desgrasya buhat sa mga pangyayaring itinuturing bilang likas, may karunungang bayan hinggil sa lugar nito sa paghahanap-buhay, na hindi mahihindian ang pag-usbong nito sa larang ng hilahil, tulad na lamang ng matatanto sa eksena kung saan inaawit at isinasayaw ang “Rosas Pandan.” Doon, natutunghayan ng pelikula ang paghuhubad ng takot na itinaklob sa katauhan. Kaya’t nagagawang umindak ng mga paa at kamay na dati’y walang ibang atas kundi tiyakin na ang sarili’t kapuwa’y sa marahas na tubig, hindi pa natatangay.

At, buti na lamang, hindi napapagal ang isang Binibining Aunor! Gala siya nang gala sa bawat sulok ng sawing siyudad, nangangalap ng tulong para sa kaibigang nasalanta. Luto pa rin nang luto nang may maihain na longganisa’t itlog sa mga kumakatok sa kanyang karinderya. Nagpapatuloy ng mga walang masisilungang kapitbahay kapag ang mga ito’y natataranta sa kulog at kidlat na lumiligalig sa dagat. Nag-aampon ng ulilang tuta. Naghahagilap ng hiniwalayang bana, sa pag-asang may DNA match na magpapabatid sa kanyang may maililibing na bangkay ng inanod na anak.

Nakamamangha na kahit na lumalim na ang kanyang pag-unawa sa tauhan matapos ang dekada-dekadang pagdurusa sa loob at labas ng kanyang banwa, may ilalalim pa pala ang balon ng kanyang abot-dama. Lubos pa sa lubos ang kalinangan niya na bagbagin ang damdam, na lansagin ang kayarian nito, alinsabay sa pagtuturo ng hibo ng dangal na itataklob sa kaloobang puspos ng bagabag. Sa mga sandaling nakalaan para sa nakakuwadrong luksa, kusa niya pipiliin ang laylayan, upang patatagin ang balangkas na maglalarawan sa dinadalanghati ng kapuwa. Kaya: hindi pa man tumitingala, batid na natin na matagal nang naghihinagpis ang nakatungong si Lou Veloso; wala pa man siyang binibigkas, gumuguho na ang wika kay Julio Diaz; hindi man makapalag buhat sa kanyang kinasasadlakang diwa, matitiyak natin na ninanasa ni Aaron Rivera ang isang pagkakataon sa liwanag

Walang maliw na paghigugma ang pagpatak na iyon ng tiniis na luha mula sa hindi pa rin natin malirip-lirip na mata: Nora.


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Ang Maaari pang Palahimigan ng Himagsikan: Sipat-suri sa Sonata Maria (Ug ang Babayeng Halas ang Tunga sa Lawas {2014})

J. Pilapil Jacobo, Ph.D.
Kagawaran ng Filipino, AdMU/Film Desk, YCC

Mula sa sarili niyang dulang pampelikula, dinirehe ni Bagane Fiola ang Sonata Maria bilang pelikulang Bisaya na may tagpuan sa lungsod ng Davao at tanawing pandaigdig mula sa lunan na ito. Sinusundan nito ang isang araw-gabi sa buhay at buhay-malay ni Ramon, binatang dating makata at lirisista ng kasintahang mang-aawit ngunit sa kasalukuyan ng pelikula agent sa isang call center. Bago tayo ipakilala sa tauhan ni Ramon, inililibot tayo ng sinematograpiya sa isang maaraw na hapon sa lungsod ng Davao. Dinaraanan ng tanaw ang maraming mga pook, tulad ng eskuwelahan, mga tindahan, parke, at iba pang mga sulok at pasikut-sikot, mga lugar na bumubuo sa buhay ng siyudad na nagkakanlong sa isang kamalayang tulad ng kay Ramon. Bilang pagtataya sa gampanin ng lugar bilang pangunahing hulagwayan ng pelikula, heto ang sipi mula sa kritika ng palasuri ng sining na si Tessa Maria Guazon: “The images that make the almost disjunctive story art artfully composed in its combination of the fantastic and the ordinary. The local is the scene that anchors an inner landscape; the former is Davao and Visayan, the vernacular language; and the latter is the meandering imagination.” (24/25th Annual Circle Citations 64)

Inatasan ako ni Propesor Aristotle Atienza, kasamahan sa Kagawaran ng Filipino rito sa Ateneo, at Pangulo ng Film Desk ng Young Critics Circle, na bigyang paliwanag ngayong hapon ang pelikulang Sonata Maria sa tanglaw ng pangunahing tunguhin ng kurso sa Panitikan ng Pilipinas dito sa Pamantasang Ateneo de Manila. Batid ko na isa sa kahingian sa inyong kurso sa Filipino ang isang sanaysay na naglalaman ng inyong reaksiyon sa pelikula. Ito ay gawaing hindi lamang responsabilidad ng mga estudyanteng tulad ninyo kung hindi ng mga katulad naming guro na kasangkot sa panunuring pampelikula ng Pilipinas habang may pananagutan sa pagtuturo ng wika, panitikan, at kulturang bayan na muli rin naming inilalatag ayon sa mga hinahakang bagong pamaraan ng saliksik.

Bilang texto na naisisiwalat sa mga kalakaran ng mass media, ang pelikula ay mahalagang anyo kung saan mapag-iisipan ang pagdaloy at pagka-antala ng panahon, at ng isang paraan ng pagsipat dito, kasaysayan. Bagaman nakabatay ito sa dulang pampelikula, na uri ng panitikan, hindi na rin ito panitikan lamang, katulad ng mga binasa ninyong bugtong, salawikain, epiko, kuwentong bayan, tulang relihiyoso tulad ng Pasyon (1815), metriko romanse tulad ng Florante at Laura (1838), nobela, tulad ni Noli Me Tangere (1887), maikling kuwento, tulad ng “Aloha” (c.1920). Higit na malapit ang integridad ng anyo ng pelikula sa mga anyong nalilikha sa pamamagitan ng, pace Walter Benjamin, teknolohikal na reproduksiyon, tulad ng potograpiya, musikang popular, telebisyon, at video, ngunit hindi naman ito basta-bastang maihahambing sa higit na kontemporanyong mga anyo ng social media, tulad ng Facebook, twitter, instagram, at ng maraming apps na umuusbong sa bawat minuto dahil sa android telephony. Dahil sa partikular na anyo ng pelikula, nagagawa nitong pag-isipan sa natatanging paraan ang kasaysayan ng bayan sa pinipili nitong salaysay at ang pinagpapasyang larawan na pupuno sa salaysay na ito.

Wala akong sapat na panahon upang bigyan kayo ng isang madaliang kurso sa panunuring pampelikula, subalit ang katanungan na mungkahi ko sa inyo bilang gabay sa inyong mga pagsusuri ay heto: Ano ang kasaysayan ng kamalayang bayan ang maaaring halawin mula sa pelikulang Sonata Maria, at paano nagiging posible ang imahinasyong historikal na ito sa danas ng anyo, sa mismong penomenolohiya ng pagpepelikula? Tandaan lagi na ang pelikula ay isang pagliliming historikal, at ang pagdalumat na ito ay magmumula, sa ayaw man o sa nais ng direktor, mula sa kasalukuyan. Kaya, lagi ring isang kontemporanyong texto ang pelikula, lalo na kung susuriin kung anong pagmamalay sa kasaysayan ang sinasabayan nito. Ngunit anuman ang diwang sinasabayan, tandaan din na ang pakikisabay ay pansamantala. Kaya nga: contemporary. Sabay sa panahon, subalit panandalian lamang, matitinag din dahit hindi magpakailanman, kung nais, maaaring mapag-iwanan o magpaiwan.

Subukan nating suriin ang Sonata Maria gamit ang gabay na tanong na inisip ko para sa ating talakayan sa hapong ito. Alalahanin na anuman ang tangka kong pagbasa ay probisyunal lamang, hindi naman ninyo itong kailangang panindigan, o paniwalaan. Bagaman, sa pagkakataong ito, ang higit na mahalaga ay ang paraan ng pagsipat; hindi naman nalulubos o nahuhusto ang kaisipan sa sanlaksaan ng diwa riyan. Sa ganang akin, ang Sonata Maria ni Bagane Fiola, ay isang muling pagtuklas sa sensibilidad na romantiko ng isang binatang Davaoeño, sa pamamagitan ng isang imahinasyong musiko.

Sa gawing bungad ng pelikula, ikukumpisal sa atin ni Ramon ang sandaling pangkasaysayan ng kanyang kaakuhan bilang tauhan: 1) ang pagkapanganak niya sa kaarawan ni Andres Bonifacio; at 2) ang paglisan ng kanyang ina upang makibahagi sa armadong pag-aalsa noong panahon ng Batas Militar; 3) ang hiwaga ng mga paruparo sa burol ng kanyang ama. Lahat ng tatlong detalye ay mailalarawan natin bilang romantiko, mapagyakap sa nakalalampas na abot-kaya: ang unang dalawa nagpapatunay sa romantisismo bilang prinsipyo ng rebolusyon; ang huli hindi kaagad rebolusyonaryo, sa halip higit na “lo real maravilloso,” magpalampas din kung tutuusin, katulad ng paghabol ng mga mariposa kay Mauricio Babilonia, tauhan sa nobelang Cien Años de Soledad (1967) ng Kolombiyanong si Gabriel Garcia Marquez.

Sa pagtahak ni Ramon sa sarili niyang salaysay, matutuklasan natin ang pag-iwas kung hindi man pagtalikod sa adhikaing mapanghimagsik: lalampasan lamang niya ang isang kilos-protesta sa isang pangunahing lansangan ng kanyang lungsod. Wala siyang panahon na makisangkot sa lipunan, dahil madaratnan natin siya sa sandali ng pagkalugmok ng kalooban, kalagayang ilalarawan niya bilang “miserable” sa harap ng mga realidad na hindi na mailalakip sa haraya ng isang metapisika ng pag-asa. Maaari nating iugat ang miserabilismo ni Ramon sa pagkaulila niya sa kamay ng rebolusyong magpahanggang-ngayon hindi pa rin napagtatagumpayan. Ang huling kasaysaysayan ng rebolusyong 1896 ay nagbunsod sa kanyang mga magulang na dumayo sa Davao upang magsaka sa lupaing pangako ng Mindanao, at sa kanyang ina na iwan siya at ang kanyang ama upang mamundok sa panahon ng diktadura. Maaaring basahin ang nasawing himagsikan na ito bilang batayang dusa ni Ramon, danas na kanyang pinagsasakitan kasama ng mga Pilipinong natangay na rin ang liyab ng pag-asa sa maraming dantaon, pag-andap na malay man tayo hindi, isinasangkot tayong lahat dito sa loob at labas ng bulwagan.

Subalit kung aantabayanang mabuti ang pagkabuo ng malay ni Ramon, matatagpuan natin ang larang ng kanyang pakikisangkot sa personal niyang pag-unawa kung ano ang sining at kung paano nito nababago ang mistulang likas na miserabilismo ng buhay sa daigdig. Kung sa sining niya inilulunsad ang panukala tungo sa pagbabago, maaaring ito ang pinipili niyang pamaraan ng himagsik (matapos magmistulang naghihimutok lamang), tulad ng Sisne ng Panginay na si Francisco Balagtas, ng Unang Pilipino na si Jose Rizal, nina Isabelo de los Reyes at Apolinario Mabini, nina Vicente Ranudo at Tomas Bagyo, o nina Ramon Muzones at Magdalena Jalandoni.

sonata 1

Bilang isang makatang nagsusulat sa wikang Bisaya sa Davao, maaaring balakista, tulad ng pangunahing praktis poetiko mula Cebu, may pagbaling si Ramon sa mga payak na imahen sa kalikasan at sa kalunsuran, nang may pananaw na matalisik ang suri sa kamay ng kabalintunaan. Lipos ng giliw ang kanyang mga tula, lalo na kung ginugunita ang pagdating, pananatili, at paglipas ng larawan ng kanyang paraluman, si Maria, kababatang musikera na nilalalapatan ng himig ang kanyang mga taludtod at hinahandugan naman niya ng titik ang mga kanta noong sila’y nasa pamantasan pa. Sa pamamagitan ng anyo ng musika, at ng musika sa piling ni Maria, nagkakaroon ng saysay, ng kinahihinatnan o kinahuhulugang salaysay, ng kasaysayan na nga ang malay ni Ramon sa labas ng rebolusyon at sa loob ng kanyang panulaan na sinisipat niya bilang sariling himagsik sa miserabilista niyang lipunan. Dito nagiging diskursibo ang pelikula bilang gayon, at ayon sa sarili nitong pagkakataga—“Sonata Maria”: 1) ang panulaan ni Ramon na umaawit hinggil sa sinisintang si Maria; 2) ang panulaan na naging loob ng musika ni Maria; 3) ang panitikan ng musika ng bandang Sonata Maria kung saan mang-aawit si Maria; 4) ang nalalabing pagdurusa ng kaluluwa matapos maglaho ang tula, ang musika, ang musa, dahil sa kung hindi ipinapaliwanag na dahilan, hindi nagkatuluyan sina Ramon at Maria, tulad nina Francisco Balagtas at Maria Asuncion Rivera, tulad nina Jose Rizal at Maria Segunda Katigbak. Mababatid natin na ang kabiguang ito sa pag-ibig ang nagbunsod kay Ramon na tuluyan nang talikuran ang romantisismo bilang diwa ng poetikong pakikitalad sa buhay.

Ang salaysay ng pelikula na ating matutunghayan ay pagtatangkang manumbalik sa romantisismong nagbigay ng pagkakataon kay Ramon na umibig, at maranasan ang pagkatugnaw ng miserabilismo bilang prinsipyo ng pamumuhay sa daigdig. Sa isang pasyal sa loob ng karnabal at sa mismong lungsod, magkakabalikan kahit pansamantala sina Ramon at Maria, sa pamamagitan ng katwiran ng kanilang pag-iibigan—ang musika. Sa dakong ito ng aking panayam, imumungkahi ko ang paraan ng pagsipat sa anyo ng kasaysayan na mababanaag natin sa mismong usapan nina Ramon at Maria; ang simulain ng suring ito ay walang iba kundi ang pagdanas ng musika na pinaghahalawan ng pelikula ng taimtim niyang kalooban. Maaaring magsisimula ang pagsusuri kay Johann Sebastian Bach, pasimunong kagawad ng musikang klasikal sa Kanluran na kapwa hinahangaan nina Ramon at Maria, at itinatanghal nina Misha Romano at Miracle Romano, sa pamamahala nina Maki Serapio, Wrap Meting, Mark Limbaga, at Jad Montenegro. Ayon sa Gawad para sa Pinakamahusay na Tunog at Orkestrasyong Awral ng Film Desk ng Young Critics Circle na kinatha ng kasalukuyang Pangulo ng pangkat na si Propesor Aristotle Atienza: “napatutunayan” sa Sonata Maria ang “mabisang papel ng tunog at musika upang pagdugtungin ang mga hindi inaasahang ugnayang kinunan sa magkakaibang panahon. Mahusay na napanghawakang gawing sariwa ang gasgas na tunog na siyudad upang ilantad ang pagtahak ng tauhan sa pagbibihis ng siyudad. Sa hindi inaasahang paglalaro sa musika ni Bach (kakatwang nanlalaro o nanloloko ang pagpapakulugan ng badinerie), at musika ng karnabal, nagkakaroon ng tekstura ang naririnig at napapakinggan upang maipadanas din ang parehong kabaliwan at katinuan, pantasya at realidad, nitong bernakular na modernidad.” ( Samakatwid, ayon kay Propesor Atienza, musika ang siyang prinsipyo na gumagabay sa biswalidad ng pelikula na likhaing muli ng pelikula ang sarili nitong kayarian bilang malikhaing sining. Ang nakagawiang pamaraan—nilalapatan lamang ng tunog ang imahen, nakikibagay lamang ang musika sa galaw ng larawan.

Kailangang balikan ang mga sandali kung saan nagkakaroon tayo ng pagmamalay sa panahon, at ng pagsasaysay sa mga guwang nito dahil sa musika ni Bach at nina Serapio at Montenegro na kusang nakikipangusap sa klasikong kayarian ng tunog at himig ng una. Ito ay kung ang bernakular na sinasambit ay uunawain na pumapatungkol sa musika bilang wika. Sa kumbersasyong nagaganap sa pagitan nina Bach at ng mga musikero ng Sonata Maria, kabilang na sina Ramon at Maria, higit nating mauunawaan kung ano nga bang wika ang pinatutungkulan ni Propesor Atienza sa mapaglimi niyang mga kataga na “bernakular na modernidad.” Bakit kaya si Bach, at hindi si Mozart? Paano kung ang piniling piyesa ay “fugue” at hindi “badinerie,” isang “cantata” at hindi “sonata?” Ano ang mayroon sa musika ng Alemanya sa panahong iyon na maaaring magsilbi bilang kontrapunto sa musika ng Pilipinas sa pagkakataong ito? Ano naman ang maihahandog natin sa Alemanya ni Bach mula sa ating bayan ngayon? Upang mapalawig pa nang husto ang musikal at musikolohikal na pagsipat na ito sa kontemporanyong pelikula, maaari ring ihambing at itambis ang pelikula ni Fiola sa gawa ni Dan Villegas sa “The Breakup Playlist” (2015) at nang lubus-lubos na ang suri, sa “Begin Again” (2013) ni John Carney. Sa isang palahambingang post-kolonyal, ano ang pagkakaiba ng ganitong kumbersasyon ng Bisaya kay Bach sa pagbali ng pangungusap ng klasisismo na isinagawa ni Heitor Villa-Lobos, sa kanyang “Bachianas Brasileiras” (1930-1945)?

Sa usapin ng bernakular bilang bernakular, maaaring munang magbuhat sa isang diskusyon ng Bisaya bilang wika ng pelikula, lengguwaheng dinaranas natin bilang salin sa Ingles, at bilang salin na rin sa masalimuot na hugpungan ng sinematograpiya, disenyong biswal, editing, at siyempre, ng tunog at orkestrasyong awral, dahil, at kung maaari, laban sa iba pang mga wika ng kapuluan, at sa huli, laban sa musika. Ganunpaman, hindi rin nararapat na mapako lamang tayo sa usapin ng tambisan sa pagitan ng rehiyunal at nasyunal, o kung mamarapatin man, ng rehiyunal at global, mga sitio ng diskurso na ginagalawan ng Sonata Maria bilang textong kosmopolita. Sa ganang akin, kinakailangang ibalik ang “bernakular na modernidad” na mababanaag sa isang pagsusuring musikolohikal sa pelikula sa mga kondisyon ng himagsikan na kumukulob sa malay ng pangunahing tauhan sa pagitan ng romantisismo at realismo, sa pagitan na nga, na isang surrealismo, upang hindi lamang natin maipagdiwang si Ramon sa bingit ng bini at digma, o sa loob ng kung anumang tambalan na mapagpapantasyahan ng kung sinong isip-rebolusyonaryo. Samakatwid, kalakip na paanyaya sa atin na binabasa ang musika ng rebolusyon sa isang pelikulang mula sa rehiyon na taluntunin ang inabot na landasin ng palahimigang mapanghimagsik mulang “Jocelynang Baliwag” at “Marangal na Dalit ng Katagalugan” na marahil ang alingawngawan ay ngayon pa lamang natin napapanagimpan, kung hindi man unti-unti nang naririnig. Daghang salamat ug maayong gabii sa inyong tanan.


Atienza, Aristotle. “Pagkilala sa Pinakamahusay na Tunog at Orkestrasyong Awral ng 2014.”

Bach, Johann Sebastian Bach. “Badinerie.” Sa “Suite No. 2 in B minor, BWV 1067.” Leipzig, 1738-1739.

Benjamin, Walter. “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction.” Sa Illuminations. Pinamatnugutan at binigyan ng pambungad ni Hannah Arendt. Isinalin ni Harry Zohn. New York: Shocken Books, 1968.

Guazon, Tessa Maria. “The Wonders of Getting Lost.” Sa 24th and 25th Annual Circle   Citations for Distinguished Achievement in Film for 2013 and 2014. Diliman,   Quezon City: Film Desk of the Young Critics Circle, 2015.

Marquez, Gabriel Garcia. Cien Años de Soledad. Buenos Aires: Editorial Sudamericana, 1967.

Sonata Maria. 2014. Direction: Bagane Fiola. Screenplay: Bagane Fiola, kasama sina   Margaux Denice Garcia at Melona Grace Mascarinas. Actors: Krigi Hager, Prexy Whittmer.

*Editor’s Note: This paper was supposed to be delivered on 6 July 2015 at the Ateneo de Manila University, but heavy rains caused the cancellation of the event.




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