Monthly Archives: November 2013

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 November 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 November 2013 in Film Review


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Statement of the YCC Film Desk on the acts of plagiarism committed by film blogger Jojo Devera

We, members of the Film Desk of the Young Critics Circle (YCC), denounce in the strongest possible terms the acts of plagiarism committed by film blogger Jojo Devera (also known as Vincent Joel Llamas Devera) in his blog Sari-Saring Sineng Pinoy.

Although Devera rendered his blog publicly inaccessible at about 10:00 PM last 3 November 2013 (Sunday) and has subsequently deleted it, we have been able to gather evidence showing that Devera copied passages of varying lengths, from single sentences to entire paragraphs, from texts written by YCC members without permission or acknowledgement and presented such as his own work. Where he did not simply substitute his name for that of the author—as in the case of the post on Nunal sa Tubig (1976), which is wholly drawn from an essay by Eulalio R. Guieb III—he went a reprehensible leap further by producing reviews on films that combined excerpts from materials contemplating or assessing completely different issues—as in the case of the post on I Love You Mama, I Love You Papa (1986), which patches together parts from essays by J. Pilapil Jacobo, Nonoy L. Lauzon, and Patrick D. Flores, none of which discuss the Maryo J. De Los Reyes picture. Other members whose essays were plagiarized include Eloisa May P. Hernandez and Jaime Oscar M. Salazar.

While we have thus far managed to identify only six posts containing material lifted from both print and digital sources put out by our group, we are convinced that such constitute the merest tip of the proverbial iceberg: Devera began his blog in 2006, and before he took it down, it had nearly 400 entries—all of which, by the way, he had the gall to assert copyright over, if a line that ran along the bottom of his now defunct blog is any indication: “Karapatang Magpalathala 2006-2013. SARI-SARING SINENG PINOY Lahat Ng Karapatan Ay Nakalaan. Disenyo Jojo Devera”. Moreover, the way that Devera put together the plagiarized posts, which are in places inevitably marked by schizophrenia of tone and thought, suggests not the creativity of the parodist or the inventiveness of the pasticheur—we are not unaware of the lively and meritorious debates surrounding the concepts of authorship and originality—but something that is, to our collective misfortune, becoming more and more banal at present: the calculation of one who seeks to establish and burnish a reputation as a commentator in as expedient a manner as possible, without putting in the necessary time and effort to organize one’s thoughts and to deliberate over one’s words, or to give credit to those who have done so.

Considering the sheer amount of data that is available in the world today, online or otherwise, and the concomitant difficulty of guarding against plagiarism, it is perhaps not astonishing, but certainly unfortunate, that Devera has been as successful as he has in building a degree of credibility within the film community by carving out a niche for himself as a kind of specialist in Philippine films from the 1970s and the 1980s. We trust that he realizes, at the very least, that he has done this community a signal disservice. Lover though Devera might be of Filipino films, a claim he announces in his online properties, he might be exceeding his zeal if it spurs him to abduct the texts of others rather than to arduously work through the experience of cinema with his own body and mind in conversation with others.

In view of the foregoing, we demand that Devera immediately issue a formal public apology for his detestable acts of plagiarism, not only to us but also to every other individual and organization from which he may have lifted material without proper attribution. Furthermore, we caution all parties who have published or are considering publishing anything that Devera professes to have written to examine whatever he has done according to the strictest editorial protocols, and to withdraw or reject his work as necessary. Finally, in light of the situation at hand, we call on all film enthusiasts, bloggers, reviewers, and critics, as well as on all members of the general public, to contribute toward cultivating an environment that encourages, if not expects, judiciousness and responsibility in the production, circulation, reception, and use of information. We must always strive to uphold intellectual honesty as we pursue, develop, and disseminate knowledge.


To download the evidence, click Evidence of Plagiarism by Jojo Devera from YCC.

Posted by on 04 November 2013 in Philippine Film