Young Critics Circle votes ‘Women of the Weeping River’ best film

The Film Desk of the Young Critics Circle cites Sheron Dayoc’s Women of the Weeping River, about a Tausug family caught in a bitter war with a rival clan, as the most distinguished film of 2016.

The film’s lead actor, Laila Putli P. Ulao, bested 14 other nominees to bag the Best Performance award, which the critics group bestows to the year’s most outstanding leading or supporting actor/s regardless of gender. The film also bagged Best Editing for Carlo Francisco Manatad.


Ralston Jover copped his fourth YCC Best Screenplay award for Mrs., directed by Adolfo Alix, Jr. Jover is one win away from the YCC record for most Best Screenplay wins, held by Jose Javier Reyes.

Another film from Mindanao, Baboy Halas, was cited for Best Cinematography and Visual Design, for the work of Raphael Meting and Mark Limbaga (cinematography) and Joel Geolamen (production design).

The sound and musical score of Ang Tulay ng San Sebastian by Hiroko Nagai (original score) and Jess Carlos (sound engineer) was cited for Best Sound and Aural Orchestration.

Two films were cited as Best First Features: Malinak Ya Labi (Jose Abdel Langit) and 2 Cool 2 Be 4gotten (Petersen Vargas).

It is worth noting that this year’s winners are products of several local film festivals. Women of the Weeping River and Baboy Halas are from QCinema, Mrs. is from Sinag Maynila, Ang Tulay ng San Sebastian is from CineFilipino, while both Malinak Ya Labi and 2 Cool 2 Be 4gotten are products of Cinema One Originals.

The Film Desk considered 128 movies released in Philippine cinemas in 2016 and narrowed the field to a long list of 17 films, and a further shortlist of nine. All nine shortlisted films received nominations.

The awarding ceremony is set on 27 April 2017, 3 pm at the Jorge B. Vargas Museum, University of the Philippines Diliman, Quezon City.

Below is the list of winners and nominees:



Winner: Women of the Weeping River, directed by Sheron Dayoc (Fernando M. Ortigas and E. A. Rocha, executive producers; Vincent Nebrida, Karim Aitouna, Thomas Micoulet, co-producers; Sheron Dayoc, producer)


Baboy Halas, directed by Bagane Fiola (Angely Chi, Aleli S. Billena-Rodriguez, Bebe Go, Beulah Lawanin Fiola-Laranjo, Ching Amor, Debbie Karol Butay, Glorypearl Dy, Kazami Joanne Amano, Lou Raphael Cañedo, Jay Rosas, McRobert Nacario, Ralph Elusfa, Pawlo Pascual, Rhon delos Santos, Rolyn Pregunta, Rudolph Ian Alama, Socorro Fiola, Yam Palma, producers)

Ma’ Rosa, directed by Brillante Ma Mendoza (Brillante Ma Mendoza, executive producer; Larry Castillo, producer)

Malinak Ya Labi, directed by Jose Abdel Langit (Ronald Arguelles, executive producer; Dennis Evangelista and Ferdinand Lapuz, producers)

Mrs., directed by Adolfo Alix, Jr. (Brillante Ma Mendoza and Wilson Tieng, executive producers; Adolfo Alix, Jr. and Ma. Lourdes Gopez, producers)



Winner: Laila Putli P. Ulao, Women of the Weeping River


Nora Aunor, Tuos

Ai-Ai de las Alas, Area

Barbie Forteza, Tuos

Luz Fernandez, Malinak Ya Labi

Jaclyn Jose, Ma’ Rosa

Jaclyn Jose, Patay Na Si Hesus

Elizabeth Oropesa, Mrs.

Daria Ramirez, Mrs.

Duo performance (Nora Aunor and Barbie Forteza), Tuos

Duo performance (Joem Bascon and Sandino Martin), Ang Tulay ng San Sebastian

Ensemble performance (Ai-Ai de las Alas, Allen Dizon, Sue Prado, Sarah Pagcaliwagan, Ireen Cervantes, Tabs Sumulong, Sancho de las Alas, Francisco Guinto, Cecile Yumul, Bambalito Lacap, Eurocina Peña, Rein Gutierrez, Vicky Vega-Cabigting), Area

Ensemble performance (Jaclyn Jose, Julio Diaz, Baron Geisler, Jomari Angeles, Neil Ryan Sese, Mercedes Cabral, Andi Eigenmann, Mark Anthony Fernandez, Felix Roco, Mon Confiado, Maria Isabel Lopez, Rubi Ruiz, John Paul Duray), Ma’ Rosa

Ensemble performance (Allen Dizon, Angeline Quinto, Luz Fernandez, Richard Quan, Dexter Doria, Menggie Cobarrubias, Marcus Madrigal, Althea Vega, Timothy Castillo, Dante Balois, Tabs Sumulong, Raul Tamayo, Shiela Paragas, Karla Zabala, Angela Alfero), Malinak Ya Labi

Ensemble performance (Jaclyn Jose, Chai Fonacier, Melde Montañez, Vincent Viado, Mailes Kanapi, Olive Nieto, Sheen Gener, Albert Chan Paran), Patay Na Si Hesus



Winner: Mrs. (Ralston Jover)


Area (Robby Tantingco and Ferdinand Dizon Lapuz)

Ma’ Rosa (Troy Espiritu)

Malinak Ya Labi (Jose Abdel Langit)

Patay Na Si Hesus (Fatrick Tabada and Moira Lang)

Ang Tulay ng San Sebastian (Alvin Yapan)

Women of the Weeping River (Sheron Dayoc)



Winner: Baboy Halas, Raphael Meting and Mark Limbaga (cinematography), Joel Geolamen (production design)


Ma’ Rosa, Odyssey Flores (cinematography), Brillante Mendoza (production design)

Mrs., Albert Banzon (cinematography), Arthur Maningas (production design)

Tuos, Mycko David (cinematography), Steff Dereja (production design)

Women of the Weeping River, Rommel Sales (cinematography), Harley Alcasid (production design)



Winner: Women of the Weeping River (Carlo Francisco Manatad)


Ma’ Rosa (Diego Marx Dobles)

Malinak Ya Labi (Gilbert Obispo)



Winner: Ang Tulay ng San Sebastian, Jess Carlos (sound), Hiroko Nagai (music)


Ma’ Rosa, Albert Michael Idioma (sound), Teresa Barrozo (music)

Malinak Ya Labi, Gilbert Obispo (sound), Emerzon Texon (music)

Patay Na Si Hesus, Mark Laccay and Nicholas Varela (sound), Francis de Veyra (music)

Women of the Weeping River, Albert Michael Idioma and Immanuel Verona (sound), Kit Mendoza (music)




2 Cool 2 Be4gotten (Petersen Vargas)

Malinak Ya Labi (Jose Abdel Langit)


The YCC members who took part in the deliberations this year were Jema Pamintuan (Chair), Aristotle Atienza, Emerald Flaviano, J. Pilapil Jacobo, Skilty Labastilla, Noy Lauzon, and Jaime Oscar Salazar.



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Posted by on 12/02/2017 in Philippine Film



Ang Babaeng Humayo: Lav Diaz and Philosophy

Nonoy L. Lauzon

Why is it important for Philippine cinema to gain the recognition of the world? For so long, the country has lagged behind more advanced film cultures of other nations that many have lost all hopes that they would see the day  that the Philippines would be truly at par with the most esteemed film industries across the globe.

It’s true that quite a stash of local titles have been adorned with all sorts of grand prizes and top plums in plenty of international festivals through the years. But the ones that actually matter have proved elusive even for the finest of films churned out from the ranks of the best in the domestic industry.

How else can one possibly explain that the Philippines is yet to score a nomination for the best foreign-language film category at the annual Oscars? It’s not just once that a full-length Filipino film vied for Palme d’Or at Cannes but in all instances, the country has failed to bring home the bacon so to speak.

And so it came to be a most welcome delight when Lav Diaz’s Ang Babaeng Humayo snatched the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival in 2016. Pending  the ultimate moment of winning the Oscar for Best Foreign-Language Film or the Golden Palm for a full-length feature at Cannes for the country, the latest  Venice distinction for Lav serves now as the singular highest honor ever accorded to Philippine cinema.

The film had its recent exhibition for the current festival run of Cinema One Originals at UP Diliman. Upon watching it, one needs no convincing why the film deserves the victory it is destined for. News has been out that it is the only Filipino film from last year competing for Asian Film Awards in Hong Kong with nominations for Best Director and Best Screenplay plus a Best Actress nod for lead star Charo Santos who staged an acting comeback with the film after decades of hiatus from big-screen appearances.


Lav’s latest oeuvre both takes after and departs from all the others he has done not only on account of its length but more on points of stylistics and thematic. In it, he once more pays homage to elder filmmakers he obviously reveres as one finds elements of Lino Brocka and even Ishmael Bernal as well as a smattering of Mario O’Hara, Celso Ad. Castillo and Mike de Leon.

Those one regards to be lumpen, unenlightened, apolitical and dispossessed are functional revolutionaries capable of drastic action that can shake the system and effect meaningful change and transformation. There is a magical-realism twist to the film. But it soars grandest with its statement and treatise on social revolution that must not make the mistake of excluding the wretched of the earth.

At the core of the film is vintage Lav’s preoccupation with philosophical truths such as the problem of evil and the existence of God. Is it possible that one retains the pureness of one’s heart? Is there a limit to one’s do-gooder ways? How can people mercilessly wronged enact the best they could be?

The film has managed to address all these questions in straightforward and uncluttered narrative without empty shrill and fanfare, minus hysteria and histrionics, and without having to resort to grandstanding, polemics and pontification. It is painstaking in its portrayal of the various circumstances that people get to bond with each other and in its assertion that humanity emanates  from the deeply rooted instinct for imagination that all individuals since the advent of creation has been blessed with.



Northern Nocturne: Critique of “Malinak Ya Labi”

J. Pilapil Jacobo

If there is any inflection of cinema that can grasp the truth of the tropics, no other perspective can lay claim to the apprehension but a film from the region, or from a province or district that essays the particularity of filmmaking from a singular location. What else can intuit the idiom of a zone but a vernacular audition of the world that protects the rapture of place and at the same time incites the rhapsodic instance to vanish at the time of enravishment?

Jose Abdel Langit’s “Malinak Ya Labi” is the first Pangasinan narrative film, and it may also be the first contemporary Filipino motion picture to have understood what it means to be situated in the equatorial tropics, or at least from the latitude of, let’s say, Binobolinao. And yet, while the truth that is disclosed as folk may be misconstrued as always already torrid, the region of the ravage is demonstrated as something beyond the sweetness of summer or the melancholy of monsoon. The moment of the tropic is night. And its site is northern.

If the Kapampangan poetic of “Ari: My Life With A King” is premised on “Atin Cu Pung Singsing,” Langit’s “Malinak Ya Labi” affirms that the regional film can only ground its vision on folk tonality and the dissonances that can be heard as it runs contrapuntally along the syncopations of the modern.

Some translations of the condition of “linak” may gesture toward a state of “peacefulness,” but the film insists on a more fundamental supplement to music: “silence.” However, unlike Adolf Alix’s “Kalayaan,” where the interval colonizes the auditory landscape until cinema itself is aurally fixated with its own chiasmic duress, “Malinak Ya Labi” accepts silence as a principle of sound itself, where voice, rhythm, noise are habituated to imagine a sense of ambience, answer what surrounds the tropical world, and open up the discourse of the tropical time that eviscerates what is commonplace in a scopophiliac relation to the tropical image.

Visuality is further abducted by the contiguity that is demanded as soon as the “linak” turns opaque, into “labi”; the negative is attracted to itself, and yet the coupling does not accumulate into absence. “Malinak Ya Labi” demarcates its region of ravage as a northern nocturne, in the silence of salt, through the fioriture of ferment. How does a saltflower bloom under the Pangasinan moon?

As in “Ari,” we don’t get to hear the song of the folk till the end, but “Malinak” rigorously frames the sonorous sensibility of the film. The rubric of the “silent night” transposes itself through the various tonal themes framing episodes of the narrative. The most dramatic of these musical incarnations is an operatic piece scored in the middle of a riot one carnival night. I do not have access to the Pangasinan lyric right now (that would enable me to engage the music philologically), but the translation of the aria sung by a spinto refers to “night” conceiving “daylight”; a “star” as a “smile of the dark”; and ultimately, the lunar “heart” eclipsing into its balsamic “night.” What logic of the trope would subsume solarity under all things umbral? The afternoon in the southern manor as axiomatic moment of the languorous dalliance no longer constitutes the pivot of the tropic day. From a promontory along the narrowest northern strait,”Malinak Ya Labi” celebrates the gibbous event!


Althea Vega in a scene from “Malinak Ya Labi”

Pangasinan tropicality supervenes the possibility of romance and of course an erotic with the premise of “bagat,” the blood sacrifice that is offered to an edifice so that the spirits won’t imperil the integrity of building. The source of the blood is decidedly animal, but “Malinak Ya Labi” complicates the matter by telling a story of how a child was stolen on the eve of the feast of Saint Michael the Archangel, and whose body was left as “bagat” to inaugurate a bridge connecting a quaint isle and the Pangasinan mainland. The gift is itself poison; and the time given in exchange for the toxin can no longer deceive borrowed life. Silent is the northern night, and the tropical truth it can only reveal is terminal. The moon waxes red for the death of an innocent. Welcome to the necrotropics!

Lorenzo Fernandez Cosgaya’s “Diccionario Pangasinan-Español” (1865) defines “bagat” as “sacrificio, ofrenda, convite.” The colonial lexicon carries the divinity of the present in the Latin senses of “sacrificus” (from sacer: holy) and “offere” (to God) as dimensions of the Pangasinan gift that is “bagat,” while the sense of community in “convivium” enlarges the sacrifice/offering as tribal, a pact made by the collective on behalf of its members; as a gift whose scale is total, “bagat,” pace Marcel Mauss, is indeed potlatch. If what is served in the banquet is none the less human blood, who sits at the head of the table? God?

We are told about the hours leading to the child’s death through shifting perspectives arrayed to us in a series of intertwined vignettes on the lives of certain figures in the town of Putot (Severed): Domingo, husband of carnival mermaid; Amanda, naïve but devoted schoolteacher; Salvador, sweet-talking soldier; Silvano, saltmaker; Teofilo, fortune teller; and Emmanuel, who becomes the “bagat.”

A common figure in these tales of the Pangasinan everyday is Carmen, the collector of bets who is grandmother to Emmanuel and wife to Teofilo. We never know whether Carmen finds Emmanuel’s body, but she navigates a day in the town attending wakes and requiem masses, while gossiping about the dead and speculating on how certain numerical combinations on death instances might spell good fortune for the living. As we follow through the forlorn lives of the folk, we discover that deaths of children, young women, and old men have been random and regular in Putot town, and somehow, the storytelling persuades us to realize that everyone has been complicit with a culture of impunity. The necrotropic has seeped into habit.

As a folk song, “Malinak Ya Labi” describes how on a “silent night,” someone awakes with a longing for a beloved long absent from the dreamer’s life. The desire does not debilitate, however, as the remembrance banishes sorrow from the heart (Napunaslan ami’y ermen ya ag bibiten). To protect the memory of the love is the point of loving (in fact, in the absence of the beloved, to remember one performs the requisite passion), and remembrance possesses an acumen that might transcend the incipience of death (No nodnonoten ko ray samit day ugalim/Agtaka nalingwanan, anggad kaoyos na bilay

Langit’s “Malinak” transforms the song of his folk into an elegy; the film becomes a work of mourning, because the filmmaker’s grief is crystalline, like the salt of his earth. If the gift that must be received is death, the only way to love is to refuse forgetting. “Triste tropiques,” again and again. And how lovely is the loneliness! Its time is attenuated, like the salt of the fish that is made pure inside the jar that houses the ferment. Within that ecliptic space, the universe is always turning, darkly, into the vast silence, where love is most touching: “Ta pilit na pusok ya sika lay amamayoen.”

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Posted by on 21/11/2016 in Uncategorized


The “Edsa” of Our Captivity

Nonoy L. Lauzon

Ingenious it may be and without the baggage of having to recreate historical pageantry, Yapan’s populist feature packs a wallop of heavy commentary – the better to enlighten today’s generation on the true state of the nation with a constituency that has remained mired in mass poverty and powerlessness.


Kris Bernal and Aljur Abrenica from a scene in “EDSA”


Thirty years after people power overthrew the dictatorship that had tyrannized the archipelagic nation, the metropolitan thoroughfare that was the site of the revolt endures to be symbolical in myriad incantations. In the ensemble film written and directed by Alvin B. Yapan plainly titled Edsa, this much is deduced. It managed to be finished in time for Edsa 30 festivities as a memorial to a people’s triumph and saga of liberation. Not that such is the expectation, but the film is not a reenactment of the gathering at Edsa for four days in February 1986 in a collective expression of the popular will to topple an oppressive regime.

What viewers are given instead is a contemporary portrait of a people’s interconnected lives as they navigate the long stretch of the road that would forever have an impact on the history of an entire nation as much as on the personal stories of its individual citizens.

With Edsa the film, Yapan presupposes that it is the ordinary people who drive the engines of history. It may not be the country’s leaders and the mighty politico imbibing enormous affluence and influence that alter the course of the nation but the faceless throng embarking on a united front and propelled to shared action. History from below is much more useful to look into than the actuations of the so-called great and heroic few said to have shaped the country’s destiny.

It is quite a radical position to take especially in the light of dominant precepts in tackling history in film. To regard history from the grassroots appears to offer much allure, hold more promise and engender better prospects for the attainment of progress and empowerment for the general populace.

As Yapan resolved to focus his lens on the seemingly superficial and banal goings-on at today’s Edsa involving the sentiments and struggles of average people, a bigger and far more valid and valuable picture of the national situation emerges. It may just be the proper strategy to tap in order to precisely correct certain misconceptions and false myths surrounding the uprising of three decades back. Now it can be seen that what had once been the Edsa of liberation has persisted to also be the Edsa of despair and disgruntlement, of unfulfilled aspirations, of broken dreams and of a people’s thwarted spirit and, yes, lingering captivity.

(This review was originally posted in


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Triste Trafic: Critique of “EDSA”

J. Pilapil Jacobo

“EDSA” (Alvin Yapan, 2016) is not so much about the thoroughfare, but the affairs of movement and immobility which beleaguer Philippine modernity.

The narrative shifts from day to night, from one vignette to another episode in the lives of several subjects of the third world metropolis: hooligans riding in tandem; an opinionated nurse commuting from Bulacan; public school teachers from the Southern Tagalog attending a K-12 conference; a heartless yuppie working in Makati. To initiate the encounter of these characters, a motif of retardation is pursued through their foray into the city, riding motorcycles, buses, taxi cabs, private cars, trains, and getting stalled at every opportunity. Alvin Yapan employs non-movement as a strategy of storytelling. Hence, the traffic is not only about the circulation of vehicular movement but also the intersection of emotional passages. This is our contemporary “Decameron,” and Alvin Yapan is Giovanni Boccaccio to the Philippine post-colony.

At the heart of this traffic is a contraband whose pharmakon is worked out by Yapan within a method of deliberative agency. When the socius is born and raised from this problematic, “triste tropiques” then turns into “triste traffic.” The melancholy becomes current, and the drive toward happiness renders itself immediate. If the human instance of crime can be attributed to ruthless structures of political economy, social entanglements may be worked through ethically. To live in the city is indeed forlorn, because one is estranged from one’s neighbor; one cannot survive modernity without a sense of responsibility toward the other. Such is the call of the contemporary.


Aljur Abrenica as Jun in Alvin Yapan’s EDSA 


As a response, “EDSA” is Yapan’s cinematic aesthetic assuming Christian humanist form. The film is a romance with the urban failure of Metro Manila. It resolves emergency through the happenstance of compassion even as the political economic arrangement of Philippine society has reduced our concepts of social accountability to negligible acts of civic decency. Is this Christian humanist attitude toward the vagaries of metropolitan Manila the most compelling analysis of the same Christian democratic revolution that the film seeks to subject to critique after 30 years?

Yapan affirms his position only to disavow it. He argues that while the theology behind the abrogation of violence had enabled us to internalize principles of social justice, it did not free our faith from Roman Catholic impunity, particularly from the imperialist ideology that dissuades one’s consciousness from believing religious imagery may also assume ethnic embodiments. Yapan bemoans the failure of post-colonial mariology in the third world metropolis, and yet he still hopes all will not be lost, that we will deliver us from our own concupiscence.

The polis is doxis. Politics is our poison. Critique is the gift. In democracy, crisis is not managed, but generated. Yapan intimates: this sense of the democratic isn’t even exceptional, it should permeate the demotic. If such is the case, then a history of the Philippine revolution can only be in order, “everyday,” but only after oligarchic claims to the metanarratives of nationhood have been challenged, “everyday.” The putative gains of the revolt of 1986 should only be able to shed light on the ostensible losses of the uprising of 1896. It has been a long day’s journey into the night of our republic. By singling out vestiges of fin-de-siècle violences through the predicaments of contemporary habits of mind as they are projected upon disparate and yet coordinated events in the third world metropolis, “EDSA” offers a novelistic account of quotidian tragedy as well as a cautionary tale on mundane farce.

Yapan’s multi-character format is performed with relish by a thoughtful ensemble of actors most keen on traversing the magnitude of Manila’s metropolitan space through little incidents that are nevertheless prone to historicizing and allegorization. Of all these social intellects, Kris Bernal articulates the Christian humanist attitude most persuasively. Her travel from indifference to empathy is a lesson on thespic patience. We would have wanted to see Aljur Abrenica dip into despair, but his beauty is way too affable for the abyss. Hayden Kho surprises with a modicum of pedestrian accessibility, although he has a tendency to brood with too much haste. Sue Prado is typecast as a headstrong woman from the province, but her subtle capitulation to urbane romance can be endearing.

“EDSA” offers a novel approach to an impossibly propagandistic topos of our contemporary memory. The film almost escapes the pitfalls of political nostalgia; “almost,” because that submission to a specific primary color in the narrative closure somehow obfuscates the critique of radical ardor that could have been pursued as a phenomenology of revolutionary spirit. For some, we might not be ready for such supersession. Only a few are unafraid to be swept away by the overcoming.


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Posted by on 04/11/2016 in Philippine Film



Uterine Reverie: Critique of “Sayaw sa Butal”

J. Pilapil Jacobo

Bicolano poet and translator Victor Dennis Nierva’s first film is a short feature on the power of female fantasy and the violence of erotic imagination as transacted within capitalist patriarchy.

A middle-aged woman (Eilyn Nidea) earns a living by sitting all day outside the male urinals of the Naga City central terminal, making sure that the amenities of masculine comfort are maintained by fees of five or ten peso coins. Her hours are marked by the sound of metal clinking inside her plastic bowl. These men transiting in and out of the peninsular city do not interest her, until one humid morning, a young man (Floyd Tena) captures her fancy. She keeps his coins, keeps them inside a pouch, sleeps with her charmed money at night, touches herself in the morning with her coins, and takes them to a mountain shaman (Frank Peñones), who assures her “he will be yours, all of him will be yours.”

The shaman’s magic works. Woman leaves her post. She rides the bus that takes the man to wherever he is going. And before we know it, woman and man are engaged in a pas de deux. Then, we hear the strings of a Spanish guitar. The serenade: Nierva’s verses on arrivals and leave-takings.


Or: Is the woman losing her mind? Can the prospect of ravishment enable her to come to terms with indentured labor in the hands of capitalist patriarchy as her body recedes menopausally? Does the thought of sexual redemption drive women on the wane to madness? What gives, in the surrender of the truths of consciousness to the calculating body? Can the lyrical sustain the duress of such premise? What is achieved by this uterine reverie?

“Butal” refers to that aspect of the nexus of cash where a certain value of capital is deemed negligible at the same time that it is accorded a moment of commodity, where value is detachable from the modes of production. The fulfillment of the lack that is nonetheless devalued is almost too precious to the point of forcing subjects of economic exchange to accede to practices of mendicancy, especially when the master is dreamed to become one’s sex object. One begs for spare change in instances of penury; one begs for spare lust in a libidinal economy. In this delineation of the market, the coin is the metonym of the longing that expedites subaltern entrapment; its dissemination fixes a financial propensity with which the woman can never be intimately filiated. If she must accumulate the denomination to sustain her life within local modernity, but refuses to enter the rites of accumulation by charging the metal with an erotic wish, the desirous attachment is at once spellbound and disenchanting. Woman is lack herself. Can her pecuniary disinterest ever deny the fetish?

The desire is nothing but an illusion, and the womanhood that is aspired to be fulfilled through sympathetic magic is reduced to an oneiric impossibility. The reverie is vicious, particularly when the uterus is deemed as always imaginary. What remains significant is urinary relief.

What is Love? It is a purchase without payment. It is non-economic reciprocity. It is the gift without exchange.

As master of charms, Frank Peñones’s incantations are alluring.

Floyd Tena can only be prone to victimage. Finally, a lothario manipulated. Screams could not be muffled whenever his face filled the screen up with gorgeous sexuality.


Eilyn Nidea’s instincts of predation are never imprecise. Her virago’s movements are unpredictably delightful to watch. There is so much carnal knowledge inside that darkly soul that only Madame Nidea’s canvas of a face, ravaged by the years, can unleash. What an actress!

As a young interlocutor, Noella Buscaña sometimes steals the thunder from Nidea, and the latter allows the former’s voluptuous laughter to intensify her amorous lightning.

Ronald Rebutica’s cinematographic design is panoptic, although that intrusion is most felt in scenes utterly private.

Jenn Romano’s sense of visual arrangement can be thoughtful, through ironic detail.

Nierva has crafted a dangerous film. He seems to assure us: nothing can buy love, although a few of us may take some chances. Where it is risky, the handsome and the homely shall share the rapture. All is fair. All is unfair.



In Hora Mortis Nostrae: Critique of “Hinulid”

J. Pilapil Jacobo

There is a scene in Kristian Sendon Cordero’s sophomore film “Hinulid” that manifests the predicament of mourning the narrative seeks to work through in its iterations of how forlorn the human can be when abandoned permanently through that event: death.

It is dusk in Iriga. Sita Dimaiwat (Nora Aunor) passes through the cemetery arch on which the Latin phrase “Via Omni Caris” is painted; the bodiless may not cross. Sepulchres are built not to hold the remains of the departed; the mausoleum is such a place, because we are all alone, we fear ourselves also fading. Do not leave just yet; here, a monument. Through a labyrinth of marmoreal tombs, Aunor blends in with the shades of a tropic crepuscule: ochre, as the evanescent sun; obsidian, like the night’s mantle. When she finds her son Lukas (Jesus Mendoza) weeping before the epitaph of his big winner, the priest Mamo (Raffi Banzuela), she enters a frame of grief: she sees the one she has yet to mourn for, mourning.

That the rhythms of sorrow commingle in this instance points to the opportunity where the film locates the time where one is entitled to grieve—memory, that interregnum in the mind where one labors too hard to come to terms with passage: what has gone is not only lost; it is foregone to be found as missing. Even when the injury is not total, the site of ruin tells us: here lies all the hurt, every inch speaks of an unendurable damage. One asks: Did it happen? Was he here? Were all of it true? The moment of provenance is only staged in the instance of yearning.

Cordero is most anxious to pursue this cusp of thought that he conjures the memorialization through a mode of retrieval that reduces intimations of previous horizons of expectations to a mere if not a modest proposal.

The mourning is grounded in a myth of how galactic light is split between maternal brilliance and cherubic luminosity and how the earth registers this scission upon a meteorite isle where fireflies surrender their final blaze. This cosmogonic parabasis internalized as local knowledge is inlaid with a colonial narrative of christological interment: the Messiah is dead, yes, but thrice, as a statuary of identical eburnean figures clothed in vermilion radiance and encased in cuboid glass. Such triplication is a mnemonic to refuse the telos of a sorrowful mystery, much like the melismatic ululations of the folk which decorate elegiac enjambments of the Pasyon quintilla and prevent the lyric from punctuating itself quite predictably, in prosopopeiac loneliness. It has to be said that while this aspect of colonial idiom is now read as a gesture of sufferance that choreographs revolutionary movements, what remains to be articulated is how dolorous maternity intervenes in activating intransigence. “Hinulid” could fulfill that feminine reading of the passion.

It is quite strange that while it is Sita who is portrayed as sorrowful, the dolefulness is not demonstrated according to her lamentational terms. Instead, the agony is projected upon her through this Christ thrice interred. This puts into question the memory that her consciousness is supposed to verify as the truth of her mourning. Sita needs to grieve a dead son thrice: the precocious sacristan, the awkward teen poet, the brooding student of law. What is amplified by this triplication? I’m trying to remember Nora’s face through the three hours of Cordero’s Bikol epic and for the first time, after all those years, Aunor registers vacancy. There is magnification, yes. Mourning becomes Nora, and thrice so. Each time this is staged however, in distinction (her moments of grief delineated through the avatars of his dead son), or in simultaneity (the bereavement syncopated in ternary rhythm), the dolour, because of the imposed repetition, is not pithy.

This peculiar Santo Entierro will only make sense if its triplication can be argued to originate from the Mater Dolorosa herself, and in a relation of correspondence that is less reaction than receipt. The peculiarity of this Pieta should also be mariologically immanent. If Christ could die thrice, of course, Mary should mourn in the same time signature. Nonetheless, the cinema of “Hinulid” must also elaborate how dolorous maternity is thrice possible from a Marian perspective. After all, the narrative is told by Sita, not from her son dying through three ages. The film cannot be assumed to be told “de profundis.”

Fray Marcos de Lisboa’s “Vocabulario de la lengua Bicol” defines “holid” as “recostar al niño en el regazo, o en la cuna.” To lay a child on one’s lap, or in his crib: these are acts of maternal nurturance. And yet this scene also makes sense as the Pieta, inasmuch as it exudes that moment of the Nativity. If Sita must inter her son thrice, it is because his death reminds her of the emptiness of her womb through his childhood, boyhood, youth. His death finally affirms the terminus of her being a woman. Hollowed out by loss, she embodies a desert longing. This must be Aunor’s late style thesis. My well of loneliness has been depleted. I am nothing. I have known all manner of fatigue. I was all womb before. Now, let me be his sepulchre.


And yet: Can this strange fruit return to me, a flower that has long faded? Did my body bear him only for this burial? Was my immaculate conception, my freedom from an originary offense, only a forethought to understanding this emptiness, my blessed virginity as sarcophagus? Did I visit Elizabeth to know of this gift, to be arid once more for the seed of my universal fertility?

Sita mourns the 1) body of her son: 2) the memory of the body she has reared; 3) and her own obsolescence, which she must remember and grieve in advance. Pace Blanchot, one is never present at one’s own death. If his son has faded ahead of her, the hour of her own death looms large in solitariness. Nora’s eyes are vacant to honor the imminence.

What is assumed in the Assumption is mariological mortality. Cordero’s catholic text recuperates such orthodoxy by intending to depict in the triplication the dormition of a conduit of divine indigeneity. Theotokos ruminates on that insight: Thanatos. Now we finally understand that Maria Purissima only ripens to intuit her own deliquescence.

Notwithstanding the truth that mourning the memory of the dearly departed can only be worked through intimately, the secrecy of grief must not be reduced to the sheer privations of the domestic. Memory is not stronger than justice. Memory is as strong as justice. If Cordero has written a screed against the capillaries of power through an indictment of a matrix of institutions which plot the murder of its most thoughtful activists, then an autopsy of power must be demanded, perhaps not through the parabolic distensions of folklore, but within a critical ethnography similar to Nancy Scheper Hughes’s study on “death without weeping” among mothers in a Brazilian necropolis. That Sita refuses the activation of social justice from this instance of motherly hurt turns the critique of institutional power into a perfunctory exercise of grievance that masks a reactionary undercurrent. If homo necans is explained as he is, a person who murders, killing outside the realm of law and in spite of it, now makes fatal sense. If Mary failed to seek justice against Judaic theocracy within Roman imperial jurisprudence, repetitions of such violation of sacred motherhood must be worked out in the post-colonial world, in our case, through the vernacular revolutions of the Pasyon traumaturgy.

“Hinulid” is a cinematic epic from Bikol, particularly a contact zone between the antipodes of catholic Naga and folk Legazpi; Rinconada, where the writer-director and the actress were born and raised, is the linguistic consciousness that seeks its visual form in the film. Iriga becomes the city full of grace. The literary education of the filmmaker entitles him to graft discourses of faith and science through a high modernist mode of narration characterized by heterochrony, expressionism, and a self-conscious system of trope-turning, so that metaphor becomes the principle of argument to argue for the transformation of the screenplay into an allegory of spirit whose rhetoricity takes over the exigencies of montage and mis-en-scène. The cornucopia of symbolic possibilities can be overwhelming, to the point that a scene becomes vacuous time-space. Guillermo Abrenica’s cinematographic approach understands Cordero’s vision of tropical languor and the tedium that such slowness entails. His camera, assisted by the scopic talents of Sherwin Cañamero, may be encumbered by immobility, but he allows portraits and still lives to occupy a landscape by turns verdant and grey, at times punctuated by the cardinal choices of art directors Ryan Cuatrona and Celine Belino to portray christophanic hemorrhage. Alec Figuracion’s editorial decisions are precise, seizure of distinctions and simultaneities is indefatigable, although sometimes almost undercut by Cordero’s desire to sprint against himself, as co-editor. The acting ensemble superbly orchestrates a heteroglossic tone variegating on the singular sentiment of melancholy, although Eilyn Nidea is most seductive as a high priestess of the mountains, Jess Volante’s Homeric exhortations are bone-piercing, and Delia Enverga’s crone-mother accesses the sublime objects of the funerary. Raffi Banzuela’s aphoristic style is peerless; he is also perspicacious as a trickster within the Church. Kirby Pala’s purity can disperse the darkest skepticism, while Ken Balmes’s recitals of Gerard Manley Hopkins interlocute the impressionable and the cynical inflections of Lukas’s persona; his caesuras can be full of breath. Jesus Mendoza’s nose is as almost perfect as the Mayon’s cone, but his emotive depths are as various as the Buhi lake. His ultimate version of Lukas is a romantic genius who cannot jump into the crucible of the infinite, because human, all too human to fail as lover and beloved.

In “Hinulid,” Nora Aunor returns to Bikol to mourn thrice, and die along that tropic percussion, against her own will, but in concert with the heart. Those eyes are vacated by sentimentality for the most part, because Sita’s condition pertains to the emotional fragment. The voice is broken, yes, but there must have been so much bliss in the chance to speak in the tongue of her earth, where her agonies and ecstasies remain untethered, through the language of her art made contemporary with the world and vernacular to history by this terrible son of her own homeland, Kristian Sendon Cordero. Memory is stronger than cinema.

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Posted by on 24/10/2016 in Uncategorized