Tag Archives: Nora Aunor

Statement of the Film Desk of the Young Critics Circle on the 2018 Order of National Artists

We, the members of the Film Desk of the Young Critics Circle (YCC), denounce once more the exclusion of Nora Aunor (Nora Cabaltera Villamayor) from the roster of artists inducted into the Order of National Artists (ONA) this year, and reiterate our call for the artistic community to rethink and reform the ONA.

In 2014, Aunor passed all levels of screening in the legally constituted process, presided over by the pertinent state cultural institutions, earning her a place in the shortlist of individuals recommended for conferral with the rank and honor of National Artist by the president. She was denied the accolade, however, on grounds that were, at best, spurious: Benigno S. Aquino III alleged that Aunor had been convicted and punished in connection with a drug case, a claim that was as self-righteous as it was misbegotten—which is to say, completely. Along with other concerned parties, we condemned the lack of rigor in thought and awareness of responsibility that underpinned Aquino’s decision.

Owing to her inclusion in the previous shortlist, Aunor was automatically entered into this year’s shortlist, giving rise to the hope that past caprice would be corrected. Like before, her name was dropped; unlike before, the president has deigned to provide no explanation so far. During the formal ceremonies to confer the ONA and other cultural awards, Rodrigo Roa Duterte, as is his wont, spent much of his time railing disjointedly against human rights advocates and other critics of the increasingly defective democracy that he helms.

The day after, his spokesperson Salvador Panelo addressed the omission of Aunor with remarks clad in condescension and incoherence. Aunor was “still young”, he said, and would become National Artist “in God’s perfect time”. Panelo added that her non-proclamation as National Artist was meant to “spare [her] from the emotional and psychological torment coming from the barrage of mixed reactions the award will bring”.

If Aunor has been “spared” any “torment”, it is that which is bound up with the prospect that her celebrated body of work will be instrumentalized—and therefore drained of its vitality—by the present dispensation in order to obscure or detract from the various forms of violence that it has inflicted upon the country.

Nora Aunor at the 69th Venice International Film Festival in 2012. Courtesy of Carvin de Leon (Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License).

Nora Aunor at the 69th Venice International Film Festival in 2012. Courtesy of Carvin de Leon (Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License).

Choosing National Artists entails the involvement of artists, cultural workers, and government representatives in a lengthy, multi-tiered process that, whatever its flaws, aims to produce a consensus on the basis of judgments that are as sound as its participants can muster. That the consensus around Aunor has now been dismissed twice over through the exercise of presidential prerogative, premised on reasons poorly conceived and ill-articulated, can only register as sheer waste, as wanton abuse, no matter how ostensibly legal. Aunor herself has said, “Bakit pa nila ako isinali rito kung hindi naman pala ako karapat-dapat?”

The assaults that continue to be visited against the integrity and meaningfulness of the ONA compel us to ask what measures can be taken in order to safeguard it from political whim and interference, to ensure that all who take part in the process, from the initial nominators to the president, act in good faith and are made fully accountable for their decisions. We suggest, as a beginning, that the confidentiality veiling the selection process from the scrutiny of the Filipino people, on whose behalf the ONA is bestowed, be revisited: does it bolster independent assessment or facilitate unscrupulous manipulation?

More importantly, considering that the ONA—or indeed any other prize—should not be taken as the definitive measure of an artist’s achievement, it bears asking: What are the reasons that this award persists, nearly five decades after its invention by a self-styled patroness of the arts? What is meant by “achievement”, anyway, and for whom and against whom is it invoked? How are artists, academics, scholars, critics, and cultural workers—we are no exception—complicit in and culpable for the corruption and dysfunction that seem to be inextricable from this highest of honors awarded by the state to artists?

These and other questions all of us must challenge ourselves with again and again if we are serious about overhauling not only the ONA but also the broader infrastructure for arts and culture in which the ONA is but one part.


Posted by on 29 October 2018 in Philippine Film


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Tropical Divine

J Pilapil Jacobo

The contest of wills that ensues between the high priestess Pinailog (Nora Aunor) and her heiress-apparent Dowokan (Barbie Forteza) portrayed in the Kinaray-a film Tuos revisits not only the tension between structure and agency, and the cleave between the archaic and the modern attending the former opposition, but also the irreciprocal terms of kinship that must nevertheless be resolved by female commiseration, precisely because the conditions of rift and the concord that must be agreed upon in spite of the poison are imbricated within the gender of the gift itself.

While the epic past is animated to enquire on the mythic origins of the kept maiden, Tuos only weaves Hiligaynon orature into national cinema to naturalize autochthonous practices of exception which turn women into objects of inalienable exchange so that a community may lay claim to the civility it seeks to establish as historic. The contemporary cannot learn anything from this method of rarification. While folklore must be read as that discursive formation desired by narratives of colonial capital to be obliterated, so that the parties underwriting the potlatch may finally turn to the spell of the fetish, the epic, in this case, is that mode of consciousness that seeks to achieve its own obsolescence. Why the repetition, if silence, and not resonance, is the future of the voice?

Tuos (2)

The paradox of this premise justifies however the visuality of the textile between orature and cinema, as Denise O’Hara and Roderick Cabrido’s Tuos probes into the dilemma of a lineage that may succumb to discontinuing the long duration of its primitive entelechy, through a montage of scenes which concatenate the precarity of the contract between humans and daemons instituted through the perpetual vestality of the “binukot.” If woman must be withheld to assure the polity the sacrosanct secret that protects its insular singularity deep within the montane tropics, then the pact with such archaism can only be defiled through the nubile body of the princess who refuses to be beautiful by opening herself up to ravage. The predisposition to this hymenal rupture is visually designed through diaphanous fabrics: veils, kerchiefs, skirts, nets, curtains finally metonymized through the image of an arachnid who has yet to complete her gossamer web. And yet this does not mean that vestality is superficial, if sheer vestments can make the secret available, particularly when a glance through the textile turns into the scopophiliac gaze; the film is telling us something about the permeable and the interstitial: what the scopic can traverse and how certain instances, albeit rapturous, persuade us to be opaque. Such predicament is cinematic.

Diaphany is that opportunity of concealment. And yet, the translucence affords one to see through, to look out into the world from this privileged anonymity. When Pinailog witnesses Dowokan surrendering her purity to Daupan, she becomes prone herself to the rumor of the sex that has been denied from her millennial ancestry. Her voyeurism articulates the axiom of the violence that befalls her body as the last of the virgins. The spirit of the gift does not dwell in an exception from corporeal experience per se; it distinguishes its reciprocity as disavowal of the carnal knowledge annunciated when the coitus becomes factitious as vision. The binukot must be hidden from sex because she must be distant from the plethora of its plaisances. Furthermore, she cannot be an aspect of such a spectacle; the genital act must remain private, redeemed from sibylline judgment. The sacred and the profane must from each other remain safe. The eye is the most diaphanous of organs; the contemplation of seduction must forever be obscured by the vestal subject. With pleasure threatening to be proximate, she must will all of her diaphanous access to the earthly sensorium to turn into a carapace. The shamaness is supreme potentate of her kin, because her erotic patience is most adamantine.

Nora Aunor portrays the resistivity to damage with so much fortitude, that the moment of her capture can only be devastating; such traumaturgy is less an aftermath than the epicenter of the defiance almost always held with grace by Barbie Forteza. There is antipodal tremor in this duel of acting, with Aunor’s quake choreographically staged in her avian dance to punctuate a wedding rite—a lesson on how dexterously solitude can find its path alongside the rites of romance—and Forteza’s fragility aggravated at her ineptitude to convey the songs of her folk, while her hands cannot wait to snap the strings of her lone lute.

Only the defeat of Eros can repair the hymenal breach; Aunor vanquishes the demon with epic precision! When Forteza finally accedes to the shamanic succession, she understands the gift as a place where the anterior agent gains prescience and precedence. From here, Pinailog descends to the sea to die, as rivers cascade to belong to, where else, but the abyss; and Dowokan proceeds to live, as psyche watching herself think through the millennium, within the cinematheque.

What is the tropical divine but an ultimate contention with erotic duress?

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Posted by on 17 April 2017 in Philippine Film


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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 appurtenances 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:


Posted by on 21 November 2015 in Film Review, Philippine Film


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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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Posted by on 20 September 2015 in Film Review, Philippine Film


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Spherical Sympathy

J. Pilapil Jacobo

A world is imagined to be more shapely when the geometric configuration of the sphere takes over the idea of landscape. Or else terrain falls back into that ancient conceit of flatness. Of course this historicizing belongs to the colonial order, but the cartographic claim is enabling for those whose place on earth is threatened by the techne of, let’s say, geodesy. Such is the rift that needs to be resolved by the eponymous character played by Nora Aunor in Mes de Guzman’s Ang Kwento ni Mabuti.

The narrative pursues the labors of a peasant woman who forages what remains of the verdure of a piece of land that belongs to her clan but now needs to be ransomed from certain laws which demarcate the earth and expel those who have long nurtured it. Mabuti’s mother (Josephina Estabillo) dreads the day that will find them living in a hut suspended from a tree at the edge of a cliff, but Mabuti refuses to succumb to that banishment from a sphere they have already emplotted as sacred.

To anticipate the good that is to come, and to internalize this practice of patience, Mabuti assumes the role of the shaman: summoner of the spirits, interlocutor of the elements, Aeolian harp on Nueva Vizcayan earth that plays the music of the spheres. With saliva and stone, Mabuti converses with the pharmakon (poison) of venom as the pharmakon (antidote) of devotion, bargains with the universe to remove the contagion, and restitutes the order of benevolence. All shall be well, because the world is enfolded into a state of grace. It may not be visible, but the good, in God’s time, shall foreground itself. The figure that completes the sphere is an embrace from the firmaments. Mabuti is a widow, and her son (Arnold Reyes) and daughter (Mara Lopez) have been taken away from her by metropolitan commerce and diasporic exchange, but with crone-mother and four elfin girl-grandchildren, the shaman asserts the insurmountable place of sympathy in a world that must wax in fortitude when fortune is on the wane.

Mes de Guzman has crafted a film whose milieu musters the enclosures and the extensions of what could be the scope of a cinema of a considerable degree of independence: the sphere of a locality whose roots and rhizomes can only allow the cosmos to open itself up to both providence and peril, which includes a bridge that is never completed, and military checkpoints which must delay travel into the city. The agon that emerges out of the depths must tilt fate toward disaster or away from it. This cusp allows the hailstone to hold within its core a precipitate of insight on cosmic change. As well, such a time commands the swarm to hover above the ambivalence of an ethic. This “dialectical image” empowers the writing to pursue the mystique against all manner of mystifying. The crisis then is only fomented not to threaten the place of the good but to test the ground on which its matter could speak.


The money that Mabuti inherits from Nelia (Sue Prado), a woman summoned and surrendered by the local insurgency, is not so much a metaphor of corruption but a metonym of corruptibility. The spell around the cash stolen from possibly the same bank that is keeping the title of Mabuti’s ancestral land may enchant the shaman. It is her misrecognition of the sorcery that must be apprehended. The good is intimated in the promise of goods, but only after the fetish about capital decays. Hence, two prospects from within Mabuti’s sphere appeal as objects of the gift: the four girl-children’s collegiate education and the crone-mother’s recovery from metastasis. And yet, these options remain improvident. When Mabuti finally resolves the compromise, the categorical imperative divorces itself from any possible imperial category. Mabuti is not turned into a philanthropist. At that moment, the exchange value is hinged upon another girl-child, Marife, the daughter of the insurgent who sneaks the money inside Mabuti’s bag before she is killed by the military. Marife’s term of ransom may be fiscalized by a known amount, but it can only be accounted for by an interminable capacity—Mabuti herself—the only sympathy that can correspond to the girl-child’s subaltern state.

The sanction of this ethic is suffered with an elegiac pace by the syntax of the sympathy, Nora Aunor. Her understanding of the pastoral is accurate, and almost exact in calibrating a sense of biome whose radii are aware of catastrophe and attentive to the fulfillment of the shamanic mandate. It is a range that understands both limit and infinity. Aunor’s formal attitude is most assured here, then. Her late style has become an archive of attunements that can relate with either primordial kernel or final foliage. Earthen is the range. Because she is comfortable treading the reed-path with swine, we forget the contempt we have attached to the animal, and our zootropy recuperates.

We have been instructed well on how Aunor enacts a moment of conviction to tell a truth or to release oneself from victimry, but the method of her act in this film homes in on crisis: the tentativity that surrounds its valences, the articulations of a dilemma that nonetheless electrifies the spirit, and that static moment where the only charge that matters is the epiphanic self.

Is anyone else capable of shifting into tenses of terror perfect and progressive upon finding out the excess in one’s baggage is money, money, money?

The ensemble of women that accompanies this performance must be celebrated for providing Aunor with formidable foils to her character’s predicament. Josephina Estabillo, the termagant, is such a levity. Sue Prado, the renegade, is imperturbable. Mara Lopez, the lovelorn, is by turns melancholic and sanguine. Not every seasoned performer knows the difference.

Ang Kwento ni Mabuti reveals to us that there are still stars, and the stars are still, in Nora’s eyes. Superstars, they remain. And we must gaze, gaze, gaze.


Image source:


Posted by on 28 September 2013 in Film Review


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