After Dark

IMG_5447The night is only a sort of carbon paper
Blueblack, with the much-poked periods of stars
Letting in the light, peephole after peephole—
A bonewhite light, like death, behind all things.
Under the eyes of the stars and the moon’s rictus
He suffers his desert pillow, sleeplessness
Stretching its fine, irritating sand in all directions.

Sleep carries with it its horrors.

The gnashing of teeth, the tremors I’ve carried through adulthood, and the abrupt cycles between sleeping and being awake. It’s never Neverland; but ever since the gnashing became harder, the tremors became shakier, and the hours of sleep have shortened, I’ve somehow thrown the body clock out the window.

Insomnia’s kind of strange.


Smoke On Roxas

When you come to think about it, Mar Roxas probably has one of the most impressive résumés among candidates on the road to the 2016 elections. Roxas is the scion of two powerful families in both politics and industry (lest we forget that Mar is the son of a Senator and the grandson of a former President, and is also the grandson of the man who built the Araneta real estate empire). He’s an Ivy League graduate: he is an economist from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. He spent years as a financial hotshot in New York, making a name for himself in the world of capital and investments. He’s a former Congressman, a former Senator (garnering the most votes for any candidate in a national election, at that), and held three different Cabinet positions under three different administrations.

While other prospective candidates have to blow smoke (like, say, turning the Philippines “into Makati”) to curry favor among the people and win their votes this early (at least one had to figuratively/literally blow someone’s rocks off), Roxas is—on paper—the most qualified. One may even say that he’s destined to be President: a man born and bred to be in Malacañang. Rightly or wrongly, Roxas has a very clear advantage among others through his position of privilege.

… I’m not even sure. Photo from Oras Na, Roxas Na

The problem is, that’s not exactly how Roxas is packaged. And as it turns out, it’s a really big problem.


On Handwriting

When I was a kid, my teachers put much stock on clean and neat handwriting. Since kindergarten, the Writing subject wasn’t about composition or sentence construction, but the finer points of print and cursive. An entire hour of school was devoted to the Writing class: direct and indirect ovals, parallel lines, and the cursive form of letters. “Writing well” wasn’t just about one’s grasp of prose, but one’s grasp of the pen. “Learning how to write” was just that: learning how to write.


Our teachers taught us the difference between D’Nealian and Zaner-Bloser cursive (mine’s a cross between the two), but the importance of it. The Writing assignment was quite brutal by today’s standards: an entire notebook was filled with nothing but cursive forms and shapes, with painstaking effort given to headers and descenders under threat of pain (usually from a wooden footrule).

But like prayer responses and the Litany, it’s something most of us carried through adulthood. Today, I still maintain neat—although shaky—cursive handwriting, for no real reason other than it being there.

At least for now, I think so.


A Failure of Persuasion

And the music came back with the carnival, the music you’ve heard as far back as you can remember, ever since you were little, that’s always playing somewhere, in some corner of the city, in little country towns… the carnival meant to delude the weekend crowd.

– Louis Ferdinand Céline, “Journey to the End of the Night”

Above is an audio clip of Felix Manalo: the founder and first Executive Minister of Iglesia ni Cristo. For over a hundred years, the Church he founded has become an important symbol of Filipino faith, and has become (rightly or wrongly) an important voice in a country largely governed and influenced by God’s Word. Manalo and the INC may have their critics (and the events over the past few days may have added to that), but it’s hard to deny Manalo’s understanding and grasp of rhetoric.

To his followers, Manalo was the last messenger of God in these last days. Manalo told stories to his flock, and reminded them of the Word. More importantly, Manalo was used to the crucible of debate: in fact, he thrived in it. In a country with so many religions that claim to preach the true Word of God, it is a testament to the INC’s talent for persuasion that today, it’s the third-largest religious denomination in the Philippines.

Fast forward to a couple of days ago: for reasons that still aren’t clear to people like myself, members of the Iglesia ni Cristo blocked off an entire section of EDSA, and held a rally to “protect religious freedom.” Or uphold the unity of Iglesia ni Cristo. Or whatever it was that they were there for.

And this brings me to quite a few things about persuasion.


“One More Chance:” Eight Years Later

A few weeks ago, Star Cinema released a teaser trailer for what could be a sequel to “One More Chance.” This time, Popoy (in a pair of ill-fitting slippers) and Basha (with her fascinating choices in haircuts) do get married, fight, and invoke some of the “hugot” lines that made the original movie endure over the years.

It’s kind of hard to believe (and for those keeping tabs on age, difficult to accept) that “One More Chance” (directed by Cathy Garcia-Molina) turns eight years old this year. For all intents and purposes, the film has become a “classic:” a term usually reserved for really old movies that pioneered cinema. Despite its age, the film has experienced a resurrection of sorts not seen since Jolina-Marvin spring notebooks and Rico-Claudine posters: not only is the film showing again in a limited release, but it has also inspired a novel. People (usually my age) still take to Twitter to announce that “One More Chance” is showing in some Pinoy movie channel.

Surely we understand the appeal of this film eight years ago: John Lloyd Cruz stood for the “tunay na lalake” trope, while Bea Alonzo represented the feelings of so many women who desire independence. In a way, it articulated the emotional milieu of a generation. But again, that was eight years ago: could “One More Chance” still stand the test of time after so many love teams, tandems, and movies that overtly sell and dispense with “hugot?”


So I took out my copy and, with a mind more open than that required for network marketing opportunities, watched it again.


“Sana Maulit Muli:” A Film Review

It’s easy to accuse Filipino films of “crimes” that are easy to pin down, perhaps for the dearth of quality, the economic realities of Pinoy cinema, or instances of self-loathing (because y’know, it’s easy to review movies these days on the basis of a trailer). There are linear and almost formulaic plots, poor cinematography, and the stigma that comes with the typical local blockbuster. Yet every once in a while there are movies that sort of invalidate the criticism by making those tropes and preconceived notions work in its favor.

The formulaic plot is necessary to charge scenes with nuance. The poor cinematography is proof of a (what was then) young industry stunted by the poverty of support for it. The stigma is there: the movie industry is still, after all, a business that relies on star power and marketing.

Yet that ease of criticism stands in the way of the spirit of cinema. In “The Pervert’s Guide to Cinema,” the Slovenian philosopher Slavoj Žižek puts it best: for us to understand the world, cinema provides us with the lens to see the reality which is more real than reality itself. For all the accusations of “poverty porn,” extreme melodrama, and linear plots made to put Pinoy cinema in the stocks and pillory, it’s not without merit.

And not without timelessness, either. In an industry that spews forth countless titles—and MMFF sequels—in a year, it takes a certain mindset to find enduring ones. And, in a society that puts as much stock on emotion as the Philippines, we need to find endearing ones.

“Sana Maulit Muli,” directed by Olivia Lamasan and starring Aga Muhlach and Lea Salonga, is one of them.


Weirder Affectations

Editorials are more than an expression of a publication’s opinion. The editorial is a demonstration of journalistic acumen, writing skill, and the sharpness of analysis. Editorials, therefore, require solid factual bases, an excellent command of language, and the kind of precise, incisive analysis that sets a newspaper’s opinion apart from those of common people.

“Weird affectations,” to use the phrase used by the August 1, 2015 editorial of The Manila Times, happen when factual bases are not established, when the use of language fails, and when the chosen point for analysis is how President Aquino uses Filipino in his past SONAs.

The problem with the editorial is that it isn’t an editorial. When we frame that piece against the three things I mentioned above—factual bases, language and structure, and analytical rigor—we should be able to see it for what it is.