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.

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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.

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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.

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“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?”

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

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

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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.

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Poisons

What happens when your daily bread becomes poison? You’d probably go to a different bakery, or buy a different name-brand loaf, or rant about it on a Facebook post, but that’s something that the lot of us Internet-folk have the privilege of doing. A lot of people who face these daily poisons don’t have that privilege. Maybe it’s the only bakery in town. Maybe it’s the only thing that they can afford. Maybe they can rant about it while writhing in the public wards of government hospitals. Maybe get a mention of it in media, alongside a Mayor with a giant bedroom in his office or the next celebrity engagement.

ABS-CBNNews.com reported six cases of food poisoning in the Philippines this week. Combined, the poisoning cases affected 2,028 people, mostly children. The food was not anything exotic or fancy, but typical things we would snack on: cakes, buns, candies.

All this following the national scandal on synthetic rice; needless to say, “fake food” has once again stepped into the limelight. The news shows us that poisoning from adulterated food almost always happens to the vulnerable segments of our population: the poor, the young, and those from far-flung areas who don’t have easy access to healthcare.

Adulteration itself is a very long and odious tale of greed, chemistry, political difficulties, and the old truth from countless cautionary tales: the way to move the heart of the people is through their stomachs.

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Pizza, Chicken, Chizza

Before anything else: this is not going to be a food review, or a PR piece.

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In an 1843 diary, Alexandre Dumas – novelist, traveler, foodista – wrote quite fondly about the pizzas he encountered in the streets of Naples. Back then, pizza was simple fare sold from big copper tins, and would probably wouldn’t cost more than a few coins. Toppings were also simple: Dumas spoke of pizzas topped with oil, lard, cheese, tomatoes, and anchovies. These are things that many of us continue to see in modern pizza.

But there’s that last bit: “modern pizza.”

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