Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Theater in a "Damaged Culture"

This paper was presented at the Nation and Culture Conference commemorating the 150th anniversary of Jose Rizal last September 2011. Now published  as "Nation and Culture: The Proceedings" edited by Thelma Arambulo. 

When Rizal wrote “On the Indolence of the Filipinos” more than a century ago,  James Fallows was not yet around to pose his theory about how damaged our culture is. Mr. Fallows might not have known, however,  that his theory is not really new in this part of the world. It has merely undergone a few transformations throughout our history, including and beyond the time Mr. Fallows wrote his controversial article in the Atlantic. During Rizal’s time, the laziness of the Indio was believed to be the main cause for his stagnation. It was supposedly his indolence that brought about his own misery. Today there are no colonial tyrants that blame us for our slovenly ways. There is no dictator that instills in us that progress can only be achieved through discipline (Sa Ikauunlad ng Bayan, Disiplina ang Kailangan.). In this so-called democratic space,  seemingly, we can easily say what we want. And it seems blaming these evil tyrants for causing what’s wrong with us now is not valid any longer.  And so, then,  some people say that we have no one to blame but ourselves after all. And that blame, ironically reverts back to the very same assumption that Rizal refuted. Only now, we are not lazy per se, but that it’s because our culture is damaged. The damage occurred not just during the time of Marcos but way even earlier.  And it seems the damage is so deep-rooted, so deeply ingrained in our wiring, so to speak, that the only way to fix it is by probably imposing this cure  on ourselves as a people, not unlike the very dictatorship we have experienced in this country almost forty years ago, only “benevolent.”

The thing is, for as long as our country’s miserable condition is not alleviated, tyrants. politicians, media, powerful institutions, such as those of religion, business, and military will constantly implicate society’s culture, if not its innate characteristics, as the ultimate core that needs to be changed for this poor country to emancipate itself.  The friars and Spanish colonial masters pointed out laziness. The American sociologists zeroed in on our smooth interpersonal relationships (SIR), utang-na –loob or debt of gratitude, and amor-propio. Dictator Ferdinand Marcos declared that it was our lack of discipline that was the real cause of our stagnation. James Fallows reinterpreted the SIR concept and found a more familiar name for it: delicadeza. And many among today’s Filipino middle classes think we are simply just too shallow.

Rizal, the very figure we are paying tribute to today, never believed it was any of these. He wrote his novels, essays, poetic and dramatic works, all impassioned and sincere, from one clear perspective: That it is not our culture, but who profits most from the inequality and the misery, the injustice and  impunity, the corruption and greed that will determine why and how our country has gotten into this mess. That our cultural behavior, that which is truly ingrained in us, does not make us corrupt. Rather corruption and greed, impunity and injustice have all been using our cultural practices as alibis and instruments, the way a rapist will blame the pornographic material he has been reading as gagging his own sense of responsibility and allowing him to commit a crime (Sapagka’t ako’y lalaki, natural lang iyon).  To be sure, corruption and greed have indeed utilized our very own cherished values of utang-na-loob, pakikisama, etc. Our close family ties and our adherence to delicadeza or our being non-confrontational in the interest of smooth relationships have all contributed to sealing corrupt transactions and exploitative deals.  But is this evidence to suggest that it is our culture that is damaged? Any culture is always context-specific. It enriches societies if the context is appropriate. Our modern set-up, imposed on us by American tutelage for example has not taken Filipino culture in serious consideration. It has, in fact demanded that we do away with how we think, denigrated our values as primitive and untenable in the context of  democracy and individualism.  Taken from this angle,  our culture has indeed been damaged. But as Rizal may have pointed out in his essay more than a hundred years ago—who made this so and who profited most from it?

It is important that we do not distract ourselves from answering this crucial question. For once we figure out a clear reply, only then do we realize that it is not culture that we have to change, but the purveyors of the damage they have wreaked on us.

Mass media has been the most pervasive, most influential festering agent of this so called “cultural damage”. It has effectively reduced our cherished cultural values to promote materialism in its most crass and shallowest sense, even utilizing the urgent struggle of poor Filipinos for survival as its hypocritical measure for Christian charity, for example. Politicians, businessmen, religious institutions, and the rest of the influential elite have profited most from the power that mass media can wield to spin this myth and feed the masses in daily doses.

For instance, democracy, a revered political exercise, has been touted by politicians and the State as the weapon of the majority. Therefore the perversion of this political exercise can only be blamed on the very majority who choose their leaders foolishly. Voting wisely is the universal credo that will supposedly make way for a brighter political future of our nation. And if and when poverty and injustice remain unabated after each electoral process, there is no one to blame but the voters who chose unwisely. Never the politicians nor the system that has made a travesty of democracy by reducing the power of that majority to ten minutes of casting ballots once every three years. For in truth, that is how democracy is practiced and encouraged in this nation: A total of one election day every three years.  To add insult to injury,  it is not even the votes that really matter in our country. For votes, in this country, as we have plainly seen, are spoiled, par for the course, every election day—that singular window of lending power to the people!  Is this a sign of a damage in culture. Possibly. Who is culpable? The unwise voter who is increasingly losing faith in the process, or the purveyor of a sham democracy that lays blame on the voiceless voter every time government fails to govern well?

When military generals stole money from government coffers and paid themselves hefty bonuses, they invoked the soldier’s adherence to a Filipino fraternal spirit. This fraternal loyalty taken from a more appropriate context may have been one of the fundamental tenets of the Philippine Revolution. Kapatiran, which not only derives from the principles of Andres Bonifacio’s underground organization but also from the tenets of the French Revolution, ennobles a brotherhood that demands the highest loyalty to a sacred cause, such as freedom. As we have witnessed in our scandal-ridden times, this value has been stripped of its noble cause, the object of which has made a travesty of the value itself.
Apart from context, there is also the matter of proportion. When the poor disillusioned voter accepts money from the vote-buying candidate, media and politicians  blame the voter for selling his future, graciously forgetting that as a matter of history, whether or not he voted,  his future has never been the government’s genuine concern. Pragmatism is what drives many poor voters to sell their votes. Because they sincerely know with desperation that this single election day, is the only day they can enjoy democracy, despite how phony it really is.

The poor corrupt citizen stands no chance against the big-time corrupt official who pockets billions of taxpayer’s money.  For one, their motives are completely different. One is motivated by necessity, the other by greed.  Many huge multinational companies  and government campaigns call for environmental initiatives from the common people to take care of  the earth. While all these are filled with good intentions, it is still a fact that 90% of today’s environmental hazards do not come from the wastefulness of the ordinary citizen but from the terrible destructiveness that the largest and most profitable companies in  rich nations, as well as their subsidiaries in our part of the world wreak on our atmosphere, our water systems, and the earth’s soils.

One cannot blame a naton’s culture for the prevalence of corruption and greed because greed itself is universal.  Our revolutionary spirit has always come to the fore whenever we Filipinos think that we have been pushed against the wall. We may have experienced a fatigue of this revolutionary spirit as expressed in conventional modes but it eventually finds ways of manifesting itself, ways which even the most disillusioned and pessimistic citizen may not foresee.

We know how depressing our nation’s condition can be, especially if we compare ourselves to our Asian neighbors. Many of us would harp on about the Philippine’s past splendor and at the same time blame what has been ingrained in us for hundreds of years as the main cause for this splendor’s decline. This is simply not logical.  I believe that much of what has happened to our country is hidden in our history.  A history unfettered by interests other than  the truth. The search for these answers requires a strong political will coming from a band of new ilustrados, armed with the shiniest light of truth.
I declare that theater artists in the Philippines are made of that same mettle, members of that band, torchbearers of truth. We have had an illustrious history since the turn of the 20th century, when theater artists have kept the revolutionary fervor aflame against colonial invaders. Theater artists, spearheaded by visionary playwrights have consistently committed to uphold truth. The truth about greed, about class conflict, about the hypocrisy of religion, the real causes of poverty, the poverty of dignity and honor in government and other powerful institutions, the insidiousness of the profit motive in big business, the pretense of the elite. Nowhere in all other forms of media, especially mass media, have these fundamental issues been genuinely addressed.

Furthermore, Philippine theater practice has arguably been the fiercest proponent of advancing a Filipino culture that is alive,  sincere, critical, dignified, liberating and empowering. It is the closest to its audience, both literally and spiritually. Its educational impact has not been compromised by commercial interests such as television, radio and film. Even the most commercial ventures in Philippine Theater today cannot blink or turn a blind eye on the most pressing problems of our country. It seems that much of theater in the Philippines, both community, and semi-professional have an unspoken bond to pursue truth and freedom.

Committed theater artists have never believed that  Philippine culture is damaged, nor have they viewed Filipinos as shallow.  Probably because much of what we do in our work refutes all these ridiculous assumptions. We do acknowledge the damage done by corrupt politicians, corrupt businessmen, power-hungry and greedy tyrants and their military minions to our social and economic fabric. We  are also alarmed by the shallowness and hollowness of meaning in the most powerful forms of media in our country. We are also alarmed by the apathy of many citizens whose disheartening response to the mess around them is to go abroad thereby defusing a revolutionary fervor for genuine social change. If anything, it is not our culture that is damaged but our belief in the empowering quality of that culture.
My collaboration experiences with other theater artists in other Asian countries have made me realize that the greatness of any form of expression can be seen where one’s own culture is proudly embedded and aligned within the context of its present environment. That instead of denying our culture and shedding our true selves in exchange for the cosmopolitan, global standard—we seek to incorporate our culture and modify this standard to fit our own needs and aspirations. That instead of vainly trying to seek world-class recognition from others, we start knowing more about ourselves and set our own goals without seeking anyone else’s approval.  For only then will the world see us in our own terms, and only then will world-class recognition be genuinely achieved.

This is much of what Philippine theater practitioners consciously or unconsciously do.  Admittedly, while many theater artists have given up by crossing over to television and commercial ventures, or worse, gone abroad albeit for very pressing reasons, the pool from which Philippine theater draws its strength: idealistic youth, committed artists, people concerned with community and social issues, enlightened and creative generations, people who have in them a defined cultural character unmistakably Pinoy – all have replenished  and continue to replenish an increasingly vibrant art form.
Filipino playwrights are the most dedicated writers, knowing fully well that theater is not a lucrative occupation.  Yet some of them persist in writing for the theater because the fulfillment of expressing uncompromising truth is supreme to any other fulfillment offered by its more commercial and bogus counterparts in mass media.

And yet,  hardly any government or corporate support is handed to this small band of artists. Is it because many in government and business know only fully well, that when they engage with a genuine truth seeker, the truth about their own perverse corruptions will necessarily be exposed on stage?
The commitment of the theater artists lies not only in their commitment to the craft, but their sincerity and commitment to truth. Anything short of this shows in their work on stage as mere artifice.
This same commitment to excellence and truth have made us believe that our culture is the only thing we can rely on. And that to believe that it falls far short of what we can become is our fundamental national tragic flaw. 

Monday, June 20, 2011

Plus 2 more posters form the Virgin Labfest 7

2 more Posters
Virgin Labfest Year 7

June 29 to July 10, 2011
Tanghalang Huseng Batute
Cultural Center of the Philippines

VALLEY MISSION CARE by Russel Legaspi, directed by Missy Maramara

Featuring: Siegfried Sepulveda, Mayen Estanero, Richard Cunanan

An Old Man, Francisco finds himself stuck between the comfortable landscape of a Nursing institute and the Promise he holds dearly to be with his love. A promise he intends to keep even if it means he dies trying.

STREETLIGHT MANIFESTO by Mixcaela Villalon, directed by Ed Lacson

Featuring: Paolo O’Hara, Adrienne Vergara, Bong Cabrera, Ness Roque

Every night, a streetlight is the lone witness to the meetings between two hired killers responsible for the string of murders in a particular area in Manila— and every day, dead bodies are left underneath it for a police detective to find, and a young journalist to investigate and report. Streetlight Manifesto tackles the subjective nature of truth and justice, and frames the discussion on dignity of work amist the backdrop of Manila’s business casual culture of violence. But for every day the investigation remains unresolved, the body count continues to rise.

The Virgin Labfest Posters 1

5 Posters from Virgin Labfest Year 7 entries.

June 29 to July 10, 2011
Tanghalang Huseng Batute (Studio Theater)
Cultural Center of the Philippines


Featuring: Angelina Kanapi, Che Ramos, Christian Bautista, Roeder Camañag, Lao rodriguez, Olive Nieto, Chromewell Cosio, Kathlyn Castillo, Acey Aguilar, Yong Tapang, Roli Inocencio, Skyzx Labastilla, Russel Legaspi, Irene Delarmente, Joel Saracho

Just another typical night at the theater: the director’s mad, stage manager’s losing his wit, and the actors are, well, acting up—until one by one, they all start dying. Then the fun suddenly begins: who’s out to get a bunch of old and forgotten stars trying to get another break; why here and why now, why The Portrait; perhaps a prank,a pure coincidence; or has the past finally decided to play cat and mouse? It was a dark and stormy night, indeed, and everyone’s a suspect. Look sharp, find your light, and break a leg!

ONDOY by Remi Velasco , directed by Ed Lacson

Featuring: Cai Cortez, Jelson Bay

If you were trapped on your rooftop with nothing but only your wimp husband or nagging wife in the middle of the tragic typhoon Ondoy, what would you wish for? Mercy demanded for an annulment while Obet wanted only his son to stay and Mercy to be booted out of “roof.” The storm begins, the battle begins. The couple’s struggle to save their lives was awkwardly turned into a fight, crystallizing their own family “storm” – their chronic, even futile problems. But when Ondoy subsided, who will be booted out?

MGA LOBO TULAD NG BUWAN, writtend and directed by Pat Valera

Featuring: Mary Jane Alejo, Katte Sabata, Chic San Agustin

A mother, wife and daughter remain in the realm of resistance to seek justice. Each has lost a loved one from the tragic sinking of MV Princess of the Stars where 773 people died. One of the worst maritime disasters in recent years, the vessel sank because of the shipping line’s insistence to sail amidst a looming typhoon.

Three years since the sinking, the women persist. However, they slowly forget. Time consumes them, great powers offer bribes, the cost of the struggle becomes insurmountable. Most of all, the memory of pain stabs each time it is remembered. Some succumb to the solace of oblivion, leaving the seemingly endless battle while some remain amidst certain pain and uncertain answers.

This is an elegy for all those lost at sea and their relatives left behind. This play allows us to understand their struggle.

KAFATIRAN by Ricardo Novenario, directed by JK Anicoche

Featuring: Acey Aguilar, Abner Delina, Ian Lomongo, Marco Viana

Kafatiran is a story of love and freedom. At the dawn of the Philippine revolution, another revolution is brewing. Deep within the ranks of the Katipunan is a special faction composed of young men who are smart, art-loving, and sometimes a bit too mild-mannered. Young Antonino Corpus wants to join this special faction and goes through some tests to know if he does belong into this group. Unfortunately, the night of Antonino’s recruitment is also the night that sparks the Philippine revolution and the recruitment house was surrounded by several guardia civil. Should they leave the place where they are free to be themselves so that they can attain true freedom? Should they finally come out?

BAWAL TUMAWID, NAKAMAMATAY written and directed by Joey Paras

Featuring: Leo Rialp, Kiki Baento, Mark Jones Simbit, Vera Capirak, Bham Sumooc, Eva Madera, Giovanni Cadag, Floid Zulueta, Biboy Ramirez

It is February 14, Valentine`s Day. Eva is trapped in a bus stop along EDSA. Desperately trying to get a cab to make it to her father`s burial in La Loma, she asks passersby how she could make it to her destination. She sees an easy access to make it to the other lane ---an opening in the middle of the highway that bears this sign: BAWAL TUMAWID, NAKAMAMATAY. In the meantime, Eva meets a stranger, an old carpenter named Mang Caloy. The old man gives her options on how to make it to La Loma but she remains indecisive.

The heavy traffic and the heavy rain engage them into a peculiar conversation. A coffee shop near the bus stop becomes their refuge and here they begin sharing sentimental and funny stories about their past. Eva talks about her father`s death and her simple dreams as a hopia vendor. Mang Caloy breaks the serene conversation by telling the story behind the signage. An unpredictable revelation of the old man`s past marks the climax of the play. As the busy avenue becomes expansive again, an unexpected accident happens, leaving Eva in deep shock.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Farewell, Gen-san!

Kiyokazu Yamamoto, one of the founding members of Black Tent Theater, Japan, dear dear friend, passed away last week, succumbing to lung cancer. Three days ago, PETA gave him a small tribute. This is my short contribution. I had a difficult time reading it to the small audience since I couldn’t fight back my tears. I’m still grieving. The sadness comes in small waves. Gen-san will be missed terribly.

When I first met Gen-san in 1981, I never thought it would turn into a friendship that would last for 30 years. I remember many things about him. I was 21 years old then and he was the jolly, funny, middle-aged, sweet-toothed Papa Gen as we called him then.

I got to know him better later in 1996 when he decided to come over to Manila, one day. He surprised us. He suddenly appeared at the PETA house (then in Lantana, Cubao). He said he was on vacation. The other members of Black Tent Theater (BTT) were in Avignon playing Woyzeck then. And he said he just wanted to explore possibilities of a collaboration with PETA. That one visit opened a whole chapter of the continuing bond between PETA and BTT that grew into a deep friendship. That chapter culminated in a fabulous collaborative production of Romeo and Juliet—which for me, even today, was the best collaborative project I have ever been involved in. Not only because of the fantastic rehearsal process that we were discovering along the way, but because of the talent, the fun, the learning we all shared. Papa Gen’s lone visit to PETA house in Lantana was the key to this wonderful experience.

Much of the production process of Romeo and Juliet was documented in still pictures, video, etc.

However, what couldn’t be documented was the time Gen and I spent writing the scenario in his hideaway, a small town by a lake, away from Tokyo, where he taught me how to fish, and, in between our scribbling of the scenario of the play, he would tell me how he loved fishing in Canada, and enumerated all the fish he had caught from trout to bass, distinguishing one catch from another. And that despite all the fish that he knew—he would still end up craving for samma. And while we finished eating the fish we caught that afternoon, we talked about the possible endings to our Romeo and Juliet, while dishing up edamame beans as he had his beer.

What wasn't documented was, on the way home, Gen took me to a small restaurant and asked if I ever tasted black natto. And had me taste them and waiting for me to throw up and take back all I’ve said about how much I loved it. And how his eyes widened in silly admiration when I finished the serving.

What wasn’t caught on video was when one time he asked me how it felt to be gay. That maybe he might want to try becoming one, now that he was old and thought that having sex didn’t make that much of a difference whether it was with a woman or a man. And I remember laughing and asking if probably it was too late for him to do that… and then slowly wondering if he was serious but never got to push that issue any further.

What wasn’t caught on video was when he took us one night in Saito’s pad and we had a Kurosawa movie marathon while he annotated his own reviews of the early works of this great man. When he introduced me to the stories of Kenji Miyazawa, and told me why he preferred Kawabata to Mishima. And I remember one time asking him why many great Japanese writers had attempted suicide—I can’t remember what his explanation was anymore. And I remember him handing me a Margaret Atwood novel which he couldn’t bother to read since it was in English. Papa Gen, I read it. I would have wanted to tell you the story. But it doesn’t really matter. And anyway it wasn’t as great as your little stories about food, sweets, fish, literature, theater, film, Ed McBain, your wife Napa and your daughter Aya-chan, your wonder and fascination about new things you’ve learned about the Philippines, your commitment to your art, so many things you got interested in, so many things you wanted to talk about—and we did talk about it while you juggled with the handful of English you knew. And even if we didn’t understand each other many times, it didn’t matter as long as we understood each other here in our hearts. It was the company we had, knowing that no matter what we said we knew we weren’t going to hurt each other because we cared for each other, because that’s the way friends really are.

What wasn’t caught on video was your generosity. And I remember how much you appreciated it when we reciprocated that generosity. How much you enjoyed eating Philippine chicken and eggs saying how much they tasted better than those in Japan. How much you loved eating in Emerald Restaurant and the other chinese restaurants I brought you to.

The last time I saw Gen was when suddenly, again, he appeared at the PETA office, this time here in this building (Eymard Drive). Everyone was asking what brought you here, Gen. And like before, you said nothing really. That you were on vacation, again. No agenda. You had this new Canon digital SLR camera. And I remember you showing me all the pictures you took with it. And you handed me the copy of the play, Kitchen Medea—a monologue you wrote which Yoshi directed and Mailes acted for the Virgin Labfest. We kept asking what you wanted to do during this vacation—and you answered vaguely. That you just wanted to spend time with friends.

It was only after you left that we learned why. It was really to say farewell, for you sensed that you might never see us again. It was better we saw you happy, you probably thought. It was better we remembered you as the same jolly and gentle Papa Gen whose great great mind you always tried disguising with an innocent silliness. So Gen, that’s how I will always remember you. This last lone trip you made to Manila to visit us, just to see us one last time, was your gallant way of goodbye. Even up to the end, Papa Gen, you were such a gracious, gracious man. With deep respect and lots of hugs and kisses.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

August, the ghost month

sabi ng mga chinese, masama ang buwan sa bandang agosto. lagi daw kasi dito pumapatak ang ghost month sa lunar calendar. nung nasa singapore ako, bandang agosto rin yun nang makita ko ang maraming pamilyang nagsusunog ng kung anu-anong papel sa loob ng mga drum. maglalakad ako sa isang neighborhood papunta sa tinutuluyan kong rented flat at madadaanan ko ang maraming sunog na papel, abuhing mga kartong imahe ng iba't ibang gamit pambahay. Parang yung nakikita sa mga punerarya ng chinese, sa arlington, halimbawa.

hindi ko alam na ghost month pala yun. hindi ko rin naman alam kung ano ba talaga ang ghost month. para sigurong todos los santos para sa atin. ngayon ko na lang napagdugtong-dugtong iyan sa kahulugan ng buhay ko, dahil tuwing sasapit ang buwan ng agosto--ang daming nangyayaring kabuwisitan sa buhay ko. Bandang agosto, di ko na matandaan ang taon, nang hulihin ako ng pulis sa loob ng sinehan dahil may ginagawa kaming milagro ng katabi kong di ko naman kilala. wala pa akong disiotso anyos nun. mukha pang bagets, payatot pero mapangahas. binubuksan ko pa lang ang siper ng katabi ko, biglang may humawak sa batok ko, mahigpit. huli ka. hawak ang leeg ko, itinayo ako ng pulis. samantalang hindi niya hinayaang makatakas ang katabi ko na noon sana'y tatakbo na. hinablot niya ang tshirt nito at sabay kaming inilabas ng sinehan. ano daw ba ang ginagawa naming kalaswaan. ayun. sa madali't salita, pera ang hanap niya (meron bang pulis na nanghuhuli ng bading na hindi pera ang hanap?). nagbigay kami pareho. hindi ko alam kung bakit pagkaraan ng ilang sandali, ayaw pa rin akong pakawalan ng pulis na ito. bundat siya. (nung panahong iyon, wala yatang pulis na hindi. ngayon ba?) at ang kapansin-pansin sa kanyang mukha ay ang kaliwa niyang mata. kirat ito. hindi, parang artipisyal dahil hindi gumagalaw, hindi tumatanaw. lalong nakakatakot. samakatwid, ako na lang at ang pulis, hawak pa rin ako sa batok, ang naglalakad sa Oroquieta. tandang-tanda ko, agosto yun, hapon. habang naglalakad kami, may kumaway sa kanya mula sa isang karinderyang dinadaanan namin. sa palagay ko, isa rin siyang pulis. bundat din, e. sa loob loob ko, ano pa ba ang gusto sa akin ng pulis na ito? nakuha na niya ang nag-iisang singkwenta pesos sa bulsa ko. iniimagine ko, maglalakad na ako pauwi. pero hindi, patuloy kaming naglakad hanggang kumaliwa kami sa Recto. tumawid kami papuntang Carriedo. at doon, sa kanto ng recto, may isang maliit na restawran. Parang kilala na rin siya doon dahil kinawayan niya ang mga waiter. ipinasok niya ako sa kubeta. binuksan ang kanyang siper at sinabing, "o ayan, yan ang isubo mo." Muntik akong masuka. hindi ko na ikukuwento ang sumunod, dahil hindi naman siya guwapo at hindi naman ito porn lit. mahigit tatlumpung taon ang nagdaan bago ko na-realize na ang pesteng kabuwisitang nangyari sa buhay ko, kapag pumapatak ng agosto, ay dahil yata sa letseng ghost month . dinadasal ko na lang na ang putang-inang pulis na iyon ay tinamaan na rin ng kabuwisitan sa isang agostong nagdaan.

marami pang kabuwisitang nangyari sa buhay ko. at tuwing naaalala ko sila, hindi ko alam kung iniimagine ko lang na sa bandang buwan sila ng agosto nangyari. pero yung mga pinakamasasakit, pinakabuwisit, pinakamalulupit na karanasang tulad ng naikuwento ko kanina, peks man, nangyari sa bandang agosto o pagsapit ng setyembre. at oo, sinusulat ko itong blog entry na ito sa isang lumang laptop na tumitigil tuwing sinusubukan kong maglaro ng farmville dahil NASIRA ANG DESKTOP HARD DISK KOOOOOO! pinull-out ng technician, kahapon: agosto 11.

wala yatang lunas ito. alam ko may mga kuwintas at kristal na maaaring makatulong para maiwasan ito. may mga orasyon at mga bagong ayos ng gamit sa bahay na maaaring makabawas ng malas. hindi ko alam. kapag nangyari ang kabuwisitan -- hinahayaan ko lang magdaan ang mga araw. dahil pagkatapos ng agosto, setyembre na. dadaan din iya't oktubre na. dalawang buwan na lang, pasko na uli. at nararamdaman kong humuhupa pati ang aking agam-agam. makakalimutan ko sandali ang mga kamalasang iyan na magiging bahagi ng aking buhay. at least bago muling pumatak sa agosto sa susunod na taon.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

hopeless romantic (2)

In defense of romantics

but is it a malady at all? could it be a genetic propensity or an intrinsic characteristic of the bold who are never satisfied with the ordinary, the predictable, the average. foolish romantics are deemed foolish by their envious neighbors when they meet their doom and yet one would think whether they hadn’t expected that impending tragic outcome. Hadn’t these foolish romantics dared to see that ultimate outcome straight in the eye? Even death could blink at their determination. When all have retreated in fear, or, at the last minute, recanted their claim of passion– the foolish romantics ready to have their heads bashed in, unfazed by humiliation and ridicule, assuming a quixotic air, relentless and resolute, view this “foolishness” as a heroic plunge into the depths thus fulfilling the most noble task of dying for a cause. whatever cause. Love? Revolution? – anyything that pushes one to the brink, oblivious of death.

romantics have the highest heroic sense. it is they who dare ask why things are so and it is they who push the limits set by the status quo. it is they who conjure the vision of a world outside the box. who could not be satisfied with what is given, unable to bear the monotony of cycles or the security of the herd. Thus romantics are, by nature alone and shall forever be lonely despite people who love them.

And in literature they abound. Great writers have paid tribute to them. Ophelia might be the most tragic of Shakepeare’s hopeless devoted romantics. confused and bewildered she goes mad and flings herself into the lake. Young Werther has roused the emotions of much of Europe when Goethe published his story. Young men have emulated Werther’s despair, and in his death, many perceived as victory over unrequited desire. And what about Thomas Mann’s Aschenbach wasting away in Venice over his obsession with beauty in the form of a young man?

the French have mastered re-telling the stories of these foolish romantics. From Victor Hugo’s hunchback to the more recent filimng of Jean de Florette/Manon of the Springs. There’s a bittersweet scene where a peasant has gone insanely in love with Manon, that he sewed her ribbon onto his chest, near his heart– and it stuck to his chest till he died.

surely it can’t be a sickness? It is embedded in our hearts. whether we choose to indulge in this passion or not may be triggered is entirely up to us. The object may not necessarily be someone. it could be an ideology, a scientific discovery, art, an inexpressible religious experience. and yes, when the romantic is assailed by all these, time will stand still.

But i am, of course, exaggerating so as to ingratiate myself among these larger than life luminaries. for I am not one of them entirely. I do allow myself to indulge in this passion and yet up to a certain degree. i fall short of the heroic and so all I could do is admire and adore those who are really hopeless and severe. and yet i do feel the same pain, the same intensity. But my will is much weaker than these who have dared to walk past the forbidden line.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

hopeless romantic (1)

i am reposting these random thoughts from my old blog. with a few tweaks here and there, it still pretty much resonates.

hopeless romantic (1)

hopeless romantic. it’s a label tagged over and over again for people who are so much into falling in love– no matter who the object of desire is. pathetic little creatures we are. we dwell in our fantasies. we spin splendid scenarios of intimacies clutching our pillows when we’re in bed, talking to ourselves while we take long walks, collecting daydreams, relishing that tingle of pain that scratches our hearts when we recall a sweet memory. it’s a sickness that I catch less and less now. But when I do catch it (yes, it’s like flu), the intensity is much the same.

I’ve known some people who can easily brush this malady aside. Is there a vitamin that somehow strengthens one’s resistance to it? In fact I think we, hopeless romantics are very few in proportion. We are the stuff films and plays and a host of mediocre tv crap are made of. We are the lifeblood of this otherwise drab existence. and yet others who have managed to keep this passion at bay would, I imagine, laugh at us for being idiots.

i have always believed that amorous love– this feeling, this passion is at its most magnificent when it is without dignity. which paradoxically, by virtue of that lack, in fact, gives it a higher form of dignity instead. My example would be victor hugo’s hapless lonely daughter gone insane over a soldier who didn’t love her. adele, immortalized in truffaut’s the story of adele h. plunged into doing undignifying things for the object of a love that she knows will never be hers. and at the film's end, i would be awestruck by how she had destroyed herself almost willfully for love. and this very fantasy fascinates me. and continues to fascinate me. how much can I really do for love (that song in chorus line comes to mind– i told you– it could get divinely profound or awfully cheesy– it doesn’t matter, this is my blog!) ?

how many times have i been in that similar situation, licking the wounds I inflicted upon myself. painfully deciding to set free the object/s of my desire.

my friends roll their eyes. I don’t have their sympathies. they know I love the feeling of being smitten and getting hurt and going through the rigmarole of unrequited affections. it’s an idiotic state I will avidly get into whenever i get the chance. the risks can get very high indeed. i am beginning to believe it’s giving me the lower back pain. and yet I willingly dive into the murky pool, unmindful of consequences to me, especially.

I watched another french movie about four years ago. I forgot the title. (can anyone supply?) I remember the very first scene: a female cat was in terrific heat and she was quivering in awful passionate cringing desire. it was the story of a married woman who falls madly in love with a rather dispassionate NGO volunteer. when the guy leaves her she suffers a breakdown. Unable to function, she goes into a terrible depression (not unlike the cat in the film's opening credits). she chances upon reading about this obscure Greek myth. there was this cliff where the god Apollo throws hopelessly languid mortals into the sea to cure them of their lovesickness. On one occasion, she goes to Greece with a friend and finds this cliff. she plunges into the water. Her friend thinking that she has committed suicide shouts for help. After a long while, we see her resurface, and immediately we know she has just been cured.

that’s almost what it will take for me to relieve me of this awfully painful yet sweet malady, whenever it comes and comes unrequited. now i realize why i take to swimming much too much. back to the pool.