The first almanac (spelled that way by the time I encountered one) I saw was printed by Cecilio Press, a pre-war printing press in Naga City. It was already in the ’80s and people—mostly middle-aged and old residents of the city—were buying them. The store that carried them was in a public market of Naga, which held for a long time the odd record of being the biggest supermarket in Asia. How valid this claim was no one really cares now; history has overtaken any of these records about the biggest and longest and oldest in our locale.
FIRST, there was the book by Trent Dalton, which was described as a semi-autobiographical novel. It became the fastest-selling novel in Australian history, which, according to releases, has sold more than a million copies worldwide. In 2021, the book was adapted for a stage production that also became the bestselling show in Queensland Theatre’s history.
I have forgotten that long-sized white envelope. It was tucked between framed photos of my brother when he was last here on vacation. An old brown canister the purpose of which evaded me supported the frame and hid the envelope. Unless you were looking for it, you would not see it easily.
I HAVE seen this before in the form of a feature film: a wind-swept day in some manor ground, a funeral as elegant as it is gothic, and stellar faces looking down on the newly dug grave. Then the scene shifts to a dark street where shots ring in the night, a man falls down on the ground, and a lovely svelte woman comes to the bloodied body, trying to help the man.
IF Firefly had remained on the level of fairy tale, the film would still have contributed a rare gem to Philippine cinema. With lessons in pastel shades and through images of phantasm, Zig Dulay’s foray into a children’s tale respects the powers of magic and folk tales, using them to tell a small boy the truth about death and why mothers, their only succor against the cruelties of the world, had to go away. And yet Firefly does not end there. The filmmakers—Dulay and his writer, Angeli Atienza, and the cinematographer, Neil Daza—conclude this tale of enchantment, with lots of risk in the realities of childhood.
THE first time I encountered Leonard Bernstein was back in the 1970s through one of those rare recordings where he was lecturing on music. He was not talking about classical music; he was propounding on jazz. The most wonderful thing about that experience was how Bernstein stayed in front of the piano, playing passages, pressing on one key to indicate notes, as he articulated certain points about jazz. Then, he explained the “blue” note.
Long before Christmas trees, Santa Claus and fruitcakes invaded the cultural landscape of this country, there were ways of observing the season that may not be familiar to most of us now. These were the folk rituals that appropriated the Christian narrative of the Son of God born to Mary and Joseph.
Has the concert begun? I was rushing into the Metropolitan Theater after a long, bad traffic. The usherette directed me to a side door from where, upon opening it, the lines from “Bundok Banahaw” rushed out to drown the city outside. I was there for the 65th anniversary concert of the legendary (this time the modifier was well justified) Mabuhay Singers. This was not the first time I was watching them or listening to them.
Quietly, like the women and men behind the production of these plants, fibers and textile, the news that our Piña textile has been officially recognized by UNESCO, passed almost unnoticed. There is no violence or scandal in this development for it to merit a celebration by the nation. But the same nation obsessed with international recognition should be elated to know that a plant too regular has been added to the list of the heritage elements contributing to our identities as a nation, however inchoate the concept of a political collective may be still to some sectors.
There is a book about this far-off island called Sarangani but it is not distant anymore. A historian—Ian Christopher B. Alfonso—armed with a new way of making sense of names and memories, has relocated it for us. He did this by looking back once more at history or histories that “have been circumscribed by the Manila-centric national historiography” and thus exoticized what were major points in the creation of a political geography.
IT was only when the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris caught fire that the rest of Christendom learned of a rare artifact of Catholic faith—the Crown of Thorns—that had been there for some 800 years. We are not talking of symbolic representation or a creative depiction of what we have always seen on paintings or works of art, or in books; we are dealing with the real thing. The very same crown, as the custodian of the relic declared in the documentary, was used some 2,000 years ago in one of the most violent and dramatic events in human history: the Crucifixion and Death of the Christ.
I have just finished translating a Bikol novel into English. Some hours ago, I stepped away from the world of Niles Jordan Breis, the multi-awarded writer. It felt, by way of the message I sent Breis, I had left a place I would never visit again, a time I shoud never be in any future.
IN his introduction to the book, Ang Mahaba’t Kagyat na Buhay ng Indie Sinema (which I freely translated as The Long and Urgent Life of Indie Cinema), Aristotle J. Atienza asks us to treat the said phenomenon as a problematique. Within that label of being a cinema and at the same time bearing independence is the ideological aspect of what the book is attempting to define.
TWO friends shared their arts; two artists breaching two separate eras: Elia Kazan was a card-holder of the communist party in the 1930s; Arthur Miller wrote plays that were sympathetic to the socialist cause. Kazan, it has often been said, stayed with the party for some 19 months while Miller had often been described as having flirted with socialism, certainly a disturbing description of the playwright who wrote some of the most politically compelling pieces of his generation and more.
WHERE casual sex seems to be a feature of amoral amorousness, casual violence is a new pastime for ruminating in the film The Gospel of the Beast. The series of images in The Gospel, rebutted by another set of pictures—each one more discordant than the other—plays out with such disdain, one feels the filmmakers have thrown caution to the four winds to say: “Just watch and witness what evil is.”
I wanted to write about a song. I always write about songs. This one is called “And When October goes.” The melody is sad, the lines are coffee poetry: you sing them as if you are sipping heat and heart and warmth. But the song is really about a passing—birds flying away, a sound trailing off and vanishing into the clouds, distant thunder so far you deny them their terrifying presence. And people leaving, some like wayward heroes riding into their own sunsets, others with destiny on their side, sailing into the sunrise they have created from their own childhood, riding off into the eternity with their memories of this world—its pains and triumphs—intact like receipts for a life well lived and well done.
A group of teenagers in a rock band, nabbed for drug possession, are brought into a “Blue Room” to confront their own notions of self, privilege and freedom; a story of a retired filmmaker who falls into a coma and receives the ultimate gifts from cinema—reality and artifice—and a promise to become the next hero in her own story; pregnancy is discovered by this 40-year-old single woman after she breaks up with her boyfriend and now her question is: shall I be a mother or not?; and a monumental narrative about destiny where two men await their confrontation in a space where death and time are mystical characters seemingly without authors—these are the stories of the four films competing for the category Best Film in the 46th Gawad Urian.
The problem with death is that when it brings about the result to a living person, which is death, that person is not there anymore to feel the death sentence. He who most suffers the brunt of dying—and eventually the end, which is death—has no chance to pass comment nor the power to render judgment on what has befallen him. At the most, when death comes, it is like a thief in the night. Meaning, “unannounced.”
SHE has become almost a member of this small group of writers, artists and cultural workers that whenever the cultural hub called Savage Mind and its art gallery component, Kamarin, both located in Naga City, have an event, she is there. As a singer. Online. Onscreen. It must have been her friendship with the group’s leader, Kristian Sendon Cordero. But, people always asked, how is this group able to request her to sing the songs anytime? For those who know her credentials—being the first Filipino invited to be Artist-in-Residence at the Brahmshaus, Baden-Baden, Germany, for one, and Europe-trained, having studied Art Song Performance from 2010 to 2014 at the Hochschule fȕr Musik Karlsruhe, Germany—her continuous appearance in a local happening has become a bragging right of this group. And rightly so.