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Tito Genova Valiente

840 posts

Bidding goodbye to passing on

A dear close friend passed on this week. We knew each other from elementary. He is best remembered as kind and sensitive, intelligent as well. Unlike most of us, who experienced the gross declaration of martial rule and lost bits of our dreams and ambitions under the dictatorship, he left the country quietly for the United States a few months after our high school graduation. We would learn later on that even in high school, the plan was already final for him to be in the Midwest.

Cooking fate and contradictions in ‘Makanai’

YOUNG girls cooking for other young girls ruled by women who are ruled by men—that should describe Kore-eda Hirokazu’s The Makanai: Cooking for the Maiko House. But that is not fair to this series, which evokes almost a lost era even when we are reminded that all these events are happening now. There is more density to a narrative that attempts to describe this phenomenon of maiko or geiko, which, when articulated, should be framed within one of the most contentious cultural phenomena in Japanese society: the geisha. Japanologists would tell you the geisha is the most misunderstood being in Japanese culture, second only if not equal to the samurai. Which brings us to the immediate crisis—Makanai the series could suffer through similar contentions. Or misunderstanding.

Honoring Asian cinema

Five Asian films are competing to be the Best Film in this year’s Asian Film Awards, according to the Asian Film Awards Academy (AFAA). The lineup of nominees is led by Park Chan-wook’s Decision to Leave from South Korea, with 10 nominations including the one for Best Film. Other films in the running are Hamaguchi Ryusuke’s Drive My Car (Japan); Darezhan Omirbaev’s Poet (Kazakhstan), which won the Best Director award in the 34th Tokyo International Film Festival (TIFF); Manni Ratnam’s Ponniyin Selvan: I (India); and Lav Diaz’s Kapag Wala nang mga Alon (When the Waves are Gone).

Vlogging selves

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Something is happening online. They are still called “vlogs” or video blogs but the contents have become intensely personal. They follow long threads of tales that lead to epic narratives as the vlogger does not remain alone but is linked with other vloggers. It is as if the story of one is pushed by a similar story from another. Or, they take turns in sharing episodes in their lives until their vlogs assume the excitement of a melodramatic TV series or drag as some series do.

The myth of eternal chaos and noise

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I knew no one would listen to me on New Year’s Eve had I told them there was no reason to create mayhem and noise. We had been severely noisy the whole year and if the rationale for loud, thunderous sound was to drive away evil spirits and dark energies, then we had been doing that since January of the old year. Think of the videoke that is beyond the control of even the most militaristic of barangay heads. Think of drinking and dancing parties that go well into the next day because the mayor and his councilors had been there and had left enough funds to souse up the entire village.

‘Emily in Paris’ plus sensuality and poverty in Philippine cinema

WHY do I like Emily in Paris? Because it is shameless. Because Emily is shameless. Shamelessness here, however, should not be construed as negative; rather, it should be seen as a sort of soi di-sant moral recklessness. When have you ever watched a TV show or a film where political correctness does not have a place, where ethnocentrism is a daily consumption?

Navigating the Islands of Faith

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IN the ninth and last essay, the writer asks, “What can we learn from the missionary journey of the Church after 500 years?” The writer is not a historian in the strict disciplinal sense of the word. He is a Catholic priest, a missiologist, theology professor, and pastor. He is what you may call a historian of faith. In this essay, titled “Mission Makes the Church: New Horizons of Missio Ad Gentes for the Philippines Today and Beyond,” Fr. Andrew Gimenez Recepcion is once more a pilgrim.

Devastatingly beautiful choices in ‘Plan 75’

THE irony is not lost to the audience: a nation that has a record number of old men and women is now proposing through cinema a systematic process of doing away with them. Dubbed Plan 75, a reference to the cut-off age for the aged willing to enroll in the said program, the film is an acute summing up of what happens to a graying society that is Japan. But what could have been an incipient cold depiction of dystopia (think Soylent Green) becomes linked verses of compassion for a humanity that persists.

Fabulous is ‘The Fabulous Ones’

THERE is only one word to describe the film The Fabulous Ones (Le Favolose), and that word is “fabulous.” But to stop at the fabulosity of this cinema organic to the lives of a group of transgenders/transsexuals is to not only shortchange how the work has presented separate realities of human beings but also mislead the audience into thinking this is all froth and no fury.

‘Sa Paglupad ka Banog’: Winning myth

THERE is a film that is gaining not only awards but admiration from all over the world (it has participated and won accolades in film festivals in Portugal, Los Angeles, New Zealand, Hanoi, Vietnam, Colombia… the list goes on). It is a short film of a myth coming from the Panay-Bukidnon, a geographical area that is demarcated by the mountains of the Capiz-Lambunao as well as those located around Antique and Iloilo. Their isolation has brought about for these indigenous communities also a kind of proto-enclosure, which to folklorists and cultural workers best explains why they have been able to “preserve” their rituals and literatures against the modernizing elements around them.

Passing on

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IT was one year to this day when our Ate Naomi had passed on. Weeks before this day and days before that time in the hospital were tough. Her case was terminal and the certainty of death did not make anxiety a default although it neither did allow us respite from contending with her dying, and, predictably, being gone.

Forcing destinies in Lav Diaz’s ‘When the Waves are Gone’

SOMETHING has changed in the film of Lav Diaz. I like the shift. It is a tremor underneath the story, a trembling within those frames. A nervousness is  felt—a fear more terrifying than any fear—and then it comes, the breakdown happening inward and outward, threatening all moving images on site and on sight. The film: When the Waves are Gone.

Crime coming close to home

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She was missing for some three days. On the second day, I saw online her grandmother asking for prayers that her granddaughter be found. I knew the grandmother. I also knew her aunt. That youthful face began to matter. I remember calling her aunt, asking for details. She would be found. She would come back. Those were not empty assurances. I did believe sincerely in what I said. That was in the morning. Early evening that day, a nephew sent to our group chat a video of policemen at a grassy lot, in the next town of Pili. A disembodied voice was commenting on the scene—a body was discovered on that lonely, dark spot. The nephew said it had been confirmed. I knew what he meant by that and I hastily called the aunt again. Yes, she responded. It is her missing niece. Now found, now dead.

Losing it and finding it at the movies

THE film begins like a romcom and ends with the camera romancing the lead, our man lost and not lost, but feeling like he is at a loss for words, for reason, for the right meaning to attach to life. If that sounds heavy and florid, it is because I, myself, am at a loss (terrifically) to describe what this film, And So I Am At A Loss by Daisuke Miura, is all about.

Observing/Understanding/Negating Cultures

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Last October 21, 2022, I had the privilege of delivering the keynote speech for the conference organized by the Philippine Cultural Education Program (PCEP), titled “Re-Thinking and Re-Imagining Philippine Culture-based Education: Critical Engagement, Affective Investment, Decolonial Practice.”For the event, I was given the task to talk on this subject matter: “Teaching Human Rights Through the Arts: A Creative- Critical Culture-Based Pedagogy. Following hereunder is an abridged version of the speech.

At the airport

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IF, as Pythagoras puts it, a thought is an idea in progress, then to be in transit during a trip must be your soul and body are in progress. Does the syllogism work? If it does not, no worries, for I am like Niels Bohr who said: if you are not logical, then do not fret, so long as you are thinking. Wait, the man who developed the model of the atom, which became the Bohr model of the atom, did not exactly say those words. What he said was, “No, you are not thinking; you are just being logical. Having stated that, or having quoted the quote, does it matter if there is no logic in my thought? See how “thinking” and “logic” can haunt us?

Dateline Davao: Teaching film

AS I write this, I am in Tagum, Davao del Norte. On October 17, I, with three other mentors, began a weeklong film literacy workshop. Bryan Jimenez of the Arts and Cinema Section of Tagum City, is responsible for gathering us—two directors, Arbi Barbarona and Bagane Fiola, and Buggy Ampalayo for production design.

A belated, loving and personal tribute to teachers

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IN 2007, a teacher named Nellie Banaag and her team had just concluded the counting of votes. Their next move was to bring the ballot boxes to Taysan Town Hall when armed men arrived and began shooting; they poured gasoline on the boxes and set them on fire. Banaag and another woman sought cover in the toilet. The flames engulfed the entire building, with the teacher and Ramos burnt to death. This happened in Batangas, a place near Manila and not in some isolated islands in the south.

The death of the comentarista

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They were hard-hitting, their witty remarks laced with diatribe. They were irreverent, impolite, and brave. No one was spared: not the president of the land, not the pompous senators and congressmen, certainly not the mayors. The military was not within their radar because these individuals were dominating the radio airlanes in the ’50s and ’60s and, in those years, the Filipino soldier was not yet politicized. The Philippine Constabulary or PC was almost nondescript, with the Huk rebellion circumscribed within the geographies of Central Luzon.

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Days of forgetting, days of remembering

Who could forget the long, tortuous funeral procession that occupied TV screens and online exposures? The strong typhoon that was about to batter Japan was lost in the pomp and pageantry. The earthquake was no match to the assumption that it was not only the entire Britain that was watching but also the world. That is a thought only the confidently potent could summon.

Rebounding rituals: The Virgin in September

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The first major event to succumb to the pandemic in the Bicol region was religious. This was the Traslacion, the transfer of the centuries-old icon of the Nuestra Señora de Peñafrancia from Her Shrine near the river, to the Naga Metropolitan Cathedral. During typhoons, Bicolanos pray to her and when the storm changes its course, the people thank the Ina, the Mother, for that is what they call, for helping once more their region. A bit naive, perhaps and selfish for how would the Divine spare some of her children and allow the others to be battered by winds. But that is how it always worked, in their mind and heart.

Critical mourning: Death, Queen & the media

FOR those who mourned (many profusely) when the news broke that Queen Elizabeth II of England had died, they must have been shocked—and surprised—by the negative criticisms posted against them or directly at the otherwise sad event. While John Donne’s claim that any man’s death should diminish us, this time the world, it appears, has generally shifted its positions.

Mapping tourism online

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Tourism has some aspects of showbiz, some international trade in commodities; it is part innocent fun, part a devastating modernizing force. Being all these things, simultaneously, it tends to induce partial analysis only.—Victor Turner

Recalling the chaos and order of September

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September follows the month of August that, by folk reckoning, is an anomalous month. Never get sick in the month of August or it will be a long way to recovery. Be careful that you do not wound yourself in August for they do not heal easily in that month. Even in the unpredictable weather brought about by climate change, the reputation of August precedes it. To Sylvia Plath, August is the “odd uneven time,” although her reason for that is in her world, where the month brings in “the August rain: the end of the best of summer gone…” It is to her own season that the month derives its dreariness.

When two cinemas converse

LAST August 19, 2022, a most unusual event took place in the historic Metropolitan Theater. Some people called it a convergence; some used the very social media-term “collab” to describe the happening. We call it a conversation between two cinematic traditions.

The roads leading to education

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Two films have divided the land. The debate that followed showed obfuscation on the part of those who are learned and simplification from the point of view of those who we (I count myself as part of the dominant class) view as unlearned, uncouth. Both parties—there are individuals and groups in between, shelved in the interstices of this society—have displayed arrogance and violence confirming what we have always known but have persistently denied: that intelligence does not necessarily calm the spirit.

Living our own Dark Ages

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Those years from the Fall of the Roman Empire to the birth of the Italian Renaissance from 500 to 1500 AD (these are estimates, of course) have always impacted our understanding of histories and civilizations. Popularly known as the “Dark Ages,” a term that makes use of the light-and-darkness binary, said periodization has undergone modern and postmodern readings. One of the main critiques around the Dark Ages situate the shadowed days around Christianity vis-a-vis what historians define as the “apogee” of Muslim civilization.

Quiet vlogging/silent documentaries

THERE is hope in vlogging. Generally identified with the intensely personal, intimate to the point of being gross, new kinds of vlogs are multiplying online. These are vlogs that do not make you feel inhuman and do not toy with our humanity as if it is a dispensable asset. These vlogs are not an attempt to challenge you to try out the ridiculous. They also are not made by Filipinos.

The political calendar

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What happens in July, this inconsequential month? Or, so I thought, until I did a cursory research of events, places and people—the clichéd understanding of how the months and days go by in our country.

Departures/Arrivals in ‘French Exit’ and ‘Ben is Back’

IN French Exit, a mother leaves home and brings her son to a new life that is more a destiny than a destination. In Ben is Back, a mother stays with her son until she finds peace in the act that only sons depart and mothers are always there to welcome them back. For all the serendipitous plots, no two films are more disparate, no two mother roles are more different from each other, and no two actresses are equidistant in approach to their roles and characters. But, in a sweet cinematic accident, the two films are bridged (years separate the productions) by a wonderful actor in the person of Lucas Hedges.

Failing intellectual rampage

Well-meaning friends have warned me about doing this article. However, I am getting this feeling we are missing out on the big picture, a perspective not popular as it fairly detaches the thinker—or the debater—from the discussions on the field, as it is also less dramatic.

Not our fourth of July

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There is a photo in our Official Gazette filed under Republic Day, which shows the American flag being lowered, as the Philippine Flag was being raised. It was the fourth of July, 1946, the day our independence was granted by the United States of America, our colonizer. As I write this, I am grappling for words to find another term that could take the place of “grant,” if only to ennoble that day. In another dimension, more cinematic than political, we could have “won” this independence, bringing into mind the scenarios at the battlefields, the fury at the legislative halls, and the grandeur of heroes fighting for freedom.

Nora

NORA is finally a National Artist. Along the way, she made political positions that confused and conflicted her relationship with her admirers and supporters, a great part of this composed of cultural workers, critics and the academe. I must admit I am part of this sector.

Swaggering arts: ‘New’ Kabuki on Netflix

WHO would ever think that a theater form that dates back to the 17th or 18th centuries would make its way to Netflix? But then again why not? Netflix is a popular format and, for all its traditions and perceived ancientness, Kabuki is in reality a popular art—the regular people’s entertainment—and not the high art foreign writers are prone to designate. 

The tale of two cats

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Innova was the first cat to arrive in the Savage Mind Bookshop. For all the innovations and readiness for change implicated in that word, the name of the cat came from a most undramatic provenance: he was found under a car bearing the said name. Unimaginative as the moniker may appear, it was a solution that needed to be arrived at. Like human children whose names are changed whenever they become sickly during their early years, cats have to have labels a human can use to call them. To not have those branding is to lose them to the wild urban poor surroundings of their youth.

Exorcism: The devil once more with feeling

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Exorcism is alive in the country. It is in fact getting a structure that will house the St. Michael Center for Spiritual Liberation and Exorcism in the city of Manila. It is touted to be the first of its kind in Asia and maybe in the whole world. The center is expected to provide training for priests in the art/technology of driving away demons from bodies of humans.  The center is also seen as the venue to conduct said rites and houses the Commission of Extraordinary Phenomena and the Ministry on Visions and Phenomena. 

Learning from directing

IN a film industry that is actor-centric, it is heartwarming to discover a simple—and succinct—book on directors. Written by Dian G. Smith, the book is about the Great American Film Directors, a categorization that is also the title of this exciting resource.

The persisting memory

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They have been demonized and rightly so—these online technologies that connect us seamlessly and so quickly we do not have time to deny them entry into our lives. But these programs and applications, some as common as SMS or texting and as ubiquitous as Facebook, are now not only wreaking havoc on our privacy but also gilding our capacity to remember events and people.

Eating and warring onscreen

TWO films—one that features actors with food and angst, and another with the story about a war and the most fabulous display of bravery—have preoccupied me lately. This state of thinking, which seldom invades my thought process, could only mean one thing: these two films have touched me in such a way that my mind still lingered over the scenarios in the two works. This does not necessarily mean the films are so excellent that they have become unforgettable—classics, in the language of film aficionados; rather, the films are extraordinary in their, first, appearance, and, second, in their narrative.

Treasuring festivals at the peripheries

THE pandemic has not stopped filmmaking altogether. In the periphery, filmmakers give me this sense that they merely paused for the first few months of the lockdown and it was back to fleshing out their imagination, taking slices of realities from the pre-filmic universe and turning them into movies.

The city surviving

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IT was almost six in the morning when the bus entered the city. It has been two years and nearly three months that I have been away from this city. Has it changed? Have the people shifted in their ways? But why even ask the question, you might say.

Ode to sweetness: Susan Roces, 1941-2022

BORN in Bacolod, Jesusa Purificacion Levy Sonora would travel to Manila not to seek her fortune but, as the tale goes, to find a school where she could train in Speech and Drama. A teacher had encouraged her to train in that field having shown her skill in drama and oration while studying in the Augustinian’s La Consolacion College. In Manila, she would head off to Sampaguita Pictures to see in person her idol, Gloria Romero, then the reigning Queen of Philippine Movies. Never did she think perhaps that one day she would gain the status of her own screen idol when Dr. Jose Perez approached her and offered Susan the chance to be a movie star.  Did it occur to the big man at Sampaguita, the legendary discoverer of stars, that that in that moment he beheld the next queen of the local film industry?

Ode to sweetness: Susan Roces, 1941-2022

BORN in Bacolod, Jesusa Purificacion Levy Sonora would travel to Manila not to seek her fortune but, as the tale goes, to find a school where she could train in Speech and Drama. A teacher had encouraged her to train in that field having shown her skill in drama and oration while studying in the Augustinian’s La Consolacion College. In Manila, she would head off to Sampaguita Pictures to see in person her idol, Gloria Romero, then the reigning Queen of Philippine Movies. Never did she think perhaps that one day she would gain the status of her own screen idol when Dr. Jose Perez approached her and offered Susan the chance to be a movie star.  Did it occur to the big man at Sampaguita, the legendary discoverer of stars, that that in that moment he beheld the next queen of the local film industry?

Dissecting our own Age of Reason

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I am by no means Eurocentric when I begin this discourse with the aim of looking into how Reason has seeped into our consciousness. Aware of how different the conditions that gave rise to political articulations in the other nations are, it must be said that something occurred in our territories during the days preceding the 9th of May, and with the days that followed. The last election season was characterized by vitriols, gross exchanges, illogical positionalities, and this is not mentioning, finally, the realization that there are indeed Trolls in our midst, not the enchanting kind, but disenchanted being tasked to sow disinformation and fake news. And these trolls live in “farms.” They thrive in a system that supports their well-being, assuming that spreading hate does not ruin one’s being as a human.

Unzipping the nation

AS fate would have it, Marlon Brando and his biographies – Brando Unzipped and Songs My Mother Taught Me – are placed again in the back burner. For the second time. I know what political scientists – the true, ardent ones – believe in: that politics is never a matter of fate. But if you had been born in the ‘70s, and aware at the beginning of 1972, seeing a Marcos ready to live in the palace again is nothing short of terrifying. A dark deja vu.

Chronicling the peripheries: Personal dispatch from Bikol

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MY last good memory of this 2022 election was the photo of Leni Gerona Robredo, standing in line to vote. To non-Bikolanos, the public school where her precinct was located looked similar to the other voting places—nondescript, low-roofed buildings, unused for some two years because of the pandemic. But journalists both local and foreign noted how she became once more this ordinary citizen, dressed in a blue, simple blouse, demanding no privilege at all. She waited as the rest waited in an electoral process that highlighted once more the inadequacies of the organization running the political exercise.

Dreaming of gold, drone shots, corrupt mothers and receipts

“Receipt” is the newest word to enter the ordinary man’s lexicon in the electoral process recently held. It does not refer to that small sheet stores issue you when you buy a commodity (or it could also be that, which is not given to you in the market despite your purchase of anything from a store). Receipt, known more in the local language as “resibo,” is a proof of an act, dismal or admirable, that a candidate or a voter commits in the process of engaging in a political event. This could be a charitable work that a woman did in the past. This could also be an uncharitable rant a man had unleased in a long-ago moment but captured by an observer ever ready with his mobile phone to document any interestingly lurid or shamelessly vulgar action.

Blaming my generation

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BY the time I write my column next week, there should be a new president. That person could resume the dark, evil days of martial rule in which my generation spent as a 19 or 20-year- old citizen, or one that would promise, at the very least, a hope for a new beginning.

Going blind for the birds

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IT happened in December, when the wind was cold and strong, but I remember it now, in April. The day was crisp and I was up early to feed the birds. Not the ones in cages, but those flying about. Ordinary birds, regular flying beings, darting in and out of the window, buzzing close to the screen doors of our home.

Writing movies

IN the preface to the book, Best American Movie Writing 2001, edited by John Landis, Jason Shinder writes: “The next best thing to watching movies is perhaps to read about them.”

Personal notes on enchantment as ethnography

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AN unusual kind of feasting is happening right now in Bicol. We call it the first Bikol Book Festival. The event has given me the chance to talk about my small book, which has been categorized as fiction. I call it ethnography. But no one, as far as I know, has acknowledged this intention of mine.

Re-examining Judas in pop culture

AH, Judas! You are most unfortunate. Most seductive at the beginning of the great tale, you slowly spin downward to darkness until you hit the lowest bottom where there is no other option but do die. But without you, how would the Passion and Death of the Christ be ever realized?

Politicizing nostalgia

IF history, to paraphrase John Maynard Keynes, has a course that is shaped by ideas, then it is the mind and its capacity to remember, and to forget, that maintains the presence of the past in our lives. In the face of our greater assumption how history seems to carry the past to the present wholesale, it is both heartening and disheartening to realize that in the population of any territory that has declared itself as a nation, people do not have any uniform recollection of events in the past and the individuals that propelled the movements of said past.

Revisiting ‘The Night of the Iguana’

I was on the verge—not breakdown for that is the fate of our lead, the Rev. Lawrence Shannon—of titling this column piece “A Lizard, of all things, as metaphor,” but I can imagine how our readers may find repulsive the image that immediately greets them. Besides, Tennessee Williams has the reputation for the acutely unforgettable titles of his works. Think of A Streetcar Named Desire.

Spreading the ashes on the virus

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Ash Wednesday is happening as I annotate. On TV screen, the news says, the ritual of inscribing ashes on the foreheads of the faithful would take place once more. For the last two years, the Church looking to the body and not the soul, decided that it was wise for priests not to touch the foreheads of the believers. They, the bearers of truths about us coming from dust and to dust returning, had resolved the issue of tactility and possible infection through containers with the proxy artefact of our immortality. Dipped into them, our own hands swam with a newly found authority in the ashes/dusts as we became the minister of our own complex religion.

Faking it: ‘Inventing Anna’

Elegantly and insanely Rashomonesque is this Netflix series, titled Inventing Anna. Or, maybe I should say, a twisted, multi-headed narrative never had it this stylish before this story about a young German girl who penetrated the elite New York society and—give and take the jail time—ran away with it.

Quarantining Cinema

It’s the second year of the pandemic. Not that we are celebrating affliction but filmmakers are doing a take two for the ECQ this 2022. Dubbed the Eksena Cinema Quarantine: Covid-19 Filmmakers’ Diaries 2, this project will feature 16 films chronicling how people have responded to restrictions like lockdowns and the varied if already confusing alert levels issued during the pandemic.

Questioning martyrdom and diplomacy

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AT the patio of the Naga Metropolitan Cathedral is a relatively unknown saint, his statue even made more obscure by its stark and crude simplicity. On the puerta mayor of the same cathedral can be found a bas-relief of the same person. He is San Pedro Bautista, the Franciscan friar who was assigned in the Philippines in the 16th century before he was sent to Japan as an emissary of the Spanish colonial government in 1593.