Willing to be Illuminated and Pierced

Archive for the ‘Media and Entertainment’ Category

Movie Perspective: Revealing the Reeking Societal Cancer in “Heneral Luna”

heneral lunaI was never been a fan of General Antonio Luna. Known for his infamous temper, I ever wondered why he was enlisted in the roster of Philippine heroes. At the first week of the “Heneral Luna” screening, I dismissed it as another average period film. Until the social media buzzed with endless accolades for the film.

Although oozing with curiosity, it took me four weeks before seeing it. Notwithstanding the fact I watched it without a date (which I never ever had yet), I got more than what I’ve bargained for.

Much of the movie plot revolves on the Philippine revolution, which coincided at the close of the 19th century. Here was General Luna, pompous and ready to defend his principles — in a defensive move. Not the wimpy kind of general who would shrug his shoulders when the government was ready to deal with the American conquerors, Luna was stubborn to push the Westerners off the newly instituted Philippine Republic.

His ways in disciplining his soldiers, mostly the cowardly ones, and his laid back fellow generals was offensively harsh to many of them. Those who resisted his orders were immediately slapped with Artikulo Uno: those disobedient to the general’s orders can be subject to punishment and death without undergoing military court.

His defense on his stance offended many of President Emilio Aguinaldo’s cabinet members. This had triggered a conspiracy to eliminate the headstrong general. But one thing made Luna’s name forever etched in the pages of history was his love for his Motherland. Never mind the women that he had, the rough way he dealt with his enemies and even allies. Until the end of his life, he was brave enough to stand as a man for his country’s freedom and not for his selfish priorities.

With the the film’s quick plot, I was surprised when it ended after almost two hours. In a short span of time, every historical personality became much alive, and even personal, by the way the actors portrayed them. John Arcilla, who played the role of Luna, convinced me that the general was more than a rash character from my school textbooks. His eyes had this hint of madness that made Luna look much like him (add it with the general’s mustache). Yet, he had also embodied the other dimensions of his character very clearly.

No need to impose how realistic this film should be, as the facts in this part of Luna’s life was well narrated even with a few symbolisms, especially his assassination. (Oops, sorry for spoilers) Jerrold Tarog, the director of his film, had been ingenious in weaving history and relating it to our social consciousness. He had reintroduced a tragic but praiseworthy figure once forgotten in our classes. With that he brought an awakening to a demoralization that has never been cured until now.

This film showed us more than Luna’s character. Though it was not proven in history who killed Luna (though most viewers had implied it to be the president himself), his death had shown how much we are still dealing with the so-called cancer of society: treachery, greed, and selfishness. As Luna was eliminated by Filipino soldiers, the film revealed how his own countrymen was ready to put away unity for the sake of their own selfish agendas. So it is with our society today. I’ve seen this scene many times with our leaders, eliminating one another through character assassination. But I believe it’s not only hitting the political arena, but it goes out to all of us, as well.  Luna’s question echoes to many, “Kaya natin magbuwis ng buhay sa pamilya pero para sa isang prinsipiyong makabayan? (If we can sacrifice our lives for our own families can we not do it for our country?)”. What I got was more than a story, but a reality that we have to tackle and address.

I once thought that Marilou Diaz-Abaya’s Jose Rizal (1998) was the best period film my generation could see. Jerrold Tarog had proven himself a genius in recreating a period film, making it worthy for Oscars. It brought back my faith that we Filipinos can create noteworthy period films that can be entertaining, mind-opening, and worth the sacrifice to see it.

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Darkening the Depth of Humanity in “Zero Dark Thirty”

While watching “Zero Dark Thirty”, it left me the impression that there’s no work and life balance in being a CIA agent. The tortures (which sparked controversy) and the manhunt operations seem to leave you with almost nothing but danger. Still, I find the film quite intriguing in a way, especially its main character.

Director Kathryn Bigelow and screenplay writer Mark Boal had complimented well to bring up together the unspoken cringes of history and humanity in this docu-drama film. The film, I find, is not solely on victory of an operation alone but on how history can never be founded solely not on the cold texts of words but from a silent litany of humanism that tries to be hidden in a harsh world.

While much points from this film is worthy of discussion, I’d like to focus on Maya’s character. Actress Jessica Chastain had pulled well such a character; the humanity of a woman covered beneath a steel-like character in order to prove herself in the tough world of men.

Maya is one tough CIA agent whose determination to get Osama Bin Laden (who has been code named as UBL) tend to show her as hard as she can be more than the men around her. The film seem to have emphasized her to be of a stronger personality even over her male superiors. While one played golf for a pastime in his office and the other passes a few minutes by talking idly on the phone, Maya is the one pictured as totally focused on the manhunt for the notorious leader of the Al-Qaeda group.

I find her character almost inhuman; her focus on her job gave her no time for a lovelife or even having friends. When she arrived late at a dinner in the before-then bombed Mariott Hotel in Islamabad because of delays over checkpoints, her colleague reminded her “We’re socializing; be social”. At the run of their conversation, she was asked if she had any friends at all; to which her silence marked “yes” as her reply.

Here is a woman who was willing to disregard feelings to make sure they would find what they was looking for. In her disappointment that no team was deployed at Rawal Pindi to search for the man linked to Bin Laden, she told her team, “I don’t really care if you guys get sleep or not”; even though the team leader told her that to look at such a place is dangerous and that how tired they were. She told the Navy Seals who were to pull off that operation that would be the death of the Al-Qaeda leader, “You’re gonna kill him for me.”

Yet, in the end she reveals herself as a woman, almost broken because of the cruelty of such an operation. No matter how she was bent and focused to make sure that the one she was looking for was found after more than a decade, she did not gave herself regards when the body was brought to their camp. Rather, she cried over the ordeal that was crushing her humanity within her from the beginning.

Maya, as she cried alone in the plane, must have not told anybody how heavy the weight of this manhunt operation had been on her. She lost colleagues and the few friends that she had, pushed away the balanced normal life anybody could have, while maintaining possessiveness on this mission. I just got lost on what pushed her to be almost obsessive in this mission for all those years. She could have left herself almost nothing just to make sure it’s done. I just wonder after all that manhunt ended, how her life would be after?

There’s humanity in every one of us. Whether one is a soldier or a terrorist, he’s still human. No matter how we make ourselves look tough or cold before the public, there is still the soft edge within us that make us human. We are not created to be emotionless as machines. Maya tried to disregard emotions as she focused on the strength of her mind. Although she got what she looking for, in the end, I believe she was never fulfilled at all.

We might have been totally focused in our tasks. It’s good to be determined, tough, and focused. But though being successful in what we’re doing, if we don’t have the most important things in life, there is never a balance. It has always been said that the most important things in life are unseen. The mind, the skill, and your career may be lost but yet recovered again. But love, friendship, hope, and peace are just some of the things that will forever stay…unless disregarded in vain.

The manhunt operation was a success. But if Maya had balanced herself with the friendship and love of the people around her she might have been a stronger woman from within. But I guess she had another secret for this  she did not want anyone to be weakened by revealing her weaknesses as a woman. Rather, in order to see this operation pull-off in success, she sacrificed herself much…for her country and for her people.

To be a Wallflower, Anyone? (Movie reflection from “The Perks of a Wallflower”)

I hated prom nights. I was very glad I never had been to one in high school. Due to forgotten circumstances, our school decided to postpone such an activity in our batch alone. To justify my joy, I reasoned out it helped us save supposed-to-be-wasted-money…but the truth is, I wouldn’t have the chance to be lonely as a wallflower.

Much was my anxiety as a teenager. It’s so natural how I wanted attention and how I wished I was every boys’ talk of town. I was not a typical popular girl and had this secret jealously with the pretty and popular.  (I was quite childish, boyish, and a bit nerdy.) But perhaps, being an unattractive wallflower has its perks, too.

When I treated another friend to watch The Perks of a Wallflower, we expected it as a typical teen flick. But my reason for seeing film was Emma Watson. Appreciating her since those Harry Potter series, I expected her to break off from her bewitching character as  Hermione Granger. At this point, she surprised me on how she Americanized herself as a typical high schooler named Sam.

The film’s protagonist, Charlie, was a shy freshman who mingled with a group of seniors who helped him out breakout from his shell. He was utterly close to Sam and her stepbrother Patrick. These guys did not mind Charlie’s introvert character as they had him tag along their parties and school lunches (they were totally loud and fun-loving). Being older and more liberated, they were able to share to him their self-expression. In reciprocation, Charlie mingled well. But as their friendship progresses, they began to pour out and even share their inner frustrations and even pains.

As a light, realistic teen flick, it lightly dealt with difficult issues of teen sexuality and abuse. It’s more of a picture of how adolescence, despite of the promising hope of youthfulness, can be a painful can affect one’s mind and being. On the lighter side, these young people tried to live day by day by shoving off each other’s differences and try to turn away from the pains by living loud and free.

I loved the friendship that was built despite of their differences. In high school, factions and groups were made according to your kind. But not Charlie and his friends. Together, they explored the wonders and even the hardships of a teenager. Senior or freshmen, they go through the same realities.

Being a teenager is never easy. Being a wallflower shouldn’t be a big deal since dealing with the pains of adolescence is much harder. I guess, if Charlie had not been with these older people, he wouldn’t have dealt with his dark secret at all – even at the point of almost bringing him to insanity.

So, Charlie isn’t really alone. And I’m not alone, too. I guess a wallflower is really better since I’m no heart throb too focused on myself not realizing the joy of sharing adolescence with the oddest friends. Prom night or no prom night, unpopular wallflowers like me is no big deal at all. Differences will never be an issue as long as there are real friends who understand your difference. It is only fellow teenagers who can understand teenagers, despite of the misfits they do in life. They learn from one another and carry what they can as they age more.

If ever that prom night pushed through, I guess I’d have some of my fellow misfit friends stand with me on the wall. I don’t have to be popular to express myself, right? Charlie was not popular, yet was accepted because of friends who had some crazy fun and shared frustrations with him.

If I were the person now back then, perhaps I’d just dance crazy just like Patrick and Sam. Then towards the night, with some 90’s rock music, stand on the top of the pick-up truck and wave your arms like an eagle.

To be a wallflower, anyone? 🙂

Casting the First Stone (and a bit of a movie reflection from “The Mistress”)

I find that my movie night out with a friend last Friday was so unusual. I’m no cheezy romantic, but for the sake of destressing from our normal reality, we watched “The Mistress”. Believe me, this is the first time I watched a Pinoy romance in cinemas. 🙂

The story begins with the pretty tailor Sari meeting the architect JD. And in order not to spoil the rest of the story, I’ll just run through to say there was an attraction, a pursuit, a surprise, a conflict and an ending (haha…because the point of this writing is not the John Llyod-Bea pair up).

The movie though, reflects one slice of reality. It made me think a lot on judging others and ourselves.

Bea Alonzo’s character, Sari, is not the typical selfish, villainous-type of mistress that was usually portrayed in traditional media. Her family’s breadwinner, she makes sure she could provide everything they need to survive. Despite of her simple and giving nature, no one would think of her as a mistress of Rico Torres, a rich, old tycoon and CEO of a huge telecom company…this one, of course, disappointed John Lloyd Cruz’s character, JD. Yet, after five years of being the other woman, she did not abuse the old man’s kindness, more so being spoiled.

So, who the victim here? Actually, all of us can be like Sari. It’s surprising how good people can hide some dark secrets. Shocking, but true. It’s easy to condemn the bearer of the closet when the skeleton inside jumps out. In this world though, we’re all prone to fall into deep sin…even the most “righteous” of people.

When JD asks Sari what if she had never met Rico Torres, and everything on earth is OK. When they close their eyes, it made them see themselves ending together. But then, Sari asks, “Pwede bang magkatotoo ang kunyari lang? (Can something we have pretended become a reality?)” That one choice she made turned her away from that one thing that she could have been hoping at that point in time.

We all have choices and no law stops us from picking the path we take. However, the consequence arrives at the end of the road. We can’t judge Sari for choosing to be a mistress just because she wanted to gain something. But she was trapped in the choice she had made. In the end, after all the conflict, she had to let go…as her affair ended in a tragic turn.

I find that there’s a little of Sari inside of us. We might be seen as good people and yet there are bits of secrets so dark that can turn off anybody when found out. We can be trapped in the choices that we make, no matter how we are taught to obey these rules and laws. One fatal attraction can become a deadly blow, if not to us, to the people around us. We can all be victims of our choices. And yet, who are we to judge others who try to keep their skeletons in their closets?

When the Pharisees brought an adulterous woman before Jesus (John 8:2-11), He did not decide just like the rest of the crowd. As he was challenged to answer on what to do on her since the Law of Moses says that such a person be stone, He gave them an equally challenging answer instead, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.”

I wonder how this present day society would react when the Lord Himself would tell us the same. We’re used to social media bashing, vengeful reactions, and negative speculations when we have not seen the other side of the story, at all. Are we that “righteous” to think that we are above the rest of the condemned? Aren’t we condemned along with the rest of the sinful society, too?

And yet, in His grace, Jesus told the woman “Go, and sin no more”. That’s grace. She did not deserve it and yet He gave it.

In all of us, there is both goodness and wickedness. We are all victims to a fallen world and to our condemned selves. Yet, we can’t just point a finger to a fellow brother who is just as filthy as we are. And yet, here’s a God who gives His grace to wretched man. It’s just up to us to go for it and to give up our wretchedness. And yet, our fellow man needs help, too. Who, then, would be willing to cast the first stone?

A Few Firsts for My Independence Day 2012

For once again, I got a taste of my firsts last Tuesday, June 12. I can’t help how I cherish this 114th Anniversary of the Philippine Independence. Even though we all had to wake up too early, it’s something I’ve enjoyed to remember.

High school students perform some excerpts of the Philippine Revolution through dancing

As we covered this event, I can’t help but feel how proud I am to be a Filipino. Oh, yes, though I’m just another generation reminiscing a history I’ve never witnessed first hand. After a year of being a correspondent, this is my first time to cover a commemoration of Philippine Independence. As a palace reporter, I and my team had to follow him wherever he goes – unless, it’s extremely far. But everything starts with small things and short distances. And his visit to my province, Bulacan, is a big privilege to me.  Most of all, I was able to get a glimpse of pure, young Pinoy talent. These young students who reenacted history did it with all their hearts. And somehow, I wished I were a teenager, too.

Finale of the students’ presentation…”Mabuhay ang Pilipinas!”

Now here where the irony sets in. It’s weird how a Bulacan resident like me got to visit the popular Barosoain Church for the first time after 27 years of existence. Imagine, going there should have been so easy, as Malolos is just more or less thirty minutes away from my town, Sta. Maria. And it took a president to push me to go and take a touchdown on this historical landmark.

For a backgrounder, the Barosoain Church was where the Philippines was declared and established as a republic. This was also where the Malolos Constitution, our nation’s first republican constitution, was announced. I’d remember as a kid how it was depicted on the back of the old ten peso bill.

I’d still remember how I wanted to visit this church when I was a bored college student. And how it was never done because no one was willing to go around with me. Oh well, everything has it’s own time.

The Barosoain Church just behind me right after the program ended. I can’t help but feel elated by letting my heels touch its stone pavements. O.o

To make sure that this was a special day, I had to wear something special. So I chose my newest violet dress (and the others had to call me “ube” or purple yam). But I wouldn’t wear a traditional baro’t saya because I don’t have one. And even though my mom had kept some old traditional clothes in our magical closets, I wouldn’t dare…I’d have a hard time walking around for interviews underneath the fiercely hot sun!

And so I had to get a glimpse of it personally for the first time! But because this was no pleasure trip, I did not get that “awe moment”. Awww…

I saw how real and huge the church was. I could have touched its walls but I had to find the media seats first. I never thought I could also get a glimpse of that hundred-year old tree in front of it. Weeee!!

But we all got down to work. President arrives, speaks in public, watch his every more, then waved goodbye. Our focus was the leader of the country, and so we had to keep our eyes on him all the time. And we had to hurry back to office to produce my story. No time for that “awe moment” again. Awww…

Next year, the president is expected to visit another historical landmark. Oops, that would be my second coverage of Independence Day. But it hope it would be as exciting as my first one…and every coverage be something that I would anticipate all the time.

I guess I just have to muster all that guts to go back to Barosoain again. Maybe, when I come back there, I’d be able to have that “awe moment” – and make it feel like it’s my first time again! 😀

The Real Fight Within

“The world that follow boxing, that follows sports, will see a classic, classic match,” Bob Arum said describing the upcoming Pacquiao-Marquez fight in November, “This event will be a credit to boxing and will be eagerly followed by all sports fans.”

I must admit, I’m not much of a sports fan, but I guess I appreciated Congressman Manny Pacquiao – how he started low, rising to unprecedented heights in his sports career and then into politics. I may have some qualms about him and yet, I find him an epitome of being a Filipino icon.

But this is not the point of my article.

That was just an intro. And as a Pinay myself, I should really, and not forcibly, love my own kababayan. His fights are considered inspirational. His bouts are expected to be entertaining. And his fame – extraordinary. Thanks to the media attention given to him – uh, the exposure we media people always give him.

We mediamen can make or break someone. Pacquiao, from a nobody becomes a somebody and yet, he would keep an air of humility – although he still got lapses at times. I’m just amazed how media can be a part of a person’s evolution. When something or somebody catches our attention, our tendency is to follow it until the end. I just hope Pacquiao won’t drastically change – especially that he has now turned into a congressman.

But it would be even more appreciative if he always keep a heart check whether he’s in the pedestal of fame or he is forced to step down. Should the time come that he has to pass the crown to another, I hope he will not crave too much attention much as he had before. For me, fame is so temporary, and thanks to us media people, we tend to look for “new” stuff. But if I can prove to myself if Pacquiao would be humble (and faithful) despite of the loss of his glitter and fame, I guess that’s more appreciative than winning a major boxing bout.

The real fight is when our hearts stay true and righteous, despite how the world gives us attention.

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