fanning the bernal flame

in any account of the 2nd golden age of philippine cinema, lino brocka and ishmael bernal top the list of best directors, and always in that order.  when a bernal fan asked me why, gayong even alphabetically her idol should come first, i said, well, chronologically brocka came first, and his debut film Wanted: Perfect Mother (1970) was a huge box-office success.  bernal’s first, Pagdating sa Dulo (1971), a film within a film, was a critical success but a commercial flop.

bernal was a bit too high, too sophisticated, for the beginner that he was.  only now are cineastes one in saying that bernal was ahead of his time.  no wonder it took a while for people to rise to his occasion.

it helps, of course, that some of bernal’s best films have been showing intermittently on cable TV since 1994 courtesy of cinema one, and that sari dalena and keith sicat kept the flame alive with their documentaries on ishma.  and when Pro Bernal, Anti Bio finally went to press in july 2017, rogue magazine’s jerome gomez was quick to ask for excerpts that came out as “Stardust Memories” announcing the imminent launch in november.

kicked off with personal funds, and some more from friends of bernal — this is my chance to thank you so much, evelynne horrilleno, dannie alvarez, noel anonuevo, tisi and winston raval, pis boado, bobbie malay and satur ocampo, julie de lima-sison, deanna ongpin-recto, maribel ongpin, leny de jesus, ricky lee, raquel villavicencio, laida lim, butch perez, and mt. cloud bookshop — Pro Bernal, Anti Bio (2017) is co-published by ABS-CBN publishing inc. and the indie book producer everything’s fine (EF).  of the 1000 print-run, the publishing house took on 300 copies to distribute in mainstream bookstores.  the rest EF is paying for (50% down, 50% due a year from launch) which is why katrina continues to seek collaborators on bernal events where we can peddle the book.

it was a boon that mark yambot, head of abs-cbn publishing, allowed us to dictate the content and the look and the feel of the book (though we did concede on a few minor details :-), thanks to katrina who took over the project the moment i dropped the manuscript — raised funds, negotiated with mark, and harassed the printing press peeps about quality control hanggang sa dulo.

mark graciously arranged for and attended two november launches a week apart.  the soft one in trinoma on the occasion of cinema one‘s filmfest screening of sari & keith’s Ishmathe docu, before which mark asked katrina to say a few words about Pro Bernal, and where she met cinema one‘s ronald arguelles.  the hard(core) one in victorino’s where i finally met mark, and author bernal was represented by his sister ging ledesma and nephew andrei, and co-author jorge arago by his sister sol and her kids robin and nico sagun.  #intrafamilia

noel añonuevo and joel saracho who were with katrina in trinoma were again in victorino’s, joining dannie and deanna, bobbie and satur, raquel aka kelly, national artist bien lumbera, randy david, nic tiongson, tom agulto, sari & keith, celina cristobal, boni ilagan, roly peña, joe carreon, lucy quinto, leo martinez, bembol roco, and elmer gatchalian, among others.  friends from left, right, and center, what a rare and fun gathering!

erwin romulo slipped in, got a book, and slipped out.  and then there was oliver ortega aka bolix, the book’s designer who was unfazed, undaunted, by my quirky format.  i finally got to ask him about the margins, ang kitid sa itaas, nakakapanibago, but there had been no moving him (or the margins).  ayun pala, there’s such a thing as “the golden ratio”.  fascinating!  #angtaray

december 6, Archivo 1984 Gallery, a makati museum of local art and memorabilia, held a film showing of bernal’s Pabling (1981) and invited katrina to come and sell books.  marti magsanoc bought a pile, some of which are available in The CCP Shop, archivo’s branch in pasay. #BernalNight

krip yuson’s rave review Reliving Ishmael Bernal came out in philippine star on december 10, elaborating on an earlier facebook post: “What a wonderful book: ANTI BIO PRO BERNAL, on Direk Ishmael Bernal’s life, films and milieu.”  two days later came jessica zafra’s ProBernal AntiBio is the best Filipino film book of the year, maybe of all time!  thank you, krip and jessica (and butch perez, for getting a copy to jessica)!

february 2018, we were invited by sari dalena to do a small exhibit for the Ishmael Bernal Gallery of the UPFI film center.  katrina got to flex her amateur-curator muscles, plotting out the friendship of bernal and arago from UP undergrad days through to bernal’s filmmaking years to bernal as actor on the Dulaang UP stage, with memorabilia unearthed from jorge’s old office and movie stills we had salvaged from his room in binangonan in 2012.

books were sold, Nunal sa Tubig (1976) was on loop, and i got to chika with sari and keith, fidel rillo, lem garcellano, dannie alvarez, sol and jorge’s favorite bayaw steve sagun and kids, especially with obet and team who had worked with jorge back when virgie moreno was director of the film center.  also i finally met and got to thank carlo vergara who did the bernal and arago avatars for the book. #zsazsazaturnnah

in early march, ronald rios, head of the Society of Filipino Archivists for Film that’s doing a Reflexive Cinema series — a three-year celeb (2017-2019) of the centennial anniv of Philippine film in partnership with CCP and NCCA — invited us to the screening of Pagdating sa Dulo in CCP’s dream theater.  katrina read excerpts from Pro Bernal to introduce the film and, after the screening, joined producer george sison (the peace and prosperity new-age guru) and production designer cesar hernando in the open forum.  #ReflexiveCinema

april 19-20, katrina was back in CCP, this time for NBDB’s philippine international literary festival.  she was given a booth in the main lobby, where her own books were among the 75 (+1) launched by the ateneo de naga press on the 19th, making it easy to slip from tindera to author mode, haha, and she finally got a copy of the book to eli guieb whose work on Nunal sa Tubig (1976) was part of the anti bio, and who said that he had a new essay on it.  Nunal lives!  #PILF2018

in may, we heard that the jazz musician winston raval was receiving the Natatanging Gawad Urian, the first ever awarded to a musical director-film scorer-composer.  the awards night was to be co-produced by cinema one, so katrina asked, and was allowed by, ronald arguelles and the manunuri to sell books at the event held in ABS-CBN’s vertis tent in QC.  she finally met winston who flew in from the states and who, with wife tisi de los santos, was part of bernal’s kansas family (and of Pro Bernal).  winston was musical director of 18 bernal films, among them Nunal, Manila by Night, Himala, Tisoy, Relasyon, and Ikaw ay Akin (for which his ’70s band vanishing tribe won urian’s best music award in 1979).  #LifetimeAchievementAward

impressed by their mini film festivals and curation of film screenings, katrina emailed cinema centenario, asking if a bernal collaboration was possible.  salamat kina hector barretto calma, dev angeo, ivy peralta, and rollie inocencio who were quick to reply and arrange for the all-day bernal film fest last july 29.  focusing on bernal’s restored films, they were set on Himala and Ikaw ay Akin but were needing a third film; katrina offered to ask george sison for Pagdating sa Dulo, and he was quick to say yes (thank you!).

of the three films it was bernal’s first film Pagdating that got the most interesting responses from a larger audience.  in between screenings katrina was part of a talk with young critics circle’s aris atienza on bernal and his work.  the conversation, i hear, spanned everything from that comparison between brocka and bernal to the state of film workers and film culture in general.

cinema centenario also took in some copies of Pro Bernal for selling, and put up a wall of bernal’s photo collection.  bernal would be thrilled that microcinemas are now part of the landscape of culture — small scale, rebellious, creatively defiant — and at teacher’s village yet!   #PHCinema100

when katrina sent a letter to CCP artistic director and vice president chris millado about the possibility of a book event for bernal’s memoir, she didn’t think it would happen so soon, but things just fell into place.  cinemalaya 2018 was paying tribute to actor bernardo bernardo by screening the bernal opus Manila by Night (1980) and there was a timeslot before the screening for a fringe event that was a perfect fit for Pro Bernal.  salamat, chris millado!

serendipitously film scholar joel david, author of Manila by Night: A Queer Film Classic (Arsenal Pulp Press, 2018) who is based in south korea, was home in time for the aug 7 event and gave a talk, moderated by patrick flores, no less.  billed “Queer and Defiant: Ishmael Bernal, Bernardo Bernardo, and Manila By Night” it meant a command appearance for me in CCP’S silangan hall.  time to finally meet personally and thank joel and patrick, without whose intellectual and moral support i might still be struggling with the anti bio.  #deeplygrateful #ilovetheinternet

salamat rin kay minda casagan of the CCP film division, who was a student of bernal, at kay bebang siy and her team at the intertextual division, who always go the extra mile for katrina and the bernal book.  twas also great to chika with raffy guerrero after so long (Genghis Khan pa!) and to meet the colorful khavn de la cruz of Balangiga fame!  salamat rin, of course, kay vito hernandez, kasosyo ni katrina sa Pro Bernal sa hirap at ginhawa.

maybe it’s just the fag hag in me, but i love how “queer”, as it applies to film classics by and about LGBTQ people, is now synonymous with “awesome” and “amazing” because daring and brilliant.  and fun! because honest and candid and, even, positively shameless about breaking taboos, as bernal and bernardo were in life and in print.

the reading by noel anonuevo and rody vera of selected excerpts from Pro Bernal, Anti Bio, with bernal (noel) and BB (rody) having a conversation of sorts on Manila By Night on the one hand, and kabaklaan during martial law on the other, was a blast.  noel and rody got so into the spirit, and body language, of the two, it was like nabuhay muli ang dalawang bakla, and nakaka-miss sila.

it was also interesting, exhilarating even, how noel’s and rody’s reading / acting / vocal impersonating brought alive the text.  sabi nga in bolix, nagkaroon ng isa pang layer.  iniangat at nabigyan ng kakaiba pang dimension, kumbaga, ang mga iniwang salita ng dalawa.  salamat, salamat, noel at rody!  sa mauulit!

of course i’m now looking forward to a reading of the bosom buddies mismo, with noel as ishma and, um, maybe joel saracho as jorge?  #extra challenge!


Pro Bernal, Anti Bio available here:

UP Press Bookstore
Mt. Cloud Bookshop
Popular Bookstore
Cinema Centenario
Uno Morato
The CCP Shop

It’s too complicated #NoToFederalism

Tony Samson

CERTAIN topics are just too hard to “laymanize.” This is a buzzword current nowadays. It means presenting a concept in words and phrases that can be grasped by the man on the street. Such subjects are, by definition, complex and presume prior familiarity and knowledge, sometimes requiring their own special vocabulary.

… Now, what about a complicated change in the political structure that affects the whole country which nobody seems to understand, much less sees a need for? (If it ain’t broke, hurl it against the wall so it breaks into little pieces.)

The challenge then for the designated communicator for the complex structure and transition mechanism being proposed and possibly voted on is how to laymanize this. Add to this hurdle, all the previous failed attempts (maybe five in all) to overhaul the system and change the form of government. One previous proposal was the parliamentary system where the chief executive was elected by the party with the most seats in the parliament. Of course, the new structure allowed the present chief to run again for a different title.

Faced with the daunting task of bringing airy concepts down to earth, what is a communicator to do but fall back on what she knows best? Can the communicators learn from the past on why previous concepts failed to persuade or even connect? Okay, a song and dance on the parliamentary system just wouldn’t have worked — i-par, par mo; i-lia-lia mo? Parliamento. Nah. There was no social media to spread that for some lambasting. Anyway, what body parts are those?

The simple rule in communications states, “If you can’t explain it in three sentences, you can’t sell it.” And maybe you don’t really understand it yourself anyway. So, how can you persuade anyone, even if you are armed with answers to FAQ?

You need to give credit to innovation in the field of persuasion. Until now, it was presumed that you required a power point presentation, interviews in talk shows with articulate advocates (that is still a work in progress), a road show with prospective candidates for national positions in tow, or even a TV commercial with sunrise and carabaos pulling the plow. Why not use a song and dance routine as a low-cost alternative to get the topic into the daily conversation of barbers and wine connoisseurs?

As to the charges of vulgarity, from the Latin word “vulgus” or crowd, somebody important found the dance number cool. (You are asking me about vulgarity?) While the song and dance did get the topic to trend in social media, it’s not certain which side of the debate it truly helped. So please don’t be too hard on her. She should keep her job. Why? It’s too complicated.

gloria makes ligaw the senate: separate voting!

august 1, 2018 — the heat is on.  malinaw na charter change ang agenda ni gloria.  and she is not wasting the house’s time on endless debates over joint vs separate voting by the two chambers.

Arroyo expressed openness to separate voting of the two chambers on the proposed amendment to the 1987 Constitution, in an ambush interview following a tree-planting ceremony at the North Luzon Expressway in Pampanga.

“[It’s] better to move forward and achieve something than be stubborn and achieve nothing,” said Arroyo.

Arroyo also recalled that the issue of joint or separate voting was the same issue that hindered the move to amend the 1987 Constitution during her presidency.

“I ended my presidency with the same stalemate—voting separately and voting together. Years later, it’s the same stalemate,” she explained.

tama naman siya.  move forward.  separate voting talaga dapat.  so.  is there a chance that the senate would respond with a matamis na oo?

for a while i thought the senate might make pakipot, but only a little, because anyone who has been keeping track of past charter change attempts via con-ass knows how seriously senators have always wanted to amend the economic provisions, not just in gloria’s time but also in pNoy’s:

In September 2011, Sen. Franklin Drilon said both Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile and Speaker Feliciano Belmonte had concurred with his proposal to have both chambers vote separately on bills involving Charter change, which would only touch on economic provisions.   

the senate tried again five years later, on january 18 2016.

The Senate today passed on third and final reading a bill which will open up financing companies, investment houses, lending companies and adjustment companies to foreign ownership, to help increase the flow of investments and jobs into the country.

no doubt, therefore, that neither gloria nor the senate is happy with ex-cj puno’s draft proposal that retains the 40% cap on foreign ownership of corporations, public utilities, and land, even if it would allow a 30% cap on media and advertising.  no-cap across the board is the holy grail for politicians in the service of big business / the oligarchs, and this is their chance, gloria might say.  ka-ching!  ka-ching!

but, but, but, every time they’ve tried to do a con-ass in pursuit of the dream, civil society raises a howl.  read do not delete (economic provisions) from dec 2008.  though, yes, these are different times, and gloria and the lower house might think it can happen, finally, under duterte, who, i have a feeling would go along with anything, basta federalism pa rin.

the good news is, busted  si gloria.  read Pangilinan: Arroyo nod to separate voting welcome, but no guarantee.  august 2 –

Speaking on “The Source” on CNN Philippines, Sen. Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan said that Arroyo’s assurance that the House would go for separate voting in case Congress constitutes itself into a constituent assembly is a welcome development.

“However, what is to stop anyone from going to the Supreme Court and say, ‘No, it’s not separately. The letter of the law says, it’s voting jointly.’ Of course, the Senate disagrees, so what happens there?” Pangilinan said during the interview.

The Liberal Party president said that this issue would become more worrisome considering the voting record of the Supreme Court, which in May issued a landmark decision allowing the removal of a chief justice through a quo warranto or ouster petition.

… He said that Arroyo could say one thing while her allies or other groups could do another especially since cracks in the ruling coalition burst in the open following a recent leadership showdown in the House which led to the former president’s election as speaker.

besides, some senators have grievances galore against gloria arroyo.

Sen. Grace Poe has stated her displeasure over the assumption of Arroyo as House speaker because of her involvement in various controversies during her term as president.

Poe’s father, the late actor Fernando Poe Jr., ran for president against Arroyo in the 2004 elections, which was seen by many as tainted by fraud.

Sen. Joseph Victor Ejercito said the rise to power of Arroyo in the House does not look good for the Duterte administration, particularly with regard to its campaign against corruption.

Ejercito’s father, former president and now Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada, was ousted in 2001 and as a result, then vice president Arroyo took over.

Sen. Panfilo Lacson said the other day that if the ascension of Arroyo to the speakership is a prelude to becoming prime minister later on, the people behind this should think twice.

looks like gloria can’t have her way with this senate, salamat naman, even if for the wrong reasons.  i’d love to hear a senator or two or three justify the economic protectionism enshrined in all our constitutions since quezon’s time.  even marcos did not have the heart to delete these provisions, knowing full well that it would not bode well for nation.

so.  abangan ang next moves ni ate glo, who has promises to keep.

samantala, the duterte camp remains optimistic.  ding generoso, trixie cruz-angeles, and marie banaag are prepping mocha uson for the info campaign, and my favorite ex-senator rene saguisag wonders:

Can Mocha Uson help swing the work of the consultants who played a role not spelled out in the Constitution? That’s rich. How much is there for her, as a snake oil saleswoman, in pushing for what was done by a monolithic committee with only one woman and no known Duterte critic as members? Foolish questions might have been checked at the door. (?) How would she sell four Supreme Courts in Art. IX of the consultants’ draft, just for one contentious issue?

We now see that the Palace has reportedly allocated close to P100 million for a yes campaign, in addition to what has been spent so far when it created an office. Normally creating one which requires a huge budget can originate only exclusively in the Bigger House; the Better House (Senate) may concur with amendments. The power of the purse belongs to Congress; the way Digong allocates and spends money right and left we now see in him the equivalent of Macoy, a super-executive, a super-court, a super-legislature and a one-man continuing constitutional convention.

gloria in the house: worst case scenario

i think i get it, finally, why rep danilo suarez refuses to give up the minority leadership even if he is part of the majority that ingloriously voted speaker gloria arroyo into position, AND even if there is a real minority group — a coalition of LP and makabayan bloc reps who did NOT vote for arroyo.

“The House Rules clearly state that those who voted for the winning Speaker will constitute the majority bloc. Aside from voting for Speaker Arroyo, the Suarez group did sign the manifesto of support for Speaker Arroyo and even campaigned for her. For the Suarez group to remain a minority bloc is beyond reasonable,” Quimbo said.

beyond reasonable, beyond acceptable, but it would seem that gloria and her megamajority do not want to have to deal with a real minority.  i strongly suspect that it’s because they are still on charter change mode, but without resorting to no-el, which is what did alvarez in.  and now they are testing the waters with this suarez kapit-tuko-sa-posisyon.  if they got away with breaking the rules and improvising to unseat alvarez, maybe they can get away with this, too, in these very fluid times under duterte?

i wouldn’t put it past GMA and her cohorts to have promised sara duterte that without a pesky dissenting minority, they can do a cha-cha via con-ass in time for an info campaign in the run-up to may 2019 AND still pass the 2019 budget (or not, re-enact 2018 na lang) at kung ano-ano pa kuno, before she steps down (or not) in 2019.

GMA, by the way, is a veteran at failed chacha attempts.  maybe she thinks that the 5th (?)  time’s a charm?  read What went before: Past charter change attempts.   

worst case scenario, given duterte’s marching orders:  the lower house convenes (in secret, if necessary) as a constitutional assembly, passes (in the dead of night, possibly) its version of a federal constitution that favors incumbents, and presents it to the nation as a fait accompli, requiring only the people’s approval in a plebiscite kasabay ng may 2019 midterm elections.

never mind that 2 out of 3 filipinos do not know enough about the constitution, much less about the proposed replacement, to make an informed decision on the matter.  maybe the duterte and arroyo camps even consider this a plus in their favor — since there’s no time for a massive multi-media multi-lingual information campaign, much less time for serious debates nationwide, they will simply appeal to / for the people’s trust.  i can already hear mocha uson urging her 5 million followers: let’s trust tatay digong on this, maniwala tayo, manalig tayo, he knows what’s best, vote YES!  argh.

i hope i’m wrong.  my imagination on overdrive.  but if i’m right, and the senate is unable to stop it, ‘twould be time to hit the streets, the people and the senators, together.