Category: the arts

artists and writers for freedom and democracy, circa 1986

katawatawa that on facebook a statement from duterte apologist rebecca añonuevo and other “concerned writers” supporting SEC’s takedown of rappler has been judged “unoriginal” and “pathetic” — as if the statement by let’s organize for democracy and integrity in support of rappler / press freedom were any less pathetic?  read press freedom for what? press freedom for whom?

worse, anoñuevo daw might as well have re-issued na lang a “pro-dictatorship pro-marcos paid advertisement” of jan 28 1986.  LOL.  obvious naman na pilit na pilit ang paghahalintulad ng dalawang isteytments, the cause of SEC vs. rappler being quite puny in comparison with the cause of COWAFD (pilit na pilit rin ang COWARD, guys, seeing as they were more like losers after the fact).  halata namang ibig lang halukayin (at pahiyain? as if?) ang signatories ng 1986 declaration na mostly luminaries, including national artists no less.  though in either case it would be interesting to see the signatures mismo (even if forgeries are a possibility, too, alas).

but thanks anyway for resurrecting the COWAFD (parang covfefe) declaration that reminds of what it was like 32 years ago in the run-up to the snap elections that paved the way to EDSA.  the ad came out 10 days before the snap elections that had newbie cory aquino with former senator and member of parliament (MP) doy laurel challenging the dictator ferdinand marcos and former senator and MP arturo tolentino for the top posts of the land.

the opening paragraphs are obligatory preliminaries, romanticizing diversity of opinions, claiming openness to “alternative national futures.”  nothing on the joys of censorship, of course, rather, on the need to stand up, and be identified, for the dictator.  or else.  or else?

but the whole of it is a precious artifact, a document of historical interest wherein the best and the brightest, our most privileged of artists and intellectuals in the time of martial law, clearly articulated what exactly they feared about the prospect of cory and doy replacing marcos, AND even dared envision an “enlightened and transformed national leadership” under the marcos-tolentino team.

“When great issues are joined in the life of a people and life-and-death choices present themselves in political terms, the writers and artists must take a stand and must not seek refuge and false comfort in total political anonymity.

“We believe that the special presidential elections on February 7, 1986 present us with one of two choices: to reestablish Philippine democracy on a new and more enduring level, with its guarantees of individual freedom and social responsibility, or to risk a future dominated by the spectre of unending social strike (sic; strife?), hate, vengeance and perhaps a bloody fratricide the ferocity of which has never been known in our history.

“The plain and simple fact is that we, as writers and artists, have serious apprehension about the candidates of the opposition. We are apprehensive about the fact that they have nothing to offer than a dubious promise of sincerity and an even more dubious promise to hand government over to an unidentified cadre of advisers. These are no more than niggardly excuses for a lack of a coherent program of government.

“In view of the crises that threaten the economic security and the cultural serenity of our nation, we can only regard such representation from them as symptomatic of a reluctance to come to grips with reality and an indifference to the need for wisdom and maturity.

“As such, this coalition seeks to preserve what has already been achieved in terms of cultural advancement and to proceed further under an enlightened and transformed national leadership equipped to face the pressures of change and advance our national and spiritual progress. We believe that the leadership of President Ferdinand E. Marcos is out only guarantee for survival at this point.

“Indeed, we believe we can best achieve our national interests and realize our aspirations of writers and artists with the triumph of the Marcos-Tolentino team.”

hindi ko iyan nabasa noong 1986.  my parents and i, and my in-laws, too, were big fans of ninoy (dilawan kami noon) so we must have dropped the hans-menzi-marcos-crony-owned manila bulletin by then in favor of the feisty eggie apostol’s philippine daily inquirer.

at kahit pa nabasa ko ang paid ad na iyan, it wouldn’t have changed my mind about voting for cory and doy.  yes, on sheer faith.  there was no paying attention to marcos shrugging off cory as a mere housewife.  e ano kung walang karanasan, andyan naman si doy, a laurel, tutulungan siya, aalalayan siya.  we were so naive.  on that and a lot more.

but so also were the artists and intellectuals, the best and brightest.  naive.  imagine, promising an “elightened and transformed leadership” under marcos, the only one  “equipped to face the pressures of change and advance our national and spiritual progress.”  even, that he was “the only guarantee for survival” at that point.

parang hindi nila alam na malubha ang sakit ni marcos noon.  even if he had been reelected, unquestionably, in feb 1986, marcos was going to be replaced anyway, if not by enrile with the backing of fvr’s integrated national police (honasan had twice postponed that coup d’etat), then by imelda with the backing of ver’s afp.

parang naniwala rin sila sa sariling propaganda about the nation’s “economic security” (matagal nang bagsak ang ekonomiya, na lalong lumubha nang patayin si ninoy, thanks to capital flight atbp.) and “cultural serenity.”  cultural serenity?  susmaryosep.  jorge arago must have sniggered snickered simpered at that, if he really signed it, that is, and he may have.  at the time he and i were putting out environmentalist junie kalaw’s journal Alternative Futures (Vol. III Decentralization).  i suspect that he was responsible for getting “alternative national futures” into that declaration, maybe an ex-deal for his signature, haha.  he was like that.  for the record.

ishmael bernal would have loved jun lana’s Die Beautiful

thanks to cinema one i finally got to watch Die Beautiful (2016) and i must say it deserves all the awards and rave reviews.  buong buo ang loob ng pelikula — walang takot, walang hiya, walang patawad — kudos to director jun lana who also wrote the script with rody vera.  a very complex story told in zigzagging flashbacks, no particular order, framed only by a week’s wake that sees trisha in death transforming nightly into a favorite persona, last run kumbaga.  and, yes, brimming with stereotypical stuff, but mere nods to, not lingering, much less wallowing in the cutting slices of macho oppression.  rather, sashaying on, bravely, and beautifully.

perfect casting, too.  paolo ballesteros more than carries off the transgender trisha role, s/he runs with it (as does christian bables aka best friend barbs)!  it helps of course that we know ballesteros as the eat bulaga co-host who transforms himself and impersonates iconic beauties a la drag queens of the sixties (her julia roberts is awesome).  even better, he is a seriously good actor pala and his trisha is both funny and sad, and very much her own person on that rocky road to transformation.  that his man-size makes her a big woman works in her favor, making trisha larger than life, and difficult to ignore and forget.

i love how trisha and barbs address each other “bakla,” fondly, lovingly, embracing and transforming what was once meant (by the macho world) to hurt and put-down into a term of endearment, warm, soothing, malambing.  way to level-up, mga bakla, mabuhay kayo!

i’m reminded, of course, of national artist ishmael bernal’s (1938-1996) dream films, one on juan luna’s crime of passion and brother antonio the general, one on emilio aguinaldo and felipe buencamino, and the one closest to her heart, on filipino homosexuality.

but of course ishma and writer jorge arago (1943-2011) were off on a totally different take in a super wayward world.  bernal was thinking a series of gags a la Working Girls 2, but outstripping it.

JORGE.  We talked as much about the gay film as about the Luna project and it is difficult to say which one had faced bigger impediments. In the case of the gay film, one interior battle had created an inescapable contradiction. It was going to be truly gay, Bernal knew, an unending string of hilarious “misadventures” in which all gay roles – and there was nothing else to be sure – were to be played by non-gay actors, none of whom was to behave like the stereotyped sissy that Philippine machismo was constantly wishing away and factoring in. [“ISHMAEL BERNAL Last Full Show.” Manila Out. 1999 July.]

imagine if you will.  the “inescapable contradiction.”  

Lizaso at CCP: Death of culture

Katrina S.S.

THE problems of the arts and culture sectors in this country are multifarious, and there is no doubt that those of us cultural workers who are at the bottom of the totem pole can only believe in the possibilities of change, and look forward to it, too. Many of us try and work towards that change, but if cultural work is your bread and butter – and you’re not one of the lucky ones who comes from privilege to begin with – then you have no choice but to compromise along the way, work with institutions and hope to change these, be critical of the ways in which our creative freedoms (usually all we have) are disrespected or abused.

Read on…

Towards A Culturally Evolved Alternative

(1943 – 2011)

People power in 1986 restored to Philippine society the “democratic space” which had been previously occupied by the running dogs of martial law.

But as in previous turnovers of power in our society, that space has been hogged by the elite and its own running dogs, to the exclusion of particular groups: the teacher-student, the art-media and the scientific communities.

This is a call for these sectors to come together and identify their choices as the unacknowledged advance guard of modern development in our society. These groups have a significant role to play in the context of the evolutionary path that the Filipinos have taken. They reject the revolution proposed by the Left, the divisive fundamentalism in the South, the chronic opportunism of traditional politics, and the apathy of an unknown number. They have not lifted us from poverty and are not likely to do so in the context of the environmental degradation that backdrops all human activity today.

Artists and media practitioners, teachers and their students on all levels, scientists and research-and-development teams in academe and the private sector have the skills, training and intellectual apparatus to cope with the effects of globalization. For far too long now they have been non-entities lumped under so-called “civil society”, their voices lost or without effect in the competition among NGO‟s fighting for a proliferation of uncoordinated interests.

They also have the potential to counter the entry in the political arena of forces which threaten to bring us back to dark times. These are the many religious groups who propose themselves as alternatives to corrupt leaderships. Swept up by disaffection with the so-called higher moral concerns of the traditional church, they betray origins in the same configuration of exploitation in conditions that existed before.

Now is the time for artists and scientists and academe to come together and create a concrete democratic and unifying basis for mutuality in our society that will guide development that is in step with the development of the rest of the global community, while using distinct Filipino methods, skills and talents we have painstakingly evolved through all the regimes under which we have worked.