Tie a String around the World, The Philippines at the 2015 Venice Biennale

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Installation view of the exhibition, showing a film projection of Genghis Khan, 1950, Manuel Conde and Carlos Francisco- Philippine Pavilion- 2015 Venice Biennale

The Philippines last and only participation in the Venice Biennale was 51 years ago during its the 32nd edition in 1964. Among the few nations coming from the Asia Pacific to participate, the Philippines showed abstract paintings by Jose Joya (1931-1995) and sculptures by Napoleón Abueva (1930). Lack of official funding notably under the Marcos administration, which took over in 1969, have stalled further participation. Through a joint effort of the National Commission on Culture and the Arts and the Office of Senator Loren Legarda, the Philippines was able to afford a national pavilion. A six-member international jury selected from sixteen submissions, among which an entry from the curator Patrick Flores was selected. Flores works for the Vargas Museum and as Professor of Art Studies at the University of the Philippines.

The film ‘Genghis Khan’ served as his conceptual springboard. Manuel Conde, who was the producer, actor, and director (1915-1985, Philippines) shot the film in 1950 in Manila and nearby provinces. This was screened at the 1952 Venice film festival. One remarkable detail about his project is the fact that it is the first film adaptation of the conqueror whose empire reached from the Pacific to Europe and has an entirely Filipino cast acting as Mongolians. At the end of Khan promises his wife “to tie a string around the world and lay it at your feet”. Flores derives his title from this piece of dialogue.

The restored film can now be seen in full length in Palazzo Mora in Venice along with studies of Carlos Francisco (1912-1969), who worked with Manuel Conde on the set and costume design of “Genghis Khan”. Both Conde and Francisco were eventually named National Artists of the Philippines, the highest accolade given by the Republic of the Philippines for artistic excellence.  The Philippines has been reintroduced to Venice through this movie which offers a point of reference and discussion about aspects of a modified “configuration of the world”, about the importance of territories, borders and freedom.

The second room is closed to the contributions of Jose Tence Ruiz (1958, Philippines) and Mariano Montelibano III (1971, Philippines). Filmmaker Montelibano shows the multi-channel video “A Dashed State” over the West Philippine Sea, claimed by China. Ruiz’ room-filling sculpture “Shoal” explores the discarded warship BRP Sierra Madre, which the US used during the Second World War and the Vietnam War. In 1999, the Philippine Government intentionally run the ship aground as a defensive move in the dispute with China in the West Philippine Sea. The ship is inhabited by a platoon of Marines who regularly face harassment from the Chinese Coast Guard who have been reclaiming islands just a few nautical miles from their location. Ruiz rebuilt the ship’s structure, which appears to be covered with red velvet and stranded in the room. The ghostly object dominates cavernous section of the pavilion. It seeks to raise questions about territory and borders- issues which remain a hot topic in the Philippines and have become the subject of an international arbitration case at the United Nations.

David Medalla, known in the Philippines and all over the world as an enfant terrible who hobnobbed with some of the art world greats performed as part of the Philippine participation on the 20th of August 2015. Tie a string around the World will be on view at the European Cultural Centre, Palazzo Mora, Venice, Italy.

For more information visit http://www.philartvenicebiennale.com/

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A lesson in PR: Sorry seems to be hardest word for Rody Duterte

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Does this photo need a caption? I wouldn’t jump to a conclusion right away but its best if Mayor Duterte keeps his tongue inside his mouth while describing women, much more a widow like vice-presidential aspirant Leni Robredo. Screencap from this Youtube Video.

In a recent report by the Deutsche Welle website, the Philippines has now officially transitioned to a tiger economy. The last time I heard the Philippines was becoming a Tiger Economy was 20 years ago before the Asian Economic Crisis hit us.

I have never been a strong supporter of President Benigno Aquino III but I know for a fact that when an international foreign media outfit reports something positive about the Philippines, it usually is the real deal. Having worked in one international and reputable news outfit for sometime, I know that their ways of news gathering, editing, and promoting their stories goes through a very stringent process of fact checking and editing, not to mention that their reporters are embedded in the region for years and that sources are credible because there is little personal interest involved in the production or choice of the story.

So I guess, that despite my apprehensions about President Aquino, we really are improving as an economy or at least as a market. This does not mean that we have improved as a nation, but economic well-being is always a start.

During the inauguration of President Benigno Aquino, I was not convinced of his focus campaign against corruption, since it was yet unclear to me how one president who is seen to have merely won out of sympathy to his dead mother can rid the Philippines of one of its major ills. He did not even promise to eliminate the problem in three to six months but he did quite a lot all things considered within six years. I thought that his call to eliminate corruption would only be limited to “wang-wangs” or buzzers that politicos and other “VIPs” use to get ahead in the congested roads of Metro Manila because Noynoy Aquino looks light weight compared to other macho politico types like Ferdinand Marcos or even his Korean War veteran father, Ninoy. The campaign proved to be something bigger. In 2013, the largest corruption scandal erupted, exposing the involvement of several members of the Congress and the Senate in the establishment of ghost projects in exchange for kickbacks. So far there have been three Senators charged and jailed for this in addition to one former president in hospital arrest, and one Chief Justice impeached. Janet Napoles, the mastermind of the kickback operations is now facing multiple charges of plunder.

The campaign against corruption turned out to be the best PR move for the Philippines in its drive to attract foreign investors.

According to the assessment of the DW report, “One of the major negative factors that have harmed the competitiveness of the Philippines economy over the last three decades is the high level of corruption as reflected in the very poor rankings for the Philippines in the annual Transparency International Corruption Perceptions Index.”

This perception has improved when according to the report, President Aquino “mounted a campaign against corruption during his presidency.”

***

The presidential race looks more like a game of nine ball in billiards. You may have been on top of the surveys for so many months but one wrong shot and all your efforts are scratched. I am apprehensive about dismissing Mayor Duterte as an evil person but with all the human rights allegations, and his creepy remarks, it would suit him better if he waited a while and answer these attacks one by one and use his popularity to explain himself. Why does it seem so hard for popular politicians to explain themselves to their people?

I would say the same thing about Mar Roxas, but this guy seems to have been preparing for the presidency since the 1990s and while he may have a loose tongue and rather ill-tempered, you can never expect a rape joke from Mar Roxas. He is sensitive to jokes like that, to the point of castigating Senator Aquilino Pimentel when he crudely remarked about “insertions” during an interpellation at the Senate Hall. Mr. Pimentel is a good senator and a simple man and it might have been just one of those bad green jokes men of his generation tossed around and expected his fellow chaps to take lightly (he eventually moved to remove the comment out of the senate records) and patch it up with Roxas. The significance of this elections though, aside from a change of leadership, is the changing of the times. At which point, we should now abandon sexist jokes and men like Duterte as a thing of the past.

Competent leadership would be self-defeating if one cannot improve the perception of our fellow nations on us as a people. From the Strait Times of Singapore to the BBC of the UK, it is now a hot topic that one of our presidential candidates couldn’t control his words about insinuating sexual abuse on a dead and raped Australian missionary but seeks to control crime and corruption. News like this will be used against us when investors refuse to invest on a nation that is ruled by a misogynistic dirty old man.

You think that’s so far off? Our savagery as a nation is the very reason used by Americans to justify their “benevolent assimilation.” It is the same image they painted of Afghanistan and Iraq. The world seems to turn a blind eye on invasions of foreign powers when their ruler is a barbaric despot (i.e. Saddam and Qaddafi). I don’t think the rest of the world cares if Duterte turned his city into the 4th safest according to numbeo.com if one can’t even trust him to keep his tongue figuratively and literally out (that means well inside his mouth) of a pretty woman in his company.

***

It’s a good thing that issues about gender sensitivity like that gets out publicly. This is one way we can learn to be vigilant of these issues as they happen in our home. It is a reminder to respect our mothers, sisters, and wives. When the issue of Manny Pacquiao, a person I truly admire as an athlete and as a Christian came out, I was disappointed that he chose the wrong words to express his stand against gay marriage. Its a lesson learned that there’s really nothing we can add to what the scripture says and that our interpretations would always be secondary. One may be Bible reading Christians but its not excuse to behave holier than thou. The lesson of Pacquiao’s gay slur does not end with Nike withdrawing their sponsorship. With his humility, Pacquiao said sorry immediately and no later than a few months he is back on track with a win against Timothy Bradley. This shows that in the end, it is not the mistakes you commit but your ability to rectify them with grace and humility. God will lift you up and always give you another chance. Maybe Mayor Duterte can learn a thing or two from Manny Pacquiao at this moment.

Rodrigo Duterte’s “bad joke” though is not the same since he said his unfortunate “remarks” not out of his religious belief but really out of his own broken personality. Unlike the legalization of gay marriage, rape is not something one can really have strong principles about. All of us right minded human beings should be against it. With that said, one word of apology should be enough to control the damage. I won’t say it would completely reverse the effect of what he said but at least restore the morale of those who believed in him, especially the women who look up to Duterte to keep them safe from the very rapists he seeks to keep in jail or in the morgues. That’s one little and obvious PR lesson we should all learn early on in our careers but in application, SORRY is the hardest thing to say, especially when you are wrong.

When you say it, one thing is for sure “Sorry in general” is lame.#

On hoaxes and Propaganda

Before beginning my article on hoaxes and the propaganda machine, I would like to share this video:

Leni Robredo gave a speech at Alabang Country Club last March 21, 2016. The vice-presidential candidate, tells how and why she arrived at the moment of deciding to run in the elections as a district representative and for the second-highest position of the land.

There were times when she seemed that she was about to cry. A poignant part of the speech was when Leni recalls that she was told by her children that it felt like “Dad’s plane was missing again” when she decided to run in the upcoming elections. I was very skeptical of personalities running on the basis of their dead relative’s good name but Leni Robredo’s sincerity and simplicity dispels all of that. In this campaign season full of propaganda, Leni effectively communicates her message as genuine which appeals to even those who are still doubtful of her running mate, Mar Roxas.

If there is any major reason to vote for Mar Roxas, it would be Leni Robredo. He was the only one who approached and sought a candidate who was not really popular (She only registered a mere 1% in surveys up until she announced her intentions) or one who came from money. The Robredos live a decent life, untainted by corruption issues even while serving in the government. According to the speech, both her and Jesse are kind of leaders who had their political awakening during the turbulent years of the Marcos dictatorship. Leni was a college student who started attending mobilizations after the assassination of Ninoy Aquino (the second quarter storm as veterans of those days call the phenomenon). Leni also recalls how Jesse reprimanded her about pulling strings to get a job when she was applying to his government office. Leni was the daughter of a Regional Trial Court judge who was a friend of the governor who readily issued a recommendation letter for his nephew’s reference (Jesse Robredo was the nephew). Leni did not get the job she was applying for, even if assuming that Jesse Robredo was already attracted to her, and even with her credentials (she a degree in Economics from the University of the Philippines) for the simple reason that the job had already been offered by someone else.

That’s the kind of integrity that Jesse Robredo displayed even at a young age (he was 28 years old).

Two weeks later, his office called again and offered Leni a position that required writing skills. Leni wrote an essay about the role of Cory Aquino in the EDSA People Power Revolution. She started her work (and presumably her romance) with Jesse on the 18th of August. Exactly 26 years after, Jesse’s plane would crash off the coast of Masbate and he would be found dead on August 21, 2012 almost twenty years after death of Ninoy Aquino.

While one ha often overlooked the vice-presidency as a spare tire, lessons from history would tell otherwise. GMA’s succession to the office is enough to drive the point but even without the chance of replacement, the disgusting example of a corrupt leader like the current Vice-President Jejomar Binay (guilty according to the Ombudsman he apparently has immunity), who has been campaigning his entire term for the presidency, should remind us to take more consideration on who to choose to seat at the Coconut Palace (a name for a place so bizarre one would think it a place taken straight out of a magic realist novel).

In contrast to the hope one feels over a candidate with integrity having a shot at the vice-presidency, I’ve been terribly annoyed by several hoax political sites such as this, that continue to spread terrible lies aimed at discrediting the campaign of Mar Roxas. On this latest hoax, a “beautiful netizen” reminds Roxas against forcing government employees and soldiers to vote for him. I worked for the government until the 15th of March this year but I was never forced to vote for Roxas. No one ever campaigned inside our offices or threatened to withhold our benefits if we didn’t vote for Mar. The truth is many government employees are voting for Mar and his partido because of the increase in their benefits during the Aquino administration. Add to the fact that for co-terminus government officials and employees, the election of Mar Roxas, means a longer term, another six years of not having to look for a crappy job in the private sector.The support of government employees is only natural if they feel that they are happy.

While the sites seem to have very credible names with their own domains, they seem to have only mushroomed as the campaign season was approaching. They obviously come from various organizations linked to one or more of the presidential candidates. I wouldn’t bet that they only mean to support the candidacy of Mayor Rodrigo Duterte, as they are equally suspect of using the popularity of the feisty Mayor. I have no major issues against Rodrigo Duterte, except for his taking pride for committing human rights violations, and his utterly stupid proposal of Federalism, a form of government copied from the United States, which disregards the historical intentions of our national heroes when they conceived of this nation.

I think that Duterte now has the perfect chance to exercise strong political will by organizing and disciplining his supporters. Until he actually does that, I would believe that Duterte will let false accusations slide (he is not adverse to it anyway as proven by his insistence that Mar did not graduate from Wharton) and that this would be the kind of “wisdom”he will use to impose his style of justice when he becomes president (he seems to be forgetting that there are two other co-equal branches of government).

Duterte may not have intended it but he represents the kind of provincialism and regionalism that has crippled the revolutionary movement of 1896. While it is only urgent to remedy the welfare of the Visayas and Mindanao regions as they have have been treated with less priority by past administrations, it would be foolish to plainly pin this apparent neglect on the presidency. How can improvements on infrastructure go full blast when peace and security issues continue to get in the way?

Even with rapid development, one cannot arbitrarily shift the focus of projects to Mindanao or the Visayas when the majority of the population live in the metropolitan areas. Projects would have to be delivered gradually according to a standard policy and in the right proportions to harvest sustainability so it can go on long after the regimes have changed.

Another issue I would like to raise not against Duterte but on the sensible electorate is the fact that one of Rodrigo Duterte’s closest advisor is a known leader of a cult.  Apollo Quiboloy, not long ago proclaimed himself the “Appointed Son of God” (I wonder when God called for a board meeting in heaven?). The title “Son of God” refers to no one else but Jesus Christ himself so is he saying that Jesus is not enough that God would have to appoint another Son, and from all places in Davao City? You all watched Mel Gibson’s The Passion, so let me know when that messiah is up for keeping it real.

I don’t necessarily find it anomalous that Quiboloy provides Duterte with helicopters and allows him to address his congregation in order to lambaste Mar Roxas about his links to the illegal activities of mining companies (Roxas is a friend of Eric Guttierez, the owner of the mining firm. True, but until solid evidence that Roxas has benefitted from illegal mining has been presented, Duterte’s accusations even if delivered from the pulpit would just be another one of his hoaxes). When he was running for president, Noynoy Aquino, was circumspect enough to decline an invitation in 2010 by Apollo Quiboloy.

What I find anomalous Quiboloy. Just look at the kind of suits he wears and you would sense that something is wrong with him. While I am a church-going person, I would be among those people who would rather that any religious personality keep out from matters of the state. That said, I hope the future president is guided spiritually. I am intrigued at what sort of guidance a false prophet like Quiboloy would offerr with his empathic butchering of traditional Chrisitian doctrines that has successfully swindled millions for his own self-enrichment.

In a time when even a columnist of the Philippine Daily Inquirer can be beguiled into believing hoaxes, us citizens have to be more vigilant and investigative. Google or question everything! Doubt, if only to prove oneself right. Rage against the propaganda machine.

 

Abandon Mar and take the bitter pill?

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I am not for using memes for the way they turn to over-simplified propaganda rather than encouraging an in depth analysis of facts but this one brings a stark message: Of all the candidates in the campaign, only Mar Roxas has no desire to associate himself with the Marcoses. Thats four against one, does this mean a victory for historical revisionism?

Dean Tony La Vina is suggesting that it will be a choice between Mrs. Llamanzares and Mr. Duterte in the coming elections. According to La Vina, who was a member of the SWS Board of Directors before signing on to the bandwagon of Grace Poe’s presidential campaign, Mar’s supporters should now take the bitter pill and vote for Grace Poe, daughter of the King and formerly an American Citizen. (Mother and wife to American citizens until now) or to Rody Duterte, beloved Davao Mayor, king of stolen kisses, and clumsy barong tagalog. The not-so-compelling reason is that Mar has dropped the baton and that he has ran out the advantages of his anointing, that he could not possibly pick up an additional ten percent to gain the lion’s share of the votes according to surveys.

Let’s set aside the fact that Dean Tony La Vina is an adviser to Grace Poe. All arguments are basically flawed simply because the surveys don’t necessarily make the winner. Sure, it indicates the popularity of each candidate at the moment of the survey was taken and that still depends on the kind of questions one asks. In this tightly contested fight, it is not a solid reason to switch candidates.

Calling Grace Llamanzares’s American citizenship “the bitter pill,” is an absurd euphemism. We take the bitter pill to get cured. I don’t see how an Americana running the government will cure us of anything. She has not proven to have done anything heroic, she abandoned her native country (granting she is a natural born citizen) and seems to have to qualms at hitting on her former ally, Mar Roxas. She was sly at hiding her true intentions when President Aquino invited her for dinner with Mar Roxas, tagging along her ambitious Rasputin, Chiz Escudero. According to Rody Duterte, she even volunteered to become his vice-president at some point in time. Evidence is enough that Grace has looked at personalities rather than platforms when deciding for her political career. I have no reason to believe that she will do otherwise if ever she becomes the first American woman to be president (ahead of Hillary)

The truth is, Grace Llamanzares has tried so hard to paint herself as an underdog, thriving more than languishing in her numerous disqualification cases which brings her closer to the image of a Fernando Poe, Jr. who always has the last laugh, who makes his nemesis kiss the dirt in turn at the end of every action movie. In popular opinion and disregarding for a moment the constitution, no one ever actually wanted her disqualified or bullied on the basis of being a foundling. The question of her loyalty is aimed at the lie she committed in filing her certificate of candidacy  for Senator and her whimsical switching of citizenship whenever it was convenient.

Duterte’s claim to fame, by making Davao the 5th safest city in the world in the world is not a myth but the source saying that is not as reliable. Aside from the fact the Numbeo.com is user-generated and one can easily manipulate the results by having a bunch of people with internet access vote for a particular entry, how does Davao even compare to Manila, New York, Paris, or Tokyo?  It would be safe to say that a lot of people find Davao to be safe but if there should be a more credible survey to prove that. The  problems of a provincial capitol are different from a metropolis and it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that the crime index of a more densely populated city with more people living below the poverty line will automatically be higher. Rodrigo Duterte may have no problem dealing with all the drug runners and petty thieves of Davao City but multiply the average number of criminals by 122 (thats just the total number of cities) and you see the problem. How would one Rodrigo Duterte decide to summarily execute with precision all the criminals and all the corrupt officials? Shouldn’t his platform divulge how he would specifically put in effect an effective mechanism?  I don’t doubt the noble intention to stop criminality and corruption, by all means, it’s about time we take a tougher stance against these plagues but I doubt even with Solomonic wisdom that one person can carry the weight of deciding for the lives of all suspected criminals and drug pushers. I also see the problem of replicating the DDS, the Duterte/ Davao Death Squad in all provinces as this will inevitably run into conflict with our legitimate crime fighting agencies such as the NBI and the PNP. The constitution clearly mandates only the Philippine National Police as the only law enforcing unit of the nation. Besides, we are not only after the petty criminals, teenagers who might have lost their way at one time and be denied a chance to reform themselves later on. We are after the menace of organized crime and international drug cartels, of which Duterte has no record of eradicating. Again, the challenge: name all the drug lords you have killed and maybe I will change my mind and vote for you. Until then, you’re nothing but a braggart, a barrio toughie, good as the next goon, wife beater.

One of the main reasons why I singled out Mar Roxas among all the candidates is because of his clear opposition to Ferdinand Marcos, Jr.  While all the other four candidates have compromised in one way or another with the late dictator’s son, Roxas maintained a dignified position against corruption and historical revisionism. Mirriam Defensor-Santiago is the less-informed college student’s choice. She has a penchant for pick-up lines and passing it off as wit. She appeals to the pseudo-intellectual in her Stupid is forever, her best known book, which is a bit disappointing because she has written 30 other books on Law and the social sciences. While I don’t really blame her for voting against the conviction of Chief Justice Renato Corona, I still hold her accountable for voting against the opening of the second envelop during the impeachment trial of Erap Estrada, even if she probably only insisted on the rules of evidence in a highly irregular court. But what about the mansion at Loyola Grand Villas? Didn’t she vow to jump off a plane if Erap Estrada is arrested? (He was arrested and convicted alright)

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From the April 27, 2001 issue Opinion Page page of the Philippine Daily Inquirer. One reader demands a stop to Mirriam Defensor Santiago’s bizaare promises. She lost the next election.

She is an opportunist with serious insecurities about her intellectual capacity, who would lie about having cancer and beating it to appeal to the emotion of her gullible voters. It would take a miracle to cure 4th stage cancer and how often do miracles happen on politicos? She is running with Bongbong Marcos, who seem to have no problem entertaining the idea of a tandem with Duterte, even after her partnership with Defensor-Santiago has been officially announced.

This is the kind of world we live in today.

The same case with Llamanzares who suddenly worked up the myth the she is the daughter of the late dictator. Nabuang na!

While Duterte has firmly said that Cayetano is his running mate, he seems to have no qualms at saying that he will handover the presidency to Marcos, Jr. if he doesn’t solve criminality in three to six months. I don’t know if the guy has temporary amnesia but statements like that only prove Duterte’s weakness to his commitments. He was annulled once, maintains two other concubines, dilly-dallied on running for president, flipped on his friendship with Roxas, and even said Binay is more qualified than him to run for president. What is this guy playing with public opinion? You’re supposed to be running for president because you think no one else is more qualified to run.

If Llamanzares and Duterte are the bitter pill then I would rather sink with my “losing” candidate. I did not support an unpopular candidate from the begginning only to bow down to his being a lost cause. That’s just ironic. He is a lost cause, precisely why most of us are sticking it out with him ’til the “bitter” end.

I was already old enough to remember when the great and beloved Jovito Salonga ran and placed sixth among ten other candidates in the 1992 presidential race. This was after he voted “No” against the continuation of US Bases in the country.  I remember my father voted for Fidel Ramos because he was of the opinion that Jovito Salonga, his best choice, will not win and his vote better add up to a more winnable candidate. Little did he know that a lot of his friends had the same reasons and if all of them had voted according to their best instincts then maybe, just maybe, Jovy Salonga would have a chance at winning. This was how the Filipino was fooled into having a lesser candidate assume the presidency in 1992.

The best advise one can give is to search your heart and vote for the presidential candidate you want regardless of popularity or winnability. Jose Marti, the national hero of Cuba, once said that “The first duty of a man is to think for himself”. Our duty as citizens is to accurately reflect the will of the people by merely being true to our individual choices. No need to take the bitter pill because that’s only putting yourself under a more ideological illusion that surveys are scientific and therefore infallible. Medicine is scientific but it does not guarantee complete accuracy even with the most advance technology.

While I believe that Mar has the Lord’s anointing in this election, I would be the first to say that it is only my humble opinion and I never really used that belief to convince anyone to vote for him. Judging from the way he has conducted his campaign and choosing Vice-President Leni Robredo, a remarkable woman, I’d say that Mar has been the most circumspect among the candidates. If he wins, I’m sure he will try even harder to use his power to bring the nation to greater progress. If he loses, he can always bank on his track record as a leader of the opposition.

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LIBERAL PARTY STALWARTS LED BY FORMER DECS SECRETARY BUTCH ABAD (THIRD FR LEFT), FORMER SENATE PRESIDENT FRANK DRILON, PARTY PRESIDENT, SENATOR MAR ROXAS, SENATOR BENIGNO “NOYNOY” S. AQUINO III, CONG. RUFFY BIAZON, SEN. RODOLFO BIAZON AND CAVITE REP. JUN ABAYA, (FIFTH FROM LEFT) MARCH ALONG AYALA AVENUE IN MAKATI CITY DURING THE ANTI-CHACHA RALLY HELD ON Friday, DEC. 12,2008. AROUND 30,000 PROTESTERS ATTENDED THE OCCASION.

When I first saw him, the Liberal Party was composed of a few good men and was held in a higher esteem. One cannot have a memory too short to recall that only a few years ago, the Liberal Party congressmen and senators, among them Noynoy Aquino, Franklin Drilon, and Mar Roxas, marched with the people on the streets and fighting for a good cause, and that many years ago, though most of them were harassed and imprisoned and even sabotaged, they were the only political party which never compromised with Marcos regime.#

On Mar’s bad publicity

Before anything else, I would like to assure readers of this blog that I’m writing about our politicians without the support from any of them or any personal relation to them. While I confess that I’ve been supporting Mar Roxas, I will also say that I did so on my own volition. My personal circumstances would have seemed to naturally lead me to support other candidates. I was born in a town heavily devastated by Typhoon Haiyan. I was working in Manila when the storm made landfall but we still have close relatives from there so my opinion versus those who were actually there on November 8, 2014 should be treated with less credibility. I am here to convince based on the strength of my logic and not on the pathos of personal experience.

I also graduated in UP and in my early college years I was a student activist participating in demonstrations organized by a left-leaning organization. In one of those demonstrations I encountered Mar Roxas, who was speaking in rally along Ayala Avenue against the abuses of the Gloria Macapagal Arroyo administration. I also met Cayetano in another rally at the Sandiganbayan, but I will discuss him in another article. With what I knew then,  I hated oligarchs and anything that would perpetuate their rule but Mar Roxas seemed different.

The only time I met the man again was inside his house in Cubao early this year.  I didn’t even bother getting a photo taken with him or shaking his hand. I was there to get campaign materials (which I would have willingly paid for as a donation to his campaign had they not been given for free to me by a friend). Yes, there was free food, and I was worried that the catering was too frivolous so I hesitated to partake of it at first but I noticed that the spaghetti was made from corned beef and served with softdrinks and Cheez Whiz sandwiches (though served by waiters). Yes that’s the kind of food they serve at the Balay, the mansion on the corner of P. Tuazon and EDSA. Music came from the tinkling of a piano player. Short to say, for the upper crust Mar Roxas, I think it was an economical albeit elegantly conducted affair. This small detail among other things convinced me that the man is decent.

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It seems that whatever publicity you make for Mar would turn out bad eventually. He’s a walking lesson on the irony of politics.

My facebook feed is dominated by supporters of Grace Poe and Rody Duterte. The Grace Poe supporters are characters I used to know from my days as a student activist since Neri Colmenares, a candidate I still admire for his hardline on certain issues, is on her senatorial slate. That aside, how Neri Colmenares and the Philippine left reconcile their principles with bourgeois elections and with a candidate like Grace Poe who is supported by ruthless capitalists like Danding Cojuangco, et al. flusters me. The Duterte feed usually comes from my kababayans and from time to time, I do admire his stand on certain issues but in the long view, I find that I disagree with him on many other important issues like his human rights violations and opting to honor Ferdinand Marcos with a burial at the Libingan ng mga Bayani as discussed in an earlier post.

The latest on my facebook feed is a repost of Lottie Sallarda’s comments about a comic book on Mar Roxas distributed in Cavite. My friend thus have these to ask:

None of the survivors would proclaim this guy as a hero…
1. He didn’t come prepared. No satellite phone?
2. Precious time was lost searching for this lost “hero” after the storm.
3. Ping Lacson was placed to help get the job done. Where was Mar then? Where is Ping now?
4. He said the donations have now been provided… Maybe he meant spent? For government offices? But not for victims? He says the money was already disbursed to the LGUs and agencies. So as a “leader”, he can’t be responsible for what happened next?

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From Lottie Sallarda: I was there. Many survivors were there also. I was even present during the press conference where he said that there will be a meeting at 8:00am on November 8. Meaning, he NEVER knew that the storm will hit as early as 5am. Tapos ngayon HERO siya? Wala siyang alam. It will be between his story and our stories. To all Roxas supporters, I’m sorry but your Presidential candidate is insane.
….

In response to the facebook post of my friend above: I would like to say the following things. I didn’t post it as a reply to his post because I think provincialism has gotten the better of my friend and I don’t think I can convince him now or in the following months to swing his vote for Mar. That’s just not my style. This is an appeal to those who can still see things beyond the cloud of propaganda.

1. He didn’t come prepared. No satellite phone?

He had a satellite phone which he lent to Ted Failon so he can report about the events on national radio and TV. According to the account of Renato Reyes,  Bayan Secretary General, perennial contrabida to anyone in Malacanang and staunch critic of Roxas, the satellite phone was given to him by the Armed Forces of the Philippines on the day of the landfall. According to Reyes as quoted in the article, “the AFP marched from Calbayog to give that satellite phone to Mar.” (translation mine) . I’m not sure if Reyes was actually in Leyte on November 8 to have witnessed the march of the soldiers or the satellite phone being given to Mar Roxas. He was in Tacloban on November 23 according to this post.  but if his critics said he had a satellite phone then he probably had it. At least, di ba?

2. Precious time was lost searching for this lost “hero” after the storm.

Mar Roxas was there before the the storm made land fall. According to some accounts he was staying in a hotel. What so wrong with that? Where do you expect him to be billeted? As I recall, there are no five star hotels in Tacloban so he must’ve been staying in a three star hotel which again is not only economical but decent for a government official. Makikitulog ba siya sa bahay mo?

There was also no precious time lost to search for Mar Roxas. By the time the storm had subsided he was already gathering round the troops and media and directing the initial response to the storm. He even rose up earlier than the Mayor of Tacloban whom he found “still shaking.” All of these are on public record and if one only bothered to Google what he was doing at that time, there wouldn’t be stupid questions like that running wild on facebook.

Now, where were the other presidential candidates? More than two weeks in a high-pressure situation is long enough, even soldiers in the trenches of World War I needed to be replaced every two weeks in the battlefield. Duterte arrived there on Day 4. His supporters tried to villify Roxas through a fake account of his stay there but the truth is, he went there, asked for coffee and made sure his efforts were shared on social media, and even on his own radio show. That’s why we know he was there. Both Duterte and Roxas did their jobs and laid their life on the line during those trying times, so in fairness, let’s just thank both for actually simply being there and helping out.

3. Ping Lacson was placed to help get the job done. Where was Mar then? Where is Ping now?

Ping Lacson was a rehabilitation czar for more than a year until he called it quits. He is accusing local officials for deliberately delaying much needed help for the victims so they can pin the blame on Malacañang. This serious accusation needs to addressed by the local officials concerned.

Meanwhile, Mar Roxas was handing out cheques coursed through the national government for the LGUs to kickstart their own rehabilitation projects. A more sober Mayor Romualdez even apologized at this gesture but Mar thought he didn’t need to.

4. He said the donations have now been provided… Maybe he meant spent? For government offices? But not for victims? He says the money was already disbursed to the LGUs and agencies. So as a “leader”, he can’t be responsible for what happened next?

The national government could not possibly bypass LGUs without their express consent because this is not a dictatorship. Mar never said he was no longer responsible for the funds. In fact, he is the one being egged by the commission on Audit for this. As is common knowledge for those who have transacted with the government, accounting for the budget provided would mainly come for the agency who spent it. So, in fairness, lets say, the responsibility is shared. Lastly, let us look at other towns and cities, affected by Haiyan aside from Tacloban. In other towns in Samar, rehabilitation is well on its way.  Could it be that rehabilitation moves faster in towns where there is less politics? Even if only for good publicity, it would be to the President’s and the ruling party’s benefit reconstructions went smoothly. What have the other’s got to say about this?

Regarding that post by Lottie Sallarda, did she know the storm was going to hit at 5am? Did she know how strong and lasting the storm would be, because Mayor Romualdez did not even know what storm surge was up until the whole thing blew up in his face. Should we blame Mar Roxas or any other government officials who were helping despite enduring stressful days and nights, all the while taking bad publicity?

Lottie Sallarda, may have been there and she might have done good things but her record of goodwill is not under attack.

It was only right of Roxas to respond to his critics. I do think Mar Roxas is a bit insane for running for president. Yes, Mar is a good man and everyone can see that he is really trying hard to become closer to the people he is serving, at the expense of getting ridiculed for the most inane things such as eating noodles from a cup, lying down on block of ice, or falling off his motorcycle. If he has been accused of being too showbiz, it seemed like it was an attempt to reach out to people who understand showbiz more than politics and who will listen better to actors and actresses from their favorite telenovelas than from him. Taking things into perspective, this trying hard to be masa politico is formerly a Wall Street economist by profession, a privileged kid from birth, an Atenista and Ivy-league alum, grandson of a former President and son of a popular Senator (who fought the Marcos regime until his death). You can imagine how hard it must be for him to relate but the effort alone should be commendable.

This leads me to conclude that the comic book was more of an expression of guilt on Roxas side that he wasn’t able to do more. Roxas is open about his guilt over and his perceived lackluster performance during the relief operations for Yolanda and he isn’t claiming to be a hero. In fact, he is haunted by it, like all good men who risked their lives to help. Though the illustrations in the comic book did make him seem heroic, the word was never used to describe Mar Roxas. It is interesting to note that most of the images were illustrated from actual photos. It would probably make a good semiotic or visual culture study someday. If only badly informed critics on social media skimmed through the book, they would know that it wasn’t all about his performance in Typhoon Haiyan but about his motivations and long career of standing for what he thinks is right in his twenty-year career as a politician. It implores everyone of us to take a wider perspective of Mar’s career. No one else among those in the running was given such a long time in a place of power and accomplished so much for legislature and the economy or came out without a taint of corruption.

His personal circumstances and botched publicity campaign is an easy target for people who don’t have the attention span for in depth reading or the proper understanding that seeks out the context of a meme. My conclusion after weighing the pros and cons of running for president is that Mar is not out for the position for his own personal good. History has shown us that it is precisely in the types of Mar Roxas that we drew the heroes of the Propaganda Movement and the 1896 Revolution. Don’t you think Antonio Luna was the kind of misunderstood figure in history who didn’t have the mass appeal of a Rizal or an Aguinaldo, who didn’t quite fit in the Malolos Congress full of turncoats, Americanistas and demagogues. Don’t you think Antonio Luna was a victim of his own bad publicity? Up until a hundred years later someone made a movie out of him and now he’s everyone’s favorite hero? Puñeta!

You may say its too much to compare Roxas with Luna and I would be first to say that was not my primary point, but in the long view of history, we know that the sincere characters are not necessarily the most popular. #

Marcos at Libingan ng mga Bayani

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Imelda Marcos kissing the glass coffin of the preserved and decorated corpse of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos. Paoay, Ilocos, Norte, Philippines.

In a recent article from the Philippine Daily Inquirer after the second Presidential Debates, I read Duterte’s reasons why he is in favor for the late dictator President Ferdinand Marcos to be interred at the Libingan ng mga Bayani.

Among them, I would like to dispute the following:

  1. Because the Ilocanos consider Ferdinand Marcos as a hero and that somehow “someone’s gotta give” about the issue.
  2. That the burial of President Marcos will allow the nation to heal.

Setting aside Duterte’s braggadocio and opinions which always try to be sincere to be typical of a no non-sense crime fighter, both statements came out inherently flawed. First, not all Ilocanos consider Ferdinand Marcos as a hero. President Fidel Ramos is Ilocano and has worked closely with the President Marcos and has had the powers to inter the former president at the Libingan ng mga Bayani, but he did not. To consider Marcos a hero and to oppose the crimes committed by his person and his regime, simply do not jibe. And we need a president to continue prosecuting the Marcoses for the irreversible crimes they have committed to the Filipino people.

Over the years there has been a reassessment or, some say, a revisionist tide, favoring the accomplishments of the Marcos regime as reflected by ill-informed individuals who have the propensity to display their ignorance on social media. Historians may have a more sober opinion, but none of them if they still have some self-respect will dispute the human rights violations, the wrecking of the Philippine economy, and the Marcos family’s ill-gotten wealth. All of those are in court records. The only reason, why the Marcoses are not in jail is because the government is negotiating for them to return the ill-gotten wealth and in many of the cases, the family members are not the primary respondents.

It is in the natural interest of the Marcos family to have President Ferdinand Marcos buried in the Libingan to diminish the negative image brought on by their their convictions. But let us not be deceived, they are convicted thieves. (as recorded in that New York Times article). The interest therefore is not simply to fight for what one former president deserves but what would be etched in our national memory.

Why Duterte wants to give the place of honor to Ferdinand Marcos is telling of his stance against corruption and traditional politics. That he would rather have the victims of human rights abuses to give in (in other words to compromise) to the ulterior motives of the Marcoses proves he has less regard for the overwhelming will of the people, as enduringly manifested  when they marched through EDSA in February 1986. The late “strongman” extended his term unlawfully, faked his military records to gain a medal of valor (the highest military honor of the republic), and amassed for himself billions of dollars of offshore and escrow accounts. Imelda Marcos’s shopping spree in Saks Fifth Avenue, the legendary collection of shoes, and unbelievable art collection (Titian, Rembrandt, Monet, and Delacroix are among the works still kept in her possession) have earned her a dictionary entry for a kind of vanity so unspeakable it can only be compared to hers. Marcos was kicked out of the country for many reasons, not the least of them because the people think, they have brought shame to the Filipino nation.

Duterte takes a more alarming tone in this statement:

“I said we need to unite this country. Then I would submit it, a sort of a consensus and then a plebiscite. Then I will decide what is best for this country.”


While it seems only just of him to subject such decisions to public vote, he forgot or does not care at all about the cost of deciding where to bury one dead man. It has costed New Zealand roughly seventeen million dollars to decide via plebiscite if they wanted to adopt a new design for their flag. One can only imagine, how much it would cost the Filipinos to settle an issue of less importance. Duterte toys with the idea of democracy as if it works as simply as putting a bullet through one’s head. You cannot draw your gun every time someone disagrees with your “judgement”. Duterte fails to mention, that our republic has installed a system for deciding things like this: through the two houses of congress. Why go through a plebiscite right away and why not let our solons propose it on the senate floor if this issue is a concern of the people? The statement shows a lack of understanding on how democracy works and a bloated image of one’s self righteousness “I will decide what’s best for this country.” Let us remember that Duterte’s mandate, if he wins and if ever, we are to believe the surveys will only come from 25% of the entire population. Duterte’s decisions might echo the sentiments of the majority of Ilocanos or his rabid supporters but it does not prove that what he commands is necessarily what’s best for the nation.

Duterte perhaps sees himself too much in the image and likeness of the late dictator, so widely admired for his own personal mythology that he sees the need to foreshadow his own actions in light of his treatment of a fellow despot. The point he is trying to send across is that while Marcos may have been a deplorable human rights violator like him, he deserves a heroes burial anyway. The argument that he is for unity and healing is preposterous without a call for justice. Duterte needs to acknowledge that even if Marcos was a great man in the eyes of the majority (which he is not), even the cry for justice of one is enough to withhold honors at the national pantheon.

The process of memorializing our dead greats at the Libingan ng mga Bayani follows a strict protocol patterned after the US conduct of a state funeral to guide our politicians so they can go beyond their personal inclinations. Not all presidents have been granted a state funeral and not everyone apparently have been given a place at the Libingan ng mga Bayani. While it is true that Marcos is dead and cannot do much harm if he were buried there, what this implies for our nation’s culture infested with impunity will be catastrophic. Mr. Duterte’s view of the nation is skewed because of his lack of understanding of the spirits that propel its existence, chief among them are the spirits of the 1896 revolution, and of EDSA people power which continue to define the political landscape up to this moment. In 1896 and in EDSA of 1986, the so-called heroes who have potentially committed an injustice to their comrades have not been honored nationally.

Contrary to his opinion, opting to bury a disputable late president in his hometown has been the favored and more unifying option. Let’s compare the insistence of the Marcos family and politicos like Rodrigo Duterte to the fate of President Emilio Aguinaldo, revolutionary hero and first president of the republic. (one who actually engaged his enemies and not invented them for backpay). Consider this:

On May 9, 1962, the US House of Representatives rejected Philippine claims for an additional $73 million payment for the destruction wrought by American forces in World War II. In retaliation, President Diosdado Macapagal changed the celebration of Independence Day from July 4 to June 12. Aguinaldo regarded this as the greatest victory of the Revolution of 1896. He rose from his sickbed to attend the celebration of independence 64 years after he declared it.

Macapagal recalled, “While we were seated at the grandstand during the ceremonies, General Aguinaldo thanked me again for the rectification of an erroneous historical practice and then asked: ‘When will there be an Aguinaldo monument at the Luneta like that of Rizal?’  Macapagal could not answer the question. The next generation might have the answer.”

(reposted from this website by Arnaldo Dumindin in verbatim)

Why was Emilio Aguinaldo not allowed such honor? We can surmise that it was Aguinaldo’s personal responsibility in the execution of Katipunan Supremo Andres Bonifacio and the assassination of General Antonio Luna. Unless, questions of his involvement are squarely resolved in the courts of justice and in public opinion, it will be an uneasy move to have Emilio Aguinaldo buried in the same manner as Rizal (who is buried in the capitol). Aguinaldo, who is a revered personality in Cavite, then and now, would have to be content with where he is. All of the other candidates have no qualms burying Marcos in his own shrine (he already has one) but not at the expense of a government he has already taken so much from.

Like Aguinaldo, unless Marcos is cleared of any responsibility from the killings of what would have been our natural cycle of leaders, his interment at the Libingan will only cause further divisiveness. I will invoke the names of the following heroes: Benigno Aquino, Jr., Edgar Jopson, and Evelio Javier.

I would like Rodrigo Duterte to tell the Filipino outright that the deaths of our heroes Aquino, Jopson, and Javier should be sacrificed for the sake of the late dictators burial at the Libingan.

While Aquino’s death is still the stuff of conspiracy theories, the very fact that one strongman cannot guarantee the safety of a former Senator, much more his fraternity brother, will put to question the kind of ‘heroism’ that Marcos displayed while he sat as President. It is not clear who gave the marching orders but the involvement of the military in the assassination has long been established. For a president with an unparalleled command of the military, as a true hero, would he have done something to prevent the murder of a Senator, his fraternity brod, a good man?

Rodrigo Duterte should also reconsider, for the sake of Edgar Jopson who worked and died in his beloved Davao City as a mass worker in the underground during Martial Law. Edjop who was a mild social democrat turned radical in the face of a ruthless dictatorship. An Atenean, born to a well-to-do family, he served the cause of the revolution in Mindanao at the expense of his own bourgeoisie comfort.

In 1981, with a P180,000 prize on his head, making him then one of the most wanted persons in the country, Jopson simply went on with his work; he went to Mindanao, learning and writing, developing insights into the unique characteristics that shaped the region’s history and present situation. On September 20, 1982, he was captured during a military raid in Davao City, shot while trying to escape, taken alive, brought to the military camp and interrogated. He refused to “cooperate” and was summarily executed the following day. He was 34 years old.

Tell us Rody, what is so heroic about forcing the hopeful and idealistic student activists to radicalize? What is so heroic about his summary execution? His murder?

Evelio Javier, who was elected governor of Antique at the age of 29, served as Corazon Aquino’s campaign manager in 1986. At the time of his death, Javier represented the new face and future of democracy, when gentlemen of his intellect, and integrity would rule over the nation.

But five days after the snap presidential elections in 1986, Javier was shot dead by hooded men in broad daylight and less than 100 meters away from the provincial capitol where election returns were being canvassed and tallied. The first volley wounded Javier but the assassins were able to corner and finish him off some distance away.

What kind of hero is Marcos who cannot even prevent his men to stand down and let the people excercise their freedom to choose their leaders? What kind of hero, allows the murder of Javier and many others under his watch?

The general rule of thumb in heroes burials is that you do not have to ask for it. If the people really consider you their hero, then there’s no use lobbying or begging for it. I would suppose, even Marcos himself would not have stuck his neck out for a plot in the Libingan. That’s just not his style. With the kind of imagination that made a Mt. Rushmore out of the La Union ramparts, he must’ve imagined entire parks even cities named and built in his honor. But Alas! There were bigger heroes than Marcos during those times who deserve the honor of being buried in our national pantheon, of being named high schools for, cities, and parks. Mr. Marcos, with whatever good he has done, would be last on the list with these giants.

Nakakahiya naman sa kanila! That we waste so much time and resources for Mr. Marcos. To think that only a week before the second presidential debates the revered statesman, Jovito Salonga was laid to rest in his hometown in Pasig. And he was a real hero of World War II, with an indisputable record as a prisoner-of-war and member of the resistance. Why can’t he be buried at the Libingan ng mga Bayani?

Who will benefit from disturbing intering Apo Macoy at Libingan ? Who are the suckers who will say yes to a demand like this just because historical revisionism overwhelms them? That even a former president like Marcos does not necessarily get a state funeral and burial at the Libingan ng mga Bayani, makes our national pantheon even more prestigious. If only our true heroes can have an opinion if they can lie beside a former dictator.

Finally, what’s up with the Marcos family displaying his waxed corpse inside a glass coffin? It seems so bizarre nowadays you would think it was a trivia straight out of Ripley’s Believe it or not.  Even the majority of Russia want Lenin, still remembered with reverence all over the world, buried than chemically preserved. One can not speak for the dead but I’m sure not Lenin or Marcos, would give a rats arse wherever may their earthly body will finally rest in peace. Yes, Marcos deserves a heroes burial for those who consider him a hero, so let’s ask his widow and not the Filipino people to do that for him.#

Links (Further readings):

The article being discussed: http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/775359/duterte-favors-burying-marcos-at-heroes-cemetery

New York Times article on the conviction of Imelda Marcos for corruption published in 1993. http://www.nytimes.com/1993/09/24/world/marcos-convicted-of-graft-in-manila.html

Manifesto of Ateneo Professors against the historical revisions regarding the Marcos regime http://www.philstar.com/headlines/2016/03/03/1559107/ateneo-profs-condemn-historical-distortion-marcos-era

Guidelines and protocols on state funerals and burials at the Libingan ng mga Bayani http://malacanang.gov.ph/76818-presidential-funerals/

Great articles and photos on the Philippine American War where the account of Aguinaldo asking for a burial like one accorded to Jose Rizal is mentioned. http://philippineamericanwar.webs.com/aguinaldo19021964.htm

Profile of Edgar Jopson at the Bantayog ng mga Bayani http://www.bantayog.org/?p=1135

Profile of Evelio Javier at the Bantayog ng mga Bayani http://www.bantayog.org/?p=1126

When the Mt. Rushmore at La Union was blasted http://www.philstar.com/headlines/189715/marcos-bust-blasted

News article on Jovito Salonga, true hero and former Senate President was laid to rest in his hometown in Pasig. http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/774431/jovito-salonga-true-son-of-pasig-buried-amid-hometown-reverence

On Majority of Russians wanting Lenin to be buried https://www.rt.com/politics/154240-lenin-burial-poll-mausoleum/

Rachmaninoff sa pelikula

Rachmaninov: Symfonie no.2 op. 27
Radio Filharmonisch Orkest olv. Eivind Gullberg Jensen
3 oktober Concertgebouw Amsterdam

The Best of Sergei Vasilievich Rachmaninoff (1 April [O.S. 20 March] 1873 — 28 March 1943)

Napanood ko si Rene Requiestas nitong nakaraang lingo na sumisipol ng isang pamilyar na melodiya. Ang pelikula: isang comedy ni Ishmael Bernal at ang kanta: “The man I love” ni Gershwin. Ibang klaseng komedyante talaga siya.

Sa kabila ng sinasabing pagiging tanga ng mga awiting nako-compose ngayon, lalo lamang akong namamangha sa husay ng mga musikero. Kung paano sila nakakalikha ng isang catchy tune o kung paano nagtutugma ang mga komplikadong nota at tipa sa isang awit. Maikukumpara ang hirap ng pagkompose sa pagkukumpuni ng isang complex mathematical problem. Mas lantad ang husay na ito sa mga kontemporaneoung musikero na nagbibigay ng bagong buhay sa mga piyesang klasikal.

Napakilala ako kay Rachmaninoff dahil kay Frank Sinatra. Sa isang eksena sa musikal na ‘Anchors Aweigh’ tinugtog niya ang isang bahagi ng simponiya blg. 2 sa piano. Habang pinakikikinggan ang pangalawang galaw ng naturang simponiya bigla kong natunugan ang isang pamilyar ni awit, ang “Never gonna fall in love” ni Eric Carmen na sumikat noong 1970s. Sa isang movement naman, ang kantang “All by myself”.

Nalaman ko rin na ang simponiya ni Rachmaninoff din ang ginamit sa isang OST ng pelikulang ‘Birdman’.

Kilala si Rachmaninoff, isang musikerong Ruso,  bilang pinakamahusay na pianista ng kanyang panahon, kabilang sa mga huling kinatawan ng Romanitisismo sa Russian classical music.

May impluwensiya nina Tchaikovsky, Rimsky-Korsakov, at iba pang Rusong compositor ang kanyang mga unang likha pero nagbunga ang impluwensiyang ito ng ng isang personal na estilo na kapansin-pansin dahil sa kanyang mala-awit na melodiya, ekspresibo, at mayaman sa orkestral na kulay. Prominente ang mga tipa ng piano sa mga komposisyon ni Rachmaninoff, at dahil bihasa sa pagtatanghal, nabigyang-buhay niya ang maraming damdamin na maaring ipadanas ng instrumento.

Giselle

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Works that have been standing for centuries often have one thing in common: transformation. It is a timeless fascination in watching a man changed before your eyes, to be resurrected as something else.

The young girl Giselle took the stage for the first time in 1841. The frame is traditional, there are village girls, rises on the square and celebration of the grape harvest. But already here introduces a disturbing element: Giselle is the dancer who can not tolerate dancing. His mother begs Giselle not to tempt fate, not dance themselves warm. Her heart is too weak and can break.

It is the mother herself who paints the old legend about dead virgins and thus Giselle’s own destiny. But Giselle must love, and she must dance. She dances into madness when betrayal to her chosen one Albrecht dawns on her, falls, gets up, tearing out their hair, and dancing to the heart stopping.

The transformation into madness is total, but in death she will again be transformed to an ethereal creature – one wili.

Giselle is a ballet where dance is not just the cause of death, it is also killing method. In the second act demonstrates wilis, the failure, died virgins, how they lure men to themselves and dancing them to death.

As romantic icon is Giselle complete, as a woman ideal problematic: sacrificial, forever loving and weightless. Her self-destruction goes Ibsen Solveig a high time. As death dance Giselle for Albrechts life, she will be returning to the tomb while Albrecht will live on with his betrayal.

With a background of painted stage curtains and romantic tutu is no outer renewal we seek when we set up the classic Giselle. The renewal is in how the drug is interpreted today. How steps recreated and phrasing of the dancers on stage in front of you tonight.

The choreography is like one long breath, a sigh, echoed through the room. The frame is a fairy tale ballet, but it is the sincerity and humanity in the performance that makes Giselle can be danced at all times.

So it is in the fairy tale, so is it in the ballet. The human heart is changed utterly nothing on earth.

to be continued…

Cronopios and famas

A few weeks ago i saw a video on youtube of Julio Cortazar explaining what Cronopios and Famas meant, the title of his books that carried some of his most poignant non-fiction works. Cortazar was wearing a navy tunic shirt and sunglasses that made him look like a bee. It was the 70s and his hirsute appearance made him look like a dislocated hermit or an old testament prophet. 

Last December, as I was scouring bookstores in Manila, i chanced upon a copy of Cronopios y Famas, which was rare as manila bookstore only featured popular titles and even rarer for them to carry a title that has been out of print for a long time. I would argue that the book belonged to the classics section but seeing thay no one knew this it was shelved along with general fiction titles. I finally decided to buy it today.

Reports from a city after a revolution

Filipina reporter Esperanza Roma was based in Paris most her life. She reported about the events during the so called EDSA People Power Revolution. She photographed Malacanang, Luneta Hotel in Manila, and the Metropolitan Theater.

After the EDSA Revolution in Manila, I spent several months in the old city and photographed the destruction left by the people. For someone like me, who had never experienced going to a rally or a mobilization which was what my old classmates were doing throughout the dictatorship, the experience was thrilling.

It took 20 years for me the fate led back to Manila. Large parts of the town center had now been renewed but are now dishevelled. Corazon Aquino, who was temporarily the Philippines revolutionary leader, had taken over a Malacanang presidential palace which was looted and in disarray. Books, paintings, and documents were among the things gone. Just this week she has closed the palace from the public for renovation.
I took advantage of my visit to become familiar to the land of my birth. Our family migrated to South Africa when I was 7 and then further to Germany and then finally settled in Paris when I was about to go to college. Some locations of this city, had already impressed me earlier, such as the Metropolitan Theater. Its renovation was long since decided, but for some reason they had not yet taken place and it continues to exist in an almost permanent state of decaying without totally going into ruins.
As I approached the Manila Hotel, where I stayed, I saw that the tall, makeshift walls that had been built long ago to block vandals and squatters access, were still standing. I was fortunate to be able once again to photograph the inside of this fenced area.
At that time, on my first visit, I had completely overlooked the smaller victorian-era building across the park: the Luneta Hotel. Now I went in and was immediately fascinated by what I saw: a dusty chandelier, broken furniture, walls that showed 25 years of natural degredation without any human intervention. This rarely happens. The similarity between these walls and expressionist paintings that some of artist-friends have been exploring was striking. I decided to photograph them in close-ups, showing the texture of the details. Anyone who considers these photos will uncover something which is in plain view but which remains a secret because of the enormity of the subject. These walls are not just my perception or simply the expression of the vision of an artist, but are documents of a natural and ever-changing archaeology:  art that stems from the irrepressible wiles of nature upon our built heritage.