20 September, 2012

the mist just gets murkier... but who knows, really

i haven't even set foot on my blogger dash since early this year... i just want to post this for now, Markki Stroem's version of this viral song just lifted my spirits a while ago... hopefully this will get me to sparing some time to blog again...

thus spake the Barefoot Baklesa

02 February, 2012

a bit late for new year, but just in time... and a familiar song

[Simeon's Canticle by Hangad]

Every year, the Barefoot Baklesa makes it a point to post this video come the feast of Candlemass; also known as the feast of The Presentation of the Child Jesus in the Temple -and in some places, the venerated image of Our Lady of Candelaria [Candles] is celebrated.

If you are a practicing Catholic, tradition dictates that the candles for all the rituals and ceremonies of the church are to be blessed on this day. And by some measure, this day marks the countdown for the beginning of the Lenten Season. For the Barefoot Baklesa, the second of February is the official end of the Christmas Season... Yes, he keeps his Christmas decorations up until the middle of February. If you saw them, you would know why he would want to keep them up a bit longer...

But enough of that... just watch the video if you have time to spare.

thus spake the Barefoot Baklesa

05 November, 2011

A Great Light Upon the Stage: Salvador Floro Bernal, National Artist for Theater and Design

"The weight of this sad time we must obey. Speak what we feel, not what we ought to say..."

It is with a heavy heart that I resume my posts in this blog. On Wednesday, the 26th of October, I woke up to a text message from a dear friend, Monette Alfon [writer, director, a student and friend of Sir Badong, who had also been my teacher] that our mentor Salvador Bernal, National Artist for Theater and Design had passed away. My immediate reaction was of disbelief and sheer panic. Grief would not manifest itself until moments later...

I hurriedly sent a message to former teachers, PATDAT members, and schoolmates who were also members of Tanghalang Ateneo. Tita Monette's message was for real, but apart of me wanted to confirm it -as if tangible time and space is mutable enough for it not to be real. To give thee an idea of how manic that message was, I quote: "I just got a message from Tita Monette saying Sir Badong is dead. Is this for real? I stand between the precipice and I may lose it."

For the composure expected of me, that was probably not my best moment; and the dumbest text message question to ever come out of my shaking hands. Philosophy says much about truth and how much we are presented with it, yet we refuse to accept. And moments later, my dear friend, Sandro Lopa gives me a call. That was when i bawled, and no modicum of composure was left in me.

"Oh my god, he's dead..." and many other things like, "I never even got to see him last year at Saint Luke's" or "I was supposed to invite him to see our movie." and perhaps the most painful of all, "He did not even get to see the proofing copy of my book." And for lack of any way of putting it, my tears never fell so for anyone else in my life, the way it fell for Sir Badong.

And after that, Ara Fernando, Dr. Ricky Abad, and Eric Pineda let the bitter reality come to form. There was no way of molding it to another reality sans tears, sans sighs, sans this emptiness.

I was a deluded showtune singing college sophomore at the Ateneo de Manila when I met Sir Badong. I was the cliche theater major who was raised listening to 45RPMs of Jesus Christ Superstar, Camelot, and West Side Story, totally skipping over classical Greek Drama and Shakespeare to lip-sync to the Complete Symphonic Recording of Les Miz. I had entered the Theater Arts Program of the Ateneo entirely oblivious of what we define as classical theater training.

But even though I took Theater Arts as a major, I really had no idea what kind of theater practitioner I was going to be -part idealistic, part too young to care. It was not until I started helping out with the gold leaf transfer sheets on the jewelry pieces of Twelfth Night that I began to consider working in Production Design. I began sitting-in at Sir Badong's Production Design Classes even though I was not to take the course for about two more semesters. And as Aesthetics, Interdisciplinary Approaches to the Arts, Production Design, and production work for Tanghalang Ateneo marked the time, Sir Badong's influence changed how I viewed the world of the Theater.

It was the collaborative creative partnership of Dr. Ricardo Abad and Professor Salvador Bernal that advocated the identity of the Filipino and the Asian in every endeavor upon the Ateneo stage. Shakespeare's Illyria became a Tropical Pan-Asiatic Paradise with a gilded Menangkabau house that transformed as it turned, Segismundo's tower became a labyrinth of mirrors clutched by a giant hand in La Vida es Sueno, Padua became Paracale in 1913 Philippines for Taming of the Shrew, and many other worlds in their infinite variety made me believe in the possibility of the impossible in the theater.

Sir Badong would say in a tone of voice that was his and his alone, "Niki, your costumes look like a variety show's -Change it!" I had not picked up a pencil to draw after I turned thirteen. It was during Sir Badong's Production Design Class that I started to draw again. It was when I picked up a watercolor brush to draw costume plates, learned costume plot palettes, proportion, operatic scale, building maquettes or bocetos, learned drape and fold. And above all this, Sir Badong taught me how an entire stage, just by looking at a single detail or curlicue, can tell a story. How its scenic transformations can be as magical as their picturesque end. How in a falling scrim, men are made or broken. He taught me to look at the hidden meanings in art. The conditions to which a costume developed and why it was worn a certain way. He taught me how to defend my work and to stand by it.

My greatest flaw as a Production Designer, they say, is "over-thinking designs". But if you knew where we, his students, were coming from, you would see why. [Pausing here, sigh]

Nothing will come from nothing, he once reiterated. A Production Designer can't just say, "Feel ko lang eh" [I just feel like it] every time he comes up with a design concept. A cohesive Production Design comes to form from respect for the material [the play], proper research, filtering research, taking collaborative input, executing with practicality in mind, and an uncompromising resolve to get it done and get it done well.

Under the circumstances of a Third World Theater scenario, Sir Badong taught us to use rafia lined with soft canvas in replicating pineapple fibre weave on stage to create a blouse for the Traje de Mestiza; when gold stamping was impossible on velvet, he had Ara Fernando experiment with rubberized textile paint silkscreened over the rich fabric achieving the effect of oriental embroidery; and the legends of Bic ballpen chandelier crystals, woven mat armor, vats of tie-dyed satin and cotton, an entire car of beaded evening gowns that went unpaid by some fallen superstar, seem fresh as they were retold and regaled during his wake.

Sir Badong was direct, his criticisms were filled with his brand of wit, and his approval or praise was precious -if ever it came. I remember as Gino Gonzales, Eric Pineda, Tita Monette, Toto Gonzalez and I were discussing how tasteful the floral arrangements were and how he would approve, there was this quip that stopped the conversation that went, "When did he ever approve of anything we came up with?" followed by collective laughter and a sigh. That for me, says how much he expected of those he taught.

When there were but a few guests left during the first night of his wake, I finally got to approach Sir Badong where he lay. I stood there for God knows how long, my right hand clutching my neck, and i stared at his visage -now without the authoritative or critical gaze he used to give me. Marked I what Rafael Del Casal uttered earlier that evening, looking at Sir Badong, there was this serenity about him, as if his lifeless coil communicated how he has finally been released of this world.

The rest of us still have to live without him now... Three generations of Sir Badong's legacy represented there, knew what loss was there that night.

Come Saturday, the 29th of October, was the Cultural Center of the Philippines' [CCP] Tribute to the National Artist that was Sir Badong. I got there quite early.... very, very,early... 7:30 in the morning to be exact. As I waited for the funerary coach to make its way to the ramp of the CCP, I was happy to be in good company. My old college blockmates Ara Fernando -whom Sir Badong calls his daughter- and Jason Vitorillo, fellow Tanghalang Ateneo alumni. When we finally decided to sit after being told that only the CCP and NCCA Officials were supposed to welcome him at the door [which was an atrocious thought, mind you, but we are civilized Jesuit-bred individuals after all], I sat beside Fides Cuyugan-Asencio and talked shop a bit. In the middle of it, during a pause, I gave out quite a sigh. To which the elegant lady Tita Fides responded, "Don't sigh. You're too young to sigh."

The CCP Tribute was as expected of it. National Artist Bienvenido Lumbera, and some others paid tribute in words, dance, and music [Although those coming from the CCP's and the NCCA's representatives felt and sounded derivative, and Dr. Ricky Abad was not invited among them, it smelt of politics]. Sir Badong's poetry, good taste, wit, undeniable genius, teachings, and unparalleled achievements were celebrated. Yet Veteran Theater Director Nonon Padilla hit the proverbial nail on the wall by saying how the CCP he and Sir Badong left some years ago has turned into the hive of bureaucrats that it are subject to loyalty checks after every regime. But that is one truth we all have to contend with in "a culture that glorifies mediocrity" as Gino Gonzales put it.

Of all of them, Gino Gonzales' words turned my sighs to tears. He represented all those that came under Sir Badong's tutelage, of how we took that critical turn under Sir Badong and were changed from hence, and of course how we cannot survive on skyflakes [the irony of the sheer number of Sir Badong's Ang Kiukok collections was counterpoint to that, I thought].

And as a chorus of 200 voices sang Candomble, I could see Nick Tiongson in his seat, inconsolable and in tears; then the pallbearers from the military took his coffin from the stage, through the auditorium, and through the doors of the CCP Main Theater. As they did so, "Bravo Badong!" and applause rang through this nation's crumbling sacred temple to the arts.

It pains me to write this, a finality to solidify that reality.... But as always, all that is left is just to live.

So, Bravo, Sir Badong!
You were a bright light upon the stage, untimely extinguished, yet radiantly enduring...

A student is unable to pay tribute to his teacher if he has nothing to show when he returns to his chambers, but you left too soon, and I was unable to offer and place it upon your hands. Wherever you are, Sir Badong, in the infinite number of possibilities and hope, my gift will find you in the days to come.

thus I end this with tears and quoting your wit, "Sige kayo, according to Plato, you will all go to hell."

Your Student,
Niki de los Reyes-Torres
the barefoot baklesa

[all photographs courtesy of Ara Fernando]

12 September, 2011

the Barefoot Baklesa Reviews: Zombadings 1 Patayin sa Shokot si Remington

If thou couldst make thy way though the swirling mist of my over-analyzed thoughts or perhaps have once waxed musings with over-sized cups of coffee, you have at least once heard me rant at how Filipino gay movies never really show the homosexual condition. The gay themed movie mills of late have churned out a hodgepodge of plots that only serve to titillate and sell sex displaying bodies of upstart wannabes who wish to make it big in local showbiz by shedding their skivvies, egged on by their creators without a care for true artistry in film language and storytelling. Many, if not all, direct to video Filipino gay films have amounted to nothing but discs gathering dust under my bed or have been a serious waste of my time.

Surprising it is, in my rather elitist view of what a gay movie should be, that I would find myself excited after having watched the trailer for Zombadings 1: Patayin sa Shokot si Remington. Having missed its CCP screening due to certain work obligations, I was fortunate enough to catch Zombadings' commercial cinema release a few weeks later. So do pardon if I go on with this one the way the Barefoot Baklesa does as always... And as much as the Barefoot Baklesa had wanted this to be a properly structured review, it does not do well to over-think movies like these. So, here goes...

In my lifetime, I have seen the many uses of the word Bakla: as a means of identification, as a weapon of ridicule, as a description of deviance, of non-conformity, of emasculation, a substitute for expletives, a punchline for jokes, and of course the root word for Baklesa.

But then came the boy who cried Bakla...

Remington, seems to be the macrocosm of the general Filipino attitude towards homosexuals as the obnoxious child who cries Bakla, going too far, to the dismay and embarrassment of his mother. And by way of a prologue from a Fairy Tale, Remington cries Bakla to the wrong fairy thus causing him to be cursed, "Pero ikaw bata ka, paglaki mo, magiging bakla ka!" [But you child, when you grow up, you too will turn gay!]

Years later, a series of unexplained murders occur, with homosexuals as the main target; baffling the authorities and Remington's mother -the chief of police. As the number of murdered homosexuals increase, Remington undergoes inexplicable changes like his speech, his mannerisms, his choice in clothing, and his sexual confusion and is transformed thus: into the cliched image of a Bakla.

Remington's struggle to make heads or tails of the situation is made complicated when his infatuation for a girl and his developing attraction for his best bud Jigs are thrown into the charmed pot. Their misadventures would lead them to conjure the spirits, make bold with the living dead, and come face to face with their own failings -that by some measure seems small but speaks most of our humanity.

Zombadings brings out the laughs but is victorious in saying what it wants to say without being overtly obvious. Daniel Fernando's tirade on the ills the Homosexual poses to mankind and Philippine Society is drowned out by the noise of a passing marching band. His bigotry and hypocritical self-righteousness is wasted on the audience who have begun to slide down the rainbow.

As the story unravels, Zombadings tickles as it leads one to think. The film pushes the idea of cursing one with Kabaklaan or Homosexuality yet does ask "what is so bad with being gay?" I have, of recent vintage, encountered young fathers holding their sons going, "Sana boy pa rin paglaki. Pero okay lang." [Hopefully he stays a boy. But either way is okay.] -inferring to the possibility that their son might turn grow up to be gay [I can only imagine the horror it poses to a parent gathering the courage to ask if their child was gay]. Or by curious reversal, does being Gay man hinder one from being a good father or parent for that matter?

To one side, I commend Kerbie Zamora's performance as Jigs, Remington's surprisingly Pansexual [hope that did not give too much away] best friend with his provincial boy next door charm. All too familiar as I have had many a trike ride on provincial trips with a Jigs at the helm... Hahahaha!!! Perhaps the greatest surprise is Mart Escudero as Remington. His quick shifts and commendable nuanced performance as he struggled through his emasculation was every bit entertaining. Mart Escudero's Remington and Kerbie Zamora's Jigs have forever earned them a spot in Filipino Gay Film history. It will be quite a while before anyone will be able to top that scene by the stairway, I tell you.

Also, Barefoot Baklesa extends his applause to veteran actors: John Regala, Odette Khan, Janice de Belen, Daniel Fernando, Eugene Domingo, and Roderick Paulate -still the reigning Queen of Gay Roles in Philippine Movies. Never has there been a cast so effective and well fitted for comedy.

By way of cinematic cuts -which did not seem fluid by some standards, the Barefoot Baklesa was confused whether the technical treatment was intentional but was willing to overlook it for lack of time to criticize as the next deserved laugh had to be cracked. Expect the Barefoot Baklesa to be the last one to be good at Fagalog or Gayspeak; it is not a language he is used to speaking, but thank god for the subtitles. And coming out of the movie house we kept on chanting

‎"Charoterang ispirikitik, umappear ka vakler,
Magpafeel, magpasense ditey sa baler,
Witiz shokoley ang utachi ditey,
Sa fezlavoo mo mars, na super kalerkey!"

Now doesn't that say something?

If you do have the time, watch it. If you intend to watch it again, do so. And spread the word, how you will...

thus spake the Barefoot Baklesa

31 July, 2011

continuing the Mario Maurer Drool Mode

The Barefoot Baklesa is currently busy filming in Pola, Oriental Mindoro for a movie, and the internet speed here is -well, let's just say,it requires some patience for waiting we all left back in 1998... so much for that... Here's something I stumbled upon online merely minutes ago; a trailer for Mario Maurer's latest movie.

Thus spake the Barefoot Baklesa