30 April, 2009

Jake, Pare, Are You Drunk?

Aw, man...where was I during all this?

Apparently getting my processional image ready for Holy Week processions... That's what i get for being a good Catholic school gay - I meant "BOY"- good Catholic school boy... oh well, it works either way... Hahahahaha!!!

thus spake the Barefoot Baklesa

Rosas ng Santa Rosa: Question and Blunder Portion

The other evening, I was in the middle of trying to figure out what to do with this project I'm doing for a Cathedral in the Visayas when I received these rather amusing text messages from my former high school teacher and friend.

Apparently, she was at the 2009 Rosas ng Santa Rosa pageant night laughing her ass off while sending me the blow by blow of pageant events through her mobile.

At first I went, "You're actually watching that right now?"
To which she responded, "This is where my tax money goes to waste! These stupid pageants and their tasteless displays. The least I could get out of it is a laugh!"

Well, she does have a point there...

Much later, an entire battery of messages came in; it was the question and answer portion already. There were a lot of laughable ones, but the worst was this:

Question:"If you could be another person for one day, who would you be and why?"

Candidate's Answer:I want to be Saddam Husein in order to know the mind of an evil person. Let there be peace on earth!

Sin verguenza!!! I just could not make heads or tails of it! I didn't if i should be laughing or what... And then, the question of such social relevance [sarcasm, hint!]

Question:In your opinion, was Nicole's recantation of her rape statement good or bad?

Candidate's Answer:I think it is good because she has moved on; and it is bad because it affects the image of the Filipina.

I think that answer was somewhat sensible, although it could have been a little better... Well, the judges seem to have no other choice from the lot and picked the latter as the winner anyway.

at this rate, i think the answers from the gay beauty pageant contestants are giving these girls a run for their money... [insert my laughter here]

thus spake the Barefoot Baklesa

ten things in my gay mind: missing a few friends and some other things...

10.] Remember your Friendster account? Well, with so many beta and networking sites that have been popping-up, it has become quite a chore to deal with the nitty-gritty of that site. I mean, when did Friendster become FS? And when did it become so loaded? Here I am still trying to figure out Facebook and I never realized how much FS had a major face-lift, pardon the pun.

For the longest time, i have just been logging on to Friendster, just to see if the site's still up, but have never bothered updating the contents. To get to my point, there i was going through the dust bunnies, cobwebs, and the corpse of a dead friend by a corner [kidding!] when I started checking out my messages in the inbox.

And there it was, this simple e-mail that prompted this blog post and it read, "Hey Niki, here's my number _ _ _ _ _. Text me, okay?"

And sorting through a dozen or so more messages, I read another e-mail, sent earlier than the previous one, answering the same e-mail message I had sent him long ago. And I must say, after reading them both, i was touched.

You see, Robert is not the type of friend that i have spent innumerable hours with bonding as friends would. I met him under the circumstances of digits and e-mails; yet he is as dear to me as someone I have spent a lifetime of friendship with. He's a person that's not hard to like; and he has this very positive vibe about him. I appreciated his sincerity, the helping hand he extended during my brief stint at ABS-CBN, and the many musings about almost anything exchanged during coffee breaks and lunch hour. And it did not hurt that he was Ilonggo and could also speak Kinaray-a as well...

Robert strikes me as a traveller in this lifetime. Having kept in touch after working for the other network, I have seen the guy juggle with staying in the Ateneo or leaving the Ateneo, learning to be a pilot [i gotta ask what became of that], attend what seemed to be fun parties, come back from whichever corner of the world he decided to explore -such things that I only associate with him.

In the simplest exchanges, catching-up, and just letting the other know what's up, Robert has earned a spot in my heart for being genuine amidst the distance.

I believe that there are people in this life we don't seem so obviously connected to, but they are bound to us eitherway. If there is a next lifetime, It would be nice to find him there as souls get reincarnated with the same set of souls from a previous life. [But I'm babbling again, and we must proceed]

This is to you, Robert... I'll call you in a while. [oh yeah, i just had to post your photos here.... Hahahahaha!!!]

9.] We had dinner at Alba's in West Gate, Alabang a few hours ago... That was one to clog the arteries, Hahahahahaha!!! Thanks, Owee!!!

8.] I have been staring at the plans for the Cathedral I'm doing consultancy for, for days now... I had better get a move on...

7.] I miss my friend Ara... I hear she's making a name for herself as a maquillage expert/artist. Apparently, she just got back from the US for some more training. She was the first friend I called "Kagandahan" as a term of endearment... We have shared many-a-sleepless nights doing production work for Tanghalang Ateneo during our day.

6.] On my way from Greenbelt Five yesterday, i chanced upon a fellow intellectual and kindred soul whom I call Tita Maggie [Margarita Muñoz-Shih]. I have not seen her in three years! Such a classy lady, I tell you. Her poise, her bearing, and her fashion sense: she was wearing this fabulous empire-cut teal green blouse tailored to produce such a clean silhouette. And the green complimented her mestiza complexion so well. And her purse was to die for... I'm beginning to sound like a gay cliche ergo I must stop now.

5.] Tita Maggie informed me that Tito Jorge [also a kindred soul and beloved friend] is currently in the hospital; and that his mother passed-away two days ago. May God grant eternal rest upon her soul. I'll see you soon, Tito Jorge...

4.] The rain does wash away many things... and it has ways to stir the heart...

3.] What the F_ _ _ is with this Korina Sanchez and Senator Mar Roxas engagement hooplah. I am sick to death of this contrived spectacle complete with tears on Mar Roxas' cheeks!!! Im sure, the senator took an acting workshop to learn how to "cry on cue"! i want to know who was the acting teacher who taught him and give him a telling because the tears aren't genuine enough. [insert image of the Barefoot Baklesa hunting down insufferable second-rate acting workshop teacher... Hahahahaha!!!]

2.] Apparently, leche flan [caramel flan] and French-pressed coffee make for a great 4:00am snack.

1.] Finally, to end on a more happier note, my cousin Amy said "Yes" to Steve; I just found out on Facebook a while ago. Congratulations on the engagement and here's wishing thee all the best.

...thus spake the Barefoot Baklesa

28 April, 2009


let us list them down...

number 1.)

thus spake the Barefoot Baklesa

25 April, 2009

ang santa mo ba ay a-attend ng JS Prom? [a post semana santa look at the many be-sequined processional images I encountered]

One of my pet peeves when watching holy week processions is when the processional images are robed in be-sequined fabric… I don’t understand what the fascination is with these razzle-dazzle bolts of fabric acting as textile disco mirror balls that they make their way into the wardrobe of the saints that come out during the processions.

It’s one thing to want your image to stand out; it’s another to dress them in fabrics meant to be worn by a dance sport contestant. Now, I have nothing against sequins and sequined fabric. In fact, the sequin’s closest relative, the flat-spangles, have made it into many of my designs including those raining cherry blossoms I once did for a children’s musical. But this is not the finale to Jesus Christ Superstar, people. This is a procession that’s supposed to commemorate the very foundation of your faith, not some Mardi-Gras parade… Fat Tuesday was about nearly forty days ago and dancing samba at Carnevale is way past the drunkenness

If you analyze the very aesthetics of Philippine Santo Art, these images were originally dressed in lush velvets and rich brocades with gold embroidery and patchwork. The use of sequins was merely for accents to substitute for the expensive gold thread embroidery. I think it was about the disco era when these fabrics started appearing. I remember seeing a lot of these used in the movie Flash Gordon when I was a kid. And I reckon, ever since disco, nothing has ever been the same… Fabrics covered entirely in sequins have then been a staple in some processional image’s wardrobe.

On the drive to the airport yesterday, my friend Mike told me, “Hindi ko lang I-post ang mga photos ka mga Santa nga ma-attend sang JS Prom sa Flickr.” [translated: “I won’t be posting photos of those Saints who will be attending the Prom on my Flickr site.”]. To which I responded with raucous laughter… Unfortunately Mike, I’m not above that. Thus with this blog, I have posted away!!! Hahahaha…

Another friend of mine hath observed that this is often the case in some provincial towns where the general public’s impression of a good processional image is one that is shining and shimmering -unfortunately I shall hold the use of the world splendid as they are far from the mention of it. This year, I had used sequins in the Good Friday robe of my Saint Mary of Bethany, but as accents against the all-black template of her robe; I wouldn’t dare use more than 6 square inches of sequins as they do have the danger of making the clothes tacky.

Maybe this kind of reaction was fuelled by an event last Holy Thursday when one of the images of another family dressed in gold sequined fabric -which arrived late at the line by the cathedral and messed up the established line- was passing by, and the son of the owner had the gall to look at me from head to foot with an eyebrow raised and rather judgmental eyes. But, the Barefoot Baklesa responded with a look that said all these: “Look at my Saint, she’s wearing hand-painted chiffon with Italian silk brocade, and we don’t use plastic flowers like you.” -all achieved within a slight raising of the chin and the left eyebrow… Oh, we can be such vicious queens.

Thus spake the Barefoot Baklesa

21 April, 2009

the Barefoot Baklesa is raving about Jake Cuenca's performance in "Tayong Dalawa"

the Barefoot Baklesa could not believe his eyes yesterday as he was glued to the television screen in his abuela's bedroom...

He has not seen Jake Cuenca this intense.

Apparently, Jake Cuenca is developing nicely as a dramatic actor as the Barefoot Baklesa was more than impressed while watching one of ABS-CBN's fair-haired male actors in the primetime drama entitled "Tayong Dalawa" [roughly translated as "The Two of Us"] give one of his best performances to date!!!

Jake Cuenca was at his best last night!!! That's all the Barefoot Baklesa could say as he is still dazed and utterly in awe with the Jake's performance during that dramatic scene where he confronted Gerald Anderson's family after learning that everything he had has been taken away from them. We shant be bothering with details, as the said primetime drama's episode tonight is about to air in a few minutes...

thus spake the Barefoot Baklesa

the barefoot baklesa turns the other cheek and will enjoy the slapping!

well, i did it again... the price of being unapologetically opinionated is that you expose yourself to the backlash of others out there who have no idea what you're ramming at. either that, or i just couldn't stop myself.

well, a few days ago, i had posted a comment on some site about a certain up-and-coming male star that jumped into the indie bandwagon. to be honest, and if you've seen the Barefoot Baklesa's postings about who he's crushing on, you'd clearly see that this guy is not really the Barefoot Baklesa's type. thus i expressed my more than usual revulsion to the poor guy...

that was followed by a few stabs at me in the roll, but since i can't see who's saying it to my face, i shouldn't really take it seriously. on the other hand, do and say what they will of me, but if you put something out there, you really have to be responsible for what you say and own up to it. people can say disparaging things in a blog's comment roll when you hide behind the 'Anonymous' banner.

well, because i have always been a good catholic school boy, i will turn the other cheek and allow you to slap me there as well by posting a clearer photo of my face since you take so much issue with it. i do enjoy a good slapping... Hahahahaha!!!

thus spake the barefoot baklesa

I tag all thee who readeth this: The Barefoot Baklesa's Three Shots at Happiness

Here’s something I, the Barefoot Baklesa, thought up out of boredom… Let’s see if it’s worth passing on.

I noticed how our Profile Photos on our social networking sites don’t really show people what we feel inside [for some of you, I see]. For the sake of appearances we post photos to suit our vanity. It’s time we try to be real for at least three camera clicks

Once I tag you, you are bound by the curse of a lifetime of unhappiness if you don’t try…Mwahahahahaha!!!

I call it: The Barefoot Baklesa’s Three Shots at Happiness

here are the rules:
1.) Prepare your camera phones, digital cameras, or webcams and be ready to take a photo of yourself

2.) Ask yourself this question: “Are you Happy?” or "Am I Happy?"

3.) Say your answer in your head THEN click away and take a photo of yourself.

4.) Do steps 2 and 3 two more times, you can take your time in between the later attempts, JUST BE SINCERE EACH TIME YOU ANSWER AND TAKE THE PHOTO and DO NOT RE-SHOOT

5.) Re-post these instructions [and my disclaimer] on your Blog and/or Notes and post the three pictures you took in order just below it… You’ll be surprised at what you see, trust me.

6.) Don’t explain yourselves. A picture’s worth a thousand words and you’ll be displaying three in the post. But once someone comments on the photos, then you can respond to that.

7.) Pick and Tag your Friends/Contacts and pass it on.

the Barefoot Baklesa takes credit for this unusual me-me and is not sure if someone has come up with it before…

thus spake the Barefoot Baklesa

19 April, 2009

one rainy summer in the island...

[the de los reyes ancestral house in san jose de buenavista, antique province]

With the Lenten Season being quite over [since it's still Easter Time in the liturgical calendar], and the frenzy of Holy Week Processions done, the Barefoot Baklesa is spending another week in Antique province, Panay Island...

Like anywhere else in the archipelago, the heat has just been intolerable; and going to the beach isn't really for the likes of the Barefoot Baklesa who is allergic to the sun like anything... Well, surprise-surprise, it's been raining here for the past three days. There are moments when the sky is just so clear and then by a mere minutes it would be so cloudy and the rain would follow. at night, the passing humidity would mean the sky could pour around 2:00 to 3:00 am...hello, Global Warming...

Being right smack-dab in the middle of town with the municipal hall and the provincial capitol flanking us on both sides, the de los Reyes Ancestral home is located along San Jose's busiest avenues... And the noise of the motor vehicles passing by is a constant reminder that I'm in Antique province. Technically, we're one of the last three families who still stay in their original family home. Most of the other families have opted to sell their properties downtown, but our family insists on staying where we are. Two fires could not move us from that spot...

As i write this,the skies have turned to grey again, I'm expecting it to pour a little later. I'm supposed to fly out to Manila two days from now to deal with work, then return for my grandmother's 92nd birthday this May 10th... The rain came a little earlier than May this year.

thus spake the Barefoot Baklesa

16 April, 2009

the niki de los reyes-torres carroza challenge 2009 post mortem [part one]

It has been three days now since Easter Sunday; and after some much deserved over-indulgent sleep and rest, I started editing the photos I took of the Holy Week processions here in San Jose. I actually put-off writing this post until now to let the past week sink-in a bit more.

Here are but a few thoughts during the height of this years Carroza Challenge [some of you may not like what you will read]:

First: “There’s no such thing as too much bling.” -so it seems in the province.

By my preference, there’s a limit that I set when it comes to the use of shiny, glitzy, and shimmering things. It is not a judgment on anyone’s taste and the limits thereof. But when you have an aesthetic obligation to the representation of saints, you have to be a little careful. These aren’t really life-sized Barbie Dolls that you play dress-up with but teaching materials and reminders rooted to the zeitgeist of the counter-Reformation.

By the end of Maundy Thursday processions, when we [the processional image and her retinue] were passing by a pair of queers by the church’s holy door I heard one of them say, “Amo ra bay ang gusto ko sa bayo ka Santa, ang buta-buta guid kag duro ti suksok.” Which translates to, “That’s what I want to see when it comes clothing saints; I want it over-decorated and I want her to wear a lot.” -I think they were talking about the image that went before us. And I was relieved!!! The pink Byzantine dress with the pearls and rhinestones on the neckpiece was not considered as overdressed. Wheeewwww…

Of course there was a part of me that was going, “What do they know?” -a thought that I continued to suppress as we passed by… I was being a bit of an elitist, I know. You see, I have an axe to grind with cubic zirconium [“puwet ng baso”] jewelry when it looks like it could be on a beauty pageant titlist rather than a saint. Okay, I gotta stop myself…

Second: It’s a Procession, not a marathon race…

I have an axe to grind with the Santo Entierro [image of the body of the dead Christ in a glass coffin] owner. The Good Friday processions are technically a re-enactment of the funeral procession for the dead Messiah, and they are meant to be slow and solemn. We have not yet reached 25% of the distance of the processional route when the marshals asked us to hurry up.

There we were, praying the holy rosary as we moved the image of Saint Mary of Bethany forward in such a slow and dignified pace, when all of a sudden we found ourselves literally sprinting to a speed unnatural of a funeral march! We could have slowed down but we had to follow the image before us immediately. You see, there’s this superstition that you can’t cut the processional line because it’s bad luck, so our “carroza” movers tried so hard to catch up. And the people watching on the sidelines were going, “Why are they moving so fast?”

Apparently, they were doing so to avoid the masses from crowding and crushing the image of the Santo Entierro as it made its way back to the Cathedral. These Indios failed to realize that no matter what they do, people will crowd and try to touch the image of the dead Christ! It’s a known fact, for Pete’s sake! To the fanatic mind, that is their fallen hero and they will try their best to lay the slightest touch upon the glass coffin. What’s with rushing the other processional images to the move faster to protect their image? I think that’s unfair to the rest of us.

A tenant of ours the next day commented, “Manguarta siguro and Santos.” - “Maybe they’re thinking of making more money if they get to church earlier.”

There’s this practice after the procession called the “dignum” wherein the image of the dead Christ is taken out of the glass coffin for the people to kiss its feet. In some places, the “dignum” is just kissing an empty cross to symbolize the death of our lord. Here in our province, there are two donation/collection baskets by the foot of the dead Christ where one places coins or bills before one is to kiss the feet. And I’m like, “What the F?!?” It’s like I have to pay for the act of adoration -that’s why we keep losing followers, people… I’m going to give the parish priest a piece of my mind. Then again, my other uncle’s a priest too…

Third: The gays and their gaze…

Most of you who know me personally know how very observant I am and how I remember other people’s actions and words to the detail. That’s why I look forward to that moment when you bring your image to the church courtyard for the line-up. It’s that moment when you turn around the corner from the back of the cathedral that defines the arrival of your processional image that will make or break you as an image owner. There’s this feeling of excitement I get when we are about to make that turn. More than anything else, I enjoy watching the people’s reactions when you first arrive; and I also enjoy the comments they whisper to each other or they say to your companions. Perhaps the best one I got this year, aside from the numerous people with digital cameras shooting away, was that effete teenaged boy whose gaze was fixed at Saint Mary of Bethany that as he went past, he actually bumped into someone in front of him. Speaking of effete boys, processions attract a fair amount of homosexuals because of the pageantry the religious observance evokes. It’s quite amusing to watch them raise their eyebrows, gaze, hold their tongues before letting out a comment -in short, be the queens that they are. What I remember so distinctly is the son of an image owner looking at me from head to foot. Dude, what was his glitch?

Fourth: Less is More

It was during Aesthetics class with Badong Bernal when I first got introduced to the term, “The Pinoy Burloloy Complex” [to non Filipino speakers, ‘burloloy’ has been associated with over-decorated and gaudy] which became the local interpretation for the idea of “Horror Vacui”.

I have a black and gold-leafed “ochovado” [eight-sided/octagonal] carroza with an antique finish. I just can’t stand people giving me suggestions like: “add more flowers” or “add some more of these” or “put this there” when there’s a friggin’ limit to the effect you want to achieve…Geez!!! The point of having an architectural carroza is that you are assigned spaces specifically for flowers, and another for carriage lights, etcetera.

There’s an elegance to a look that results from streamlining, editing, and a refined artistic judgment. Sigh…

Fifth: They will try but fail either way…

The relatives you despise will always try to find ways to get back into your good graces. In the spirit of Lent, of course I have forgiven them for their faults, but I dared not to forget: theft and deception are not to be taken lightly. Ergo, I chose to ignore them. There’s no point in exchanging words when dishonesty is their known expertise. That’s why, during the “caridad” [translates to “charity”, the obligatory dinner served by the image owner after the procession] I went into my grandmother’s room, turned on the AC and lounged away as I watched the Lenten airing of “May Bukas Pa” on ABS-CBN and wait until they have left. Hahahahaha!!!

We shall continue this next post…

Thus spake the Barefoot Baklesa

12 April, 2009

Happy Easter to One and All!!!

The Barefoot Baklesa joins the rest of Christendom in celebrating this most glorious triumph over death and the promise of salvation for all -yes, it is also for those of us who are disenfanchised, ostracized, and those who finish last... may the grace of this Easter dawn stay with us during these trying times of global financial crises, natural disasters, war, and human failings.

I would also like to thank all those who have participated in The Niki de los Reyes-Torres Carroza Challenge 2009 for making Saint Mary of Bethany's second Holy Week procession a success...Now, I'm off to the beach!!!

05 April, 2009

the barefoot baklesa is not bananas over banana split... but then again, those four boys...

Believe me, I am the last one to watch a Saturday evening show with the likes of Angelica Panganiban and Cristine Reyes on the program. However, as I turned on the tube a while ago, I chanced upon the last few minutes of this ABS-CBN show called Banana Split. I guess the Filipino viewing public can be surprisingly daft when it comes to these shows.

If I'm not mistaken, this show is the brainchild of veteran comedian slash director Edgar 'Bobot' Mortiz. Actually, there's really nothing new with the comedy variety shows he's come up with after the success of Going Bananas in the 1980s. Literally, he just took the same derivative concept and turned it into the Sunday evening show called Going Bulilit and of course Banana Split -this time, it's sexy slash pretty girls in comedy sketches.

What really grinds my bones was that late afternoon show some years back called Let's Go which they passed off as an original and innovative take on a teen comedy show. So much for original and innovative...Well, this so called show which Joem Bascon first appeared in [don't remember him? he's that model/actor who kind of reminds you of Piolo Pascual but looks more like Piolo's younger brother or cousin] was actually a rip-off of a Korean situational college comedy called Non-Stop which starred that tall hot Korean from that KDrama 'Memories of Bali'. Imagine, they even copied the production design of the Korean original which features a dormitory common room accessible by two glass doors which descends two steps into this area that has upholstered colored blocks of 16 inches by 16inches by 16 inches in dimension.

Specific, right? Well, because I used to watch this show on the Arirang network on cable. I mean, if a veteran comedian/director can run around so proud of this bastardized version without a thought that he might get caught being a copycat, I wonder what that is teaching the creative teams and think-tanks of the major networks?

Hello, remember Captain Barbell -freakishly reminding you of Smallville's plot every week and people still lapped it up? Seriously... GOT CARRIED AWAY AGAIN!

But getting to my point, in the last few minutes of that banana show, I realized their guests were Rayver Cruz, Enchong Dee, Haroun Morales, and Marvin Raymundo[Wijangco]. The wheels in my head started turning and I went like, "Oh my Goodness, is this the Pinoy F4? Have they actually seriously decided on them?"

The rest of the guys are okay, but with Rayver Cruz? I suddenly felt this aversion manifested by queasiness albeit remote disgust at my very epidermis... Hate me all you want Rayver fans, but Eeewwwwww!!! I had recently bloggged about Casting the Pinoy F4 [just click on the link] and if Robi Domingo or Jake Cuenca isn't there, then I don't think it's worth another typed word after this _____

thus spake the Barefoot Baklesa

03 April, 2009

Bali-Bali ang BALER [the barefoot baklesa review]

A friend of mine hath asked me to re-post this, and I must comply...

Does the lack of period cinema pieces reflect the poor cultural state of a nation’s film industry or does it represent an industry’s collective practicality with the lack of interest in mounting these admittedly expensive projects? I am far from really knowing the zeitgeist of filmmakers these days; while there are many that say the Filipino film industry is either dead or dying, on the other hand some dare say that it is being resuscitated by the rise of independent digital cinema. Well, you will have to forgive me for saying that an expensive digital SLR camera does not make a photographer nor can a high end digital motion picture camera make a true filmmaker [I‘m just wired to think that way].

For at a time when I am at my neck’s end with the nth sequel to Enteng Kabisote, or am truly amazed at how the Filipino public laps up badly written fantasies like Exodus: Tales from the Enchanted Kingdom, or finding Jinggoy Estrada winning film festival best actor as the first biggest joke of 2008, there’s a part of me that is hoping and praying that somehow, next year, a well written period piece executed with such commercial viability can truly reflect the direction this nation’s cinema is taking.

Not long ago, I decided to watch BALER as it was the only movie that seemed to interest me with the roster of films from the 2008 Metro Manila Film Festival; also the fact that it was a period film stirred by curiosity. I have this fascination with recreating the 1890s and the novecento period of Philippine history. Credit that to a fine-tuned olde worlde sensibility which I more often than not cling to.

In a nutshell BALER is based on the historical account of The Siege of Baler which began in 1898 and lasted for about three hundred or so days. In the midst of this, is the romance between an India [female native of the islands] woman named Feliza [The film’s press release used the term ‘Filipina’ which was pretty much incorrect for that word was used to call a female of Spanish blood who was born in the islands; also called Insulares.] and a soldier named Celso -of Spanish and Indio descent- played by Jericho Rosales. Right there and then let me point out that there’s such a thing we call color-blind casting [casting actors despite of race or color] which has been applied in the theater for quite some time now when the need arises. But when it comes to the cinema, and since this was a period piece, I was taught that we were governed by certain casting aesthetics to retain the suspension of disbelief. As much as there were fair-skinned Indias at the time, the choice of Anne Curtis as Feliza gave off the impression that she was a Mestiza rather than a daughter from an Indio family. And on the other hand, Jericho Rosales might pass off as one those half-breeds descended from the dregs of the Spanish military ranks that were not influential enough and were sent to the islands in their service to Spain, but there was something I could not put to words about his casting which I can only describe as an odd aftertaste.

On the other hand, the other actors they cast as pure-bred Spaniards, as Mestizo as they were, were an odd bunch of too foreign and not too foreign looking to begin with [Sorry, PJ -he was cast as one of the soldiers]; ergo I somehow understand that to have put Jericho Rosales together with Mark Bautista and Jao Mapa as half-breed Spanish soldiers would justify the casting. Speaking of which, I shall point out the first cultural cliché of the movie: Jericho Rosales plays the role of a soldier with a Spanish father and a Pampango [Capampangan or native of Pampanga province] mother. It has been common knowledge that the Spaniards have an affinity for the Capampangans because of all the Indios, they were always on the side of the Spaniards.

So, in this melting pot of complications, let me add that Feliza is the daughter of a revolutionary leader played by veteran action star Phillip Salvador and acclaimed actress Rio Locsin. She has a brother named Gabriel played by Carlo Aquino, who is more interested in serving the Church rater than picking up a gun to fight for his country. It is for this reason that the romance between Feliza and Celso remain a secret.

Now, let me get to the nitty-gritty of the film. I have learned that if in the first five minutes you have not acquired the interest of your viewing audience, then the film will have a hard time keeping their attention. The first few shots of BALER, [portraying the massacre of Spanish soldiers the year before 1898], as much as it tried to establish the premise of a crumbling colonial power in the midst of quashing a revolution, seemed a bit ubiquitous and rushed. This short-lived prologue would seem to be a foreshadowing of the cinematic pace the director chose for the film which is best defined as “erratic”.

There was nothing special I could remember from the camera work nor was there anything I could say that took me from my seat into that time and place they were creating. Even in the love montages featuring Feliza and Celso [the first of which the audience was treated to seemed like the pace of the jump cut from the Hans Montenegro segment of the Jojo Veloso VHS scandal], I felt as if there was no fluidity in the incorporation of the romance into the historical nature of the film. As a viewer, I felt as though I was bombarded by ubiquitous visions of lovers strolling or running by the beach and end up kissing; only this time, they were in period clothing. But seriously, no India woman would be caught dead wearing a sleeveless camison and a saya like that by the beach in 1890s Philippines, as far as my education takes me. Perhaps the only scene that drew a curious smile on my face was when the lovers used the church’s confessional to pass the message of the time and place where they are to meet. Call me nit picky but if the writers already took so much cinematic license to begin with, why did they not portray their courtship with the secret language of gestures using fans, kerchiefs, and flowers used by lovers during that time to emphasize the authenticity. To the least, I’m sure an Ambeth Ocampo book was not unavailable to them.

Also, what I found lacking in this cinematic experience is this sense of urgency brought about by the changing of flags, the excitement of the birth of a new nation, and the last stand that the Spaniards are about to take inside that church as if it were the Alamo. I mean there are scenes that established thus but they seem to have been missing that intensity to contrast all that love against the impending battle. For when I was on my seat I was going, “So there’s supposed to be this big siege that’s about to take place, why don’t I feel the gravity of it?”

And I don’t know what they wanted to achieve with it, but a cinematic device that got lost to me were these two film clips in black and white that showed two events: the Battle of Manila Bay and Aguinaldo’s declaration of Philippine Independence. They look like lost parts of a Charlie Chaplin movie, in their choppy crude texture that found its way into the film. Okay, if they had intended for it to be a narrative device to display the coinciding historical events by using that early film reel effect, they would have been better off using that from beginning to end to give it another dimension to period standards. But unfortunately, they make up a one-time-small-time sequence that never amounted to anything.

From the way I see it, there was a lot of opportunity to explore blocking, cinematic shots, and creative camera work. But as one pointed out to me, “The blocking was high school velada. Everybody facing an invisible proscenium.” Later would I concur by saying, “There’s only so much you can do with blocking it like a firing squad.”

When it came to the film’s Production Design, I have but one word: Texture. I think the film tried as much as it could to use the natural scenery it was able to film in. You don’t see that much green anymore just anywhere in this country. But when it came to the constructed sets, even without any design background, one still knows by the look of it what they had were literally sets. It’s like when you watch a Filipino sitcom and you know that the concrete walls are actually made of plywood. Like in one scene showing the church interior, the wall and those stairs look like they came out of an AngTV fantasy set. The church, which was supposed to be the centerpiece of the entire design template, looked as if it used up Divisoria’s Styrofoam supply from the outside. I have no idea if that was the actual architectural façade of the church therefore I have to stop criticizing the odd shape of the structure which does not fall into the usual silhouettes of a turn of the century church that often doubles as a stronghold. And was that a statue of Our Lady of Fatima they mounted inside the central niche of the church’s façade?

Also, in one montage, they used a “parol’’ [a star-shaped lantern that has always been associated with the holidays in this country] hanging by the window of a “bahay kubo” to signify that it was Christmas. This has always been a pet peeve of mine. You see, the five pointed star “parol” never existed until about the 1920s. The shape of which was an American import copied off from their flag. Believe it or not, in 1898, there were no Christmas decorations; and if there were, they were only limited to the church in the forms of the crèche and the Niño dormido which came out only on December 25th. And don’t argue that the Americans were already here at that time because even by 1930, the concept of decorating Filipino homes for Christmas had yet to catch on.

When it came to the Costume Design, the biggest question I had was with the uniforms of the Spanish soldiers. If I remember my Philippine costume history correctly, the revolutionaries wore a uniform called the “Rayadillo” which was a pinstriped light blue and white uniform. So, if that was the case, why did the Spanish soldiers then wear the stripes of the “Rayadillo” and the Indio revolutionaries wear the light blue linen uniforms of the Spanish colonial army? I have not been living under a rock, and I have yet to read a paper that says I am wrong about this thing. That’s not something that can be easily overlooked if one is doing a period piece about your own country.

As for the rest of the costumes in this film, they were just that: costumes. They all look like they came straight out of the costume department, crisp and newly ironed. Then there’s the Franciscan robe, the clerical vestments, the altar boy robe… I mean, they have not changed much since the Byzantines and surely with Pope Benedict XVI reviving the use of traditional church vestments in the Roman Catholic Church, they could have at least gotten the silhouette right. But then again, they could argue that these were provincial clerical robes and that would be one excuse to use.

Now, I’m not the best Spanish speaker out there, but listening to the Spanish they used in this film, they would have done better to say the least. There is a nuance to the Spanish they used in the 1890s that is not found in the sprinklings of the Spanish dialogue they tried to inject. Even the character of Baron Geisler who plays a Spanish officer suddenly shifts to speak Tagalog while addressing the character of Joel Torre in accent moderne.

I had this summation about Baler midway through the film: I told myself that the movie’s heart was in the right place yet it seemed to beat the wrong way.

Like the second cliché of the film uttered by Mark Bautista [hated the mustache they made him wear for the movie] as the other half-bred soldier named Lope who was in-love with another India in the movie, “Mahirap umibig sa panahon ng digmaan.” [Love is difficult in a time of war] the film is not without stock characters that defined the generation of revolutionary leaders played by Joel Torre and stage and screen veteran Leo Martinez; the latter whose performance seemed to be the saving grace of this film.

Also, I think the writers did their best to portray both sides of the conflict. I sympathized with the plight of the Revolutionaries attempting to gain recognition with their sovereignty over the islands under the Spanish and American tug of war, the dynamic of having multi-racial soldiers that can be seen as traitors in a colonial army as well as their sentiments of being stationed in the islands, and the impatience of the revolutionary forces against the resolve of the Spaniards to stand their ground all contributed to the multi-faceted plot line. Even with that, it seemed to me like the editing would make an effort here and then suddenly just move on to the next one out of necessity. As I said earlier, I can’t seem to figure out the cinematic pace of this movie.

I’ve been having a hard time composing my next point but here goes: I used to think that when it came to doing period movies about your country, you’re supposed to have a grasp of the things within your own backyard. I mean, if Ngila Dickson could design costumes for the Last Samurai and she’s not even Japanese, imagine what the Japanese themselves -like Akira Kurosawa has done with Emi Wada for Throne of Blood or Ran for that matter.

Also, I was taught not to insult your audience’s intelligence. The true measure of artistic integrity lies in not settling for whatever is acceptable and getting away with it but in taking a truth and keeping to it [a lesson I admit to have learned the hard way]. In all fairness to BALER, it gave it a good try but somehow midway, they seem to have just settled. By the way of period films, I can’t judge if we actually took a step back from the period pieces of recent vintage but as per BALER, I wasn’t taken from the world I knew to this world they sought to create. And there I was expecting to be somewhere else, but like the Parabasis of a Greek play, I was constantly reminded by all the things I was seeing, that I was watching a movie [It‘s Lapu-Lapu all over again…with shields and spears mounted on walls like in Urdaneta lanais]. If that is the case, then we had better stay away from doing period films lest we hang ourselves.

02 April, 2009

In Walks You [the quarter-life crisis anthem]

It's tough when you want to have a copy of a song sooo bad but you just can't find it anywhere. I have loved this song since i first heard it about ten years ago when it was the theme of the long-gone show called Wasteland. At this point in my life, i kind of understand what Tim James is getting at...

I found this video on YouTube; it's not the music video for the song but a tribute video using the song with images from the Japanese animated series Oh My Goddess [or was it Ah, My Goddess?]

This song's for you, Alan.

here are the lyrics to the song:

Tim James

You're making me feel everything

Another sunny day
And I'm here broke in LA
I pull my hat down over my eyes
Grab my shoes, run out the door
Rushing to the job I hate
And the ticket on my windshield's no surprise
God's truth is out, it's murder here
What life's about is so unclear
I want to break and when it feels I've had all I can take

In walks you
And you make me feel
Like everything's ok
Like everything's gonna go my way
In walks you
And you make me feel
Like everything's alright
Like everything's gonna work out fine.
You're making me feel everything..

I feel trapped in these four walls I'm living in
The bills are piling up at my door
Take a walk outside before my roomate's band starts practicing
Cause a little peace is getting hard to find
In a world where I'm outnumbered
Living in this skin I'm covered in
Is this a blessing or a curse
Cause I don't think it gets much worse

Repeat Chorus

I don't mean to sound so down
But I get a smile whenever you're around
And if this feeling I feel is right
I could use someone tonight

You're making me feel everything..
You're making me feel everything
It's you
It's you
It's you