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

13 July, 2011

The Barefoot Baklesa Shares: Salvator Mundi, the Lost Leonardo

This colored photograph of a lost Leonardo painting was released just recently, and reveals the detail that made it a true work of Leonardo Da Vinci: the glass orb.

The iconography of Christ as Saviour of the World [the Spanish Salvador del Mundo] in the Philippines is rather different and is limited to the Christ Child [Santo Nino] images with both arms outstretched and held high. While the are other Christ Child images holding orbs, they are most often a full regalia with cape, crown, and scepter. And most adult images of the Lord Jesus Christ in the archipelago are populated by the Crucified Christ, the Sacred Heart, Santo Entierro [Christ Interred], and images of his passion and resurrection. Even the enthroned Christ the King is a different iconography altogether.

Examining this fine specimen of art closely, one is immediately drawn to the distant yet faded visage of Jesus Christ, a quality it shares with another Leonardo painting, The Last Supper. It feels eerie to behold at first, but the actual symbolism of a not quite flesh and blood Christ can be viewed as Leonardo's interpretation of the man and God qualities of the savior: that while he is of mortal form, he is not just of any mortal form. His eyes gaze at you but is withdrawn and distant, a quality that modern iconography seems to have forgot by making images of the divine stare back at you as if it was their duty to make that connection. Yet even with that elusive gaze, the hand poised in the traditional blessing looks more solid and heavy. Perhaps the intent was that the blessing does indeed reach us.

The curls on the hair remind us of another Leonardo, and also, what is said to be his final completed oil painting: John the Baptist. To which I bravely engage you to draw parallels with the his use of of the technique called Sfumato. Which by no less dramatic words is this luminous quality the subject emanates while he appears to emerge from this obscure darkness.

Blue, a color often associated with heaven, softens this painting following the folds of the fabric of Christ's robe and provides an almost liquid base albeit color to the glass orb.

While most religious paintings that make use of an orb usually have them in opaque blue, Leonardo cleverly uses the blue of the robes to reveal his glass orb. Only Leonardo's genius could have produced this effect of translucence on a flat surface, with complete consideration for the behavior of light. This is perhaps the proof of Leonardo's experimentation with light, proving his mastery of it, hurdling the difficulties of painting a glass orb whilst revealing what is to be seen beyond it.

The painting is currently valued at 120 million pounds, a far far cry from the 45 pounds spent to buy it decades ago. It was regarded to have been lost, passing into the shadows of the centuries after its documented owner King Charles I of England was executed. The painting shall be exhibited at the National Gallery in London as part of its Leonardo retrospective later this year.

thus spake the Barefoot Baklesa

Barefoot Sojourns: A Change of Pace in Pola, Mindoro Oriental

As much as the Barefoot Baklesa loves the sea and open water, the Barefoot Baklesa rarely travels by it. There is this sense of security standing on the beached margins staring into open water as the waves come and go. So, when the barefoot Baklesa learned that the only way to travel to Calapan in Mindoro Oriental would be by Ferry, the apprehension was undeniable. But as this is also for work, and principal photography for this film we are working on will be shot entirely in Mindoro, there was no choice but to brave the ferry at the port of Batangas.

Actually, this would be the Barefoot Baklesa's first trip to Mindoro Oriental; the final destination would be the town of Pola, an hour's drive away from Calapan. After what seemed like a series of delays, from missing the fast craft ferry to losing the bearings of the car tire and nearly falling of a cliff -thank you, Saint Christopher- the Barefoot Baklesa arrived at the town of Pola with Casiligan Elementary School as his first stop; a possible location for school scenes. Oh, did we mention that when we got there the rain poured like crazy? The Barefoot Baklesa seems to have this weird luck that it rains elephants when he arrives.

We were warmly welcomed by Ms. Lourdes, the Principal of Casiligan Elementary School. Once you set foot in its gate, one beholds this charming old wooden schoolhouse which, sadly, is a crumbling remnant of the Philippines' American Colonial Past. This particular architectural style called Gabaldon, follows the education law of the same name that mandated schools to be built all over the country for the purpose of public education. The flesh and green painted building constructed from tongue and groove wooden planks with capiz windows takes one back through time; punctuated by the grey skies brought in by the afternoon rain.

Ms. Lourdes represents the best of our Filipino educators: there is a fire within her that has not been extinguished since she first became a teacher. She was welcoming, her stories were told with such zest, with sprinklings of instructions to grade school students as they pass by, and her love for her career is undeniable. The Barefoot Baklesa has seen his share of jaded and embittered educators in his time, too bad they never get to meet the likes of Ms. Lourdes.

We were served piping hot Maruya, a fried snack made of bananas dipped in a basic flour batter and fried til crisp. It was a welcome meal for the rainy afternoon. As we watched the students come out of their classrooms in single file for dismissal, I can't help but think where social discipline goes wrong and how come Filipinos these days are undeniably disobedient [but let's save that for later].

A short drive from Casiligan Elementary School, we arrived at the poblacion of Pola. Unlike most old world towns that follow the traditional town square-as-the-heart-of-the-community planning of the Spaniards called reducciones, Pola is one of those few exceptions wherein the seat of government and the church are not situated across each other with the town square in between. Instead, the town is plotted in rows of streets to make good use of the coastal terrain.

Pola is the birthplace of Kabayan Noli de Castro, a respected broadcast journalist and former Vice President of the Philippines; then there's Pinoy Big Brother Teen Edition winner Ejay Falcon, both facts that the Barefoot Baklesa had learned only that day.

The structures in Pola seem strangely still, not really frozen, but unaffected in a good way. One has to have a heart for places like these, the humming symphony of human activity is a welcome substitute for the deafening city noise. Turn one corner and it's the sea, The Barefoot Baklesa will definitely enjoy shooting here.

Until the next sojourn...

Thus spake the Barefoot Baklesa

07 July, 2011

Love is Blind, But Not for the Blind

Eu Não Quero Voltar Sozinho or I Don't Want to Go Back Alone is a Brazilian short film written and directed by Daniel Ribeiro. The Barefoot Baklesa chanced upon this at Tumblr and thought it was worth the sharing. It's one of those films that make you feel 16 again and about to fall in love. We recommend watching it without the subtitles/captions first, for there's something about the universality of cinema that is at work while watching it like that. Having said that, so as not to spoil thy fun, we shall leave thee to it.

oh yeah, you can watch this on youtube and click on the closed caption button and click preferences for the desired language.

thus spake the Barefoot Baklesa

28 June, 2011

... and some guys are just pretty

Has anyone seen the Glee Project? There's an adorable guy there named Cameron... For lack of anything to say, just watch the video.

thus spake the Barefoot Baklesa

25 June, 2011

Barefoot Sojourns: Pila, Ang Bayang Pinagpala

It's that time of year again, when I am called back to this beautiful place. Its vast central square surrounded by historic homes from an era past seems bathed by this golden light that slows down my weary and timeworn senses; shedding off the superficial shell that the city forces one to wear. Everywhere, even the faces of strangers turn into friends, and in their withdrawn yet polite smiles, comfort. Three years I have been coming back to this place, with one less stranger and a new friend made as I cross the streets, looking up at old house windows, praying inside Saint Anthony's brick and stone church, and enjoying the company of every new friend I have made.

Who would not fall in love with Pila?

This historic town that traces its name as far back as the 10th century [the date was April 21, 900 AD] when the place was still called 'Pailah' as mentioned in a small fragment of an engraved sheet of metal called the Laguna Copper Plate; which I first heard mention of during my History 165 class at the Ateneo. But it would not be another eight years before I would actually walk the streets of Pila, ascend the steps of its century old homes, and watch the early morning sun illuminate this blessed place from the window of one of its old houses owned by a family that has welcomed me three years hence.

It was a rainy late afternoon when I arrived in Pila last June 11th, a day or so away from the annual celebration feast of San Antonio de Padua, the town's patron saint. Local lore has it that the Diocesan Shrine of San Antonio located at the edge of their Plaza Mayor [an old name for the central square, which is always more rectangular in the Philippines, I noticed] was actually transferred brick by brick and stone by stone from its old location by the lake, called Pagalangan of what is now the town of Victoria. It is said, during the Spanish colonial times, the Friars and the Luminaries of Pila decided to relocate the church due to the flooding of the Laguna de Bay. The new location, once known as Hacienda de Santa Clara, which was owned by the brothers Felizardo, Rafael, and Miguel de Rivera, is now the heart of modern day Pila. Without Don Felizardo Rivera's pioneering move, Pila would not have been. Rumor has it, the happy spirit of Don Felizardo still roams Pila, a sentinel of a time past.

It was three years ago when we were first invited by Ms. Jessica Rivera, one of the current heirs of the Rivera Ancestral House, to attend the annual Fiesta of San Antonio de Padua. Now for those of you who are uncommon to the Filipino tradition of celebrating a Fiesta, it's simply a community based celebration which has religious roots. Each town has a patron saint, and when the patron saint's feast day comes, it is celebrated with feasting and revelry to give thanks to the patron saint for gracing them with a good year of blessings and/or a good harvest. But I babble again...

So, three years ago, a new found friend named Manuel [a distant relative of the Riveras] and I were invited by Miss Jessica Rivera for a traditional fiesta luncheon and the solemn procession of the image of San Antonio de Padua. Miss Rivera herself owns an image of San Francisco de Asis [the founder of the Franciscan Order] which accompanies San Antonio during his feast day procession along with the images of San Roque, and the Blessed Virgin Mary. It was an enjoyable experience and from then on, my fondness for the town of Pila began.

But Manuel felt that the processional images of San Antonio, San Francisco, and the others, must be accompanied by Santa Clara de Asis the next year, following the tradition that she is friend to San Francisco and took from his example. Add to that, since the town now stands where Hacienda de Santa Clara used to be, there was a certain serendipity. And come 2010, I began my devotion to what I call 'babysitting' Santa Clara de Asis. Manuel commissioned a processional image of the and founder and first abbess of the Poor Clares to join the procession in her saintly glory, while I volunteered to help supervise the logistics of taking out the image for procession ensuring that she arrives at the church door -inclusive of traversing bumpy roads, dodging electrical lines and festive buntings, and the occasional rain.

Meanwhile Doctor Rufino Francia, a cousin of Miss Jessica Rivera, also commissioned a processional image of Saint Joseph with face and hands made of ivory to escort the Blessed Virgin Mary. A stunning piece of statuary, Dr. Francia's San Jose was executed in the local sculptural style of the late 19th century wearing vestments of amber and green velvet embroidered with jilos de oro [metallic gold thread].

Another son of Pila, affectionately called Tito Vic, opens his home to the images of San Francisco, Santa Clara, San Jose, and the Blessed Virgin Mary. Under the old trees around his property, these sacred images make their temporary stop. The carrozas [wheeled processional mounts/platforms] are decked with flowers and other complimentary foliage, the arrangement artfully executed under the watchful eye of Tito Vic, making sure that every leaf and flower falls or stands rightly so. And after a full day's work, an hour before procession, the carrozas would make their way from his gates to the church courtyard, in their vibrant floral gloss.

There's a certain drama that comes with tradition, and as the procession moves throughout the town past ancestral homes, their windows all open with spectators leaning over to watch like those that came before have done so, I am thankful for Pila's cultural advocates: the Pila Historical Society Foundation. The most prominent of them, Ms. Cora Relova, is a living reminder of the refinement and genteel manners the people of Pila have been known for since the time of the Spaniards. Her advocacy is to maintain Pila's status as a Heritage Town following the declaration of the National Historical Institute back in 2000. She welcomes people who have a heart for a town such as Pila, taking them along on heritage walks, armed with history, local lore, and a resolve to keep Pila the way it is. Who would not, if you get to wake up at a place like this?

If you think about it, the town of Pila is not like other Laguna towns that always has something associated with it; like say Pagsanjan or Los Baños which are resort towns, or Paete with carving and workworking, or Lumban with native textile and embroidery, etcetera. The town of Pila, plucked by the bay and moved to what was once an hacienda, would simply be like any other agricultural town made prosperous by the land. Yet somehow, there's this inexplicable draw that the place has over a jaded suburbanite such as I, maybe it's that combination of old world charm, a certain pride of place, and a people that you would fancy for their warmth and community spirit.

Before and after each procession come June 12 and 13, and I would look forward to watching the image of Santa Clara de Asis pass under the arch of Baranggay Santa Clara, it seemed a fitting and dramatic punctuation to the story of how Pila was relocated to a vast plantation then named Hacienda de Santa Clara. I relish the smile on my face as I watch thus, and with a prayer wish to be there again the next year.

For two years now, the fiesta processions of Pila would mark the end of my Processional Obligations, so to speak; which starts on Holy Week and encompasses Easter, the Feast of Saint Joseph, and the May-time Processions locally called Flores de Mayo. And Pila, with its charming historical homes and stunning processional images is a fitting finale. But without its people, the descendants of old families that would come home from halfway around the world for the sake of tradition, their cultural advocates, the devout men and women who help lend a hand in taking out the images of the saints, and the locals smiling amidst the constancy of their daily routines -all of them faithful and grateful- Pila would never be so blessed.

Until the next sojourn, I would like to thank:
Ms. Jessica Rivera
Dr. Rufino Francia
Manuel Djajakusuma
Ms. Cora Relova
Father Dennis Estrella
Paul Baisas Pagalanan
Jeffrey De la Paz
Tito Vic and the House of Victor Juan
and to the carroza pullers of Santa Clara de Asis

Thus spake the Barefoot Baklesa

21 June, 2011

Congratulations Kevin Anthony Donelly!!!

Congratulations to Kevin Anthony Donelly for taking home top prize in this year's Mr. and Ms. EcoTourism - The Mossimo Bikini Summit 2011!!! You deserve it. Now I know I almost never post a photo of any guy in his skimpy best [I think this is the first time ever in this blog], I'm willing to make an exception for this guy... He's got that boyish charm about him with a bit of a naughty streak. *wink*

Touching moment, the guy was in tears when he heard the results... makes him more endearing, doesn't it?

thus spake the Barefoot Baklesa

09 June, 2011

Shall We Dance?

The Barefoot Baklesa is quite excited for this year's Cinemalaya... Although the Barefoot Baklesa has been averse to anything that has come out of the Cinemalaya mill the past few years, he's willing to give this year a try. One of the reasons why is this entry:

Cinemalaya Presents A Film by Alvin Yapan
A Vim Yapan/Alem Chua Production In Cooperation with BIGTOP Media Productions, Inc. and Far Eastern University

Ang Sayaw ng Dalawang Kaliwang Paa
Starring: Paulo Avelino, Rocco Nacino, and Ms. Jean Garcia

Did that just say Paulo Avelino??? Well, that's certainly going to be enough reason. Hehehehe...

thus spake the Barefoot Baklesa

Ten Thousand Paper Cranes by Khael Lopez

Here's a beautiful song from a talented musician I'm glad to have known in this lifetime. My first impressions of Khael were summed up by the following words: unassuming, friendly, and polite. Later would I add the word talented to that list. But the most important word I have added of late is sincere. The mark of a great song for me is that it actually describes or communicates a specific moment in your life when you feel at a loss to describe what it is that consumes the entirety of your being; freezing that moment and expanding it into words and music... just listen to it.

thus spake the Barefoot Baklesa

Mario Maurer Fever Part Two: The Love of Siam

There's Mario Maurer Fever abound in the Philippine Archipelago... the pinoy teen masses have been introduced to the multi-racial cutie from Thailand over the weekend after ABS-CBN premiered the movie Crazy Little Thing Called Love. This time, The Barefoot Baklesa shall share with thee the movie that skyrocketed Mario Maurer into fame a few years ago: The Love of Siam.

~Oh yeah, beware the spoiler alert

I just couldn't shake it off... I have been watching this movie or a part of it,everyday this past month...

I've written some sort of review on The Love of Siam a while ago, but I felt that it was a bit inadequate with the kind of impact it had on me. I would like to thank joey torres for the mp4 file and strangerinsiamsquare for sharing the musical score and OST.

So, here we go...

I first learned about The Love of Siam [ Rak Haeng Sayam] after seeing another film called Bangkok Love Story. I think it was at the G4M Forums when they were discussing the latter that i stumbled upon it. I really didn't have anything to do that night, and thank the gods for wireless technology, I was able to watch it; and there was no turning back since.

I will have to admit, at first, I didn't really like it that much. I felt it was too melodramatic at times. But it does hit some chords right as per the emotional key of the scenes in the storytelling.

On the outside, seeing the way the movie was promoted in 2007, The Love of Siam seems to be one of those run of the mill teen romance movies. But at the core of this film lies a love story between two boys. Much to the surprise of the Thai audience a year ago. Well, I guess the Filipinos and the Thais really have the same mindset that gay characters must be effete, cross-dressing, and funny. Notice that every gay role commercially viable gay role written has to be the animated effeminate and people will find that amusing [ and don't use Brokeback Mountain as an example to the contrary because that i just plain crappy ].

But unlike the usual formulaic teen romances that only want to sell the "kilig" moments, LOS bears a sort of balance to the other relationships and subplots that are woven around the two leads.

LOS is the story of Mew and Tong, who were neighbors when they were young boys. Mew, a stubborn and introverted child living with his grandmother, finds a friend in Tong who is as a boy their age should be; playful and outgoing.

At what seems to be their happiest as children, Tong makes Mew hunt for his Christmas present, a woodblock sculpted christmas doll, which by some unfortunate circumstance would be missing its nose.

What I also found appealing in the storytelling is the dimension and contrast of their family structures. Mew lives with a spinster aunt and his beloved grandmother while across the street Tong is part of a Catholic household with his teenage sister Tang and parents Korn and Sunee [not what you would normally expect from a predominantly buddhist population]. I remember going, "Oh...they're catholic..."

For there is a tendency for some gay themed films to abstain from the parental dimensions of their relationships. Because perhaps, in this reality, having distant and un accepting parents reflect the cinematic view that their story is not worth telling.

When Tang goes missing during a trip in Chiangmai, Tong's family is forced to deal with the loss when there seemed to be no hope of finding her by moving away. Goodbyes are tough, and Mew would rather not deal with it. And as stories must, time passes...

But a chance encounter reunites Mew and Tong some years after during their late teens. Mew [played by Witwisit Hiranyawongkul] is now the composer and lead singer for an upcoming band called August [which to my surprise is a band for real] while Tong [played by Mario Maurer] typifies a boy his age: with a pretty girlfriend, and is part of a somewhat popular clique.

But Tong's home life is far from typical. His father, Korn, depressed, then wastes himself into drinking after Tang's disappearance leaving Sunee to hold their family together.

As the boys' rediscovered friendship progresses, Mew's strong attachment towards Tong inspires him to write love songs. And the lyrics to one goes:

"If I say that I wrote this song for you,
would you believe me?
It might not be as well
written or beautiful like other songs.
I want you to know that a love song can't be written
if you're not in love.
But for you,
I can write this song so easily"

After hearing it for the first time, Mew tells Tong that without him in his life, that song would never be. Tong responds with a kiss -probably the most innocent and the most heartfelt kiss i have seen on film in my existence.

[and the music...oh the music in this movie needs to be commended. Whether it be the songs or the musical score. I don't know a word of Thai but the i have been humming the songs in my head -indeed, if it be the food of love, it's been blasting out of my earphones to a glutinous extent]

But in discovering themselves Mew and Tong find out how their own smalls worlds and the fragile hearts they bear would collide: Sunee asks Mew not to make Tong take the wrong path, Tong faces coming out to his friends, Mew at odds with his band endangering their debut, and Tong's father's deteriorating health.

And even against Sunee's insistence, you will love Tong for running out at night and screaming at Mew's window to let him in, but to no avail.

And when all seems lost, they learn that as long as there's love, naturally there's hope.

Perhaps the line that will define this movie is when Tong tells Mew,
"I can't be with you as your boyfriend. But that does not mean I don't love you."
Then Tong hands Mew the missing piece of the wooden doll he had gifted him when they were kids [one which he had a hard time acquiring]. And it hit me, just a few moments ago what that meant! That wherever life leads them, Tong leaves Mew with some hope...That perhaps it may take a little longer for them, and like that wooden doll missing its nose, somehow Tong would find a way to complete it, to complete their love.

And I can't believe I'm using this Theology 131- Marriage & Human Sexuality lesson to prove a point. "A genuine loving relationship must be able to exist with other relationships."
Tong and Mew take a step into their maturity by accepting that they can't take a "you-and-me-against-the-world" stand on their love. If indeed what they have is true, it will be a love that they shall be able to share with their loved ones, friends, and all.

LOS does not take into account the typical requirements of what makes up love story. It doesn't give you that "dancing under the starlight" ending expected of the genre nor does it leave you with a heavy heart even if the last you see is Mew in tears [The love I know well is this: "it does end in tears." And the writer/director, Chookiat Sakveerakul presented that with no romantic pretenses]. But LOS does leave its characters with a glimmer of hope.

And that "Love", whether it between boys and girls, boys and boys, girls and girls, parent and child, friend and friend, between you and your god, is transcendent and unending.

And to answer Mew's question, "If we can love someone so much, how will we be able to handle it the one day when we are separated?"
I would tell him this, something that Gabriel Marcel said, "To say 'I love you' is to say 'thou shalt not die'..."

07 June, 2011

Mario Maurer Fever Part One: FRIENDSHIP

There's Mario Maurer Fever abound in the Philippine Archipelago... the pinoy teen masses have been introduced to the multi-racial cutie from Thailand over the weekend after ABS-CBN premiered the movie Crazy Little Thing Called Love over the weekend. The Barefoot Baklesa thought it best to share to you some of Mario's other movies. Here's one of them [warning, plot spoiler]:

Do you remember the time when you were in high school? When, for the most part, as much as you were on the verge of burgeoning maturity, you would easily cast it away for some happy time with your friends? Too often you walk around with this sense of invulnerability that goes with youth; bearing your then unscathed heart and your unbound dreams. This is where the Thai film FRIENDSHIP takes me back to. [It’s been a bit timely to have seen it lately considering it has been ten years since I graduated from high school]

FRIENDSHIP is the story of a teenage boy named Singha and the love he had for a girl named Mituna; the new girl, who transferred at the start of their senior year in high school. Singha, played by Mario Maurer [who shot to instant fame after his debut as a teenager coming to terms with his homosexuality in the film The Love of Siam -click on the link to read my review], was as typical as a teenage boy could be: a bit of a smart-aleck who hangs out with a boisterous set of friends, sexually curious, and often flirtatious with the girls. While Mituna, played by a lovely Thai actress named Apinya Sakuljaroensuk [there’s something about this girl that reminds me of a crush I had back in high school], was a girl that kept to herself and did not say much. It would have been a perfect boy meets girl scenario but instead Singha picks on Mituna due to her chosen silence, and as each act of teasing moves into the next, Singha pushes the envelope further until Mituna can’t take it anymore and could do nothing else but hit Singha in the face which somehow snaps him into a realization that he may have gone too far this time.

I love the way the film portrays that haze of infatuation often acted out as something else before a guy realizes that he actually likes the girl but the damage is done. I don’t know if it’s my love for Mario Maurer or the way his character is written [or maybe a combination of both], that can’t make me hate him and what he did. I mean, the first time we see Singha is when he helps out this lady with a cane at the bus stop who got knocked over by a passing commuter rushing for the bus. He then hands her a marigold which he has in his shirt pocket before he leaves to ride the next bus. He’s not that bad a guy; he just gets it wrong sometimes. Moving on…

It’s not until Singha secretly follows Mituna around that he realizes how mean he has been to her; he follows her to a social welfare facility and learns that her mother is deaf and mute. The apology that follows is a montage of a boy that has fallen in love with the girl who fought back. I’m not that versed with Thai pop culture so I have no idea if the song in the montage, which had this two-decades-ago-cheesy-quality to it, was actually a vintage tune; but it works.

Now, the movie itself is full of those teen situations of underage drinking, getting wasted on weed for the first time, misadventures into haunted houses, the generic out-of-town trip [thank god, no one broke into a song and dance by the beach, or rather the pool on this one like those really horrible Filipino movies], and the dynamics of the relationships with the people they share these with. After all, don’t they say that the friends one makes in school are the friends you have for life? I think the movie does well in establishing these within the plot elements in the sentimentality of it all. [I don’t want to focus too much on the other characters and how they figure in to the storyline in this review because they are best appreciated when seen]

I guess when you’re young and in love, there’s so much energy you can spare. For when things got a little better between them, the boy finds a way to understand her and to be understood. Just like what Singha said about words not being enough, he finds a way to learn how to do sign language. Now, it takes a certain kind of filmmaker to understand the difference between acceptable and revolting sentimentality. The sign language thing would not have worked if some generic Filipino director took a shot at it, I think. There is a pace that the film takes which makes it rather lighthearted and feeling like you were reminiscing on a lazy Sunday afternoon even if there’s a visually established flashback in the plot.

And as the end of senior year fast approaches with teenagers wanting to squeeze in so much before it does, a tragedy comes upon them. Lam, one of their friends, gets stabbed by a former schoolmate who joins up a gang that is hunted down by the police. Lam transferred in the same time as Mituna and was responsible in making Singha realize his true feelings for Mituna.
You know that feeling when things are happening all at once and you don’t seem to have the chance to slow it down and you have no chance but to bear with it? It’s excruciating to watch Singha and Mituna’s lives take the direction that will start to bring them apart. Singha’s father, a police officer, gets assigned to another district and they have to move out; while Mituna’s absentee father decides to sell the house they are living in and tells them to live in the country convinced that it will be better for Mituna’s mother. But both of them have no idea that this was happening to the other.

I don’t know what a “friendship book” is exactly, but the way I understand it from the movie is that it’s some form of scrapbook or memento that your friends pass around to write stuff on. Singha hands Mituna his pages for her to write on. Mituna promises to return it on the day they release the final exam results.

This reminds me of something my friend Sandro told me about last Friday; that we are where we are because God has a perfectly good reason for letting it be so. Watching it unfold before my eyes, I felt as if God was a little too harsh on Singha and Mituna. By mere moments they would miss each other; one turning left, the other tuning right. In the place where they promised to meet, in the places where each thought the other would be, and in the place where a desperate hearts clings to the hope of seeing one’s love, would they learn that they were not to see each other that day.
Singha would spend years carrying this love for Mituna wondering why she did not at least keep her promise. Even during their class reunion, Singha was kind of hoping to at least see her there and be happy for her if she had a family of her own. One day, while doing work with the indigenous communities in the mountains, Singha chances upon Mituna’s mother. Singha learns that Mituna is gravely ill. Okay, remember when I said that God was a bit harsh on Singha and Mituna a paragraph ago? Take that as an understatement.

That fateful day when they had promised to meet each other, something happened to Mituna; something that I commend the writer for not showing and just merely suggesting. I don’t think I have the heart to see that.

When Singha finally gets to see her, he realizes how gravely ill she really is. By this time, the movie hits you with a realization why it chose Friendship as a title. As much as we know there is a story of youthful romantic love, what moves one’s heart is the enduring power a deeper love has in their lives; and that is their Friendship. Don’t get confused on that one. You have to see the movie to really appreciate that amidst all that falling in love they built a great relationship between themselves for simply being genuine. I think some writers lose that kind of dynamic in order to come out with commercially viable romances. I don’t know if I’m communicating this properly, or if I’m speaking in tongues by this point. But maybe I’ll get back to this post sometime later and find my words.

There’s beauty in sadness as one friend of mine articulated. And I have a penchant for watching movies that portray this not just because I’m Asian [not many Filipinos would want to admit they are Asian though] and that is expected of me to understand but also because the barefoot baklesa is such a sap and he’d much rather have a good cry. Hahahaha!!!

Go and watch it if you want to have a good cry.

03 June, 2011

Reposting: The Barefoot Baklesa's Three Mushroom and Grilled Eggplant Pasta

I decided to start a recipe series since The Barefoot Baklesa was actually cooking lasagna barefoot when his dear friend, Sandro Lopa, called him The Barefoot Baklesa for the very first time. It was a few days to Halloween back in 2006 when that came to be... And just this evening, I experimented on something that deserves to be the first recipe to post.

The Barefoot Baklesa's Three Mushroom and Grilled Eggplant Pasta
[serves 3 to 4 very hungry people]
You will need:

250 grams button mushrooms, sliced
250 grams straw mushrooms, quartered
200 grams dried shitake mushrooms, rinsed twice and soaked in distilled water for at least one hour, rinsed a third time and soaked again in distilled water
two medium sized garlic bulbs, crushed and minced
4 large eggplants, whole
1 heaping teaspoon dried basil leaves, if fresh ones are available, then substitute 1/4 cup minced
1 and 1/2 cups of either vegetable, chicken, or beef broth -fairly concentrated. if not available, dissolve one instant broth cube in a cup and a half of hot water
4-5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons tomato paste [optional]
2 tablespoons Balsamic Vinegar
Worcestershire Sauce
crushed red pepper flakes
500 grams cooked pasta in flavored pasta brodo, Barefoot Baklesa Style
salt, sugar, and pepper to taste
Grated Parmesan Cheese

1. Preparing the Eggplants
With a steel tong, take the eggplants and grill them directly above an open flame -the stove is best if you're in a rush, keep a good watch and turn them constantly. once most of the skin is singed to black and the eggplants are soft, take them off the flame and place them in a large container and cover with plastic cling wrap and let them steam for a few minutes. after they have steamed, take a clean damp kitchen towel or paper towel and run the eggplants against it -this will peel of the singed skin cleanly, if not automatically. chop the eggplants into half inch cubes then set aside.

Pasta Brodo, Barefoot Baklesa Style
in a pasta cooking pot, add the proper measure of water to cook your pasta, 1 laurel leaf, a pinch of dried basil leaves, 1 whole broth cube, a few teaspoons of salt -or subsitute liquid amino salts if you're watching your salt intake, a few drops of Worcestershire sauce, and a few teaspoons vegetable oil to prevent the pasta from sticking. allow to boil and cook pasta the usual way.

TIMING IS VERY IMPORTANT FOR THIS RECIPE, sautee only when the water is boiling and you have just put the pasta in to cook.

2. In a deep non-stick pan or skillet heat 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, flavor the heated oil by sprinkling a dash of crushed red pepper flakes and allow to fry for a while; add garlic and sautee in medium heat until golden -take great care not to burn the garlic.

add in the basil leaves and allow to cook a little before adding the shitake mushrooms, the straw mushrooms, and the button mushrooms, allowing some time for each type of mushroom to cook. sautee for another minute or so after all the mushrooms are in the pan. shake in some Worchestershire sauce, salt, and pepper to taste.

Remember, other than the varieties of mushrooms with a woodsy flavor like the shitake or porccino, most farm cultivated mushrooms are bland and in some cases lightly sweet. thus they require some flavoring from the garlic and spices.

3. After that, add in the chopped grilled eggplants and your choice of broth and the 3 tablespoons tomato paste, bring to a boil and allow to simmer in medium heat for about 3-5 minutes. you will notice the sauce thicken due to the grilled eggplant breaking down during the cooking period. add the balsamic vinegar and allow to boil and simmer once again before stirring.

The tomato paste enhances the basil in the sauce while the balsamic vinegar balances the woodsy flavor of the mushrooms. you can add sugar upon what your taste requires.

4. By this time, the pasta will be cooked al dente. Drain the pasta using tongs or a kitchen spider, do not rinse, and mix them in with the sauce -don't worry about some of the pasta water going into your sauce -it's also flavored anyway.

5. Plate and top with grated Parmesan cheese and crushed red pepper flakes.

I also discovered cream cheese goes well with this when still warm... hehehehe!!!

I do hope you enjoyed my first in The Barefoot Baklesa Cooks Series

thus spake the Barefoot Baklesa

31 May, 2011

The Mary Month of May

In the Philippines, the month of May is always associated with three things: the start of the rainy season, the month of fiesta celebrations, and the devotion to the Holy Cross and the Flores de Mayo.

Superstition has it that it always rains on May 1st which is celebrated as the feast of Saint Joseph the Worker coinciding with the secular holiday: National Labor Day. They used to call the first showers 'Primera Lluvia de Mayo' [the First rain of May]. People would save the rainwater from that day and have it blessed to be used as holy water, believed to have healing properties.

Then come May 3rd, the feast of the Holy Cross commemorates the finding of the true cross by the Empress Helena, mother of Constantine the Great. From hence, all over the country, for the remainder of the month, chapels and churches would be filled with the sound of prayers and hymns to the Blessed Virgin Mary as children offer her flowers every late afternoon in a ritual they call Flores de Mayo. While in some communities, a wooden cross is moved from house to house by little girls or young ladies until it reaches the house of the one chosen to be the Reyna Elena for the Santa Cruzan or Sagala, the annual promenade of little girls and young ladies dressed in the finest gowns paraded with arches decorated with flowers in commemoration of the Pilgrimage to find the true cross.

Actually, the Santa Cruzan and the Flores de Mayo are two different things: The Flores de Mayo is an act of devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary culminating with a procession at the end of the month; while the Santa Cruzan started out as a pageant of sorts to showcase the eligible young women as they represent characters in the christian legend. But somehow, in the last thirty years, the two have merged into one unique hodgepodge of an event. The titles of the Virgin Mary like Rosa Mystica [Mystic Rose] or Reyna de las Estrellas [Queen of the Stars] is mixed with Characters like Reyna Banderada [the Motherland], Infanta Judith [the biblical Judith with a severed head], Reyna Elena [Empress Helena] and in some towns, Cleopatra -which i have seen reclining on a palanquin.

Celebrated Cultural writer Gilda Cordero Fernando could not contain her amusement when once shown photographs and regaled with the often incongruous line-ups of the Santa Cruzan or Sagalas of late. But she is forgiving in saying, "Hayaan mo na, it's sooo Folk eh." [Leave it be, It's so Folk].

Folk indeed, as I myself often could not make heads or tails of it yet find it uniquely Filipino. Some people find the Santa Cruzan irrelevant nowadays; a remnant of bygone era that has been consumed by displays of vanity and fundraising activities. But in some towns, they still cling to it, as tool of faith and the retelling of one dramatic chapter in the story of Christianity -and that to me, is better than showbiz celebrities paraded about town upstaging the Blessed Mother and the lessons of early Christian legend. Here's to that, and to the Blessed Virgin Mary.

thus spake the Barefoot Baklesa

25 May, 2011

the barefootbaklesa reviews: Virgin Snow [Hatsuyuki No Koi]

Watched this movie again the other day, just wanna share this one more time...

The Barefoot Baklesa Movie Review: Virgin Snow [Hatsuyuki no koi]
Direction: Han Sang-hee
Story and Screenplay: Han Sang-hee and Ban Kazuhiko
Release Date: November 2007

How long are you willing to wait for the one you love? How long can you keep a promise to the one you love? How long can you hold on to the hope that you and your love will find your way to each other again? In the cinematic style that I have come to expect of the Japanese slash Korean wave of films that I have seen these past few years, Virgin Snow presents a unique and well proportioned blend of plot elements that make up a romantic love story that defines the blossoming of a youthful love in places where the old and the new keep their fragile balance cradling the precious hope that love brings with it. [I have learned that there’s an alternative translation to the title in English, The First Snow of Love; more poetic, I think…]

The film begins when Kim Min [played by Korean actor Lee Joon-ki or Lee Jun-ki or Lee Jun-gi if you’re particular about spelling and phonemics] moves to Japan from Korea to follow his father who is a potter and ceramics artist by trade. While going around the city of Kyoto in his bike, Kim Min gets into an accident with a monk also riding a bike. He finds his way to a shrine, and at the ritual purification area [the way I see it, some sort of well or fountain where you wash up before you come into a sacred place], he meets a girl named Nanae [played by Japanese actress Miyasaki Aoi] who helps him tend to that scratch he got on his elbow. Nanae realizes that Min is not Japanese and guides him around the temple complex.

They come upon an Omikoji tree which peaks Min’s curiosity. He learns that an Omikoji tree is part of a fortune-telling tradition with the Japanese. You take your fortune, which you get in the form of a sheet of paper, and you tie it to the Omikoji tree if it reads bad luck; and if it says good luck, you keep it. Nanae tells Min that his fortune says lucky so he keeps it.
Right from the start, you see that these ancient practices are still alive and well in a place as modern and fast-changing as Japan. I mean, from the monk in a bicycle and a peaceful shrine where time seems to have stood still in the midst of the city, the writer could have chosen to place these characters elsewhere to have met for the first time; but this is where that factor of the ancient ways in a modern world comes into play.

You’re going to love Min as he struggles at being the new Korean guy at school, and you’re going to love him more when he tries to win the heart of Nanae [who also studies at the same high school] which starts out with rather disastrous results.
Indulge this blow-by-blow, if you please: On his way out from his first day at his new school, Min runs after Nanae and catches her by the bridge. Unfortunately, his bike accidentally knocks-off her painting case from her hands and it falls into the stream below. Kim jumps over the bridge to get it but fails to realize that the stream is quite shallow and ends up a bit hurt. And as he victoriously raises the painting case in the air, its contents all drop into the water.

But before I reveal too much [which I often tend to do when I do these movie review posts], allow me to just skip a few things so I don’t get too excited with all the sweet things he does and turn an eye towards objectivity.
Not long ago, I saw this Japanese animated film called Millennium Actress; and the film had quite a premise that said “love is a burden, and often a curse” [non-verbatim, but that’s pretty much the point]. And I realized how this governs the many love stories I have seen of recent vintage from the Japanese. It’s an observation rooted to certain philosophical musings that have been brought to my attention by my friend who studies Japanese philosophy. And as much as I want to veer away from being too profound with such a simple love story, you tend to realize that it is far from simple.
As the story rolls along, Min and Nanae’s love seems to have been built around these ancient practices like the Omikoji tree and the memory books, as well as superstitious urban legends passed on about lovers destined to part if they go to certain places, down to the charm/talisman that Nanae gives Min at the festival, and the promise to meet at a certain place in Korea by the first snowfall to seal their love with that magic or luck that goes with it.

And as their joy is cut abruptly by their untimely separation, Min’s promise to Nanae that he will learn to make fine porcelain for Nanae to paint on seems to have been lost. For when Min returns from Korea to visit his ailing grandmother, he finds out that Nanae has moved out of their home and is nowhere to be found. The seasons would change for these lovers lost to each other more than once until they find one another again. But as season’s change, so do some hearts; and the love they bear lost to the pain the heart feels.
Still, the journey of their love seems far from over. And by journey, you’re literally taken from Japan to Korea and back, but you’re also given this sense of completion –if you could call it that- when Min realizes that all he had to do was keep his simple promise.
If you see the way this movie ends, you’re going to want to watch it all over again and come up with the realization that the wait was all worth it, that some promises are worth keeping, and that if you hold on to your hope, your love will find you where you’ve always waited for him at the first fall of snow.