30 March, 2011

the barefoot baklesa recommends: 'Jenny & Juno' [also a review]

I like movies that, for at least a moment, make me forget that I’m such a jaded person for the most part of my conscious day. Trust me, I drift from being idealistic to being jaded by the hour each day -that’s just how the swirling mist in my head moves. I have not had the time to finish my review of the gay Korean movie “No Regrets” and here I am typing away for another movie: ‘Jenny and Juno’.

It’s a lazy start-of-summer afternoon for me and I just finished viewing ‘Jenny & Juno’ or ‘Jenny,Juno’ -the titular variations confuse me, really- and I feel all fuzzy inside. Right off the bat, this movie has earned a place in my heart as one of the best feel-good movies I have seen in years! Well, It doesn’t hurt that ‘Boy Meets Boy’ star Kim Hye-Sung plays the teenage boy named Juno who gets his girlfriend Jenny/Jae-in [played by the adorable Park Min-Ji] pregnant.

That’s right people, this movie is about teenage pregnancy. So why am I all giddy about a movie with such a serious premise to it? The movie treats upon the reality of how the average age of teenagers having sexual intercourse -and girls getting pregnant- are getting younger and younger these days; yet I found the way Jenny and Juno deal with this serious blow with the proper consideration for the value of human life through their innocent love for each other.

Jenny, an honor student and class president, falls for Juno, a newcomer to their school, who is quite a cool guy and enjoys a little fame as a champion cyber gamer. The movie starts when Jenny learns that she is pregnant and tells Juno. Things being a little to much to handle for Juno, he avoids Jenny for a while -as immature boys do- later to be reconciled with the resolve to keep the baby and face parenthood at a very young age. Juno does whatever he can to take care of Jenny: bringing her food at midnight, taking on a job to save some money, and making sure she has a healthy pregnancy. Determined to keep it a secret for as long as they can, Jenny & Juno eventually face the wrath of their disapproving parents when the pregnancy is finally revealed; with the adults having their own resolve to do what is necessary to keep them from ruining their young lives.

I know that the movie was written with the slant towards the unscarred heart and the unbound idealism of two young people in love, who are barely over being children themselves, now dealing with having a child of their own. But the most basic of things like “learning to live with the consequences of your actions” or “facing such tremendous odds head-on” are such simple things that young people ought to be reminded of.

On one hand, the movie is not without the ubiquitous requirements of a teen romance movie [you‘re going to enjoy these lovey-dovey sweet moments], yet I felt subliminally taught/reminded that abortion is wrong, that teenage pre-marital sex is not without its consequences, and that parents can only do so much for their child sometimes and they will still find it in their heart to love you either way. All that, without being preachy about it. Certain situations would seem unrealistic but you will learn to let it go of it as you watch because it’s quite a good movie: It had the right dose of idealism with the appropriate dose of reality. If I were a values education teacher, I’d certainly have my students watch this.

If you’re looking for a feel good movie for that lazy summer afternoon, then give ‘Jenny & Juno’ a chance to make you feel like you’re fifteen again, falling in love, and finding a rock to hit one’s self in the head with. I promise it will be worth your while.

So, check it out if you can. Here’s the link to the movie in

A Call for Photographers/Contributions: Philippine Holy Week Images and Tableau Book Project

For our Photographer Friends, Please pass it on to fellow photographers and enthusiasts

I enjoin everyone to become part the first of a groundbreaking series of books featuring the Philippine Sculptural Arts. Due to copyright lockout, we shant be giving away the title for now, yet to peak thy interest allow me to list down what you will expect of the first volume.

Volume One Features:

-The Local Iconographic Traditions of Philippine Holy Week Images.
-Extensive Research from Authoritative Sources, Christian Tradition, Records of the Saint's or Martyr's Passio, and the proper translation and study of the Roman Martyrology in relation the Saints that come out during Holy Week Processions.
-Features a study on the entanglement and confusion of identities and iconography related to Holy Week Images.
-An Socio-Anthropological Study on the introduction, integration, adaptation, and the continuing evolution of the Philippine Holy Week Processional Line-up.
-Featuring a chapter on the study of first century clothing and jewelry from the Biblical Lands.
-Featuring a study on popular local patterns for clothing the saints and their company
-Excursus and Essays on Rare Sculptural Pieces, Indigenous Interpretations, and more.
-A revolutionary layout for quick reference and study.
-Under the creative guidance of one of the country's leading names in Philippine Culture Publication
-A Catalog of Images of the Solitary Images and Tableau as seen in Philippine Processional Line-up.
-And some surprises for the Santo Enthusiast

What is our intention in putting this book together?

As much as there have been books published devoted to Roman Catholic/Ecclesiastical Art in the country including one that has even compromised the local Holy Week Processional Line-Up by misinterpreting data about the identity of a certain female saint -of which no proper research could be provided by author in question, we felt the need for a book that will truly serve as a reference and a guide for Santo Enthusiasts, Collectors, Students, Art Scholars, Image Owners, Confraternities, and those who share a love albeit an addiction for the Liturgical, Sculptural, and Theatrical Value of the Santo or the Poon in Holy Week Processions.

Our aim is to provide you a book with the appropriate scholarship in relation to the Proper Iconography as prescribed by the Traditions in Roman Catholic Art among other sources and the local interpretation of these in the Philippine setting. In that same mold, we also aim to catalog many examples of a particular solitary image or tableau to feature the seemingly infinite variety of religious images taken out at the climax of the Lenten and Easter celebrations in the country.

We seek to clear out the confusion of who traditionally bears what, wears what, and what goes with what when it comes to the attributes of the Saints. We seek to state or cite practices in relation to the care, dressing, and veneration of these religious images. We seek to define the identity of the Santo/Santa through the governing aesthetic, development of style, and the use of materials that make them uniquely Filipino .

We seek to provide the reader with a quasi-encyclopedic accessible layout for your reference and ease of use.

How do you become part of it?

Currently, most of the writing is done and we are in the process of finalizing the content and editing the chapters, yet ever since from the conceptualization of this particular volume, we saw the potential of the Flickr online groups and its members in acquiring an extensive collection of photographs or images to accompany the text.

Three years into the process, we have been fortunate enough to be allowed into the homes of families taking care of these images and were granted access to personal collections; yet we seem to feel that the wealth of images currently in worship, steeped in local lore, or those in humble devotion are yet to be discovered and are beyond what we have photographed and already seen.

We want this volume to feature as many examples of solitary images and tableau that define the unique character of Philippine Holy Week Processions.

Therefore, we enjoin everyone if there is anything they wish to share or feature by way of photographs, information, local traditions, and stories to please contact us.

Specifically, We are looking for:

-Photographs of Solitary Images [Santo, Santa, Poon, Rebulto, the 12 Apostles, Holy Women, other Disciples, the Sorrowful Virgin Mary]
-Photographs of Holy Week Tableaux [Events encompassing the Passion, Death, and Resurrection of Jesus Christ]
-Photographs of New Testament Tableaux [Events encompassing the Ministry, Miracles, and Milestones in the Life of Jesus Christ as it applies to longer and more extensive -Processional Line-ups like that of Paete or Baliwag]
-Photographs of Holy Week Processions [Encompassing Palm Sunday to Easter Sunday]
-Photographs Pre and Post Procession
-Photographs of Santos/Santas as they are prepared for their Procession
-Photographs of Carrozas, Andas, and Calandras
-Photographs of Practices in Relation to Holy Week Processions
-Photographs of Rare Images: Crude, Folksy, or Naif [the rarer they are the better]
-Photographs of Christ's Tormentors [Hudyos, Romanos, etcetera]
-Photographs of Unusual Characters found in the Processional Line-up [including those from the depths of Tartarus -Paete has this]
-Photographs of Monumentos, Kapiyas, Estaciones, and Kubol in the path of the Procession
-Photographs of Unguarded Moments and Situations that arise in preparation, during or after procession.
-Provenance and History of Family Owned Images
-Provenance and History of Church/Community Owned Images
-The Acquisition or Commissioning of Religious Images
-Retired Images from the Processional Line-up
-Local Lore and Legend in relation to Holy Week Images currently in worship and procession
-Photographs of the 2011 Lenten Processions from your locale
-If you are a writer and there is something else you wish to share related to that listed above, we have a few Excursus spaces available for topics currently confidential

What's In it For You?

For every contribution, we shall be giving full credit to the photographer and the contributor. A signed document shall ensure that we adhere to this stipulation guaranteeing proper credit to the photographer/contributing party in the chapters, captions, and appendices of the book.

As of this time, it is premature for us to promise any copies of the book. The Editors and the Publisher shall decide on the degree of importance of the contributions and will be deciding on the complimentary copies or discounts to be granted the contributors.

So, if you are a Professional Photographer, Photography Hobbyist, Image Owner, Confraternity Member, Devotee, Writer, Informant, or Researcher who thinks you may have something to contribute to this book by way of the list above, you are most welcome.

If there is a particular religious image or tableaux that you wish to share with us and feel strongly should be included, you are most welcome.

If there is something that you think we should take note of in relation to the list above, you are welcome to do so.

Target Deadline for Contributions: May 5th 2011

This book shall be for limited publication with 150 hardbound and 450 softbound copies.

How You Can Reach Us:




or send me a Flickrmail

mobile numbers available upon request

Again we thank thee for thy time and look forward to collaborating with you.

Niki de los Reyes-Torres, PATDAT

18 March, 2011

Jesus Christ Superstar is a Rock Opera NOT a Musical [some post show musings]

john nineteen, forty one

It was during one of our late night rehearsals while attempting to fix the blocking for John Nineteen: Forty One [the finale for Jesus Christ Superstar] when I had an epiphany of sorts: that I had waited fifteen years to the day to finally get the chance to perform Jesus Christ Superstar. As Martin Esteva, our Lighting Designer, illuminated the crucifix [the engineering of which took three days to solve] in the chiaroscuro as that of a classical painting, Deana Aquino, the choreographer, was blocking to include the Pieta or the Angustia as the final tableau that closes the show. Our director, Michael Williams saw it fit to end with a traditional image, so to speak. I felt it was his way of setting a counterpoint to a rock opera that was outside the usual christian mold of what is perhaps the greatest story ever told.

As I was watching this tableau take final form, I began to count the women/female actors that were part of the scene: we had four. One was assigned to be Mary the Mother of Jesus [never really a character written in the show ], then there was Mary Magdalene [the only female part as far as Llloyd Webber and Rice were concerned], and two more. And then I went, “Oh My God, Tita Deana! This is so correct. There's Mary the Mother of Jesus, Mary Magdalene, Mary Salome his aunt, and Mary the Wife of Cleophas!” [ yeah, I know...that's a whole lot of Marys...trust me, that's where most of the biblical scholars, iconographers, and martyrologists get confused]

To which Tita Deana responds with, “Oo naman, Niki.” and a look on her face that assured us that this was the ending we were going for. Of course, that final image has been represented in western and Christian Art for the past two millennia and have been immortalized by Michaelangelo's marble masterpiece “The Pieta” and the many Hispanic variations of the "Angustia" that are taken out in procession for Holy Week in the archipelago.

Even the progression of the image of Jesus Christ from an 'everyman' in a white shirt and beige slacks, to the iconic image of him in the long white tunic, until the draped loincloth upon his death was intentional. Michael saw it fit, that as Jesus comes closer to his death the more will he look like the Jesus seen in western art. He and only he will regress from the modern into the first century.

Going back to the final tableau, who won't be able to identify with a mother cradling the body of his dead son? Because that's where it ends for Jesus Christ Superstar, brutally at his death on the cross. No resurrection, no stone rolling away, no blinding light, no angel and some neatly folded linen at the corner of a sarcophagus... just a dead man in his mother's arms. Perhaps Michael had to allow this final image as a counterpoint to the treatment of the material of this rock opera to infer what two thousand years of Christianity has done with the Jesus story.

When Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice first toyed with the idea of Jesus Christ Superstar, they went against tradition by telling the greatest story ever told from the point of view of Judas Iscariot. The whole thing started out just as double disc album recorded on a 45rpm disc [yes kids, this was way before CD players and i-pods and download-able music ] but the record sales were phenomenal and the album topped the LP charts, specifically in the United States that soon enough, it led to a few concert versions and later a full theatrical staging in New York's Mark Hellinger Theater in October 1971 and in London's West End at the Palace Theater in August 1972. And up until today, JSC holds its own as one of the first longest running shows on the West End boasting 3,358 performances. Crossing into another aspect of popular media, Superstar assumed it's most popular version, a film in 1976 directed by Norman Jewison -infinitely better than the 1999-2000 version which felt so contrived with a Jesus that looked like the love child of Michael Bolton and the vocalist for Simply Red.

Jesus Christ Superstar, from my deduction is a product of the post-modernist world, of a thriving secularist milieu in the wake of two world wars, the wild-child awakening fostered by the 1960s, and the disillusioned zeitgeist glossed over by the glitz of the 1970s when the stage versions reached the boards. There was even a comment that the first staging felt like it was “part Hair- part Godspell – part kitchen sink.” In simpler terms, throwing everything in to the already epic musical score that told the story.

Earlier in the rehearsal process, Michael Williams had envisioned JCS outside the mold of the Christian Psyche. Something that a Jesuit educated scholar and advocate of the Christian Religious Arts such as I, find very difficult. There are some things engrained in my system too deep, give or take my displeasure at certain practices advocated by established religion. I remember a conversation with Michael and Chino Veguillas [the assistant director] regarding the controversial deconstruction of Jesus Christ in the rock opera. To which Michael reverts to the core aspect of the modern theater: to rock the establishment [get it?] and to rattle the status quo. Something that Jesus Christ himself, during his time did, which echoes to this day. Michael would then insist that whatever happened to Christianity after the time of Jesus, it was still about one man, the man who went through all of that two thousand years ago; and that human dimension of Jesus Christ is the first thing we can all relate to.

Even if JCS was banned in some countries like South Africa, Lloyd Weber and Rice's Jesus never speaks far outside the mold of the Biblical Jesus. In fact, Rice's lyrics use mostly Biblical content in his lyrics. When Jesus sings “If your slate is clean, then you can throw stones” [Strange Thing Mystifying] is a mere lyrical equivalent to “Let he among you who has not sinned cast the first stone.” [John 8:8] and his response to Caiaphas in Hosanna that goes “If every tongue were still the noise would still continue, the rocks and stones themselves would start to sing!” is in reference to Luke 19:40 “I tell you, if they keep silent, the very stones will cry out!”

Yet Lloyd Weber and Rice gave us a Jesus within the confines of a human body, a man subject to human emotions, of grave doubt, and the obvious physical suffering he is to endure while he sings his entire agony in Gethsemane. Add to that, the key players in the Jesus story are given new dimension as they are not portrayed as singular track characters immediately good or evil, but rather characters faced with dilemmas close to our own. At the very heart of JCS' storytelling is Judas' consistent fear of things getting out of hand as he sings the opening number “Heaven on Their Minds”, Mary Magdalene's struggle with the love she bears -a love she is not familiar with in the moving “I Don't Know How to Love Him”, even the Basso-profundo musings of the Priests reflect the shaken established order in “This Jesus Must Die”, and Pilate -who in infamy made Jesus Christ suffer as is uttered in the Nicean Creed is perturbed by balancing duty and human mercy in both “Pilate's Dream” and the debate between him and Jesus Christ in “Trial Before Pilate”

Having mentioned Mary Magdalene, if one studies her character as written in JCS, she is but a remnant of the confusion between three women in the Bible. Particularly: Mary of Magdala -who Jesus Christ healed of the seven demons that afflicted her, The Unnamed Sinner in the gospel according to Luke, and Mary of Bethany -sister to Martha and Lazarus, another one who anointed Jesus Christ with the precious ointment and used her hair to wipe his feet. This confusion stems from a theological deduction made by Pope Gregory VI during a sermon a few centuries ago . Trust me, it's been tough to explain that to a few old dogs now that I take out a processional image of Saint Mary of Bethany for Holy Week for a few years now. The title “penitent” has been removed from Mary Magdalene way back in the 1960s yet this particular interpretation of her still exists and made it to JCS. But the very hinge that adds to JCS' reputation for being controversial is the song “I Don't Know How to Love Him”. Suggestive as it is moving, it follows something that I follow when creating characters.

In Play Development Class, my Professor once reminded me of something that Goethe said, “There is no art in turning a goddess into a witch, a virgin into a whore; but the opposite operation, to give dignity to what has been scorned, to make the degraded desirable, that calls either for art or for character.” Some people say Mary Magdalene's cultus was so powerful in the early days of mainstream Christianity, that she was painted as a woman of ill repute by way of the synoptics to reinforce the dominance of male figureheads in the leadership of the early Christian church. Okay, I'm rambling on again... forgive me.

All these characters you seem to sympathize with, most especially Judas. I guess as Filipinos, we are used to the stereotype of Judas with a face that resembles character actor and true-life pain in the butt Rez Cortez [dipping his nose into Philippine politics where he has no business to begin with], bearded and sinister. In fact, in my ancestral province, we burn a 13 foot effigy of Judas Iscariot on the night of Black Saturday. Poor man, it's not enough that we forever remember him as the ultimate traitor, and literature has him seated by the side of Satan in the 7th circle of Hell as described in Dante Alighieri's Inferno, we still mock him by burning him every year. Then again as the cliché goes, the road to hell is paved with good intentions; and JCS explores Judas' intentions with the degree of love and loyalty an apostle would. His intentions, noble as they seem, never did merge with the Messiah's resolve to do his father's will. Thus they take two roads, one by the noose, another by his cross.

Yet, the creators of this rock opera were not without their sense of humor. King Herod's song was not only a reflection of the musical range displayed by Lloyd Weber by his use of a Charleston beat, it was a creatively comical foil to the other antagonists and their musical leitmotif. In the serious tone of the Last Supper, the lyrics “Then when we retire we can write the gospel so they'll still talk about us when we die.” the Apostles not only reveal their shallow expectations and understanding of Christ's situation, but Tim Rice seemed intent on foreshadowing the absence of the majority of them in the last hours of Jesus' life. Well, so much for their retirement. If one followed the story of the Apostles, almost all of them were martyred. Some had their heads cut off, some were sawed in half, some were skinned alive, and some were also crucified.

The theme Superstar, the most recognizable of all the leitmotifs in this rock opera, is as moving to me today as it was when I first heard it as a child blasting off my late father's hi-fi. Yet the lyrics that Judas sings when it turns into the final paean, utters not only praise but also asks very important questions:

“Jesus Christ, Jesus Christ!
Who are you, what have you sacrificed?
Jesus Christ Superstar
Do you think you're what they say you are?”

Timely questions... At this day and age when Palestine is still divided as it was in Jesus' time, when the Holy Land he left behind is always at the brink of turmoil -if not already in it, when many holy wars have been and still are fought, when many have died because “God/Allah wills it” crusade after crusade, after such a thing as the Holy Inquisition, Schisms, Reformation and Counter-Reformation, World Wars, Antisemitism, Genocide, Secularism, Communism, Apartheid, Disenfranchisement, and even just plain jadedness. Is Jesus still a timely or significant figure in a world that seems to have no more time and place for him? Why come at a time such as then with so limited exposure for him? Was it worth it, to be beaten, scourged, and crucified? What will he say should he find himself among us today?

There's nothing irreligious about what the JCS' Judas was asking. I think the real Judas Iscariot would like the chance to ask him those questions. If not for anything else, and with no intention to be preachy about it, Superstar -in essence- captures the encompassing doubt and/or questioning that leads to some degree of enlightenment about the Jesus Christ one knows or is familiar with.

Now, before this turns into one of my over-analyzed postings, time to shift...

They say in the practice of the theater, everything is “build and destroy”. After the curtain falls dark on the last show and the sets are torn down, all you have is that one brief shining moment that you look back to when you have triumphed on the boards. But there are shows that stay with you, and earn a special place in your heart; where in memory it stays golden.

Our student cast was amazing. In this production, there was a boy, no more than 17, that seemed to me the most unlikely Christ figure that proved me wrong. There was a Judas that looked like a cliched Jewish accountant whom I enjoyed having intellectual discussions with, another Judas I had the sick pleasure of pushing around all in the spirit of fun, three Mary Magdalenes that grew into their own, a Caiaphas with hip-hop hand movements, a consistent Annas, an admirable Pilate, one hardworking boy that earned the monicker Pepiter, a Herod that does splits and steals the show, a tireless and often overwhelmingly stressful chorus [yes, you know who you are], and the band to which no words apply but applause.

So, who was it that said we could not pull it off?

thus spake the Barefoot Baklesa