Saturday, September 29

Finally got to see Barbie's Cradle
perform live last night. For the longest
time I've been trying to catch them,
but forces combine in such a way to
prevent me from doing so: Deadlines,
revolutions in little countries, my
tendency to confuse the time-space
continuum (Oh no, jeeze no, you
mean Friday was yesterday?). When
Abi said they were performing in
Cainta, of all places, we dropped
everything and went.

The website said 10pm, but another
band wasplaying Lisa Loeb covers.
I don't mind covers, but the girl
vocalist's idea of stage presence
was doing Anggun hand movements passed
down via the Madonna route, and she
was trying so darned hard to be sexy
and it just wasn't working. Heck,
everyone could see she wasn't
comfortable with what she was doing.
When the girl announced that they're
doing their last song, the crowd cheered
and roared. Barbie's coming onstage, yey!

Three words: Wow. Wow. Wow.
I conveniently forgot that rush hour
on the MRT could be hell on earth. In
the first place, I usually do not take
the MRT, traverse Edsa, and mix with
the throng coming from Makati. I had
spent the afternoon in Megamall, downing
caffein in the effort to be conscious
enough at the screening of Himala at
the UP Film Center. It was something
I didn't want to miss because:

a. Ate Guy was haunting me--I woke up
in somebody else's house and she
was there, blabbing in a talk show
and promoting a concert;
b. I had never seen it, and I had
no idea that that was going
to happen in the end;
c. Himala is one of the films to be
auctioned by the CCP and might be
bought by some Japanese guy and it
won't be shown for a long, long time.

So, at past 6pm, the crowd waiting
at the Shaw Blvd station was 6 people
deep, and I had less than an hour to
meet some friends at thatother huge
mall in North Avenue.

It was not a time for walking under
the moon, or long sleeved hooded
shirts. It was a tank top and running
shoes moment, with techno on the
background. I was drenched in sweat
and out of breath, and darn, we were
still late.

Wednesday, September 26

It took the techie girl all weekend to rid my pc
of the dreaded microbus virus. Damn bug took my
word files along with it: my scripts, my stories,
my writing projects, archived emails that I
dearly, dearly loved and tried to save but all
in vain.

Dear hacker, wherever you are, I hope you are
happy. Walk my way and so I can wipe that grin
off yer face.

Wednesday, September 19

"You are who you are."

I've heard this line spoken twice in the span
of a few days. First at the Brash Young Cinema
screening last Thursday for But I'm A Cheerleader,
then a couple of days later while I explained the
extricacies of vampire life and mythology from
Anne Rice's movie.

Cheerleader was a satire aimed at the
straight camps. A really straight and
somewhat bland cheerleader is suspected
of being lesbian because she:

a. has a poster of Melissa Etheridge

b. does not enjoy kissing her schlop
of a boyfriend

c. she has a poster of a buff girl in her locker.

Then they concluded she has to find her
"True Directions." I don't know if the audience
laughed because it was funny, or it was so true
it hurts that we just had to laugh.

And while trying to convert a straight girl thought
to be homo back to straightness, poor girl found
latent tendencies: She fell in love with a girl at
camp. See what societal conditioning can bring?

Monday, September 17

Dropped by the set of a movie about four
holy men with very human qualities this
afternoon. They were lighting up a whole
stretch of street somewhere in Panay Avenue
for a procession scene, and it was taking
quite a while so the directors and some of
my soon-to-be former co-workers and I
ended up discussing the events leading to
the pending dissolution of our partnerships.
The face of primetime television is changing.
It wouldn't recognize itself if it stared
at the reflection in the mirror.
In my high school batch's egroups exchange,
one of the guys points about our apparent lack
of sensitivity. Vic says:

[I] just read your messages and
ganun pa rin lahat: Same
characters, maturity in certain aspects.
But if the idea of this group is for some
of you to show off and for some of us
to be ashamed of ourselves, the objective
of re-acquaintance will not work.

He is of course correct. High school was a
hell's quest for popularity, and the majority
of us weren't the movers and shakers, and
were made to feel pathetic for not wearing
the right brand of clothes, the hip hairstyle
of the moment, for not having the agility or
the clever one-liner to throw back. It was
like passing through one giant cookie
cutter where you all looked the same,
thought the same, with the occasional
rebel who was willing to answer back to
the teachers and yell "To hell with everybody!"

When you think about it, one cannot almost
comprehend the rationale for holding reunions
except to further perpetuate the cult of
popularity. Reunion is hell for those who
were once popular and the once prodigies who
never amounted to anything more than what
was expected of them. With nothing but old
gloss to draw from, memory comes in handy.
This is where the proliferations of
"remember whens" begin. Past glories are
dug and dressed up with nostalgia, to liven
up the nothingness that permeates our
mundane, daily lives.

And those who have risen up the social ladder,
those whose cuteness factors had escalated
compared to the diminishing hairline of the former
crush ng bayan, now is the time for revenge.

Friday, September 14

There's a little black spot in the sun today.
It's the same old thing as yesterday

Or rather, in the past two weeks since we flew
back in from Mindanao, I could best be
described as catatonic, in a mild form of
coma. Days and nights blended together
in spiralling spots in the ceiling, or spent
staring at the computer screen, on books
that never get beyond the next page. There
were errands that I forced myself to do:
stand up, get dressed, put food in mouth,
swallow. Get out of house, stick out hand
for public transport, walk, stand in line,
pay the phone bill. Go into mall, have the
bloody out of town pictures developed.
Call people, meet friends for talk, coffee,
the sharing of ennui and further
disappointments. Click on computer,
download music, play. I now have 3
different versions of the same song.

And I have stood here before under the
pouring rain. With the world turning
circles running 'round my brain.

You always remember where you are when
something commensurate to a war attack
happens: I was at a dinner meeting, and we
had our own bomb in our hands. On the tv set,
the plane crashes into the WTC towers.
I wanted to convince myself that this was a
movie, but it wasn't. On the next table, the
waiters were all screaming cheerful birthday
greetings. The world was coming to an end
and they were celebrating. I found it difficult
to breathe, and it wasn't just because my
worlds--in the plural form, blew up, in terrorist
simultaneous fashion.

I guess I'm always hoping that you'll end
this reign, but it's my destiny to be
the queen of pain.

Saturday, September 8

Think of Judy Ann Santos in the dark, horizontal.
The muscles in her arms strain against the
gravity of push and pull, and she sweats
profusely, her breath coming in very audible
gasps of air.

It had all the charge of an erotic movie.
Judy Ann = sex is disorienting. It veers
away from our usual concept of Judy Ann as
virginal orphan, the girl everyone seems
to take a potshot at, the eternal api-apihan
in soap operas. But this was the first scene
of Bakit Di Totohanin, and it pumps more
electricity than the conjured up scenes of romance:
Judy Ann and Piolo romping by the beach,
hugging and kissing in wet clothes. Those
were kilig, and aimed at the fans, something
to scream and swoon for.

Then there was the spectacle of Judy Ann and Piolo
training together in the gym, in spartan amounts of
clothing, all sweat and brawn, with a considerable
amount of restraint as they breathed deeply
and inhaled each other's essence. Around the
same time the audience realizes what was going
on, if they actually realize it at all, the
characters sense it themselves, and the gaze
is broken. There is more power in those few
seconds of eye contact than the whole film
put together. Judy Ann was suddenly an object
of desire, and we had to look away because
we've never considered it before.

Then the next thing you hear, Judy Ann is
starring in the next Darna movie. That is
going to be one turbulent ride.
The poet is dead. We were taught this in
literary criticism classes. And yet
Jose Corazon de Jesus, in his crown of
laurel leaves and two-toned leather shoes,
confronts Iñigo in this morning's Pahina.
"Umiibig ka," he tells the kid.

The object of affection happens to be his
teacher Paz Manalang (Latorena/Gloria?).
He bonks her on the head with a basketball,
follows her home and steals a blouse from
her backyard. She is impossibly beautiful,
breathtaking--especially when captured in
director Noel Añonuevo's soft lighting,
slow motion, the graceful sway of her hand
as she sweeps a stray strand of hair away
from her face. Iñigo has no other recourse
but to fall in love even as he is alternately
becomes suspected of being an Akyat Bahay
or a drug addict.

When she tells him that he stands no chance,
because she is his teacher dammit, the boy
is close to tears, but manages to stand firm,
his woe clenched in tight fists. He blames the poet:
"Kailan man hindi ko inibig ang maging
." But poets are dreamers and thrive
in the unconsolable tragedies of being
alive. Love will come soon enough, bonking
you in the back of the head with a basketball.

Friday, September 7

What I wanted to do while in Mindanao was
to take pictures:

A man standing on the curb of a busy street,
the sunset and a mosque somewhere behind him;
a shiny red umbrella left open and alone on
a spot of very green grass; a child's plastic
toy shovel, stuck on a destroyed sand castle
on the beach.

All these the news camera guy described as
"very National Geographic." Or as I want
to call them, rejects from photography

My first full day out on research, it poured.
We were in Polomolok, in South Cotabato--
land of Norberto Manero, brain eater;
resting ground for MILFs, MNLFs, NPAs and
all other manners of acronyms whose meanings
I don't fully understand. All around us were
mountains, and huge open fields of cogon,
coconuts, empty plains. And though it was
raining, my shirt stuck to my skin drenched
with sweat. We encountered a middle-aged lady
whose idea of assistance was to have 30 pages
of public domain documents sorted and xeroxed,
each page stamped and signed with her slow,
slow hands. It took her 3 hours. A battle ax
felt lodged on my forehead.

The following days I left my camera in the hotel.

We did a story on a group of streetchildren,
dubbed in those parts as the tun-og, or morning
dew. These kids as young as 8 or 9 roamed the
streets at night, hanging by the beach, peddling
their bodies for small change, a cup of coffee,
a hot meal, a quick fix of hardware shop rugby.
On idle moments, they comforted each other in
abandoned boat sheds by the creek, and in the
process giving each other STDs. All these at
age 9, and unphotographable.

The tun-og belong to different gangs with names
like Utol Sama Ka Hanggang sa Sementeryo--
Brother, Accompany Me to Our Grave--
and Spice Girls Unite.
We asked them to show us where they hung out.
We were lead to the very end of a dike's walkway.
Going there was a balance between not falling
and not breathing. On the edge of the walkway
were rows and rows of human waste drying out under
the sun. The villagers must have had nowhere
else to run and pulled down their pants and
pushed. Each time the breeze blew in from the
creek, I felt a churning down in the pit of my
stomach. Half a mile. Under the scorching sun.
Half a mile the relentless stink of human decay.
These are unphotographable.

In my last day, I had a whole role of film left.
I took pictures inside our hotel rooms, on the
shore going to the pretty "island garden city"
of something, and everyone posed merrily under
colorful, breeze-thrown strips of cloth, at the
airport while we waited to be transported back
to our paltry boring mundane lives. These were
quite easy to take: point, click, shoot. We
shopped for bolts of cloth and purses and stinky
spiky fruits that can't be found anywhere
back in our city. We planned to come back, because
we hadn't really seen much of the place. We
could do something for those kids.

Yeah, I said. We must come back, I haven't
taken any National Geographicpictures yet.
Everything was unphotographable.

Wednesday, September 5

She was hard as nails. She was funny as hell. She
was all girl. And she taught me everything I know
about beauty.

R.I.P. Pauline Kael, film critic, dame extraordinaire.

Monday, September 3

I've spent a huge chunk of time today searching
for stories that even remotely features heroism
in our daily lives. Given the high crime rate
and the scumbags that are all around us, I am
still optimistic that somewhere out in the country-
side, or in some crowded neighborhood somewhere,
a Pinoy or Pinay must have taken the chance to
save someone, something, anything at all.

When the show started, this is how our blurb

Feats of daring. Stories of greatness.
Men and women of valor

This is the story of for modern-day
heroes. With narratives inspired by
today's headlines, we show viewers
how seemingly ordinary Filipinos show
extraordinary gallantry under the
worst circumstances.

Courage. Heroism. Sacrifice.

Now all that's left is headlines and worst
circumstances. I whined about it a year ago,
and I managed to squash the pangs of guilt then.
Then Freud smacks everyone on the back of the
head: Silly you, of course you can never bury
something like that. So now most of us is
heeding Freud, or the AGB ratings. We're
trying to rediscover the mission statement
that we started with. And perhaps rightly so.
Some jackass is stalking me and asking very annoying
questions. My friend Astrid suggests that the gods
must have deemed me punishable.

On the other hand, there are some people that would
come right up and courteously ask you whether you
are the same person in some web community's message
board or not. I have no problem with that. I know
that given the chance, some people would spice up
their online personas the way they would beef up
their resumes. But there is also something called
etiquette, whether it's about turning off mobile
phones in public performances or using the farthest
spoon from your plate and working inwards.

I still say that, by Jove, is he annoying or what.