On the opening of classes, Brigada Eskwela and the Marxist vision of abolishing the state


Zygmunt Bauman’s conclusion in “Zizek and Morin on monotheism” (from “On Education”) smacks of an intelligently ironic distance which I feel we must adopt more as we find rooms for critique in a neoliberal system touted to be encompassing.

Bauman’s advice: “take the status quo… at its word and so confront it with the full volume of the ambitions it inspires… and endorses—a volume which far exceeds its powers to support it. And so the demands… are bound to accomplish a truly revolutionary feat: to discredit the status quo, lay bare its impotence, and thereby prompts its collapse.”

I was thinking about the resumption of classes and the customary Brigada Eskwela weeks before it when I recall Bauman. Weeks ago, my tita from my mother’s side—one that is dominantly composed of teachers—posted pictures of her and her colleagues doing the typical work done during Brigada. They were designing the classroom, arranging cabinets and chairs, posting class schedules on the doors. My tita used captioned the pictures with #bayanihan, referring to that Filipino value of helping one another and the context of community living.

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Mula sa” http://www.thepublicschoolteacher.com/brigada-eskwela-2017-tarpaulin-layout/#

Continue reading “On the opening of classes, Brigada Eskwela and the Marxist vision of abolishing the state”

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The Liberal Silences of Leloy Claudio, or, Why You Would Not Want to Become a Yellowtard


I do not have a confession to make. Or rather, I will derive a confession from a not-too-personal or catchy subject—my current reading. The past days I have been getting a slight fever—not a yellow one—reading Borges. Thankfully, it does not feel like a disease yet. There is no need yet for incubation for me to recover. Back to Borges, there was a rumor that he has “a certain distance towards both ‘Nazism’ and ‘dialectical materialism’[1] based from his “notorious” Postscript to the story “Tlon, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius.” He lumped together the two as having “symmetry with a semblance of order” (17), a symmetry that will soon be debunked. Decades later, Borges’ indiscriminate juxtaposition of Right-wing and Left-wing tendencies in the political sphere will be echoed by a seemingly insincere but actually very fitting apologist of liberal democracy[2].

Continue reading “The Liberal Silences of Leloy Claudio, or, Why You Would Not Want to Become a Yellowtard”

Ang Laro ng Tagasalin, o, Sa Nangyari kay Maxine ay Nanalo Tayo in Some Ways


Prologo:

Ako, ang tagasalin, ay tagalansi, hindi tagalinis. Ang wika ay hindi isang kumpleto, malinis, perpekto at saradong sistema. Ang wika ay ikaw at ako rin, at ang mga nagbabago nating hininga at hangganan, hangin at hantungan.

Wala akong pangalan sa entablado ng pagandahan. Dito, ako ang nagsasalita.

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Mula sa:

 

 

I.

Tinawag na ang Top 13, bumibilis ang kolektibong pulso ng MOA Arena.

Kenya! (Yuhooo!)

Indonesia!

Mexico!

USA!
Peru!

Panama!

Colombia!

Canada!

France!

Thailand!

Haiti!

Brazil!

Miss Philippines!

Kolektibong palakpakan, hiyawan, talunan (dahil walang tanda ng accent: pwedeng basahin hindi lang bilang “act of jumping” kung hindi “loser”)!!

Kinakabahan rin ako. Kakailanganin pa ba ako ni Maxine? No shame daw in using an interpreter sabi ng ilang personalidad tulad ni Lea Salonga at Gloria Diaz. Bakit kailangan pang linawin ito? Bakit may implicit na ideya na loser ka ‘pag gumamit ka ng interpreter, ‘pag di ka ganun ka-eloquent sa Ingles? Bakit kailangan ng ganung reassurance: use Filipino if you are more comfortable with it!

Kapag nasa entablado na ako, delusion of grandeur ba ‘pag inisip kong nakasalalay sa akin ang magiging kapalaran ni Maxine sa pagandahang ito?

Tatawagin na ba ang Top 6? Lalo akong kinakabahan.

Binalikan ko ang notes ko:

“all great ‘dialogues’ in the history of philosophy were so many cases of misunderstanding: Aristotle misunderstood Plato, Thomas Aquinas misunderstood Aristotle, Hegel misunderstood Kant and Schelling, Marx misunderstood Hegel, Nietzsche misunderstood Christ… Precisely when one philosopher exerted a key influence upon another, this influence was without exception grounded in a productive misreading…”

“ang pag-banggit ni Lumbera sa kasabihang ‘Traduttore, tradittori’‘Traduttore, tradittori’ (sinasalin kadalasan sa ingles bilang ‘Translator, traitor’) bilang madalas na pagtingin sa pagsasalin—dahil wala nga namang one-to-one correspondence ang source text at target text at kadalasa’y may nadadagdag at nababawas sa orihinal na akda sa oras na maisalin ito sa ibang wika.”

Nabasa ang mga notes nang halikan ng pasmado kong palad. Ia-announce na ang Top 6, kay dami pa ring tanong: makakapasok kaya si Maxine; kung makakapasok siya, kakailanganin niya kaya ako?

II.

Hindi babawiin ni Steve Harvey ang tanong niya: “What is the most significant change you’ve seen in the world in the last 10 years?”

Did my translation make Maxine lose the pageant and thus, made her win in some other ways?

“Ano ang pinakamakabuluhang naganap na pangyayaring nakita mo sa mundo sa loob ng sampung taon?”

Nag-ingles sa Maxine – did she betray me? Ano ang punto ko sa entabladong ito kung hindi naman siya sasagot sa Filipino? Pero hindi, hindi niya ako ginawang inutil dahil nga mismo ang sagot niya sa Ingles ay sagot sinalin kong tanong, hindi sa ‘orihinal’ na tanong sa Ingles na may slightly ibang kahulugan.

“The one event that I saw all the people bringing in one event like this, the Miss Universe. And it’s something big to us that we are one. As one nation, we are all together.”

III.

If you will betray me, let it be “productive,” kung magtataksil na lang din, sana’y maging “malikhain.”

Tapos na ang pagandahan at bineso ako ni Maxine sa pinakailalim ng aking puso. Nagsasatsatan ang social media nation kung ang “inaccurate” translation ko ba ang nagpatalo kay Maxine; kung bakit hindi na lang daw sya nag-Filipino para mas nakasagot nang maayos, kung sino ba talaga ang nakikinabang sa pagandahang ito ng mga babae sa mundo, kung “we are all together” ba talaga tuwing Miss Universe o laban ni Pacquiao; ano ba talaga ang katuturan at kaninong interes ang namamayani sa pagandahan tulad nito?

Panalo na rin in many ways dahil napapag-usapan ang lagi-namang-andyang isyu ng wika and the often implicit values that we hold in relation to language and how we use it (how it uses us too?); ang lumang isyu ng mataas na pagtingin sa Ingles ay bukas muli; pwedeng hindi natin alam, habang nagpapalitan tayo ng kuro-kuro, lahat tayo ay nakatingin sa salamin. At hindi na lang ako o si Maxine ang tinitingnan ng mga usapan kung hindi tayong lahat at ang kunwaring solidong ideya natin ng “bansa,” “nation,” “beauty” at iba pa.

Matutulog na ang tanghali kasama ako, pumara ako ng taksi (ang mapagkalinga ngunit minsan ay taksil sa kalsada – kung saan-saan sumusuot, gumagalaw kahit pula ang ilaw) at tumitig kay Walter Benjamin bago makaidlip. Ang sinabi niya tungkol sa kung paano mas mainam nating matitingnan ang kasaysayan ay applicable rin sa kung paano natin maaaring tingnan ang wika: not as a “one-way street” but as an “object of conquest.”

Nakatulog na ako nang tuluyan habang lumipad ang taksi patungo sa katotohanan ng inyong mga pinakataksil at pinakamapangahas na imahinasyon.

Fanatics are Losers, Pluralists are Losers: On Mocha vs. Tanganglawin


Of the recent brouhaha involving Mocha and Ateneo’s Matanglawin’s annual lampoon issue (called Tanganglawin), some observations can be made on how the first months of Duterte have shaken us out of stupor (whether ‘just’ in social media or in the fleshly streets of everyday) and how being ‘involved’ is not enough.

A few days ago, the Facebook page “Mocha Uson Blog” called attention to Matanglawin’s recent lampoon issue which is called “MOCHANG TANGA BLOG.” Apparently, Mocha took offense at the publication, as hinted at the way she continued talking about it in the comments section (There was implicit imputation of malice in the very way (or more aptly: how she thinks) the publication is being circulated: “patago daw na pinamimigay,” as if it is unlawful, illegitimate). In its own page, Ateneo’s Matanglawin was quick to clarify, accentuating the “officialness” of their lampoon publication, quickly negating Mocha’s implication that since she thought the issue was being spread around campus unopenly, there is something fishy about it.

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Mula ito sa Mocha Uson Blog

We even have a personal copy of the issue, which Jesa chanced to obtain sa Ateneo mismo when she had a work-related visit to its library last August.  Maliban pa syempre sa aming familiarity with Matanglawin being Ateneo de Manila’s official student publication and the inference that Tanganglawin is its lampoon issue. This is thanks to our quite special, quite notable involvement with the campus press during college – a stint that brought a libel case to Outcrop, a case based on – surprise, surprise! – a lampoon issue.

How then can we read Mocha’s response to Tanganglawin which obviously played around with the blog she is maintaining? Is this fanaticism, Mocha being the prototypical dutertard – the dutertard being, I strongly suspect one of the types of citizens Duterte himself detests? In his side comments, he often underlines how criticizing someone, mostly if he or she is a public official, is part of one’s freedom of expression and it is something that is essential to democracy. Following this, are the dutertards not the destroyers of the ideals of democracy themselves: instead of a critical and productive exchange of ideas about societal issues, they espouse a fervent and unknowingly passive behaviour, electing the Almighty Shepherd – in the person of the President – to lead them and chart the way for them?

Does this make then the other camp – contra the Duterte fanatics are the anti-Duterte – the favourable position to be in? That is, being fanatic of the President is to be unintelligent and submissive and being against him, specifically his iron-fisted war on drugs and the more recent anti-US stance, is to be a protector of human rights and more generally, to be the more ‘enlightened’ one? Am I even asking the right questions? What if not all supporters of Duterte are fanatics, and what if not all who oppose him are the same (reminiscent of the silent clarification: to criticize Duterte does not necessarily make one “dilawan” or a member of the yellow army)? To frame the possibilities of positioning in relation to Duterte as a black-and-white matter is to deny the complexities that surround his presidency and the various social issues that his first three months in office have boldly opened up. As these matters are simplified, so the ways by which we negotiate and think about them and eventually, imagine how we can intervene are limited.

Clearly, Tanganglawin is a gesture of intervention. How does it imagine Duterte, how does it want its readers to imagine and relate to Duterte? And what does it say about the potentials of critique in a society that narrowly understands democracy as casting one’s vote every three years?

Campus Journalism as Always-Alternative? Lampoon, Laughter and Avoiding Leniency

In my four years in college, I have been involved in campus journalism. I was writer and then editor in UP Baguio’s student publication, Outcrop. My stint there taught me how campus journalism can be a venue for alternative discourses to be aired. This is coming from two major premises:  (1) that student publications must serve the interests of the students, their being the student papers’ publishers (via the student fees collected every enrolment) and (2) that the main characteristics of the education system (colonial, commercialized and fascist as we call it) mostly put the students at a disadvantage in various ways (the collection of exorbitant fees – the very fact that education is being paid for, actually! — the stifling of academic freedom, the skewing of education’s orientation in general to bypass the needs of the nation and so on). Airing these alternative discourses is done by writing about things that are not normally discussed, if not overtly made hidden to the student; issues that otherwise they should be minding about. These alternative discourses hence act as propaganda – or more aptly, counter-propaganda, for what they seek to counter is ‘propaganda’ as well, propaganda of the ruling ideology. Since they carry more the baggage of what the term “propaganda” connotes (as dry, as dogmatic, as narrow-minded, as simplistic), the concomitant burden of complexly formal presentations is similarly heavier for the camp of the marginalized. The lampoon is one of the more effective ways by which student publications can downplay their status as ‘propaganda,’ with the formal ingenuity making the ideological content less explicit (again, a task that is less prominent for the ruling ideas, since they have this aura of being matter-of-fact).

This is where I am coming from as I venture to offer my reading of Tanganglawin; as I venture to offer this critique of a publication which in itself is (I believe, consciously) critiquing something.

That “something” being, what?

The cover page conjoins the parodied title of the blog (Mochang Tanga Blog) and the line “Dudirty Die hard Supoters”). An early jab at fanaticism?

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This will be sustained in the next page, “Kuta ng DDSS, Natagpuan!” The second and third paragraphs of the article read as follows:

“Nagsagawa ng isang raid ang Feelipin National Pulis Patola (FNPP) at Feelipin Bureau ng Imbestigasyones (FBI) tungkol sa pugad ng mga tagasuporta ni Pangulong Rodrigow Duteti na Die-hard Dutetians Super Square (DDSS) o “Dutetrolls.

Walang natagpuan sa nasabing gusali maliban sa 109 na abandonadong mga kompyuter unit at altar na may mga pigurin ni Pangulong Duteti.”

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Note the ironic play: the PNP, supposedly the main implementer on the ground of Duterte’s notorious war on drugs, is being parodied here (as the FNPP). It is the FNPP who raided the “pugad,” the place where the Dutetrolls are nestled. But the twist is that the FNPP found nothing but computers and Duterte figurines. What is being implied here: first and more solidly, how fanaticism over Duterte is getting alarmingly akin to the religious and second, how the presence of the Dutetrolls can be reduced to a cyberforce, a force enabled less by actual people than digital computer mechanisms.

What else does Tanganglawin read from Duterte aside from the Dutetrolls they evidently repulse (albeit the two must not be collapsed with each other; as hinted above, Duterte himself might be ashamed of what his avid supporters are doing)?

There are pages about two former Presidents and Duterte’s problematic attitude towards and relationship to them: first, the controversy surrounding former dictator Marcos’ burial in the Libingan ng mga Bayani and Duterte’s professed approval of it and the executive pardon given to Gloria Arroyo.

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Here are excerpts from the page dwelling on the latter:

“Dahil sa Acquittal Beauty Bar, naalis ang dulot ng plunder virus! Nakaalis na si Glory ng Veterano at nawala na rin ang kanyang neckbrace.”

And the last paragraph: “Mabibili ang Acquittal Beauty Bar at iba pang mga produkto sa Karte Supremo, Palasyo ng Mekelengyeng at sa lahat ng ahensya ng gobyerno. Tanging kailangan gawin ay palihim na abutan ang saleslady o ‘di kaya naman kaibiganin si Rude Dutirtry para magkaroon ng pribelehiyong magamit ang produkto.”

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These concerns related to Duterte are valid points of discussion, and by bringing it up at the very least, Tanganglawin deserves some credit.

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It also appears that there is this existing notion that Ateneo is a bulwark of “yellow minions,” supporters of the Liberal Party, or the Aquinos. I am not part of the community so I do not have a more solid notion of how this is alive there although I suspect that this has something to do with an anti-Marcos statement that was released by the Ateneo professors early this year (This connects to another simplification: to be against the Marcoses is to be supportive of the Aquinos or the Liberal Party, a narrow view that symptomatizes how we look at history as a stage where big families (and not individual and collective agents) are at play.

But several parts of the lampoon make us reconsider this simplification.

Is this not precisely where the potency of the entire Tanganglawin is coming from: this exhaustion of the possibilities of play that are proffered by the chosen form – the lampoon? Notably, the lampoon issue does not exempt its creators, as can be seen here:

Since they are also part of the Ateneo community, the very community being tagged as “napaka-bias sa mga Akinoknow,” it can be argued that the writers of the piece are also poking fun at themselves, revealing the extent of their awareness of the issues which they are tackling, to which they are responding. Most importantly, this reveals that they are aware that they are part of this whirlwind of events, that in their practice of writing, they do not subscribe to the hackneyed and already-refuted idea that the writer is this privileged documenter of events. What this practice of writing evinces is that these campus journalists are aware that writers do not merely document; writers also analyze the events, and since they are also players in that string of events, they are also analyzing themselves and how they relate (and more vitally, act in relation) to the events around them.

And maybe this is where I would finish this essay – for now (and if that sounds paradoxical, then let it be paradoxical; after all, it is mostly through paradoxes, if we only unflinchingly negotiate them, that we advance our thought) – if only to finish in a sort of positive light.

In an old essay, “Hermeneutics for our Time: From Where do We Speak,” Edel Garcellano closes the essay by recalling the very opening he made in the title: “Finally, there is therefore only one question that must be immediately asked of all of us: From where do we speak.”

In the rabid, and rapid exchanges happening in our time, no thanks to social media (the very platform where Mocha calls attention to Tanganglawin), we become more oblivious to this very important question: where are things, opinions, dispositions, attitudes, coming from? We all know this: how most of the ‘discourses’ happening in the Internet have only reinforced generalizations, sweeping statements, sweeping attacks, non-dialogues pretending to be worthwhile exchanges.

This can remind us of the two pervasive attitudes when it comes to the pursuit and the production of knowledge, of ideas, of truth; two attitudes that are seemingly diametrically opposed each other but are actually two sides of the same coin (as two disparate things commonly are): the attitude that is adamant in claiming it represents the singular Truth and the attitude that resigns to the multiplicity of truths, all having equal valence and value. In the explosion of opinions in social media, we see these two attitudes dominate: (1) a close-mindedness stemming from stern belief in one’s position, blocking meaningful exchanges with contrary views and (2) a liberal celebration of pluralities, usually concluding (when tedium sets in) with the very loserly “Let us agree to disagree” statement.

What did Zizek say? This: “There is, among the multitude of opinions, a true knowledge but this knowledge is accessible only from an interested, partial position.” Forget about Truth, forget about the Master Opinion, the Most Right Opinion, the Most Valid Point-of-View. But also do not get charmed by the allure of the pluralistic and often non-committal let-us-respect-each-side eklat. What I propose is truer, more committed engagement, with each side showing awareness of the bases of their positions, the interests and biases that these positions articulate.

Is Mocha coming from her fanaticism, a fanaticism which she herself does not acknowledge? A closed doggedness she herself is blind to?

How about Tanganglawin? I want to believe that they are aware of the political functions of their “having fun.” The back page of the issue will appear to support this:

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Clearly, they are not just “playing around;” this “play” is aware of the very situations where their play is launched.

Maybe this is the most important reminder of all: when we type things, when we make our keyboards bleed with our emphatic sharing of opinions and views, when we engage someone in social media, we are located someplace, literally and symbolically. These social locations and our very identification with them, we articulate with our online presence. The cyberspace is not as big as we would like to believe; neither is it cut off from our social realities. Old thing to say.

Locations are significant. Adbots are real things – so are fanatics and pluralists — but we can be realer and more proactive and smarter and self-aware and self-critical than them.

After Acquittal, Skies


When it’s finally over, when it is finally said that

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How do we sleep the first peaceful sleep and smile the grandly uninhibited smile?

There is no longer the slightly weak excuse: that it is hard to think about running  while one is running, that it is hard to theorize about the mechanisms that enable running (our bodily functions, our will or motivations to run, the complex meanings of our running and so on) while one is doing the very act of running. I guess it was Eagleton who used this example and a weaker, general guess is that he used this in explaining something about the link between theory and practice, experiences and making sense of them.

(Conversely, there is Lenin, at the end of “State and Revolution,” speaking about the 1917 Revolution — “It’s more pleasant and useful to go through the ‘experience of the revolution’ that to write about it.” – and in the process also subtly speaking about the sweetly complex relationship between theory and practice. There must be no fuss privileging one over the other; there must be pus when we collapse one to the other.)

Will I side with Eagleton or with Lenin? But it is a different context now: there is no literal running, there is no immediate revolution.

After running for a libel case, where do we go, what do we do?

img_1348 Continue reading “After Acquittal, Skies”

On the first Friday, we watched august


First, Ishmael Bernal’s “Pagdating sa Dulo,” which from what Jesa has gathered was named Film of the Decade by some award-giving body and then Brocka’s apparently more commercial film called ____. There were only around ten people in the cinema – parang sa Baguio lang – including Mahjeng and Jesa[1] and I.

What was august about it is Friday and its often yummy promises of weekends; but more than that, there is Manila Cinematheque, which we have visited for the first time – finally, finally, after two months of sleepwalking in Manila, uselessly uselessly denying Manila.

Maybe it was very visible, the kilig in being able to watch a film again (and in Manila, and in Manila Cinematheque!) after cram-watching the Fockers’ Trilogy and some Pinoy shorts in our quietly hysterical last days in Baguio.

Tapos si Bernal, and again from what Jesa has gathered, it was his very first film. Was I daydreaming when I saw Godard (and Truffaut too) in Bernal’s “Pagdating sa Dulo” last Friday? Am I daydreaming, fantasizing now as I affirm here that I saw Godard (and Truffaut too) in “Pagdating sa Dulo?”

We were late a few minutes for the 5pm screening, and in the first scene we saw, there was Eddie Garcia, whose character Ruben was a film director in the film. He was shooting a scene with real-life married couple Carmen and Romeo, whose marriage troubles are stifling their work. I saw both Godard’s Le Mepris and Truffaut’s Day for Night here in that all three movies involved the making of films.

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In Le Mepris, a couple in disarray also strained the production of the film within the film. In Day for Night, emergencies in the actual lives of the actors – illness, a wife giving birth – compelled the director to make some maneuvers in the film’s production lest it gets delayed.

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When Carmen walked out of the shooting, Eddie Garcia’s character had to find a replacement – and there came Ching who used to be a “taxi dancer” before dabbling in films as an extra.

Carmen and Romeo would then leave the limelight; they will be replaced by Ching, later on Paloma Morales and Pinggoy – the taxi dancer and the taxi driver; the mistress and the man. This couple is not without their rifts. Ching accused Pinggoy of being jealous when she told him of her break as Carmen’s replacement. “Naiinggit ka ‘no. Akala mo ikaw lagi ang nakakalamang.” Then Pinggoy: “Pinapaalala mo sa ‘kin na taxi driver lang ako.” And “Wag mo kalimutan na alam ko kung sa’n ka nanggaling.”

Carmen got her big break; Pinggoy continued his life as a taxi driver. In another scene in the film, there was Godard. Someone approached Pinggoy while his taxi is parked; someone is inviting him to get back to acting. The highway in that scene in “Pagdating sa Dulo” was sort of like this, or I was daydreaming.

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Eddie Garcia, Direk Ruben, was meditative in many parts of the film. Arguably Bernal’s conception of film (how do you call “ars poetica” when applied to film?) – which was included in the documentary about him produced by the Concerned Artists of the Philippines – is encapsulated in these lines by Direk Ruben: “’pag ang pelikula ‘di nagpapakita ng totoo, ‘wag na lang magpelikula.” You stop caring about grammatical flawlessness when the point of the statement is pinching you in the ass.

In one scene with Ching, Direk Ruben was pointing out how film cheats us: it is filled with “retoke,” it is filled with “daya.” In a later scene, it became apparent that Ching has imbibed the point: getting wasted hours (or a night?) before the premiere showing of her and Pinggoy’s first starring role – entitled “Pagdating sa Dulo” as well – she pointed out to the person who was talking into her how what appears as walls onscreen are actually just paint.

But they were not speaking of a complete gulf separating the two – film and reality. They were speaking of exactly the opposite: how film and reality alter, distort, complement, enlarge each other.

I guess I am pushing too hard for this presence of Godard in Bernal’s “Pagdating sa Dulo.” In “Band of Outsiders,” we see this about Franz as my favorite scene in the film unfolds:

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Can I speak finally of the terrifying other that castigates us, the other that haunts us and shatters our illusion of total separation, predicated on our idea of a unified and stable Self? Bernal’s “Pagdating sa Dulo” ends with the premiere night of Ching and Pinggoy’s “Pagdating sa Dulo” where they were startled by the legion of fans awaiting their arrival. The film ends with the frozen shot of both actors’ faces – visibly stupefied – at what they are seeing. What is spelled out in their faces is not exactly delight, and this is prompted by Jesa, but a horror that most likely surprises them as well.

The film has become reality, and reality has become a film?

In the end I see not Godard, but Truffaut, another cutie from the French New Wave movement. I see the final shot in 400 Blows, where a very meaningful confrontation is marked: a confrontation between the character and the turn of events in his filmic life, a confrontation between the character and the viewing audience.

We refuse the platitudinous: films are reality and reality is a film. We embrace the substantially violent: films inflict wounds on reality, reality births films – and as in all birthing, it is fraught with blood. Last Friday, Godard and Truffaut and Bernal killed one another and we too, Mahjeng, Jesa and I, and that is how we felt more alive afterwards.

 

 

[1] My filmmaker friends. It would be lovelier to tag them as close filmmakers, not closet filmmakers.

The “Bansa” Is Here and Yet Nakakunot-Noo Tayo


In a writing workshop I attended last May, Jun Cruz Reyes asked us, younger writers, Asan ang bansa sa mga akda nyo? Thinking about this question days after the workshop, I am prodded: is the question of the nation not a very significant one – if not “the” question to ponder — especially in our times today when the emphasis is either on the “global” or on the “local”? We know very well how the current period is celebrated as the period of globalization, where from Baguio, you can easily contact your friend working as an English teacher in Australia; or where people from Japan, Nigeria, La Trinidad and basically anywhere where there is reliable internet connection get informed at the same time of the winners in the Cannes Film Festival or the Miss Universe pageant. But on the other hand, discreetly as a response to the too widely encompassing breadth of globalization, there is the call to not forget the local, to reach back to one’s roots, to remain grounded and rooted in the face of the promises of mobility.

Is not the question of the nation the most proper and productive vantage point from which we can make sense of our everyday, diverse experiences? It does not have the totalizing and simplifying tendency of the global nor does it have the too specific positioning of the local. How rarely do we recognize that for all equalizing effects of globalization, however tenuous or delusive – the Internet for instance where ‘everyone’ can meet and interact and avail of its offerings – there are the grimmer social and political realities that fuel global phenonema? Are our notions of globalization filled with children from undeveloped nations laboring under tough working condition, most of the time unwillingly, and under the auspices of multinational, global companies? Does globalization ever mean to us the plundering of the resources of Third World countries by mega corporations from the First World who control exactly the technologies needed to turn these raw products into finished goods? For all the cutesiness of the global is a terribly malnourished child or worker from poor countries assembling the laptops that we eventually gloat at – and if we are a bit lucky or slaving, purchase — in malls.

Then there is the local, whose more vital contribution is its stress on groundedness. The local, most likely containing the practices, the belief systems, the diurnal ways of life, is closest to us. It involves the way people literally mobilize themselves (in Baguio, one can bike, ride the jeepney or the taxis, which are cheaper than in Manila), the way people form notions related to sexuality (what is it with the ubiquity of the barrel man?) or the venues where they gather to express themselves (from the dap-ay to poetry open mics). Ideas and ways of doing things are formed and shaped first via these first-hand encounters before they were shaped by more distanced sources, say the Internet or books.

During the workshop, a fellow from Iligan City, commenting on the name of one character in the play we were looking at, pointed out that “Katalagman,” the name of one of the protagonists, means “delubyo” in their language. The scriptwriter – and most of the members of the panel and the other fellows — was unaware of this. This scenario exemplifies the potential richness that can be revealed when various specific localities and cultures talk to one another. Is this not a meaningful detour from the regionalist tendency that usually leads to destructive and competitive clashes instead of productive collaborations? This is the downside of the local. Whereas the global pretends that all of us are equal (Never mind that a few is profiting from the work of many, we all have internet access anyway!) the local has this risk of reaching isolation, if not exoticization. Is the same not slightly at work when we come to identify places or communities with certain events or things? Say, Bohol and tarsier; Baguio and Panagbenga; the Kalingas and headhunting; the Mindanao populace and the demonized Moro. Sometimes, these typecast attributions are just too simplifying, eliding the complex histories and discourses that are really pulsating on the ground; the worse case is when they are false and result to negative portrayals.

Where is the “nation” in all these ramblings? The nation is in the global as much as it is in the global. It sanctions the marketing of the barrel man and the subsequent dilution of its cultural meaning – hence: a delusion as well. The nation is that which is bereft of the suitable technologies to utilize its natural resources for the benefit of its people. The nation is in the crown worn by a Beauty Queen who, to consider it kindly, was compelled by the very arena where she sought to please to say that her country’s colonizer is really its BBF. It is the entire complex of the nation that helps in pushing one to go abroad and teach English in Australia. The nation offers one good vantage point from which we can see the interrelatedness of things: a task often assigned to the writer, but must be the preoccupation of all.

It is not enough to narrate the nation, as cued by Homi Bhabha. Deleuze was laughing when he said that “to create was always something else than to communicate.” The nation is not just a symbol, a mere effect of language. Similarly, writers looking for, locating, inscribing the ‘nation’ in their works are not foolhardy wordsmiths fashioning the ‘nation’ in their works merely with the power of their words. These writers are sweaty, back sinking, sometimes kinky, sometimes slinking. And the nation is too big and yet that is precisely why they cannot find it; and then the writers – us all — will realize that the “bansa” is to be found not because it is lost – it is to be found because it is everywhere and yet it does not make sense.

PUP Mulanay
Fellows at Panelists sa PUP Workshop. (Hindi akin ang kuhang ito. Most likely ay sa Secretariat ng Workshop.)

Mar Roxas and The Famous Joke about the Two Jews in a Railway Carriage


“Where are you going?” asked the first Jew.

“To Cracow”, was the answer.
“What a liar you are!” broke out the first Jew.”If you say you’re going to Cracow, you want me to believe you’re going to Lemberg. But I know you’re going to Cracow. So why are you lying to me?”

Freud says of this joke: The more serious substance of the joke is the problem of what determines the truth. … What they are attacking is not a person or an institution but the certainty of our knowledge itself, one of our SPECULATIVE possessions.*

Kung i-aapply sa recent na isyu, mai-include ang larger social context (at di lang tao-sa-tao) sa formation ng knowledge at public opinion :

Who’s leading the pre-election surveys? tanong ng isa.
“Si Mar,” sabi ni B.
“What a liar you are! sabi nung isa. “If you say Mar is leading the pre-election surveys, you want me to believe that he is REALLY leading the surveys. But we all know he is not So why are you lying to me?

We can say of this Mar joke: What this joke is attacking is not Mar per se but the way knowledge is formed about him. Who conducts the surveys? What interests informed such conducting of the survey? Why are they lying to US?

*Sipi ito sa essay na “‘The Pas de Calais’: Freud, the Transference and the Sense of Woman’s Humor” ni Joel Fineman

Mar

Mula sa: https://adobochronicles.com/2015/12/02/philippine-presidential-candidate-mar-roxas-true-champion-of-the-masses/

 

Chopping Duterte’s Head Off


One can recall Mark David Chapman, John Lennon’s huge fan and also his infamous killer if one wants to see a deeper disappointment in the behaviour of many of Duterte’s supporters.

On December 08, 1980, Chapman, virtually a nobody, shot John Lennon outside his apartment in New York. A friend used to tell me that Chapman did that out of his obsession with Lennon. Killing him would be the only way by which he can have a significant part in Lennon’s life; killing Lennon was the only way Chapman can get to be included in the biography of the Beatle.

Other accounts would point to the fury that seethed in Chapman as he became keen about the contradictions in his idol. Wikipedia quotes Chapman, “He told us to imagine no possessions, and there he was, with millions of dollars and yachts and farms and country estates, laughing at people like me who had believed the lies and bought the records and built a big part of their lives around his music.” His counsel initially worked on the insanity defense in order to absolve Chapman but Chapman eventually told him that he would like to plead guilty. His lawyer opposed this but Chapman stood by his decision and finally convinced the judge of his mental ability to come up with the guilty plea. He was then convicted of second-degree murder and sentenced to at least 20 years of imprisonment.

One can think of Chapman’s obsession with Lennon and find an unusual affinity – an inverse one — with the idolatry many seem to be forming for presidential candidate Rodrigo Duterte. We are all familiar now with Duterte’s rape joke days ago and how it has led to a divide between those who criticized him and those who defended him. The lines of reasoning were mind-boggling less because of the way they referred to ‘greater’ deeds of the Mayor, which for them hugely offset one verbal remark, than the way they seem not just to decriminalize rape but even to justify it. When one sees ‘rape victims’ or females coming out to express support for Duterte, one wonders if it is part of a campaign ploy or a more widespread attitude that spells out how doomed our democracy is.

I see this massive outpour of support for Duterte and Chapman’s decision to gun down Lennon both as unproductive ways of ‘looking up’ to someone – a kind phrase, this “looking up,” for we can ask, have we seen not an unhealthy idolatry for Lennon in Chapman; are we not seeing a blind celebration or an inert obedience to Duterte on the part of many of his followers?

And yet, despite being literally destructive, Chapman’s act is not the worse one between the two. At least some versions are saying that what prompted Chapman to kill Lennon is the contradictions he saw in him, contradictions that shattered for him the image of his idol, and more importantly, contradictions that made hollow all self-conceptions he has made by identifying with this idol. Criminal as his act may be, it can be treated productively as a symptom of that social phenomenon of fandom, the status of celebrities and its tendency to obscure actual relations. On the other hand, there is nothing criminal in what Duterte’s supporters are doing; it’s part and parcel of the freedom of expression blah. But what I read as the underlying situation it merely serves as symptom of is a political dynamic that is ashamed of its name and wishes to change it to political passivity or political laziness or Holy-art-Thou-Political-Master kind of politics.

Yet more intent cogitation can bring us right to the mark: do not Duterte’s supporters and Duterte himself make a perfect fit? The former’s very act of strong-willed defense and nearly unwavering glorification of Duterte complements Duterte’s stature as a knightly icon in electoral politics. Conversely, Duterte’s stature as a bearer of seemingly supreme and unfaltering political force is complemented by his followers’ sheep-like support. Many of Duterte’s supporters do not have fangs; they do not have the balls to make the politician they support accountable when he errs. They will not cover their noses when Duterte farts; they will say that it may smell bad but it is not bad to be inhaled.

Is this a dig at Duterte or his followers? I say no, not exactly. More aptly, this is a dig at the very political terrain where such blind obedience takes place.

In Italo Calvino’s “Beheading the Heads,” we see a political setup that apparently laughs at and spurns most of the existing ones we witness and practice now. It begins with a scene of preparation for a national festival, a festival when the politicians are beheaded to mark the end of their terms. As someone explained in the story, “Authority over others is indivisible from the right of those others to have you climb the scaffold and do away with you.” He added, “Only heads of state can be beheaded, hence you can’t wish to be a head without also wishing for the chop.”

Caravaggio

Judith Beheading Holofernes (1598–99) by Caravaggio mula sa: http://www.johncoulthart.com/feuilleton/2013/01/19/decapitations/

We can recall Chapman and the disillusionment that fazed him in relation to his idol John Lennon and finally spurred him to kill his idol. We can always say, Oh that was too much and we are likely not in the wrong. At the other extreme, there are supporters of politicians, who will never dare even to point out their political heroes’ creased polo or take offense when he jokes about rape. Elsewhere, someone abandons an island ravaged by a super typhoon; someone deprives supplicating farmers of food and we feel not even a tinge of uneasiness.

Perhaps it is not only that these politicians not feel the necessary threat of a chopping – mostly figurative – whether when they are just running for or are already in a government position. Perhaps as a people, we too are not just hesitant but unwilling to ‘behead’ our leaders, unwilling to make them accountable, unwilling to criticize them when called-for.

We do not need a literal gun as Chapman did; we just need a symbolic ax as Calvino insinuates.

 

The Old People on Strike and the Old People with Selfie Sticks: Two Figures of the Senior Citizen*


What is the image of our Lolas and Lolos at a time when most of the raves of society center on the youth: the confident and rose-colored youth chasing their dreams, the youth maximizing their potential while they are still at their prime, the youth making the most out of their time, partying “like it’s the end of the world?” How do the old look like beside the image of the youth as adventurous, enthusiastic and brimming with potential and capabilities? Not only with their physical condition but also with their role in society that one can speak of diminishment when it comes to the old.  Signifying a phase past peak of bodily powers and past the productive years, the state of being old and doting is not highly preferred. This valuation can partly explain the slightly different terms that are made to apply to them –from the senior citizen discounts to how we usually behave around them.

However, this picture is not something solid or fixed; it is not something that completely blocks twisting maneuvers or actual alternative representations. Two diametrically opposite ways can show how this common limning of the old as senile, unproductive or taciturn are skirted. One, there is the recent outbursts of defiance from the old, from our senior citizens in light of events that had directly concerned or directly concerns them: the prevalence of comfort women during the Japanese Occupation of the Philippines and the Presidential veto of the SSS Pension Hike. Then on the other side, there is the framing of old people in TV advertisements which follows the logic of profiteering. Here, they are shown as nimble, quick-footed and active but with a catch: they are situated on the world of commerce and hence become instrumental in the promotion of certain products. The perverse meaning is looming: it is as if the old can only be spry and active when they have commercial products in hand. In terms of media’s representation, the old can only be salvaged from their state of senility or boredom if they can be used to advance the interests of capital. This is not the same in the first case where it can be argued that behind the display of defiance is a more personal stake.

The Old: Indignant on the Streets

Two events last January were particularly momentous for the senior citizens of the country. The first one was President Noynoy Aquino’s veto of the SSS pension hike bill last January 12 and the second one was the visit of Japanese Emperor Akihito to the Philippines on the last week of the month. In both events, the aged have come out not just to defy the common depictions of them but more vitally, to vent out their anger with a President’s indifference to their situation and his tacit defense of the corporatized nature of the SSS and with the horrid memories activated by an Emperor’s visit.

In both cases, the old took out their indignation into the streets. In the Facebook page of BAYAN (New Patriotic Alliance), we can see the throng of old people raising posters which states “2000 Ibigay Na!” What is notable is that it is not just old people who constituted the protest activity. They were joined by other people from various age brackets. The issue of the SSS Pension Hike does not just concern the old, the current pensioners of the program. It is an issue that affects all Filipino workers and their families.

SSS Mula sa Bayan FB Page
Call for Increase in SSS Pension Hike (Mula sa Facebook page ng BAYAN (New Patriotic Alliance))

Continue reading “The Old People on Strike and the Old People with Selfie Sticks: Two Figures of the Senior Citizen*”