After ‘After the Workshop’

The quixotic act of questioning the workshop—or making it quixotic, for in reality, I dreamt that it was not only necessary and expected but also tedious.

In cities of the past where a pedantic group of friends converged, we conceived a project that responds to workshop seasons—roughly about this time also. “After the Workshop, one of us tentatively called it. We were supposed, I guess, to collate works which from our own assessment will never pass a workshop application. My memory tells me that we were not really able to talk about that concept face-to-face and with bottles of mountain airs and beers; we mostly talked about it online. Or they did talk about it and I was not there.

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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.

Mula sa”

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Sometimes, Lav and Noe and Malraux hold hands and they do not see each other

When there is no distinct feature, no recognizable object or expression is being accentuated in a movie scene, something must be happening elsewhere, by other means. For a medium whose communicative power is mainly visual, blocking out almost completely the visually distinguishable can be very telling.

There is a scene in Lav Diaz’ “Ang Babaeng Humayo” where Horatia first met Hollanda. The former was wearing a cap and a jacket which she will later offer to the ailing cross-dresser. The streets were dark and Hollanda was struggling wildly to move; it was then that Horatia came to help. We see just the outlines of their bodies during this first meeting that flirted with the tender. We do not see the features of their faces as they talked; no faces seen in this first meeting that flirted with the tender. At one point, the camera focused on the jeepney behind them, an inert witness to this first meeting that was tender. In offering this tenderness, Lav went against the primacy of the visage, demonstrating instead the palpable in the auditory. The visual is not utterly negated, for the outlines of their bodies and their movements are still barely perceptible. But in this scene, much of the power of the scene is rendered by what is heard.

In Gaspar Noe’s “Love,” something similar is at work. But here, dialogue is absent; it is mostly the dimmed contours of the characters—the lovers Electra and Murphy—against the accentuated background. It is neither through their facial reactions nor their exchange of words that we witness their reconciliation. The outline of their bodies sufficed.




As much as sight is significant, it also always verge on being overrated. When I can hear the coming of the color red, I will hear it. I wish I can also touch the meaning of redemption. I imagine myself tasting that scene when Summer saw Tom in the parking lot again after she has married. Sometimes, it is good to smell the drums announcing exuberance.

When Hollanda and Horatia first met in “Ang Babaeng Humayo.” Screenshot from:

When the protagonists have fallen towards the end of Malraux’s Man’s Fate, I know I can live with less of my eyes apprehending all the noises and meanings. Katov was being sent to her place in the prison, waiting for death. He mused: “all those who were not yet dead were waiting for the whistle.” They were whispering—these people awaiting the whistles of their respective deaths—and there they were able to sense a feeling of oneness, however futile or meaningless. Then Katov lose the cyanide in his hands and in the darkness, struggled to find it on the floor: “Their hands brushed his. And suddenly one of them took his, pressed it, held it. ‘Even if we don’t find it…’ said one of the voices. Katov also pressed his hand, on the verge of tears, held by that pitiful fraternity, without a face, almost without a real voice (all whispers resemble one another).”

Sometimes, I do not want to see faces.

I want to feel fraternity that is pitiful with a hand that is bloody and livened by thick veins.

I want to feel love with tears of two having a union in their places.

I want to touch compassion and kindness, like this summer heat presses on our harrowed napes.

Sometimes I want to see your face in your tired feet, or your paper doodles.

Let us touch each other there.





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”

Kurosawa and Apostol on Madness

In our cultural tomes, not a few times has madness been extolled, turned on its head, made majestic:

In “The Revolution According to Raymundo Mata,” the titular character said that “every city had the capacity for novelty if only you looked at it through foolish eyes.”

In “Ran,” this:


Damned these drawls, only made to be seen.

Now’s time to get crazy and know it

How Fidel Castro and Einstein Live, or, Raining Pamphlets and Relativity

A seemingly insignificant anecdote in her notes on Nicolas Roeg’s “Insignificance” about Einstein can rain on vitality when put side by side other works. In “Remote Control”, Barbara Kruger recalls Einstein’s little act of defiance: “When the red-baiting senator tries to confiscate a pile of precious equations, Einstein outwits him by throwing them out the window. So it rains relativity on the hotdog stand and produces an insignificant spectacle of spectacular significance.”

Continue reading “How Fidel Castro and Einstein Live, or, Raining Pamphlets and Relativity”

The Thorns of Flowers and the Soil Where they Grow: On Valentines and Panagbenga

On the week immediately after Valentine’s Day, what can still be the merits of writing about flowers, and blossoming relationships and love being all around the corner?

Continue reading “The Thorns of Flowers and the Soil Where they Grow: On Valentines and Panagbenga”

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


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.

Mula sa:




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

Kenya! (Yuhooo!)











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?


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.”


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.

Thinking Now, of Now and Ahead, with some help from Trainspotting’s Renton


If we look at it closely, we can appreciate Renton’s jutting butt much better. For the mesmerizing irony is his butt is a whiff away from the subs, the subs which the butt’s projection (and the subsequent scenes) betray. Aside from this, Renton’s uneasy figure is overpowered by the colourful, clean and very organized background; hence, his littleness is in place precisely because he is out-of-place (almost an inconsequential presence) in the entire scene.

Which can be said as well to the last urinal in Do You Not Think so Far Ahead? The rest of the urinals in the work are mere backgrounders to each section’s title; even some of them are blurred. But the last urinal is presented in so meticulous details: with parts labelled, an inset and a see-through. What is a “wax ring,” a “ballcock”; how about “flange bolts”? The last urinal shows those. Before this, the urinals shown are dead daily company. In the last one, it is presented as an intricate machine, with all its mechanical workings implied.

I’m no longer alive, said all previous urinals. Not true. Renton went as fast as he could, looking for any decent toilet; while fantasizing too.


Kristeva distinguished the symbolic from the semiotic mode of signification: the former is an “expression of orderly meaning” and the latter is a “discharge of subject’s energy, emotion, drives.” Renton had fantasies not only of order but of pristineness, not only a toilet seat but


Eventually, what he had was an artless, if not perfunctory, discharge. He too anticipated it, he was aware of the circumstances, he was aware of the pathos of fantasies, his very own fantasies


To posit, obliquely, that art is or can be autonomous is to flirt with fantasies. And most likely it is the pathetic kind of fantasy (I fancy it precisely because it not here, it is not real, I cannot make it real). But it can be read in more empowering terms: rather than art striving to be “autonomous”; art recognizing itself as “situated,” as located and invested and as “Do You Not Think so Far Ahead” put it, “such formulation certainly brings in the sociality and the materiality of a given work.”

I recall Zizek and his notes on “The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie” and Desire: the very unfulfilment of Desire fuels Desire – fulfils it, why not?! In more solid terms that can defeat those defeatist undertones, we can say of art and autonomy that art, now explicit about its location, its situatedness, “bursts forth” “towards it,” towards autonomy, or more aptly, towards the abandonment of this very pursuit.

The notion of an autonomous art has long gone filthy; it is time to flush it.


In many ways, we have these confounding contradictions: always have them, so the great differences will lie on how to confront them. “What if the very properties which were supposed to repel market forces are the same properties which pull it towards the market?”

What could be these properties of art? What are the forces of the market – the art institutions, the purchasers of art, the art auctions? But not all art institutions are the same; so are the purchasers and auctioneers of art. Here, not only raising questions are equally, if not more significant than raising a point; making explicit and interrogating, again, the very location, where one is making her point, where one is coming from is significant too.


In the movie, it makes sense. What was just announced as the “worst toilet in Scotland’ revealed itself promptly as indeed, worthy of such title (an interpolation ‘outside’ of the film, for, if you let me spell it out, what Renton saw was just the “toilet,” not “the worst toilet in Scotland – now I feel like a loser for spelling it out).

Yet outside the movie again (literally “outside” for this was presumably hardly known until this  came out) there was a betrayal – a perfectly harmless and logical one for movies are all about representing reality using its techniques – props and effects included.

But not all makes sense neatly in this sequence in Trainspotting. Okay, it is the worst toilet in Scotland; but if that is so, then why this look on Renton’s face:


Further, why this?


And finally, this:


Can we go back to Kristeva? Or, is this a going back to Kristeva? The motherly womb, the place of plenitude, oceanic fullness, psychoanalytic pleases?

Easy, we are forgetting that Renton was on heroin


And as he said much earlier in the film and much famously: Who needs reasons, when you’ve got heroin? Who needs Kristeva and Zizek when you’ve got heroin? The heroine is not the Mother, but – sorry – heroin.

The contradiction is resolved in the film, in a way. Renton’s retreat into fantasy is an upshot of his drugs. But drugs are not explicitly the gimmick involved in “Do You Not Think so Far Ahead.”

So when it said that “we will never run out of gimmicks,” we can ask if the inexhaustibility being implied here is the liberal one – the surplus of ideas, the surplus of gimmicks, often without asking, for what purpose?. In “On Choosing,” a suggested answer: for every gimmick, a certain amount to be paid. Will it be a payment for resistance, a payment for individual glorification, a payment for lazy indoctrination, a payment to have, finally, a will? We choose.

(What did Renton choose? Interestingly, he chose something seemingly Zizekian):


What did “Do You Not Think So Far Ahead” choose? In “On Access,” it chose to speak of “carollers from the gaps of the gate, tugging at each other, hesitant to sing their song” while it also speaks of people who “exude confidence and the importance of their words.” In a single page, it chose to speak of hesitance and confidence, exuding importance and tugging at each other and the access of art becomes an axis of the social divide.

And this divide is present not only in SOCIETY AT LARGE, but in one’s self, the tininess of one’s selves: the conflict, the “chasm” “between a person’s radical ‘principles’ and her/his decadent lifestyle.”

This paves the way for “On Choosing” and “On This Right Now,” with the latter I am opting to read not as a simplistic insistence on the now, the moment (ATM! ATM!). “On This Right Now” gets back to questioning, looking at the very ground where one is standing, where one does the thinking and the looking – whether it be looking away, looking and thinking against, looking and thinking ahead.

Which brings me to this conclusion: I should not think so far ahead, I should not forget to think of the here and now where I am doing this thinking ahead.