I’ve been bingeing Sharon Cuneta’s slate of early 1980s movies, all the way from Dear Heart  and through Bituing Walang Ningning . Because I realized I’ve never really “seen” them, and I want to see if I can do a video essay on them, using Rolando Tolentino’s framework of her as the iconic “eternal virgin.” I came of age in the 1990s, but I grew up in the 1980s, so I never really got to know these films well beyond the cursory viewing. [I realized, for example, that I’ve never really seen Bituing Walang Ningning in its entirety, and I’ve only seen snippets of it, particularly the famous “You're nothing but a second rate, trying hard copycat” scene.] It’s difficult to have a complete grasp of your own film culture when most of these titles were inaccessible for so long, or if accessible, could only be seen in grainy, faded copies — which forfeits deeper appreciation. Only now, with current efforts at restoration, can they really be properly assessed and processed, at least to a greater degree.
The films are entertaining as far as mass appeal goes, and really lay bare 1980s mores — but my God, I cannot with the toxic masculinity!
The worse offender has got to be Gabby Concepcion’s Lito Salazar in Dapat Ka Bang Mahalin? (1984), a spoiled, philandering, exasperating brat of a man who is suddenly given an unearned redemption twist in the last ten minutes of the film, with Sharon’s Myrna Sanchez just willingly taking him back just because he fathered her children. My favorite remains Miguel Rodriguez’s Bullet Crisologo in To Love Again (1983), whose just easy-going and self-assured, minus the toxic masculinity we usually find in Danny Zialcita’s movies. Christopher De Leon’s Nico Escobar in Bituing Walang Ningning is nice enough, but why can’t his manhood abide with a successful woman? It’s the same problem that plagues Gabby Concepcion’s Arnold Zaragoza in Sa Hirap at Ginhawa (1984), whose manly pride mandates complete and subservient financial dependence of his new wife, come what may — although as a film, it coheres: probably the best in the Gabby and Sharon tandem of the 1980s. And my God, Eddie Rodriguez’s emasculated Roman Estrella in Bukas Luluhod ang mga Tala (1984) is something else.
Also, crime as a plot device in these films [a kidnapping, a murder, an attempted rape, a drug bust, etc.] is such a stretch — but I wonder what that says about the social condition of the 1980s it reflects?
Christopher de Leon, Cherie Gil, and Sharon Cuneta in Bituing Walang Ningning
Thank you to the Cultural Center of the Philippines, especially to its Cultural Exchange Department headed by Chinggay Bernardo, for this honor of being one of the first recipients of the KSSLAP Award for art and cultural work in the Visayas.
I am being honored for my work in the literary arts, particularly in Dumaguete—but I think of it more as a recognition of what my community can do to forge forward a tradition of excellence in culture and the arts, of which I am only a part of the fabric. That I stand here with three other honorees from Dumaguete and Negros Oriental is proof of that. We have with us Dessa Quesada-Palm and YATTA, who exemplify Dumaguete theater. We have with us Elizabeth Susan Vista-Suarez who exemplifies Dumaguete music. And we have with us Diomar Abrio and the Silliman University Culture and Arts Council who exemplify Dumaguete cultural work in general.
The truth is, these people who I call my friends and my cultural family—and many others like them in the fields of Dumaguete visual arts, dance, and film—have been a huge part of my life as a writer and as a cultural worker, and I hope that I have also been a huge part in theirs. Our efforts, both as groups and as individuals, have been largely successful because of the collaborative spirit we often take to pursue excellence in what we do in the name of culture and the arts.
In recognizing me and them for this award then, you are also recognizing that bond, that fabric, that inter-connectedness we all have with each other—and I am grateful for getting that chance to share this stage with them right now. This award is a vital reminder of two things for me: first, that while cultural work might often feel lonely, I am truly not alone because of these people, and because there are institutions like the Cultural Center of the Philippines ready to recognize the work of local artists. And second, this is an incentive for us to try to even reach higher ground in the development of culture in our community.
Dumaguete is a legendary city of literature—but we still have a lot of work to accomplish to really make miracles in the name of literary writing. This award is an encouragement to reach for that.
I dedicate this award to the literary giants from Dumaguete that came before me: Edilberto Tiempo, Edith Tiempo, Myrna Pena-Reyes, Bobby Flores Villasis, Ernesto Superal Yee, Rowena Tiempo Torrevillas, Elsa Martinez Coscolluela, Grace Monte de Ramos, and so many others. When I was young and needed mentorship, they showed me the path to attain literary and cultural excellence, for which I am grateful. This award is also for them.
POSTSCRIPT: I didn't get to mention him, but through all this, Renz Torres has been both the wind to my sail and my north star—my energy and my direction in this journey to becoming. Thank you, my love.
3:00 AM |
A Letter to the Writers of the World from Afghan Writer Homeira Qaderi
I'm sharing this open letter from Afghan writer and fellow International Writing Program [IWP] alumnus Homeira Qaderi, who writes about what's happening in Afghanistan right now...
My name is Homeira Qaderi, and I am the author, most recently, of Dancing in the Mosque: An Afghan Mother’s Letter to Her Son. I met some of you in the International Writing Program, and I know others through your writings. I live in Kabul these bloody days, where as a writer, woman, and mother I see my people being pushed around by the Taliban. We are trapped in a war that was imposed on us: a proxy war in the Global War on Terror, but also a proxy war promoted by our neighboring countries. When the Taliban came to power in 1995, Afghanistan was ravaged by civil war, and then the spirit of our people was destroyed by the Taliban imposing draconian and obsolete laws. The world remained indifferent to our fate, believing it was still a civil war. But the Taliban’s embrace of terror posed a danger to the world, as the events of 9/11 made clear.
I want to say the war on terror does not belong to Afghans alone. This is a war that must be waged by the world. If Afghanistan loses, then the security of the world will be endangered.
Everyone has a weapon in this war. Mine is my pen. This is the pen with which I am writing to ask you, the writers of the world, to be my pen. Our displaced children are sleeping these days on dirt roads, our women give birth in the streets, our old men and women have no way to escape and thus either die in their homes or are killed in the streets where they huddle with thousands of other internal refugees. The catastrophe has reached its peak. We are nearing a painful end.
Please talk about this tragedy in your media. Do not leave Afghan women and children alone.
Please do not forget this human tragedy.
Homeira Qaderi is the author of six books, including the novel Silver Kabul River Girl, published in Iran in 2009 to widespread critical acclaim. An activist for women’s rights and currently a Senior Advisor to the Minister of Labor, Social Affairs, Martyrs and Disabled, she teaches at the University of Kabul. She was a fall resident of the IWP in 2015.
Every time I love a film from the Second Golden Age of Philippine Cinema [roughly the 1970s to the early 1980s], Sandy Andolong seems to be in it. I love her. Her beautiful face perfectly encapsulates the era. And her acting has always been superb and well-modulated, although she remains underrated compared to her peers of that era, which include Charo Santos, Nora Aunor, Rio Locsin, Amy Austria, Vilma Santos, Hilda Koronel, Laurice Guillen, Alma Moreno, Gina Alajar, Lorna Tolentino, and Cheri Gil. She’s exceptional in Moral and Oro Plata Mata, and a scene stealer in almost everything else she was in [even her cameo in Bad Bananas sa Puting Tabing].
This is why I’m grateful for the current spate of restoring our film heritage, which we were on the verge of losing forever — thanks mostly to ABS-CBN Film Restoration and the efforts of Mike de Leon and other bodies. Now we can truly appreciate the lushness of our cinematic storytelling [and the faces of our movie stars] which for so long remained in the shadows of faded print, mold-eaten copies, and low fidelity bootleg. [That this government endangered that effort by shutting down ABS-CBN is one of biggest crimes against our cultural patrimony.]
With Lockdown , Joel Lamangan continues his streak of godawful cinema with such retrograde sensibilities. He recycles his penchant for sex work stories captured with the pornographic zeal he always mistakes for art film aesthetics, and gives the carcass a new COVID mask. It's only a pretense at social relevance because Lamangan has nothing new to say. [Does not even know that in pandemic times, there is such a thing as onlyfans.]
If you haven’t already, you can read my new speculative fiction piece set in Hinirang, “The Cataloguer of Deceit,” on Strange Horizons! Read the story here.
Hinirang is a shared fantasy world created by Dean Francis Alfar, and many other writers — including Nikki Alfar, Kate Osias, Alexander M. Osias, Andrew Drilon, Vincent Michael Simbulan, Gabriela Lee, and Mavi Cruz — have helped people and chart this world, which is a fantastical, semi-Hispanic version of the Philippines.
Two of them [Dean’s “The Kite of Stars” and my own “The Sugilanon of Epefania's Heartbreak”] have gone on to be successfully adapted to Virgin Labfest plays.
[We’re also working on an anthology — so watch out for that soon!]
 An American missionary in Calvary Chapel [my former church] seems to be a COVID conspiracy theorist, and MAGA to boot. [Sigh.] How is this guy a “missionary”? [Worse: some people I know like his posts regularly.]
 Dear God, my poor country. The chaotic scene at SM San Lazaro in Manila early this morning, as people ran to secure vaccine slots. The system is so broken, so heartbreaking.
[Video by Anthony Llegue Norcio]
 I hate feeling like a spy, but when I see establishments breaking COVID protocol, I report. Even my favorite establishments, I report. I am concerned about COVID above all. The staff usually gets reprimanded when these things get reported. Which is why I feel guilty — but it also feels like a barbed necessity. Because I know a lot of these staff people, and they’re nice. But they’re also steeped in a cultural fix that makes them timid in front of intimidating and demanding customers they see as “important,” especially foreigners. There are class issues at play here.
 The Olympic athletes this year have been so amazing and inspiring. [Except you, Novak Djokovic.]
 Listening to opera singer Zofia Kilanowicz sing “Symfonia piesni zalosnych” from Henryk Górecki’s ̄Symphony No. 3, Op. 36 while on Ritalin rush is absolute mental orgasm.
I’m going back to my normal headspace now after spending more than a week trying to finish a manuscript. [I finished it, and then treated myself to a long overdue massage.] Hello, August, birthday month!
1:36 PM |
The CCP Kaisa Sa Sining Visayas Network Announces the Recipients of the 1st KSSLAP Awards
They finally released the news! I’m honored to be one of the first recipients of the Cultural Center of the Philippines [CCP] Kaisa sa Sining Visayas Network’s KSSLAP Awards, a recognition for artists, cultural workers, and cultural organizations in the Visayas. It’s humbling to be part of this roster, especially since many of them have been people I've looked up to in the cultural work that I do. Thank you, CCP, for the recognition!
The Cultural Center of the Philippines [CCP] Kaisa Sa Sining [KSS] Visayas Network announces the recipients of the 1st KSSLAP [Kaisa Ini sa Sining, Lunsay nga Artistang Pilipino] Awards. Due to the present quarantine and travel restrictions, the KSSLAP Awards Ceremonies will be held virtually this 24-27 August 2021 and will be aired via the CCP FB page in September.
The awardees are Lutgardo Labad (Bohol / theater and cultural administration), Alphonsus Tesoro (Capiz / cultural administration), Marilyn Gamboa (Negros Occidental / cultural administration), Ian Rosales Casocot (Dumaguete / literature), Peque Gallaga (Bacolod / film and theater), Jess de Paz (Tacloban / dance), Dr. Jesus C. Insilada (Calinog-Iloilo / literature and cultural education), Dr. Elizabeth Susan Vista-Suarez (Dumaguete / music), Dennis Sugarol (Cebu / music), Negros Cultural Foundation, Silliman University Culture and Arts Council, Calbayog City Arts and Culture Office, and the Youth Advocates Through Theater Arts (Dumaguete).
The Kaisa sa Sining Regional Arts Centers is a partnership program of the CCP thru its Cultural Exchange Department (CED) that was launched in 2014 and is aimed at strengthening further the CCP’s linkages and cooperation with regional educational institutions, non-government organizations and local government units in order to broaden public participation in the arts, promote and showcase artistic excellence and facilitate a vibrant collaboration between and among communities. In the past seven years, the cooperation and exchanges between and among CCP and the KSS network have become more dynamic. To date, the KSS network has already grown to a total of 56 organizations in 46 areas/communities in the regions: 21 in Luzon, 17 in Visayas and 18 in Mindanao.
The KSSLAP Awards is a recognition for outstanding artists, cultural workers and organizations, was one of the action plans and projects that the KSS Visayas agreed to implement during a KSS regional forum held in Roxas City last 2018. In fulfillment of this plan, the CCP CED facilitated the conceptualization and planning of the project. In the last quarter of 2019, a five-member technical working committee (TWC) was formed composed of key representatives from four KSS Visayas organizations with CED as the lead facilitator. The program guidelines were made and disseminated to all the KSS Visayas network in February 2021. The nomination period was from February-May 2021. The Selection Committee (SC) was formed in May 2021 composed of prominent leaders/artists/practitioners from various communities and sectors in Visayas. The final evaluation and selection were held online on 8-9 July 2021.
The KSSLAP Awards aim to give recognition to deserving Visayan individuals and/or organizations who have exemplified commendable work and services in cultural and artistic endeavors, and have been in the forefront of the research, development, preservation, education and promotion of arts and culture in Mindanao for at least ten (10) years or more. The general criteria indicates that an awardee must have made exceptional accomplishments in creative work, leadership, resource management, education, artist support, audience development, community service, solidarity, and partnership.
Why is it important to recognize the achievements of the artists, cultural workers and organizations in Visayas?
Dr. Anita Illenberger [Former Dean, College of Arts and Sciences, Central Philippine University Iloilo City, former Director of the CPU Cultural Affairs Office, and former President of the Iloilo Arts Council]: “The Ksslap Award serves as an inspiration to fellow Visayans as it becomes a proof of the value of work, gives approval/gratitude for excellent work, embodies a sense of ownership that makes the community become aware of the shared outstanding accomplishments. In time, significant work of art becomes part of the cultural heritage of the region which gives the people sense of unity, sense of belonging, and personal identity to help every generation understand the region's cultural life, values and traditions.”
Rene G. Hinojales [Professor at the University of St. La Salle Bacolod City, former Chair, USLS Performing Arts Department, and Artistic Director-Jean Baptist Dance Co.]: “KSSLAP Awards go out on a limb to acknowledge valuable and commendable contributions of artists, cultural workers and organizations to the research, development, preservation, education and promotions of Philippine art and culture, specifically in the Visayas. Of course, recognition is not going to be perfect, especially when it comes from your peers. It may not always reinforce all the behaviors we are hoping to foster. But it sets a model! It creates that potential — and it fuels the idea that every person plays a role in building a positive world. And that is a powerful thing to recognize! On this first year of KSSLAP Awards Visayas, I trust and expect that this biennial act of recognition has and will continue to help everyone else understand what being exceptional looks like, sounds like and feels like!”
Marianito J. Luspo [Consultant of the Center for Culture and Arts Development, Province of Bohol and Director of the Cultural Affairs and Development Office, Holy Name University, Tagbilaran City]: “Artists and cultural workers are like stars in the night sky. They not only lighten up our otherwise dreary existence, they capture our attention and inspire us to look up to realities higher, more transcendent dimension of human life. Moreover, when we recognize each star, each cluster – Sirius, Betelguese or the Southern Cross – lone artist, independent cultural worker or group, we humanize them, making them easier for us, yet earth-bound fellow travelers, to emulate and aspire for. We therefore congratulate the CCP Kaisa sa Sining Visayas for giving recognition to our outstanding artists and cultural workers in the Visayas. The award will surely go a long way in encouraging our people in dedicating their lives in the pursuit of creative endeavors.”
Chinggay J. Bernardo [CCP CED Department Manager]: “In our four decades of community cultural outreach work, we have experienced the unique and exceptional artistry, dedication and perseverance of many Visayan artists and cultural workers. It is indeed high time to institutionalize an awards program that will give recognition to outstanding achievements of Visayan artists, cultural workers and organizations. The KSSLAP Awards, an initiative of the CCP KSS Visayas network and facilitated by the CCP Cultural Exchange, will serve as an inspiration for the artistic and cultural communities in the Visayas to aim for excellence and do public/community service.“
The 17 members of CCP KSS Visayas network are: Province of Capiz, University of Antique, Central Philippines University [Iloilo City], Municipality of Sta. Barbara-Iloilo, University of St. La Salle [Bacolod City], Negros Cultural Foundation, City of Bago, City of Himamaylan, Municipality of Murcia, Silliman University [Dumaguete City], Holy Name University [Tagbilaran City], Arts Council of Cebu, Calbayog City Arts and Culture Office, University of Eastern Philippines [Catarman, Samar], Leyte Normal University [Tacloban City], City of Ormoc, and St. Joseph College [Maasin, Leyte].
For more information, contact the CCP CED at firstname.lastname@example.org
 From “Oust Duterte matrix suspect” to “Congratulations, Hidilyn, the entire Filipino nation is proud of you” in two years. What a flex.
 Gratifying to hear the “Lupang Hinirang” while the Chinese flag flew second place.
 Filipino women always do the heavy lifting around here. So, go Golda Benjamin! And vote for Leni Robredo!
 In a sporting event like an Olympics where participation and support is heavily political, you cannot suddenly erase the political from Hidilyn Diaz’s win just for ... vibe’s sake. Hides brought it up herself in her very first post-medal ceremony interview with Gretchen Ho -- which was poetic justice since both of them were ensnared in that “matrix” kagaguhan in 2019.
I’ve been rethinking the idea of bliss in Heaven a lot these days. Many of the people who are sure they’re doing all they can to be there ... are exactly the same people I don’t want to spend eternity with.