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This is the blog of Ian Rosales Casocot. Filipino writer. Sometime academic. Former backpacker. Twink bait. Hamster lover.

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Sunday, June 02, 2013

entry arrow12:52 AM | The Passionate Strangers

I've heard of The Passionate Strangers (1966) since I first began taking an interest in the works of the later director and National Artist for Film Eddie Romero -- and especially after being told that the director of such Filipino classics as Ganito Kami Noon, Paano Kayo Ngayon and Aguila was not only from Dumaguete, but was also, like myself, a Sillimanian. To be told that as a young cineaste was quite galvanizing: it suddenly the dream of being a filmmaker myself a possibility, its remoteness once or twice removed. I began to ask: if he was from Dumaguete, had he ever shot a film in Dumaguete? He did, with Kamakalawa, I was told.

Later on, I also stumbled on the fact that Mr. Romero had shot an even earlier film in the city as well as nearby Bais. That was the film noir The Passionate Strangers, which starred American actors Michael Parsons and Valora Noland, alongside a Filipino cast that included Celia Rodriguez, Vic Diaz, Butz Aquino, and Mario Montenegro. (Oh, to behold the naughty lines and flirtations between Ms. Rodriguez's femme fatale and Mr. Aquino's straight-arrow public attorney, and to see Mr. Diaz's magnificent star-turn as a snaky politician who who does his dirty maneuverings with such finesse...)

Naturally, I was intrigued. But a viewing copy of the film proved elusive for so long, until now: somehow one found its way recently to YouTube, and now I can finally say I've seen this early Eddie Romero classic, not exactly in quality form -- but for now, this will do.

And what can I say about it? Only this: the film is one of Mr. Romero's best and deserves restoration effort, if only for the gorgeous photography by Justo Paulino that renders beautifully the peculiarities of Dumaguete in the 1960s. There is also the taut story by Cesar Amigo, Reuben Canoy, and Eddie Romero (Sillimanians all), and the topnotch acting -- mostly in English -- by the cast, who seemed to improve on the iconic performances from Hollywood movies of this kind. (It reminded me of a mishmash of From Here to Eternity and Touch of Evil...)

The story goes: an accidental murder of a labor leader has been committed in a town dominated by an American-owned mill, and labor riots follows, ending in a court case that seems to corner the American CEO of that company into a sure guilty verdict. But that makes it sound like a socio-political thriller, which is far from the case. What you really have here is a tense domestic melodrama peopled by characters of such remarkable complexity: the murderer, for example, may be the only man in the film who has any integrity, and the crusading investigator is, in this case, a congressman smelling a political opportunity and is only too willing to admit it. We see thrown into the mix the issues of marital betrayals, the politics of labor negotiations, as well as racism and nationalism in a small town -- but those big ideas almost seem incidental in an involving story about people who are only trying to do what's right, but do it in absolutely wrong ways.

The Passionate Strangers is a masterpiece, and I wish all of Dumaguete could see it in its full glory.

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[0] This is Where You Bite the Sandwich

Saturday, June 01, 2013

entry arrow12:51 AM | Notes on a Melancholic Night


I just came from the first run-through rehearsals of Elsa Martinez Coscolluela's play In My Father's House, which is being directed by the great Amiel Leonardia -- a homecoming to Silliman for this theater stalwart. And I'm sad because, for some strange reason, the tail-end of my last scene just felt ... off. I play Miguel, the stoic, distant, heroic scion of a Dumaguete family torn apart by World War II. Act III Scene 2 demands of my character a certain tiredness from the war, but also a certain gentility, and a certain persuasiveness which I think I got right during last night's rehearsals. That instinct, unfortunately, was lost on me tonight for reasons I can only blame on energy seeping away as the night wore on. But excuses, excuses. It saddens me only because I am not up to par the way I want myself to be. But it has been such a long time since I've acted on stage, and getting the hang of it -- to convey the truth of your character and his story -- may take a bit more time. It's not like learning to ride a bike again at all. But I'll get there.


There are songs that play for you like autobiography, and you come to love them for the way they seem to know every breath of you. The music of Spring Awakening is nothing of that sort, but the musical strikes such specific emotional response from me. Just hearing the beginning strains of "The Guilty Ones," for example, sends me back, just like that, to a covered, cushioned space in my head where there are a lot of dark shadows, but also a lot of fugitive light. I have local theater producer Hendrison Go to thank for introducing this musical to me at a time in my life when I was untethered, when I was desperately looking for something to hang on to, when the world I thought I knew was fading away fast. It is a long story, nothing too sad (because I reveled in the mistakes and the misadventures), but I do know that I was at that time in need of a new anchor, a new lease on a better life, a deep reacquaintance of what I was and what it was that I wanted. What a sweet, tumultuous year 2009 was. Spring Awakening -- something I listened to nonstop in the first six months of that year -- made it bearable.


I think about Ron sometimes and the whole thing makes me sad. I see him, and he wears his smile and his words like a stranger. It makes me question what was true about us: Was it real those nights when we would be talking about stars till they faded away? Was it real those kilometric text messages, and the equally dramatic quarrels that lasted a year or so? Was it real when I'd take him to the bus terminal for home in Tanjay, almost on a nightly basis, and stay on till the bus went away? Was it real our regular search for things to eat in a city that was small? Was it real when he'd patiently wait in the gym for me while I did my exercises like a soldier? Was it real all that togetherness in the light of the nothingness between us at present? One questions things, and the only thing that seems real is the fading of what once had weight, but has now come to bear the lightness of ghostly feathers.

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[0] This is Where You Bite the Sandwich