NORA AUNOR’S ‘ANG KWENTO NI MABUTI’


noraWILFREDO O. PASCUAL,  JR. WRITES : Ang Kuwento ni Mabuti’s trailer opens with geography, a mountain range shrouded in mist, those spiritual peaks that lock the rarely seen heart of Luzon. Nueva Vizcaya is a landscape somewhat different from the southern Bicol origins of its lead actress Nora Aunor who was born in volcanic Iriga surrounded by lakes. What does Aunor make of filmmaker Mes de Guzman’s part of the world?

Playing the role of a poor, good-natured Ilocano folk healer, one of Aunor’s tasks is simple and telling. Her portly figure treads through dry shrubs and cuts through tangles of vine. She stops where the water trickles, blows one end of a long rubber tube and places it under a shallow stream. In a province threatened by the unrelenting onslaught of armed conflict, illegal logging, mining and dam projects, will water run upstream and reach home?

These mountains contain and define Mabuti’s world and we are almost certain that she will breath her last here, even as her children opt to do business in town or leave for Dubai in desperation. When she leaves the trail and makes a trip to town, her world is jolted. The killing of a rebel in a military checkpoint thrusts a bag of cash into her hands. What would she do with all that money? Who should have it? We can all diverge on what we would do if fate finds us in a similar situation, but what haunts Mabuti? And how is she haunted? The last questions are important because it unveils the seat of a hinterland’s conscience, etched in Aunor’s performance, an artist’s marvelous and earnest response to the abode of the spirits, the dry wind and the dark clouds. Beyond the question of what is right and what is wrong is a hidden worldview that is less understood and yet speaks to our modern times.

Ilocano folk healers are specialists. There are those who specialize in gynecological folk treatment, sprains and dislocations, and then there are the privileged few with supernatural powers who cure snake and dog bites. Called “mannuma,” they channel the spirits through a stone, accurately depicted in the film, which tells how far the venom has traveled in the bloodstream. Mabuti’s sanctuary after all is not completely verdant; the hills are mostly denuded and the people not all that free from toxicity. For one, we are suspicious of the village captain and all that maddening coin-counting in his office. Civilians are caught between an armed conflict. There is indolence. And dogbites. And then there is death. And more dogbites. Mabuti, like all mannumas, can never charge payment and can only accept tokens and gifts. And so what to do with this bag of cash? In a nation rocked by war and corruption, what money does to Mabuti and what she does with it can provide a critical if not interesting parable to our times.

De Guzman’s tale, like Diablo and Of Skies and Earth, is once again grounded in masterful folk telling and local knowledge. It is charged with mystery and yet carefully paced. What I love about Mes de Guzman’s body of work, all set in Nueva Vizcaya, is how, in exploring moral questions, he combines the timeless to the temporal, the sacred to the secular, the heavenly to the mundane (Mabuti’s grand-daughter is named Kate Winslett). It is a perfect material for world-class actress Nora Aunor whose flowing career has taken the qualities of a river. From the sand dunes of Ilocos to the water-borne Badjaos of Tawi-Tawi, she is the complete vessel that transports us through our diverse landscapes and languages, the unseen realms of marginalized voices. In Mabuti, the actress does not hide the real scars on her throat that has silenced her singing voice. It’s with this shared silence that she gathers us all to experience a quiet understanding of ourselves. You touch the river of her body of work and you touch the mystery of distance and source. From waters to spiritual peaks, what more can you ask from a people’s artist?

NOTES on the author : Wilfredo O. Pascual, Jr. received the Centennial Literary Prize during the centennial celebration of the Philippine Free Press.  His story was about Filipinos leaving the country. Pascual said, “ I thought it was ironic considering that all three winners, including the other two who placed second and third, were all critical of the present administration but I thought it all made sense because we were, after all, honoring the 100th year of the Philippine Free Press.” President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo graced the awarding ceremony.
Pascual is the grand prize winner of two Carlos Palanca Awards for Essay (English) for his works Devotion (2004) and Lost in Childrensville (2007). He graduated from the University Science High School in 1984, where he won in the National Schools Press Conference. He published his novel “Sanlibong Alitaptap” at 24, while on and off schooling in UST, Faculty of Arts and Letters. He also has poems dedicated to his father, a CLSU alumnus in Agriculture and a varsity basketball player.

The Superstar and Wil

The Superstar and Wil

movie review : QUEEN RAQUELA


queen_raquelaA DIGITAL film that BB Gandanghari should not miss is “The Amazing Truth About Queen Raquela,”  a best picture winner at the Berlinale Teddy Awards about a transvestite in Cebu directed by a first-time director from Iceland, Olaf de Fleur. Just like BB, Raquela (Raquela Rios), is a “lady boy” who has yet to have full transsexual surgery. He (or she) works as a streetwalker and uses the chatroom dreaming of finding a heterosexual foreigner husband who will send for her abroad so she can leave her life of poverty and despair. 
    Magpatuloy sa pagbasa

rosanna roces : umakting nguni’t kulang!


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MANILA, Philippines – Swak sa Mahal na Araw ang indie film na Pasang Krus starring Rosanna Roces (graded B ng Cinema Evaluation Board).

Kuwento ng pagdurusa ng isang ina dahil sa kahirapan – ng kanyang mga anak na mga naligaw ng landas matapos barilin ang kanilang ama dahil sa away sa lupa.

Background ng kuwento nang tumakas ang buntis na si Rosanna bitbit ang apat na anak dahil sa pangangamkam ng lupa ng pulitiko sa kanilang bayan. Sa pagtakas nila, nadala nila lahat ng dokumento ng mga lupain.

Magri-report sana sila sa pulis pero nakita nilang ang mismong bumaril sa kanyang asawa ang nasa presinto kaya nag-desisyon silang umalis na lang. Habang nagmamadali silang tumakas, nahiwalay ang anak niyang panganay dala ang bag na may mga dokumento.

Wala na siyang chance na hanapin kaya nag-decide na lang silang umalis kasama ang tatlong anak. Napadpad sila sa Maynila. Pero habang naghahanap sila ng pupuntahan ay biglang nawala ang isa pa niyang kasamang anak na babae, si Adora.

Wala na naman siyang nagawa dahil ang laki ng tiyan niya, bitbit pa ang dalawang anak.

Hanggang inabot ng panganganak sa kalsada. May isang nagmagandang loob at pinatira sila sa dating kulungan ng baboy.

Hanggang lumaki na ang natira na niyang anak na bale tatlo na lang – lahat lalaki.

Dahil sa sobrang hirap ng buhay, napasok sa kung anu-anong illegal na gawain ang mga ito. Ang isa, nakulong dahil napatay ang asawang nangaliwa, ang isa naging snatcher hanggang nasama sa kidnap for ransom pero sa kasamaang palad ay nabaril. Ang anak naman niyang bunso ay ginamit para magtulak ng droga pero binalikan siya ng mga nag-utos sa kanya dahil isinumbong niya. Pinatay din ito.

Ang anak niyang babaeng nawala ay biglang nakita nila sa TV na nanawagan sa pamilya. May sakit ito sa kidney at kailangang operahan. May mga tumulong para mapaopera si Adora na ginampanan ni Lorraine Shuck.

Pero hindi sumuko si Rosanna. Hindi rin siya nag-give up sa paghingi ng tulong sa Diyos at naniniwalang darating ang oras na matatapos din ang kanyang pasang krus.

Nagkatotoo naman, dahil ang nawawala niya palang panganay na anak ay nakapag-aral sa tulong ng mag-asawang umampon sa kanya at nakuha ang mga lupang kinamkam ng congressman sa kanilang bayan. Na-elect din siyang konsehal.

Medyo gamit na ang kuwento ng pelikula.

Nakulangan din ako sa acting ni Rosanna. Naghihintay kami ng matinding eksena mula sa nag­ba­balik na aktres. Parang mas magaling siya noon.

Maiksi lang din ang role nina Joross Gamboa at Jao Mapa. Si Ketchup Eusebio lang ang medyo mahaba-haba ang role pero namatay naman siya.

pilipino star ngayon

hanggang sa kalawakan ng A L A P A A P


Sa dekada ’80 natunghayan ang panggugulantang ni Tata Esteban sa marami niyang pelikulang puros nagsasaad ng malakabaliwang bumabalot sa hiwaga ng buhay. Hindi na kailangang pagtakahan kung bakit sa bawa’t sitwasyon sa mga pelikula ni Esteban, kadalasa’y kahalo ang anumang mga elementong grotesque na kapwa nakakabahala at may hatid na kababalaghan. Matingkad at pasukdol ang pagsasalarawan ng Alapaap (Aces Film International/Oro Vista Motion Pictures at Rare Breed Ltd., 1984) sa karahasang dinanas ni Baeg (Tanya Gomez). Inilarawan dito ang malupit na karanasan ng isang babaeng Kiangan na ginahasa at pinatay ng di kilalang mga lalaki habang ito’y nangangahoy sa kagubatan. Dito uminog ang kasaysayang isinusulat ni Jake (William Martinez). Kasama ang mga kaibigang filmmakers, ang magkapatid na sina Dave (Mark Gil) at Donald (Michael de Mesa), nagtungo ang grupo sa lalawigan ng Baguio upang maghanap ng posibleng lokasyon para sa gagawing pelikula hanggang sa mapadpad ang mga ito sa tahanan ni Mr. Longed (Ed Villapol), ang ama ni Baeg. Nais ng anak na pagbayaran ang karahasang dinanas sa pamamagitan ng paggamit kay Jake bilang instrumento upang maisakatuparan ang napipintong paghihiganti . Nagpapasalin-salin ang espiritu ni Baeg sa katawang lupa nina Betchie (Isadora) at Christine (Eva Rose Palma), maging kay Jabbar, ang kanilang alagang aso. Ginalugad ng pelikula ang mga hangganang maaring tahakin ng isang mapaghiganting multo. Sa bandang huli’y di matanto kung nagtagumpay si Baeg dahilan sa ang lahat ng pangyayari ay tila nagaganap lamang sa loob ng isipan ni Jake na sumasailalim sa impluwensiya ng droga.

Patunay sa manipestasyon ng estilo sa pagbuo ng sine ang estetikong prinsipyong pinanghahawakan ni Tata Esteban. Kaakibat nito ang nahahating pananaw sa uri ng representasyon sa pagsasaayos ng iba’t-ibang elementong kaagapay sa pagbuo ng isang pelikula. Sa Alapaap, madarama ang pirming nagbabadyang malagim na pangyayari sa tulong ng angkop na paglapat ng musika at tunog. Nailahad din ang makulay at makatotohanang daigdig sa mga samu’t-saring detalyeng nakakapaghatid ng gitla at gimbal. Ilan lamang ito sa mga patunay sa pananaw na nais iparating ni Esteban sa kanyang pelikulang nagbigay-bunga sa sarili niyang estilo. Sayang na sayang at hindi napangatawanan ng Alapaap ang mayabong na tema at diskurso ng naratibo. Mapapansing matapos na maipundar ang milyu, hindi na alam ng direktor kung paano paandarin ang istorya. Sapat nang ipasubo ang mga bida sa kung anu-anong sitwasyong nangangailangan ng paghuhubad. Maliban sa pagtukoy ng kahinaang ito na siyang bumalda sa pelikula, napag-iisip ng Alapaap ang manonood nito na kung estilo lamang ang pag-uusapan, walang sinabi ang ang ibang magagaling na direktor ngunit may ibang pang dapat pag-abalahan maliban sa teknik at teknolohiya at pagpapakitang gilas sa larangan ng disenyong biswal.

Direksiyon: Tata Esteban
Dulang Pampelikula: Rei Nicandro
Sinematograpiya: Joe Tutanes
Musika: Rey Ramos
Editing: Abelardo Hulleza
Disenyong Pamproduksiyon: Steve Paolo
Prodyuser: Aces Film International/Oro Vista Motion Pictures At Rare Breed Ltd.

jojo de vera/sari-saringsinengpinoy

no way in


No Way In Joel Lamangan’s Walang Kawala isn’t a very good film. It’s poorly plotted, badly directed, and generally elicits laughs when it’s aiming for tears. All in all, it’s not a great experience, and more than that, it once again reveals the glaring inconsistencies of our ratings board. This has gotten ridiculous.

Joaquin is a fisherman from the province who has been carrying out an affair with his young neighbor Waldo. But Joaquin’s wife returns from Dubai, Joaquin decides to end the affair. Distraught, Waldo runs away from home and goes to Manila. Joaquin soon finds himself unable to think of anything but Waldo, and he goes to Manila to look for him. The clues lead him to a gay bar where Waldo was employed as a dancer, and eventually, to a crooked, wife-beating policeman involved in illegal human trafficking operations. Joaquin follows the trail deeper and deeper, until he finds that he might have no way out.

The story, for all its portrayed perversions, is actually pretty run-of-the-mill. Take it all apart, and it’s just another cautionary tale of a young person from the province getting taken advantage of by big evil people from the city. It’s a well-worn trope, and the movie has nothing to add to it other than gratuitous sex scenes and full frontal male nudity. How this got past the MTRCB when tamer and better films have been given X-ratings is beyond me, but there you go. The story problems don’t end there. A good chunk of the film is told in really clunky flashbacks, which take away from the main action of the film and confuse the timeline. The characters are messy and inconsistent; their development governed more by plot convenience instead of proper psychology. The climax of the film is particularly nonsensical. The way the plot moves the characters to that single point is just baffling.

Joel Lamangan may be working with new technology, but his direction is decidedly old school. His scenes are serviceable at best, lacking visual flair and often overwhelmed by the score. Lamangan has always had problems connecting his scenes, often having to rely on awkward fades that break up the pace of the film, and nothing really changes here. There’s also a general lack of subtlety in the picture, every point hammered down relentlessly, hardly anything left to the imagination (often literally). The performances are a mixed bag. Polo Ravales looks unmotivated for most of the picture, offering little more than blank stares until the third act. Joseph Bitangcol, on the other hand, goes really big and offers no nuance to his performance. Emilio Garcia makes it easy to hate his villainous character, and it mostly works for the picture. There’s an inkling of depth in the character that goes unexplored by the script, however, and that leaves him coming off as one-note. Jean Garcia gets a lot out of her character, despite a lack of good material to really hold on to.

In the end, Walang Kawala doesn’t really say or do much, and comes off as just another excuse to show off a lot of gratuitous sex and nudity. There are going to be a lot of justifications, claims that it’s “art” or that it “has relevance,” but no matter how you wrap it up, that just doesn’t change the fact that the movie is actually bad. It’s baffling that Lav Diaz’s Death in the Land of Encantos was given an X rating (and therefore, was banned from exhibition) because it showed genitalia, while this movie can flaunt its genitalia and get an R18. That’s just not right.

philbert ortiz dy / clickthecity.com