the gapanese invasion is nigh!

"pinakamaganda ka nga sa buong kapuluan, pero latina na naman ang magwawagi ng korona at sash sa miss world! racism ba ito? lupasay!"

Saturday, December 30, 2006

under the canopy of stars

The venue is in ruins, much like the Parthenon or the Borobudur, but that seemed just apt to the purpose of the play. There were promenading lovers in parasol, their slow walking pace somewhat oblivious to the chorus playing in the background and their elaborate dresses—Maria Clara gowns for the ladies and barong tagalog for the gentlemen—reminiscent of the colonial Philippines. The decrepit walls of Intramuros, the walled bastion of Spanish Manila, served as the screen of the audio-visual presentation of “Land of Our Birth,” “People of the Philippines,” and “Intramuros: Sanctuary of the Filipino Spirit.” These three videos prepared the audience to “A Walk Back in Time,” wherein Philippine history, marred as it was by colonization, showed what even could not be rewritten might proclaim beauty and uniqueness.
Right at the beginning, the audience was not made to feel an outsider to the unfolding play. We were like guests, primed by our hosts of the Walled City that’s the gateway to Asia, the gem of the Pacific, the new Tyre and Sidon. When the Spanish fleet literally arrived, crushing the precolonial culture in its wake, we were swept off our feet and were excitedly brought inside the ruins. We were walking back in time. There, we caught a glimpse of the colonial Philippine life, aided by a young storyteller whose real identity would be revealed toward the play’s end.
When I come to think about it, the term “Filipino” did not become a reference to colonial natives until at a much later time. Philippine-born Spanish citizens were the first Filipinos, who were looked down upon by peninsulares, or Spanish denizens who saw the first light of day in the faraway mother country in the Iberian peninsula. From the way it looked, the Philippine-style caste system carried the sting of cultural contempt, because not only were natives initially denied of their rightful Filipino identity, but also were their own country’s lowest-ranked citizens next to the second-class Filipinos of the Spanish colonial era.
The play proceeded to unfurl history as it was during the time when miscegenation effected several changes in the Philippine setting, from the empowering of the mestizo class to the blurring of skin color. The intermarriage of the colonizers and the natives was a given, but the label mestizo more popularly belonged to the interracial union of the Sangleys and the Filipinos. Far from today’s regard toward them as the wealthiest Filipino citizens, the Sangleys—the Chinese of old—were repudiated and were rendered literal outcasts when their lot was forcibly concentrated in Parian, in what would be renowned as Chinatown. While the rise to power of the Chinese was marked by their determination and hardship, they showed so by being cheerful—they even clowned on street while peddling their wares. From the lowly panaderos, trinket sellers and clothes hawkers, the Chinese catapulted above the Philippine society to become mall owners, cigarette and beer magnates and realty stockholders. Being a Chinese descendant myself, I felt so proud that tears stood in my eyes.
The abovementioned intermarriage caused an amalgam of cultures, so much so that it became hard to imagine present-day Filipinos as pure and unadulterated. While the colonization of the archipelago was hardly an event to thank for, the nation it brought about in the process makes me swell in pride because we are a friendly, festive, and valiant people. We boast of intellectual children, who wisely used their expatriate education to help champion the cause of liberation. We are also proud of our popular rebolusyonaryos, without whose courageous work the Philippines would have not attained Spanish colonial independence. We take pride in ourselves, because this is the only country we have and it has us Filipinos for its sole children.
The play provides one of the ways to answer the lingering question of who is the Filipino: The Filipino is a race whose richly-layered culture is of a rare Oriental and Western blend characterized by Spanish exuberance, Chinese industry and native congeniality (not to mention American, Japanese, Malay and Indian influences).
At the play’s end, the young narrator revealed that he was not other than the fatherland. He said this using the Intramuros ruins as backdrop, under the canopy of stars. The setting seemed to tell that it was written in stellar constellations for the Philippine Islands’ history to be disrupted violently by colonization, but no matter what impossibility of rewriting is posted by the demonizing colonial experience, its influences lay important foundations of our lush Filipino heritage.

Friday, December 22, 2006

the gay-bedeviled evil cop (a nightmare before christmas)

having had less than forty winks the night before, i warned blueseraph that i'd just sleep inside megamall’s cinema 2, letting him watch the sequel of “shaolin vs. evil dead.” we caught the unweaving plot in medias res, so when i rose back to life, i told blueseraph that we should start the chinese action movie all over again. knowing that it's not mean feat to earn enough pesos to pay for a movie pass, i decided to plod on through the film, especially when the appearance of swords and dreams seemed to me a borgesque device (i love the argentinian writer's idea of absurdity).
fate would have it that blueseraph and i won't be able to sit through the rest of the screening for the man in the lower row, claiming he and his wife were disturbed by our constant leg shifts, hissed that “…’wag n’yong ugain ang silya, nababangga ng mga paa n’yo. naiistorbo kami ng misis ko. kung ayaw n’yo magkagulo rito…kahit malaki kayong dalawa sa akin, kaya ko kayo. gusto n’yo patayin ko kayo ngayon? isang baril ko lang kayong dalawa,” and, turning to me, rather dreadfully, “lalo ka na. matuto kayong gumalang sa pulis kung gusto n’yo pang mabuhay!”
threatened that the seeming intoxicated guy (his belch—besides his body odor—stank) would produce whatever weapon he has being out of wits, i was quick to make amends even as it dawned on me never to do so if he were less unreasonable. the wife, meanwhile, planted her humongous rear on her comfortable seat five chairs away, oblivious to the scene being created by her husband. it might be that the foul-smelling husband would gun our brains out, the crowd would disperse panicking, and she would be content sitting pretty, glued at watching her vampire relatives onscreen.
being too stunned to leave the balcony at once, we transferred several rows away. i lost my interest in the movie, so i begged to blueseraph for us to sneak out of the cinema. if the situation were less tense, i would have laughed when i saw the fat “policeman” haul an usherette upstairs, presumably milking sympathy that he and his partner were being bedeviled by two men holding hands in the dark. i slipped out quietly and waited for my companion to do the same.
we gathered later on that the complaining “cop” boasted to the usherette that he’s a colonel. that was too much power-tripping, so when blueseraph decided to seek administrative mediation, i acquiesced, provided that we won’t give out our names for security reasons. after being passed on interminably from office to office, a mall officer heard us out. and his reaction? “ako na po ang humihingi ng paumanhin sa inyo kung anuman ang nangyari.” yeah right, thanks a lot that this mall occasionally gets targeted by bombers, which explains why only when there are casualties that the administration is roused to action. the officer went on to assure us that the fat movie patron’s claim that he’s a colonel could be a figment of a distant wish, for no high-ranking defense official would risk his confidential status if only to act like a king. if the claim would be taken seriously, the guy could be at least a policeman whose identification card and license have merited him to bring his gun in tow in case of public emergency. i argued that given the lack of depositing stations inside the malls, some members who had the gall to taint the already deteriorating reputation of the police authority would wield their gun as their ultimate symbol of power (not to mention macho-associated phallus). as for public emergency, the fat patron was a fine example of a “cop” who would salvage (pun intended) the public at any cost.
it’s already repulsive that this world custom-built for heterosauruses should designate people like us to the dim peripheries. gays-catering cinema raids and late-night arrests using vagrancy as pretext have often assaulted the darkness we inhabit. the cinema incident blueseraph and i figured in is a relatively new story of how much hate is sowed against the tremendously discriminated gays that we are.
the irony notwithstanding, merry christmas to all of us.