Friday, August 29, 2008
Pangga and I agreed to meet Tuesday, but for three reasons we had to reset the date. First, it began to rain, so it will be hard for me to travel because I will have to come all the way from Quezon City while he works in the midst of Ortigas Center where Megamall, our official meeting place, is located. Second, he leaves the office at 3 PM while my literature class ends at 6 PM, so combining the three long hours of his wait and the first reason, I might again get a text message from him reading “Lupasay! Bunot ng Deal or No Deal sabay tapon sa Super Trivia.” Third, perhaps the most crucial reason, is that the movie For the First Time will premiere in Megamall so, fearing that Pangga will be mistaken for Richard Gutierrez while I, his bodyguard, we settled for a Thursday date in the ongoing Silent Film Festival in Shangri-La.
After securing theater seats and getting tickets to the internationally-acclaimed Czech film Erotikon, I dragged Pangga to several bookstores where I bought discounted titles like David Malouf’s Booker-shortlisted novel Remembering Babylon, Charlson Ong’s Conversion and Other Fictions, Rani Manicka’s The Rice Mother, gay novels entitled In Tall Cotton and Uncle Max, an anthology of erotica entitled High Risk, Ben Okri’s Stars of the New Curfew, and a Latin American short fiction anthology entitled A Hammock beneath the Mangoes. Along the MRT stairs, a gay-looking guy exchanged greeting with Pangga, who was quick to defend that the guy was a former classmate and that they had lost contact ever since. He cautioned that I have no reason to harbor jealousy over the classmate because “hindi naman siya kaguwapuhan.” Amid the smell of shawarma and Chinese noodles and the sound of screeching from an invisible videoke singer, I said sweetly that I have enough trust on him to grow jealous. We proceeded to a Japanese restaurant for our dinner before watching.
Midway through the silent film, the husband of the woman who had been carrying an adulterous affair with a man she met years before mouthed something which translated into “I am not jealous because I trust you.” Pangga hugged me closer to him and whispered, “parang narinig ko na ‘yun kanina a.” I dismissed it, claiming that art and real life are notoriously plagiarizing each other.
Toward the film’s end, he wondered why non-mainstream films such as that being screened would still draw a large audience, apart from the hype that the original score was preserved and that pre-war films are indeed rare. It’s humanity, my dear. Given the onslaught of Hollywoodization, what redemptive movies are still available to signify the moviegoers’ human experiences of, say, forbidden passion, filial loss, triumph over racism, romantic sacrifice? Some of the early motion-picture attempts to this philosophical question come alive albeit silent in Shangri-La cinemas until September 8, 2008. See you, ulp, ssshhhhh! (Ikaw ba ‘yan,Belinda Bright?)