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!"

Thursday, February 26, 2009

classical meets postmodern meets postcolonial in "the necklace" stage play

My junior English majors’ theatrical adaptation of Guy de Maupassant’s “The Necklace” is a manifestation of the degree to which my students understand and apply what they learned out of two years of tutelage under me. It was beyond my imagination that lessons on postmodernism, postcolonialism and Aristotelian poetics will figure in that explosive production. Perhaps you ask, “What is Little Gapanese talking about?”
First, the play turned out postmodern by way of inserting numbers (dance, etc) in order to fragmentize the plot. It would have been easy if the class just spoonfed the audience, but the latter might as well be driven to piece out the puzzle in order to form the larger whole. The insertions were there supposedly to alienate the audience regarding the gaps in the progressing story. I know, it’s so Bollywoodish, but why go far when our classic Tagalog movies were given to scenes of singing and dancing in the middle of a chase or a funeral episode?
Second, the indigenization of a French text in English translation was meant to provide familiarity to the audience. I pointed out to my students that French terms are spelled in such a way that their pronunciation is different. To give it a Philippine touch, the class grounded the story in the local setting, the dance hall turning into the recognizable Malacanang Palace and the promenade, into our beloved Luneta. The minister of Education is rightfully Jesli Lapuz, and where would our wretched protagonist haggle over cheap vegetables and double-dead meat except in a dingy, noisy talipapa?
Finally, Aristotle’s anagnorisis (or realization in the end, a classic take on James Joyce’ epiphany) was present. When I saw the play’s teasers posted around the obscure college, I was taken aback by the mention of the term. I thought, if the prospective audience would be led into concluding that the story is going to end tragically (who doesn’t know that? Maupassant’s stories are canonical readings), the screenings might be snubbed. Fortunately, the strange term turned out rather intriguing, so the stage presentation was well received.
Congratulations, junior English majors namely Cris, Chan, Che, Wheng, Teng, Kel, Jen, Bacs! I love the colorful sets and costumes, and the varying emotions that our homegrown actress showed from the vain beautiful lady that Madam Loisel was to the impoverished woman that she turned into. Thanks to the Math majors and the Elementary Education students who assisted in the performance and technical productions. My delight was such that I grooved nonstop not to the campy “Dito Ba?” but to Rhianna’s “Disturbia.”

Tuesday, February 24, 2009


I chose a beautiful heart over
A beautiful mind
When I felt the stallion
Sojourning where dark souls converge
In that sinful dungeon.
The fairies cavorted on an unholy hour
In a world so absurd
I don’t belong
Here. Only the wise played
The game, its in and out
Were intricate, fatal,
Strange. I can’t be one
Of them, I have to leave.
I touched the stud
Once, twice and more
And at a glance,
It seemed so wise to
Assume a quixotic stance.
I galloped away
The ancient, lonely road,
Snatching stardust strewn
Across the squalid walk.

Monday, February 23, 2009

blind faith in milton's paradise lost

Milton’s Paradise Lost traces back the roots of man’s inherent sin that was gained by virtue of Adam and Eve’s giving in to the inducements of Satan. By doing so, they contravened God and His command to venerate and obey him completely. Their once unwavering faith quivered because they gave in to mindless obedience. Some people may mistake faith as a form of mindless obedience. After all, anything related to faith is devoid of reason. God expected utter faith from Adam and Eve when He gave this admonition:
[…] fear here no dearth: But of the Tree whose operation brings knowledge of good and ill, which I have set the pledge of thy obedience and thy faith, amid the Garden by the Tree of Life, remember what I warne thee, shun to taste, and shun the bitter consequence: […] (Milton, Book VIII, lines 322-328)
When God commanded Adam and Eve not to eat the Forbidden Fruit, they were not expected to argue or question this command simply because they know that God has unquestionable wisdom. As long as they believe, God would not let any harm befall upon them. This concept of faith is relative to the meaning of mindless obedience; only, mindless obedience means giving in to something that may or may not be just/moral. It comes in forms of temptations, beguiling men to give in to their evil desires that will eventually lead to sin. Eve knew that God is the epitome of goodness, but she still chose to follow the snake even though she knows that its wisdom is dubitable. She may not have believed in the snake, but she still blindly followed it --- thus, she obeyed mindlessly.
The practice of faith is backed up by the concept of free will. God bestowed man the gift of free will --- it is the power to choose to embrace the good or to embrace evil. In Paradise Lost as in the Bible, however, we see how Adam and Eve used this gift to embrace the bad --- Eve, when she ate the Forbidden Fruit, and Adam, when he chose Eve over God. Because of this, God punished them by casting original sin to their descendants, opening the contemporary world to sin and worldliness.
The fall of man started because of evil. It is forever haunting; it is forever seeking for its next prey. In paradise, Satan chose to work his way through Eve first, since she is known to be inferior to Adam thus, she is considered weaker and more vulnerable. Events before the core temptation happened, we can already sense Eve’s agitation when Adam persuades her to stay with him because of Raphael’s warning of impending danger:
If this be our condition, thus to dwell in narrow circuit straiten’d by a foe, subtle or violent, we not endured single with like defence, wherever met, how are we happy, still in fear of harm? But harm precedes not sin; only our foe tempting affronts us with his foul esteem of our integrity; […] (Milton Book IX, lines 322-329)
Here, Eve feels as if she is capable of taking care of herself. She feels assured of her potent faith in God and she tells Adam that no temptation can lead her astray. With Adam’s permission, she sets forth to the garden where she falls prey to the enthralling words of the serpent:
Here grows the cure of fall, this fruit divine. Fair to the eye, inviting to the taste, of virtue to make wise: what hinders then to reach, and feed at once at both body and mind? […] So saying, her rash hand in evil hour forth reaching to the fruit, she pluck’d, she ate; Earth felt the wound, and Nature from her seat, sighing through all her works, gave signs of woe that all was lost. (Milton Book IX, lines 776-784)
This particular passage marks the fall of Eve. We see how Satan works on Eve’s vanity. He lured Eve into thinking that she deserves to be worshipped with divinity and this could only happen if she takes a bite from the Forbidden Fruit. Despite Eve’s buoyancy that she is capable of resisting temptation, she was too imprudent and naïve to feel evil lurking in her presence. This just proves how weak and vulnerable Eve really is. When she bit on the forbidden fruit, we see how Milton profoundly accentuated the foreboding catastrophe bound her way --- nature wept and the earth was deeply injured. Based from the passage above, we can also garner that man has this continuous craving for something more. Man is never satisfied, and he constantly seeks for a better life. There is just no entity that can wholly fulfill man’s satisfaction. According to Stanley Milgram’s Obedience to Authority, man his this tendency of becoming so absorbed in the narrow technical aspects of the situation that they fail to comprehend the broader consequences it entails. Eve lived in paradise, a world so perfect and peaceful but she wasn’t contented --- she wanted power and heavenly beauty that made her defy God and which cost her imminent doom.
The yearning of man eventually led to Adam’s downfall too. He was so trapped in the web of love. He loves Eve so much that he could not let her go to the point that he chose Eve over God. He seems to be under the impression that he can live without God --- the very same Divine Being who created him and Eve. He reasons that he will be living in devastation without his lifetime partner and he cannot bear that:
How can I live without thee, how forego thy sweet converse, and love so dearly join’d, to live again in these wild woods forlorn? […] Bone of my bone thou art, and form thy state mine never shall be parted, bliss or woe. (Milton Book IX, lines 908-916)
With these treacheries, God justly punished the both of them for their lack of faith and for their noncompliance. They made them shameful of their own bodies, chastised them with visions that would make their descendants suffer, the likes of Noah’s flood, kingdoms that would eventually fall, sicknesses that would plague the world and the Last Judgment. Most of all, they lost their innocence and this could never be redeemed for innocence lost is lost forever.
Adam and Eve’s mindless obedience to the beguilement of the serpent has to do with the high stake of becoming gods like the One who created them. Imagine: creatures becoming creators themselves? And the medium of this transformation was too easy to perform: just one bite and it is all right. One bite into the Forbidden Fruit, and wisdom opens their eyes. It seemed to Adam and Eve that obedience to God need not be minded because of the promising consequence of their biting action. For this one, they could exercise their reason whereas for God’s commandment, they could only exercise faith. The call of the flesh was on this instance, stronger than that of the spirit—it became too easy to obey mindlessly especially if the reward is material and lofty.
Because of mindless obedience, Adam and Eve both lost a paradise. They were both driven out of such a perfect dwelling place. This perhaps is one of the consequences of disobedience. Some people may infer that faith means obeying without reservations and limits. If one disobeys, he will be punished. This can be exemplified in Dante’s literary piece, Inferno, where it is greatly implied that all our grave misconducts have a corresponding harsh outcome in hell. Reacting to faith in such a negative manner, we lose its humanistic nature. It drives people to believe that we submit to religious obligations simply because we are compelled to do so. The Bible perceives the notion of faith in a more optimistic manner. Citing the Beatitudes, the Bible deems that obedience is seen in light of a reward --- that when we obey, we shall receive.
There are distinct personalities in the Bible that serve as ideal Christians for us to follow and look up to. There is Job who, amidst the suffering and provocations of the devil, stood firm in his belief in God. Abraham, who willingly offered his son as a sacrificial lamb to God, gained God’s respect and trust. And of course, Jesus Christ, who withstood the three godly temptations of Satan in the desert. God promised them a seat in heaven for their undying faith and love. He repays them with His love, given back tenfold. According to Merritt Y. Hughes, “the love of God may also be the soul’s passionate devotion to the Summum Bonum of a philosophical faith, immolating all lesser goods on the altar of the Highest Good and forsaking all earthly beauty to ascend the ladder of love to heavenly beauty.” (190)
In today’s context, we continue to endure endless pain and suffering. This is because we serve as spawns to Adam and Eve’s shortcomings. We are born with original sin --- that is, our tendency to disobey and cast out goodness. In the process of growing spiritually, we become Christ-like by aspiring to obey and stop sin to enter our lives. God helps mold our character by sending the Redeemer, Jesus Christ, so that he could salvage and redeem us from eternal damnation. John 3: 16 quotes that God gave His son Jesus out of His profound love for us despite our limitations and inadequacies. He continues to hope that one day, we will choose to come back to His welcoming arms and claim our seat in heaven. The catch, however, is intricate. Before enjoying the delight found in paradise, we are required to purely, importunately obey Him. It is a task we strive to carry out everyday. Again, from John 3:16 “…whosoever believes in Him shall not perish but shall have everlasting life.” (stress mine)
Man will always have this internal battle between good and evil. Free will, the very same gift that God gave us, is the same thing that hinders us from being morally upright sons and daughters. We will always find ourselves looking for reasons, justifying our beliefs with proofs and explanations. We may find ourselves mindlessly following something that we may deem to be a leap of faith. Thus, we must bear in mind that there is a thin line separating faith from mindless obedience. We then ask ourselves, are we being faithful or are we simply obeying mindlessly?

Friday, February 20, 2009

notes on a family breakfast

Before attending my Saturday class, I visited the family corporation purposed at sharing Mariliese’ homemade cookies to the ones manning the kiosk, in this case Lette and Leo. We were munching on our last chips when Mr. Spectacular appeared in view. Alarmed that he would throw a fit for not having been able to taste the goodies, I offered to treat the siblings to breakfast, to which they readily consented.
While his elder siblings were choosing sunnyside up (which the dear canteen owner calls "upside down") and fried tinapa with fresh tomatoes, chili and soy sauce, Mr. Spectacular rubbed my back and whispered, “Sir, na-miss kita a.” We weren’t able to see each other the night before, so probably he was just reciprocating my message of ardent longing that night. I smiled sheepishly, for if I so much as utter a word I might start reciting any of Sappho’s love poems.
We boys were about to finish eating when Lette began rummaging through her bag. I saw that its contents were a motley array of various articles including a wallet, notebook, hairbrush and the like. She seemed apologetic for the distraction she was creating, and then she fished out what she claims as any girl’s two most important accessories: lipstick and cake foundation.
While at the subject of searching, Mr. Spectacular himself browsed for something in my TV phone. Confident that he would discover nothing outrageous except for the wallpaper and screensaver featuring the pictures I downloaded from his homepage, I let him check the images. Someone’s picture caught his attention, upon which case he declared, “Sir, kilala ko ito a. Kilalang-kilala ko,” referring to a former boylet who resembles Aldred Gatchalian. He said that the boylet, a schoolmate of his, was the erstwhile boyfriend of his ex. They are in good speaking terms, though; in fact, they are sort of buddies who comfortably joke with each other despite the common romantic link that’s the girl. His brother nodded in agreement.
Thinking of N and the boylet who are inextricably connected to Mr. Spectacular and me, I silently swore yet again—right there before my partly consumed egg and smoked fish—that I will be saintly good before conspiratorial destiny goes full blast in unbraiding my karmic dues.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

downtown spectacle

Alas, after two days of waiting with bated breath, Mr. Spectacular’s national-level table tennis competition pushed through. His brother Leo and I agreed to meet at the family corporation, and off we went downtown, unmindful of possible rumors of Tuhog remake within the nasty community grapevine.
I expected the venue to be jam-packed with cheerers of all sort, from those who wear seductive cheerleader skirts to those who seem to have built-in sound blasters with which to yell. However, only a few were there, most of whom were athletes lifting the spirits of their fellow athletes. I surmised that the more popular basketball game drew in the crowd, until I gathered that the visually interesting swimming competition was simultaneously being conducted along with Mr. Spectacular’s. End of speculation.
As for the object of affection, he looked stunning in his navy blue-collared white uniform, blue shorts and black rubber shoes. He thanked me for coming, but I was just too glad to see him play against the best of National Athletic Association of Schools, Colleges and Universities’ (NAASCU) best. Something about his excited movements made him all the more adorable. Teaming up with a Palarong Pambansa veteran schoolmate, he went on to trounce representatives from San Sebastian College and AMA Computer University.
Until he and partner faced the dreaded pair from Holy Angels University, whom they referred to as “halimaw” for being indestructible even in Palarong Pambansa. Twice they met for the finals, and no amount of dancing tricks from Mr. Spectacular distracted the opponents from advancing to the top three, shutting the pair we were rooting for from the medal tally.
My personal and his university’s star player bore the heavy responsibility of winning in the singles to secure a medal for the entire team. However, just when he was to start the best-of-three match, my inbox received an urgent message asking me to edit a paper due in two hours. That posed a personal crisis: do I ignore the plea in order to see Mr. Spectacular’s triumph, or do I abort my moral support for him in his deciding game in order to beat the paper deadline? I ultimately chose to be professional, since from where I plugged my laptop I could still take a glance at the contest every so often. It was the last encounter for the day, and the university’s team and supporters like Leo were around to cheer him on. Twice the pingpong ball hurtled in my direction and when I looked up to see who picked it up, it was Mr. Spectacular, asking if I was just fine. By the time I finished editing for less than half the time it usually takes me, the whole team was rejoicing for Mr. Spectacular. He bagged a bronze medal, which to me was as good as gold because hey, it’s a national tournament. Not everybody gets a chance to shine after beating all but two. It remains to be seen if Mr. Spectacular gets to defeat his ultimate opponent—himself—in order to be in tip-top shape to win the gold next year.
From Mendiola, we traversed Earnshaw because I promised to treat the brothers anywhere in España. How I loved that kilometric walk with Mr. Spectacular, especially if instead of the goon-like drumbeaters we passed by, some crooner performed rica peralejo's cover of "let's stop and talk a while." In Spain, the coziest place we could eat in was a pizza parlor opposite the royal and pontifical University of Santo Tomas. I urged them to order whatever they wanted, since the victor deserved only the food of the gods. When both eventually settled for a family pizza, I smiled my island fiesta smile over the befitting term.
Since he was sitting beside me, I could see Mr. Spectacular feeling dreamy, probably out of the combined exhaustion (he played in both individual and team division for the entire day) and fresh accomplishment. I teased him for being a national runner-up, which is just my way of motivating him to wrest soon the top plum on his last year in the university. He mentioned that wearing the shirt I gave him last valentine's could have earned him the grand prize, but he already had it on during the first day when the table tennis game got postponed (first for the next day and finally for the day after). He would later transmit a text message that my presence must have been the lucky charm for his victory.
Owing to the rush hour, we had no choice but to hang around the pavement opposite UST until such time we could grab an FX ride. Which was just perfect, for I didn’t—don’t—want that bonding moment ever to end. The vehicles shuttling toward Quezon City, the pedestrians hurrying along the sidewalk and the starlight above Manila passed us by, but we remained transfixed, chatting about life in the old country, their studies and mine, the possibilities in the future. Finally, an FX with three vacant seats accommodated us, and understandably, the star player fell into unconsciousness. I began to go on Scheherazade mode to enthrall Leo about the hidden messages of innocuous-sounding fairy tales: the Lolita complex in "Little Red Riding Hood", the yonic symbol that’s the glass slipper in "Cinderella," among other tales meant to resolve psychological issues in children. It probably escaped Leo that I was calling to mind Sleeping Beauty who was roused to life via Prince Charming’s smack on her lips. Needless to say, everything, especially the kiss, escaped the sleeping beauty next to me.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

taking a sip of sagwan's cappuccinos

Despite the massive controversy it stirred first for its pornographic scenes and second for the related X-rating slapped by the MTRCB, Monti Parungao’s Sagwan has been given a go signal for commercial exhibition albeit with the necessary butchering of objectionable parts. This is generally good news for the movie, since its stars are newcomers and yet they captured the (mostly gay) audience’ interest in such a way that their movie’s UP premiere was a box-office hit. Well, their striking looks (and the panoramic Tatalon River in Calauag, Quezon) may be Sagwan’s saving grace since the very promising material went pfft when the exploration of a young boatman’s sexuality turned into a pornographic instead of just homoerotic feast.
While at the subject, let me post the seductive pictures of the Cappuccino boys, most of whom have starred in the movie. Their lot was so diverse that my choosy friends will be unusually gratified picking from the hunks presented herein. A little game: match the Cappuccinos (from top to bottom, left to right: Adrian, Anton, Christian, Dennis, Erie, Gino, Rod and Ryan) with—
Miss Ghana, Pirena, Anak ng Dyosa, Ojet and Kirby, who all like metrosexual-looking mestizos
Hollerjonie, Ruby, Lara and Gelli, who all like exotic chinitos
Genesis, Ruellie, Scarlet, Eva Fonda, and Kate, who all like dirtylicious morenos
Partyphile and Miss Ukraine, who both like boyish-looking (and scandalously innocent) twinks
Choose lang nang choose which cappuccino to sip, haha!:)

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

false pretense

Million times before,
I tried denying
How my heart felt for you
But almost always
I found myself
Becoming so foolish
Having betrayed this love
That’s yours and yours alone.
Often, I just don’t realize
How much destruction
I bring to myself
When I really care for you
And never show it at all.

Monday, February 16, 2009

the longest beauty pageant in the entire queer planet

I had been invited to judge in a beauty contest in a high school near my rented place. How the school discovered that I even exist goes like this: my gay hairdressing neighbor asked for my profile, which he promptly submitted to the school. The reviewers must have been intrigued how I conduct art criticism, so with that credential I sat as one of the three judges. Hopefully, nobody gets reminded of the reason why Zeus sent the three goddesses to Prince Paris for that crucial judgment that caused the Trojan War.
I had been told to be around by 3:30 so I skipped seeing Louie in his sister’s kiosk and appeared as expected. I had no inkling that I would be staying there for eight hours. Eight hours! The moment my eyes fell on the program, I surmised that all of its 28 portions—starting from the regional costume to the school uniform to talent to question and answer—would take loooooong, but not as long as an average human’s sleep. I imagined going on a roundtrip to Hong Kong to shop there for, say, four hours. I could have left and arrived in Manila and still, the pageant’s in full swing.
It disturbed me to be seeing a replication of the thousand dance intermissions to the tune of remixed rap and pop songs. I had to pinch myself to know that I’m still alive instead of being a character in Sartre’s No Exit, punished by watching an application of Nietzsche’s theory of eternal recurrence. A number of contestants even used the same medleys. Apparently, they have banked on their physical looks and apparels and overlooked the need to impress the audience with what’s not readily seen. I suspected that the pageant staple “You’re One in a Million” would be played—it was played, twice.
As for the peculiar, I had a field day observing. In the sportswear competition, one of the male contestants drew laughter from the crowd when he strutted his stuff in ill-fitting trunks and, without so much as a heave, poured bottled mineral water all over himself. The talent competition was a greater blast, what with the eventual winner creating a minor scene while performing her “Twilight Zone” number. It was enough that hers was a grand production, but when she had herself thrown in the air, the innocuous-looking school clock was accidentally pushed off its place, sending it crashing onto the floor. Even as the female contestant continued to wiggle under a tribal song, one of the teachers was seen sweeping the slivers of glass off the stage.
Her fellow candidate was a different scene-stealer altogether. I was roused from stupor when someone from the crowd commented that she looked like a “bakla.” Aww, that’s cruel: being mistaken for a gay is probably the worst insult a girl has to endure. As she began her performance, I noticed that the tetra pack box she had left a few feet away from her began to shake. Was it a fowl? Realizing that it was indeed a bird, I feared that she would later resort to what the old school of Miss Barangay used to show as talent: a PETA-revolting bravura biting of the chicken’s head off its body. Fortunately for the dear life of the dove, it was just allowed to fly freely as a symbol of national liberty right after the contestant’s interpretative dance of “Isang Bansa.” It further relieved me when she suddenly dunked her fingers inside her bosom, not to stir a public exposure but only to throw confetti with the colors of the Philippine flag.
In what seemed a million years, the Q&A portion arrived so I got the chance to test the wit of the finalists through the following questions:
1. How do beauty pageants contribute to the cultural transformation of society?/Paano nakatutulong ang mga patimpalak-pagandahan sa pagbabagong-pangkultura ng lipunan?
2. Should beauty pageants be seen as a product of conservative or modern society?/Dapat bang makita ang mga patimpalak-pagandahan bilang produkto ng konserbatibo o modernong lipunan?
3. Do beauty pageants negatively affect the concept of inner beauty?/Negatibo bang naaapektuhan ng mga patimpalak-pagandahan ang konsepto ng panloob na kagandahan?
4. How do beauty pageants help in appreciating one’s self-value?/Paano nakatutulong ang mga patimpalak-pagandahan sa pagpapahalaga sa sarili?
Of the contestants who answered my questions, only two contestants made good-enough answers. One said that beauty pageants are an avenue to show one’s talents which lie hidden under the cloak of physical beauty. The other said that beauty pageants enhance one’s self-confidence when the approving audience cheers them into winning the title. The rest bungled their chance during the portion.
Eight hours later, my personal bets went on to be crowned, but I still grieved over the stolen time of my life. To the organizers, my message is “Chinese gold!” to quote a nervous beauconera whose motto in life is “Time is gold.”

Sunday, February 15, 2009

the honorary ilonggo

not everybody finds a dimsum-and-congee kiosk the most romantic place on the planet to celebrate valentine’s in, nor the hiligaynon country’s saccharine piyaya in equal footing with the staple chocolate and roses.

but I do.

hope your valentino turned you into a valentina in more ways than one.:)

Saturday, February 14, 2009

the face in the crowd

Too many faces in the crowd
But none impresses like yours in the fantasy
You are never a myth
Yet you are as dream-like as you can be
This impaled room haunts me
With your airborne scent
So sensuous that I can touch
Your nearness.
Only when the two of us
Are dissipated from this midnight revelry
That I begin to drown in palpable sadness:
I feel your supple skin once, twice
I kiss your rouge cheeks, cherry lips, China eyes
But now, you look away
And torture this heart like you often do
When the redundant dreams speak of you
And your distinct face in the crowd.
the poem above might as well introduce the many noteworthy faces i took random pictures of since the holidays. have a happy valentine's!:)