Sunday, July 29, 2012

A cold but very warm birthday

A very happy birthday indeed for Supladong Office Boy (July 21) and Désolé Boy (June 21)
























Some people would say I'm good at words, but right now, not to be too melodramatic about it or be some soapdish, I really couldn't find any word that would express my gratitude and appreciation, and I think Carlo as well.

So thank you so much 

Bino

also to

Leo
Nimmy
Mar 
and
Theo

and to all our friends out there. 

Thank you for making our day extra special with that extra kick. 




________________
photo credit: Nimmy, Baguio City, July 27, 2012
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Thursday, July 26, 2012

Chiaroscuro




Chiaroscuro is an Italian term which literally translates to “light-dark.” I encountered this back in college, explained by my good professors in photography and film making, as a technique in which you provide a picture of light and dark battling within the frame. In paintings, Wikipedia states it refers to the description to clear tonal contrasts which are often used to suggest the volume and modeling of the subjects depicted.

This July is the 8th year of Cinemalaya, the birthplace of most of the highly regarded independent films in the country like Ang Pagdadalaga ni Maximo Oliveros, Ataul For Rent, Niño and the rest. Despite the controversies, one cannot avoid but take a peek for another set of films that hopefully would follow its predecessors to international film fests and award giving bodies. Yearly, I make it to a point to attend the gala screenings seeing it as a chance not only to meet the people that built the film but also a gathering of the country’s obsessed buffs and reviewers.

For a single day (last Sunday), I watched four: Mes De Guzman’s “Diablo,” Vincent Sandoval’s “Aparisyon,” Loy Arcenas’ “Requieme” and Raymond Red’s “Kamera Obskura.” Curiously, there was common bedrock that these four competition films share: the battle of light and dark.

Diablo dares to profound on the world’s undying quest to define evil, man’s search for truth and the lines that draw a family. Set in a rural town of Ilocos, most of the lines employ the Ilocano dialect. Curious is the irony between an erring son, played by Roeder Camanag, told be their mother’s favorite, the veteran Ama Quiambao, and the two vagabonds who robbed the old lady’s house but turned house helpers and willing company.

Noticeable is the meticulous split of darkness and light in every frame. Ama’s house at dawn, when the sun’s light slowly pushes that of night’s darkness and the inviting shots of mountains, above them a swirling pack of dark clouds attempting to hide the sun away, the great ball of light fighting to retain its brightness, are only few of them. This provides the picture of hope the same way Ama, despite her age, tries in might to keep her family together and shoo away the demons in her family during the twilight of her life.

Next is Aparisyon. The film revolves around the life of nuns huddled inside a far flung monastery set during Marcos era. While the nuns try to keep away from the darkness polluting the “outside,” they are caught unaware that evil is already creeping its way freely pass the barricades they created, plaguing them one by one.

Aparisyon (apparition) lives up to its banner. Like a real apparition, it is silent. Even Jodi Sta. Maria’s, the rape of Ruth, scene was eerily silent despite shoutings and helpless cry of plea. There were no unnecessary sounds or music to draw you more to what’s happening. Rather, it brings you directly to what’s happening like the two elder nuns, like you yourself is watching the injustice done helplessly. 

The shots are tight, allowing you to feel the suffocating feel of the entire monastery. Even the display of the nuns in Sandoval’s frame, while he brings you pictures of Mother Superior, Fides Cuyugan-Asensio and Raquel Villavicencio in their high stature, you see them vulnerable through the meticulous close-ups of ancient lines in their faces, the dark circles ‘round their eyes and the gripping guilt and fear in their gazes.

The film dares us to throw the blame, questioning morality and again, the boundaries that set darkness from light. Sandoval proved to be one heck of a storyteller by providing a poetic yet profoundly political tale that of the age-old battle of evil and good, not just within our community, but even inside one’s self.

Requieme is very different from Arcenas’ last year Cinemalaya entry, the much acclaimed  Niño . The usual employ of comedy in tackling a highly sensitive pieces of the country’s political and economic state, homosexuality and other family issues and the glaring truth about death, while common nevertheless proved to be effective.

Arcenas admitted during the gala screening that the making of the film was far from easy. There were at least 60 speaking characters in a fast-paced jagged piecing together of its entirety and the established clichés it tries to bulldoze. The comedic scenes are familiar, but you laughed at them because you encounter them every day in reality. The film appears light but you discover as it progresses that a shadow of doubt, of sad hint of reality, lurks just somewhere.

Joanna, Anthony Falcon’character, in his might to bury a neighbor which he took for a father during his exile, unknowingly pursue the burying of his old self, the straight male, his family and the society always wanted for him. Swanie, Shamaine Buencamino’s character, on the other hand, in her quest to stage a fake funeral for a long lost relative, unconsciously grieves and blames herself for the "death" of the son she knew which turned out to be Joanna.

Kamera Obskura, while the toughest to grasp especially in an independent film festival that sees a dawning of commercialization, is the most thought provoking of all. While it portrays a very subversive message, the film never attempted to preach or impose its ideologies. Rather, it dares you to contemplate, rise and stand your ground against the invisible force of darkness gripping the country from everywhere.

Another commendable message Red’s entry invokes is the cry for the lack of surviving copy of a silent film here in the country. Many of the great films our forefathers created were lost without a trace. And the lamentable part is even at present, we don’t have decent archives of films which are again in danger of being lost forever.

All these films, while drift in the said battle of darkness light, also attempt to tell that even in darkness, there is good and that even in the light dwells evil. In Kamera Obskura, Pen Medina was trapped in darkness for 20 years. Alas, there was a ray of faint light and there he saw a beautiful reality only to find out in the end that there lies injustices, hunger for power and the struggle for the genuine truth.

Old tales tell this kind of story, the perpetual battle of two unknown forces but it felt like seeing the same scenic view in different lenses this time. Curiously, I noticed even the Cinemalaya finds itself struggling between light and darkness. 
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Thursday, July 19, 2012

Not really a review of Magic Mike

"You are the husband they never had. You are that dreamboat guy that never came along."






















Beyond the giggling girls (and yes, even boys) that trooped down the movie houses for Magic Mike are people castigating the film for the lack of a so-called decent plot. I found this baffling. From the very beginning, the film did not give any promise of a complicated storyline worthy of an Academy Award. There were shots of pecs, butt exposures and glaring sinews from the trailers. Such were the fine points that brought in thousands of audience that swarmed theater houses around the world, there’s no doubt about that. But wait, there’s actually more.

Magic Mike follows the story of Magic Lane, played by the venerable eye-candy Channing Tatum, a struggling entrepreneur hoping to raise enough money by working as a male stripper in Dallas’ (Matthew McConaughey) strip club. Until he meets the 19 year old Adam (Alex Pettyfer) who would later become the club’s protégé despite his not-so-legal-age. Magic Lane meets Adam’s sister (Cody Horn), fell in love with her and found his true calling in life.

The magic is definitely not in its predictable story. The magic lies within the visuals and the portrayals.

By visuals, I’m not referring to gyrating almost naked men, but the powerful choreography and the “stripper’s world” the film created. Steven Sodenbergh successfully created that realistic “stripper’s world” unlike the many caricature ones we watched from the past. The texture is inviting. In fact, those “naked” scenes are very much enjoyable, daring but not distracting. The characters’ movements, even mannerisms are well driven by their persona, almost real.

But the most commendable thing about Magic Mike is that it doesn’t try to preach anything. You wouldn’t find a thing that says “stripping is bad” or that “stripping should be condoned” or any other similar things. It’s just there, a part of life about strippers, going as natural as people flocking to churches every day.

Which is where Matthew McConaughey would enter. I have many things against him as an actor but he provides those fresh breaks from the flow of the film. It probably helps that his character is likeable enough; playful and balls-out (figuratively and literally). Alex Pettyfer is better than he did in I am Number Four, probably thanks to Sodenbergh’s careful direction. But noticeable is Joe Manganiello Big Dick Richie. Maybe because we are used to seeing him as the serious and temptous werewolf from True Blood, that he is so exciting to watch being light and having fun. Or maybe because he provides that necessary comic part. Or maybe he’s just simply lovely.

On Channing Tatum, the film provided a break from his monotonous too-much-of-a-cheese roles. The camera loves, not only his well chiseled body, but his subtle actions. It was very well played that it’s difficult to catch him acting his role out or saying his lines. He went with it as natural and as fluid as it can get. His gazes blended well with that golden tone of the film. He’s got more to offer than what people normally see. Give him the proper roles and nicely premised films and he’ll prove his worth, I’ll bet.

Cody Horn is disappointing. She doesn’t have that chemistry that would go well with Channing Tatum. She’s stiff. It could be argued that she was supposed to be the contrast to the stripper by being the uptight nurse but that scene where she’s supposed to be breaking out upon seeing his brother passed out, lashing over Channing, betrays her. There was no enough conviction put.

Magic Mike is fun. Films can be just fun and enjoyable without too much fanfare in it. It presents a reality, a part of life most of us we don’t have access to. That, I think, should be enough along with the glistening man-flesh, suggestive dance moves and the fantasy it incurs within our playful minds.

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Monday, July 16, 2012

Leather boots fixation


"There comes a time when what is needed is not just rhetoric, but boots on the ground."























It is not a recent perversion to be honest and I only have three pairs as of now, the other one not being in the picture because they’re at my cousin’s house. I love boots, leather boots. I love wearing them here in this tropical country where flip flops are normal everyday gear. I love them and I think I may be having some bizarre relationship with it.

The first one is made of cowskin leather. It’s not really that expensive but I won’t say which brand. The shorter one, which is the shortest among the three, I just acquired recently and the future fourth is a custom made one and is still in this shoemaker’s shop ready for pick-up by next month.

Most would say this add up to the piles of my weirdest fascinations. But I’ll tell you a bit why I fell in love with these leather babies.

Leather boots saved me from this massive heartache. I was walking then on a mall, reliving the old days how he and I would stroll the same route making it like those alleys in Paris graced by countless lovers. I was cursing every step of mine without his beside. And then I thought I’ll buy anything in that mall, anything that would make me feel better, anything that would pull me away from that pit of misery.

I tried ice cream, which usually works in some situation, but lamentably failed during that time. I tried new shirts. Underwear. Pillows. Bed sheets. And then the eureka moment, a brown leather almost knee-high boots.

The next day, I wore it at work. I wore it like a crown bound for my feet. The sluggish walks brought about by love’s rejection found its pride once more. The boots made me feel like I was taller, taller than anyone. Even taller than him who’ve left me. I tilted my head and once again, I was walking with my head held high.

It’s not just about looking badass with them. Sometimes I even draw ideas and inspiration from them. I’ll cross my legs, watch them dangling and a thought would come. They have this power which makes me feel I’m okay and I will be okay. They are my armor, gleaming and warding off unseen offenses; a reminder of a stature, a soldier ready for a frontline battle.

So in one cold night, if you happen to see a boy wearing boots, torn jeans, a white shirt and a black leather jacket, smoking on the side street as he watches the stars and the rambling people around him fade, you’ll not only understand why, you’ll recognize who that boy is.

____________
"So lonely soldier go home
Lonely, but never alone
Good eyes, see nothing to shoot
Good feet, feel good, givin' up good boots"
-Damien Rice, Lonely Soldier
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Friday, July 13, 2012

Covering Dolphy


Dolphy, King of Comedy (1928-2012)  























I have no anecdotes about Dolphy. Unfortunately, I was never given the chance of working with him. But I work in a station where he is considered one of the pillars. And so in great honor and humility, I am thankful to be given the chance of covering him during these last days of him, a fellow Kapamilya.

There was a quartet waiting at the main lobby of ABS-CBN’s Main Building playing Charlie Chaplin’s Smile and Ennio Morricone’s Cinema Paradiso. The red carpet is once again rolled for the arrival of the King; a rare King, they say, whose feet remained grounded. There are flowers all around, people in white are all over as members of competing media organizations gather under one station’s roof. Truly, Dolphy came home once again.

What was different covering the Comedy King is that you deal not only with a grieving family with all the necessary sensitivity that comes with it, but also with a thousand other extended families whose lives not only touched, but lived with a man who made one nation laugh, cry and dream.

Writing the story, you deal also with your emotions. You are after all in the middle of everything. Of people sharing tales of kindness and generosity, of huge personalities who graced your young television watchings and a crowd that came as far as Bicol, Zambales and Tarlac just to catch a last glimpse of their King. You stand in front of the golden coffin and you see a sleeping King as peaceful as he could get after years of being inside a howling industry.

I don’t believe in romanticizing news that I write. I save that for features and drama scripts. But after hearing the mass and all the eulogies of family members, friends and colleagues spanning decades of togetherness, words flowed naturally. Eric Quizon thanked media people. He said he believes journalists are not just there because it is their job, but because they, too, love his father Dolphy. I couldn’t agree more.

"Beyond the lens"





















"Under the warm spotlight"





















"Seed"





















"Showbiz"





















"His legacy"























"Salamat sa kanilang lahat. Ano man ang mangyari at kahit kailan man, hinding hindi ako mawawalay sa inyo. Pindutin lang ninyo ang play at siguradong magkakasama-sama tayo, magchichikahan, magchochorvahan tayong lahat."

___________
Note: All photos appearing here are copyright exclusive as most are used by my media organization. Please avoid using them. Thank you.
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Sunday, July 8, 2012

Take me home


Take me home Lord, oh take me home. O'er the hillside and o'er the sea, to the soft grass of the valley where Your grace shall set me free. (Self portrait)























Last Saturday, a little past noon, an elderly woman died. She was hit by a passenger bus along Lacson Avenue in Manila. Her body rolled under the bus and was pinned on the vehicle’s wheels at the back. It was such a gruesome scene that even now, after successfully writing the news script for the radio’s 4:00 pm newscast, I still couldn’t find the right words to provide a picture of what took place that wouldn’t succumb to what we call now poverty porn.

I never knew Pacita Romero, the woman who died in that accident. But I can tell you what few people told me about her.

She was 70, lived alone in a small house in Sampaloc and was a mother to many. At her age, she was still braving the wild streets of Lacson Avenue, even around España, selling sampaguita garlands to motorists. She was there, said a bystander, at the middle of the screaming city under the scorching sun, even on glaring monsoon, selling whatever she could to earn a living.

Asked by a reporter, the driver of MRR Transportation Bus Alfonso Elistre defended himself. He said he didn’t notice a woman crossing the street. It was only when he felt a bump and a bystander pointing something that he knew something was wrong.

A handful of bystanders attempted to gang up against the driver only to be stopped by MMDA men and the arrival of some police. They were mad, cursing the driver. I wasn’t exactly sure if they really know Lola Pacita, but I am sure they were genuinely angry.

I left the scene, as all the other people did. But it kept me thinking without exactly knowing what to think. I just want to think for no sure reason, looking at the coursing cars and jeepneys, the mad heat and the torrent of people passing each other like ghosts.

Night fell and I ended my week in a certain bar where hungry poets, hippies and junkies gather. I was alone in my table and was still thinking of the accident. It never left me. Her mutilated body kept flashing on my mind, plaguing me. I drank my vodka straight feeling the heat travelling from my mouth to my throat. I watched from afar those smoked lights as the clanking bottles and glasses mixed with PJ Harvey’s music provided the background.

The weight of 2 bottles of beers and vodka took its tool. I made my way through the sprawling tables and chairs with slight difficulty and went for the restroom. After hitting the John, I pulled a cigarette and looked around for anyone with a lighter. And then I saw a guy smoking a few meters away from me, borrowed his lighter and lit mine. I noticed he has a camera dangling on his front.

We talked, or more properly, I insisted a conversation. I told him about a story of a woman who got rammed by a bus and died. About a driver that shook his head, scratching, terrified but indignant. About the state of Manila’s street, its people and a temperament open sky. He just nodded in between my sentences and made audible noises, grunts, from time to time.

The next thing I knew, we were on his room and he was on top of me. I felt his mouth on my chest, on my hips and on my thighs. My eyes were fixed nowhere. I thought my head was about to explode. I was still seeing hazy visions. I couldn’t decide if I want them gone or not. And then the guy reached for my mouth, his tongue invading.

I don’t know about the woman. I couldn’t even remember the name of the guy. All I know is that that night, as darkness swallowed the whole city, the streets never empty, I could hear the concrete ground calling for me. From then, I knew. I knew that something inside me died and I will never ever be the same. 
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Sunday, July 1, 2012

The White Party revelation


"So the thumpa thumpa continues. It always will. As Our Lady of Disco, the divine, Miss Gloria Gaynor, 
has always sung to us, we will survive." -Queer as Folk

















We arrived at the scene around 12 midnight. The streets of Orosa-Nakpil was just starting to get flooded with people in their white gears. It was Manila’s White Party and I’m attending it for the first time. And officially, it was my second time gracing the dance floor of Philippine’s official gay mosh pit.

As I alight the car, my eyes landed on an ABS-CBN crew cab. Shit! This is what I’m afraid of. I immediately calculated the possibility of bumping into one of my colleagues.

Now, here’s the thing. My colleagues within the newsroom are not aware of my sexuality although the entire TV Entertainment group knew about it since the beginning. They’re totally different universes inside the company so I thought my secret is safe as long as I’m still an ordinary employee without my name bannering household’s television screen.

Anyway, I dismissed the thought when I felt that paranoia was starting to eat me up. I was there to have fun, dance and of course, flirt around. Nothing should stop that.

I went inside Bed, ordered shot after shot, danced around with friends and watched the program hosted by the fag hag goddess Divine Lee and her gang. IC Mendoza must’ve recognized me and he did try pull me for one of the games. Of course I refused. I already saw Direk Eric Salud on the other side of the ledge and I took it again as a sign that I will be seeing a bunch of people from my field. After all, media industry is dominated by packs of gays and lesbians and it’s literally a small industry to begin with.

But I went on with the dance. A guy I’ve been eye chasing since the night started pulled me up above the ledge and we danced. I was a bit hesitant coz I think he’s got a partner somewhere. And true enough, I found myself sandwiched between them two later on. I was already enjoying the grind when a friend of mine grabbed my shoulder and said: yung reporter ninyo, si ***** andito.

My friend, Ralph, was referring to a radio reporter whom I only know professionally. I mean, we only interact purely for business matters. Outside that, we don’t know anything more about each other.

I panicked. I break loose of my two dancing “friends” and quickly scanned the room.

“Where is he?”

“On your right. Confirmed! I told you, he was eyeing me at the Makati Med last Thursday and of course, I know that kind of look.”

“F*ck, what if he already saw me? Grrr, I knew it.”

“What’s happening?” Another friend of ours joined us and I told her my concern.

“Ano ka ba? Eh ano ngayon eh sa pareho kayong bakla. Pareho kayong sumusubo ng t***.  Get over it! (What are you worrying about? So what? You’re both gay, you both suck cock.)

She was right. So I went back to my previous scene: danced again, more alcohol, more dancing. Yet still, at the back of my mind, I was still worrying.

After a while, I was carrying a pitcher of blue frog from the bar when lo and behold, I turned around and I found myself face to face with Mr. Reporter. We just stood there, stared at each other for like three seconds and afterwards, we both laughed. I just nodded at him and I left for my friends.

If I must explain why I am intentionally hiding my sexuality with those news persons, it’s because of this insane dream that I have. I dream of someday becoming a top news personality in the country. I want to become an on cam television reporter. I know sexuality is not entirely a factor. Sure we have lots of gay TV reporters and I won’t name names, but they’re entirely different cases than mine. You have to understand that I have to start from the very low. I don’t have a good backer. I didn’t come from some fancy university within the metro. I am far from being good looking. All I have in my sack is my passion, a dream and some God-given talent that needs so much honing. This is not about being hypocritical least of all not being proud of my sexuality.

But maybe this is what the Pride celebration taught me. I cannot forever hide the fact from these people that I am gay. Actually, I know that from the very beginning, it’s just that I wasn’t prepared for that moment when I will be caught red handed. To be fair, no one’s actually bothered asking, those people from the newsroom, about my preference. I just don’t want to be boxed within the stereotypes of my sexuality like the many before me who fell victim to it.  

Nevertheless, I enjoyed the party. I left around 4 in the morning and we continued the fun in a friend’s condo somewhere in Ortigas. For the mean time, I guess I’m back with my usual weekend scene. But I discovered that somehow, with those two instances of partying in Malate, I will always go back no matter what. After all, I am gay. I suck dicks. And I’m proud of it. HAPPY PRIDE!!!
 

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