Art, culture and all that jazz

Yesterday was a very cultured day for me.

I got to attend Pierre de Vallombreuse’s talk on his photo exhibition, The Valley, that features Palawan’s indigenous group, Tau’t Batu, in black and white prints. Pierre shared his personal story of how his feet led him to Palawan 18 times, totaling to almost four years.

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Developing a close relationship with the Tau’t Batu, Pierre was able to capture special moments, some unexpected, that tell the story of this group of people that is able to maintain its unique cultural identity while integrating to modern society.

I asked Pierre for a tip for someone like me who is not a photographer but would want to create stories through pictures. His simple answer, to the amusement of everyone, take a photography class. Okay, let me add that to the growing list of things I want to learn.

One line that I really liked from his talk was when he said, “Each picture is not a statement, it’s a question mark.” Indeed, as I left the National Museum I asked myself, “How can cultural identity thrive in this modern world?” I also belong to an indigenous group but I can barely see any trace of Cordilleran in me.

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Ichiro Kataoka, a benshi. (Photo from Japan Foundation)

From the photo exhibit, I traveled through Manila traffic (of course!) and headed to Shangri-La Plaza for the screening of the Japanese film, “Dragnet Girl” which is part of the 11th International Silent Film Festival. The film is a love story of a gangster couple but what made it even more interesting is the live musical score by the Celso Espejo Rondalla and the presence of Ichiro Kataoka, a benshi or a silent film narrator.

The black and white film with English subtitles, the string accompaniment, and the animated voice of the benshi were a treat to all senses making this a one of a kind experience.

It’s amazing how there are numerous opportunities where one can appreciate art in all forms here in Manila. And a lot of these events are for free!

Speaking of art forms, let me add dance to my “to-learn list” as I’m a frustrated dancer. Last Sunday, I watched “KoryoLab 2017,” a showcase of the works of six dance choreographers. Two of the pieces had the issue of EJK as its theme and I found the performances powerful and emotional. Like Pierre’s photos being not statements but questions, the dance performances were certainly more than statements but evoked questions on relationships, life, and social issues.

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“Postcard” choreographed by Russ Ligtas. (Photo by Marveen Lozano)

From photos, to films, to dance, to this piece of writing. We all love telling stories. And we share them the best way we can.

 

 

 

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Let’s #BeInconvenient Together

Why is truth inconvenient? We know that climate change is real but why do some people deny it? Why don’t we seem to care much?

Maybe because we don’t belong to the underprivileged sectors of society who are particularly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change.

Maybe our priorities are corporate agenda and economic development which doesn’t factor in sustainability.

Maybe we feel that climate change is too big an issue and is out of our hands.

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Photo from https://inconvenientsequel.tumblr.com/

As a follow-up to Al Gore’s “An Inconvenient Truth,” a documentary focusing on the realities of climate change, “An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power” premiered in the Philippines on August 28, 2017 at Trinoma. The movie further takes a look at the urgency of the issue and likewise highlights the Climate Reality Project, the climate negotiations held in Paris, and the shift to renewable energy.

And while we watch this sequel and is reminded of the devastation brought about by climate-related disasters such as Typhoon Haiyan, Hurricane Harvey wreaks havoc in the US and just recently, devastating floods hit India, Bangladesh, and Nepal.

Facing these realities of climate change can be overwhelming. But according to Al Gore, despair is another form of denial. He draws hope from individuals and groups doing what they can, contributing to climate action.

Maybe we have a better capacity to adapt to the impacts of climate change. Maybe we don’t see the connection of how so-called development contributes to climate change. Maybe we feel helpless and even indifferent. But as emphasized by Al Gore, the climate crisis is a moral and spiritual challenge to us all. And therefore we have to fight like the world depends on it because our world depends on it.

There’s still a lot of work to be done. Be inspired by the growing number of Climate Reality Leaders, environmentalists, and advocates fighting for the planet. Let’s #BeInconvenient together!

Catch the movie exclusively shown at Ayala Malls Cinemas (Trinoma and Glorietta 4).

Wondering what you can do? Check out “101 ways to fight climate change and support the Paris agreement.”

Mad World

“When I despair, I remember that all through history the way of truth and love has always won. There have been tyrants, and murderers, and for a time they can seem invincible, but in the end they always fall. Think of it. Always.” Gandhi (film), 1982

This is another movie that made me cry. Like when I watched To Kill a Mockingbird (1962) and asked, “What happened to kindness?

Life is cruel. People are cruel. War in its pointlessness is inevitable. Fueled by violence, and hate, and fear. Haven’t we learned from history? Lives being reduced to mere numbers? It’s madness!

And then I saw 12 Angry Men (1957), the story of 12 jury members deliberating the guilt or acquittal of a defendant. Made me think of how our biases shape the way we judge other people. And these judgements can’t always be accurate. So in the current war against drugs in the Philippines leading to the death of suspected drug users/pushers, should I be okay with the judgement that they are deserving of this fate? Does the end really justify the means? All life is supposed to be sacred. But what do I know.

It’s a mad, mad world. Leaders making dumb decisions. Capitalists continuously thrashing the planet. Religion being used to wreak havoc. People blindly going with the flow. It’s scary what humanity is turning into. And I can’t wait for the way of truth and love to prevail real soon.

‘Train to Busan’ and Real Life

Just when you thought we’ve ran out of good movies, good zombie movies at that, along came “Train to Busan.” Hurray for quality-made Korean movies! Yeah, it’s the same zombie apocalypse plot already seen in World War Z and The Walking Dead with cliché characters trying to survive the outbreak. There’s the heroic, selfless ones, the weaklings always needing saving and protection, and the selfish prick who doesn’t care about anyone else but himself. This Korean flick, however, gave a fresh take on zombie invasion. For one, the setting took place in a train. There’s a balance of horror, action, comedy, and drama. So it’s like four movies in one. Also, it managed to be a social commentary on work life balance, kindness, and social class.

As much as movies are works of fiction, these also reflect the state of the society we live in today. Wild, rabid zombies are scary but I think the way we are transforming and becoming the undead is equally alarming. We are a slave to technology. Like hungry monsters, we can’t stop consuming and trashing the earth. We embrace this rat race lifestyle. Steve Cutts in his illustrations clearly demonstrate these. We are essentially zombies!

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The antagonist in the movie reminded me of all the evil in the world. His drive to survive is admirable but does it have to be at the expense of other people? It’s that one character that you would want to turn into your personal punching bag. But we are all guilty of being selfish. After all, self-preservation apparently is a basic human instinct.

But in the midst of chaos, whether that may be war, political discord, or zombie apocalypse, there would be individuals who would look out for other people. Those who would stand for what is right. Those who choose to be kind. And those who wouldn’t let themselves be consumed by the zombie virus. It is them who would reach the destination still human.

What movie should I watch next?

I’ve been scouring the net for movies worth wasting an hour or two with. I often ask people what their favorite movie is so I could make it one of my favorites too. Watching movies is the easiest way to pass the time. You get to be entertained, and if you’re lucky, learn lessons about life and realize something profound about yourself.

Here’s my top movie picks. I’m not a movie critique but these, I would say, are the best of the best just because I say so. Let me know what I should add to the list.

Oldies but goodies:

  1. Gone with the Wind
  2. The Treasure of Sierra Madre
  3. Sound of Music

Feel good and inspirational:

  1. Shawshank Redemption
  2. Goodwill Hunting
  3. Front of the Class
  4. Forrest Gump
  5. 3 Idiots
  6. Toy Story 3

Drama:

  1. Dead Poet’s Society
  2. Schindler’s List
  3. To Kill A Mockingbird
  4. Miracle in Cell No. 7

Thought-provoking:

  1. Inception
  2. Memento
  3. Dark Knight
  4. Boyhood
  5. Waking Life
  6. Before Trilogy

Adventure and action-packed:

  1. X-Men
  2. Lord of the Rings

Gore and shocking:

  1. Final Destination
  2. 24 Days Later
  3. Old Boy
  4. Battle Royale

What happened to kindness?

I cried while watching “To Kill A Mockingbird.”

I’m not a crier. I was told I’m cold-hearted because I don’t easily show my emotions. I don’t think the film is even a tear-jerker. But for some reason, tears suddenly started falling.

Is it a sad realization of man’s cruelty? I must have been wrong believing that we are naturally good. It seems like it’s the opposite.

Sometimes it’s better to feel numb. To not care. Nothing can be done about it anyway.

But then again, you see acts of kindness going viral online. What’s so fascinating about being kind? Perhaps this is a revelation of our true selves. That kindness is not an afterthought but is a second nature or first nature if there’s such a thing. Deep inside, we are actually kind people.

Harvey in the movie, “The Dark Knight” said that you either die a hero or you live long enough to see yourself become the villain. Life has a way of bending you to your limits. Until you finally give in to the other side. Where it’s much more convenient. Or less painful. Or would make you feel nothing at all. And that’s the danger. When you reach the point of not caring. Because by then, you have nothing to lose. And you do whatever pleases you regardless of consequence.

I wonder why I cried that evening. I hope it’s because I still give a damn.

The Youth, a New Dawn, and ‘Three Stars and a Sun’

It’s the usual post-apocalyptic story of people trying to survive inside a fallout shelter and the struggle between two opposing groups. One that maintains peace and order while the other challenges the status quo. But what makes “Three Stars and a Sun” of Philippine Educational Theater Association (PETA) different? It’s a rap musical. Not only that, it features the music of the late legendary Filipino artist, Francis Magalona.

I’m not really a fan of rap music but watching this musical made me appreciate Francis M. as an artist. I’m amazed at how he was able to use rap to promote nationalism and awareness on social issues.

“Three Stars and a Sun” literally refers to the flag of the Philippines and the musical made me reflect about the sorry state of the country which I usually rant about. Really timely, as the national election is coming soon and with it brings the shameless nasty face of politics promising change that never happen.

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3 Stars and a Sun

The youth is the hope of the fatherland. That’s what Rizal, our national hero said. In the play, it reveals that we have forgotten him; him and the other heroes who fought for our freedom.

Old people label the younger generation as arrogant, disrespectful, and selfish who seem to be preoccupied with selfies, social media image, trends, and technology. But on the contrary, the youth has started fighting for social change.

I attended an event of Global Shapers Philippines, a network of young leaders, and I was inspired to learn about their different initiatives and projects that aim to contribute to nation-building and better the lives of Filipinos.

For every youth consumed by apathy, there are those who are empowered and choose to make a difference. For every corrupt official, there is an honest one who strives to provide real public service. For every policeman abusing his power, there is someone who upholds the law.

It is said that the darkest hour is just before dawn. So maybe, just maybe, a new dawn will come soon enough.