Baka Bukas (2016): Thoughts

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Baka Bukas (2016), directed and written by Samantha Lee, is about a lesbian named Alex (Jasmine Curtis-Smith) and her best friend (Louise Delos Reyes).

Culturally Realistic
I like how evident this film shows the struggles of lesbians specifically. Especially filipino lesbians. By definition, the tagalog of lesbian is lesbiyana, but stereotypically, lesbians are defined as “tibo”, or “tomboy”, which was shown in the film. Both those terms refer to a certain type of lesbian – a masculine kind. There is no tagalog word for a feminine or girly lesbian. But this film just showed two of them.

On Discrimination
I think there’s this stigma when it comes to girl-to-girl kissing scene on film. It’s either the highlight of the film, or the downfall of it. While Alex was proposing her project “Manila Bae”, the group definitely thought it was going to be the downfall. Heterosexual momol scenes don’t face this kind of discrimination.

On Parents in LGBT-themed Films
Alex’s mom coming out of nowhere to comfort her reminded me of “Ang Babae sa Septic Tank 2”. One important ‘ingredient’ in the “typical blockbuster movie” formula was to have the protagonist’s parents comfort him/her at a time of need.

However, out of all of Alex’s relationships with friends, families, co-workers, lovers, etc., the most unconditional kind was with her mother. Most LGBT-themed films always show the parents being very hateful and homophobic – and it hurts because it’s true. But seeing Alex’s mom love Alex so unconditionally, and be so comfortable with the idea of her daughter being lesbian, really really tugged at my heartstrings – and it hurts because it rarely happens.

Baka Bukas (2016): Thoughts

#KwentongLakbayan 2016

October 19, 2016. The day the police rammed over our own people, I was with my Philo 10 class, visiting the camps of the indigenous people in the new CAL building. It was my first time this year to see them.

We were listening to the story of the Dumagat tribe leader, when an Anakbayan member showed us pictures of the incident on his phone. Pictures of a foot under a police van. I was there when he showed it to them.

It was… as if… time had slowed down. From the moment I saw their reaction… to the moment we were dismissed. The anger and grief in their eyes. It was like molten lava pooling in their eyes – wanting the people they hated to burn, and yet feeling momentous sadness as the hatred coursed through them.

Seeing them, I could feel a hundred thoughts running through their mind. They say a picture says a thousand words, and as we saw that picture, this was mine:

“Why would they do this to us?- Protecting the people who once violated our same ancestors… -What if it’s my friend? Are they okay? Who went to the Embassy? Think, think! – Wait, where are they now? What’s happening there?- Why is this happening to us?! Putang ina! Wait…Will they be safe? ….Will we?”

I called a friend from UP Manila, and he said that his friends were detained, and so were those who were badly injured, and so were the doctors who tried to help them. The police were still watching over them like vultures, waiting for their dead carcasses, excited to bring it to their boss, and feast on their triumphant battle.

I cried in the parking lot.

October 20, 2016. I did not let any insensitive sentiments pass by without them knowing this simple fact: with the freedom of speech comes an acceptance of criticism. I tried to educate as many people as I could, hoping that my voice could be heard in a void full of people who are always just full of themselves.

And I kept going, even if I had faced a handful of criticisms that had gone below the belt more than once, because the voice of the Dumagat tribe leader was echoing deep inside my mind, “You don’t need a college degree to know if you’re in the right. And if you are, then always, always choose to fight.”

October 21, 2016. I used to tell myself that I was a girl on fire, and the spit I received from strangers have doused my flame, but when human rights get trampled on with no care, I promised that I would fight. I don’t give a fuck who would stare.

As I raise my statements to the sky, hoping to attract and catch as many eyes. The broken bones my own people have had to endure had become my dried wood, and the police’s denial of the incident has become my gasoline. The friction between the police van’s tire against asphalt became the match that sparked my anger. I am so sorry. Blood had to spilled, just so eyes could be opened.

How many more gallons should be splattered on the ground before we finally receive what you’ve already had since the day you were born?

October 26, 2016. I didn’t know they were about to leave so soon. I went as soon as I could, and talked to a member of the Southern Mindanao tribe. He talked about the mining in his land, and most of all, he talked about how thankful he was to be here. Here, in UP Diliman.

That night, we had the Hugpungan, a cultural performance by the different national minority groups. I had chills the whole night, watching children talk of battle stories in front of us, amazed at the bursts of yellow, blue, red, and black all over their traditional clothes. These are children that are deprived of what we call a childhood full of innocence and Disney movies, and instead were given the battleground as their theatre stage.

After their performances, our Chancellor, Michael Tan, and the male and female leaders of the national minorities gave some closing remarks. They said, “We hope that next year, when we come back, we will no longer tell stories of our hardships, of war, and of tragedy. Hopefully, next year, we will bring with us stories of triumph.”

The host announced the different national minority groups for a curtain call. They danced in a circular motion around the stage. She invited our Chancellor to come up with them, along with other respectable leaders. The others started to invited the audience. Slowly, more and more people filled up the stage, dancing freely, chanting, “Ayan na. Ayan na. Ayan na ang sambayanan.” They mingled and merged as one uniting force – senior teachers, people of authority, students, indigenous people, children… All moving in one direction.

I was left astounded as I watched this spontaneous scenario unfold onstage. People of all ages, of different backgrounds, smiling, interacting, despite all odds – because their one goal was finally accomplished. A hopeful ending to this journey full of pain.

October, 2016. I cannot pinpoint the exact date, but this month was the month I found my purpose. This Lakbayan has changed my collegiate experience. The montage of martyrs showed every Iskolar ng Bayan who had not only dedicated their lives to the national minorities, but also died for them. I knew, then, that I wanted to be one of them.

As someone who is determined to become a psychologist, people forget that mental health is not just an issue of the proletariat or the peti-bourgeoise, but also of our national minorities. That we voice out our concerns for the health of the middle class, than the health of the children who have witnessed the burning of their schools, and other unthinkable tragedies, says a lot. I am not saying that we should disregard people who face monsters under their beds, just because other people face monsters with guns.

What I imply is this: do what you must to ensure that the people you believe should have what they must have WILL have what they must have, and I will do the same.

The indigenous people believed that UP Diliman was the safest place for them to stay, and they have stayed in many, many places. In their whole year, we have guranteed them 2 weeks away from military forces.

14 days of peace and shelter for them, in the rest of their 365 days.

14 days of enlightenment for me, in the rest of mine.

And I will not stop fighting until that 14 days of peace, turns into a three hundred and sixty-five.

#KwentongLakbayan 2016

“RE: Filipinos saying we should move on”

 

Don’t you dare associate heartbreak with socio-political traumas
On top of the reasons why, is that theirs ended with a period; yours, a comma

Never think that your tears over a lover is the same grief victims feel
Opposition led the powerful to send Death to many; your sad songs
Tell about a boy or girl you losed; how can you still

Fall in love with the idea of not remembering? I refuse to think
Only the ones who were wounded would remember the scars; that
Rage will only beget those near the fire, and never those who were afar
God rightfully gave us life, even if this religion was forced upon us by a separate enemy
Even if both a heartbreak and a death are both graced with loss, one was simply a mistake;
The other, a tragedy; we forget what’s at stake –

Made a promise to the future children never to beat them with the same stick that harmed us
Apathy: the one emotion you learn after heartbreak; the one thing you get if you don’t get scarred
Rage beget by those near the fire, are now burning those who are afar
To wound them, to hurt them, to make them feel what they were feeling, this…
Instead of aiming the flames to the ones who held the match, we hiss at
Anyone ignorant, for we’d rather burn whole forests than the one stick that was first lit
Learn from the past, both for heartbreak and traumas, but don’t you dare forget it

Let scars be shown
Accept it
What has happened has happened.

Remember it.

“RE: Filipinos saying we should move on”

Our Society… and Game of Thrones

You know, with everything that’s been happening recently, I can’t help but wonder about what’s happening up there at the top of the economic chain with the political leaders. It’s like some Game of Thrones shit.

I mean we know only 10% of what’s really going on. That’s all the media shows – just a mere 10%. Think of all the rest of the 90% – all the things those presidents and prime ministers have been talking about for the past 6 days of APEC. The conversations behind closed doors, the plans they’re proposing, the secrets they are hiding. Their motives, their goals. The mere 10% consists of the commercials and tarpaulins saying “We are for the people yadda yadda” but that’s it.

GoT (or Game of Thrones) is a fictional series that shows us how politics works IN REAL LIFE. The people up there are just on each others’ sides so they can fulfill their selfish wants – more land, more money, more buildings. Was there ANYONE at the top of the food chain in GoT who was truly concerned about the masses? Can you think of ONE character whose pure motive was to serve the people?

And the thing is, from the very beginning, we know that there is a problem in our political system. But like in GoT, it’s HARD, so freaking hard to change it. But maybe we as a whole are not ready for that change. I mean look at how afraid we are of change, that when the stars on Twitter simply transitioned into hearts, the whole world went batshit crazy, that when people started filtering their profile pictures on Facebook, the whole world was divided into being “For it” or “Against it”.

Human beings are just SO. DIVERSE. With all our different opinions and advocacy on so many things, fueled by our differences in upbringing, education, religion and nationality. This is what makes us different from other animals. This makes us so unique – as individuals, and as species.

But the one thing that makes us unique is also the very thing destroying us. How are we supposed to fix ourselves as species when nO ADULT IN THE WORLD actually has their lives fixed in even as individuals? When no one is actually sure of what they’re doing? When even our perspectives of right and wrong VARIES PER PERSON? How are we supposed to progress with that?

Or maybe we’re not supposed to. If we aren’t ready to break that wall between the life we’re living today, and the life we’ve always dreamed of that has only ever been portrayed in sci fi movies, then maybe we were meant to live and die like this, continually existing in such a primal state, always suffering, never moving beyond corruption, like a dog chasing its tail endlessly.

Are we destined to constantly be on self-destruct? Is there a way out?

Our Society… and Game of Thrones

Existential Breakthrough Part II

//Author’s Note: To make it more relatable to non-UP students and foreigners, jargons will be explained and tagalog words will be translated and written in italics//

If you are interested to read about my first Existential Breakthrough, see here. I had almost the exact same feeling. The feeling of having a mess of random memories spin webs around my head, and seeing it all form one concrete thought, as if it was my destiny to realize it after all this time.

Oct 28 2015.
– Kas 1 (history class)

We discussed the different changes and reforms that were happening in the 19th century Philippines, and how each one paved the way to the creation of the Ilustrados – a middle-class society of scholars who formed the Philippine revolution against the Spanish colonizers.

– UP ALYANSA GFO (an orientation on one of the political parties in campus)

After class, I went straight to UP ALYANSA’s GFO along with my coursemate. I listened to the alumni of UP ALYANSA talk about their real-life experiences in fighting the good fight, in their daily struggles of being seen as activists. One of them told us the story of how he sheepishly admitted to his parents that he was joining rallies and delving deep into the politics of his campus, and his parents’ reply was, “Baka pagkatapos nyan ay lumipat ka na sa bundok”. And everyone laughed.

– Manilakbayan’s Lumad Camp

Straight after this, I went to the Lumad camp with my dormmate. To know more about the Lumad camp, click here. I observed the camp, the amount of students, teachers and lumads mingling and walking around. I saw orgmates, classmates and a handful of acquaintances. I silently read the poems written about the Lumads’ suffering. I slowly walked around the museum they have set up, showing brief glimpses of their culture.

I met with Alay Sining, another cause-oriented organization, and I listened once again to them lay out their principles, this time to my dormmate. Then, I followed them to Kalayaan Residence Hall, a dorm for freshmen students, to give an educational discussion about the situation of the lumads. While I was there, I met with my coursemate, who was listening in to the discussion. When she saw me, she asked if I knew what the media was saying about the lumads’ situation.

Then, I returned back to my dorm, and opened, once again, the topic of the Lumads. My roommate told me that she went there, and she was able to talk to the cousin of one of the tribal leaders who were killed.

Then, I went to Twitter, and tweeted about the lumads. My high school batchmate messaged me, and asked me if I knew any more events regarding the Manilakbayan happening in the next few days. He said he was interested in meeting the Lumads, and talking to them, too.

Oct 29 2015.
– Soc Sci 3

Right after our class, our professor asked us if we wanted to follow her to the Lumad camp.

After classes, I went back to the camp with my dormmates. I wanted to talk to them, and know more about them. Unfortunately, it was late when we arrived, and most of them were already sleeping. As it was their last day on campus tomorrow, we promised to return tomorrow.

Oct 30 2015.

Our class was dismissed early, and I was with my coursemates. We decided to go to Area 2 (a place in campus with a whole street lined up with food stalls) and buy merienda (snacks). While we were there, the topic of the Lumads, once again, came up. Majority of them haven’t visited the camp, so we decided to drop by for a while before going our separate ways.

Existential Breakthrough #1

From my coursemates, dormmates, blockmates, roommates, orgmates, and high school batchmates, all the way to my teachers, acquaintances, and vaguely familiar Facebook friends, I experienced seeing all these familiar faces in one place, and experienced listening to all these people talk about one topic. All in a matter of three days.

This is the power of collective action. This is student empowerment. No matter what religion. No matter what political party you’re a part of. No matter your beliefs. No matter how long or how short your stay in UP. No matter if you’re a freshman, or a graduate. When a victim of abuse, oppression and injustice cries for help, it is inevitably in our nature as human beings to listen to them.

Talking with the Lumads…

We were able to talk to one of the Lumads’ tribal leaders, Datu Jimboy. I learned more about the culture of these indigenous people, about how differently they lived life, how they’ve been fighting to preserve this way of living, and how our country’s own military was threatening their culture, their community, their own people.

Lumads have this tradition wherein they offer food to whoever will walk upon their land, be it a friend, or an enemy. And that was exactly what they did when the NPA (New People’s Army) came. The AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines) were against the NPA, and so when they saw the offering, they immediately concluded that the Lumads were siding with them. They beated them up for it, despite the fact that Datu Jimboy’s tribe offered the AFP a whole pig as a peace offering on the first few days of their stay.

Lumads believe that people came from the earth, and that the land they walk upon is sacred. They have rituals and offerings, musical instruments with symbolic dances and a tradition that has only ever been passed down orally.

He encouraged us to use social media as a tool to spread awareness about their issue. His own words were, “Nagpapasalamat kami sa inyo, mga kabataan na nandito, at magagamit ninyo ang mga laptop para tulungan kami. (I am thankful for the youth who have visited us, for they are the ones who can use their laptops to help us)“. I did not expect this from him. I always thought, based on the western movies and stereotypes about tribal and traditional people, that since they do not use modern technology, they must be against it. But instead, they were all for it.

He even said that the Lumads are actually open to mining in their lands, so long as they don’t kill their people, so long as they stop burning their schools. So long as they are not taken for granted, abused, and beaten.

But if our president will not listen to their pleas, they will have no choice, he said, but to fight fire with fire. They are planning to use APEC as a way for other world leaders to see the true situation of our country, and of our people.

On a personal note…

If you have reached this point of this extremely long essay, I think it’s safe to assume that most of you care about me. To those who barely know me, let this be our little secret.

The effect of my academic life has started weighing me down. And combined with the unstable stirrings of my heart, and it shattering to pieces just weeks later, to say that the past few days have been emotional is an understatement.

But I am thankful for the weight of it all, for it was because of them that I knew how much I could carry. I am thankful for the professors who have broken my mind, and the boys who have broken my heart. It was because of them that I learned how to fix myself back again on my own.

Existential Breakthrough #2

I love – sometimes, admittedly, too much, too fast, too deeply. I daresay I have a heart big enough to love a whole nation. And at the end of this week, I realized, “so why shouldn’t I?”

I realized, once again, just how selfish I’ve been the past few months – thinking of nothing but that one boy. Or my next class. Or how well I’ve been doing in my acads. Or how long it has been since I’ve seen so and so. Always, always about me.

Visiting the Pambansang Museo ng Pilipinas (National Museum of the Filipino People), watching a play – Mga Buhay na Apoy (The Living Fire?) – that talked about cultural preservation and listening to an indigenous people tribe leader, I started thinking on a macro level. And so, my love for my country has been discovered.

And as I am a pantheist, an admirer of nature and its old ways, knowing that the people of Palawan believed that people came from fire, and that the Lumads believed that people came from the earth, the diversity of my people made me fall for my country even more.

Why should just one boy merit from all this love I’ve kept in my heart? Love that is enough to fill a nation to the brim?

Kas 1 taught me that the problems that were faced by the people from the 19th century are still the same problems we are facing today – feudalism, colonial mentality, corruption, poverty, abuse… And it seems like there’s no end to our suffering.

Like it’s hopeless to even fight in the first place when you know you’re going to die losing.

And, yes, these problems in our nation may never die. We have had them long before we were even born, and we may have them even long after we are dead and gone. But guess what?

When these problems came up in the 19th century, we had the Ilustrados to fight for our freedom, and they are the reason why are here today.

Now, in our day, in our time, our country has me – a scholar who is willingly opening up her arms as sacrifice, a sign that I am freeing herself from the fear of judgement, a scholar who is embracing the joy of serving others.

And I hope our country will have you, too.

Existential Breakthrough Part II

Film Review: “Heneral Luna (2015)”

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A film review about Heneral Luna, directed by Jerrold Tarog. Heavy spoilers ahead!!

Continue reading “Film Review: “Heneral Luna (2015)””

Film Review: “Heneral Luna (2015)”

The Jeepney

A story of a day when everyone in a jeepney talked to each other. Everyone who’s ever been in a jeep for even just one time knows this never happens. But it did.

No one knew how it happened, or who started it. What they do remember is this: At the end of the jeepney ride, a girl got complimented, two people fell in love, an expectant mother had more to expect, a graduating senior found out more about college than he could ever have known in school, two past lovers finally had closure, and a hundred other stories were passed around. Faces were remembered,  and no one ever forgot.

Each one was dropped off with an echo of ‘goodbye!’s earnestly shouted. Each one walked home, realizing that he never knew any of their names. Each one knew it was okay.

Each one did the same thing the following day, to a whole different batch of people, in a completely different jeepney. And so on and so forth.

Something unexpectedly harmless happened to each one of them. And it changed them. Who said kindness had a price?

The Jeepney