Monday, August 24, 2009

Adding A Cory Dimension to My National Museum Tour

In a world of short memories, I wanted the life and example of President Corazon Aquino to linger a bit longer. In my regular National Museum tour, I’ve added insights to artifacts and aspects in the museum that explains the values imbibed by the woman we call Cory. The Museum’s American colonial architecture, embodying democratic details from ancient Greece, reveal Cory’s own democratic ideals. Our pre-historic burial jars, beautifully made, prove our long tradition of revering and remembering our ancestors, a steadfast Cory trait. Our ecclesiastical artifacts from wooden altars to devotional saints are keys to Cory’s bedrock faith. Our paintings and sculpture much depicting the suffering and travails of our countrymen are evidence of Cory’s empathy for the poor.

For a limited time, my tour shows Cory’s values originating and intertwined with the best of Filipino artifacts and works of art found in the National Museum. In her last interview, when asked what she thanked God the most for, she replied unhesitatingly, “I thank God for having made me a Filipino.” Come on my National Museum tour and you’ll see what Cory meant.

Young people are especially invited.

Tour Schedules: Aug 26, 29, Sept 2, 5, 9, 12, 16, 19, 23, 26, 30, 2009
Adults: 800 pesos. Young people (18 years) 500 pesos. Group discounts available.

Reservations necessary. Call/text 0926 729 9029, 0917 419 5928 or

Tours begin promptly at 10:00 AM at the rear entrance of the Museum of the Filipino People (formerly Finance Building), Rizal Park, Manila.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009


A full length movie entry in the 2009 Cinemalaya Festival
By John L. Silva

Story line: The separate lives of four young men, trying to make do in a tough city. Unbeknownst to one another, the events they go through intertwine with each others’ lives. There’s the bad tempered Salesman hawking false certificates on Recto, (the Manila street known for getting diplomas, certificates, anything fake). There’s hunky Seaman trying to sell property he inherited but located in a bad neighborhood. Then there’s Mr. Straight Laced who’s become padre de familia (the OFW father killed someone in the Middle East, and is in jail) and must make sure his younger sister in college is studying right. And there’s Twinks, who gets a girl pregnant presumably out of love but now has to hawk everything on the street, from stolen toiletries to his cute bod to make sure there’s enough for upcoming hospital bills.

The Salesman, when he’s not humping his fat sugar mommy is constantly on the prowl and, one day, seduces a nice virgin college girl who turns out to be the sister of Mr. Straight Laced, and, when he finds out about it, beats up the Salesman.

Meanwhile, Twinks is desperate, as girlfriend is about to give birth and he’s scrounging around for the last 600 pesos to pay the hospital. He’ll do anything so when he goes with friends to a moviehouse where gay men have sex with callboys, he declares he’ll allow being blown but draws the line on going down on them. He returns later to the movie house and hits up a Fat Old Gay Guy. The Gay Guy demands that Twinks go down on him and there is this long excruciating scene with Twinks looking fairly forlorn as he slowly nuzzles into the Gay Guy’s crotch. The scene is quite graphic but mouth and crotch are so out of kilter that it looks like Twinks is slurping on the Guy’s kneecaps.

The next scene is Twinks holding his newborn baby, hospital bill paid, but alas, he sheds a tear, painfully recalling the sacrifices he’s undergone, including tainting his virgin mouth.

Hunky Seaman on the other hand is trying to sell his condemned property with the most hokiest of lines for each prospect until an older man shows up expressing interest on both property and Seaman’s bod. Seaman accepts the negotiated sale price knowing fully well there’s a sexual string attached. As he’s being ravaged, there’s a close up of Seaman’s face writhing, revealing ecstasy and Catholic guilt. So the next scene, predictably, is him in the shower, soaping himself vigorously, especially his ‘molested’ privates, to remove any trace of male saliva that impugned his manhood.

And to make the point very very clear that he’s very very straight, the fool right after picks up a whore on the street. The bed scene shows him at his macho animal best, lunging at the whore, throwing her in bed, slurping on her tits, and as he’s about to go down on her, the whore’s pimp barges into the room with a gun, knocks the Seaman, and flees with whore and the bag full of money from the sale.

In the tradition of high Filipino drama, we can predict the story’s ending won’t be peaches and cream. There’s an array of woebegone conclusions: Aside from bruised knuckles and swollen fight faces, one character gets VD, passes it on to another who then swallows a whole bottle of pills, while yet another loses his marbles wandering the city naked except for his divine black hip briefs. There’s also minor tragedies like having electricity cut off in a house because they didn’t pay the bills and the indignity of having to get a job in McDonald’s because OFW daddy can’t send money home no more.

I give Astig high marks for the original and rappish musical score, fine acting by all (playing gritty roles is quite a challenge), good photography, and just the right street wardrobe.

The script unfortunately sucks. Two of the straight male characters wind up being exploited and abused by older gay men. Did you see the gay men put guns to their heads so they can get head? Twinks, like many stupid straight men, gets his girlfriend pregnant and has to suck a man for pay. Poor thing. I’m suppose to empathize with his irresponsibility? And what happened to equal sucking rights? If he earlier declares he’ll be OK being sucked, then what’s the problem with sucking instead?

As for hunky Seaman, a note of caution for those who follow in his stead. If you strut around with a tight t-shirt shamelessly showing off pecs and chest, then you are fair game to everyone, including lustful gay men. If you’re buff and show it then expect a proposition. And, if you accept the proposition, then please quit the guilty pained look while being serviced. You’re suppose to enjoy it.

In a bizarre reversal the straight men come off as victims of detestable gay predators! Yes, there are vile gays in this world and a scriptwriter has the absolute right to portray them. But if you make traditionally oppressed gays as predators then the basis for such portrayal has to be believable. Well, the straight men in this movie with their good looks could have had any woman to sleep with and be bankrolled. I’d actually respect a straight man who can’t bear the thought of blowing another guy and instead goes out and digs ditches. But that wouldn’t be a juicy depraved story so let’s dump on the baklas.

When there was some haggling between Twinks and Old Fat Gay Guy over the price of a blowjob, the Gay Guy actually knew Twinks’ hospital bill of 600 pesos. So Gay Guy, after some grousing, magnanimously agrees. At this point, you’d think Gay Guy should get the Mother Teresa Compassion Award but instead, he’s portrayed as a heartless Fat Old Fag who just wants a blow job.

The movie’s raw, underbelly portrayal of rough city life has its good points. We are made conscious of the daily shit a lot of people go through in a city. It is often uncomfortable but good to squirm in your seat and face all this pageantry of pain and even a little redemption. Like Twinks and girlfriend contemplating leaving the city with baby and starting afresh in the province.

2009 is the fortieth anniversary of the Stonewall Riots in New York City where gays, lesbians, transsexuals and their sympathizers decided enough of the repression and vilification and changed the whole world’s views and behavior towards us. Stereotyping, ridiculing, and demonizing this sector is passé in many parts of the world. Astig only confirms to me that this country still has a lot of catching up to do.

Monday, August 03, 2009

The Woman Who Gave Us Our Rights Back

It was a demonstration against Gloria Macapagal Arroyo’s declaration of a State of Emergency on February 24, 2006. It felt like Martial Law was coming. She banned any gathering at EDSA shrine, the ground zero of the February 1986 revolution.

I was in the march headed down Ayala Avenue and did not know until I looked back that we were in front of Cory. There was tension in the air; we were told the Army would stop us. There were plainclothes thugs around. A bomb could be thrown at us. But when I realized Cory was behind me, I felt an obligation to protect her and my fears dissipated. I turned around and took this picture. She looked confident and determined. Later at the rally, she would gracefully but firmly make an appeal to President Arroyo. Resign she said.

Along with many others, I would not have been able to come back to the Philippines to renew life here if she had not led the 1986 revolution. I had been on the Wanted list for having publicly opposed the dictatorship.

And now, happily back for many years, I have been able to say whatever I felt was wrong, advocated for whatever I believed in, written whatever grievance I had. Cory’s passing reminds me that it was she who made these basic democratic rights possible after a long absence.

Her death and the retelling of the revolution she led will hopefully be the deterrent against any new revival to curb these rights.

Thank you Cory for letting me come home.

Sunday, August 02, 2009


On the day President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo met with President Barack Obama, I checked the websites of the major US papers for coverage and the possible appearance of my submitted editorial about President Obama giving cultural and education funds to the Philippines rather than more military aid to Mindanao. (Full editorial on the previous post)

There was no coverage of the visit on the day of and day after. Instead, the visit was lost with the more important “Beer Summit” the meeting between Obama and Professor Louis Gates and Cambridge Police Sargeant Crowley.

In Salon, the main story was about a two-headed baby born in the Philippines.

And later an ad would appear for a detective agency who can check out your Filipina chat to make sure she’s legit. They specialize in “…catching cheaters and liars. We don’t like them either.”

Only the White House Website carried a 13 minute press conference video of the two presidents sitting side by side and making remarks. Obama said the same things we’ve always heard, that we have been long time allies, that there are 4 million Filipinos in the United States…

Arroyo’s remarks were muted as well and she thanked the President profusely for passing the bill that compensated Filipino veterans who fought for the United States in World War II. If there is anyone to thank, it is the veterans and their band of activists that pressed on the bill’s passage for decades.

Obama entertained two questions from the press. A Filipino reporter asked Arroyo’s personal impressions about Obama. And as a followup question the reporter asked Obama his own impressions of Arroyo as well. The inanity of the questions pushed Obama to crack a joke about how much younger he looked.
A second reporter would ask what the press was to expect with the “Beer Summit.” And that was the end of the visit.

And the war in Mindanao continues.