Monthly Archives: June 2014

All This Wanting

As of today, ALL THIS WANTING, the second volume of new adult short stories has become available at BUQO. Featuring 6 new adult short stories by yours truly, Ines Bautista Yao, Lois Ramos, Alyssa Marie R. Urbano, Katrina Ramos Atienza, and Chinggay Labrador, this e-book anthology sells for the very affordable price of PhP45.00 or USD1.00. Buqo android users can pay using Smart Pre-paid Load or charge to Post-paid. You can get it HERE. More retailers will be announced soon!

Thanks for supporting indie writers!

NAQR2 Final Cover

Friday Photo 46

Because it’s LGBT Pride Month, I’m sharing these two gay icons from my childhood.

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My National Artist

Unless you’re living under a rock, you’re probably aware that apart from the accused in the pork barrel scam, another news item that’s been jostling for a portion of your attention is Malacanang’s exclusion of Nora Aunor from the current roster of recipients of the National Artist award, in spite of garnering the highest number of votes in the deliberations of NCCA and the CCP. To add fuel to the fire, the best that Malacanang has come up by way of explanation is that they (whoever was responsible) had the “national interest” in mind when it came to the now infamous decision of denying the honor to Ms Aunor.

image courtesy of fashionmediaph.blogspot.com

image courtesy of fashionmediaph.blogspot.com

As of last night, there is I think a building critical mass of protests and dissenting voices on her exclusion. Opinion-makers, artists–including past recipients of the award, and other persons of interest have given far more eloquent arguments against Malacanang’s decision than I could ever give.

As a fan of Nora Aunor, let me just say this:

I think it is foolish to use morality in judging the merits of an artist. True art (and culture) has no morality and ascribing them to each other is a disservice and an insult to both. Besides, who can claim to have the moral ascendancy to judge other people’s morality? The clergy, who adjusts its teachings and pronouncements to accommodate those who contribute to their coffers? The president, who regularly turns a blind eye to the shenanigans of his close friends and associates?

When Manny Pacquiao was winning all those athlete-of-the-year awards here and abroad, did his excessive drinking and womanizing affect his chances of getting that award? No. Because it was an award for athletic performance. It’s the same case in the National Artist award. Assessment of artistic merit should be based solely on an artist’s body of work and its impact to culture and society, not on the way that particular artist lived her/ his life.

Malacanang needs to remember that this is the National Artist award, and not the Catholic Mass Media award.

Anyway, should we be surprised at President Aquino’s decision not to confer the National Artist award to Nora Aunor? The Aquinos post-EDSA were never known to be supportive of the arts. This is most probably because of the Marcoses’ very close association to and strong support of the arts during their regime. Although Cory took up painting when she retired from public office, her family is known and liked for many things but not for artistic talent. Just look at Kris Aquino.

And President Aquino? He of the single-minded hatred towards his political rivals and their known associates? The NCCA is right when it said they need to review their processes in order to ensure that the National Artist award is not influenced by politics. The “national interest” Malacanang is referring to in its lame press statement is nothing more than P-Noy stomping his feet like a belligerent toddler who wants to keep all toys to himself.

I wonder, though. Does P-Noy know that by doing this to Nora Aunor, he became exactly like GMA in tampering with the arts and culture by using hypocrisy?

The Boy and His Dragons

I saw “How to Train Your Dragon” only a year after its theater run. As they say, better late than never. I thought it was a great animated film, rising above its contemporaries not only in terms of visuals and voice cast but also in its story and the manner the film told its particular story. I am sure children, the main target of this movie, enjoyed watching the adventures of Hiccup and Toothless. As an adult (and writer of stories for children), I enjoyed the movie’s treatment of issues (gender, conformity, physical disability, etc.) that can be difficult to tell, especially to a young audience.

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So when I learned that they decided to make a sequel, I was instantly curious where the creators will take the story. The last act of the first film was quite intense already and as sequels go, there needs to be an expansion and escalation of elements. Unfortunately, in many animated film sequels, these expansion and escalation rarely happens, resulting in many dull, often straight-to-video movies.

I caught the movie and I think that this is one of the best sequels–animated and otherwise–that I have seen in a long while. Writer-director Dean DeBlois effectively upped the ante without sacrificing the integrity of the first film.

Set 5 years after the events in the first film, Hiccup (Jay Baruchel) is grown and is poised to succeed his father as Chief of their village, which has managed to integrate dragons in their daily lives. There is a great opening scene, which bears a resemblance to the Qidditch matches of the Harry Potter films, that shows how the people of Berk have co-existed with the dragons. However, Hiccup will rather keep discovering and mapping the world beyond his own. He is looking for something that he does not clearly know, but he acutely feel its absence in his life.

Events will lead Hiccup to discovering something about his family that will make him understand himself better. Hiccup’s family will get bigger and together they will face a common enemy and fight for what they are most passionate about. Hiccup will once again confront mortality, which has been teased at by the first film, but this time it won’t be his own. In the process, Hiccup recognizes and accepts his role as the leader of his community. The boy becomes the man.

At the start of the film, I got the feeling that the peaceful coexistence of people and dragons was a master-pet relationship. However, Hiccup’s journey was also mirrored by Toothless. The movie also expanded the concept of dragon society with the introduction of the Bewilderbeast, a behemoth of a dragon that breathed ice instead of fire, the alpha dragon. It showed that dragons are sentient beings and not merely pets of people. Instead they too have chosen which person to be with, as each of the characters appeared matched with their dragons (just look at Gobber and his dragon). As Hiccup rose to the challenge of having to face the enemy, so did Hiccup who towards the end, became the alpha dragon. By including Hiccup in this rite of passage, this became an expansion of the coming-of-age theme of the first movie.

Like the first movie, the over-all design and visuals of this film is top-notch. As previously mentioned, the alpha dragon looked like a contemporary of Godzilla and the Kaijus of “Pacific Rim”. The sanctuary of the dragons was also an impressive sight. The excellent voice cast of the first film is also back here, with the clever addition of Cate Blanchett as Hiccup’s lost mother Valka, Djimon Honsou as the big bad Drago, and Jon Snow! (Kit Harrington) as Eret. The first scene with Stoick (Gerard Butler) and Valka was a study in tenderness, plus that very intimate duet that got me teary-eyed.

John Snow gets a dragon! (image courtesy of caliopesnow.tumblr.com

John Snow gets a dragon! (image courtesy of caliopesnow.tumblr.com

Another remarkable thing that I noted in the film was the abundance of strong female characters. And I’m not talking about physical strength alone. I like how the ladies in this film have will and agency and leadership skills. I like the fact that even Stoick deferred to Valka’s decision in a critical situation. I like how Astrid (voiced by America Ferrera) supports Hiccup without sacrificing her own capacity to make decisions. Even the way Ruffnut (Kristen Wiig) goes after the boy she likes. This movie is a step up from animated films’s movement towards a more empowering depiction of girls and women.

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At the end of the film, Hiccup and his peers have grown further, along with their roles in their community. And the dragons have themselves a new alpha. Finally, I learned from an interview with Dean DeBlois that this is a trilogy so I’m curious yet again where the final film in the trilogy will take the story.

Watch this high-flying wonder, won’t you?

Friday Photo 45

This photo was taken in my last rainy season in Phnom Penh. I didn’t process this photo too much. It really looks like as if shot in black and white. Looking at the pictures I took in my last 6 months in Cambodia, I realized I shot a lot of clouds–at different times of the day and at different weather conditions. There was a predominance of dark, cloudy skies, which on hindsight, was probably a manifestation of my real state of mind back then. Yes, it was a bad time for me. If not for the presence of a few friends, I don’t know where I’d be so until now I remain thankful to them.

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