Monthly Archives: September 2014

It’s that time of the year

The coming of the last quarter of the year is heralded by the start of seemingly endless sales events and trade fairs with the specific intent of making people spend, all capitalizing on the prevailing notion that the Christmas season is all about shopping for gifts and that this season starts on September. Just last week I went to a book fair and a bazaar in one venue. This coming weekend the mall close to where I live will hold a mall-wide 3-day sale. I am not impervious to its allure.

The other day I went to the Negros Trade Fair at the Glorietta Mall. I went because of one reason only: I wanted to buy Turmeric tea for my mother. She extracts juice from Turmeric and mixes it with hot water, which she takes for her joint pain. A friend from Cambodia, affiliated with a group in Bacolod, processes turmeric into powdered form and I’ve been trying to get some for my mother. So she wouldn’t spend a lot of time preparing her tonic. Our mortar and pestle from Romblon is now a ghastly shade of yellow, but I digress. Iida Farms is  one of the participants in this fair so I decided to go.

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I have looked up the fair’s Facebook page so more or less I knew the stuff that can be found there. And there was a lot. Food and food products, as well as high quality handicrafts, clothing, and even plants. I was initially unimpressed with the first food that I tried so I went and looked for my main target. When I did I also managed to say hi to my friend’s sister, who was there by their booth. Along with the turmeric beverage, I also got some organic coffee beans.

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I was free to browse after that and so I did. I wanted to buy the crochet Christmas decorations because I loved its elegance. Unfortunately I found the price too steep so I just contented myself with looking how pretty they were. I think I was so mesmerized (and frustrated I wasn’t able to buy them) that I forgot to take photos. Perhaps to make up for this, I went to the food section and bought some local baked goods and snacks: piyaya, biscocho, and pulceras. Thanks to the free taste, I was able to get the taste of that bland paella negra out of my mouth. I wanted to buy tablea but the one I found had only sweetened tablea so I skipped it. I’d been curious about kalkag too so I got a bag of that too. On the way out, I spied some tillandsia and bromeliad that I liked and got a couple for a song (I think).

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The Negros Trade Fair is at the Glorietta Mall Activity Center till tomorrow, September 28.

Friday Photo 59

Yesterday he took me for a long ride and I liked every minute of it.

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History never ends

Yesterday, finally, I was able to catch ‘Norte, Hangganan ng Kasaysayan’ (Norte, the End of History) at the Trinoma Mall cinema. Having read much about the film’s plot and pacing, I braced myself for the experience by having lunch before the movie (which turned out to be so disappointing), getting snacks that I planned to eat for each hour of the 4-hour film, and peeing twice before the screening started.

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Much of the plot happens within the first 90 minutes of the film. The different lives of the two male protagonists are laid out, intersect briefly, and the consequences play out–spanning the length of the film. Watching the film reminded me of the writer Edmund White. He recalled an interview, where the interviewer asked about the way he told stories, specifically his tendency to skip over the details of events that seemed important to the plot and in contrast, provide so much details on things that seemed inconsequential. If I remember correctly, Mr. White answered that question rather obliquely, which on hindsight he regretted while acknowledging this storytelling quirk of his.

In a typical movie, I would’ve seen more of the first two murders. There would also have been scenes relating to the trial–the inept lawyer, police torture, the trial itself, and the conviction that would make for riveting melodrama. The sense of grinding poverty would have shown children getting sick without hope of treatment and hospitalization, and so on. I think most of us know the drill.

Instead of that, we have to rely on sounds because much of the murders done by Fabian (Sid Lucero) were off-screen. Joaquin’s (Archie Alemania) investigation and trial weren’t shown. When his wife Eliza (Angeli Bayani) visits him in the provincial jail, we see him with bruised but the circumstances of such bruising wasn’t even mentioned. Instead of poverty porn, we see Joaquin and Eliza’s children grow up loved despite the hardships that their mother endures to feed them and keep them in school.

We see long, almost static shots of the beauty of nature but one can’t help but feel a sense of doom for the people that inhabited such beautiful surroundings. It certainly helped that the performance of the actors were all consistently remarkable, especially Archie Alemania–whose performance here was largely ignored by award-giving bodies. It wasn’t a bravado performance compared to Sid Lucero’s but his quiet moments of grieving were very powerful. My only quibble with his performance was a few moments were his limp was inconsistent. But that’s just me nit-picking.

Speaking of quiet moments, Angeli Bayani’s luminous presence completely riveted me to the screen, unaware of the passing of the hours, and making me wish there was more when the credits rolled. There are angles when she struck me as a dusky version of Ruffa Mae Quinto but as her character’s journey unfolded, I was rooting for her, wishing her character doesn’t get mired in the trappings of melodrama previously mentioned. She wrenched my heart without any breakdown scene. Her two most memorable scenes for me where the one where the stupid lawyer was explaining the appeals process in English and towards the end of this scene she said “Bakit hindi ninyo sinabi sa amin yan?” To which the lawyer responded arrogantly. Her pain, restrained but gut-wrenching, was palpable.  The other was when they saw Joaquin before he was transferred to the national penitentiary in Muntinlipa. Long after the van carrying Joaquin left, the camera lingers on her as she stares at the moving vehicle. Her eyes evoked such desperation and defiant resolve that I was crying before she silently said tears.

And don’t get me started on that almost-suicide scene with Eliza and her children. I’ve heard about the scene so when I saw it starting I thought, “This is it.” But actually watching it play out didn’t diminish its power. I was tense, and relieved she didn’t go through with it.

Much has been said of Sid Lucero’s performance so I won’t rave about it anymore. He was really intense all throughout: from being the young angry man with philosophical pretensions to the man consumed by guilt from within, he was never subtle about it. I think it was appropriate for his character. Getting a glimpse of the roots of his pathology made me understand somewhat his views but he sure didn’t get any sympathy from the audience.

When the credits started rolling, I really felt like asking for more. Thinking about it now, I think it’s largely because yesterday, while in the theater, I was looking for some kind of redemption or even catharsis, but the movie offered none. This morning, before writing this, I realized that it was never the intent of the film. I kept on expecting Fabian to just kill himself but he’s much of a coward to pull it off, even at the risk of living the rest of his life as a tormented man. Eliza’s death was utterly senseless but isn’t real life sometimes is? Only Joaquin, who remained consistently good in spite of what life has thrown at him, seemed puzzling but I think this is just my cynicism casting doubts on his character.

The film’s sweep of our country’s political, social, and intellectual realities, ideals, and could-have-beens were grand and visually appealing, but the intimate details commanded my attention and empathy at every turn. Even if it seemed expansive, the film actually presented a condensed piece of history. Just a bit, because real histories never really end.

The theater was 2/3 full and because it was a Tuesday, about half of the audience were seniors. I could tell they were seniors by the way they walked on their numerous toilet breaks. I held off peeing for the duration of the film by taking slow sips from the bottled water I bought with my snacks. There was applause as the credits rolled, from all age groups, I noted.

As for me, I left the theater with a heavy heart and a lot on my mind. I can’t wait to see “Mula sa Kung Ano Ang Noon” (From What is Before), director Lav Diaz’s 5 1/2-hour opus on the last days before the declaration of Martial Law in 1972.

Bibliophilia

Last year, I went to the Manila International Book Fair after almost 10 years. Needless to say, I felt and acted like a kid let loose in a candy shop and shopped till my wallet coughed dry. It didn’t help that my companion then was basically a kunsintidora who just let me go through the aisles and piles of books like the Tasmanian Devil in Looney Tunes. This year I promised to exercise self-control in shopping and set a maximum amount of money (2 thousand pesos) to spend in the book fair. I also promised to buy only discounted titles. To enhance the potential of my adherence to said promises, I also decided to go alone. I get bored easily when I’m alone so there’d be lesser chances of me lingering on a booth.

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However, I wasn’t able to go to the book fair last Friday because of the weather. Last Saturday’s weather was also erratic at best so I ended up staying home again. Yesterday was not only the last day of the book fair, it was also the last day of a mall-wide sale so I braced myself for the crowds. Normally, I stay away from malls on Sundays, especially when there’s a sale but I had no choice. I didn’t want to miss the book fair and I was committed to at least take a look at the sale event in the mall so I went.

I felt that because it was the last day of the fair, most of the good stuff had been snapped up by those who went before me. True enough, there were empty shelves in many of the booths that I visited. But the lines to the cashiers were extremely long. I think I spent more time in the queue at National Bookstore’s booth than browsing. With my budget in mind, I was very selective in the books that weren’t part of my pre-book fair plan. Good thing I found these cheap books:

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I read Platform by Michel Houellebecq when I (semi) attended Jessica Zafra’s writing workshop. She even lent me her copy when I couldn’t find the book that time. I loved the book but I think I have to really dig deep and tap into my neurosis to even approximate the writing tone of Monsieur Houellebecq. This trade paperback copy of Platform cost PhP50.00 only and it was the only copy in the stack of books so I took it. Meanwhile, the anthology of vampire stories–a doorstep of a book (which I like) was PhP75.00 so I grabbed it too.

My plan was to buy books written by my friends. I’m not just being a great and supportive friend. I’m also trying to generate good karma so that when my own books come out–hopefully while I’m still alive–they will see fit in buying my book as well. Friends, I hope you’re reading this!

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I heard about Chimananda Ngozi Adichie from a fellow bibliophile and I was also looking for this book but at the same time I’m on the fence on actually buying it because it is quite expensive. However, I saw that there was a 20% discount at Fully Booked so I relented. This was my most expensive purchase. I mean, I could buy 3 books from Booksale with what I paid for this book.

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Finally, the last book in my plan was this anthology. I know I’m entitled to a complimentary copy because I’m one of the selected contributors. However, I decided to get a copy, which I think I can give away as a gift when my own copy arrives. ‘Epiphany’ was my first story that got published way back in 1996. It was in Ladlad 3, which came out in 2007. It is part of my unpublished (so far) story collection called ‘The Gospel According to N’. I’m just honored to be part of the best of this anthology.

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When I stopped shopping, I ended up with 8 books; I got all that I planned to buy, plus 3 great tiles, all items were discounted, all preferred genres covered, and the total well within my set budget (PhP1800.00). I’m very happy with my book haul. The experience? Not so much. The experience validates all my previous knowledge about attending book fairs. Never go on the last day. Never go on the weekend. Never go with a spend-thrift person. And so on. Till next year, I guess. 🙂

Scenes from a Mall

Today is the anniversary of probably one of the darkest moments of modern Philippine history. In 1972 then-President Ferdinand Marcos put the entire country under Martial Law in order to extend his tenure as president. It took many years and countless of lives were lost before his rule ended in 1986. One would think that the country will have a somber remembrance on this day, silently affirming the vow never to let the specter of Martial Law (and the Marcoses) take the country’s reins again. Hmn, not really. When I went to the mall this morning, Martial Law, the Marcoses and their ilk were the last thing on people’s minds. I normally avoid going to the mall on Sundays because of the crowd, which can increase exponentially when there is a mall-wide sale.

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Today, Sunday, is the last day of a 3-day Big Brands Bazaar event at the SM Mall of Asia. I initially committed to visit on Friday but typhoon Mario sent those plans away with his gusty winds and pouring rain. I tried to go there yesterday but again, I wasn’t confident about the weather. I have no problem with getting rained on, even if I’m half-Gremlin. What I can’t stand about the rain these days is what happens after: heavier-than-usual traffic, flooded streets, and taxi drivers becoming highly selective of passengers. You’d think they’re voting for the new Pope or something.

So anyway, against my better judgment, I found myself in a huge mall, on a Sunday yet, which is the last day of a big sale event. I avoided distractions like the racks of discounted DVDs and endless arrays of food and went straight to the venue of the Bazaar to have a look. Many of my preferred brands were present: Hush Puppies shoes, Terranova, Daniel Hechter, Raybans, and a few celebrity fragrances. But I spent the longest time at Nike’s booth. I was so engrossed examining the shoes that I forgot to take photos. They were selling trainers for 50-70% less the original retail price. I almost bought a pair; only they didn’t have my size so I was a bit disappointed.

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As I made my way out of the Bazaar, I imagined how much more options I would have had if only I showed up yesterday instead of today. There’s a moral lesson here: don’t wait for the last day of a sale event if you want to have more choices. SM should do this event again before the holidays really kick in. I’d make sure not to wait till the last day to come visit.