Monthly Archives: October 2014

Friday Photo 64

The capiz windows from my room, waiting to be cleaned and repainted.

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Tiyanak Lite

“Tiyanak” was released 26 years ago, during the height of the popularity of the movie love-team of Lotlot de Leon and Ramon Christopher. This movie of theirs is one of many that were released almost consecutively in a span of 2-3 months, if I remember correctly. However, “Tiyanak” proved to be different among the slew of “Lotlot-Monching” movies because of many reasons. First, it was directed by Peque Gallaga & Lore Reyes who, at that time, were already among the best directors in the industry, especially in the horror genre. Second, this film was some sort of a turning point for the teenage love-team, because this was a departure from their past teeny-bopper roles–they didn’t play teenagers here. In fact, their kissing scene at the end of the movie was even hailed as the longest kissing scene in any Filipino film. I’m not sure how this record still stands today, though. But you get my point. Third, the film became iconic well before it was shown due to its very effective movie trailer. Who can forget the line, “Oh my god, ang baby ni Janice!” Luz Fernandez’s voice work on that trailer was outstanding and unforgettable. The line was so iconic, in fact, that it became the title of another movie (a comedy).

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Finally, the film itself–while not perfect–was a great horror movie. It effectively mixed folklore and mythology with contemporary themes of motherhood and family. “Tiyanak” quickly became part of the pantheon of Filipino horror movies that we see in annual Halloween movie marathons aired on television.

And now, 26 years later, there have been many additions to the horror genre–some good and some just awful. And I was surprised to hear that “Tiyanak” has been remade, by the same directing duo of Gallaga and Reyes no less. I got very curious about the movie but then later I started to wonder why the heck did they think of remaking this already iconic movie? I felt it was un-necessary. True, there have been other movies about tiyanaks through the years and in my opinion, nothing has equaled “Tiyanak” in terms of being scary and just being a good movie. But still… Maybe they wanted to tighten the story? Weeks ago I caught it at a cable channel and I found some plot points were plodding and over-written. But I’m not sure. The stories surrounding the remake didn’t give me any idea on how they approached the remake. But did I allow these uncertainties to deter me from watching this remake? Of course not!

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As it turns out, “T’yanak” was very loyal to the original “Tiyanak”, so much so that they could probably be seen together, in a split screen. You’ve got Judy Ann Santos in the role originated by Janice De Belen, as Julie, who desperately wants to have a baby. Solenn Heussaff’s role was originally played by Lotlot de Leon, as the girl who found the baby/ tiyanak although this time around instead of being sisters with Julie, Madie (Christy in the original) is her sister-in-law-to-be. Tom Rodriguez’s role was originally played by Ramon Christopher, and this time he’s the adopted brother of Julie who’s based in the States but just returned to the Philippines to get married. I think this plot point was just to justify Solenn’s casting in this movie. Liza Lorena is the grandmother, which was originally played by the great Mary Walter. Sid Lucero is Joeben, which was originated by Pen Medina (as Jopet). Notably absent are Julie’s husband and an aunt called Tita Sarah, who were played by Rudolph Yaptinchay and Bella Flores (another great star) in the original.

I think they really intended to somehow streamline the story this time around while retaining the film’s original key set pieces. However, they ended up truncating the scenes that made the original film gripping. The scene in the cinema was tepid compared to the same scene in the original. The hospital scene was also significantly reduced that in spite of the cameos of the original film’s female leads (Janice De Belen played the doctor attacked by the tiyanak, who was originally played by Suzanne Gonzales while Lotlot de Leon was one of the nurses in the nursery), it ended in a really un-spectacular manner.

The movie was further bogged down by lapses in continuity or sloppy editing. And then there’s the acting. While it was refreshing to see Judy Ann Santos playing a highly-strung and at times bitchy character, I just wish the other actors at least tried to match her.  Sid Lucero was severely under-utilized; his hysterics seemed like outtakes from “Norte, Hangganan ng Kasaysayan”. Liza Lorena was okay in her part. Tom Rodriguez was surprisingly okay. However, Solenn Heussaff is in dire need of an acting workshop. I like her when she’s presenting but her acting leaves much to be desired. She couldn’t convey fear in spite of the horrific things happening around her. But to her credit, at least she’s not annoying like Kris Aquino, only whose method of conveying fear, discomfort, confusion, or pain is knotting her eyebrows.

The special effects didn’t improve also, despite the progress in special effects in the last two decades. In fact, the tiyanak puppet from the original was more scary than the one (now animatronic) in the remake. Even the infant in the original (a girl) was more effective than the one in the remake (a boy).

Over-all, “T’yanak” feels like an inferior version of the original. While it probably sought to tell a tighter and more compelling story, it ended up introducing changes to the plot and characterization that didn’t really contribute to this aim and watering down the elements that made the original movie gripping and exciting to watch. The movie seemed to be put together too haphazardly, with glaring plot holes and continuity problems. Perhaps it was a bad idea not to enlist Don Escudero in writing the script.

Like I said, “Tiyanak” was already a great horror movie. Sadly, “T’yanak” proves that remaking it was probably a waste of time and effort. I hope the directing team behind this has other original ideas for the horror genre instead of just repeating themselves.

The high cost of dying

When news of Jennifer Laude’s murder in the hands of an American marine broke out, I knew it wasn’t going to be a simple matter. After all, Jennifer was a transgender woman and her alleged murderer Joseph Scott Pemberton was in the country as part of the VFA-EDCA contingent. The news coverage of ABS-CBN’s TV Patrol was particularly cringe-worthy. For days, the reporters and newscasters kept on using Jennifer’s birth name and insisted on referring to her as a man. The same was true for print media. To compound the matter, the police’s speculation that Jennifer was a prostitute (their words, not mine) who might have attempted to rob the American, hence that gruesome death. And in the age of social media. when everyone’s opinion (mo matter how idiotic and ignorant) can be broadcast in the internet, many people soon joined in the discussion and threw in their two-cents’ worth into the matter.

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Browsing through the thread of comments on websites like Rappler will give you a glimpse of how far we have really gone as a society when it comes to diversity. My Facebook news feed alone gave me an insightful, yet sometimes un-welcome look into the attitudes of my Facebook friends to non-straight people. I saw new aspects of my Facebook friends’ attitudes in their comments on the case. And I didn’t like what I saw in some. So much so that I asked myself, “Why am I friends with this person?” In fact, because of these status updates and comments, I have un-friended and blocked 2 of my Facebook friends.

Jennifer Laude’s murder has become the Litmus Paper Test for our attitude towards sexual diversity. And the result is alarming. Personally, my biggest realization is that transphobia is distinct from homophobia. They are cut from the same cloth, but they are different. I had always thought that these things either went hand-in-hand or were one and the same. But this changed after I read some comments from friends, who are also gay, which dismayed me. I was also disheartened by the comments of some members of my family. I had thought that by coming out to them, that they have gained at least some form of sensitivity to gender and sexual identity.

I remember growing up, many Filipino movies I’ve seen (both comedy or drama) often featured a scene or a situation where the male character falls for an amazonian woman whose beauty is exaggerated–a wink to the audience that something is afoot, and when they go somewhere private, it is revealed that the woman was, in fact, a man. The situation is then played for laughs, even if the “woman” is subjected to verbal and physical abuse from the “deceived” man, nobody objected because everyone knew and believed he or she had it coming.

Many people seem to think that Jennifer somehow deserved to be murdered because (a) she could be prostitute who probably attempted to rob her “client”; (b) she was unfaithful to her German fiance; (c) she deceived Pemberton into believing she was a “real” woman; and so on. First of all, since when is it permissible to murder sex workers? Second, who are we to judge Jennifer’s fidelity? We are not privy to the intricacies of Jennifer’s relationship with her fiancee. It is possible that theirs is an open relationship. Third, how sure are we that there was deception? The used condoms prove that sex occurred. We’re not even sure who was the active and passive partner between Jennifer and Pemberton.

There is no justification to murder someone that will fully satisfy my conscience. It’s just very strange for a society like ours, who purportedly defends the right of the unborn child to live, to harbor this way of thinking towards someone like Jennifer

Is the life of a transgender person of less value?

To add insult to the injury, our government leaders’ reaction to the case has been consistently late and inappropriate. To have the highest official of the country saying he doesn’t go to funeral wakes of people he doesn’t know is a very obvious manifestation of his arrogance or the severe ineptitude of his public relations team. Neither of which is acceptable. Why waste time and effort on deporting Jennifer’s fiancee for a minor infraction when they should be focusing on building the case against the accused?

This posthumous bashing escalated as new things about Jennifer came to light. Even the left (the source of the edited image in this post) has joined the fray by using Jennifer’s murder as the latest rallying point in calling for the scrapping of the VFA-EDCA–an agreement between the Philippines and the US. This makes me uncomfortable because. while it seems that the LGBT advocacy has found an ally in the left to get justice for Jennifer, the case is also being used to bolster their political agenda. There are many cases of violence against LGBT people, but the left has kept quiet about it until this happened. So what gives?

I hope that, in the coming months, people will not lose sight of the basic and most important aspect of this case: that Jennifer was murdered. Crime of passion or hate crime, the distinction is probably less important than uncovering the truth as to what happened that fateful night and then punishing the guilty, regardless of the perpetrator’s nationality and the political context surrounding the case.

And for the advocates, Jennifer Laude’s murder shows us that the long road to gender and sexual identity equality is before us, and getting there will require so much more from all of us. It’s true that we have made great strides but the fact is there’s also much more to be done.

A Home for the Zombie Apocalypse

The 5th season of The Walking Dead is on its 3rd episode and it shows no sign of aging. I’m just wondering when the group will find shelter similar to Herschel’s farm or the prison. I’m not a reader of the comic book so I have no basis of where the series will go next. Sometimes–usually after watching an episode of the show, I look around at our old, semi-concrete house and try to imagine how long it will last in the zombie apocalypse. Our house sits in the middle of a rectangular lot; our backyard is filled with old fruit-bearing trees, which can be a target once food becomes scarce. The stone fence is easy to scale by living people. The windows of our house are mostly capiz, making them vulnerable to invaders. In order to placate my paranoia, I have various projects in mind to fortify our home, like making the stone walls higher and topping them with barbed wire and adding iron grills to our wooden windows.

Or, I could just purchase one of these cabins and have it built in the backyard, kind of like an enlarged panic room for us. According to NERDAPPROVED.COM, the ZFC-1 (Zombie Fortification Cabin) comes with “a ten year anti-zombie guarantee, reinforced slit windows, walls, and doors, an arsenal storage unit, garden section to make sure you don’t starve, a toilet system, a living room with entertainment, and more.  You can customize the 44′ x 30′ cabin which will run a whopping $112,800 for the base model. Extras include installation, water cannons, flame throwers, riot gear, solar panel, etc.”

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It’s a very pricey investment. If the zombie apocalypse doesn’t happen, I can probably use the place to host apocalypse-themed parties or viewing parties of zombie films or boot camp-styled team building events. Read the whole story HERE.

Friday Photo 63

I like framing pictures, especially if the photos remind me of the good and happy times. I look at these when I’m feeling unwell and they somehow make me feel better.

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