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The 12 Best TV Shows of 2016

Two seasons in, Black Mirror has etched itself as one of the bleakest show in recent memory but in its third season, it strays away from its established narrative territory and performs a balancing act between cutthroat social satire and a more hopeful depiction of a world gone wrong.

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  1.      Black Mirror

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Two seasons in, Black Mirror has etched itself as one of the bleakest show in recent memory but in its third season, it strays away from its established narrative territory and performs a balancing act between cutthroat social satire and a more hopeful depiction of a world gone wrong. Thanks to its creator Charlie Brooker’s observant eye, the show has elevated to a level of even more terrifying precision– almost feeling prophetic at times– while managing to instill a much needed sense of hope without verging on saccharine or forced sentiments. The varied styles and genres each episodes give the show the advantage of keeping each entry unique but also cohesive as far as the overarching theme goes. Black Mirror is one that dabbles in societies left unattended which, considering our very own, makes it a very important watch.

  1.      Atlanta

Community’s alum Donald Glover’s venture to TV realm has given 2016 a portrait of black America that is equal parts everyday and fantastic. With Atlanta, Glover carves his intimate drama with humor that is as witty as it is strikingly humane, further bolstered by a terrific cast that  feels  at home with the material covering nuanced issues of race. It’s quietly political when it wants to be and Glover is just the right man for that kind of subtle yet powerful political display. The subdued direction contributes to the show’s own brand of dreamlike atmosphere which avoids the ordinary from becoming clichéd and captures the city of Atlanta dripping with personality almost as if it’s a character of its own. To say that Atlanta is revolutionary television isn’t enough to cover how great the show is; it is funny, depressing, joyful and more importantly, as real as a life of a black man can be.

  1.      Game of Thrones

The epic fantasy has come a long way since its first airing in 2011, blood has been spilled and wars have been waged and yet much is to be known about the seven kingdoms. Thankfully, season 6 has finally moved past localized, individual machinations and into one central story line that aims to merge existing story arcs and hopefully tie up loose ends as the inevitable end nears. Through its 6 years of airing, if there’s one thing Game of Thrones has proved; that it’s mightily good in setting up a scene. The season finale alone is filled with great examples of this which saw many key players advancing their positions long at last. Like any other show nearing closure, Game of Thrones doubles its emphasis on character development and to do this, cutting off dead weight is a necessary step. The popularity of the show and its surge in viewership is sure to continue seeing as how the series shows no sign of holding the epic-ness back.

  1.      The People vs OJ Simpson

Simply irresistible to watch from start to finish. The People v OJ Simpson has lots to unpack given the magnitude of the trial it centers itself on and bounces the focus back and forth between its large ensemble cast but as surprising as the many twists in the story, the show pulls all of it off in an excellent run of ten deftly created episodes. TPVOJS exercises control over its stretch and never loses the balance between showcasing the factual side of the story and the more emotional turn of events that clouded the trial to the extent of shaping its very outcome. The dense writing guarantees no dull moment makes its way to the screen and smartly copes with the heavily sensationalized drama by downplaying it to a volume that aims to keep the narrative grounded to the truth but nevertheless compelling, if not more so than the real thing. Explosive moments are guided with meticulous precision while the silent ones creep on the viewers with raw emotions and linger on even after the scene has played itself out.

  1.  Search Party

If there’s one thing millennials are often jabbed at, it’s our supposed collective laziness cultivated by this so called culture of entitlement which on the surface, seems to be the sentiment of the show but fortunately, Search Party is not like any other show about millennial generation. At the center of it all is a disappearance that pushes 20-something, New Yorker Dory out of her millennial ennui and into a Nancy Drew-esque mystery-solving puzzle. Sure enough, her journey to finding a missing person morphs into a journey of self-discovery but one that avoids the usual trappings of shows about shallow people for it understands that, especially in the age of Facebook, it’s easy to mistake self-absorption for self-growth. With this, the show becomes a social satire and a modern mystery story, succeeding in both areas thanks to its impressive cast and sharp writing. In its pursuit of a hollow purpose, Search Party achieves a poignant look of what it means to live in the now.

  1.  High Maintenance

In 2016, anthology format continues to flourish with High Maintenance as it tackles the life of a weed dealer and the lives of the people it provides service to. The many characters encountered throughout highlight the vibrant and often, dark cityscapes of urban life with kinetic grace. It’s a compelling collection of equally compelling individuals painted with emotional depth despite the shortage of its running time per episode. But as much as it is about private lives, High Maintenance also gives focus to the poignancy in trivial human interaction. The way our nameless pot dealer enters the scene and leaves as emphasis is given on his clients affords a feeling of connection in a sprawling world like New York where every second is a chaotic pace. The show is intimate in many ways but in its most intimate, throws emotional heavyweights even from the most banal of story lines and characters.

  1.  Transparent

When Maura Pfefferman declared her gratitude for her family and her chosen family during her 70th birthday, it became clear that having a family is just half the problem; sometimes, family isn’t enough to secure yourself a piece of belongingness and at the crux of its third season, Transparent explores the family or the idea of such we choose for our own. It’s a choice that rarely comes but when it does, bears the heavy burden of choosing. Transparent is not one to shy away from the topic of identity, but this time around, it acknowledges the impact of identity to the family it’s a member to. Towards the end of the celebration, Maura requests that her children start calling her “mom” as she begins her transition but unbeknownst to her, destroying the patriarchy, whether symbolic or not, is not as easy as swapping words. Sometimes we’re forced to confront the very basic institution that makes up our patriarchal society: family.

  1.  Lady Dynamite

Comedienne Maria Bamford’s semi-biographical series Lady Dynamite hits all the right notes in crafting comedy especially for such a delicate subject as mental illness. The show’s winning formula all boils down to its intoxicating self-awareness and meta-humor pushing the limit of what comedy is able to offer to the table. Maria Bamford plays a version of herself with whimsical grace as she swims through the muddy waters of Hollywood fame and simultaneously the deep trenches of her embattled mind. Although most of the show’s success can be attributed to sharp comedy, it grounds itself in intimacy as it borrows events from Maria Bamford’s life in creating a larger than life account of a woman barely holding it together paved with surrealist humor involving talking pugs and colorful, off-meds hallucinations. You’re sure to miss a few jokes here and there and some will make zero sense but part of the appeal of Lady Dynamite is the fun when you’re already losing half of your mind.

  1.  Better Call Saul

Comparisons of the show to Breaking Bad that act to critique no longer hold weight at this point. Breaking Bad was a show led by 2 characters, tagged along by the people who revolve around them while on the other hand, Better Call Saul isn’t a show that ties itself to a story of one. The writing doesn’t cater entirely to Jimmy, instead people around him are given as much opportunity as him to be in possession of their own story. Direction is also one area Better Call Saul thrives in. The show is beautifully shot and offers one of the most creative and technical camerawork I have seen in a show. One recurring theme I love this season is the juxtaposition of light and darkness especially during Jimmy/Chuck scenes. That one shot where Chuck was merely a silhouette standing against the streaming light while Howard was encroached in the shadows was something I never expected from a TV show. The show was also filled to the brim with kinetic montages and managed to pull an excellent 4-minute opening tracking shot up its sleeves, indications of how Better Call Saul is not afraid to experiment, as all great series are.

  1.   The Good Place

Morality is not a dichotomy of good and bad, heaven and hell but according to NBC’s The Good Place, it most certainly is. Fortunately for Eleanor Shellstrop, a woman with highly questionable life decisions, a glitch in the heavens has landed her a spot in the good place where all good people go after death. The show pokes fun at the conventional idea of morality and offers up some philosophical inquiries of the human condition and the nature of action. Nonetheless, for all its inclination to philosophy, The Good Place is a comedy through and through headlined by an excellent Kristen Bell as the self-proclaimed medium person and TV veteran Ted Danson as the human-loving, god-being architect. The comedy marries serious subject matter with A-grade humor employing oddities from quotations of Immanuel Kant to Ariana Grande’s Break Free in creating the most morally sensitive comedy of 2016.

  1.   Girls

The tagline for season 5 of the HBO show Girls was “Finally Piecing It Together” and looking back, there are no better words to describe the gradual evolution to maturity of both the show and the characters that inhabit it than this very sentiment. Unlike the previous seasons, Girls on its 5th carried an air of self-assuredness. The brass moments of levity are there and the girls still can irritate even the most sympathetic soul but with these familiarities is a sense of poignant awareness of the self and the impending end knowing that next season will be the show’s last. Fortunately, the writing of the show never saw the obligation to rush itself to meet a penultimate narrative that would give way to a clear endgame. Instead, it takes its time and builds on its characters, giving them the depth and development they’ve been screaming for since day one.

  1.   Preacher

Amidst the sea of family friendly superhero shows that have been popping up everywhere like clockwork, Preacher stands out in the crowd as the irreverent comic book adaptation that packs more than vapid fart or dick jokes.  It’s a welcome deviation from the usual scenery of PG-rated, sanitized adventures of heroic individuals and Preacher is anything but heroic and sanitized. Fans of Garth Ennis’ original work will feel right at home with the show’s perfect mix of over-the-top violence and campy gore that celebrates the quirky madness of its source material. But besides carnage, the show also offers a biting satire of organized religion and at the blasphemous forefront is Jesse Custer, the titular preacher blessed with the Word of God, a power that forces anyone to obey his commands and such great power comes great responsibility or in Preacher’s case, a whole lot of glorious insanity.

Collage by Mariah Quintano

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Logan Paul and the murky standards of YouTube’s community guidelines

Logan Paul and PewDiePie’s controversial videos reflect YouTube’s crisis on content moderation.

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Logan Paul Vlogs/YouTube.

(UPDATED Jan. 12, 2 p.m.) Merely days into 2018, the Internet already found a new target for its outrage—and rightfully so.

YouTube star Logan Paul had his name all over headlines for the past few days due to a video about his trip to Aokigahara forest at the base of Mount Fuji (which he had confused with Fiji), notorious for its reputation among locals and tourists as Japan’s “suicide forest.”

In the since-deleted video, unsubtly titled We found a dead body in the Japanese Suicide Forest…, Paul and his friends found a body of a suicide victim hanging from a tree just a few kilometers into Aokigahara; however, instead of respectfully turning his camera off (or even cutting the footage from the final video), Paul continued filming, even repeatedly zooming in on the corpse’s face.

“This was supposed to be a fun vlog,” he said, before making fun of the victim while wearing a cartoonish green headwarmer. The group laughed and cracked jokes beside the body.

Paul might have thought the whole ordeal was funny; after all, he amassed a following of nearly 20 million (and mostly young) subscribers for performing challenges, stunts, and pranks wrapped in his brand of rowdy shock humor, and the controversial video was supposed to be a part of his Tokyo Adventures series, where the 22-year-old vlogger obviously staged various pranks.

In the following video, Paul and his friends ran around Tokyo as they yelled at strangers and walked in the middle of the metropolis carrying a dead fish and an octopus tentacle.

 

 

In another, Paul engaged in downright cultural appropriation and disrespect (a fact he actually acknowledged during the video) by wearing traditional garbs and even going as far as washing his hands with holy water in a temple. The group was later kicked out of the temple, and their Japanese tour guide could be seen apologizing to authorities on their behalf.

 

 

These videos are still up on Paul’s channel. Nonetheless, the 22-year-old deleted the graphic video less than 24 hours after it was uploaded as outrage began pouring in from the YouTube community and the general public—but not before it was viewed 6.3 million times, even earning the 10th spot in YouTube’s trending list.

In a lengthy apology posted on his Twitter account, Paul said that he “didn’t do it for views” and that his intention was”to raise awareness for suicide and suicide prevention” (the controversial video was not monetized).

However, his efforts to “raise awareness” by including suicide prevention hotlines and disclaimers in the video were slammed by various netizens, YouTubers, and personalities as hypocritical at best and self-praising at worst, considering how Japan seriously deals with cultural norms and its high suicide rate.

Nonetheless, Paul’s video is not the first YouTuber to face outrage on the platform for producing content that explicitly violated community guidelines.

His rival, Felix Kjellberg, more popularly known as PewDiePie, also faced similar backlash February last year for paying two Indian freelancers to dance while holding a banner that read “Death to all Jews”—a clear violation of YouTube’s guidelines on hateful content.


Is YouTube slowly losing its grasp on the content being uploaded to the platform or are they no longer firm in safeguarding their audience?


Kjellberg retorted in an apology letter on Tumblr saying that the stunt was simply a joke overblown by the media and that it was only meant to show “how crazy the modern world is.” However, a report by The Wall Street Journal noted that anti-Semitic and Nazi imagery and references were present in at least nine of his videos since August 2016; neo-Nazi groups and white supremacist sites such as The Daily Stormer were already praising Kjellberg for his use of Nazi imagery, despite some of his followers defending his jokes as mere “satire.”

Both Paul and Kjellberg share almost the same brand of shock-inducing, absurdist humor masked as satire, which has become an increasingly ubiquitous part of YouTuber culture. While both of them faced consequences such as termination of partnerships and the removal of their channels from YouTube’s preferred-advertising service, it is safe to say that these controversies will only become mere blunders in their careers: Kjellberg continues to have a strong following, and Paul’s subscriber count had only increased by 600,000 in the past week.

Various users, during the time the video was still up, flagged the video as it obviously violated YouTube’s community standards and guidelines on violent and graphic content, which explicitly says “it’s not okay to post violent or gory content that’s primarily intended to be shocking, sensational, or disrespectful.”

A spokesperson from YouTube confirmed the violation but did not comment on whether Paul’s channel was given a strike or if they have manually reviewed the video (as of press time, Paul’s channel was already given one); other users who reposted Paul’s video in their own channels, however, were given strikes—and according to YouTube’s policies, channels that receive three strikes within three months are removed from the platform.

While Paul has subsequently apologized again in a video, YouTube has seemingly addressed the backlash through a Twitter thread last Jan. 10, saying that they were taking steps “to ensure a video like this is never circulated again.” They did not, however, disclose the specific steps they would take.

However, it is now necessary to ask why the Internet’s leading video sharing platform allows content that violates its own guidelines to stay and proliferate within the platform. Is YouTube slowly losing its grasp on the content being uploaded to the platform or are they no longer firm in safeguarding their audience? On both questions, perhaps not—and, if anything, YouTube is very much as culpable as its creators.

It is important to note that while the video was repeatedly reported to YouTube, it was Paul who took it down eventually—not moderators. Furthermore, according to a member of YouTube’s Trusted Flagger program, the video was manually reviewed and moderators decided that it should remain on the platform—even without an age restriction.

Even Kjellberg’s video remained accessible during the height of the controversy according to a report by Time Magazine, despite initial reports that the video was already removed (it is now unavailable).

These controversies highlight YouTube’s long-running crisis on content moderation, on how it moderates and censors the content of its top creators (if YouTube actually does), and on how it plays favorites and double standards, and how the platform tacitly encourages the production of provocative, offensive, or extremist content that would surely garner millions of views—and these views would inevitably translate to advertising revenue.


… if anything, YouTube is very much as culpable as its creators.


For one, Kjellberg’s Nazi references staying under the radar for so long only goes to show how YouTube is willing to bend its own rules for creators that get millions of views and make profit for the platform. A piece from The New York Times puts it plainly: “The YouTube platform plainly incentivizes such attention-grabbing behavior.”

The piece also considered how YouTube “is considerably and deliberately less hands-on with its talents” and YouTube might be more than willing to use this to wash their hands from any responsibility; however, Paul is a high-profile collaborator. He is set to star in a film produced by YouTube’s premium tier, YouTube Red, much like how Kjellberg starred in the tier’s Scare PewDiePie series before its second season was cancelled following Kjellberg’s controversy.

While YouTube has put its collaborations with Paul on hold, his Tokyo Adventures videos are still reportedly making as much as 90,000 dollars from views, according to analysts, in stark contrast to how YouTube responded to Kjellberg and other creators—and it all comes down to advertisers.

Last year, advertisers threatened to boycott YouTube as they discovered that their advertisements ran in videos “promoting terrorism and anti-Semitism,” according to a report from TechCrunch. YouTube began demonetizing videos—including innocent channels—in what became known as the first “adpocalypse,” and these continued following the discovery of inappropriate content running in YouTube’s standalone children-oriented app, YouTube Kids, by taking advantage of the platform’s algorithms.

In order to combat the loopholes in its algorithms, YouTube announced just last month that it would hire 10,000 human moderators to police content, punish creators that violate guidelines, and make sure that advertisements run alongside content that advertisers deem appropriate for their brands.

The platform now seemed ready to come clean—but Paul’s controversial video showed that YouTube is still not ready after all.

Perhaps, unlike neo-Nazism and anti-Semitism, advertisers do not care about Paul’s insensitive mistake on making fun of suicide, he even allegedly monetized his own apology video (the controversial video was not), and there are no threats from advertisers to boycott the platform.

Ironically (or perhaps not), even Kjellberg called Paul a “jackass” and “a straight-up sociopath,” with the video “[encompassing] everything wrong with YouTube, the clickbait, the sensationalism”—and he is not entirely wrong: If anything, Kjellberg only echoed what other YouTubers have been saying all along (it is also important to note that Kjellberg does not want Paul’s channel to be taken down.

If YouTube cannot violate the editorial independence of its content creators, then this leaves the public to pressure YouTube to revise or clarify its community guidelines, uphold policies and strengthen their enforcement, and give more transparency in handling reports and complaints.

However, its complex ecosystem of algorithms, moderators, and corporate interests—and how they exactly work to enforce community guidelines despite their inherent contradictions—is still up for debate.

Nonetheless, the call still stands: YouTube needs to let go of its profitability for once and own up for its complicity in the mistakes of its creators—and, of course, punish them accordingly.

by Antoine Kyle Balo


EDITOR’S NOTE: The article has been updated to reflect YouTube’s responses and actions regarding the controversy.

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Finals week is dark and full of terrors — and here’s how to survive it

Fight your way through the Long Night (or long, sleepless nights) with these five useful tips.

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At one point, we were a stressed Samwell Tarly — maybe even now. Photo courtesy of HBO.

Finals week has finally arrived in UST, a.k.a. ’tis the season for an awful lot of stress, all-nighters, and mugs and mugs of coffee.

With exams, theses, reports, and plates charging from all directions, it’s even becoming harder to tell if the students roaming the campus are still students or if they have already turned into soulless White Walkers.

The finals week is dark and full of terrors, but if you want to survive it, here are some tips on how you can combat it head-on.

Prepare, prepare, prepare.

Lord Baelish once said: “Chaos isn’t a pit; chaos is a ladder” —and to avoid falling from that ladder, you have to armor up as you charge down the finals battlefield. Prepare all your notes, your pens and highlighters, and most importantly, prepare yourself in every possible aspect — physically, emotionally, and spiritually.

Drink coffee — but not too much

Coffee is almost every student’s best friend, but if the tragedy of the Red Wedding ever taught us anything, drinking too much can be deadly, whether it be wine or coffee. Yes, sleepless nights pay off most of the time but continued sleep deprivation negatively affects the health. If you’re not a fan of coffee, tea and chocolate can help you stay up late.

Discover more effective studying techniques

Studying is not just printing PowerPoint slides or rereading your notes: Techniques such as highlighting, rewriting notes, using flashcards can prove effective. Don’t be like Jon Snow who knows nothing; try to discover the best techniques that work best for you.

Have a break in-between your study sessions

Twenty minutes is adequate; it’s plenty enough time to walk around or maybe do some stretching. Also, having breaks in between can prevent sleepiness, just don’t make the break long like a Game of Thrones’s season break.

And of course, pray

Whether it be to God — or to the old gods and the new — seeking help and guidance from forces above can help lessen the burden of stress pushing down; and of course, there is nothing wrong with asking for a little extra help.

Remember, the semester finale is approaching and there are only few days left to save your grades. The finals week may be dark and full of terrors, but you can survive (and defeat) the Long Night by putting on your extra, staying positive and hoping for the best — after all, Paskuhan is coming!

by Danielle Arcegono

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Why ‘Respeto’ earned respect

Tackling social issues and Filipino traditions and culture, Respeto captured the essence of the problems of society affecting the people who are part of it.

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Screengrab from YouTube.

Respeto begins with a crowd cheering in a dim lit place, probably a warehouse somewhere in Pandacan, Manila. Two rappers are introduced and later on engage themselves into a rap battle by exchanging words, rhyme, and rhythm and ends with the rapper with the loudest cheer from the audience, winning the competition.

This establishes the highlight of the film: The art of words, rhyme, and rhythm.

Bagging four major awards in this year’s Cinemalaya, namely Best Film, Best Editing, Best Cinematography and Best Supporting Actor for Dido de la Paz, it is not a surprise that Respeto, directed by Treb Monteras II, turns out to be one of the most outstanding Filipino films that have been produced today.

Hendrix, played by Abra, is an aspiring rapper but due to his social status, he was forced to work as a drug mule under his sister’s drug pusher boyfriend, Mando (Brian Arda), who was up to no good. But despite the circumstances, Hendrix did not lose hope on pursuing to become a rapper and was truly supported by his friends, Betchai (Chai Fonacier) and Payaso (Yves Bagadion).

From time to time, Hendrix together with his friends would go to a rap battle gathering named Berso, where aspiring rappers come together to battle with impromptu verses. Short on cash, Hendrix uses Mando’s drug money to join the so-called gathering. Mando eventually finds out and tells Hendrix to pay him back or else he can’t come home. Desperate, Hendrix asked his friends to help him steal from Doc (Dido de la Paz), an old man who lives at the corner street who also owns a second-hand bookstore, and unfortunately, he and his friends were caught in the act. Unsuccessful with their plan, Hendrix and his friends were asked to repair everything they broke in Doc’s bookstore in exchange they would be free of charge. As the story unfolds, Hendrix and Doc’s relationship develops as Hendrix learns about Doc’s history as a writer and as a Martial Law victim.

One of the things that make this film enjoyable to watch is the humor that the characters show despite its heavy theme. There were scenes where Hendrix and his friends share a conversation about their neighbors one by one being killed because their involvement in the war on drugs, and in those conversations Payaso and Betchai would comment in a way how Filipinos would react despite the seriousness of the subject: Always with wittiness and pessimism. What makes it more likable is that how the characters deliver their lines naturally. Also, given it is a film about hip-hop and rap,what made it more enjoyable are the impromptu rap verses that were written by the cast themselves and the musical score by Jay Durias that made it stand out, as it sets the mood of the film which captivates the local hip-hop scene in the Philippines.

Another reason that makes Respeto as one of the best films produced is its social commentary on present issues in the country, specifically the war on drugs. As told, Hendrix and his friends talk about their neighbors who were killed because of the current administration’s Oplan Tokhang. It also reflected how the war on drugs affected the lives of people in the masses, as for Hendrix, his sister, and her boyfriend, they became drug mules or pushers because of poverty.

What made the film compelling is the use of elements of the old and the new. Focusing on the hip-hop scene in the Philippines and at the same time giving light on local poets and poetry, Monteras showed a different perspective on Philippine hip-hop rap battles by making it in parallel with poetry and the traditional Balagtasan. Also, the relationship between the old and the new was portrayed by Doc and Hendrix, both the embodiment of the traditional and modern. Though at extremes, Doc and Hendrix established a relationship as they learn from each other; Hendrix begins to be true to himself when it comes to his words in rapping as he spent time cleaning up Doc’s bookstore as Doc learns to open his closed doors, despite his past, to Hendrix and his friends. In the context of social issues, the film also showed the current and past issues of the country by paralleling the Martial Law period with the events under the current administration.

Tackling social issues and Filipino traditions and culture, it truly captured the essence of the problems of society affecting the people who are part of it, as portrayed by Hendrix and his friends.

Respeto reminds us of the reality there is for those people in the masses, especially the youth, that there are a lot of them who are undeniably talented but despite their situation, are not able to reach their goals and dreams. They are affected by the actions of society and become products of these problems as embodied by Hendrix and his friends. Not only it concerns the effect of these social issues on the youth, but also how it affected society as a whole. It showed how these people are shaped by circumstances in the society we live in, and how they would respond to it. As for Hendrix, he was affected by the war on drugs that mirrors Doc’s experience during the Martial Law regime which greatly affected him as a person.

Commenting and reflecting Philippine society and culture, I would give Respeto a 9/10 as I consider it as one of the best Filipino films made as it leaves you heavy-hearted, speechless and at the same time enlightened by its message.

by Hannah Arcenal

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