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A Filipino take on musical film, Ang Larawan offered novelty to movie-goers in last month’s Metro Manila Film Festival (MMFF)—a novelty which sharply contrasted with the film’s evocation of nostalgia for antebellum Manila.

Nonetheless, it was this novelty of portraying a bygone era which made Ang Larawan stand out among last year’s MMFF “Magic 8,” a far cry from 2016’s indie-centric film lineup.

Directed by Loy Arcenas, a former Broadway production designer, it does not come as a surprise that Ang Larawan—an adaptation of the 1997 stage play Ang Larawan: The Musical, which had its 1998 restaging written by National Artist for Literature Nick Joaquin, which in turn was also an adaption of an earlier play A Portrait of the Artist as Filipino, also by Joaquinplays out, at times, like a stage play, which is not necessarily a bad thing.

The film’s roots in theater are, nonetheless, evident everywhere: Ang Larawan stars big names in Philippine theater like Joanna Ampil and Celeste Legaspi, its libretto written by the late National Artist for Theatre and Literature Ronald Tinio, with music carefully orchestrated by the great Ryan Cayabyab.

It seems strange for an evidently well-crafted film to be cut short from the “Magic 8” after the opening week, but Ang Larawan emerged as a critical success, bagging six awardsincluding the award for the Best Picture.

For those unfamiliar with the plot, Ang Larawan revolves around the Marasigan sisters, Candida (Ampil) and Paula (Rachel Alejandro), and a portrait painted by their father Don Lorenzo Marasigan, who was revered as “Don Lorenzo del Magnifico” and known to be a friend and rival of famed artist Juan Luna.

The dilemma begins when Don Lorenzo ceases producing paintings, bringing financial problems to the family. His last painting, the film’ titular portrait, is considered to be his obra maestra, and thus, much to the ire of the two sisters, everyone now wants to see it.

However, the titular portrait was never given an exact depiction in the film, and this helped in heightening the mysterious nature and ambiguity of the painting and that of the film itself, with its extravagance left to the audience’s imagination through the descriptions made by various characters: One of the characters, Bitoy Camacho (Sandino Martin), described the portrait as chilling as if its subjects were omniscient and the others were quick to relate the painting to a scene in the Roman epic Aenid where Aeneas carried his old father Anchises on his back as they fled the burning city of Troy.

The unravelling of the meaning of the portraitand the importance of the house to the people surrounding Paula and Candidawas not given in a snap, it was more of a realization as the film progressed. This can be seen through the effect of the house and of the painting itself to the characters. The Marasigan mansion, in a way, becomes a memento of the beauty and the blissfulness that the Arts have once brought upon these people in the past as it was a place well-known because of tertulias where literary and artistic activities were very much alive.

Meanwhile, the portrait symbolized Filipino society’s transition into American colonization and the influx of new ideas, and the place of the Arts in that particular point in time of Filipino society: Art done not for art’s sake or for society but clouded by the awful ideals of materialism and greed for wealth and power

This was succinctly summarized by Don Perico (Robert Arevalo): “The portrait is the artist and his conscience,” and to make his statement stronger, Don Perico was once a poet who turned away from writing and instead entered politics as a senator since writing poems can not feed his family, but alas, when he returned to the Marasigan mansion and after Candida asked him self-examination questions, the poet inside him resurfaced.

Even if the film is a historical period drama, there are elements of the film’s narrative that can serve as commentary for the present. Set in pre-war Manila, it seems that the film’s characters were only experiencing the proto-effect of modernism to arts and yet they were very alarmed to the point that Don Lorenzo confined himself in his room for a year because the sisters wanted him to be more like Don Perico, to succumb to materialism in order to have a better way of living.

The greatness of Ang Larawan lies not only on the added challenge of requiring the actors to deliver a dialogue and sing at the same time but on the afterthought that it gives its audience. This is a film that ignites the renaissance of arts in the Philippine society today by showing the audience that not all things can be valued with money or capital.

Like other MMFF films, Ang Larawan shows familial love and Filipino culture but what makes it different lies on the perspective of the viewer: How would you interpret the painting?

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On Octobers, we wear red

A day before the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) released the supposed list of schools which are allegedly recruiting grounds of communists rebels for the “Red October” ouster plot against the regime, we were already protesting along Dapitan denouncing it.

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Artwork by Mikhail Reaño

A day before the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) released the supposed list of schools which are allegedly recruiting grounds of communists rebels for the “Red October” ouster plot against the regime, we were already protesting along Dapitan denouncing it.

We knew very well at that point that the University would be tagged: after all, UST had welcomed the Lumad bakwit school into the campus—the Lumad schools that AFP considers to be training grounds of the communist New People’s Army (NPA), the schools that have experienced harassment and abuses from the military. The student activist movement in the University also saw a boom in recent months, and the University itself had become more outspoken against state violence and human rights violations under the regime of Rodrigo Duterte.

When AFP released their supposed “list” of schools yesterday, the condemnation from the administration and the Central Student Council was swift—and rightfully so. It is irresponsible and dangerous, a blatant attack on academic freedom and the rights of students to free expression and organization. The list put the security of the University at risk, particularly student leaders and those involved in the martial law week campaigns, which the AFP said was how communists recruited students.

However, it is not enough for us to condemn that one incident: the past few weeks saw the regime relentlessly (or desperately?) tag protests and opposition groups as part of a supposed communist-led “Red October” ouster plot, from the mass mobilization  at Luneta last Sept. 21 to leaders of the political opposition—a not-so-subtle attempt to silence and scare dissenters by tagging dissent as “terrorism” or “rebellion,” regardless of political color affiliation.

If the list has a target, it’s definitely not the University administration, as AFP pointed out themselves. The AFP is tagging groups that are at the forefront of political struggle under Duterte: striking workers calling for an end to contractualization and abusive labor practices, urban poor groups demanding decent housing, Lumad students and teachers calling for an end to military attacks in their schools and communities—and now, the military is targeting students leaders and student activists for their alleged connections to the NPA, the armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP).

This a serious allegation, and the University must actively continue to campaign against it. Such accusations have dire, even deadly implications and consequences as it puts the lives of students and their security at risk—a brazen example of red-baiting or red-tagging, in which state actors “publicly and detractively classify government-critical individuals and organisations as state enemies, communist terrorists or members of communist front organisations.”

The consequences are fatal, and it spares none—not even students activists like Sherlyn Cadapan and Karen Empeño, who were illegally abducted, detained and tortured at the hands of military forces in 2006 after they were accused of being members of the CPP-NPA. The AFP is putting the security and lives of students at risk simply because of their affiliations or even for simply being critical of the regime.

No different to how the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos arrested his opponents on the basis of being “communists,” “rebels” and “subversives,” Duterte is using the same cheap tricks from his idol’s playbook.

The AFP might say that this article is part of the CPP-NPA’s information drives linking martial law atrocities to those committed under the Duterte administration—but then again, communist or not, where is the lie? Nothing can cover up the fact Duterte is a cheap, fascist dictator wannabe who’s now using McCarthy-style red scares against his opponents who are out to supposedly “destabilize” Duterte’s regime, a regime that was never stable to begin with.

By doing so, the President is simply orchestrating his own downfall by giving his attention to a fabricated and poorly-concocted fake news of an ouster plot while turning a blind eye to the plight of the people—just like what he did to Sheila Eballe who simply asked the President to put an end to quarrying in Naga City, Cebu after a landslide.

Duterte’s response? A misogynistic remark and a claim that Eballe was being trained by NPA.

In the face of the crisis of rising prices of rice, bread, and other basic commodities brought by inflation and higher taxes, this “destabilization” is Duterte’s own doing—and if our memories serve us right, he was the one who repeatedly told the public that he is a murderer, and he even threatened to bomb Lumad schools and shoot female rebels in their vaginas.

Duterte is this country’s top terrorist, along with his lapdogs in the military and police force. Expect an intensified crackdown on activists and dissent this October, but we will not be scared into silence—they are only forcing more and more people to join the growing resistance to Duterte’s murderous regime. State violence breeds militant resistance, and fascist dictators only build their downfall.

Now is the time to fight, and to fight a madman like Duterte is just. After all, it’s no secret that the people already want him out—and it’s not because of any conspiracy for an ouster plot. It’s Duterte’s own fault.

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The Greatest Siomai: The Battle of Siomai around UST

No matter how siomai-ny choices we have, it will never be enough. Today, the competition amongst every siomai stall around UST has definitely gotten harder — with each of them vying to be the best among the rest.

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siomai poster
Artwork by Jessica Lopez.

Ang Tomasinong gipit, sa siomai kumakapit!” This line has had reverberated through the minds of almost every Thomasians even up to date. However, had they chosen siomai as their meal solely for its cheap price alone?

Through the years, siomai has emerged as one of the staple foods that many Thomasians enjoy. From the options of having a pork, beef, or shrimp-based mince, up to the way it is cooked, whether fried or steamed — siomai has already become an acceptable rice meal wherein one’s starving appetite can certainly be satisfied.

Today, the competition amongst every siomai stall around UST has definitely gotten harder — with each of them vying to be the best among the rest. And in identifying which of these stalls serves the finest pieces of siomai in town, TomasinoWeb explored the streets of España, Padre Noval, Dapitan, and Lacson.

angkong

Angkong Dimsum House

Delos Reyes Street cor. Padre Noval Street | Asturias Street, Dapitan

Angkong’s fried dumpling, at times, may have been labelled as “mainstream.” Nonetheless, this siomai place has continuously proved that they were not labelled as one for nothing. Its highly acclaimed ‘fried dumpling’ has been loved by most Thomasian for its crispness in every bite. For only P55.00, one can enjoy four delectable dumplings and a cup of rice. With two stores located at Dapitan and P.Noval,satiate your dumpling cravings anytime, anywhere. However, only a few can enjoy the “dine in”  experience since the place is a bit small. Despite the limited space that it offers, Angkong has never failed in embedding its love and sapid flavors in every piece of siomai that they serve.

Recommendations:

  • Quail Egg Siomai w/ rice (Php 55)
  • Japanese Siomai w/ rice (Php 60)

 

dimsum treats

Dimsum Treats

Besides “Starbucks”, Pacific Suites, Dapitan Street

Every Thomasian knows that what lies within the bustling streets of Dapitan is the long time rival of Angkong — that is Dimsum treats. At a price of only Php 55.00, students can feast on four huge pieces of siomai and a generous amount of rice. Although some of the siomai that they offer may at times be bland in taste, Dimsum Treats offers some array of sauces which will surely make ones meal more exciting. This siomai outlet offers a sweet and sour sauce as well as a hearty serving of Yang Chow ricemaking it a perfect meal combination for a hungry tummy.

Recommendations:

  • Chinese Chicken Siomai (Php 40)
  • Meaty Mushroom Siomai (Php 40)
  • Pork & Quail Egg Siomai (Php 40)
  • Japanese Dumpling (Php 40)

 

d sons dimsum

D’Sons Dimsum

Stall near 7/11, Padre Noval Street

Standing only steps away from the gates of UST, along P. Noval Street, is D’Sons Dimsum. Even with just a small stall, D’Sons has still caught the attention and tastes of many Thomasians through offering wide varieties of siomai. The siomai that they are offering is jam-packed with luscious meat partnered with sweet and sour soy sauce, which is far different in comparison with the other siomai houses. To make it more meal-worthy, one can also incorporate it with rice, and surely it would be the best combo one can have either as lunch, snack or even dinner meal.

Recommendations:

  • Pork (Steamed) Siomai (Php 28)
  • Fried Siomai (Php 28)

*Additional Php 10 for a cup of rice.

 

chi authentic dimsum

Chi: Authentic Dimsum House

Third floor of The One Torre De Santo Tomas, España Boulevard

In terms of variety, Chi: Authentic Dimsum House has, by far, topped all the other siomai stalls. Their gigantic “mega siomai”, wrapped in yellow wonton, definitely is one of the students’ favorite for it incorporates a savory mix of its minced pork and several other spices. In addition, this dimsum house has as well brought in to its menu ‘Kuchay Siomai’ — a must try for vegetable lovers! Although Chi offers one of the most expensive pieces of siomai, the different twists and varieties that they bring to the siomai community is still admirable.

Recommendations:

  • Mega Siomai (Php 50)
  • Kuchay (Vegetable) Siomai (Php 50)
  • Sharksfin Dumpling (Php 30)

*Additional Php 10 for a cup of rice.

 

siomai king

Siomai King

Barlin cor. Padre Noval Street

In this stall, one can feel that siomai truly is king for the sumptuous amount of servings that they offer. Unlike other stores, ‘Siomai King’ serves a total of 5 appetizing pieces of siomai for only 30 pesos. Known as the stall’s bestseller is its HongKong Siomai — a delicate mix of ground pork and shrimp with a dash of minced flavourings. Aside from that, the zestiness coming from the chilli-garlic is what sets ‘Siomai King’ apart from others.

Recommendations:

  • HongKong Siomai (Php 30)
  • Shanghai Siomai (Php 30)

*Additional Php 10 for a cup of rice.

Regardless of the diversifying flavors and varieties that each siomai stall offer, what they bring to us comes with only one goal — to satisfy our hunger and taste buds without expending too much money for a palatable meal.

Karl Efraim Duldao and Sheena Joy Emnace

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The Rise of Filipino Mythology

Our generation has always been curious about the great Greek myths with its fascinating – but rather dark tales. But have you ever discovered the hidden gems within the Philippine Lore?

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rise of filipino mythology artwork
Artwork by Mikhail Reaño

Our generation has always been curious about the great Greek myths with its fascinating – but rather dark tales. Persephone’s abduction by Hades, god of the underworld or Zeus’ escapades with fair maidens that lead to the birth of tons of demigods with exceptional strength like Hercules or intoxicating beauty like Helen of Troy.

Each country has their own share of myths. Scandinavians have their god of Thunder Thor, and the mischievous god and trickster, Loki. We are not talking about the MCU here obviously. Romans have a very similar adaptation of their myth to the Greeks and Egyptians have alien-looking gods and goddesses, these are only a few of what we actually know about.

We are all familiar with Bathala, but we always ignore the fact that our country is also rich in tales and myths. We also have a whole new lineage of deities, monsters, and other unearthly creatures. Ours is as fascinating as other myths if not, more.

Even Neil Gaiman, the author of Norse Mythology and American Gods, acknowledged the potential of Filipino Mythology to be shown to the world. Yet despite possessing the prowess to tell a story masterfully, he emphasized that the Filipino writers should be the one to retell the myth.

Mythology as our identity.

Each race has its own unique identity and mannerism. Though most of it are due to their own prejudice, these traits still set them aside from the others.

Here in the Philippines, our history, long before the Spaniards set foot on our shores, have always been different. Only our natives were able to recall the stories that were passed upon generations.

Have you read about Maria Makiling during your childhood? If yes, surely, you also know about Mt. Makiling being shaped like a woman which is believed to be Maria Makiling herself. The known fable can be the basis of our history or the other way around. The best way to know a culture is to understand it through their own as myths and stories.

There are enough characters for everyone to look into.

One of the many reasons why Philippine Mythology should be known is because of its variety. Due to the fact that our country is divided into different regions, a wide variety of culture and language is established. In the Tagalog region, the supreme being is called Bathala but Kaptan for the Bisaya.

These two characters are basically the same but they have different names and maybe even a slight alteration in their stories. There is a wide range of origin stories which involves giants, gods, and goddesses, but the best part about it is they all have different tales to tell.

Filipino writers are capable

Filipinos have always been one of those who excel in everything they pour their souls into. There are a lot of Filipino literary creators who are exceptional in their work. Who else will be good at retelling our own history? Of course, those who share the same blood lineage, for we know the hearts and minds of our ancestors.

We have a rich literary library that some foreigners also seek to come across with to further their knowledge. Filipino writers were able to establish their skills in the field of literature, though they are not given enough appreciation in our current setting.

Mythology is not just a part of literature that is there to entertain us. It also has a key role in civilization. Humans interpret their world through myths, it has always been a representation of one’s beliefs. If you can take time to gush about the Asgardians or the Olympians, why not start discovering our very own today?

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