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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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Continuing to break the silence

As we come near the end of Women’s Month, Danielle Baranda looks back on the continuing impact of the #MeToo movement.

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Photo courtesy of Mark Raslton/AFP.

This month is a celebration.

This month, women from all over the globe unite and stand together as one solid frontier. This month is a reminder of the change continuing to unfold right in front of us—we are reminded and we celebrate women of all races and skin color. We tip our hats off to those brave voices we heard just last year, and further elevate those who are still falling short.

All it took was one voice that mustered the courage to speak up. A voice that resonated among a mass of silenced victims, a voice that would point out its oppressor and lead to several others following suit—several voices crying out, “Me too!”

Just as 2017 ended, we at TomasinoWeb looked back at this movement in its entirety (READ: #TWenty: The 2017 TomasinoWeb Year-ender—#MeToo). The fast pace of how allegations surfaced left and right was overwhelming that attempting to summarize it in one whole article proved to be difficult, but that was a good thing and it still is.

Three months into the year and the stories still keep on coming. Come to think of it, it has become the new normal. In our first analysis of the #MeToo movement, the sad normal reality we had come to conclude at the time was that people were dismissing these stories as nothing out of the ordinary.

A lot has changed since then, and admittedly, not everyone is happy about it.

Last January, Taken actor Liam Neeson went on the record in defense of his friend Dustin Hoffman. He dismissed the still growing #MeToo movement as having turned into a witch hunt, but has it?

The idea of gray zone sex recently resurfaced after an online post regarding an uncomfortable sexual encounter involving Parks and Recreations actor Aziz Ansari went viral. According to an article from The New York Times, the gray zone is defined as a sexual encounter that cannot necessarily be filed under the tag of sexual assault but is also a little too disconcerting to be simply named as a bad date either.

Another allegation that initially floated around last year which still found its way this year involved American Idol host Ryan Seacrest. Although coming out of the allegations relatively unscathed due to a two month investigation instigated by the E! Network which ended in favor of Seacrest, still there are persistent skeptics.

It is important to take note that Ryan Seacrest is the producer of everyone’s beloved Keeping Up With the Kardashians, making him a key stakeholder within the network which brings me to the very point of this little update—like everything else, the #MeToo movement is not perfect, but that does not mean that it is a witch hunt nor is it a trend that’ll one day just fade away.

It is our duty to listen to these voices still coming forward. Yes, there may be discrepancies when it comes to their stories, but let us not forget that these women are trying to recall and retell a story of how they were abused. And that will never be an easy one to share.

Let us make it easier for them and learn how to listen better. Let us continue to raise questions and look at things critically. Despite these movements, women still face great challenges when it comes to speaking out and taking a stand for themselves.

Before you question a woman’s authenticity, please take a moment to stop and think about how much she is risking to do what she is doing because I can assure you, she is probably risking more than she will be getting in return.

We left 2017 by starting something bigger than ourselves. As previously stated, it is far from perfect, but that cannot negate the giant leaps it has brought for women everywhere. The end goal was never to tip the scales entirely in our favor—it was, and always has been to merely balance those said scales. We are almost there, ladies. Keep fighting.

 

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Film Fridays: Enjoying films underneath the stars

Sometimes, a chill Friday after an exhausting week is all we need—a rest for the mind and feast for the eyes.

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Photo by Elizabeth Nicole Regudo/TomasinoWeb.

It was Friday… again.

It was the day where all responsibilities were crammed within the 24-hour period, with only caffeine and the thought of “weekend” to survive.

But it was not just any ordinary Friday.

Lounging at a grassy field underneath the starry night while watching good films, Thomasian Film Society’s Film Fridays gave me life.

Snacks were given to the first 150 participants and also you’d get to watch spectacular films under the night sky. Sitting on the grass, side by side with your friends or even your significant other—well, in my case, only just a bag of popcorn in my hand while The Blanks performed covers as well as their original songs.

We all know that the company of good food and good music could always make us feel better, right?

Sineng Sine Films like Bilang, Bakokang and Larawan were featured during the first Friday of the event. These three managed to make the viewers hold their tears as the audience was moved with each of the film’s stories. A plot involving death, betrayal, and lies within a family would always make everyone shift in their seats.

After the film showing, award-winning directors Nerisa Picadizo, Jaynus Olaivar and Marvin Cabangunay shared their experiences on filmmaking where their stories inspired the aspiring filmmakers.

“Go out there and do it!” Picadizo exclaimed. Her voice was filled with so much enthusiasm that everyone can’t help feeling the same way.

Well, have I mentioned that this was not a one-night thing? After the first day, everyone was ecstatic as the 2nd of March came knocking on our doors as Mikhail Red, the director of internationally-recognized and award-winning film Birdshot, came to town.

The director gave us the opportunity to look upon his journey as a filmmaker and shared to us the hell he—together with his crew—went through before, during and after every film.

Starting at a very young age, he started filmmaking at 15 years old and after a decade he’s still doing the very first thing he fell in love with—creating unique films with a touch of Western flavor.

Listening to his story wasn’t the only thing he prepared for the attendees of Film Fridays. He even generously shared to us the trailers for his films like Rekorder and Neomanila—and it didn’t stop there! Aside from sharing a secret with us (which you’ll never know until before the end of the year, he also teased us with his new film in the works, Eerie, a “not your typical Filipino horror film” as well as his future projects.

But with all the upcoming short films, wouldn’t you feel restless, too? Despite that, I know all of these were worth waiting for.

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The fate of Maria Clara and women empowerment

We are asked to be Maria Clara. Women are asked to act demurely and be meek, and when she acts not in the character of Maria Clara, she will always be reprimanded with the words: “Kababae mong tao”.

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Art by Baron Balaba/TomasinoWeb.

He called me pretty.

Sexy, beautiful or maybe even asked me to smile. I do not recall exactly what words those were. I did not take the time and pause to hear what he said, nor look at his face. But today, a man I did not know called me pretty.

My mother always reminded me to wear decent clothing and by decent, meaning clothes that do not reveal too much of my body. I do not blame her. Most mothers remind their daughters to do the same for their protection, specifically protection from our misogynistic society. She’d always say: “Wag mo sila bigyan ng rason para bastusin ka.”  I followed my mother’s advice; I dressed up as decent I can be and yet, even when I’m wearing my school uniform, strangers would catcall me in the streets.

It isn’t always just in the streets where I feel uncomfortable about my body. It also happens at family gatherings, when my relatives would joke about my weight. I am not a size 2 nor do I have a supermodel figure. I am a size 8 and I have a thick body frame, in which I have no problem with. But when the jokes about my weight are brought up, it makes me feel invalidated, that there is something wrong with me: “Uy, ang taba mo na!”, “Parang kailangan na natin magdiet ah”, “Gusto mo mag gym?” and the worst one yet, “Nako, walang manliligaw sayo pag ganyan katawan mo”. Again, I don’t blame my relatives; it is just something that we Filipinos are used to. Society has taught us to keep a figure that is slender, and not be fat or obese because to be fat or obese means there is something wrong with you and if you’re a woman, you are not appealing to a man as if your whole future depends on finding a man to marry.

But more than just the clothes every woman like me is asked to wear or our bodies, there is a social order in which each gender is assigned to follow. For women, specifically in the Philippines, we are asked to be Maria Clara. Women are asked to act demurely and be meek, and when she acts not in the character of Maria Clara, she will always be reprimanded with the words: “Kababae mong tao”.

Society has confined women in this social order: To follow, to be controlled and be quiet.

In comparison with the men in society, they are not asked to wear “decent” clothing for them to be respected, nor is their weight not a huge issue. Moreover, they are not asked to be quiet or to be meek, and there will always be an excuse for their actions, good or bad: “Boys will be boys”. Though there is still a social order that men follow, that they are not allowed to be soft or feminine, but it is not as suppressing as for women.

It is undeniable that our society is patriarchal. Men are believed to be more superior to women, making them secondary. The Philippines being a Catholic country, our beliefs are mostly based on the Catholic bible. According to St. Paul, women must become subjects to their husbands, which doesn’t mean entirely bad but implies women must follow their husbands as they are the head of the family. It isn’t only in religion women are seen as secondary to men. A lot of films, commercials and print ads revolve around narratives in which women are seen as subjects for the male gaze. One of which is the advertisement for beer, a woman is usually present, in which has no connection with the bottle of beer, but to give emphasis on the man’s masculinity.

This idea validates the power of men over women. The things we see on TV, the internet, films and so much more, that show women as secondary to men contributes to the still on-going misogyny present in our society.

Though times have been changing, and a lot of women fought for the discrimination that has been happening for the past years, it is uneasy to say patriarchy is still here. That is why a lot of people still fight against it, may it be in the streets or online. Social media has been a great avenue for voicing out ideas and opinions. It is also an avenue for reaching out to people and inform people of what is happening outside the online world. One of which is the recent #MeToo movement, wherein women shared their stories of being harassed and abused by men in particular.

Social media has been a place where women empowerment is well talked about. A lot of posts and tweets that say, they are for women and believe women should be respected, and it gets a lot of shares and retweets, in which is a good thing as it could inform more people about women empowerment. But there are also tweets and posts that are women positive but the empowerment only lives in the post or tweet alone. I know a lot of people who tweet or post such things but when outside the online world, they do not stay true to their words. Moreover, there are also people who post and tweet that they support women but in fact they only support themselves or are only for women when it’s convenient. And lastly, there are also people who say that they empower women, when in fact they only empower women who are privileged.

I am not saying that those women whom I call privileged do not feel discrimination or harassment, nor see them as shallow. It is safe to say that I am one of those women, and many of my women friends are also privileged. There is nothing wrong with empowering ourselves. But then again, when we say women empowerment, it must include all women. What about the women at the lowest of the lowest? Who empowers them?

It is easy to say that you empower women by posting a tweet with hashtags such as #MeToo or #TimesUp, but women empowerment is more than that. It is more than sharing your own “I was catcalled” story, or your body positivity story. There are women who are constantly abused by their husbands but do not say anything out of fear. There are also marginalized women at the bottom of the bottom who are sold for sex, even girls as young as the age of seven who are abducted for slavery. There are young women who are unable to access education because they cannot afford it, and women in poverty who are hungry due to the unequal access to employment, resources and social services because women are seen to be weak. Who speaks for them?

Again, I am not saying that street harassment and catcalling, body negativity or the “kababae mong tao” problems are shallow. They are also problems that should be addressed. Because when we let these little things happen, we allow bigger things to follow. Those little things are what lead us to suppressing women as weak and subjects to be controlled by misogyny. When we teach society that we, women, should be quiet and be Maria Clara, we teach them to be silent and eventually not to speak for themselves. Maria Clara obeyed his father and all the men around her. Her decisions were made by the men around her, and in the end she ended up raped by Padre Salvi and she kept silent about it because she was taught that the ideal woman should be quiet.

Women empowerment is more than posting or tweeting that you are one with women, or wearing an H&M shirt that says “The Future is Female”, there is nothing wrong with it but it must not stop there. Women empowerment is about speaking for those who cannot speak for themselves, which includes all women in all classes. It is speaking for those Maria Claras who remain silent about their suffering. It is for all women, not just for those who are convenient to empower.

In all honesty, I too question myself and what have I done for women. But I am still learning on what can I do and how can I empower them. Eventually, I hope that I, and everyone else, can contribute in empowering all women, so that in time no woman will be ever called pretty by a strange man in the streets.

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