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Felix the Human: A ‘Felix Manalo’ Movie Review

Question:

What is the title of the film that’s about a historical figure who fought for what he believes in,

has a multi-million production budget,

boasts an ensemble of some of the most respected artists to ever grace the industry,

received the highest rating from the Cinema Evaluation Board of the Philippines?

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Question:

What is the title of the film that’s about a historical figure who fought for what he believes in,

has a multi-million production budget,

boasts an ensemble of some of the most respected artists to ever grace the industry,

received the highest rating from the Cinema Evaluation Board of the Philippines?

That’s right, Heneral Lu…I mean ‘Felix Manalo’.

The anticipated historical-biographical film about Iiglesia Ni Cristo’s (INC) first leader premiered last October 4. It was held in one of the biggest middle fingers to the government in terms of construction capabilities, the Philippine Arena. Followers of Iglesia ni Cristo flocked to Bulacan to watch the screening of the movie about their beloved founder. The event grabbed both national and international attention. It also managed to bag two Guinness World Records; ‘Largest Attendance for a Film Screening’ and ‘Largest Attendance for a Film Premiere’.

It was theatrically released on October 7 and immediately gained a foothold. It was the second local big budget historical-biographical film to come out this year (the other one is ‘Heneral Luna’ in case you’re living under a rock these past few years). The film was directed by the man behind the Mano Po series, Joel Lamangan, and stars Dennis Trillo as Felix Ysagun Manalo, the spirited young man on a quest to find the one true religion, who Trillo portrayed so well that you will enter as an agnostic and leave as a confused agnostic. He delivers such a powerful performance worthy of commendation. He may be Jennylyn Mercado’s poor and outspoken partner in ‘My Faithful Husband’ but this man can act.

Then there’s Bella Padilla as Manalo’s surprisingly-resilient-and-patient-and-understanding-according-to-the-film wife Honorata ‘Ata’ de Guzman-Manalo. You may occasionally see Bella Padilla modelling or guesting in some noontime shows but this woman carries the legacy that made the Padillas so endearing, they can make you like them. I actually do wonder why this woman has little to no dramatic roles both in movies and television. She gave life to Ata’s character almost perfectly, almost. I can’t fully accept her performance because I failed to see anger and frustration in her character. Imagine your husband locking himself in his room for three straight days while you’re laboring outside doing all the chores while carrying your unborn child. Any sensible woman would have been mad if not downright murderous. This biopic dramatizes the life of Felix Manalo as he switches from one faith to another as each one falls short of something until he comes to the realization that he is the one destined to start the “one true religion”.

Enough of that, let’s look at the technical side of the film because, you know, I’m that guy you wouldn’t want in your party. ‘Felix Manalo’ has a reported budget of 150 million pesos. They also casted around 100 veteran and not-so-veteran-but-not-new-comer-either actors and actresses such as Gabby Concepcion, Joel Torre, Heart Evangelista, Lorna Tolentino, Philip Salvador, Jaime Fabregas and Ejay Falcon. If not for the character of Felix Manalo, you would think that this is the dramatic version of the Expendables wherein all the artists of the previous generation decided to appear for one last time in a big budget film before they all go down, guns blazing. Considering the size of the production and the caliber of the ensemble, one would expect nothing less than perfection but the film kind of missed that.

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The total running time of the entire movie was about 6 hours. For its theatrical release, it’s compressed down to 2 hours and 55 minutes. Because of that, the finished product looked rushed and unwieldy. The film suffered from laughable special effects as if the entire team just gave up. To be honest, I’ve seen older movies with a much better effects. You would also see awkward fade outs and shots out of focus. Another thing that caught my eyes is the prevalent color of the movie. It’s hard to connect to a film if everything you see, from the people to the greenery, is in dudu brown. I know the story was set in the pre-war era but hey, a little color wouldn’t kill.

Moreover, I think that its cast was not well utilized. What’s the point of hiring respectable and famous actors if you’re just going to use them as mere extras? What, for the sake of saying your film was star studded?

But the biggest blunder, perhaps, is the pacing. The compression of the story has a massive impact to the narrative. Yes, you would still understand the story but I find the character development lacking. There are way too many scenes that weren’t that important but were included in the final edit such as bystanders shouting nonsense every time Felix holds a sermon or the registration process of the Iglesia ni Cristo or the tediously detailed presentation of how flawed other faith is.

Let’s face it, that’s the problem of this movie. It focuses too much on the church and not on the man behind it. It seems the whole film was created to show the might and validity of Iglesia ni Cristo. Biographical films are supposed to shed light on the story of the people behind great things. It should demystify them, to show that they’re just like us, to show that they are human too.

I want to see Felix’s flaws. Yes, he is a brave man for standing up for what he believes in but other than that? Who is he? What is he? I want to know more about Felix Manalo. I want to learn about the man that established one of the most prominent religions here in our country. I want to know his desires, his shortcomings, and struggles.

It seems that the whole film can be summarized in six words: ‘We are right, they are wrong’. Maybe the film should be called ‘Iglesia ni Cristo’ not ‘Felix Manalo’.

Photo: Screengrab from Youtube/Viva Ent

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Marcos is still not a hero

After everything that has been, is Marcos still your idol?

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MARTIAL LAW ANNIVERSARY 2018. (Photo by Christine Annemarie Tapawan/TomasinoWeb)

When we look a few years back, we remember that one of the biggest political controversies we have encountered is Ferdinand Marcos’ burial in Libingan ng mga Bayani. The rites were private and intimate for the family and he was also given a 21-gun salute. Is this 21-gun salute an ode to the 21 years that Marcos has ruled as a kleptocratic dictator? This event has garnered negative criticism since a number of Filipinos don’t consider Marcos as a hero. It may have given peace to Marcos’ family, but it caused the victims of the Marcos rule to remember a grim chapter in their lives.

A few days into the present year, Bongbong Marcos sent out a statement calling for the revision of history books used in the academe, which he deems are only teaching the students lies about what his father, former President Marcos, has done. He believed that those from the opposition are in control of the data in published materials, that’s why it is so against his father. He also claimed that the contents of these textbooks were just used as propaganda against their family and that the allegations that his father was a thief and murderer were never proven. The thing is, if these allegations weren’t true, then why was the Presidential Commission on Good Governance recovering money from the Marcoses’ ill-gotten wealth? 

During Marcos’ rule, Proclamation 1081 gave the military power to arrest, detain, and execute those who are standing up against the government or those who are pushing other people to do so. A proclamation like this is set to violate a series of human rights, and yet it went on for several dreadful years. According to Amnesty International, about 70,00 people were imprisoned and 34,000 were tortured under Marcos’ term. 

In 1991, Marcos was found guilty by the US Federal Court system of ‘crimes against humanity,’ which covered torture, summary executions, and forced disappearances. The Philippine Constabulary was the law enforcing body during those times and was notorious for being liable for numerous human rights violations. Take the case of Dr. Juan Escandor, a Radiation specialist from the University of the Philippines – Philippine General Hospital, who was involved in nationalist initiatives and even founded a leftist student organization, was killed by constabulary troopers that ended in a crossfire. Though authorities say that he died due to the gunfight, his autopsies show signs of torture, with his skull emptied and filled with trash, plastic bags, rags, and underwear, and his brain placed inside his stomach cavity. 

Bongbong Marcos has always justified his father’s ways. Although he acknowledged the numerous human rights violations that were committed during his father’s regime, he says that people should also remember the numerous projects his father launched, which includes thousands of kilometers of roads built, progressive agricultural policies, power generation, and the highest literacy rate in Asia. However, could these projects ever compensate for the pain inflicted on the victims of Martial Law? Even if the Marcoses’ contributions to the country are worthy of acknowledgment, it is not a valid argument to be used to push the people to leave their dreadful experiences in obscurity. Marcos apologists can’t tell others to just ‘move on’ because failing to acknowledge the people’s grievances during Martial Law is purely insensitive.  You can’t just tell people to forget such inhumane acts brought about by a leader they all trusted to lead them through progress. 

Recently, it was shared to the public that House Bill No. 7137 was approved to declare September 11 as ‘President Ferdinand Edralin Marcos Day’ in Ilocos Norte, which aims to honor the late dictator. Senate President Vicente Sotto III then said that bills with local applications like this are usually easily approved in Senate hearings. This, in turn, has sparked controversy and garnered criticism from the people.

Members of different rights groups and numerous people have expressed their disapproval of this bill. They say that this bill encourages the alteration of narratives of the dark days of Philippine history under Martial Law during the Marcos regime and that it practically promotes the invalidation of what people went through during the strongman rule.

We ought to #NeverForget the numerous accounts of torture and abuse that normal Filipinos went through. In case one forgets, the Twitter account @PangulongMarcos is devoted to tweeting daily on whether Marcos is a hero today.

The approval of this bill not only pushes to erase the kafkaesque events in our history that took place during Martial Law, but it also neglects the loss of the people who mourned for the loved ones that they lost in an all-out battle against the provisions of a power-hungry government that only sought to assert dominion over the people it ought to serve. It also makes us look at tyranny straight in the eye and just be resilient about it, without being able to #ResistTyranny. After everything that has been, is Marcos still your idol?

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Why “Pinoy Pride” exists in online Filipino culture

The toxic “peenoise” that flock and bash personalities misinterpreting the culture are the same ones that gather in posts which have the slightest hint of Filipino culture.

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Artwork by Ana Victoria Ereño/TomasinoWeb

Filipinos entering the foray of different online media allowed for Filipino culture to gain an even larger audience, but it inevitably exposes aspects that would otherwise only be seen within our borders.

Emman Nimedez and Lloyd Cadena’s passing has shown how impactful online media has become for the youth. While traditional media like TV and radio broadcasting maintains the largest audience in our country, we have slowly crept into the online world with the rising presence of Filipino personalities. Though this puts our heritage on a much larger stage, it has unfortunately exposed the pitfalls in our society. Any Filipino browsing comment sections on their favorite social media and video platforms will have inevitably seen the words “peenoise” and “Pinoy Pride” on their screen at least once, usually bearing a negative connotation. How have Filipinos managed to set themselves apart so negatively online that it yielded such labels on online platforms?

“Peenoise” was a term originally coined by online users within gaming communities to refer to Filipinos who are considered to be toxic in-game. Now, it is generally used to describe Filipinos who exhibit toxic behavior online, such as trolls or bullies. On the other hand, Pinoy Pride is another aspect of “peenoise” that is less aggravating but is much more reflective of who we are as a society. Pinoy Pride revolves around being endlessly proud of a Filipino personality for achieving something that led to global notoriety. 

How have Filipinos managed to set themselves apart so negatively online that it yielded such labels on online platforms?

These behaviors, ironically enough, could be coming from the Filipinos’ prioritization of family values. The toxic “peenoise” that flock and bash personalities misinterpreting the culture are the same ones that gather in posts which have the slightest hint of Filipino culture. Our innateness to find “kababayans” and treat them like family could both be a blessing and a curse in situations where we band together to defend our identity. This is even exploited in media channels that release “Filipino-themed” videos where personalities would experience Philippine culture or would have a part-Filipino cast member be the center of the content.

Another aspect that could be contributing to these online behaviors is the lingering effects of crab mentality in our society. As this blog puts it, we are quick to throw praise and be proud of our own people once they achieve success, but are also quick to call something “cheap” if it has not achieved prominence. But this even goes beyond Filipino artists as any individual who has the slightest hints of being Filipino is quickly embraced and celebrated as if they were our own. We like living through other people’s success as if they were one of our own, yet we pay no heed to those still climbing the ladder and even go as far as ridiculing them for their efforts. 

The toxic “peenoise” that flock and bash personalities misinterpreting the culture are the same ones that gather in posts which have the slightest hint of Filipino culture.

Finally, these attitudes don’t really hinge on being Filipino, but rather being Filipino outside of the Philippines. Pinoy Pride only begins to matter once something done by a Filipino gets recognized outside of the Philippines. This can be attributed to the Filipino’s “American dream” or the notion that the ultimate goal as a Filipino is to make it outside of the Philippines. 

If we ask most college students what their goals are after graduation, it will probably be about building their careers until they can go abroad. Whether it’s nurses, teachers, or artists, they’re usually aiming for a career outside the country and for good reason. The same professions would normally be paid less here, not to mention having to work harder just to get paid half of what they would’ve made had they gone off to work abroad. 

A few weeks ago, a wave of posts took Facebook by storm as Filipinos started sharing images from Harvard and placing either themselves in the context of being Harvard students or Harvard being a university in the Philippines. While this short-lived trend was merely humorous for most, it shows how we ultimately aspire to live a life outside the country rather than to flourish within it. It shows the condition which we live in and how we’ve had to make do with subpar standards in our country.

In summary, the “peenoise” and “Pinoy Pride” attitudes that Filipinos are showing online is not about patriotism, but rather defensiveness and the desire to live better. They hinge on the strong family ties Filipinos are known to have which, while bringing a strong sense of unity, also brings to light the aforementioned “crab mentality” that some tend to have. Ultimately, it comes down to the desire to live a better life than what our current social and political situation allows. 

In summary, the “peenoise” and “Pinoy Pride” attitudes that Filipinos are showing online is not about patriotism, but rather defensiveness and the desire to live better.

Much like how we’ve stood out in beauty pageants and boxing, we also stand out as audiences but in an unflattering light. While such behaviors do not necessarily include all Filipinos, these do exist in our online space. We have the ability to change this and, while we cannot enforce it onto others, starting with ourselves can be a huge step in the right direction. Rather than embodying the bad sides of our culture, we can showcase our most prominent characteristic: bayanihan.

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Cramming Playlist: Buzzer Beats

Yeah, it’s big brain time.

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Artwork by Ayeesha Panotolan

The most dreadful time of the semester is here and with it comes every student’s best friend: cramming. We all know that it’s an ineffective and unhealthy way to retain information. Yet, we still choose to condense weeks worth of lectures into hours of late night study sessions because it somehow still gets the job done. 

Studying in the wee hours of the morning means you need something to keep you and your brain awake and functioning. Below, we’ve compiled a playlist that will surely get those neurons firing as you burn the midnight oil.

 

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