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Stories Told From MIBF

I am only a mere spectator of the worlds these books would like to offer. I’m willing to be captured by these words if it would mean that I would learn and understand more than I do now.

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Photo by Brin Raizulli Isaac

It was a rainy Saturday afternoon when I visited the annual Manila International Book Fair. It was 1:30 p.m. when I reached the place. The trike stopped at the drop-off area, where many were also being dropped off. In an attempt to avoid puddles, people around me leapt at small distances, making a small splash that stained dry jeans. “This is not my day,” I thought to myself as I gleamed at the skies while firmly holding my umbrella.

The goal today were to rummage through shelves to find a new universe. But from the looks of it, the day would only seem like an exhausting walk in a hall filled with heat from the crowd. I entered SMX and saw what I expected: a crowd filled with teenagers in line for what I assume is for a book signing event. I was not able to see what the title was because I had to keep moving through the congested hallway. Despite the amount of teens I encountered, I cannot help but notice the diversity of people that came in the book fair. I thought I’d predominantly see millennials and Gen Z’s. People from all ages were there to visit the fair. Upon entering the hall, I was greeted by shelves and shelves of books that are unfamiliar to my tastes. I mindlessly wandered around the hall, with a quest in mind to find pieces of my heart in pages. Will I be able to find it? That, I wasn’t sure of but I knew I’d find home again somewhere in here.

I only visited the university publishing houses because my interests in books as of now are piqued by various authors from the biggest universities in the country. A few of these names are Caroline Hau, Conchitina Cruz, Cristina Pantoja-Hidalgo, and Ned Parfan. I found their books to be very interesting but much to my dismay, some of them do not fit my budget. As a college student, I don’t always have enough funds for my leisure as most of my money goes to food, readings, and other academic activities. I resorted to the cheaper titles, most of which, I am sure, are hidden gems people neglected for some time. I shall tell you what I bought from the book fair:

  1. Kaluluwa – J. Neil C. Garcia
  2. Pag-uli, Pag-uwi Homecoming: Poetry in Three Tongues – Merlinda Bobis
  3. Return Flight and other essays – Tito Alquizola
  4. The Second World: Poems – Rafael Antonio C. San Diego

These books particularly interested me due to the fact that they talked about the contemporary world and other topics I resonate with. The topic of home was walked about in the third book I bought and well, the others, I simply liked them for their genre. I felt guilty after purchasing these as I said that I would only go out of here with one book on hand. I said that two is too much but I was hesitant. I went for 4 because my heart sang to the synopsis of the books that I bought. Oh, the things you do for love. 

While most went to the famous book stores, I went to the unknown areas of the exhibit. There were publishing houses that produces different kinds of books, apt to the needs of the readers today. I didn’t really do this in the previous fairs – I was a young reader and I did not know as much. This is my first time discovering books on my own in MIBF. I ended up visiting Instituto Cervantes’s booth. The Spanish culture has fascinated me, mostly because of their history and also that I take Spanish this year. 

I gazed at the books that Instituto Cervantes had to offer. With my limited working proficiency, I attempted to grasp what the synopsis of the books would like to say. “It’s only been a few months of Spanish class,” I thought to myself. While I was looking at the books, there were two people conversing in the same booth, both of which interested me. If my memory serves me right, they talked about the intricacies of the language. I later joined their conversation and shared some experiences and knowledge that I have acquired over the past few months from my classes. There I met a young woman, somewhere around my age named Zarena Hermogeno.

Zarena declares herself to be an avid reader especially of mystery and thriller. Over our short-lived dialogue, we instantly connected the moment she shared her experiences in studying Spanish. She also told me the books that she is interested in. A few of the titles she mentioned are the Nancy Drew series and Sherlock Holmes, both of which I have admired in my childhood. I remember being a teen at the ages of twelve or thirteen, clinging to the pages of these books, eager to find out what happens next. I shared my childhood with these stories, and upon hearing her admiration towards those series, I can’t help but recall my deep love for reading ever since as a kid.

Zarena happens to be a year younger than I am. It’s not really a long time ago since we were 10-years-old. We retold how our love for reading was birthed. She told me that she read books at a young age because she was exposed to an abundance of it; her aunt used to be a librarian which offered her world full of adventures through the pages that she reads. We share the same in my case, however, my parents have opened myself up for reading. It opened up different worlds for us. It was an escape from reality. For each book we read, it opens us the opportunity to put ourselves in the shoes of other people. Zarena said that she not only reads for entertainment but because it also serves as an escape for the world that we live in. I could say the same thing too – reading is the solace that welcomes me in its arms, no matter what the situation is.

I went out of MIBF with 4 books on hand. The stories were born out of the love of storytelling. I am only a mere spectator of the worlds these books would like to offer. I’m willing to be captured by these words if it would mean that I would learn and understand more than I do now. 

It was no longer raining when I got out of the venue. I looked up at the skies. It wasn’t gloomy anymore, as compared to the past few hours. I closed my umbrella. I smiled at the skies and at the space before me. Here I am, ready to delve into worlds I have yet to experience.

 

 

 

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Which UST street are you?

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Artwork by Tricia Jardin

Another year, another Buzzfeed-esque quiz that is based on purely subjective notions. This quiz can somehow garner questionable results as they can be entirely different from how one sees oneself, but still feel free to take a (good) three-minute break and validate which UST street completely molds your Thomasian existence. Enjoy! 

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‘Awit’ and the normalization of transphobia

With music as a tool for liberation, we must not let the likes of “Awit” to limit our minds, let alone poison our culture with prejudice.

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Screenshot from the album cover of the now deleted song "Awit" on Spotify.

Erich Gabriel Bongon, also known as Young Vito posted a video of himself on Twitter singing a preview of “Awit” last Dec. 5, 2019, a song he that composed with sexist undertones and transphobic lyrics. Netizens were quick to call out the rapper when the preview is posted, prompting him to delete the video and issue an “apology.”

What happened afterwards? Was he cancelled? Was he given career opportunities after the incident? Did he change his ways and most importantly, did he educate himself on gender rights?

Young Vito is known to have signed a recording contract with Viva Records. With the record label having full knowledge of the incident, Young Vito and Viva Records have enabled themselves to go further: to release the same song with the same infamous lyrics, capitalizing off its notoriety on social media.

Awitis just one of the many Filipino songs propagating harmful ideas that does not only target the transgender community, but also encourages the normalization of transphobia and a culture of hate in the country.

Young Vito’s “Awitis a trans woman, with the singer implying that the woman deceives men, that there is something wrong with them. 

The song’s album art depicts a trans women using a urinal, as if implying that they should use the male’s comfort room; a controversial choice due to the ongoing debate on trans peoples’ comfort room access.

After receiving flak, the rapper posted an apology on Twitter, at the same time refusing to delete his video and liking tweets saying that people are “too sensitive.” He deleted the video afterwards.

A few days later, the rapper signed a five-year contract with Viva Records. After that, the song is released on multiple streaming platforms last Jan. 17, 2020 under Viva Records, with Emmanuel “NEXXFRIDAY” Salen producing and providing the beat for the track.

Photo grabbed from Young Vito’s Instagram account @youngvitoph

“Despite the controversy surrounding the song, Awithas been turned into a full-blown bop…,” the caption of the now-deleted lyric video in Viva Records’ Youtube channel reads. 

The song is then deleted on Spotify one day after its release.

Awitis just one of the many Filipino songs with transphobic lyrics. Songs like Abra’s “Gayuma” and Kamikazee’s “Chiksilog” portray trans women as someone who deceive men with their looks, while also spreading the notion that trans women are still men even if they have already identify themselves as women. 

One may think that the lyrics of these songs are harmless but for the transgender community, it makes their lives more difficult than it is.

In a country where the trans community are ostracized, where even some members of the LGBTQ+ community preach transphobia, where the likes of Hermie Monterde are still discriminated in the workplace, where personalities such as BB Gandanghari and Jake Zyrus are mocked online, where women like Gretchen Diez are shunned and arrested for entering the comfort room, where people like Jennifer Laude and Jessa Remiendo are murdered for being transgender – these songs spread dangerous ideas to the public. 

These songs normalizes harmful prejudices embedded in our culture. It hinders the LGBTQ+ community, especially the trans community’s fight for equal rights. It makes the idea of targeted discrimination and hate crime acceptable, painting a harmful image on people’s minds that it is normal to mock transgenders with the help of a song.

Music has been used to break the status quo, teach important lessons, and in some cases, aid in bringing down tyrants. With music as a tool for liberation, we must not let the likes of “Awit” to limit our minds, let alone poison our culture with prejudice. 

If we want true progress, we must lose the chains of backwardness binding us, and we can start by taking small steps—starting with picking good songs to listen to.

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Kadenang Ginto is more complex than ever

The show may seem ordinary in the spectrum of teleseryes, but with the bouts of recognition and attention it harbors, shows like Kadenang Ginto may have the tendency to succumb to society’s patriarchal roots—a premise that has been the show’s subdued message from the very beginning.

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Photo from ABS-CBN News

Media and entertainment industries, especially in the Philippines, have undoubtedly created a number of teleseryes that got viewers hooked. Iconic lines from television shows made their way through social media, thus birthing an irreversible decade of video parodies, i.e. “Cassie, hindi ka muna papasok sa iskul” which came from the ABS-CBN afternoon prime show, Kadenang Ginto (directed by Jerry Lopez Sineneng and Avel Sunpongco). This particular boomerang created by the show serves as a primary example of the proliferation of teleseryes into the in-betweens of people’s mundane realities. 

Usually, Filipino TV formulas have just been restricted to cookie-cutter stories such as rich girl-poor girl rivalries, wife versus mistress conflicts, and other types of predictable stories with a recurring plotline—dramatically mirroring the struggles of which people could sympathize and in some cases, empathize with. 

Now, with the recent narratives of most materials, it is fitting to raise the question: do teleseryes, such as the case in point, subconsciously imply a patriarchal and capitalist society which can water down women’s roles as simply pawns of the men-splayed environment?

Dissecting the Initial Premise of the Show

The whole idea of the show displays a tangled story between Daniela Mondragon (played by Dimples Romana) and Romina Andrada (played by Beauty Gonzales). Romina, a glorified Secretary, marries the business tycoon and father of Daniela, Robert Mondragon (played by Albert Martinez).

Caused by jealousy, Daniela strived to emerge relevant by physically and emotionally belittling Romina to death, hoping that she could at least gain more relevance in the old Mondragon’s life. It gets more complicated when Daniela marries Romina’s past lover, Carlos (played by Adrian Alandy), who still has unresolved feelings for the latter.

While Daniela’s past actions remain important both in their family business and in the lives of the men involved, it seems questionable that all her intentions were for the sake of these men.

While it is also applauding that Daniela and Romina are their own persons who are fully responsible to stir changes necessary to keep the show going, one may question the end of not just the character’s intentions, but as well as the writers’ inclination to probe and provide a substantial arc for these characters.

It raises the question, especially during a period when a new character was introduced in the persona of Richard Yap, a rich businessman, who somehow became a catalyst on how the character of Romina can get back on track. 

Are the women in Philippine teleserye doomed to always be swept off their feet by some men to garner the easiest way out?

The show may seem ordinary in the spectrum of teleseryes presented by the network, but with the bouts of recognition and attention it harbors, shows like Kadenang Ginto may have the tendency to succumb to society’s patriarchal roots—a premise that has been the show’s subdued message from the very beginning.

Now (with the plot lines tangled and recurring), the characters and their progressions can be attested to hopeful major changes (thankfully), as lead female characters are taking matters on their hands especially with Romina Andrada-Mondragon gaining more control over her circumstances, a (seemingly progressive) march of silent revolution, veering away from the initial premises of the show – yet still bound to its original plot line.  

Trudging the Conventional

While the network’s teleseryes’ cookie-cutter and cardboard characterizations of women are proven formulas, fresh perspectives are always a welcome venture with the exploration of complex female characters. 

Writers and show producers must become more socially-reverberant that they not only choose to showcase shows that pay the rent. In the Philippines, it is slowly building its pace with independent films being at the forefront.

Unfortunately, most mainstream media consumers are still inclined with choosing the proven formulas so mass media practitioners also stick to what generates more audiences. What the consumers can do now is to try to become more adamant to good and progressive changes – utilize the everlasting “get out of your comfort zone” notion. 

Media, as compared to what it tries to cater to before, has certainly come a long way with the sprouts of powerful women characters here and there. Unfortunately, Philippine mainstream media and its consumers sat way comfortably in the reassurance of these boxed and usual beliefs.

It may possibly take a while for these teleseryes to do the same with their high intentions to generate money, even if the essential purpose of art to heighten and challenge the empathic tendencies of the people can definitely suffer.

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