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TWICE shakes up the summer nights with ‘Taste of Love’

Following their acclaimed Eyes Wide Open album last year, TWICE continues to unravel their hidden charms by dabbling their newest release with bossa nova, disco-funk pop, and city pop.

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Photo from JYP Entertainment's official website

At a time when our windows are stained with nothing but fog and monsoon rains, TWICE takes us on a journey to their San Junipero and the summer night love affair we could have had. 

The queens of summer bops are back.

K-Pop girl group TWICE makes a refreshing and sultry comeback with their 10th mini album, Taste of Love. Within three days of its release, the six-track anthology has surpassed more than 3.5 million streams on Spotify and its title track, Alcohol-Free, amassed more than 53 million views on YouTube. 

Following their acclaimed Eyes Wide Open album last year, TWICE continues to unravel their hidden charms by dabbling their newest release with bossa nova, disco-funk pop, and city pop. 

With TWICE’s previous summer releases, Dance the Night Away and More & More, leaned more towards EDM. But this year’s summer anthem caters a more chill and laid-back vibe at the beach. Alcohol-Free pays homage to 1950s Brazil with their heavily infused bossa nova instrumentals that’s frankly similar to labelmates Day6’s Ouch

The bossa nova crossover to K-Pop is not entirely new. Yubin’s Yaya Me Time and Zico’s Any Song have both made their own modern twist with the genre. If Mamamoo’s Words Don’t Come Easy was slower and more sensual, then TWICE gives a more playful and (somehow) flirty bossa nova.

Vocal-wise, it is immaculate. Even so, I wouldn’t consider Alcohol-Free as one of their best releases. Although minimal instrumentals fit everyone’s alley more, there is a stark difference between minimalism and being underproduced. This track, unfortunately, is the latter. While it has its fair share of an earworm hook with tropical drinks, it’s definitely a slow burn song that will take a while to grow on me.  

Whatever the album lacks in the title track in terms of production is made up by the tracks that succeed it. The album’s B-sides delve into a retro, Future Nostalgia-esque sound with funky bass lines and guitar riffs that do not fall far from most of their tracks in Eyes Wide Open and More & More.

First Love, written by member Jihyo and co-composed by Little Mix’s Jade Thirlwall, relies on falsettos and bass lines for 90% of the song. Despite the outstanding vocals, the sudden bursts of “heys” feels out of place and overused, so much so that the latter part of the bridge is already unnecessary. But the fact alone that the members sing in falsetto throughout the song earns it a pass in my book.   

Rather than falsettos, ‘Scandal’ revisits their breathy, sultry vocals. The track speaks about a secret summer romance that is “fiery and provocative, but controlled,” which is greatly encapsulated by Chaeyoung’s whisper in the intro. It’s short and sweet, but leaves you longing for more. As with any of their disco-orientated pop tracks, the bass hits so well. But it’s the subtle addition of a high-pitched cowbell or beeps in the second chorus that really sets it apart from, say, a standard Dua Lipa record. 

Still keeping with the summer night club vibe, Conversation, penned by member Sana, talks about two individuals who feel an intense connection (obviously sexual tension) that draws them to each other. The lyrics alone arguably ranks it at the top in TWICE’s list of R-18 anthems, which further exemplify their capabilities as lyricists. 

This disco-funk track joins the likes of Woosung’s Your Face, NUEST W’s Dejavu, and Charlie Puth’s Attention for having a chorus that consists of vocals at the backdrop of a heavy and thick bass line. Jeongyeon and Jihyo’s lower range is exploited well in the chorus, elevating the maturity of the sound. While a TWICE track would be incomplete without a DubChaeng rap, having them as vocalists for this track was indeed more suiting. The musicality and diversity of vocals makes this, by far, one of their strongest tracks. 

After a wasted night at the club, any summer escapade would be incomplete without a drive through the city lights. Baby Blue Love, written by member Nayeon, draws from 1980s pop with the addition of synths and gated reverb drums. The funky bass lines are prominent, yet not too overpowering by seamlessly complementing the synths and the guitar riffs. 

Oddly enough, the vocal arrangement is reminiscent of Dua Lipa’s Levitating, especially with Jihyo’s part in the second verse. Although the song has a playful color, it would have been better if they opted for Sana and Momo to sing rather than rap in the  beginning of the second verse. However, this loophole is very much compensated by the pre chorus that takes out all instrumentals to give way for Tzuyu’s vocals. Despite clocking in at less than 3 minutes, the way that various musical elements and vocals were neatly arranged makes it title track worthy.  

For a listening experience that had a strong start, SOS was a more laid-back conclusion. It’s a song you would want to roll down your windows for and just feel the night air. Although it was quite underwhelming at first listen due to the lack of variation in the melody, SOS does justice to the city pop genre. Of all the album’s tracks, this was the best in terms of using Momo’s nasal tone and Sana’s soft, honey-like tone to its advantage. Dahyun’s songwriting is just the cherry on top. 

Within more or less 18 minutes, TWICE literally serves a taste of love by delivering five bite-sized chronicles that tackle the feelings and different stages of being in love. As with their previous albums, having the members pen their own words to their songs allows their fandom ONCEs and other listeners to see something that’s considered taboo in the K-Pop industry through their eyes and see them more as humans rather than sculpted products. 

 Given the general consensus of the B-sides, it would have been best if the title track was released as a stand alone single rather than have it oddly mixed with the disco-funk pop collective. Nonetheless, this mini album would have to be one of their strongest releases in terms of both vocals and musicality. 

Besides their charm, potential radiates from the nine-member ensemble, which is perhaps why they are beloved by many. Taste of Love really showcased  their growth as artists from a cheerful core to a more mature persona. As someone who has been watching from the sidelines since Like Ooh-Ahh, it’s more than satisfying and liberating to witness TWICE gracefully step out from their cute-sy stereotype. I like to believe that TWICE has a lot more up their sleeve and it would be interesting to see which genres they would decide to take on next. 

Listen to Taste of Love while treating yourself to some mojito with lime, tequila, or margarita. 

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Reaching the finish line of July 2021’s stormy month

Dancing ‘What is Love?’ in the corners of our room seemed like the only way to cope. But what made July, July?

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Photo courtesy of Reuters

We’ve only sunk into the half of 2021, yet we can only hold so much in with our dispirited psyches and numb eyes.

Overcast with the unhinged adversities from the sky, sea, and land, and more false promises, dancing What is Love? in the corners of our room seemed like the only way to cope. But what made July, July?

1. Taal Volcano unrest, Typhoon Fabian, and Batangas earthquake

Photo courtesy of Norman Cruz

Caused by both magmatic and water unrest, the Taal volcano eruption bore another harmful threat during the pandemic on July 1. The epicenter of Batangas was placed under Alert Level 3 by the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (PHIVOLCS). Over 14,000 evacuees sought shelter and transportation with the preparation of the Batangas Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (PDRRMC). 

Typhoon Fabian had transpired with rapid monsoon seasons. For the past days, it persisted within the Philippine Area of Responsibility (PAR), driving sustained winds of 150 kilometers per hour (kph) toward the southwest monsoon into the country. To add, the typhoon caused more than P44 million of total damage to agriculture in Bataan. 

Just when we thought things couldn’t get any worse, a magnitude 6.6 earthquake jolted the center of Batangas on Saturday morning, July 24. Tensions and aftershocks were also felt in parts of Metro Manila at 7 a.m. 

2. Filipinos slammed DTI’s standardized adobo 

Photo courtesy of Shutterstock

Another day, another food fiasco in the Philippines.

The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) proposed on July 10 a motion to standardize Filipino dishes including adobo, lechon, and sisig. This formed a sour aftertaste among Filipinos who lambasted the unnecessary move, noting that different adobo recipes come in unique forms and different family traditions. They added that the agency’s misdirected standards should have gone to pandemic-related matters and governmental standards instead. 

Days later, DTI clarified the purpose of the standards was for international promotion.

3. 3 million doses of Johnson and Johnson vaccines and COVID-19 Delta variant cases

Photo courtesy of Shannon Stapleton/Reuters

After over a year of quarantine and social distancing, the silver lining of this tragedy started to shine through as vaccination procedures began worldwide. The United States donated 3 million doses of Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen vaccine to the Philippines earlier this July.

Unlike most vaccines, recipients will only need one shot of the Janssen vaccine to be fully vaccinated. Although convenient, only those 18 years old and above qualify to take the vaccine. Alongside, a rare side effect of developing a neurological disorder, Guillain-Barre syndrome (GBS), was found in approximately 100 patients that took the vaccine. 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) attested that the benefits of the vaccines outweigh their risks, especially now that the storm clouds have begun to darken with the discovery of COVID-19’s Delta variant. The first case of the Delta variant was reported in India last December 2020, with the first known case inside the Philippines discovered earlier in May

Compared to the other three variants, Delta is the most contagious. As of July 25, there are 119 known cases of this variant across the nation, 42 from returning overseas Filipino workers and 72 local reports. The most vulnerable to the variant are those unvaccinated.

4. UST first, only PH university to earn five-star QS ranking

Despite its decline in the world rankings since 2021, the University garnered a five-star rating from the Quacquarelli Symonds (QS). This makes UST the only university in the country with such a rating.

The London-based education consultancy based their ratings on the following categories:

  • Teaching
  • Employability
  • Academic Development
  • Internationalization
  • Facilities
  • Arts and Culture
  • Inclusiveness
  • Doctor of Medicine

5. Olongapo court junked Anti-Terror Law against Aetas

Photo courtesy of Boy Santos/The STAR

Cases of Aetas Japer Gurung and Junior Ramos were junked by the Olongapo Regional Trial court (RTC) on July 15. The court dismissed the case due to the “blatant inconsistencies” between the soldier’s sworn statements and what they said from the court’s stand. 

“After a careful examination of the records, the Court holds that the prosecution failed to discharge the burden of proving the identities of the accused as perpetrators of the crime of violation of Section 4 of Republic Act No. 11479. Thus, the case for violation of this law against the accused must be dismissed,” Judge Melani Faye Tadili of Olongapo RTC branch 97 said in the decision. 

The Aetas were charged for allegedly committing terrorism after the government accused them of being a member of the New People’s Army (NPA) who fired at a group of soldiers in Barangay Buhawen, San Marcelino, Zambales. 

This is the first actual Anti-Terror law case filed against individuals.

READ  Anti-Terror Law castrates judicial process—NUPL chair

6. PDP-Laban feud with Senator Manny Pacquiao

Photo courtesy of the Malacanang

Ruling party PDP-Laban ousted Manny Pacquiao as President of the party on July 17.

Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi, now the President of the party, announced the vacancies of all national officer positions and committee chairs during the party assembly in Pampanga. This was after he and President Rodrigo Duterte exchanged heated tirades against each other.

Despite this, Senator Francis Tolentino still urged Cusi to reach out to Pacquiao and Koko Pimentel so they would not defect to another party.

7. All-male ambassadors roster for Canon Philippines draws outcry amid gender inequality

Photo courtesy of Canon’s Instagram

Camera company Canon released its male-dominated ambassadors’ line-up in the Philippines. It drew heavy flak among netizens due to the lack of inclusivity and diversity. They thought it sent a poor message on perpetuating the status quo that disregarded women and non-binaries. 

“Our Brand Ambassadorship is continuously growing and always welcomes more members who are interested and committed,” issued the company in a statement. Netizens demanded a public apology by owning up to their mistake instead of saving face.

One of the ambassadors, photojournalist Jilson Tiu dropped the deal and quit Canon, criticizing the non-apology of the company, and how his principles did not align with the former.

8. Milwaukee Bucks soar in the NBA Finals

Photo courtesy of Getty Images/Ringer illustration

After a title drought of 50 years, the Milwaukee Bucks finally got their NBA championship.

The first two games were dominated by the Phoenix Suns lead of both Chris Paul and Devin Booker, averaging 24.7 points and 27.0 points, respectively. However, the next four games were dominated by the Bucks, mostly led by Giannis Antetokounmpo, Jrue Holiday, and Khris Middleton.

The “Greek Freak” scored 50 points in game six bagging their first NBA title since 1971. Antetokounmpo was also hailed as finals MVP.

9. UST opens Practice Gym as vaccination site for Manila residents

Photo courtesy of Manila Public Information Office’s Facebook Page

On July 26, the University opened its doors as a vaccination site available for all Thomasians, non-Thomasians, Manileños, and non-Manileños. 

Manila Mayor Francisco “Isko Moreno” Domagoso and Vice Mayor Honey Lacuña-Pangan were present at the commencement, welcomed by the University’s Rector Magnificus Fr. Richard Ang O.P.  

The City Government of Manila said it will prioritize A1 to A5 priority groups, with initial 800 COVID-19 vaccines in the implementation.

Pre-registration, which is available here, is required to be inoculated. Gates are open from 6:00 a.m to 7:00 p.m. 

10. Unsurprising disappointment in Duterte’s final State of the Nation Address

Photo courtesy of the Office of the Senate

To kickstart his last State of the Nation Address (SONA), President Rodrigo Duterte began with a statement that contrasted the reality brought upon the Filipino people, “When I assumed the presidency five years ago, dominant in my mind were dreams and visions of a better life for all Filipinos.” 

In his usual fashion, he began listing down the so-called achievements of his term, with most of the bloodshed doused in sugar and the others under his credit but not his initiative.

Although the mentioned initiatives were done and completed under his term, these still leave uncertainty especially in this time of the pandemic. Education may be free in some local and state schools and universities, but its “accessibility” is far from enough because thousands of students and teachers are still deprived and excluded from its plans. 

The completion of the LRT and MRT may have been done under his term, but they were of the past administration’s initiative, not his. He may have completed Stage 3 of the Metro Manila Skyway and opened the Kalayaan Bridge, but the roads are still congested and the misery of commuting continues. These are inadequate, bare minimum projects that cannot compensate for the irreversible death toll prompted by his 2016 war on drugs and 2020 pandemic response.

Instead of focusing on pandemic-related matters, his much-outworn priorities were settled with endorsement elections, paternalizing the military and police, antagonizing the communist insurgency, and the formulaic war on drugs litanies. 

“We have worked towards the sustainable rehabilitation of communities where communists used to operate,” he praised the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC). Additionally, he ordered to “kindly shoot them [the communists] dead.” He also endorsed Senator President Vicente Sotto III, believing he would make “a good vice president.”

Duterte emphasized that he loved his country and does not want families to become dysfunctional due to drugs, unobtrusive that thousands of widows, orphans, victims have become dysfunctional and separated because of what he started. 

He also motioned for free legal assistance for soldiers and police, insensible to the absence of due process among normal citizens and lawyers who fell victim to the culture of abusive police brutality. 

In his nearly three-hour-long address, he allotted the longest time to discuss his administration’s war on drugs and corruption which he admits as a failure. However, he did not mention a word with the controversial Anti-Terror Law that has received 37 petitions and been called as an affront to the country’s justice system.

11. Metro Manila once again placed under ECQ from August 6 to 20

Photo courtesy of Jire Carreon/Rappler

On July 30, President Rodrigo Duterte approved the imposition to place Metro Manila under Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ) from August 6 to 20. Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque announced this in a televised conference to subdue the rise of the COVID-19 Delta variant, although “it is a painful decision”. 

From July 30 to August 5, however, Metro Manila will be placed under General Community Quarantine (GCQ) with heightened and additional restrictions.

ECQ entails the following:

  • Individuals below 18 and above 65, pregnant women, persons with health risks must stay at home at all times
  • Hospitals, groceries, pharmacies, office supplies, business logistics, manufacturers of medical supplies are allowed to fully operate
  • Banks, veterinary clinics, telecommunications, internet services, power and energy, funeral services, and machinery services are allowed to operate in a skeletal workforce
  • Mass gatherings, face-to-face classes, public transportation (depending on the allowance of the government), and domestic travel outside Manila are restricted
  • Dining in restaurants is also prohibited, but take-out and delivery are allowed 

12. Herstory: Hidilyn Diaz marks history as the Philippines’ first Olympic gold medalist

Photo courtesy of Reuters and Rappler

On July 26, hours after the State of the Nation Address (SONA), weightlifting fairy Hidilyn Diaz brought the Philippines its first-ever Olympic gold with a total of 224kg in the clean and jerk women’s 55kg event. 

Hopes are still high as the country might be getting its second Olympic gold following Nesthy Petecio’s victory against Irma Testa in the featherweight semifinals. Eumir Marcial is also a win away from another Olympic medal after defeating Yeones Nemouchi with a referee stoppage. 

Another Lyn brimmed with pride! Margielyn Didal finished off her first Olympic turn, bagging seventh place in women’s street skate. Although she came home without a medal, she captured the hearts of fans all over the world with her infectious and optimistic personality. Weightlifter Elreen Ando also closed her first Olympic stint with seventh place in the women’s 64kg event. 

Irish Magno bowed out in the boxing round-of-16 against her Thai opponent. Carlos Yulo placed 47th overall after unfortunately falling short in his trademark floor exercise event, but was still able to advance to the vault finals of the men’s artistic gymnastics. 

As of July 31, Thomasian student-athlete EJ Obiena has qualified for the men’s pole vault, guaranteeing him a place in the final 12. Boxer Carlo Paalam steamrolled to the men’s flightweight quarterfinals by a unanimous decision, advancing to the quarterfinals. 

With Filipinos left dismayed with the usual aftermath of the SONA, the victorious turnout of the Olympics instead found its way to become the brimming light at the end of the tunnel of Filipinos’ hearts as they cathartically celebrated the victory of Diaz. 

Retracing the history of how the administration unjustly red-tagged the olympian, Filipinos were quick to call out the poor support of the government toward its athletes that were now hopping unto her success with non-apologies

Poetic and symbolic, women broke through the glass ceiling gloriously with flying colors—a big blow to the misogynistic and patriarchal government. 

July was a month of Saudade—a full circle of good and bad slowly reaching its peak. We’ve witnessed a regime of tyranny nearing its end, a heart of gold bagged for the Philippines, and different voices resounding their call under many days of hard pouring rain. 

However, we forbade the weather to wash out our voices. Just like how Diaz triumphed amidst the maltreatment of an administration meant to support her. We, too, will and should arise amidst the snares of wickedness. 

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Looking back on Duterte’s five years on the iron throne

In time for President Rodrigo Duterte’s final State of the Nation Address, here’s a retrospect of his administration’s gruesome reel-to-real portrayal of the political drama Game of Thrones. 

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Photo courtesy of HBO and European Pressphoto Agency

During a conversation with Tyrion Lannister about power, Varys remarked: “Power resides where men believe it resides.” This has been the ethos of the critically-acclaimed HBO series, Game of Thrones, based on George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire book series. 

The series might have taken place in a kingdom where dragons, witches, giants, and the undead roam free. But looking beyond the lens of fiction, I’ve come to realize that the tropes it drew upon and the structure of its narrative is a metaphor of Philippine politics.

In time for President Rodrigo Duterte’s final State of the Nation Address, here’s a retrospect of his administration’s gruesome reel-to-real portrayal of the political drama Game of Thrones

Spoiler warning: Major plot details about the series follow.  

An iron fist for the iron throne

Photo courtesy of HBO

Game of Thrones kicked off with Robert Baratheon as King of Westeros. Upon his death, many laid claim to the Iron Throne, including the daughter of his predecessor, Daenerys Targaryen. 

Before sailing to Westeros, she overthrew the masters and freed the slaves of a number of cities in Essos, garnered a formidable army, and established a promising goal—to “break the wheel” of tyranny and oppression. 

Her decisions as Khaleesi were somewhat righteous but mainly capricious, to say the least. Yet, when word of her conquest reached Westeros, it was clear that she was different from the other claimants. 

Come to think of it, Daenerys’ journey to Westeros was reminiscent of Duterte’s path to the presidency. Unlike the Mother of Dragons, however, Duterte was already the talk of the town prior to the 2016 elections. 

In his 22-year stint as mayor of Davao City, he was well-known for making his hometown, which once had the highest murder rate, the fifth safest city in the world in 2015. Although this success was blighted by his association with the infamous ‘Davao Death Squad,’ it was his disdain towards drugs and crime, and his band-aid solution to the problem that catapulted his popularity in national media. 

After months of back-and-forth, Duterte dispelled rumors and announced his run for the presidency in 2016, campaigning with the tagline: “Change is coming.” His promise to make the Philippines a drug and crime-free country in six months earned him the public’s trust. And even with an apparent iron fist, the Filipinos still saw that his vision set him apart from the trapos.

The red wedding of the century

Photo courtesy of HBO

One of the series’ most climactic events was when Robb Stark reneged to marry one of Walder Frey’s daughters, as he had fallen in love with a healer named Talisa. Instead, Lord Frey married his daughter off to Edmure Tully. 

Mistaking Lord Frey’s hospitality for security, the Starks were lured into a vengeance trap when they attended the wedding. The union between the two houses ended in carnage, leaving the Starks, Robb’s unborn child, and his direwolf bathed in their blood. 

The Philippines is no stranger to conflict. We’ve had a lion’s share of run-ins with insurgents that led to immense bloodshed—an amount dwarfed by those culled in Duterte’s war on drugs. 

Upon assuming office in 2016, the president launched an anti-drug campaign, bestowing the local police a ‘license to kill’ those who resist arrest. Apart from the million-peso bounty that awaited civilians who captured drug lords, he also proposed the conduct of DIY arrests in neighborhoods. 

Like a thief in the night, security forces and vigilantes raided the lairs of suspected drug dealers and users, shooting them dead. In the six months of its operation, the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency officially cited 5,942 deaths. However, the Commission on Human Rights estimated that the numbers could be as high as 27,000. 

Of these figures, most of the victims were guilty of their crimes. But some were like Paquito Mejos and Kian delos Santos—innocent lives that were either framed as “nanlaban” or wrongly accused. Regardless, these lives were taken at the hands of law enforcers that were sworn to be protected by the head of the State. 

Like Robb, these victims did not deserve to be killed in cold blood for sins they never had a chance to repent for through a fair trial. In the end, the misuse of power turned their innocence into mere whispers in the wind. 

Spiraling into madness?

Photo courtesy of HBO

Before Robert Baratheon’s reign, the Seven Kingdoms were ruled by Aerys II Targaryen. The beginning of his reign was benevolent and prosperous. However, he eventually succumbed to the ‘Targaryen Madness’ that plagued their incestuous bloodline, earning him the ‘Mad King’ moniker

He became obsessed with wildfire, planting several caches all over King’s Landing. When the Targaryen troops were falling to Robert’s men, he ordered his pyromancer to detonate them, potentially decimating the rebels and the city’s inhabitants with it. 

Being the last person to see the Mad King alive, Jaime recalled that Aerys raved on three words until his dying breath: Burn them all

Death has also been the president’s way to instill fear in lawbreakers and his enemies. “Kill them all,” “Papatayin ko kayo,” “Shoot them dead” are some of the tirades he repeatedly fumes until today. 

In many of his televised addresses, he often threatened to kill drug users, law offenders, corrupt officials, government agencies, communist parties and rebels, and anyone who dares to go against him. During the early days of the Luzon lockdown, he even ordered law enforcers to shoot quarantine violators, following a protest that occurred in Quezon City. 

As if verbal threats weren’t enough, his administration also pushed for the enactment of the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020, which clearly infringed on 15 fundamental rights of the Filipino people. 

His allies have always said that these remarks were merely sarcastic. But were they really? 

Nevertheless, the difference is that these words ordering death did not stem from inherited lunacy, but from the ill intent of a man hell-bent on cleansing a nation plagued by drugs, crime, and corruption through inhumane and unjust means. 

A friendship forged by utang na loob

Photo courtesy of HBO

Following his rebellion against the Mad King, Robert Baratheon was urged by Jon Arryn to marry Cersei Lannister in exchange for House Lannister’s valuable contribution during the war against the Targaryens. But more importantly, this marriage strengthened their alliance, as the Lannisters were the only house powerful enough to rival Robert’s claim to the throne. 

This unification meant that Robert had to answer to House Lannister, who unsurprisingly also crafted his demise. Upon his death, he left the realm in a vast amount of debt also to the Lannisters. 

What Robert did is a classic example of our double-edged utang na loob cultural trait. Our romanticization of this concept caused us to struggle with international relations, most especially with China. 

Two months after Duterte started his term, the Permanent Court of Arbitration at The Hague granted the Philippines an arbitral win against China over the West Philippine Sea. Even with the power of the international court, the president’s stance on the matter had always been inconsistent. 

One day, he was a defeatist, yielding to China’s plans of building radar stations on Scarborough Shoal and signing economic deals with the enemy.   

The next day, he was addressing global leaders, asserting the country’s rights over the foreign waters. But months later, he goes back to dismissing the arbitral ruling as a mere piece of paper that he could “throw away in the wastebasket.” 

What was constant, however, was him using the false threat of war to refuse to uphold our sovereign rights. More recently, he stated that the vaccines we’ve received make China worthy of being treated as a “friend.”

Both Robert and Duterte had all means to cut ties with their debt holders. The difference? Robert abhorred the Lannisters. But Duterte clearly had a soft spot for his friend.

Chaos isn’t a pit. Chaos is a ladder. 

Photo courtesy of HBO

Another quintessential scene in the series was when Petyr Baelish confronted Varys on his foiled plot to sabotage his plans. Rather than engaging in a sword fight, both parties weighed in on what chaos really means. Varys said it was a pit, to which Littlefinger replied: 

“Chaos isn’t a pit. Chaos is a ladder. Many who try to climb it fail and never get to try again. The fall breaks them. And some are given a chance to climb but refuse. They cling to the realm, or the gods, or love…illusions. Only the ladder is real. The climb is all there is.” 

If chaos was the name of the game, then the current administration’s political feuds would be it. 

Since his term began, Duterte and his allies went head-to-head with officials, professionals, and personalities that were outspoken critics of his administration. So, it’s fair to say that there are more names in this roll than Arya Stark’s kill list. 

Throughout the pandemic, they attacked the Office of the Vice President for spearheading their own programs to aid Filipinos in need, which they translated as an act of defiance and greed for power. Whenever their incompetent governance becomes evident, they flaunt their ‘successful’ arrest of opposition members, a crackdown on activists, and red-tagging of students and progressive groups as a scapegoat, painting them as enemies of the nation. 

They granted a convicted murderer an absolute pardon, defending it as compassion for the unfair treatment he received. They publicized a conflict within their own political party to derail the public’s attention from the country’s pressing issues. And more recently, they taunted the opposition by advocating a Duterte-Duterte tandem in the 2022 elections as a force to be reckoned with. 

Whether intentional or not, I have to admit that it’s effective. Their names reverberate for the most absurd reasons, but it works in their favor, with record-high approval ratings and some earning a seat in the Senate or the Cabinet. 

Yet, at the same time, this was the fall that would eventually break them and bury themselves into the ground. They will surely try again, and they can, but only if we allow them. 

The long night ahead

As far as one can tell, the last five years were dark and full of terrors. Still, supporters would justify that “kahit papaano” the Duterte administration also had a decent amount of contributions. 

These include the ‘Build, Build, Build’ program that elevated the local infrastructure and employment; the Bangsamoro Organic Law that recognized the legitimate cause of Muslim Filipinos and all indigenous communities within its region; the Universal Access to Quality Tertiary Education Act that provided free tuition for many state colleges and universities; and the completion of the distribution of remaining Hacienda Luisita lands to farmers, to name a few. 

Even so, we shouldn’t merely settle for a kahit papaano nor blame our viewpoints for how their looking-glass logic to many problems overshadowed their victories. 

In Varys’ words, “Incompetence should not be rewarded by blind loyalty.” Criticize if we must, as it is our right after all. And we do it not with haphazard intentions but with close discernment. 

Game of Thrones took its final bow with an underwhelming end. While it seems that this administration will deliver the same fate in its final year, we still can’t help but cling to a much-needed plot twist—one to salvage a nation that’s long been thirsting for the change that was promised five years ago.

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On #Tumindig and how art becomes a medium for protests

Art has been used by people as a means of protest. With its ability to translate a message into something that can appeal to the five senses, people often use creative means to spread their cause.

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(Artwork by Karl Emmanuel Camasis/TomasinoWeb)

Life imitates art. The beauty and turmoils of a society reflect through the creations of artists. The death and destruction in the trenches of World War I inspired the rise of the absurd Dada art movement, much like how the Martial Law shaped the “bomba” film genre. 

In this case, the multitude of raised fist icons spawned by #Tumindig is a reflection of what people feel about the country’s current state.

On July 17, satire artist Kevin Eric Raymundo, aka Tarantadong Kalbo, posted an artwork featuring an anthropomorphic raised fist in the middle of bowing figures, reminiscent of President Rodrigo Duterte’s “fist bump” symbol.

After posting, several artists and organizations customized the “fist” and put it together with the original artwork under #Tumindig, derived from the title of the artwork. Figures and groups like Rappler, Lola Amour, Chel Diokno, Bulatlat, Ate Rica’s Bacsilog, and more have joined the movement.

According to Raymundo, the “Tumindig” piece is inspired by the Filipino art community’s “disconnection” from societal issues and how he wanted other artists to use their art to “be involved”. 

“Mayroon kasing disconnect ’yung nakikita kong art [ng local art community] sa nangyayari sa bansa. So siguro I wanted to jolt people na, ‘Makialam naman tayo sa nangyayari,’” he said in an interview with Rappler.

A visual protest

Being involved through art, as said by Raymundo, can mean using art to protest.

Art has been used by people as a means of protest. With its ability to translate a message into something that can appeal to the five senses, people often use creative means to spread their cause. 

An example of art and protest is Keith Haring’s “Ignorance = Fear / Silence = Death.” Haring, who is famous for his colorful pop-art murals and chalk drawings often uses his works to speak about topics like the Apartheid, drugs, and others. 

In 1989, Haring made “Ignorance = Fear / Silence = Death” as a way to urge people and the government to learn more about the AIDS disease, which was then believed to be a “gay disease”. 

The piece depicts three human figures, depicting the bastardization of the  “see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil” mantra. The figures, instead of avoiding evil, are ignoring the AIDS epidemic. The art may have shown that the inaction and willful ignorance of some is a result of bigotry, as implied by the pink triangle used to label homosexuals in Nazi concentration camps.

Photo courtesy of Keith Haring Foundation

Another example of protest art is effigies. In public demonstrations, one may see a figure of a politician being burned by demonstrators. That is an effigy. This piece of art is burned to signify the anger of the people. Aside from that, it also signifies the rejection of capitalistic consumption of art, protesting through the destruction of the effigy.

Jaime Taganas/TomasinoWeb

Symbols can outlive their creators though embedding themselves in people’s unconscious. Ideas derived from the said symbols can also spread through people. The sensory appeal of arts, as well as its ability to spread through ideas, makes it a sought-after mode of protest. 

Art is the society in a looking glass

Art becoming a medium of activism is no surprise, seeing how society influences art.

Society and its happenings shape the people living in it, thus directly shaping the art they make. An artist cannot escape the influences of their surroundings, nor ignore them. In one way or another, it seeps through their creations. 

Currently, speaking up in the Philippines is tough. No one can blame the simple Filipino if they are intimidated by violent killings done by law enforcers, draconian laws like the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020, and the rampant red-tagging of activists and opposition leaders. Aside from that, many may be demotivated to speak up, especially if it feels like nothing is changing for the past six years of the current administration.

Although art shows a pessimistic reflection, it also shows the hopes of the people. 

The “Tumindig” artwork is a reflection of the grim reality of the true state of the Filipino nation. It shows “fist-people” bowing to an unseen leader, either by fear, indifference, or blind devotion. However, it also showcases a lone fist standing up. The raised fist in the “Tumindig” piece says that one can be brave and fight injustice by simply taking a stand and refusing to accept things as they are. 

The updated artwork from Tarantadong Kalbo now shows the individual icons of the artists and people standing up and demanding change. It reflects on how one is not alone in this fight, that there are many like you that are angry and want to demand change. 

Art is the society inside a looking glass. “Art for art’s sake” holds no meaning when the artist is shaped by neutrality in the world they live in. The piece that an artist produces is cold, sterile, and unfeeling if separated from the human experience. Works like the “Tumindig” piece are a message that society speaks through protest art, with the artist as its mouthpiece.

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