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‘Yoko’ by Eraserheads is Relevant Now, More Than Ever

This is how the iconic 90s Filipino rock band Eraserheads described their experience with the Citizens’ Military Training program through ‘Yoko’ back in the days.

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Photo taken from Bandwagon | Edited by Daffy Bara

After 17 years of mandatory Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) program being rescinded, Congress is now fast-tracking the passage of a bill that would make the program a requisite again, at least for grades 11 and 12.

It has since been answered by condemnation and protests from student and youth groups, especially from Thomasian students whose fellow Thomasian Mark Welson Chua suffered from its abuses for simply ratting out the corruption inside the UST ROTC system.

With President Rodrigo Duterte certified as urgent Senate Bill No. 2232 on Monday, July 3, requiring senior high school students to undergo the ROTC program, ‘Yoko’ by Eraserheads captured today’s youth’s sentiment against the bill’s passage making it relevant now, more than ever.

Behind the song

 

“Nasayang ang maghapon, ano ang napala?
Basura sa utak, sunburn sa batok at noo
Nagmamartsang parang gago sa ilalim ng araw
Baril na kahoy pinapaikot-ikot parang langaw”

 

Seems familiar? This is how the first verse of the 1995 hit ‘Yoko’ went as the iconic 90s Filipino rock band Eraserheads described through the song their experiences in the Citizens’ Military Training (CMT) program back in the days.

Written by drummer/vocalist Raymund Marasigan and performed by Eraserheads, ‘Yoko’ or a Filipino slang for ‘Ayaw ko’ meaning ‘I don’t want’ talks about contempt for “unnecessary and routinely outdoor activities, blind obedience, false sense of nationalism, and abuse” inside then-CMT (a.k.a. ROTC) program, a college counterpart of the infamous Citizens’ Army Training (CAT) program in high school.

READ  Make ROTC mandatory again?

Released as part of Cutterpillow in 1995, ‘Yoko’ was said to have contributed to the call to abolish the ROTC program back in the 2000s as students’ clamor pressure Congress through demonstrations and parliamentary struggle.

Cutterpillow, the band’s third studio album, is still one of the biggest selling album in OPM history. It sold more than 400,000 copies (the record turned Gold on the day of its release, and Platinum on its first week). It was the fastest selling album in the 90s era.

Eraserheads is known to have introduced classic songs such as “Huling El Bimbo”, “Overdrive”, “Kaliwete”, and “Huwag Mo Nang Itanong” in the OPM arena.

Now that ROTC is making a comeback, let’s make sure that they hear our calls, if not in the streets, through songs of Filipino band legends they’re definitely into.

You can listen to the full song on Spotify.

 

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The dangers of tolerating misogyny

This sin of tolerance makes people willing to be accessories to abuse, knowing that there is injustice but refusing to act against it.

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Photo by Markus Winkler on Unsplash

The onslaught of Typhoon Ulysses on November 8 to 15 left several cities flooded in its wake. Several families were left stranded on their roofs, unable to evacuate as the water submerged their homes. Many were left with nothing but the clothes on their back. As the country tried to grapple its way out of this storm, many wondered where the President was. The answer came through sexist jokes.

On November 15,  President Rodrigo Duterte ended his post-typhoon briefing by cracking sexist jokes with officials in Camarines Sur. Duterte joked that “having many women” makes a man older. He also said that they should make him a secretary for him not to be “undersexed.” Later when informed that his colleague passed away due to COVID-19, the President said that it was because of being “kulang sa babae.

As usual, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque was left to clean up after the President’s mess. But instead of apologizing for the President’s remarks, Roque defended him, saying that these jokes were meant to “lighten the mood.” 

Talagang hindi maipagkakait sa kanya na dahil sunud-sunod ang trahedya e kahit papaano humanap ng dahilan para kahit papaano magkaroon ng kaunting break from yung mga kalamidad na binibisita niya,” Roque said in a televised briefing. 

This was not the first time that Duterte made those jokes. This was also not the first time that the Palace had downplayed his actions. 

In the past, Duterte made several rape jokes, ordered soldiers to shoot female rebels in their genitals, and even claimed that he sexually harassed a maid when he was a teenager. The Malacañang also previously called on the public to not take the President’s jokes seriously.

We cannot deny the gravity of these sexist and misogynistic jokes. But we also cannot turn a blind eye to how people like Roque defends this type of humor.

The Palace’s constant defense of Duterte’s jokes is just a manifestation of our sin of tolerance: how people downplay or defend humor with elements of misogyny, sexism, rape and others. While the jokes itself are despicable, tolerating it is as bad as the jokes itself. 

Tolerance and inaction in the face of blatant misogyny and sexism normalizes abuse. In “prejudiced norm theory,” Ford and Ferguson argued that when disparaging jokes are made, people are less likely to analyze it critically. This causes the listeners to adapt its norm, thus making people tolerate the contents of the joke. In short, these prejudiced jokes make people more likely to tolerate prejudice in real life.

Several research also show the harmful effects of sexist humor towards women. A University of Kent research found out that sexist jokes encourages tolerance to sexism and discrimination towards women. This type of humor can also lead to men having a higher inclination towards sexual violence against women and victim blaming. Another research argued that sexist humor makes women self-objectify themselves and engage in “body surveillance” or the “vigilant self-monitoring of one’s physical appearance.”

This tolerant behavior towards sexism does not only manifest in crude jokes. It is seen when nude pictures of women are passed around like trading cards in group chats. It is seen when rape victims are scorned more than the rapists themselves. It is seen in the “locker room talks” of men like Donald Trump who boast of grabbing women “by the p****” whenever he likes. More importantly, tolerance is when we see these harmful behaviors and do nothing to stop it. 

Calling out these sexist behaviors does not immediately remove sexism itself. This can, however, put pressure on the doers of these acts to confront their wrong behavior. Letting them get away with being a sexist, misogynistic person makes them think that it is okay for them to do so, thus normalize this behavior until it escalates into abuse and violence.

Being silent about injustices was said to be worse than the injustice itself. Tolerance towards blatant sexism and misogyny makes it okay to say disparaging humor, which has harmful real-life effects on women. This sin of tolerance makes people willing to be accessories to abuse, knowing that there is injustice but refusing to act against it. While we cannot undo the injustices already done, what we can do instead is stand up against it, not letting moral cowardice get in the way of making the abuser accountable for their sin.

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BTS’s ‘BE’ is the comfort we all need in these trying times

“BE” encapsulates our collective experiences dealing with the looming anxiety and loneliness of life in isolation, and our yearning for better days in spite of the dark storm of the pandemic. 

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Photo grabbed from BigHit Entertainment's official Twitter account

It was day 133 in quarantine when I found out that the BTS was releasing another album before the end of the year. To say that I was excited would be an understatement knowing that this was as close as I can get to BTS content without having to dig through my pockets. At the same time, I was skeptical and thought that maybe this was another cash grab to compensate for their world tour being cancelled and, thus, affect the quality of their music. And lo and behold, I was proven wrong. 

Much to the delight of their fans, the Billboard chart-topping group BTS dropped their fifth studio album BE on Friday following the release of their summer hit “Dynamite.” Unlike the spectacle and extravaganza brought by “Map of the Soul: 7”, the album was more of a 28-minute moment of comfort and reassurance in this time of uncertainty. “BE” encapsulates our collective experiences dealing with the looming anxiety and loneliness of life in isolation, and our yearning for better days in spite of the dark storm of the pandemic. 

From hip-hop to funk to R&B, the musical diversity of this album highlights their growth and versatility as artists. It showcases how the group experiments with music trends without making it sound too generic and compromising the quality of music production they are known for. Despite being a different approach from their craft, the depth and musicality of ‘BE’ makes it stand out in their discography. 

Photo grabbed from BTS’s official Twitter account

The album opens with their title track, “Life Goes On”, which was more mellow and stripped down than their usual hard-hitting beats. The breathy and honey vocals paired with the slow rap resonates a light and airy feel to the song while capturing everyone’s inner frustrations of how the pandemic has distorted time and their daily lives. Its gradual build to its minimalistic chorus offers a warm and welcoming tone like that of someone opening their arms for a tight hug. For many ARMYs, the motif and words of the song can be very reminiscent of “Spring Day,” which also touched on themes of longing and comfort. While I had wished that the auto tune on SUGA’s rap was cut out to give it a more authentic feel, the message of hope and healing was still delivered in the most genuine way. 

Slightly deviating from the mellow open of the first track is the unit song “Fly to My Room” by members V, Jimin, J-Hope, and SUGA. The simplicity of the synth stabs and falsettos makes it an easy listen and a perfect song for a chill weekend in your room. The switch from an electric organ in the first verse to a 70’s piano in the chorus elevates the R&B and retro feel of the song that lowkey gives strong Ariana Grande vibes. But beneath the upbeat strikes are words that speak of the suffocating feeling of not being able to step outside. The cloud of emptiness, however, blends with a chorus that expresses the little things we can learn to appreciate despite being enclosed within the four walls of our room.

The pop ballad, “Blue & Grey”, eases listeners back into a more melancholic mood as the group candidly sings about mental health struggles that everyone grapples with during the pandemic. The acoustic instrumentals in the first verse are evocative of V’s “Sweet Night” and “Winter Bear,” perhaps owing to the fact that the song was originally part of his mixtape. Keeping the percussion minimal in the rap verses gives the song a more personal touch as though listeners are having a face-to-face conversation with the members themselves. The smooth falsettos heightens the emotional delivery of being devoid of happiness, while at the same threading a flush of warmth through its sweet and breathy vocal harmonies. 

After the emotional rollercoaster of the first half, listeners are treated with “Skit” — a 3-minute recording of the member’s reactions to the news of their summer single, “Dynamite”, charting number 1 on Bilboard HOT 100. The last time fans were treated with a skit was in their 2017 album “Love Yourself: Her,” which was a recording of their speech during their first win at the Billboard Music Awards in the same year. However, this album’s skit was more special as it immortalized their genuine thoughts as the first South-Korean group to accomplish such a feat. RM concluding with the words, “Don’t you think this is what happiness looks like?,” reminds us that even successful performers like themselves are humbled by their own achievements. 

Photo grabbed from BTS’s official Twitter account

Owing to the bright atmosphere opened by “Skit”, the latter half of the ‘BE’ experience continues with the disco-pop “Telepathy,” which was the first SUGA-produced OT7 song since 2015’s “Autumn Leaves.” The funky beat, which frankly reminds me of SUGA’s “Seesaw” and Doja Cat’s “Say So”, gives listeners an instant serotonin boost with its feel-good and dance-worthy vibes. I can easily see this as a fan favorite as the lyrics touch on the unbreakable bond of BTS and ARMYs. Against the slapping bass lines, the members reminisce about the gold old days they spent with their fans and express their longing of wanting to meet them again. Moreover, the addition of a cowbell tonks to the instrumentals brought a unique flavor to the song, separating it from its retro predecessor “Dynamite.”

BTS takes the notch of its musical diversity even higher by going old school with the hip-hop track “Dis-ease.” Its Korean title translates to sickness, whereas the English title is a wordplay of the prefix “dis” and the word “ease” (which would literally mean “not ease”). Taken together with its lyrics, it pertains to the feelings of uneasiness, anxiety, and insecurity after being set back from our usual lives. 

With J-Hope being its main producer, the instrumentals embellished in the song bring back the nostalgia of his 2018 mixtape “Hope World,” while still having its own color. Apart from the playful use of record scratching, it was J-Hope’s creative snarky rap flow coupled with his distinct style in the first verse that really set the overall tone of the song. The move to cut the instrumentals to only kicks and snares in bridge accentuates the members’ vocals even more. What makes the track more appealing is its use of acoustic snares at the end of the bridge, bringing an element of surprise that extends until the end of the song. The track’s sophistication is completed by the brass and acoustic drums in the final chorus, giving off similar vibes from the dance break in “ON.”

The upbeat tone is sustained with the unit track “Stay” by members Jin, Jungkook, and RM. “Stay,” which was originally meant to be a part of Jungkook’s mixtape, channels the pop-rock vibe of Jin’s “Moon” and the EDM beats of their 2018 track “So What.” In this future house bop, the members further emphasize on their enduring relationship with their fans no matter how far apart they may be. While the chorus seems a bit underwhelming, the track doesn’t feel over the top and has just the right amount of layers that highlights the vocals and the rap. The piano and distortion in the outro gives a smooth and perfect transition to the final track, “Dynamite.”

Photo grabbed from BTS’s official Twitter account

In true BTS fashion, the album closes with a bang (literally) and what better way to do it than their chart-topping single, “Dynamite.” The retro and funky earworm is the best conclusion to the album by bringing in a bright and optimistic tune amid all the loneliness, despair, and desolation this pandemic has brought. The brass and guitar riff add a unique color to its disco-pop palette, while the key change in the final chorus is the satisfying exclamation point the song needed. Despite its repetitive lyrics, it’s impossible not to bop along to the song in the shower or even in your sleep. 

The health crisis has truly taken a toll on lives that even the likes of BTS couldn’t escape from. In the roster of pandemic albums, ‘BE’ feels like a shoulder to lean on, offering comfort and a tenacity of hope and encouragement in these trying times. The high amount of creative input poured by the members to each song added a personal touch of their lives. It gives listeners a deep dive into their inner thoughts and feelings, while relating to every word at the same time. Furthermore, the sincerity and authenticity emanated by this album makes it more prominent that they, too, are humans who feel and go through the same struggles that we do.

This album may leave you bawling your eyes out or smiling from ear-to-ear. Either way, it brings its listeners a sense of connection and togetherness two things that we continue to yearn for during these times. In all our downfalls and triumphs, BTS is here to overcome and celebrate it with us.  

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How ‘Baon Royale!’ deconstructed the status quo of our childhood

The diversity of the narratives between Maggie, Kenji, and Maestro are exemplary lenses of how acceptance to change and a shift in perspective are conceivable, even in the stark moments of childhood. 

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Screengrab from Baon Royale!

One of the painful facts of existence is the foolish and regrettable measures we’ve delved into in order to fit in. To illustrate, bittersweet nostalgia is often incorporated with the spontaneity of our childhood. At some point, we once faced the dilemma of securing a spot in a friend group or simply initiating a conversation to the seatmate who shared the same interests as us. In hindsight, internalized status quos and power structures have always existed, even inside the classroom. 

Produced and written by UST Communication Arts alumni, Baon Royale! (2019) is a short film written by former TomasinoWeb executive editor Cielo Erikah Cinco. Revolving around banter and playfulness, the substantial peaks of adolescence and struggling to fit in are portrayed as the main elements in its narrative that underscores the status quo within the playing field of the classroom. The artistry, writing, and development of the characters and plot have proven the film’s commendable place under the Student Category for the 2020 Maginhawa Film Festival Line-up. Moreover, the film has received the award for Best Editing and Best Picture for the 2019 SineReel competition.

Following the youthful narrative of the film, its funky jazz music is embellished with the lively and witty ambience the story invokes. Moreover, the color palette implores hues of warmth and familiarity within the classroom as it captivates humor embedded in comic-like frames, yet holding sentimentality and depth through meaningful montages.

The film’s story circulates around the glorified cyclical tradition held every lunchtime by the classroom, 5-Malusog. It is comical yet substantial as it depicts the conventional motives of each student to impress their gamemaster, Maestro, through their baon. Transferee Maggie is initially unaware of the customary underground game held daily. Specific rules also apply in the game: there should be no vegetables, all food must only be cooked at home (lutong-bahay), and all food offered must be cooked by mothers only. 

Perplexed and compelled to offer her baon for the first time, Maggie is announced as the winner, leaving the other students astounded and deemed as a threat by unsurpassable champion of the game, Kenji. After Kenji discovers Maggie’s family tree project that contains no pictures of her parents and accuses her of cheating, Maggie is placed on an emotional gunpoint of shame and distress. More layers of her character are peeled as a larger narrative awaits when Maggie has a breakdown and expresses her daily struggles of cooking alone to simply participate in the tedious game. 

Screengrab from Baon Royale!

As Maggie collapses on the ground, empathy takes its place among the students and the emotional gunpoint ridden with guilt and culpability now lies with Kenji. It is in this momentous and cathartic climax where the irony of the game unravels itself: grooming unhealthy competitions and divisions when the premise it’s built on, food, must be fed to everyone healthily and equally. After Maggie regains consciousness in the clinic, she is left alone with Kenji. No words are expressed between the two, however, the emotions on both characters’ faces are moving and revelatory. 

Unconventional for Kenji’s character, he offers his food to a starving Maggie and then proclaims that no one should be hungry in 5-Malusog. The students finally break free from the dictatorial rule they once glorified as they share their food. Maestro walks out, disappointed with the shift of allegiance from the class. But a poignant moment is shared when the President addresses him as his best friend, offering his lunch instead. Finally grasping the roots of their friendship, he no longer saw the President who was compliant to his demands, but rather the friend who stayed with him throughout, regardless of his overthrown position. Maestro finally strips off the red bandana, symbolizing the end of what he has started and his acceptance to change. 

Screengrab from Baon Royale!

In the next scene, the same red bandana is worn by Kenji, but now used in another light. This connotes a newfound era for 5-Malusog — a time for everyone to eat and share food. As a closing end, the authoritative game has finally been dismantled. The falling action shot depicts the students happily sharing a meal, veering downwards snacks they can all contribute their share. What food once symbolized in the beginning of the film has now subverted into something everyone can enjoy and share. A gradual shift in the atmosphere has shown the raw spontaneity of friendship and development. 

As we’re able to resonate with the characters, we realize we’re not so different from them. We undergo similar depths in order to survive the internalized status quo of our peers and the sacrifices that suppress the internal battles of loneliness and alienation we often deny.  The cast have introspectively characterized ourselves by mirroring the inherent youthfulness and humaneness we attempt to shield ourselves from. 

Amidst the humor-infused elements brought by the atmosphere of the film, it delivers substantial reflections of the unjust systems within different walls we habitually conventionalize from the household, to school, and to the larger paradigm of the real world. The film used food as a representation of what is brought to the table in order to secure and validate one’s place in a room filled with immense demands and other competing students who vie for the favor of the gamemaster. In essence, it metaphorically represents the compromises we bring forth to the table in order to survive the fierce roulette of life.

Screengrab from Baon Royale!

Adults have warned us of how tough the real world can be and how our resilience and toleration rendered survival and order. However, how long can our resilience suffice until it finally snaps? So, rather than adhering to constant omission, we must deconstruct and question those preconceived notions. Having the capacity to wield change for the betterment of the collective paves the way for long-lasting and impactful change, despite its enervating yet necessary process of outgrowing indoctrinations. The diversity of the narratives between Maggie, Kenji, and Maestro are exemplary lenses of how acceptance to change and a shift in perspective are conceivable, even in the stark moments of childhood. 

Baon Royale! is available to stream online from November 11 to November 22, along with 26 competing short films under the Student Category in the Maginhawa Film Festival. Watch this delightful short film with your family, friends, and even lover here, and grab your favorite baon to munch on! 

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