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Cheering for the Cheerleaders

“Ilang gabi naming siyang pinagpractice-an, ilang gabi naming siyang iniyakan tapos six minutes lang naming siya ipapakita sa buong sambayanan.”

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Photo by Alec Go

In every game at any sport, the cheerleaders’ presence are always seen, if not, heard. As an instigator of spirit in both the audience and in the game, they are the vital voice and image of encouragement— in leading chants, “Go USTe!” and representing the University’s growl. 

Their astonishing air times cement the Salinggawi Dance Troupe’s excellence in the eyes of Thomasians. For Querstine Flandez, this is more than a cheer dance, this is the drive that they carry within themselves.

Querstine, who calls herself as Q, has been an athlete under Salinggawi for the last six years. Pumped up for the Cheerdance Competition this upcoming November 17, Q shares in an interview with TomasinoWeb, “I’m very thankful for Salinggawi because malayo ako sa [immediate] family ko. So, sobrang minahal ako ng Salinggawi at tinanggap ako ng buo.” The sport has become a second family, bringing out the best in her.

Years of performing for ‘Gawi has garnered numerous recollections of memories and experiences both—molding who she is today. Unforgettable, like her debut in CDC, opening her eyes to how the dance troupe tackles the competition. There are also memories that serve as lessons, undesirable injuries and misapprehension with teammates. These experiences are unavoidable and part of the training. Nevertheless, this never stopped her from pursuing and showing the best of her abilities. 

Since the competition is nearly here, Salinggawi is preparing for their grand theme, training harder than before. Q and her teammates are filled with excitement, toppling their nervous thoughts. It helps that the team cannot wait to exhibit their striking air time to the rest of the world. 

“You’re like in Cloud 9,” Querstine exclaims. While in the air, she emphasizes that trust is not built on whether her teammates will be able to catch her, but it’s also how they make you feel that they trust you as well. It goes both ways. 

 

 

Querstine Flandez during a practice of Salinggawi a week before the 2019 UAAP Cheerdance Competition | Larizza Lucas/TomasinoWeb

From her debut all those years ago, Querstine’s sentiments remain unchanged—their purpose is clear. The black, gold and white crowd is the most imperative symbol in every game. For her, the means and ends of Salinggawi is esteem. “Kung gaano minamahal ng UST ang Salinggawi at kung gaano din nagmamahal ang Salinggawi sa UST,” she explains. With the competition fast approaching, the Thomasian community’s fervor makes them feel like they are not alone in this journey.

Heartbreak is a constant part of every competition. In this case, last year’s defeat in the UAAP season. Seemingly, this does not halt Q’s mindset of aiming for a better performance in her sixth and last year of being an athlete, “Sa pagiging Thomasian mo, kahit matalo ka, andiyan pa rin sila para sayo.

Expectations and pressure from the UST community is evident in the atmosphere, accelerated when the team released teasers with the hashtag #OneFORESTpaña! When asked as to how the team handles outlooks from the university, Q believes that inner circle character-building comes first—how they fight for it and to whom they offer their countless routines.

This is the result of their blood, sweat and tears, an offering of their efforts first for themselves then to the public. This tactic allows them to tackle the pressure from the outside of their circle. 

Effort, as accentuated by the team, are the days they offered themselves in the mat and the innumerable amount of routines. “Ilang gabi naming siyang pinagpractice-an, ilang gabi naming siyang iniyakan tapos six minutes lang naming siya ipapakita sa buong sambayanan,” Querstine laments. 

To better understand Salinggawi, one must place their feet in their training shoes first—walking by the routine that the team follows is not an easy task for the light-hearted. Commonly, they train from Monday to Saturday, from 6:00 in the evening down to 10:00 PM. When its off-season, trainings are by segment with basics and foundations but shift to quality-checking of routines by strengthening their formations when the competition is nearing.

The time has come and Salinggawi is prepared to serve not only the Thomasian community but also the vigorous spectators of this year’s UAAP CDC Season ’82. Support from various individuals will be witnessed by the team and they are more than ready to bring back the gold to where it belongs—to España and its tigers. 

Sa screams nila, sa sigaw nila ng ‘Go USTe!’, parang nah-hypen up kami. Nab-boost kami, nawawala yung pagod namin sa buong routine.”

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Sila-Sila in its spectrum

Being under the constant waves of change, companionship paves through distances and personal struggles. The movie emphasizes that ‘ghosting’ also happens between friends and rekindling episodes are a challenge.

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Screengrab from Sila-Sila movie trailer

Giancarlo Abrahan’s entry for Cinema One Originals Film Festival Sila-Sila is a groundbreaking film that sprouts a queer narrative molded by queer people. Anchored to the intimate stories of real people, this ghosting film pierces through the lens of post-breakup experiences.

Its lead actors, Gio Gahol and Topper Fabregas had a harmonious rhythm as Gabriel and Jared inside one frame. With Gab being helplessly displaced and Jared as someone who craves settlement, they were in an endless loop of push-and-pull, making every scene burst in different colors of expectations.  

The film revolves around the story of Gab (Gahol), as he tries to reconcile with his friends (Phi Palmos and Dwein Baltazar) and his ex-boyfriend, Jared (Fabregas) after ‘ghosting’ them for almost a year. Fueled by guilt and regret, the old lovers find themselves igniting a fire that once burned the bridges that connected their lives.

Five minutes in and the sensual relationship between Gab and Topper will cuff the audience with its bare exposure of same-sex actualities. These characters played by both theater artists allow the scenes to flourish with remarkable nuance.

The scenarios in the film allow you to peek at realities that manifest through Gab’s life as a person who fails to find his roots being settled in one place. As his portrayal walks you through the story of uncertainties, the progress of the film lets you trace into a deep contemplation whether or not you may be the Gab or Jared in your own story.

Despite having fragments of scenarios that lowers the momentum of the film, it serves as a breath of fresh air as Gab undergoes the phase of vacillation. Gab’s journey of finding a home in people he once felt was is a cycle anyone can relate to. His doubts linger in trust issues and the feeling of not belonging. It soon uncovers that the quest of settling in places, people, and experiences will be unending unless one finds their sense of home.

Phi Palmos and Dwein Baltazar’s characters are spices to the story as they portray a decade-long friendship of overcoming tendencies. Being under the constant waves of change, companionship paves through distances and personal struggles. The movie emphasizes that ‘ghosting’ also happens between friends and rekindling episodes are a challenge.

Sila Sila won the Best Picture Award. Its undeniably well-plated palette satisfies the eye of the audience. A lot of scenes will tickle one’s humor especially if you are used to friendships that blatantly roast each other as a way of showing one’s love language.

Alongside its award-winning cinematography, Sila Sila also received the Audience Choice Award and Best Screenplay by scriptwriter Daniel Saniana. Also, Fabregas was recognized as Best Supporting Actor for his role.

“We’ll always love each other, however it manifests, it’s just always going to be there.”, this line by Jared carves through the hearts of those who had to let go of a person but never the love that they have for them. Gab’s relationship with Jared shows that there is never just one way of loving someone. Every day, with every version of themselves, love prevails. 

Distance can never make things small. It only deceives you from thinking that you’ve escaped your troubles. One way or another, you will find yourself crawling back because time never lets anyone off its claws—Sila-Sila teaches this. Furthermore, sometimes, having no closure is not the closure.

The character of Gab serves as an example that a person will remain trapped in the past unless they find closure from people and from themselves. People are bound to face the naked truth that we need to find our sense of home in this world that is full of broken fragments of imperfect individuals.

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Metamorphosis, a film that challenges the conventional

Tiglao tells this story through the never-before-seen character of a Filipino intersex teenager, and he tells it almost flawlessly, with the scenes that make you nostalgic, like you’ve been there before—a sort of déjà vu.

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Screengrab from Metamorphosis Trailer

As a coming-of-age film that probes more extensively into the adolescent psychosexual conflict, J.E. Tiglao’s Metamorphosis is dangerously daring. The film stirred a wave of controversy when the Movie and Television Review and Classification Board (MTRCB) classified it as X-rated for exploring intersexuality, later on, it was reclassified into R-16, permitting its screening in local cinemas. 

It opens with a scene at a waterfall in a 1:1 aspect ratio and ends in the same setting, where we find the protagonist, Adam, exceptionally portrayed by Gold Azeron, no longer irresolute. Supporting actress Iana Bernardez, who plays Angel, complements Azaron almost naturally—Adam isn’t without Angel, vice versa. However, the gorgeous visuals of Metamorphosis overshadow the disarray that’s often ignored in the film.

Tiglao tells this story through the never-before-seen character of a Filipino intersex teenager, and he tells it almost flawlessly, with the scenes that make you nostalgic, like you’ve been there before—a sort of déjà vu. Apart from the brilliant footwork of Tey Clamor, the film’s cinematographer, the musical score by Divino Dayacap, from the University of Santo Tomas Conservatory of Music, gave the film its oomph: as if the music understood the complexity of emotions portrayed, and the aesthetics with it.

Tiglao almost easily got away with poor writing by compensating for the other elements in the film. Instead of sustaining its relaxed delicateness, it lost its momentum when Adam’s exploration into his intersexuality was hastily overturned by uncalled-for predatory themes, and sexual awakening was realized by means of harassment.

The film relied heavily on aesthetics while leaving the plot unsustained and undernourished. It undermined the audience’s capacity to understand beyond the script because there was very little depth to it—the metaphors were surface-level and revealed themselves too easily. Some scenes appeared to over-explain themselves because expository writing was brought to an excess. Nevertheless, the film communicated what it sought to: the magnitude of embracing your own uniqueness in pursuit of self-acceptance.

Perhaps one of the most moving scenes in the film was when Adam’s father, a conservative Catholic and a pastor with a strongly-held vision for Adam to reverse his intersexuality – an “Ok, boomer” moment – abandons his unyielding bigoted principles at long last, giving Adam the autonomy to decide on and for his own. Here, the conservative adult matures with the troubled adolescent—and it is this shared acceptance that is unique to Metamorphosis.

Although the film suffers from tacky dialogue and some questionable subplots, it does exactly what a coming-of-age film is supposed to: the audience becomes an echo chamber, where we feel for the protagonist while accompanying him into growth and resolution. 

Metamorphosis, along with its stillness and vulgarity, makes for an ample directorial debut. The “I” in LGBTQIA+ rarely gets talked about, but Tiglao changed that by giving us Metamorphosis: it contests machismo without overemphasizing the feminine, it astounds without unnerving, and most of all it is unrestrained. Metamorphosis, even with its sloppy writing, is sufficiently beautiful—it questions and challenges the conventional, and it does it without fear.

 

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Tayo Muna Habang Hindi Pa Tayo: An Endless Cycle

Falling in love in this generation is like using a trial and error method that gets you nowhere. In the emergence of dating apps such as Tinder and Bumble and websites like Omegle, finding a prospective partner has become fairly easy but also quick to lose.

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Screengrab from Tayo Muna Habang Hindi Pa Tayo official trailer

Labels. There is a silent debate going on about whether labels are important or a factor for complications. Though there is a need to define relationships to know where to draw the line between friends and lovers, it is often terrifying to know what the truth really is. The word ‘commitment’ may seem an intimidating word for some, but it is also loved by many. 

Tayo Muna Habang Hindi Pa Tayo is one of the entries for the Cinema One Originals 2019. Written and directed by Denise O’Hara, who won an award for Best Director in this year’s Gawad Urian for a movie called Mamang, a film about dementia and the struggles of remembering one’s life. 

The film festival ran from November 7 until November 17 in selected malls and microcinemas. Starring Jane Oineza and JC Santos as Alex and Carlo, the story portrays the characters’ struggle in the process of falling in love, falling out, being confused, and being sure at the same time. 

Falling in love in this generation is like using a trial and error method that gets you nowhere. In the emergence of dating apps such as Tinder and Bumble and websites like Omegle, finding a prospective partner has become fairly easy but also quick to lose. 

Alex, played by Jane Oineza, is a woman with big dreams and ambitions, eager to prove to the world that she is more than just a pretty face. Carlo, played by JC Santos, on the other hand, is your typical go-with-the-flow kind of guy who works in the field of graphic design and freelance work. The story progresses as the two create something that neither of them knows what is and what to call. 

By slowly cracking her shell and breaking down her walls, Carlo manages to see the parts of Alex that no one really sees. Underneath her cold gazes and intimidating aura, lies a sappy and marupok girl. One night, after planning and talking about the design for Alex’s upcoming project, a cockroach scare prompts a rush to the bedroom; ensuing a somewhat emotional conversation that turns the atmosphere into purple and red hazes. 

After that night, awkwardness sits between them in the office. Alex, trying to figure out what happened, asks Carlo directly; as to his reply, along with the words “Masaya pa rin naman ‘diba?” creates a questionable feeling both to the characters and the audience. 

Stemming from the title itself, the movie—from start to finish—draws a problematic and complicated cycle that reflects dating and almost-dating. The dialogues lacked a bit of emotional appeal and the concreteness of thought cannot be easily grasped. The movie has a back and forth sequence, showing the past and the present, how the moments came to be, what arguments were thrown out to get to the scene where they chase each other in the sidewalk with pain and hesitation in their eyes. 

Cinematography-wise, the color palette of the film shifts along with the emotion that is being presented on the screen, making up for the lack of substance in the exchange of dialogues. It is a mess, paralleling to Alex and Carlos’ relationship, the shaky camera angles and the abrupt shift from one scene to another provides support in pulling off the movie’s complicated narrative. It could have had more backstory and fewer gaps in the storyline but it somehow works as it leaves you hanging and still questioning what happened. It keeps you in the cycle even though you have stepped out of the cinema already. 

Filled with contradictions and trouble waiting to happen, O’Hara’s work garners attention from those who are in the same position. The film dwells on complex-minded characters, pretty much like our generation, and their decisions on whether they should leave or keep fighting for something that is vague. It is a ticking time bomb of tears and regret or maybe, just maybe, something magical and worthwhile. 

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