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The Real State of the Nation

The Philippines have witnessed injustices and abuse even before this administration started. The people who marched in the protest are not just the ones who are oppressed. This shall not only be an effort carried out by the brave people who marched that day but a collective action of a people who have since been oppressed and continue to be oppressed under a semi-feudal, semi-colonial system.

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Larizza Lucas/TomasinoWeb

“Ang tao, ang bayan, ngayon ay lumalaban!”, the masses chanted. If Quezon City was a body, Commonwealth Avenue would be the heart of the city. It pulsates the passion and power of the masses that intricately runs through the veins of the country. 

The streets were colored blue, red, yellow, and white. Various groups of walks of life waltzed from the Commission of Human Rights to the road of St. Peter Parish as they carried the fight that the Filipino people have been waging through since… forever.

The people in these roads know too well the struggles the country has been facing. They represent those who have been faced such tribulations under the administration that rampantly silence the oppressed. Flags were waved not as a sign of surrender, but a symbol of strength that indicates the coming of a stronger, more united front as a nation.

The United Peoples’ SONA can be summarized in one word: united. Various groups and organizations ranging from the labor sector to the youth sector were present in the momentous event. They once again voiced out their advocacies and beliefs ensuring they are heard even in the hollow spaces of the country. 

Among the attendees in the United Peoples’ SONA were former senatorial candidate Leody De Guzman who shared his thoughts regarding the call of the masses in the protest.

“Ang important ngayon kasi, bigyan ng ekspresyon ‘yung pagsasamang nabuo,” De Guzman shared in an interview with TomasinoWeb. [Dapat] maipakita ang pagkakaisa kasi [sa] tingin ko, ‘yun ang importante; na ‘di lang usapan, kundi sa aksyon ay nagsama-sama halos lahat para ipanawagan yung pagtutol sa mga patakaran ni Duterte na nagsisilbi sa interes ng negosyante at ng dayuhan.”

The West Philippine Sea has been one of the most prominent topics in the United Peoples’ SONA. This is because of the controversies that circled around it, President Duterte’s standpoint towards it, as well as the involvement of foreign entities such as China, the United States of America, and the United Nations in the issue. Various attendees extended their concerns not only through placards but other protest materials such as replicas of warships, fishes, and donned articles of clothing. 

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Former Bayan Muna representative Satur Ocampo shared his thoughts on the aforementioned issue highlighted by President Duterte in his fourth SONA. 

“Alam niyo, dapat [niyang] balikan yung campaign promise niya noon,” Ocampo said in an interview with TomasinoWeb. “On the West Philippine Sea, ang sabi niya, i-a-assert niya ‘yung Philippine sovereignty. Pero kung i-a-abandon niya ‘yon, [ito] ay [isang] pagtataksil sa bayan.”

The plea was further emphasized of the recurring song that was played in the event. One of its most notable lyrics were, “Atin ang Pinas, China layas!”. This was also chanted before the masses have reached the place of demonstration. Several groups such as the League of Filipino Students, Anakpawis, and Pamalakaya also highlighted their sentiments on the West Philippine Sea in the protest.

Among the highlights of the demonstration was the visitation of the Lumad people. They are the indigenous peoples in Mindanao, known to have suffered under the heavy arm of the current administration. Their group is known to experience inequalities despite the protection of the 1987 Philippine Constitution and the 1997 Indigenous Peoples Rights Act (RA No. 3871).

Their right to education and human rights are downright violated. One of the most alarming evidence of these is the occupation of the military where schools were used as an area for camping and the notorious indiscriminate firing. But it just doesn’t end there. 

Kalumaran council member Nenita Condez mentioned that their group has experienced heavy bouts of military transgression because of the ongoing martial law in Mindanao that was implemented by President Duterte last May 23, 2017.

“Grabeng atake po ng mga military sa aming komunidad.” she shares in an interview with TomasinoWeb. “Laging nag-bobombing, interogasyon, [at] kahit saan po sa mga komunidad sa Mindanao.”

Condez mentioned that they joined the protest among the masses to amplify their voices urging Duterte to finally halt martial law in Mindanao. She firmly reinstated that they are victimized by the administration, especially that the military is still present in the midst of their home, Mindanao and among their community.

Mindanao’s ancestral lands are integral to their own especially when it comes to their identity, history, rights, and culture. Indigenous peoples have been granted an ancestral domain title given by the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples. It is protected by the 1987 Philippine Constitution and RA 3871 where it mentioned that they hold the rights to these lands to where their families have lived since the “time immemorial”.

“Paano na kami kapag wala na yung lupang ninuno?” Condez says. “Sa lupang ninuno din namin ma-praktis ang kultura namin.”

Condez said that the President made the indigenous people cling on to his promise to alleviate the groups’ disposition. Condez said that the president showed his “real colors” after six months in his office. She has mentioned that the President vowed to find investors for their ancestral lands so that it could be “benefited from”. Her group dissents this due to the fact that the ancestral lands are not only theirs but also because it is their home: it is where they reside and also that it is the source of their income and livelihood. 

While employment in the Philippines is held up to a high percentage of 94.8%, the majority of workers are employed in the services sector, accounting to 58.1%. The succeeding sectors work in wholesale and retail trade, machinery, and agriculture. Despite the impressive number of employment in the country, many of its workers face poor working conditions.

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One of the roots of this issue is because of the poor social protection services in the Philippines. Affordable housing is not accessible to many. In return, the lower and middle class are prone to experience poverty due to the fact that the cost of living does not suffice the wages and benefits they receive. This is where contractualization comes in. 

“Hindi napatupad ni Duterte ang pangako niya na tanggalin ang kontraktwalisasyon, patuloy ang kontraktwalisasyon hanggang ngayon,” Bayan Muna Chair Neri Colmenares told TomasinoWeb in an interview. “In the end, anti-people, anti-poor si President Duterte at [siya] ay anti-worker.” 

Last May 2018, President Duterte signed an executive order which bans illegal contractualization. However, this doesn’t seem to solve the problem. In an interview with CNN, Anakpawis Representative Ariel Casilao said that “What the workers demanded is the total prohibition of contractualization by virtue of direct hiring”. These workers have been regularized just for the sake of doing so, upon the investigations of the Department of Labor and Employment.

The working conditions the workers face are notoriously poor. Not only are their workplaces hazardous to their health, but also to their rights as individuals. 

The United Peoples’ SONA was a testament to the resilience of the Filipino people that are constantly abused. No one deserves to live a life where resilience is perverted by the hands of a few. Their voices were amplified, but did they manage to grab the attention of the millions? That, we can be sure of. But why bother? Why should we care? Colmenares answers this question.

“Kaya tayo nandito ngayon [ay] para ilahad ang tunay na kalagayan ng bansa at panawagan na tapusin na, sobra na, tama na.”

His answer is not a coincidence to what the country is facing right now. The Philippines have witnessed injustices and abuse even before this administration started. The people who marched in the protest are not just the ones who are oppressed. The country was promised better tomorrows equipped with progress and hope. However, it seems like the people could only cling on an image of a better government for now, of a better Philippines.

This shall not only be an effort carried out by the brave people who marched that day but a collective action of a people who have since been oppressed and continue to be oppressed under a semi-feudal, semi-colonial system. Sadly, there are still some who cover their ears and cower themselves from the truth. Little do they know that this, indeed, is the real state of the nation.

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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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