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Wednesday, July 24, 2024

Holiday reads (Part 4)

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Plays, social commentaries

The University of Santo Tomas (UST) Publishing House, run by its director Ma. Ailil B. Alvarez and deputy director Ned Parfan, has been on a roll the past year releasing some very fine titles, among them a couple that would attract film aficionados and a couple more providing commentary on and insight into issues of politics and generational momentum.

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Recently proclaimed National Artist for Film and Broadcast Arts Ricky Lee is well known for his many searing films on Philippine life, showing it in all its unvarnished honesty. Since 1973, he has written some 200 screenplays and received more than 70 trophies and recognition for his work.  

Film buffs and students as well as fans of Lee will be pleased to know that they may now own copies of screenplays of six of his most popular films in the books Mga Screenplay ni Ricky Lee, with Volume 1 (354 pgs.) containing Brutal, Moral, and Karnal, and Volume 2 (318 pgs.) with Himala, Cain at Abel, and Salome.

The books contain not only the screenplays themselves but also Lee’s notes on the making of the films.

For instance: about the film Moral, directed by Marilou Diaz Abaya, Lee writes that it was shown uncensored at the 1982 Metro Manila Film Festival, in a version that was 2 hours and 20 minutes long. However, a censored version was the one approved for regular screenings in theaters, with over 20 minutes of scenes with sexual or political references cut. Moral won best screenplay at the festival. In a 2019 survey, it gained the top rank among best Filipino films directed by women.

In another section of notes, Lee writes that for another film, they faked a placenta in a childbirth scene with boiled chicken intestines and syrup. There are also recollections of other people involved in making the films. Manolo Abaya, the cinematographer of Karnal, said that lighting was a challenge in making the film and they had to do workarounds, such as using garden lights due to a lack of good quality studio lights and generators.

There are many more such gems that are interesting for filmmakers seeking to learn techniques as well as for film historians wanting to know more about the contexts the films were made and shown in.

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Those of us of a certain age who have difficulty understanding, much less bonding, with our millennial children and employees will want to read Rethinking Filipino Millennials: Alternative Perspectives on a Misunderstood Generation (2020), a collection of essays.

Edited by Dr. Jayeel Cornelio, director of the Development Studies Program at the Ateneo de Manila University, the book contains “the empirical work of 17 scholars…[that] presents an alternative view” of millennials, who have often been categorized unfairly as hedonistic and self-entitled. There is always more to it than the stereotype. The essays in this book help unpack what millennials aspire to, believe in, and dream about.

A wide variety of topics are tackled. In “The ‘Chemical Lives’ of Young Filipinos,” Dr. Gideon Lasco looks at how young people use chemicals and for what purposes. Some common themes he found are chemicals as body enhancers (“to look good”—pampaganda, pampa-sexy), as mood enhancers (“to feel good”—llicit substances), and as performance enhancers (“to work better”—coffee, energy drinks, shabu).

In “Millenial MSM and the Alter Community,” S. Piamonte, M. Quintos, and M. Iwayama look at a subgroup that engages in “exhibitionism and promiscuous sex mediated [by] online communication.” Millennials figure into the equation because of their familiarity with technology and association with casual sex.

There are many more interesting essays here. The book is of interest to researchers, students, and those interested in learning more about what Dr. Cornelio calls “a misunderstood generation.” 

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For those wanting to make sense of the six years of the Duterte administration, reach for Vergel O. Santos’s Duterte Watch: Descent Into Authoritarianism (230 pgs.).

The book is a collection of 101 selected commentaries written by a veteran journalist between 2016 to 2021, most of them published in Rappler, the Philippine Daily Inquirer, and the New York Times.

On former president Rodrigo Duterte, Santos writes, a month before he was elected to national office: “In all my 50 years as a voter, I’ve seen no one like him and nothing like the groundswell of following he has inspired. He has found his constituency of foul-mouthed, bellicose adorers…”

Five years later, October 2021, he had found a handle on Duterte, characterizing him thusly: “He is repression, he is militarization, he is terrorism. He is EJK (extrajudicial killings). He is corruption. He is China. He is the pandemic—by his incompetent, uncaring, self-aggrandizing response to it, he has made life more miserable all around than the coronavirus can do by itself.”

The columns reprinted here are all documentation and are of interest to historians and students of history who want a contextualized overview of an era that shook the country (and not in a good way).

Dr. Ortuoste is a board member of PEN Philippines, a member of the Manila Critics Circle, and a judge of the National Book Awards. You may find the author on Facebook and Twitter: @DrJennyO

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