Short Film Review: Misteryo ng Hapis

, by Janine M.


Misteryo ng Hapis (Sorrowful Mystery) by Mark Dela Cruz is set during the pa-siyam (a Filipino traditional ritual of praying for the soul of the dead for nine consecutive nights) of the main character's father. On the last night, the main character Jay (Andoy Ranay), a young and gay stage performer joins his mother in praying for the soul of his dead father for the first time. For every mystery, we are given glimpses of Jay's childhood, his pain emanating from the lashes of his father's verbal assault on his sexual identity. I found his own chant (in Kapampangan) "Why are you crying? Don't weep." as the women prayed the rosary bothering. The strength of this short film is in its atmosphere, softly lit by candles, semi-darkness, theater settings and gesticulations, repeated prayers. The Catholic devotion in full display, to serve a purpose for his father's death no less, was a stark reminder to Jay of his younger years of repressed sexuality to the point that his insides exclaimed, "I cannot breathe. I cannot see. I cannot move." When his mother gave him the mask (at least I think it was a mask) that his father told her to hand over to him, it was evident that he did not come home for years. During those years, his father had learned to accept him, yet Jay's unforgiving heart prevented them to reconcile while he was still alive. The film was too dramatic/artistic for my taste, but it was able to send its message across.

Misteryo ng Hapis was screened during the 2007 (3rd) Cinemalaya Independent Film Festival.

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Short Film Review: Putot (Small Fry)

, by Janine M.


Putot (Carl Taylan), the titular character, is a young boy who takes care of his mentally ill father while struggling to make ends meet by selling shellfish at an informal settlers colony by the sea. He meets a girl, Mayang (Karen Pilapil), a few years shy of womanhood, and forms a friendship with her. Mayang has secrets of her own that she whispers to the sea. It is implied that she is being peddled by her own mother and abused by her father figure. This short film is a simple presentation of poverty, realistic but without gore, as it wasn't necessary to make it effective. 

Putot is a Visayan term for small. Putot represents the small, marginalized sector of our society, pushed further to the "laylayan" (as popularized by the current VP), even by the men hired to demolish their houses. A scene shows that the demolition was necessary to pave the way for a development project of the then president, GMA. In the end, we are not sure what happened to Putot's father, though it is implied that "he chose to be with the sea". There is also uncertainty in the direction Mayang and Putot are taking in their makeshift raft, but there is comfort and solace in their friendship to make up for that uncertainty.

Mayang's parting line was, “Putot, malapit na ba tayo (Putot, are we there yet)?” Are they going towards the place Putot heard was better to live in? Will they ever get there? The line was a brilliant metaphorical question to the modern day Filipino. Will we ever get there?

Putot won Best Director (Emmanuel “Jeck” Cogama)/Short Feature Category in the 2006 (2nd) Cinemalaya Independent Film Festival.

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Short Film Review: Orasyon

, by Janine M.


Orasyon (Angelus) by Rommel 'Milo' Tolentino is a tale of a religious widow (Federica Figalan), whose vulnerabilities are stirred at the arrival of a nosy, meddling housemaid (Gloria Austria). Orasyon was presented as a drama-suspense with the widow's nightmares and hallucinations serving as the "horror story" within this sad story of an old woman waiting for her son to come and visit her. Weekly he promises, weekly he lets her down. Daily she goes to church, sun up to sun down she prays and prays. I was so annoyed and disgusted with the housemaid, how she, in her younger age, imposes her opinions on the poor old woman and passes them off as truth. She proves to be a pain in the arse, from rearranging the house furniture to challenging the old woman's belief in prayers and in a higher power. It was unnerving how eventually this affects the already vulnerable mind of the protagonist and I was glad when the maid was finally kicked out. Towards the end, we see that at an unknown point in time (in the past), she almost gave up all hope, in that shed. I'm not sure if this was the dark secret in the summary that I've read from where I watched this, or there was something more that the shed represents, that the son refuses to come home. If not, then this is simply a very sad story of loneliness and abandonment. A good eye opener for all children, especially those with parents who are nearing their twilight years.

Orasyon won as Best Short Feature in the 2nd Cinemalaya Independent Film Festival (2006).

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Short Film Review: Labada, No Passport Needed

, by Janine M.

Just my two cents on these two funny-in-their-own-way short stories:

Labada by Raz dela Torre

Mylene (Skyzx Labastilla), a part-time helper to Dr. De Jesus, a bachelor, joyfully lives out her roles as wife, mother and helper everyday until her tricycle driver-husband Edong started to act like he's nurturing a double life when he decided to do his rounds at night. Influenced by her friend Susie's (Thess Antonio) stories, (seeing Olga the ihaw-ihaw vendor give Edong free isaw; Susie's mother's never-ending wait for her "husband" which we later find out to be lies to save face; Showbiz' two-timing and bisexual nature brought about by need, a nod at the hush-hush, open secret ways of entering/obtaining projects/maintaining status in show business) Mylene plays Nancy Drew to catch her husband in the act.  

Labada is a light-hearted look at infidelity, implied, assumed or realized. While not really gut-bustingly funny and sometimes bordering on silly, the short film proved its point and the heroine at the end decided that this was a battle she chooses not to fight. I was entertained.

Rating: 4 stars


No Passport Needed by Pepe Diokno
Dexter (Bodjie Pascua) is a fugitive. He pays a businessman to sneak him out of the country, "no passport needed". There was a catch that was easy to predict (or maybe easier these days versus 10 years ago), yet still has shock value. In this dark comedy, the businessman wins it all. I'd try to dissect the metaphor, but I shall stop here.

Rating: 3 stars

Both films were screened and competed during the 2nd Cinemalaya Film Festival in 2006.

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Short Film Review: Mansyon

, by Janine M.


Mansyon (directed by Joel Ruiz and produced by Cinemalaya and Arkeomedia) depicts the experiences of a middle-aged couple, housemaid Dolores (Roselyn Perez) and her gardener husband Ambo (Jess Evardone) during their three-month stint as caretakers of a large, plush mansion while the owners are away on vacation. The first few weeks went by with the couple dutifully carrying out their chores, seemingly oblivious to the affluence covered by white sheets. A few accidental drops of perfume opened long-hidden aspirations quieted by their awareness of their place and role in society, and as it was in the beginning, Eve took the bite/bait. Adam was tempted and eventually gave in as well. For the following weeks, fantasy became reality if only for a while. Years were subtracted from their ages, and love was rekindled between them. However, their bliss was cut short by the unexpected return of the mansion's owners (could be deliberate to test the faithfulness of the caretakers). The film stirs the audience's emotions, and one can sympathize with the couple, as this was the closest they could get to living out their dreams. I loved the way the film ended, with the couple smiling at each other. This experience will be tucked away, to be brought out every now and then in their future conversations of "Remember when...". An inside joke, privy only to them. Overall, a great film with impressive visuals, music, flow, and the right length and pace.

Mansyon won Best Short Film in the 1st Cinemalaya Film Festival in 2005, nominated as Best Short Film in Gawad Urian, and was an official selection in several festivals and screenings: Cinemanila, Fribourg (Sweden), Singapore, New York Asian-American, Pesaro (Italy), Hawaii, and Mumbai Third Eye Film Festivals.

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Short Film Review: Blood Bank

, by Janine M.


Blood Bank tells the story of a trio whose realities intertwine, conflicted and lonely as they are, smack dab in the city. Des (Rose de Leon), the central character, suffers from aplastic anemia and requires weekly blood transfusion. Her thoughts, mostly bleak and tired, give the audience a peek at how she had been living her life. She ran away from family and loved ones, preferring to extend her life as long as she could in solitude, hanging onto her jewelry that she pawns for her sustenance. That bit in which she compared herself to garbage moved me:
"Isang taon na ako sa mala-ermitanyo kong buhay. Ewan. Siguro likas na sa akin ang magpaalis ng mga taong malapit sa akin. Talent ko yun eh. Para akong isang tumpok ng basura na umaalingasaw. Lahat ng napapalapit sa akin, napapaalis ko dahil hindi nila makayanan ang amoy. Palagay ko, ang naaamoy nila ay ang nabubulok kong kaluluwa. Siguro nga, dahil katawan ko na lang itong nabubuhay. Wala na akong nararamdaman o hinahangad. Kailan kaya ako mamamatay?"

Emma (Ian Victor/Ian Galliguez), Des' only friend, is a medical technician at a blood bank whose love for her family pushed her to make a choice for (her and) their benefit. Cleto (Marvel Julian), a mugger whose latest victim was Des, visits the clinic to donate his blood (surprise, surprise, they match. Oh fate.) to atone for his sins. Des' recurring dreams of vampires calling out to the trio, persuading them to join the rest of the world, served as symbolic parallel/omen to subsequent events. 

The black and white medium was effective in enabling us to focus on the characters. It also gave the vibe that this was how the trio viewed their lives: colorless, bleak. At least it was for them all, until the second character did what she did, putting finality over one's fate, and uncertainty on another's. This brief snippet of present-day realities demonstrate that we are either/neither sinner or/nor saint and that our lives are a series of the choices that we make, the aftereffects of which we have to live with and take responsibility for.

Pam Miras’ Blood Bank won as Best Screenplay during the 1st Cinemalaya Film Festival in 2005 under the Short Film category and as Best Philippine Short Film at the .MOV Digital Film Festival. It was also screened in Singapore and Italy, competed at the Clermont-Ferrand International Short Film Festival in France, and was part of the official selection at the Emirates Film Festival, New York Filipino Film Festival, Indie Halo Halo in Kuala Lumpur and at the Cinemanila International Film Festival in Manila.


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Book Review: Blue Is The Warmest Color by Julie Maroh

, by Janine M.



Blue Is The Warmest Color
by Julie Maroh

"Oh that graphic novel that the movie with the extensive lesbian sex scene was based on?"

I haven't watched the French film yet, but this graphic novel deserves accolades of its own.

Does it depict romance between two women? Yes.

Does it include lesbian sex in its pages? Yes.

Does the story revolve around these two topics? No.

WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD

"What if, irrespective of gender, our souls find each other, recognize one another, come to love each other?"
- own musing

Blue Is The Warmest Color is a fast, engaging and bittersweet ride. It's also quite short that I was able to finish it in an hour. One could take less time to read it but I would stop every once in a while and let my brain pick at the words and dwell in the emotional pool that the story drew me into.

The novel is posthumously told in Clementine's (fight the urge to sing... "Oh my darling... Oh my darling... Oh my darling... Clementine) point of view, first through a letter to her lover Emma, and subsequently narrating with flashbacks from her journal dating back to her high school days, the prime of her self-discovery. Emma, per Clementine's dying wish for her parents to allow her to gain ownership of her diaries, reads them and we're able to peek into the mind of Clementine as she experiences the pain, alienation, and confusion regarding her identity and developing feelings towards another woman. The words were Clementine's, but it was Emma's imagination and recollection that makes up the novel, I believe.

The heart of this book is not about homosexual love per se, but about a girl entering womanhood with fear of being alienated as she struggles with her identity. Clementine's voice is that of a wide-eyed, excitable, curious, haphazard teenager, which might remind the majority a little of their younger selves. As a young adult still shedding off some juvenile and idealistic tendencies (and having an INFP personality helps as well), I can still tap into Clem's emotional monologue and thinking patterns. Her internal turmoil (homosexual feelings and desires are wrong, wrong, WRONG but it feels so right and within her arms I am home. My parents are homophobic, my friends will mock me and hate me.) is relatable to "newborns" of today.

It's important to note that blue-haired Emma knew Clementine was not strictly homosexual (she could've been an unaware bisexual which she explored quite late into the novel) and that she chose to love her who just happened to be a woman. In part, Clementine reminded me of the protagonist in Every Day by David Levithan, though much less self-aware and self-accepting. Her reading of Clementine's diary is her most intimate reconnection with her after her death, as she has probably learned about who the Emma of those days was in Clem's eyes and heart for the first time.

Emma on the other hand, had her own dilemma in the beginning. She was caught in between what could be true love and her indebtedness to her first love, Sabine. It was Sabine who helped her through her own identity crisis and her social life started with her butch partner's group. She was afraid to dive into the uncertain, initially preferring the safer choice despite her growing unhappiness over her lover's emotional blackmail and infidelity.

Towards the end, the drama escalated. Part one of the climax was when Clem's parents found out about them. The absence of dialogue and reliance on facial expressions and frenzied bodily movement were effective. To a reader that could relate, they could easily fill in with words their own loved ones have said that hurt them. Part two of the climax was Clementine's irreversible mistake. Unable to deal with stark reality (abandonment by her parents, growing distance/misunderstanding/miscommunication with Emma) and still being unable to reconcile her love for Emma and her sexual identity, Clementine commits infidelity. Whether it was an experiment/attempt to change her preference or to divert her feelings (for social/parental acceptance), an act of rebellion against Emma's prodding for her to finally embrace who she has become (Emma was still a passionate participant in sociopolitical activism of the LGBTQ community while in contrast, Clementine treats her sexual identity as a private matter), or a momentary escape from the reality that her choice led her to, we can only speculate. 

Present and most recent events in the graphic novel were in color, while past events were in sepia, black and white peppered with blue to denote the most important details/turning points of Clementine's life. Also, the change from blue to a life full of yellow (Emma's hair included. Ironically, yellow is the warmer color) symbolized the estrangement that was slowly creeping up to the lovers' bed. And using blue over any other color made the best possible title. Blue is commonly thought of as a cool color, creating a good oxymoron in the title. Blue is also associated with sadness, thus it meshes well with the melancholic tone of the novel. It was her love for the blue-haired girl that led to her isolation, and it was the same blue-haired girl's love that kept her warm.

When they were reunited at the beach (care of the awesome best friend Valentin [aptly named] who was Clem's anchor and sounding board), Clem seemingly had a hallucination of a phantom child while Emma was making a sandcastle. Could it represent her aspirations of creating a family with Emma?

While the ending is tragic, allow me to romanticize Clementine's death as the means to finding her peace. At the age of 30, she was stuck in limbo and unaccepting of her own self, resulting to a life in which she cannot fully appreciate Emma anymore. It was hinted that death was by slow suicide (addiction to prescription pills which lead to arterial pulmonary hypertension). While I didn't actually cry, I felt for both women's loss.

All in all, the graphic novel is a good social commentary to a lukewarm acceptance ("tolerance", selectivity and veiled repulsion included) of the LGBTQ community (or to any assumed social deviant) by the current supposedly radical/liberal/modern generation. It's a powerful telling of youth's sexual awakening, a mix of teenage fear and courage to love against discrimination, and how hard reality can bite in the butt.


 Rating: ♥♥♥♥


Some of the best quotes in the graphic novel:

“If I had been a guy, Clem would have fallen in love with me anyway.” - Emma 
"Only love will save the world. Why would I be ashamed to love?" - Emma 
"And little by little, I understood that there were many types of love. We do not choose the one we fall in love with, and our perception of happiness is our own and is determined by what we experience…" - Emma 
"What would you do?"- Clementine
"I would follow my heart." - Valentin 
"Maybe this is eternal love, this mixture of peace and fire." - Emma 
"Emma... you asked me if i believed in eternal love. Love is something way too abstract and indefinable. It depends on what we perceive and what we experience. If we don’t exist, it doesn’t exist. And we change so much; love must change as well. Love catches fire, it trespasses, it breaks, we break, it comes back to life… we come back to life. Love may not be eternal, but it can make us eternal. Beyond death, the love that we shared continues to live.” - Clementine 

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Book Review: Me Before You by Jojo Moyes

, by Janine M.

Me Before You
by Jojo Moyes 
Lou Clark knows lots of things. She knows how many footsteps there are between the bus stop and home. She knows she likes working in The Buttered Bun tea shop and she knows she might not love her boyfriend Patrick.
What Lou doesn't know is she's about to lose her job or that knowing what's coming is what keeps her sane.
Will Traynor knows his motorcycle accident took away his desire to live. He knows everything feels very small and rather joyless now and he knows exactly how he's going to put a stop to that.
What Will doesn't know is that Lou is about to burst into his world in a riot of colour. And neither of them knows they're going to change the other for all time. 



My Thoughts: 


Writing about a taboo topic is a big challenge. These days, many young/new and seasoned writers alike have been tackling difficult issues in their novels. Coming of age novels have taken on a dark tone, discussing suicide, juvenile delinquency, mental health issues, dealing with death of loved ones, rape, abuse and the like. Me Before You is one of such books, though mixing in the romance lightened the overall tone of the story. I found myself more appreciative of the slow-burning romance approach in books lately than the unrealistic love-at-first-sight that used to thrill me in my early teens. And that is what we have between Louisa Clark and Will Traynor. The ending is something that many can debate on over and over again and still not come up with a winner. Which was the more compassionate route? Has one broken a moral code or God's law by granting someone's wish if he thinks that his choice is the best for him? Personally, I wouldn't know what to choose if it were to happen to me. Irreversible choices can be the biggest mistake, relief or blessing that we can make and have. Will made his choice. His parents chose to support him. In the end, Louisa did that as well, even if it meant that her heart would die too. The journey in the book was definitely more pleasant and had cutesy, heartwarming moments (bumblebee tights, concert date in a red cleavage-bearing dress, Mauritius, and for goodness' sake: shaving and a haircut). Yes, even Will's mother's internal struggles with letting her son go or making him stay makes a mark.


The title itself is a giveaway. To me it could be interpreted in several ways.

Me Before You as Louisa standing before Will; their meeting, her choice to stay with him, convince him to change his mind, and be there beside him until the end. (This is me before you.)

Me Before You as Louisa and Will showing each other who they were prior to the changes they've undergone as they spent more and more time with each other. (This was me, before you.)

Me Before You is Will's putting his choice before the love he had found in Louisa. Was he selfish? Yet he wanted the best life for Louisa, always egging her on to go outside of the shell she has chosen to dwell in. (Me. Before you.)

Heartwarming, tearjerker, heartbreaking, thought-provoking. Me Before You is all that and more.


 Rating: ♥♥♥♥♥


P.S. Anyone who will watch the movie when it comes out in June? I think Emilia Clarke and Sam Claflin are perfect for the title roles.☺





P.P.S. Out of love for the book, I ate a Mars chocolate bar and drank Pinot Grigio (After You reference, which is part of my currently reading pile) about a month ago.


P.P.P.S. I want my own bumblebee tights so bad.

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