My bias against foreign theater works staged in the local has grown through the years. The possibilities for original theater work will never be realized if we don’t take the risk of staging it, more deliberately and consistently. On the upside, there is an untapped resource of a handful of people doing really good adaptations of foreign works, old and new, a productive and critical way of taking something distant and different, and making it familiar and relevant in this context. Done well, with a very clear sense of the value of the original, and how it can speak to a wider audience in the here and now, the adaptation cradles a creative spirit that is not only relevant, but can also be very powerful.
This is the inevitable context of Mula Sa Buwan, an independent production, being restaged in 2018, now in the context of a theater scene that struggles to deal with a state of the nation that allows little for leisure expenses, even less for theater. After all, when films remain as cheaper alternative and more accessible option, why would you spend on theater?
But maybe the question isn’t why, but when. It is when the theater production is originally Filipino, even as it is twice removed from an original, even when the original text seems so far gone from where we are. Mula Sa Buwan is a musical based on Soc Rodrigo’s translation into Filipino of Edmond Rostand’s Cyrano de Bergerac. What it remains is this: it’s the story of a protagonist who is on the one hand confident in his intellect, but insecure about his looks. Of course this means an unrequited love, as it does mean the ability to love so willingly and humbly, that life and limb don’t matter.
It is a love story. And it is no surprise that this is what is sold about this production — it is what will bring audiences in. But what should be said about Mula Sa Buwan is that it is more than that. 
Click here for the rest of this review.

If there’s anything we might all agree on in relation to how the Duterte government operates, it’s that it has taken spin and distractions, smoke and mirrors, to a whole different level. Sometimes it’s like they’re throwing in the kitchen sink for good measure, often enough there’s some sacrificial lamb.

It is of course the President’s big mouth which does the best job of disengaging us from what matters. Take all those instances when we should be talking about something important like the killing of farmers and peasants, the failed drug war, inflation, the excise tax on oil, China’s takeover of our seas, the entry of an unbelievable number of Chinese migrant workers, the militarization of government, and count the number of times instead that the president decides to drop a misogynistic statement here, or an expletive there directed at (a) the Church, (b) activists, (c) the poor, (d) human rights advocates and organizations, (e) “terrorists” (f) critics (g) all of the above.

Which is to say that at a time like this when we have so much on our plate of things to think about given the aforementioned urgent issues, it is also pretty clear that this government, along with its puppet (or puppeteer) Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, is banking on precisely these overwhelming, exhausting times so they can continue with their ChaCha moves.  (more…)

Nora Aunor, National Artist

Note: The list of 2018 National Artists are awaiting proclamation by Malacañang, so here’s an essay from 2014, a reminder, a throwback, an insistence still, that Nora Aunor deserves it. She deserved it in 2014, she deserves it now. —  KSS. 

In the middle of writing today’s column, sad sad news stopped me in my tracks. Nora Aunor is not included in tonight’s announced National Artist Presidential proclamations.

And while I’m glad that Alice Reyes (Dance), Francisco Coching (Visual Arts), Francisco Feliciano (Music), Ramon Santos (Music), Cirilo Bautista (Literature), and Jose Ma. Zaragoza (Architecture) have finally been proclaimed National Artists, there is a real sadness about not seeing Ate Guy on that list.

It’s because this exclusion tells of how government treats culture in this country, and what exactly it holds in such high regard relative to actual creativity and artistry. (more…)

I did not vote for Mar Roxas in 2016, not even for VP Leni, though I did vote for Kiko Pangilinan, Risa Hontiveros, and Leila de Lima, as I did for Bam Aquino in 2013. I didn’t campaign publicly for any of them. In fact the only person I publicly campaigned for in 2016 was Neri Colmenares. Given short memories, it bears repeating that I was heavily critical of the Liberal Party government of Noynoy Aquino. I thought that there was an undercurrent of elitism with which the governance operated, and this revealed itself slowly but surely throughout the six years, in policies, in actions (or lack thereof), and often from the mouth of PNoy himself, sometimes of his Cabinet members. I thought it problematic that they equated social media noise and traction with public opinion; I thought they enabled entities like Rappler to earn from, build upon, false notions of wisdom-of-the-crowd. Information dissemination and transparency were fantastic though, and I miss it terribly now.

It seems like years ago, doesn’t it? An administration like Duterte’s can make us feel this way, with just a little over two years of suffering. This is a governance of chaos-by-design, of disinformation and lies, of destruction and distractions, of literal and figurative violence. It’s exhausting to be critical because nothing is going right, and we are kept in the dark about what exactly is going on. Two years in and there’s still no clear platform for governance, and certainly no clear vision. A constant: Duterte’s rhetoric of violence and vitriol, half the time hyperbole, the other half lies, which we’re told by his men we shouldn’t take seriously. Other constants: incompetence from inflation to traffic to food crises; and Duterte’s threats to leave his post, from letting a military junta take over to declaring a revolutionary government, to railroading charter change and federalism in Congress.

The current state of the nation is enough to build a campaign versus Duterte in the 2019 elections. We know that the more non-Duterte Senators and House Reps there are, the bigger the chances that the people will be represented instead of silenced in Congress, the lesser the chances of any anti-people Duterte law being railroaded. Those of us who might be critical of LP should know it’s time to set those concerns aside for the bigger picture, the more urgent task.    (more…)

It seems obvious enough that there’s a mad scramble to try and control ALL possible outcomes of whatever current situation Duterte is in. So much lying going on, yes? And so much more being kept from us deliberately, i.e., the state of President’s health. This lack of transparency is alarming because it cuts across everything, and as with all corrupt governments, it comes with the requisite bushel of lies.

But that’s stuff for another day. Right now, there’s a need to keep track of where we are, given the fact that it looks and feels like one of those instances when Duterte and his people are working overtime to ensure that they can keep the people under control, as they figure out how to handle what seems like a certainty: that Duterte will be unable to finish his term (just look at his face), or at least will want to get his term over with (just listen to what he says, over and over).

How many exits does Duterte need, or require, and who’s holding the door for him as he bids the Presidency goodbye?