You do not know Shamaine Centenera-Buencamino.

Yet you’ve seen her often on television and in film. She’s that archetype of a mother in the soap opera factory, as she might be the secondary character we forget in that recent rom-com. You might remember her as the mother of Basha in One More Chance, in that one scene where she asks if Basha’s okay, kung kaya pa ba ang heartbreak kay Popoy. She is also the mother of Teptep in Maybe This Time, the one who for most of the film is inexplicably disapproving of her daughter but who breaks apart as mother who forgives and understands and loves.

Of course you are wont to forget her, or imagine her to be the every-actress whose name you do not know, and whose face – when you see her in another film, another TV show – you will remember but can’t quite place. That this is the way the cultural system has created us into audience goes without saying.

That Centenera has an enviable body of work in theater, and holds the reputation of being one of few actors who can breathe life into any role at all, is the ironic twist to this story. And tragically so. (more…)

NOTE: An old piece remembered because Oca Villamiel’s “Back To Nature” just ended its run at Finale Art File, and still takes from this kind of magnitude. 

In 2012, I happened upon Oca Villamiel’s “Stories Of Our Time,” which was a deceptively simple set of art assemblages made from old dolls, with expectedly missing heads and limbs. I was on a gallery run with Singapore art journalist Mayo Martin, driving all the way to Fairview for Light and Space Contemporary to prove a point: look at how large this city is, and how difficult it is to even look at all exhibits at any given time. It’s so unlike Singapore! I was telling Mayo.

But of course there’s the kind of art one encounters in Manila so distinctly different from SG. Specifically, there was Villamiel’s work, filling up the various galleries of this art space, playing with old dolls not just through framed and contained assemblages, but also by filling up a whole space with dolls hanging from the ceiling. The effect was an eerie curtain of bright wide eyes and lifeless bodies.

We were on our way out when someone from Light and Space told us there was more outside, in one of the warehouse-spaces. We followed him down some steps, and as he opened the warehouse doors, our jaws dropped. Within that large space was a garden-like installation of doll’s heads and body parts attached to flimsy sticks. At the center of this garden was a shanty filled with dolls and doll parts. Walking around the garden, walls were filled with shadows of uncanny flowers and growth, almost pretty, absolutely breathtaking. This work was entitled “Payatas.” (more…)

The Duterte government is on overdrive, providing us all with requisite distractions from the fact that the Duterte-appointed consultative committee has drafted a federal constitution to the President’s liking, and we’re all back to this discussion, not about whether or not we even want charter change, or if it’s necessary at all, but about how it’s going to happen.

Let that sink in.

Duterte’s propagandists and chacha advocates have been able to bring it to this point when we’re not even discussing whether or not charter change will happen but how it will happen. The President and his people have muscled their way through this charter change push — we’re talking THREE different federal constitutions after all since August 2016 — and it has been able to do this by utilizing what we’ve seen government do consistently and viciously the past two years: chaos-by-design.

We complain that his communications team is terrible, that they are incompetent, but that is part of the grand design. One controversy over one incompetence over one corruption controversy, on loop, layered with the President’s big mouth, and here we are: faced with the threat of charter change so close, sold as a done deal, discussed as if we, the people, have no choice in it.

It is as Duterte and his men have planned. And I realize now that ChaCha was always been Duterte’s endgame, federalism not just a campaign promise he made, but a promise made to him.  (more…)

This was published on July 27 2012, after the premier of the documentary “Give Up Tomorrow” at the 2012 Cinemalaya in CCP. Remembered it today, and reposting it, because for whatever reason, there is a film on the Chiong Sisters coming out this week. — KSS.

On the evening of July 16 1997, Paco Larrañaga was having drinks with his classmates from culinary school after a full day of exams. He went home at 2AM and was back in school at 8AM on July 17, for more exams. The teacher who proctors the tests swears that Paco was present in that classroom, his classmates are witness to his attendance – in school and for drinks the night before, official school records prove his presence, too. Paco was in Manila, and nowhere else, on July 16 and July 17 1997.

I insist on beginning this story this way, not because “Give Up Tomorrow” has successfully swayed me into believing that Paco’s innocent. This documentary’s power in fact is that it wasn’t out to sway anyone into believing anything, as it could and will only bring you to the point of disbelief, that slowly moves towards the territory of dismay, and then into that space that you know to be anger. Interwoven with a whole lot of shame, and plenty of sadness, here is a documentary that can only be heart-wrenching not because it might bring you to tears, but because it will tug at both emotion and rationality, heart and common sense. (more…)

It is clear now, more than ever, that President Duterte is a misogynist and chauvinist. He likes to say he loves women — just yesterday he joked that his “expertise” is women, then proceeded to objectify the GSIS employees in front of him — but it’s all just to cloak the fact of a deep-seated hatred of women that is revealed when he articulates how we do not deserve to be in positions of power, how we are to be used for entertainment, how he offers us as “reward” for soldiers, how he condones rape in a time of war (will even joke about it), how we  shouldn’t be too critical and if we are, we will pay for it.

Asking for that kiss from the Filipina migrant in South Korea, on a stage, in front of a cheering crowd, was proof positive of Duterte’s views about women: in that situation he had the woman in the palm of his hand, his position as President assured him that kiss. That we are being told now to forget it, because it was just entertainment, it’s “Filipino culture,” just rubs salt on the wound that is the shameless performance of machismo and kabastusan. 

It is clear that women have had enough, even as there are women who will expectedly defend him, because they are indebted to him, keeping them in positions of power, their salaries coming from taxpayers’ money. But while someone like Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) Assistant Secretary Marjorie Jalosjos and her words supporting Duterte is expected, I take umbrage at someone like Liza Diño of the Film Development Council of the Philippines’ (FDCP) — a worker of culture as she is, a gender rights advocate too — defending Duterte by turning women’s rights on its head, discrediting the fight of generations of women against the systemic abuse of power that has oppressed us all.