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As a primarily archival blog, Ámauteurish! does not depend on exchanges or interactions, although it might generate dialogue elsewhere, whether in the virtual realm or in real-life situations. To attain this level of self-containment, I attempt to devote the fullest possible attention to achieving correctness in the texts I upload. Considering the limits of time and internet consistency, however, certain errors in proofreading may have slipped through, or certain links may have expired or been modified. I would be grateful to be apprised of these details, as well as of suggestions for improvement (although I cannot guarantee that these will be minded, since the blog’s contents are essentially predetermined by my output for independent publishers).

Joel David
Manila, July 2015

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Questions tackled (alphabetically arranged except for last):

After I deactivated my (only) social network account, I realized I had accumulated a significant number of exchanges that I had planned to post in a useful manner. Trouble was, I had already allocated available sections in Ámauteurish! to predefined uploads, with at least two sections opening with one-shot features (a folio on film criticism in the Remarks section, a compilation of Manila by Night features in the Extras section). At the same time, I kept wondering what to do with the Contact section: I received occasional requests and (thankfully) infrequent spam, which meant people preferred to discuss issues using the relatively traditional e-mail and messaging apps.

11011Possibly as a result of time freed up by pandemic-era quarantine, the rationale fell in place one day, a few months after I was egged on by several friends to start posting my answers to a hideous troll attack: a page titled “Contact” should encourage people to ask questions, but then I’d answered queries via other means already – so why not use the idle space on this page for that purpose? (Hence the “Queries” name change.) Understandably, several of my still-living past correspondents were hesitant about being identified regarding controversial issues, while I have not been able to track down a few others. So several of these queries will be from unidentified sources and have been modified for a general readership. If you recognize a conversation we’ve had on this page, and wouldn’t mind having your name or initials appear, please let me know so I can make the adjustment.

11011Final points: At the rate it’s expanding, this page is on the verge of being excessive as a single entry. I might consider archiving the pandemic era-plus answers (2019-21) and will have to figure out a way of providing access to them without requiring unnecessary maneuvering. Will appreciate suggestions from more experienced agony titas or titos. Fellow teachers: queries from your students are always welcome. But I might wind up judging the quality of your instruction if the questions they ask will have already been answered elsewhere on this blog. Please make sure they read up before they seek assistance; this includes being aware of my specializations – which may seem extensive but are definitely not all-encompassing.

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* Is it true you have become a Noranian?

I guess this has something to do with the libelous post of a person who had swindled me and a few other friends in the past. It’s not libelous to be called a Noranian, of course, but when I checked the only book that used the term, Si Nora Aunor sa mga Noranian: Mga Paggunita at Pagtatapat [Nora Aunor to the Noranians: Remembrances and Confessions] (ed. Nestor de Guzman, Quezon City: Milflores Publishing, 2005), I saw that all the contributors were affiliated with Nora Aunor fan clubs.

11011In my case, I get identified as a(n unofficial) Noranian for stating two things, both of them only recently: one, that she was the prime multimedia actor who emerged in the history of Philippine pop culture, and two, that her stature jump-started the nearly unbroken and constantly growing trend in Philippine film-book publication. The first is a critical evaluation founded on an extensive reading and intensive application of performance-studies principles, while the second is a statement of fact that I uncovered unexpectedly, after I completed the Comprehensive Pinas Film Bibliography (uploaded as an exclusive feature on this blog) and rearranged the alphabetical master list in chronological order. Prior to these declarations, I had my own experience of localized social-media virality when I condemned then-President Benigno “PNoy” Aquino III’s decision to reject the National Commission for Culture and the Arts’s endorsement of Aunor for the Order of National Artists of the Philippines.

11011The only way to avoid making these conclusions is to ignore excellence in film and media performances as well as pretend that a basic empirical analysis of the bibliographic record of Philippine cinema cannot be done or isn’t worth doing. If the figure of Nora Aunor emerges in these areas of Philippine film and media studies, whose fault is that? Not mine, and certainly not hers either. [Posted November 2019]

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* Do you have a doctorate in Noranian studies?

My doctorate was in cinema studies. Anyone who thinks I don’t have any credibility for whatever reason can always try asking New York University to retract the degree – a historical first, if that ever prospers. Also, as far as I know, the only dissertation (so far) on Nora Aunor was written by the exceptional art-studies scholar Patrick D. Flores. I don’t think mine even mentioned her but whatever. Although in case anyone wants to set up a Noranian studies program, I can forward my qualifications as consultant. [Posted November 2019]

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* Did you write a bad movie script?

The scripts I wrote were for my student films, decades ago, and for television programs I did even earlier, as a freelance writer (some of whose producers stole my credit even after their programs won awards, but again whatever). The latest incident I think refers to a project commissioned by a director from a Korean advisee of mine. The writer proposed a rom-com but requested me to provide Tagalog translations for lines he wrote in English. The draft has gone through numerous revisions, partly because of the costs involved, but the momentum for finalizing the project seems to be over.

11011The writer insisted on crediting me as co-author, which I refused because I really only provided translations, but he said that’s the only way he’ll allow the script to be produced, and the director decided to follow his preference. Another director may have commented on an early draft of the material and focused on my name, which means I tend to attract attention even in a secondary capacity. But if a so-called reporter wished to comment on it, he should have determined the exact circumstances rather than write something that existed in his fevered imagination (consequently fulfilling the defamatory requirement for a libel suit, since hello, there’s no public interest in that kind of silly question). If I had actually written my own script, it would be not just awful, it would mark the end of civilization as we know it. That I think would be a goal that my friends will be able to recognize as genuinely worthy of my credit. [Posted November 2019]

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* Why does this personality seem to have a vendetta against you?

Who knows? He probably thinks I have enough money to buy his silence, since that’s how these corrupt media players operate. Other friends have come forward and said that the same person also owes them large amounts of money, unpaid over several decades. In the late 1980s, Mario A. Hernando warned friends of mine that this person was a government agent. [Update: A friend persuasively argued that the attack was meant to enhance the loser’s standing with his long-term sponsor, who desperately wants to attain some award at the expense of Nora Aunor. Which is so middlebrow-schlocky that it could never have occurred to me: one cheap turn in support of another, a perfect collusion between showbiz and politics. And come to think of it, that does prove that MAH was right after all these decades, since the aforementioned sponsor also happens to be a government official.]

11011My story is: when my first book came out, this person asked me to commission several copies from the publisher to sell to his friends. I paid for the copies, so I wouldn’t have to keep going back just to finalize the arrangement. When I followed up on the sales, he said that he gave the copies away to his friends in show business “to educate them,” implying that I should be grateful for the opportunity and annoyed that I even raised the question. You know that a second-hand copy of a book of mine went on sale recently at Amazon for almost a thousand US dollars? My books used to sell at much lower prices of course (the equivalent of two dollars in today’s prices for the title in question), but I was then a state-university instructor surviving on a hand-to-mouth budget when I was tricked into spending for nothing.

11011I might as well report here that this same person kept complimenting me during that period, in a manner I’d describe as full-on creepy; I should also add that it takes a lot to creep me out, which was how I was able to endure certain extreme samples of cinema. I’m no math whiz so please don’t ask me to calculate how all these variables played out. [Posted November 2019]

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* He seems to have some leftist friends though.

Left, definitely, more than leftist. As in left behind. Probably his way of ensuring that he’ll always have dimwits he can shortchange whenever he needs cash for his rentboys. Also, if Mario Hernando’s claim was true (see previous exchange), then we can say that this person was just doing his job, no matter how morally repugnant it might seem to you and me. Who else would he hang out with to snitch on – drag queens? [Posted November 2019]

11011[Update: In a separate exchange, a friend who (thought she) knew about this person’s political sympathies mentioned, in his defense, that he had earlier lambasted a filmmaker who had a prominent international stature, for supposedly capitulating to the outgoing administration’s call for support. What makes the attack suspect is: first, this person reportedly mooched off the filmmaker for a number of years, possibly incurring a high amount of debt; and second, the filmmaker, while known to share the same admiration for a rival of Aunor, carried out some projects that enabled Aunor to win several rounds of acting trophies and travel to foreign festivals.]

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* Have you contacted a libel expert to look into this case?

What was Falstaff’s point about discretion being the better part of valor? I know enough of Philippine media law and still have some friends in the right places. In practical terms, I have too many projects to attend to; what appears on this blog is at most about half of what I have to accomplish. So my standard answer to friends who have legal contacts is: I’ll provide all the evidence and testimonies I can gather, but any moneys they can win will be theirs. I’ll just settle for an authenticated pic of this pathetic predator behind bars. Other friends say that he seems to have retreated to his distant hometown so that poses some complication, but as we’ve been able to witness, even Donald Trump can be called to task way out in Palm Beach County for his malignancy. Although this no-talent loser’s more like a Rudy Giuliani stuck in the bowels of the Third World. [Posted December 2019]

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* Are you a Marcos supporter?

My contribution to an award-winning anthology of articles on the legacy of people power (titled Remembering/Rethinking EDSA, ed. JPaul S. Manzanilla and Caroline S. Hau, Mandaluyong City: Anvil, 2016) was complimented by the editors for being contrarian but fair. Even during the build-up to the EDSA uprising, I kept warning my colleagues at the Manunuri ng Pelikulang Pilipino that the Philippine industry output should not be downgraded just because the products were coming out during a dictatorship.

11011Time has proved me right: a canon project I advised came out with more titles during that period than at any other moment in local film history, but you would not recognize that kind of acknowledgment if you read the reviews published during that era. One consequence of this vulgar-politicized approach is that right after the Marcoses fled, when film production dried up and film artists migrated to mainstream and televisual involvements, film critics clammed up; after complaining about how awful things were, what else could critics say when they actually became awful?

11011Since then I always made sure to point out that the Marcoses were corrupt in relation to succeeding regimes, but they were also more culture-positive (to appropriate a term from identity politics) than later administrations. I posted on Ámauteurish! my Remembering/Rethinking EDSA article, titled “Grains & Flickers,” to be able to elaborate and update some of these points. Those who believe that anything done by an immoral leadership should never be branded as acceptable are either misunderstanding discourses on Marxist economic determinism or suffering from stupidity, which to me suggests a distinction that isn’t really worth making. [Posted December 2019]

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* You keep bashing the Manunuri ng Pelikulang Pilipino and the University of the Philippines Film Institute. What do you think are their problems?

I not only came from these two institutions, I was actively involved in their founding. For over a year I was the first and only graduate of what was then the country’s first film program, even though I signed up one semester after it opened; after a year of freelancing, I became the first Pinas film faculty who actually had a Pinas film degree – no big deal for me, but industry friends found it valuable. You’ll see me listed as corporate secretary of the MPP and not just founding director of the UPFI but final director of its preceding enterprise, the UP Film Center. So if the day ever comes when I avoid talking about them, that should be cause for concern.

11011We might as well bring up specifics. As an institution, or someone with institutional pretensions, I foreground my programs of action and make adjustments according to what might be useful for the foreseeable future. These depart from the ideals announced by other institutions, including the MPP’s and UPFI’s. (We may as well add that people who defend them don’t hesitate to bash me for adhering to standards that they think fall short of what my former associations represent.) As far as I’m concerned, we allow ourselves to be evaluated by how well we meet the expectations we set for ourselves. I conduct and announce my own evaluations, not always rosy ones in every respect – but can these institutions claim to be superior just because?

11011Most of us make do without access to governmental and global resources and still strive to be as productive as we can be. Looking at the output of individual members of the MPP and UPFI, I doubt if we can conclude that they have what we colloquially call K, or the right to walk tall, on the whole or on average. Take a closer look at the awards and distinctions that many of these people have acquired and tell me if no charlatanism was involved. At most possibly only one person in both of these groups (the same person, actually) can be counted as the exception that proves the rule. Be careful as you proceed though, because if they’re experts at anything, that would be their ability to sic their less-smart followers on their critics. [Posted January 2020]

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* So is organized film criticism per se wrong or problematic?

I mentioned earlier that I was involved in the founding of the Manunuri ng Pelikulang Pilipino. After I left, I was contacted by another disgruntled member, Mauro Feria Tumbocon Jr. (who left after I did), and we set up the Young Critics Circle. Later we thought that the awards system should be as flexible as possible, which is why we organized Kritika (along with an eponymous weekly radio hour that humorously heralded itself as “ang programang may K”).

11011I’ve never seen anything wrong in participating in any of these groups, although when I wrote about my short history of helping organize film critics, I said that Kritika fulfilled my idea of a perfect award-giving organization: it folded up after a few years of proving its point about handing out annual recognitions. Mau for his part has been showcasing Pinas and Fil-Am talents in the annual FACINE filmfest in San Francisco, California, providing access to foreign audiences for carefully curated Philippine movies and explaining why each one matters. Doing, in effect, what the MPP was supposed to accomplish with their annual awards exercises.

11011Someone from another chat group said that my being unaffiliated implies that I regard myself as too special to be identified with any organization. There’s some truth to that allegation, in the sense that the members of the ideological institutions I was previously associated with (first right-wing religious and later orthodox-left movements) always complained that I was too unwilling to submit to disciplinal prescriptions. But a sufficiently functional academic context, which allows for scholarly differences in a quest for furthering knowledge, might just be the right place for folks like us to thrive. [Posted January 2020]

11011(Asides: I’m assuming you’re reading out of a willingness to be open to the widest possible range of liberal ideas. Also, I only half-joke whenever I tell friends that the only critics group I still dream of joining would be the US-based X-Rated Critics Organization, which hands out its own annual set of awards. Seriously though, a former student of mine, of whom I’m justifiably proud, deserves to be added to the XRCO Hall of Fame.)

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* When will you reactivate your Facebook page?

I used to deactivate for a few months toward the end of the year, when personal and professional tasks had piled up, but I found it increasingly hard to resume during the past few years. I’m hopelessly biased against middlebrow values unless they function within a resistive context. Please don’t ask me to elaborate further. [Posted February 2021]

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* Why did you write a gossip article?

Because I’m not good enough to write more! I’d revel in wallowing in scandal if more of these types of allegorically significant stories come up, and if I could wangle more time away from academic production to attend to the immense analytical and stylistic challenges of attempting this wondrous mode of articulation. My models are Petronius and Michael Musto – only the best there have ever been. If I had an entire life to devote to anything I want, it would be gossip writing or bust. Maybe that’s why I’m indulging in this kind of exchange? You be the judge. Or don’t, whatever suits you. [Posted March 2021]

11011[Update: A socnet friend jokingly mentioned that I was attempting to tread on an MPP member’s specialization. Butch Francisco’s an acquaintance, though I wouldn’t consider him a capable critic; then again he wouldn’t be the only one with that predicament in that group. It’s too bad he’s been shamed out of engaging in gossip writing – where he was far from attaining any level of significance to begin with – and now preoccupies himself with high-brow matters including the write-ups for the group’s life-achievement prizes. It would have been useful to have someone to contrast against, now that the other big names (and better writers) of the Second Golden Age have passed away.]

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* How dare you make fun of Sakada. It was banned by the Marcos dictatorship, just like Manila by Night. And yet you keep insisting that MbN is a masterpiece. Since you like big words, try looking these up first: inconsistency and hypocrisy.

I’ll start by mentioning two ironies. First is that at the point where I resolved to be as evidence-based as it’s possible for a scholar of the moving image to get, I receive more “how dare you” messages (not all of them serious, of course). Second, the one I opt to answer publicly is the one sent anonymously, apparently without expecting a reply.

11011It’s still a vast improvement over the previous “how dare you” message, a narcissistic rant whose sender scolded me for describing her as forgotten. I initially thought that it was a dead former interviewee (or her impersonator) attempting to haunt me; that’s how forgotten that person was, and deserves to be, although she claimed that her so-called friends described her as a trailblazer. The Sakada defender, on the other hand, raises a legit lamentation, even if one can also sense some affiliational bias at play (the film’s director was closely associated with the orthodox left, far more than Manila by Night’s Ishma Bernal).

11011The assumption made by the querier, with which I agree, is that anything (and I would add, anyone) oppressed by a conservative institution is ennobled by the encounter. But any aestheticization that can be observed from this situation would have always been intrinsic to the work. In fact, if there’s anything (or anyone) that’s qualified by the conflict, it’s the character of patriarchy; the work itself can be considered in that context, but its aesthetic dimension, for better or worse, remains as artifactual as it was when its creators completed it, and will remain that way for as long as it can be preserved.

11011I wish we had samples of some of the local films that underwent censorship trouble in the distant past – Julian Manansala’s Patria Amore (1929), Rod Avlas’s Ang Batang Tulisan (1938), Ramon Estella’s Labi ng Bataan (originally Ako Raw Ay Huk, 1948), Eddie Garcia’s Ang Manananggol (originally Ang Manananggol ni Ruben, 1963, about the Annabelle Huggins rape case). At least we still have, aside from the two films in question, Conrado Conde, Jose de Villa, & Mar S. Torres’s Iginuhit ng Tadhana: The Ferdinand E. Marcos Story (1965) and Tito Sanchez’s Ibilanggo si … Neneng Magtanggol (1977), plus a charming little confection from Maryo J. de los Reyes titled Schoolgirls (1982) which, incredibly enough, was actually banned for a while.

11011Even from the small handful of still-available titles, one can readily see that not all of them will acquire, or deserve, the same degree or even type of aesthetic validation as, say, Manila by Night. Sakada in fact also had its moment as a critics’ favorite: it was arguably the most raved-over film of 1976, if one were to read the reviews of Behn Cervantes’s colleagues in the Manunuri ng Pelikulang Pilipino, as well as their official list of quarterly citations (a laudable practice they unceremoniously dropped some time ago). Not surprisingly, they were disastrously mistaken, but then the censors ban actually helped boost Sakada’s critical stock. If it had not been consequently disqualified from the group’s first set of awards, it could have claimed best-film stature, based on the notices it garnered.[1]

11011The fact that it remained in evaluative limbo worked in its favor: if it did win, both it and the group would have squandered their credibility from the get-go. As for me, I’m still hoping for the day when I could rewatch it with as open a mind as I can bring to it and declare it a Second Golden Age camp classic, alongside such other howl-worthy titles as Gerry de Leon’s Lilet (1971), Maryo J.’s Tagos ng Dugo (1987), Jerry Hopper’s Dovie Beams-starrer Maharlika (1970, also a previously banned title), and one of Eddie Romero’s too-many (pre-SGA) Blood-Island movies, though I still have to pinpoint which one’s the most amusing. And no, my purpose would not be to laugh at these texts, but to hold them close to my arrythmically twisted heart. Anyone interested in participating should keep in mind that repeatedly watching an entry with a like-minded audience, unruly yet receptive, is the key to making camp work. Let’s make it happen, people. [Posted September 2021]

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* I started reading your blog once in a while, after a friend recommended it. Then I saw a four-letter word. I looked some more and saw some sexually oriented topics in your books, with more shocking language. Too bad, I wanted to assign some of your writings to my students. Now I’ll have to discourage them from reading your material. I didn’t know you were a closet smut-peddler. But if you want to change my mind, it’s simple. Just get rid of your nasty words and articles and I’ll actively support you.

That’s funny, because if I would ever closet myself over anything, smut-peddling would be the least of my issues. I’d also rather not censor anything on my blog – in fact, your message got me wondering how I can up the ante on the nastiness you mentioned. Finally, please: tell your students, and everyone else you can influence, to not read what I write. The ones who’ll follow you won’t be worth counting as readers, while the smart ones are already on their way to looking up exactly what got you all riled up, if they haven’t been there and done so already.

11011Although to be less supercilious, how can a few four-letter words be regarded as fucking obscene when set against centuries of political oppression and economic exploitation and religious obfuscation? I’ll never be able to figure that one out, and what’s worse (though better, for me at least) is that I don’t really care to any longer. [Posted September 2021]

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* Your introduction to this section asks for “errors in proofreading,” among other things. After a few months of on-and-off immersion, I came across almost none – quite a high level of correctness for a Filipino blog. Sometimes, I would note an error, then it would be gone by the time I check again later.

11011However, these ones seem to be persistent, so I’m assuming you find their usage proper: “comprises/comprise” rather than “is/are comprised of”; “was graduated” rather than “graduated”; “cf.” to mean “refer to”; “she/her” as a universal pronoun; apostrophe plus “s” in selected cases (Marcos’s, de la Cruz’s, Philippines’s). I stopped taking notes after I noticed how obsessed you were with correctness, but these ones would have made my English instructors scold me in front of the class.

I generally avoid publicizing positive messages, of which I get a decent share, despite how this section might suggest otherwise. So thanks to everyone, known or anonymous, for all the appreciation and encouragement. I’m responding to this query not because it’s qualified praise, because to me it’s still mainly approbatory.

11011I’ll have to answer each instance in the order brought up by the writer except for the mightily involving pronoun issue, which will be tackled in the final paragraph. The principle I observe is: I tend toward the most conservative writing rule available, just because this takes care of one basic area and allows me to indulge in the violation of preferences and sensibilities in other areas. With that clarification, here goes nothing.

11011“Comprising” to mean “composing” or “constituting” has been allowable for several decades already, but its primary meaning still refers to “comprehensively including” or “listing without exception” (my own reformulation of the standard dictionary entry). To “graduate” someone was and still is a privilege that only duly accredited authorities or institutions could bestow, although that sense of it’s mostly ignored in the use of the word today (because people don’t ask “Who/what graduated you?” but rather “Where did you graduate from?”); I use the more precise designation but then the meaning remains evident either way. The abbreviation “cf.” may mean “confer” but you’re right – “conferatur” is really Latin for “contrast,” so I’m in the process of adjusting all my pre-graduate school usage of it, one at a time.

11011On the formation of possessives: the first time I and my classmates were instructed to use an apostrophe without an s, we were told to apply it to any instance where a word ends with the s sound, or an approximation of it; the contemporary grammatical rule though (which in this case makes a lot more sense) is to use the s-less apostrophe only when the word’s final s indicates the plural form – hence Marcos’s, the Marcoses’.[2] The Philippines, when it refers to the Republic (as cf. the colonial-era’s Islands), is singular. Like, for once, the United States.

11011Regarding the universal pronoun, I’d opt for the consistency of the singular form rather than shift to plural as a way of evading the question of gender. I found my recourse useful when I once wrote about a number of individuals who happened to include a non-binary person who preferred plural usage for themselves. The formation of neopronouns just for this purpose is too pretentious for me, sorry to say. Strangely, most people who insist on shifting to plural or using new terms identify as feminist. Their complaint (which I share) is valid: the centuries-long practice of insisting on the singular masculine as universal identifier has to be rectified. So why not the singular feminine? It will be grammatically consistent, uphold the non-patriarchal, and upset conservatives; if in addition it annoys the advocates of they or zhe or the atrocious s/he, boo-hoo but my writing’s integrity comes first. [Posted October 2021]

11011[Update: Years before this spec was spotted as a trend in an online news report, my self-description in this blog’s Abouts page included the following: “[My] pronoun preference, for those to whom it matters, is posthuman: it (nominative & oblique), its (possessive), itself (reflexive).”]

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* I thought you wanted some peace of mind and that’s why you deactivated your Facebook account. But once a troublemaker, always a troublemaker. Not just your replies on this page, but even in your recent articles and books as well as the updates to your past writings. But you’re crossing the wrong people, and you know it. Don’t make the mistake of showing up at the University of the Philippines or you’ll be getting a taste of your own medicine.

What is it with these pseudo-rads who think that just because their institution once boasted of activist activity (a long-gone tradition to which I once happened to contribute), they’re entitled to treat their public grounds as their own provisional directorate? (The Diliman campus once was exactly that for ten days a half-century ago, and I did already happen to be around then.) I’ll assume that you and the pretentious hothead who made the same statements on the social network a few years ago are different entities. But I continue dropping by any place – on “your” campus or in the country or on the planet – whenever I need to get some work done, regardless of which political entity feels it’s in charge. Obviously you guys are merely being performative, another throwback to the now-anachronistic mantle of machismo in which old tibáks used to cloak themselves,[3] apparently to compensate for their motherly concern for nation and their tendency to turn to poetry and song to express such ach-so-tender sentiments. I’ve seen too many of your types turn tail when the prospect of an actual confrontation comes up though. Enjoy your virtual parochial claims and may you have a long, boring life. [Posted October 2021]

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* I notice how you’ve been critical of the old left, the Marcoses, and the Duterte administration. That leaves one party that you undoubtedly support: the yellows. Why not just come out with it and make your political preference clear? The time for declaring the candidates we support is arriving once more.

This isn’t the first time that my political preference has been articulated for me. Also, other people have identified me with one or the other of their enemy camps on the basis of my misgivings about the parties they support. (There’s a small circle of rabid pro-yellows who’ll think you’re bonkers if they come across your question, for one thing.)

11011That’s the way I prefer to have it. During my now-past social-network days, I endured attacks from all political and religious sides, without exception, and promptly honored these fanatics with membership in my blocked list. I did maintain open venues of communication with certain civilized reps of these various lines of persuasion. That would then result in the typical all-or-nothing devotee judging me as an opponent of her own cherished cause, just because I happened to converse publicly with a figure reviled by her posse.

11011I always felt that it should be obvious to anyone by now, that I’ve adhered for decades to the study of popular culture: initially as a way to avoid political discourse during the fascistic period of the Marcos presidency, until I realized its usefulness as a way of passing judgment on political ideologies that claim to hold the key to national redemption and prosperity. Still waiting for anyone who could advocate for anarchic identity-based radicalism since that would have a chance of arousing some interest on my end; otherwise, bug off, everyone with a candidate or party (or religion – same difference) to sell.

11011As for this specific question-sender, thanks for your interest, but I do remember getting the ball rolling on deconstructing the cultural policies of the previous yellow regime. [Posted November 2021]

[Update: The current crop of presidential candidates emerged not just with a color switch – from yellow to pink – but with a rare exceptional choice, the equivalent of Jovito Salonga during the 1992 election. The dilemma during this round would be whether to uphold the genuinely alternative option, or to vote strategically to prevent the return of the Marcoses in their naked attempt to launder stolen funds, if not to plunder more. I’ll be having this on-and-off conversation with my conscience all the way to election day – and will keep my final preference to myself, as always.]

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* A friend who knew another friend said that [an elderly film authority] said you used a pejorative word to describe a well-loved personality who just died. I didn’t want to believe what I heard. Please tell me it isn’t true.

I’ve had messages from well-meaning friends along this same line before. Many times, they’d be incited by sources who outright lie – even if they happen to be in positions of academic authority. In this instance, the news was fairly accurate, but the context was missing, and context is everything, as we all know, or should know, in cultural studies and literature. Before answering this specific charge, I’ll be first to acknowledge that I occasionally commit errors, though not in this case. When I know I’ve unfairly crossed anyone, I either apologize directly – in print if the transgression’s serious or was also published in the first place – or find other ways to make up for my misstep.

11011Regarding this specific rumor, I made an effort a short time ago to clarify my point, also in print. That should have sufficed, except that the context, as I mentioned, is where the issue becomes murky. The conversation I had with said personality was meant to be a collegial exchange that devolved into a gripe session about mutual acquaintances. I don’t believe in asserting an incident between conflicting parties where I’m one of the protagonists and no witness was present; but obviously for some reason, the converser subsequently became extremely defensive about his position and/or invested in discrediting me. So all I’ll maintain, in the spirit of fairness to myself, is that this personality also presented his grievances about the then-still-living maestro, and they were no less uncomplimentary, possibly even harsher than my one-word description. My comment was merely about the person’s competence, his was about moral integrity.

11011I also managed to accumulate a few other comments from several other professed admirers of the late authority, and even more of the rumor-monger. Make of that what you will, this issue is closed, as far as I can be bothered to respond to it. [Posted January 2022]

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* Hello fellow WordPress user, I’d like to find out how you were able to indent your paragraphs. Do you use any plug-in, and if so, which plug-in did you download?

The first techie query I ever got, and since I receive a lot of selfless assistance whenever I pose a problem with the WP community, I don’t mind extending help in return – to a fellow blog user as well as to anyone stumped by one of the many limitations of HTML usage. I endeavored to find as many HTML solutions as I could figure out without having to shell out extra funds to upgrade my blog-user status. In short, no plug-ins to be able to indent my inside paragraphs’ first lines. It’s an unsatisfactory measure though, which makes it more of a compromise than an acceptable answer: I approximated the length of indentation and expressed it in terms of a series of 0’s and 1’s (only realizing later, to my amusement, that I had literally resorted to binaries), then changed this text series’s color to white. Since the background’s also supposed to be white, it appears blank, so QED … except when the reader opts for a dark-colored page. Rest assured I’ll still be seeking a less messy means of achieving this same effect, and will announce it then, for what it’s worth. [Posted February 2022]

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* I remember sending you the question on gatekeeping that appears at the end of this section, way before the other queriers. You gave me what you described as a tentative answer. Do you intend to answer the question, once and for all? Or are you hesitating because of the new controversy you stirred up with your former colleagues in the Philippines? (Which, BTW, I found highly instructive but scary in its rigor – I don’t know if they’ll ever be able to respond to it, roundtable or no roundtable.)

Thanks for the appreciative remark (in re “From Cloud to Resistance”). I do feel worried, not because of any retaliation they might (again) undertake, but rather because their inaction might be indicative of the larger public response. So far, most of the people whose feedback I value have signalled their bemusement, if not outright support. Then again that could also mean that I’m just preaching to the already-converted. I get how blog posts tend to produce an impact nowadays that’s slower and milder than they used to. I get some consolation in observing how publications exclusively featured in Ámauteurish! are starting to show up in the bibliographies of articles in major journals and even in top-university dissertations. I’d prefer though to have such rarefied appreciation shared by the Philippine public while I’m still around to observe how it affects their thinking processes, for better or worse. The fact that entrenched authorities have seen fit to denounce and even censor me convinces me that my recommendations are unacceptable to these soon-to-be-irrelevant mandarins.

11011What I look forward to is a culture where younger critics critique what I write in order to move further onward, instead of spinning back to established ideas and processes (as a few of them actually declared: rather than take a close look at the ideas I spout, they simplistically presume that because I collide with self-identified progressive personalities, then I must be anti-progressive myself). For this reason, I don’t think I’ll be able to answer your query about whether I intend to “gatekeep” Pinas film criticism. I might seem to have that effect right now, but if I’m able to confirm that function, then I’ll have to be the first to subject myself to deconstruction. That’s possibly the only type of clusterfuck I’d prefer to do without. [Posted December 2022]

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* I’m with the other query-senders in appreciating your concern for correctness. I’m glad you acknowledge the usefulness of the style rules of the Modern Language Association, although I don’t think you correctly observe their en-dash stipulation for separating number ranges. In fact, what should be em-dashes appear as en-dashes in your textual material. Just a minor oversight, and I’m sure you’ve got a solid rationale for it.

11011I’m more concerned with your insistence on the long-discarded Three Worlds framework. This operates on the assumption that the categories are fixed and that a country within any of the lesser “worlds” will retain the stigma even after it has moved forward for some time. Also, news alert: it’s been decades since a Second World, as it was originally defined, existed among us. I’m sure you’re aware that the more acceptable terms are “developed” for wealthy countries and “developing” for the less-wealthy ones.

This isn’t the first time I’ve been personsplained about Three-Worldism – in fact, the first person to do it was also the one who said that all the other alternatives he knew of (starting with the developing/developed binary) were unsatisfactory in their own ways. It’s not a hill I’m willing to die on, to use dated warfare expression. You might be interested to look into how health specialists reconsidered the available means of classification after the global pandemic made wealth differences among nations crucial: the categorization that seemed least objectionable, not surprisingly, was the most technocratic one, whose absence of values that could advocate for change (an even more involved concept) makes it as appealing to me as another bout of lockdown.

11011I imagine it’s easier, and possibly imperative, to move beyond the Three Worlds concept, especially since China, the country that once positioned itself as the Third World’s standard-bearer, has transformed itself since then into … anything but; and as you mentioned, the Second World, where China would have nominally belonged, is now history, for better and for worse. In my field of study though, certain Second-World titles, specifically of Euro socialist-bloc countries (plus of course Cuba) during the brief periods when they were free of Soviet hegemonic intimidation, hold a fascination for me that no other political context can match. You’ll be able to see works that express critical reservations about socialist systems and processes, while continuing to function within socialist ideals – as close as it may have been possible for orthodox Marxism to arrive at genuinely progressive filmmaking while roundly slapping the insufferably smug visage of socialist realism.

11011As for the notion of Third-World cinema, I’ve always been able to find productive applications for the mode of practice that championed the causes of all kinds of Othernesses regardless of which part of the planet they happen to reside in. I find it historically satisfying that Third cinema appropriated (part of) the term, though not its problematic geopolitical designation. (One of Third cinema’s explicators, the late Paul Willemen, handled the class I took, and was the person I referred to at the start of my response.) I’ve written at length on this topic elsewhere, but in moving forward, should I start indicating that I’ve always been aware of the problematic status of Third-Worldism, incidentally granting some respite to the Philippine military dictatorship’s responsibility for reversing the country’s developmental drift? I’m afraid I have no definite answer at the moment. Almost a decade spent in the capital of the “developed” sphere made certain for me that capitalist success premised on unbridled Third-World exploitation could best be realized by ensuring that such a Third World (following and perverting Third cinema principles) be propagated and confined within the First World’s borders.

11011Regarding the stylistic question of dashes and hyphenations: I started WordPress blogging at the moment when it enabled a WYSIWYG interface with Microsoft Word. I could conceivably correct all instances in the blog where wannabe en-dashes make use of hyphens, and where unspaced em-dashes should replace all en-dashes. That means that, as an example, in order to create each and every properly formatted future number range in Word, I should not only insert a space before and after the hyphen but also write out the next figure and hit the space bar again, and then go back to the number range and delete the spaces (I know, it would be far simpler to just create a macro, but that’s a practice I dropped when I realized that MS software updates couldn’t work out a method of automatically confirming their own users). Or I could go on trusting readers to figure out that when they see a number range separated by a hyphen, they should imagine an en-dash instead, if that sort of thing mattered to them. Word and several earlier word-processing software have functioned on the basis of hyphens and en-as-em-dashes; on my part I can and do step up to full and updated MLA style specs when finalizing texts for article or book publications. The prospect of going beyond that for the sake of arbitrarily determined perfectionism would be no different for me as anticipating the arrival of a socialist utopia: I might welcome the opportunity, but I don’t see the point of holding my breath till then. [Posted March 2023]

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* Can you please explain why you write in support of our beloved National Artist, Nora Aunor, but the NA film reviews on your blog are written by someone else? In fact the last film reviews where you discussed a Philippine star are focused on Sharon Cuneta. I got even more confused when I read the latest one, because of its title: “Pop for All Seasons.” That does not refer to NA or even to Sharon. What’s going on?

I can’t thank you enough for your query, for finally providing an opportunity to get at the heart of Pinas pop culture. I’ll start by admitting that I brought over some of the trickster stunts I used to deploy on Facebook (which I’m even more convinced is all that it’s good for). Nevertheless I do take celebrity and stardom as seriously as the other cinema-studies issues I strive to comprehend. The basic principle I wish to stress is that I’ve always been in a state of flux, as I’m sure these stars and all our other best artists also ensure for themselves – for the sake of continuing growth, if we’re lucky. So my output is not premised on my preferences at the moment, but on what our artists produce as well as my honest evaluation of my capacity to engage with their work. With Nora Aunor and several other Filipino talents attaining their peak a few decades ago, I still had to attend then to more fully preparing myself for criticism and scholarship. We’re all certainly fortunate that she managed to survive this long, so I could still write the occasional critical article about her, though no longer about her less-vital contemporary film work.

11011While she’s entitled to indulge in activities that, for a change, might prove personally fulfilling or pleasurable for her, I feel it’s also time to pay some attention to someone who might be capable of persisting in the tradition of stardom that she redefined and that probably became impossible to fully replicate. The only one I can identify right now with a similar claim to mass adulation and with qualitatively upgraded performative skill is Sharon Cuneta (who once initiated her own “Noranian turn,” as posited by Bliss Cua Lim, someone who would know better than me about these matters). Finally, as to my own scholarly biases, I find it productive to study Sharon today as much as I still find it fascinating to evaluate Nora’s achievements, following the insights provided by stardom enthusiasts here and abroad. As for the phrase “pop for all seasons,” I’ll have to disagree with you: if it doesn’t apply to what we know of Sharon at this time as well as Nora before her, who else could truthfully and accurately fulfill that description? [Posted May 2023]

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* Do you intend to be a gatekeeper for Philippine film criticism and/or scholarship?

[More Q&As coming up!]


[1] I’d really not want to further extend what has become one of the longer answers in this Q&A series, except that both films in question were already a (bureaucratic) concern of mine decades before the question-sender took notice. When I realized that the then-percolating anti-dictatorship movement forced the cultural establishment of Ferdinand Marcos to a position of permanent enlightenment as one of its defenses, I suggested to an official in my workplace, the Experimental Cinema of the Philippines, to screen the uncensored version of Manila by Night. To my surprise, I was called back not long after and instructed to start the processing of documents necessary for the film’s release. I was also apprised of the agency’s willingness to screen Sakada – in effect, the two most celebrated censorship cases of the martial-law regime. Bernal was of course delighted that his work would finally be shown in its integral version and with its intended title rather than the censors-designated City after Dark. On the other hand, all the people involved in Sakada provided the same answer: they did not want it screened at the Manila Film Center. I deduced that this was in line with the call jointly made by Cannes filmfest entrants Lino Brocka and Mike de Leon to boycott the MFC, and left it at that.

[2] Some time ago, I discussed Dovie Beams and her appearance in the inescapably scandalous book written by Hermie Rotea, titled Marcos’ Lovey Dovie. Even though standard practice allows me to append “[sic]” after the book title’s first word, I regard the act as not only incredibly petty, but also contestable: within certain stylistic traditions, this way of indicating the possessive may still be considered correct.

[3] Tibák is activist argot, drawn from a type of verlanism prevalent among local working-class urbanites since the 1960s. Similar to Pig Latin, a verlan transposes a word’s final syllable to first position (hence the French l’envers, or the inverse, becoming vers-l’en or verlan). In the case of tibák, the full word for activist, aktibista, is first clipped (to aktib) and then verlanized. The first sample of extensive verlanism in Philippine film titles originates from the Spanish-derived Guwapo (dir. Teodorico C. Santos, 1954, with an English appropriation-cum-translation in 1959, Carlos Vander-Tolosa’s Handsome), re-emerging thereafter as Pogi (dir. Marcelino Navarro, 1967) and preceding by several decades its diminutive, Guwapings: The First Adventure (dir. Jose Javier Reyes, 1992). Pogi itself was promoted with an alternate title, the then-current entirely verlanized expression Pogi Dehin Goli, which roughly means “Mr. Handsome[, who] Never Bathes.”

11011The first nomenclatural instance of film-specific verlanism occurred even earlier, in 1962, when Chiquito’s first self-directed credit, for Dra-Kulas (which also puns on Kulás, a name that connotes servility or slowness), tendered the nom de camera “To-chi-qui.” The comedian would use the verlanization throughout the rest of the 1960s, replacing it thereafter with either his formal name (Augusto V. Pangan) or its initials. Trivia trap: The better-known comedian verlan today may be “Pidol,” inasmuch as Lino Brocka himself collaborated on one of Dolphy’s serious projects; the lesser-known fact is that the first Brocka non-directing credit was actually for cowriting a Chiquito film, Luciano B. Carlos’s The Arizona Kid (1970).

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