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Marilou Diaz-Abaya: IMPRESSIONS October 23, 2012

Posted by Richard Bolisay in Asian Films, Noypi, RIP.
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Director Marilou Diaz-Abaya and Cesar Montano on the set of  “Jose Rizal”

In almost every field of interest between arts and science there seems to be a pressing need to represent women. It’s a kind of consciousness established in societies where campaigns for sexual equality are strong and pervasive. Certainly, the world would be a better place when everyone’s rights are respected, but sometimes there is that danger of doing it as a token effort, considering men in general don’t find it necessary to be part of every thing. Representation happens to them naturally and with much less bother. This business of glorifying women and their achievements—the media making a fuss about the first female president, the first woman to climb a tallest mountain, the first female Nobel Prize winner, and so on and so forth, and focusing on the subject voraciously—is rarely an innocent gesture. It’s a display of obscene generosity in situations that only call for an honest but dispassionate recognition, one that refuses to pander to women but still maintains its sincere admiration.

Hence, it only feels appropriate to honor Marilou Diaz-Abaya, whose career in film, television, and the academe spanned three decades, without too much emphasis on her gender. Obviously, being a woman did not limit her to tackle themes of her choice. Yes, her first few films (Tanikala, Brutal, Moral, Karnal, and Alyas Baby Tsina) feature women, but they aren’t ideal: they are dazed and confused, damaged by their personal decisions and impaired by their vulnerabilities. During that time, Abaya made films in the company of talented men, women, and gay men—Lino Brocka, Ishmael Bernal, Mike de Leon, Mario O’Hara, Laurice Guillen, Lupita Kashiwahara, Peque Gallaga, and Celso Ad. Castillo—and she belonged. She was not the finest filmmaker of her generation, nor she deliberately aspired to be one, but she slowly made a name for herself, her modesty and seemliness eclipsing the dark nature of her early movies.

Looking back, it makes sense that a number of people consider Brutal, Moral, and Karnal a trilogy of some sort, as their titles clearly indicate their parallel stories. These three films do not intersect but they share a world where misfortunes happen and fracture the lives of their characters. They present tragedies of varying intensities, placing women not only at the center but also in the periphery. Brutaltells the story of a young woman who murders her husband and his friends. A female journalist writes about her case and meets another woman who takes pride in selling her body. Moral features four university students who find themselves at a crossroads, yearning for love and chasing their dreams. Karnal enters a much sinister territory, depicting a couple living in a remote town shrouded by secrets, narrated by an old lady whose frightening voice is a character in itself. All three movies were written by acclaimed writer Ricky Lee, his scripts heavy on research and rich in characterization, and Abaya did not only handle them maturely: she grasped them with force and confidence. Clearly, she felt challenged by her contemporaries.

While there is a palpable sense of femininity in these movies, Abaya abstains from sanctimonious pageantry and puts things in perspective. She raises concerns of women and the violence committed to them, but she also recognizes their shortcomings and susceptibility to moral hypnosis, their fates determined by their resolve or lack thereof. The world is unfair to women, but so is to men.Karnal, for instance, has a strong and suffocating depiction of patriarchy, the overbearing father played by Vic Silayan controlling not just the women of the house but also the men. It’s a horrifying picture of a family maddened by circumstances, and the woman whose importance in the story is emphasized leaves a disturbing impression of subsistence, coming out alive in the end but bereft of spirit. By contrast, Moral is a lighter but sharper piece, one whose observations on the struggles of present-day women, lost in the mazes they create for themselves, are relevant up to now. WhereasBrutal and Alyas Baby Tsina dwell on the criminal and psychological, overplaying hopelessness and suffering, Moral rims its characters by emphasizing their faulty nature, placing them in more realistic situations but with less defined solutions to their problems.

Abaya gave into expectations, which could be extremely hard when you’re twenty-something, principled, and pressured by the task of working with some of the local industry’s renowned actors. She confronted the need to have a so-called female voice in a business dominated by male egos, but she didn’t make a huge deal out of it. Filmmaking, after all, requires the flair for sucking up to the system and turning the tide in the shortest time possible. As her reputation grew, Abaya started to swerve and change direction. Overshadowing the remarkable scripts of Kung Ako’y Iiwan Mo (written by Amado Lacuesta), Milagros (written by Rolando Tinio), and May Nagmamahal Sa ‘Yo (written by Ricky Lee) are epic productions she took charge of near the end of the ‘90s. After working with GMA Films for Sa Pusod ng Dagat, she embarked on an ambitious project of directing the life of Jose Rizal, which turned out to be one of the movies that people would fondly remember her for. Running for almost three hours, Jose Rizal is by all means impressive in scale, from its cast and locations to its wardrobe and production design. Having been given the financial liberty to interpret history, Abaya took on the challenge and pleased her producers, the box-office success of the movie owing to its relevance (1998 is the 100th year of Philippine independence) and inclusion in the annual Metro Manila Film Festival. Abaya managed to repeat this feat, although in a much smaller scale, with the release of Muro-ami the following year. Cesar Montano credited her for advancing his acting career, as the movie also made the rounds in foreign film festivals.

The palette on which Abaya decided to situate herself and her characters broadened and leaned on the populist side, but this was neither for the benefit nor detriment of her career, since her films in the ‘90s and ‘00s, well-made most of them might be, weren’t faultless, and only upon recognizing the nature of these lapses that her entire body of work could be fully appreciated. In this period she no longer seemed as self-conscious as she was when she began, yet in this settled state she also lost that spark of youth, preferring to address larger social issues by way of narratives poached in television drama, resorting to truisms instead of the whys and wherefores. She presented social ills with beaming optimism, an attitude she had until her final years. In Bagong Buwan, for instance, she avoided stereotyping Muslims and Christians, but did so with an off-putting blatancy that stood out as the movie progressed. By placing the carefully executed drama at the center, Abaya wasn’t in control of her characters; on the contrary, they were in control of her. It’s a movie that shows an angry face but not an angry heart, lacking any kind of subversiveness that may have made it leap out of the ordinary.

Not to put too fine a point on it: she softened, and her voice lost its ire. One could attribute it to the type of projects she took on, but clearly it’s natural for artists to change, and she did so (intentionally or not) as personal life caught up on her, settling down and having two kids to tend to. Another reason could be time. Several years before digital cinema boomed, her contemporaries in the ‘80s were either dead or inactive. Slow years, so to speak, went by. She became more involved in socio-civic work and teaching, helping out various organizations and honing hungry young minds at Ateneo. Her passion was channeled to people who needed her, and she obliged. Cancer didn’t stop her. In 2007, shortly after the diagnosis, she founded the Marilou Diaz-Abaya Film Institute and Arts Center and established programs for aspiring filmmakers. It was a very emotional time, but she managed to shoot and finish Ikaw ang Pag-ibig, which would turn out to be her last hurrah. A tribute to Our Lady of Peñafrancia, the film is a farewell and love letter to a generation she is about to leave behind, a piece of work that understandably shows her frailness. Like most of us, she was living and dying at the same time, and in those two hours came her final breaths in her homeland, submitting to the industry she served for 30 years, cinema being the only homeland of filmmakers who fought their wars until the very end.

But what is death if not cruel and kind, if not an amalgam of strange contradictions, discoveries, and dead-ends? Where does one find consolation but in grief? Where does one turn to when silence starts to idle? Philippine cinema lost three of its beloved children this year—Dolphy, Mario O’Hara, and Marilou Diaz-Abaya—and their quietus is not only a reminder of mortalities that happen between parentheses but also of the crumbs they took with them, their departures an indication of life in an industry that’s always been rumored to be dead. She spent her last five years in pain and resignation, the latter casting a shadow on the former, blanketed in optimism and bent on sharing every bit of herself with old and new friends, family and acquaintances. She was mourned and missed by people who knew her, and even those who didn’t felt a kind of affection towards her, a familiar but distant feeling of knowing her, of being moved by her passion. More than her body of work, which had its highs and lows, she created a path to follow, an existence devoted to art and spiritual work, left to the tender mercies of time, which could also be as cruel and kind as death. In this industry, what remain are the impressions made by the brave and generous, and books, should they be fortunate enough to be printed, would certainly have her name.

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Kabilang sa mga Nagwawala November 23, 2011

Posted by Richard Bolisay in Noypi, RIP.

Sapat na ba ang hindi paglimot?
Sapat na ba ang mga gunita
at paggunitang bihag ng poot
at galit na maski pangako ng langit
at walang hanggang paalam
ay hindi kayang pagsidlan?
Mga tarak sa puso na kahit anong yapos
ng minamahal ay hindi kayang gamutin
sapagkat hindi lamang buhay at pag-ibig
at pag-asa at lunggati ang kinitil
kundi maging mga posibilidad
mga magagandang posibilidad
mga lumilipad na posibilidad
tulad ng mga paruparong waksihan man ng kulay
ay magpapatuloy sa pagdapo
at sa paghanap ng madadapuan
tulad ng mga paruparong pagkaitan man ng
pakpak ay maaakit sa samyo ng rosas
sa sinag ng araw, sa haplos ng hangin
sa halik ng walang-kasiguruhan
tulad ng mga paruparong walang ningning?
Sa ganito na lamang ba mauuwi
ang lahat, sa gunita at paggunita
sa balita at pagbabalita, sa luha at pagluha
sa paglirip ng kahapon at
sa pagtanggap ng lahat
ng lahat lahat, ng lahat lahat?

*Ang imahen ay kuha mula rito

Iya Log #1: Sky Full of Holes October 1, 2011

Posted by Richard Bolisay in RIP.

Her absence is like the sky, spread over everything.
(C.S. Lewis, A Grief Observed)

Tomorrow is Iya’s first death anniversary. She turned seven last July 23. She died of aneurysm, between two and three o’clock on a Saturday morning, when most people were either sound asleep or reading a book to help them fall asleep. Rain was pouring hard then, as it is now, and the sound of its marching fall was portentous. A few hours before she was pronounced dead I was in my room browsing through the last pages of E.M. Forster’s Maurice, which I started reading when my family went out to dinner, our last one together with Iya. The book made me cry, but I never realized I’d cry harder after putting it back on the shelf.

My sister called to ask for directions to a hospital in Pasig. I scurried to check the Internet, gave her instructions, and sent my hugs for Iya, unaware that my niece was already unconscious, that she would no longer be conscious and return to our house with stories of her friends at school. I was worried, but hopeful. I never thought my sister’s next call would be about Iya’s death, but there I was, wringing the water out of myself like newly washed laundry, the cobwebs in the corners of my room commiserating with me, swayed by the wind as I sobbed, cried, and whimpered. The news of her death hit me hard. I didn’t know what to do. My sister wasn’t speaking clearly but I already knew what she was saying, so I said, please tell the doctors to revive her, bring her back, kahit gulay na siya. I hung up and bawled my eyes out. I refrained from making noises because my mom might hear me. We couldn’t tell her yet. She had a stroke a few months back and was just beginning to recuperate, and several months later, in the most unfortunate of circumstances, she’d be diagnosed with breast cancer. I cried on my pillow for I didn’t know how long.

My brother and I took a cab to Pasig. From time to time he would explain to the driver why I was crying and why our niece was brought to a hospital in Pasig while we could have brought her somewhere near. All I remember from that long ride was the rain. Everywhere there was water: puddles on the side of the road, water dripping from the roofs, the splash of rain on the taxi windows, my tears falling recklessly from my eyes. At the hospital my two sisters were waiting for us. I hugged them and before I knew it I was on the floor, hitting my head on the wall, unable to control myself from crying. The tears just wouldn’t stop. I didn’t know how to make them stop, and in a way I didn’t want them to stop. Days and weeks and months after Iya died I would still cry that way, and those mornings were the hardest to bear. A picture of Iya in my notebook, a memory of her at a convenience store, a kiss from her on a random day, a drawing she made, a card she sent me, a test paper from her class: any of them would easily make me cry. I couldn’t look at kids anymore because they would always remind me of Iya. I couldn’t pass the aisles of sweets in the grocery store because I would always remember the promises I made of buying her presents on payday. I couldn’t go home from work without remembering the many times I ignored her because I was so tired.

Iya had a lot of pictures, and in most of them she was happy, posing and smiling like a movie star. She loved seeing herself in photos, and there were times when she would grab the camera and take a picture of us or anything that struck her fancy. In fact, our personal computer and mobile phones were filled of her pictures. She was always ready for fun. God knows how hard it was looking through them again, remembering where this and that were taken, in the living room, at the mall, at a fast food chain, at a swimming pool, trying to guess if she was pleased or sad or about to throw a tantrum. We had pictures of her ever since she was a baby, and I’d look at them now and miss those days, how I seemed to take them for granted, how I forgot to pay attention to her because I was too preoccupied with my thoughts. I regret missing the chances when I could have spent more time with her, taught her how to read, or just cuddle her before she went to sleep. One day she promised me that she would read all the books on my shelf when she grew up and learned how to read English. It was a sweet promise, and I held on to it because I knew she would, if she had lived longer.

There was never a day I hadn’t thought of her. On the train I would cry heedless of the people around me. At my workplace I’d stop writing and cover my face with a jacket so that my seatmate wouldn’t see me. There were nights when I dreaded going to sleep because I would just bawl my eyes out. Recently I was at a friend’s apartment and we were talking about random things. He stood up to get something and I was left alone so I dozed off for a minute. Before I knew it I was crying no end. Looking back, I think it was the memory of Iya watching videos on my iPod that made me sad then. She loved Blu’s animation (one of the two reviews I published on this blog that mentioned her; the other is her scathing assessment of Bong Revilla’s Panday) and the music videos of Kylie Minogue’s “Come Into My World” and Blur’s “Coffee and TV.” She liked the Blur video most especially. She saw it lots of times. She was clearly amused by the dancing milk carton, and sometimes she would beg to see it again every time I was using my iPod. I’ve always thought that last shot of the two cartons flying to heaven was too melodramatic, but whenever I came across that video now, it was Iya I saw in their smiling faces, flapping her wings and reaching the sky before finally disappearing. It has been a year and the pain has never gone away. I’m sure it never will.

I never had the chance to say goodbye to Iya before she died. I didn’t have the courage to hug her before she was put inside the hospital freezer because my sister said her face was bloated after the doctors tried to revive her. She was only six and it was too much for her. When she was brought home for the wake, my sisters had to shout at me because I didn’t want to look at Iya inside the coffin. They told me Iya might think I was ignoring her, like I did before when I was too exhausted from work. I looked at her and realized that she wasn’t asleep. She’s dead. She’s no longer here. She will no longer ask for Koko Krunch every morning. She will no longer ask me to stay in her room and sleep beside her. She will no longer walk with me on my way to the bank machine or 7-11. She will no longer visit my room and ask what this word means or where this place is. She will no longer sing her favorite songs. She will no longer dance to my favorite songs. She’s somewhere else now, and I wasn’t able to tell her for the last time that I love her more than myself, that I have millions of dreams for her, that I am saving up to send her to the best schools, that I am going to buy her beautiful clothes, that we’re going away somewhere and watch all the movies she wants and we’ll be the coolest uncle and niece this world will ever know.

R.E.M. (1980-2011) September 23, 2011

Posted by Richard Bolisay in Music, RIP.
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It didn’t sink in yesterday, but today it did. The moment I played an R.E.M. song on my iPod this morning, I burst into tears. I wanted nothing but a space for myself away from the office.  Fuck.  It’s supposed to feel fine, as Stipe sings about the end of the world, but no, not this time at least.

Thank you Stipe, Berry, Buck, and Mills. For the most part of my childhood I was the man on your moon, supernatural superserious, a nerd carrying a Walkman on the way to school, comforted by your music. You don’t know how much I owe you. Until then, until always.

Attica! Attica! Top Films of 2009! (Introduction) March 3, 2010

Posted by Richard Bolisay in RIP, Yearender.

“Get lost!” said 2010 to 2009. It walked away but it didn’t seem to listen.


It was the first film festival that graced the year. The first time I had the chance to see Kidlat Tahimik’s works. Wednesday, Turumba. Thursday, Mababangong Bangungot. Wasn’t able to catch the shorts. Had work. And was heartbroken. Did not bother to say hello to anyone. Just wanted to see the films in the retrospective. As usual, I felt and acted invisible. After the talk I bought a shirt from Kabunyan. A shirt with a yo-yo printed on it. I settled for blue. I saw blue everywhere.

Saturday came. Again, I had work so I only managed to catch Bakit Dilaw ang Gitna ng Bahaghari. Saw you. Was rather surprised that you were not with anyone, considering. . . well, considering. We talked, talked a lot. Talked more than I could remember. Asked me which was my favorite Kidlat so far and I said Turumba. I prefer Turumba to Mababangong Bangungot, I said. Asked me why but forgot what I said. You did not concur. Said you liked Mababangong Bangungot better, and you pronounced Mababangong Bangungot with your usual accent. Told me you were doing interviews with Kidlat. I said, that’s interesting!, in my usual interested spirit that was difficult to feign. Where are they now? Those transcripts? Those memories of trips to Baguio? Whatever happened to them?

Not too many people inside the Film Center. So we talked as the film started. It was long anyway, and the images were random. Told me about Independencia. Shared some local films we saw recently. And I asked when is that Tarkovsky shot coming, will it appear any time soon? No, not yet. Awhile we kept our silence. I saw you dozing off. Must be tired. I looked at you again. You were cute even with your eyes closed. It was a long film. You woke up before it ended. Told you I loved it, loved it, loved it. You concurred.

Then eight months came you were dead.


The past year did not make it easy for us, as there were a lot of painful deaths that happened, that stayed, and that lingered. In Arcade Fire’s words, (c’est) une année sans lumière. A year without light. And that year felt like night all throughout.

It’s the year of funerals, and not just the people we buried but also the innocence we lost, the lessons we learned the hard way.

Good riddance, 2009. Just let us go.


“But 2009, before you go,” 2010 said, “here are the films that can almost make me forgive you. But still, I know I can’t.

“I can only shout ‘Attica! Attica!’ all I want.”

►► Next: Honorable Mention Part 1

Ang Abot-Kamay na Pagitan ng Maguindanao at Mendiola December 21, 2009

Posted by Richard Bolisay in Noypi, RIP.
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Ang paghahambing marahil ng nakalipas na Maguindanao Massacre sa trahedya ng bagyong Ondoy at Pepeng—dalawa sa pinakamalupit na pangyayari ng taon—ay isang kasumpa-sumpang pahayag; subalit kung liliripin, taglay nila ang pagkakatulad sa ganang sa tao nagmula ang dahilan upang sila ay maisakatuparan.

Ang bagyong rumagasa sa Kalakhang Maynila at Luzon ay matagal na nating napaglaanan ng panahon upang mangyari; unti-unti nga lamang kung kaya’t madaling ikaila sa ating mga sarili. Sa kabilang dako, ang masaker sa Maguindanao ay kagyat—isang halimaw na produkto ng administrasyon ni Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, isang kahindik-hindik na bangungot na matagal nang hinahabi upang pumasok sa ating kamalayan at nang sa gayo’y hindi natin malimutan. Sa iba, higit pa ito sa trahedya na maaari nating gawin sa kapaligiran—likha ito ng demonyo. Ngunit kung nalikha na ito ng demonyo, ano pa ang maaari nating gawin upang mapuksa ito? May magagawa pa ba tayo—magagawa bukod sa paghingi ng katarungan, pag-alay ng pagmamahal, pagtangis, pagkagalit sa rehimeng Arroyo, pagpapatuloy ng sining at, huwag naman sana, pagkalimot—pagkatapos ng lahat? May magagawa nga ba tayo o iniisip nating may maaari tayong magawa upang mapaniwala ang ating sarili na hindi na ito mangyayari muli—na hinding-hindi na, na hinding-hindi na kailanman ito mauulit?

Ang pinakamalinaw na kaibahan ng dalawang pangyayaring ito para sa akin ay ito: aakuin ko ang sisi sa bagyong Ondoy at Pepeng, ngunit hinding-hindi ang Maguindanao Massacre. Hindi ko ito maaaring maging kagagawan, at maski marahil ikaw ay hindi sapagkat kilala natin kung sino ang maygawa, kung sino ang maysala.

Ang idinulot ng kalamidad ay lungkot at pighati; ang idinulot ng walang habas na pagpatay ay galit, muhi, at poot. Ang sining na mabubuo mula sa galit, muhi, at poot ay inaasahang higit na magiging malakas—aalingawngaw sa bawat sulok ng hustisya at ipaaabot upang mapukaw ang mga nagtataingang-kawali—kumpara sa sining na mabubuo mula sa lungkot at pighati. Totoo, hindi kailanman magkakaroon ng herarkiya ng trahedya batay lamang sa bilang ng namatay o emosyong naging resulta nito, subalit higit na magiging mahalaga ang ating pagtugon upang hindi na ito maulit.

Pinili kong magsulat tungkol sa mga pelikula dahil pagpepelikula ang kurso ko sa kolehiyo. Naisip kong ito ang maaari kong gawin upang mapakinabangan ang mga taong ginugol ko sa pag-aaral. Ang pagsusulat ang bokasyon na inaakala ng iba na madaling gawin; tangan mo lamang ang iyong sarili at kaunting kaalaman tungkol sa lengguwahe ng pelikula, at siyempre, ang kakayahan at kagustuhang magsulat, ay sisiw na ito. Hindi ko nais pasubalian ang naturang pananaw kahit ikinagagalit ko ito. Hindi iyon ang dahilan kung bakit ako nagsusulat. Ikakunot man ng iyong noo o ikatindig ng iyong balahibo, pinaninindigan kong ang kritika ay sining. At ito ang sining ko.

Ngunit higit na priyoridad ng kritika, sa mga panahong tulad nito, ang pag-aanyaya. Maaaring isantabi ng kritiko ang kanyang pagsusuri ng pelikula upang manawagan sa mga filmmaker na gumawa ng pelikula, na gumawa nang naaayon sa kanilang paniniwala, at sa likod ng kanyang isip siya ay nag-aasam na sana’y maganda ang kalabasan ng mga ito: matalino, responsable, mapanghikayat, at mapanindigan. Tulad ng ibang sining, ang pelikula ay nagtatala ng panahon at nagsisilbing sanggunian. Madalas man itong hindi pagkatiwalaan ay hindi maitatatwa ang mga bagay na nabuo nito sa kadahilanang nalikha ito—naisakatuparan, nabuo, at naitawid mula sa kabilang pampang. Maaari mong itanong, pagagawa ba ng pelikula ang solusyon? Paggawa ba ng pelikula ang makatutugon sa paghanap ng hustisya? Mababawasan ba ng paggawa ng pelikula ang pait na dulot ng naturang kagimbal-gimbal na pagkitil ng mga peryodista at sibilyan?

Hindi. Hindi, kailanman. Hindi ang sagot sa lahat ng tanong.

Sa pamamagitan ng paggawa ng pelikula ay kinikilala nito ang kanyang kahinaan. Produkto man ito ng imahinasyon ay nakatali pa rin ito sa tanikala ng realidad—ng realidad na tumutukoy sa mundong kinakamulatan natin tuwing gigising sa umaga, ng realidad na nagtutulak sa atin upang kumilos at may gawin, ng realidad na nag-uudyok sa akin upang sabihin ang mga bagay na ito—ang realidad na hindi maaaring saklawan ng pelikula. Sapagkat alipin lamang ang pelikula ng realidad na ito, katulad na tayo’y alipin din ng ating panahon.

Oras na kilalanin ang kahinaang ito, sabi nga ng kaibigan ko, ay tanging oras na ang sining ay magkakaroon ng kahulugan. Totoong madalas tayong pangunahan ng emosyon. At sa pamamagitan ng emosyong ito, nawa’y maitawid natin ang mga nais iparating, gaano man kalabis o kakulang ang sining na maaaring gawin. Ang pangyayaring tulad ng Maguindanao Massacre ay hindi maaaring malimutan. Maikukuwento natin ito sa ating mga anak, sa mga anak ng ating mga anak; maililimbag sa mga dyaryo at libro; mababanggit sa mga diskusyon; maaalala sa mga tula, sa mga nobela, sa mga kuwento, sa mga awit, sa mga pelikula; maipipinta, maisasayaw, at mailililok; mabubuhay at mananariwa lagi sa ating sapantaha. Ngunit—ano nga ba ang ating maaalala? Ano nga ba tungkol sa masaker ang ating maibabahagi? Ano nga ba tungkol sa pangyayaring ito ang ating maitutula, maisusulat, maiaawit, maipipinta, at maisasapelikula? Ano nga ba ang ating pipiliing maalala at mabigyang-pansin habang iniisip na anumang ating gawin ay hindi makasasapat? At higit sa lahat, hanggang saan tayo handang umalala? Hanggang kailan natin ito handang panatilihin sa ating mga sarili?

Hiling ko lang, hindi matulad ang Maguindanao sa Mendiola.

*Unang nilimbag sa ika-12 issue ng High Chair, Hulyo-Disyembre 2009

100 Days December 9, 2009

Posted by Richard Bolisay in RIP.

Dear A,

Three months—and it still hurts.

Of course it hurts. Regardless of time, regardless of how long we wait for justice, regardless of how many beautiful films pass, and regardless if all those wishes of yours come true—so much for the latter because you are not here—with us.

It hurts, still, regardless of all regardless.

By saying you are not here with us I should cut my head off on account of foolishness. You are here. You are always here. You will always be here.

I see you in the festivals I attend. I see you while watching the new film of Ray Gibraltar, probably beside me, eyes on the screen, gasping at the sight of how it ends. I see you in the magazine you used to write for; probably I’ll text you about it; will exchange niceties; will be awkwardly formal; will be awkwardly impolite; and you’ll ask if we can meet and I’ll hesitate because I just hate the world. I’m stupid like that.

I could feel you are reading my blog sometimes, after you passed on, not out of self-serving reasons but just that, a feeling. I don’t know. When you first told me you were reading it I kinda felt elated, but I felt embarrassed too. When you asked me what I think of your writing, I thought I said something stupid. That was a memorable night for me, I guess. We’ve known each other quite well in such a short period of time. Haven’t thought that a night could possibly be everything; only it couldn’t happen again.

I know how painful it will be afterward but I checked my email today to read your mails. Not too many, but still. (Up to now, I must admit, it’s hard to delete your messages on my phone, saving it for reasons I myself don’t know, but maybe I just feel better keeping a part of your past with me, in there, and if my phone gets snatched I know I would feel worse about losing your texts than losing that crappy phone I have.) I feel grateful for those links you sent, those recommendations, those words of encouragement (surely I always feel down), and alas, amid those, I found this curious message:

Date: Wednesday, May 6, 2009, 11:06 PM

how are things?
> we should get together soon and discuss things that need to
> be done in
> relation to this precious film culture of ours.
> alexis

No, I am not reading the last four lines, but the first. The first.

How are things?

It hurts, still. It still hurts. Still, it hurts. Hurts, it still. Still hurts it. Disarrange these words whichever way and it will still come out the same.

That joke about the love letter turns out to be true. Only I cannot write it, no matter how much I try now. The love letter that cannot be written, how tragic. Like the films we love.

That song was right. There are more wishes than stars.

You were both.

I miss you.

With love,


RIP Alexis Tioseco (1981-2009) September 1, 2009

Posted by Richard Bolisay in RIP.


We lost a brave warrior with a warm soul. We lost a colleague who, in pursuit of every important argument in Philippine cinema, hopes for all its betterment. But everything you did stays. Everything you did will be here forever. In memory of you, we shall continue. This morning reeks of sadness – -the painful sadness that will always be remembered.

Alexis, you are sorely missed. You are sorely missed. You are sorely missed.