‘The need to change the order of things’

Today is the 85th birth anniversary of stage and film actor and director Benjamín Roberto “Behn” Holcombe Cervantes, founder of the University of the Philippines Repertory Company. He was also a founding member of the Concerned Artists of the Philippines, the Philippines Education Theater Association and the Manunuri ng Pelikulang Pilipino.

Thrice imprisoned for his activism and opposition to the dictatorship of Ferdinand Marcos Jr., Cervantes became one of the most recognized freedom of expression campaigners of the Philippines until his death in 2013.

During his second incarceration at the Bicutan Jail in Taguig in January 1978, Cervantes wrote to his family: “The history of the case is of course my consistent position as opposition to martial law and my work in the university as a teacher and a director. During these past few years, I have become known as one of the most vocal dissenters. My movie, Sakada, and my plays, especially the last one, Pagsambang Bayan, show the exploitative nature of this system, the evils the ruling class commit on the many, the need to change the order of things.”

(Jo Maois Mamangun/Kodao)

Groups defend artist from QCPD’s ‘harassment suit’

Groups condemned the Quezon City Police Department (QCPD) for filing charges against activist artist Max Santiago for alleged violations of environmental laws during President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.’s last State of the Nation Address.

The Concerned Artists of the Philippines (CAP) said the charge against Santiago and others is a “harassment suit,” adding the emissions from the burnt effigy “are nothing compared to the criminal conduct and neglect of this administration.”

The police accused Santiago, Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (BAYAN)’s resident artist, of violating the Ecological Waste Management Act (Republic Act9003) and the Clean Air Act (RA 8749) in connection with the burning of an effigy last July 24.

Three other “John Does” were charged along with Santiago.

In its complaint, the QCPD said the burning “greatly contributed to air pollution which grossly negates the government program in ensuring the protection of public health and the environment.”

The police added the effigy that showed a two-faced Marcos was a “deliberate disrespect to the President.”

CAP however said an effigy is an art form and not solid waste.

“It is not garbage or refuse,” CAP argued.

“It is hypocritical of the state to allege this when it cannot even address the problem of worsening traffic and its emissions, urban and industrial waste, and other government regulated practices that contribute to environmental destruction,” the group added.

CAP said the lawsuit is an attack on freedom of expression and the right of the people to redress and expression of grievance, particularly during a political event.

“Why expend public resources on this just to save face when the realities that the effigy reflects and expresses remain unaddressed?” CAP secretary general Lisa Ito said.

BAYAN meanwhile said it will contest the charges and defend Santiago.

“It should be noted that it is only under the presidency of Marcos Jr. that such a case was filed,” the group pointed out.

“Clearly this infringes on free speech. QCPD is ignorant of the law. It wants to regulate the content of the protests under the guise of enforcing an environmental law that is inapplicable in this situation,” BAYAN president Renato Reyes said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Artists honor medical workers with street mural

A group of street artists painted a mural on a wall at a street corner in Manila honoring medical workers battling the corona virus pandemic in hospitals and other health facilities throughout the country.

More than a year and a half since the pandemic hit the Philippines, friends Sim Tolentino, Christian “Lamok” Cresencio and Bryan Barrios collaborated on a mural at the corner of Singalong and Remedios streets at the capital city’s Malate District.

(Photo by Sim Tolentino/Kodao)

The mural features three faces wearing face masks, two of whom sport raised clenched fists, referencing the series of protest actions held last week by medical workers, calling for the payment of benefits as well as the resignation of Department of Health Secretary Francisco Duque III.

Tolentino said their group wanted to call attention to the health workers’ demands and for the Philippine government to effectively respond to the worsening pandemic.

(Photo by Sim Tolentino/Kodao)

The Philippines breached the two million COVID-19 cases last week amid warnings by various experts the pandemic appears to be worsening in the country.

“The government must adequately respond and give the proper support to the front liners and health workers. But we know that its response is not only inadequate, it even asks for a smaller health budget for next year,” Tolentino told Kodao in an online interview.

He added that a large part of the proposed 2022 budget would only be given to intelligence funds that are exempt from audit.

(Photo by Sim Tolentino/Kodao)

In an earlier Facebook post, Cresencio said the Malate mural is their group’s first project since they were forced to abandon their Intramuros mural project at the onset of the pandemic lockdowns.

“Exactly a year after we failed to finish our mural in Intramuros, we are back in Manila and nothing has changed,” Cresencio wrote.

The Malate mural took just a day to complete last Sunday, August 5.

Tolentino explained their street art is their way of contributing to the achievement of the people’s aspirations.

“Art in any form must be relevant, not just to reflect society but a weapon of change for the betterment of the masses,” he said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

(Photo by Sim Tolentino/Kodao)

A tribute to the best father

For Leonilo “Neil” Doloricon

By Victoria Doloricon-Roque

Earlier this year, I asked Pa if he wanted to do, as a teacher, an online course about linocut prints (since I myself loved learning from online courses especially during this pandemic). I thought this as a nice platform to not only showcase to people his art but to learn and understand the process and to know what goes through the creative mind of Leonilo Doloricon as an artist. I was so into the thought of really coming up with an online course and proposed to my Pa, that my sister, Kat would be the person to film it. As I was discussing this, he looked at me and gave me his usual smirk and jokingly said, “Baka naman bumaba reputasyon ko niyan ah.” He then with the calmest voice but with the biggest smile said, “Na-nominate kasi akong Professor Emeritus (UP).” I was already extremely proud of him for who he was at University of the Philippines but for him to be nominated with this high of a recognition is beyond words.

For those unfamiliar with this recognition, the UP Faculty Manual defines professor emeritus as a title for life and is conferred upon retired faculty members in recognition of their exceptional achievements and exemplary service to the university.

My father and I would always have this back and forth inside jokes about our personal achievements. I would brag about my simple achievements, while he would again give that same smirk and just simply share with me his achievements and accomplishments (that for me would seem impossible to achieve) and we would laugh. He would always win of course. That was who he was to me.

My father loved sharing stories of himself to us. He would forward to me art critique articles of him, videos of him being interviewed, and smile at how many people appreciated and shared his editorial cartoons. The last video I watched was the “Ep4 mARTy TALKS: Neil Doloricon”. I remember telling him after watching the video that I didn’t know he did comics before. But then again, I remembered being the one assisting him to fax his editorial works to Kabayan and to call them to make sure if they received my papa’s drawings. He smiled and said, “Those were the days.” I would share with him my insights on everything he would share with me, but many of those he said in the videos/articles were too profound for me to understand. (LOL)

When I was little, I watched my father do his oil paintings at the living room. I would sit beside him excitedly and he knew, gusto kong makisawsaw. He would always worry that I might damage his masterpiece. His technique to keep me busy was to tape a piece of paper beside his canvass for me to scribble on instead. I remembered he once told me, “Anak, wag mo sanang gawin ito. Gutom dito.” I didn’t understand what he meant at that time but I always happily did my scribbles, which I considered masterpieces as well. Looking back on his statement, it not only made me understand the struggle it is to be an artist but how passionate my father was in his craft as he persisted in doing it considering all the hardships along the way. We are not a rich family but we really never felt the struggle that he mentioned. He was our bread winner and did all of his work while juggling his graduate studies, taking care of his mom, our relatives who stayed with us and, of course, us.

With all that was going on in his life, I never actually heard him complain. He, being the big brother among his cousins, would be the person they would go to when they needed help. It was like he would always leave the house door open to those in need.

One time at his office, when he was still working at The Manila Times, he ushered me and kuya to an empty table and gave us bond paper and pencil to get ourselves busy while he finished his work. One of his co-workers passed by and he saw my drawing and he said to my father, “Aba, mana sa tatay.” I looked at Papa and he looked at me back with the biggest smile. This memory remains with me to this day. In fact I carry it with pride and I felt the inner artist in me when I was to select the course I would take in college. He suggested Architecture because he knew I could draw. But he was frank enough to tell me my skill set then were not Fine Arts standards.

To prepare me for the college entrance exam, he taught me to draw objects in isometric and I practiced for days prior to my exam. During the exam, I remembered handing my drawing and I was proud of myself for having followed my father’s advise of an isometric made out of a combination of shapes. Until I saw my seatmate handing his work as well of a perspective of a building, complete with tonal values and shadows, that is. Luckily, I passed.

My father is my hero, the person that I looked up to very highly in just about all aspects of life. He would be that person I seek advise from. I would get easily hooked at a wide range of things to do. Whatever catches my interest at that given time, I would zoom in on it and share it with him to seek for his approval. From reading books / articles, playing the piano, playing the guitar, doing watercolor / painting and even cooking. Him, being good with both music and arts, would be that person I talk to regarding these. I would forward him recordings of me playing the piano of a simple musical piece, hoping he would be able to distinguish what music I played. It would be the same type of conversation with painting. He would always give me tips on how I could improve. He used to criticize me strongly when I was in high school. Recently, he would patiently tell me, “Mangopya ka ng artist. Tingnan mo paano nila gawin. Doon ka matututo.” He kept reminding me to not aim for prizes but to find my own belief and it would guide me along the way.

My Papa’s studio was this big space upstairs next to my bedroom. I would always be reminded that it would be morning already whenever I hear Carlos Santana and Norah Jones’ songs blasting on the radio and Papa playing the drums along. After a song or two, he will go back to painting.

My Papa was emotionally attached to his pieces. When I was in college, I saw one of his prints being displayed for sale in one of the computer shops in UP Shopping Center and I told him about it when I got home. He got so upset and he kept asking me to describe in detail the exact art piece that I saw and he wondered who would do that to his artwork. Honestly, I regretted telling him about it because of how bothered he was with the whole incident. He put so much passion in his work and treats each work of art as a treasure. In fact, he was hesitant to give an artwork of his to my then boyfriend, now husband, Mikko’s family because he was afraid of what may happen to the artwork if we were to break up. This stems from a bad experience way back when an art piece made by him was given by my Lola to a close friend. The two later had a falling out and, to get even with my Lola, the close friend burned the art piece. Papa put so much time and love into his craft and to see someone else destroy it hits him to his core.

Another interesting story about one of his artwork was when I handed my father’s sketch of Macario Sakay to my professor, to the latter’s great delight. When my professor requested for discounts on Papa’s prints, my father gladly agreed.

I will miss his cooking. He is our personal master chef at home. He always used to make me cold cut sandwiches he called gourmet sandwiches in high school for my baon. Our Sundays would always be a feast. Mornings, he would cook halaan and shrimp, which he himself would finish off as he was the only seafood lover at home. In the afternoon, I would be in charge of the barbecues while he would make his favorite red sauce spaghetti.

Kat and I would always prefer white sauce instead, but he would quickly brush our comments off and say, “Eh, gusto ng Kuya niyo ay red.”

Papa would willingly sacrifice himself for us. He would literally offer everything that he had just for us to be happy. Kahit yata paa niya, ibibigay niya para lang hindi niya kami makitang magdusa. I never felt the burden because he was always there for me when I needed help. When I had a growing cyst in my neck earlier this year, I was so afraid as to what it was and how I would be able to pay the bills if my situation worsens. He told me that part of one’s income from will eventually be spent for our health. That’s life. He actually offered money, which I declined. I was so ashamed of myself for complaining about everything while he never hesitated in offering help.

It’s hard to be away from my family and my father would always that person who I would call initially for comfort almost daily. Whenever I feel anything or whenever there’s some news I would love to share, I would call him immediately. He would almost always pick up and be glad to hear my stories even though he would be busy doing some other things. My father and I would have long conversations together about everything going on in life. No matter how bizarre, outrageous, insensitive the topic is, he listens and he gives his views. Pero, minsan, tatawanan ka muna niya, especially when you are serious. Lahat ng seryosong bagay, to lighten the mood, gagawin niya munang biro. I always run to him whenever I doubt myself and he would always be there to comfort me with his wisdom, hoping it will put me in a right path. I also remember, in high school, I asked him why he didn’t go abroad to work. He told me he didn’t want to be away from me and the whole family. I always felt safe because I knew he would always be around for me and the family.

The intense pain I am feeling right now as I’m writing this is immeasurable. I desperately want to call him now to tell him I’m feeling extremely sad. But I realize he was the reason for this sadness.

Reality is hitting me hard, because I know from this day onward, the person on the other side of the line of this phone call will never pick up.

Pa, Mama, Kuya and Kat are so grateful that you are our father. I hope you will have eternal peace. Don’t worry about us Pa. We will take care of each other. Nagawa mo na at nabigay mo na lahat!

Hanggang sa muli, Pa. Mahal na mahal ka namin. #

Eminent artist Neil Doloricon dies

Leonilo “Neil” Doloricon, eminent visual artist and social realist, died early Friday morning, July 16, his daughter announced on Facebook.

Doloricon died in a hospital at past three o’clock this morning, his daughter Kat said. He was 63 years old.

“At 3:40 am we woke up from a call from my papa’s doctor that he just passed away. They tried to revive him but he didn’t make it,” the younger Doloricon announced.

The University of the Philippines (UP) Artists’ Circle describes Doloricon as a social realist painter, printmaker, social critic and educator.

At the time of his death, Doloricon was a professor at the UP College of Fine Arts which he served as Dean from 1998 to 2001.

He was also chairperson of the Committee on Arts and Humanities in the Commission on Higher Education.

A print by Neil Doloricon.

Doloricon was an awardee of Gawad para sa Sining Biswal of the Cultural Center of the Philippines and holder of the Fernando Amorsolo and Guillermo Tolentino Professorial Chairs at the said college.

From 2017, he served as chairperson of the Concerned Artists of the Philippines  and was named the organization’s chairperson emeritus at the end of his term in May this year.

He was a long-term editorial cartoonist of several newspapers, including The Manila Times and Malaya Business Insights. He was working at the former at the time of his death.

He also served as managing editor of alternative newspaper Pinoy Weekly.

The UP Artists’ Circle said Doloricon was one of the pillars of social realism in the Philippine art scene and was popular for his paintings, murals, and relief prints that depicted the struggles of the masses.

In one of the first tributes to the artist, Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (BAYAN) chairperson Dr. Carol Araullo described Doloricon as a true people’s artist.

“So, so sad. Grieving from the moment I heard the news. Paint the heavens in rainbow hues, Neil Doloricon. Or better yet, redesign the heavens through your social realist and sharp political lens,” Araullo wrote.

BAYAN secretary general Renato Reyes Jr. said Doloricon was a pillar of progressive visual art in the country.

Doloricon had many exhibits throughout the country and abroad, among the latest of which were in Berlin and Moscow.

Both his prints and paintings are most sought after by many collectors. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Cebuano children to launch Leon Kilat book on hero’s 147th birth anniv

A children’s book on Cebuano hero Pantaleon Villegas, popularly known as Leon Kilat, is set to be launched on Monday, July 27, in time for his 147th birth anniversary.

Written and illustrated by graduates of a 2018 workshop, Historya (Children Creating Stories from Cebu History), the story book “Si Leon Kilat ug ang Sigbin” (Leon Kilat and the Sigbin) is part of a continuing campaign to reconnect local youth to their Cebu roots.

Sigbin is a local mythological creature said to come out at night to suck the blood of victims from their shadows.

Negros Oriental-born Villegas was a revolutionary leader in Cebu during the Philippine Revolution against Spain.

The authors of the storybook are Jhulianna Capangpangan (University of San Carlos- South Campus), Santi Sagayno (Gaas National High School), Isabella Faith Bautista (Ateneo de Cebu) and Francis Luke Vicoy (Colegio del Sto. Niño).

Ateneo de Cebu’s Kristine Anne Subaan is the book illustrator.

The book is published by Tres de Abril, Inc and Palm Grass: The Cebu Heritage Hotel.

The cyber launch of the book and celebration of Villegas’ birth anniversary entitled “LEON KILAT: Revolution and Magic” (Celebrating Leon Kilat @147, ang bayani sa Sugbo nga Abtik pas Kilat), will be at two o’clock on Monday [The hero of Cebu who is faster than lightning]. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Mga Piling Kantang Makabayan ng Mundo

Makinig sa ispesyal na podcast ng mga piling makabayang kanta mula sa iba’t-ibang bahagi ng mundo. Alamin ang kanilang natatanging papel sa pakikibaka ng mamamayan para sa kalayaan at hustisyang panlipunan, kasama sina Prof. Jose Maria Sison, Raymund Villanueva at Kodao Productions.

ANG ‘HULING EL BIMBO, THE MUSICAL’ REVIEW: When is nostalgia too much that it hurts?

By L.S. Mendizabal

Spoiler alert! Trigger warning: rape

The recent free streaming of Ang Huling El Bimbo The Musical on ABS-CBN’s Facebook page and YouTube channel was trending over the weekend and has since bred long, heated discussions among netizens on its content over form. Directed and choreographed by Dexter Santos, it delivered his signature masterful storytelling which I had had the privilege to be spellbound with in his earlier productions in Dulaang UP back in college. All the songs by the Eraserheads, about 30 in total, which provided the show’s repertoire, are hauntingly familiar to 90s kids and babies alike. As for the writing, I could not find fault in Dingdong Novenario when it came down to the accuracy of the times, human characterization, the right balance between humor and tragedy and the most difficult task of building a distinctly unforgettable story around already very iconic songs. “I hope I do the band justice,” Novenario once said in an interview. Frankly, this was where the problem lays. Now, before you come for me, let me just say that I enjoyed the musical thoroughly—it’s really hard not to love anything from Santos, anyway—except for a single scene which I personally found a bit too jarring and which I shall go over later as we try to examine both form and content.

Act One began in medias res with a police officer looking down at a dead body. This served as the catalyst for all the turmoil that would disturb the otherwise comfortable lives of three successful middle-aged men: Emman, a government employee, Anthony, a wealthy businessman and Hector, an established director. These men had history, being college roommates and best friends in the 90s. Their nostalgia kicked off with flashbacks to some of the oldest Eraserheads songs juxtaposed with their freshman life in a state university that looked and sounded a lot like the University of the Philippines. I especially loved the numerous song mashups, while the ROTC drill number was quite the spectacle and was easily one of my favorite parts of the musical, granted that watching this live must have been leaps and bounds better. The three boys would then meet Joy, a perky out-of-school merienda peddler about the same age as they were. She became an instant fascination for the boys because of the special attention given to her by their ROTC commandant, Banlaoi, played to evil caricature perfection by Jamie Wilson. Meanwhile, Joy was given life and dimension by Gab Pangilinan with her morena complexion, convincing tambay speak and powerful vocals. Her character in Act One was the epitome of “pure innocence with a dash of daring.” Like the three boys, she was always smiling and hoping, a persistent believer of true love and chaser of dreams. In contrast to the boys, however, she could not afford to hope and dream as big as they did. But they found common ground in youthful idealism and built an effectively portrayed, uncontrived friendship. This would soon be challenged by one night that changed their lives forever, Joy’s moreso, when they went on a road trip to Antipolo (“Overlooking!”) while, of course, singing “Overdrive” and “Alapaap.” These upbeat songs were followed by the slow acoustic, “Fill Her’, which menacingly ushered in the closing of the act with drunk male strangers raping Joy while the three boys were trapped in the car, held at gunpoint.

From happy nostalgia, Act Two opened just a day after that ill-fated night in an entirely different tone. Joy’s hair, which was previously in a half-crown braid now hung limply in a half-ponytail, her eyes empty, her smile not quite the same. She was about to attend the boys’ university graduation as one of the guests, but they forgot her. Together with the other graduates, the boys sang, “Lift your head, baby, don’t be scared / Of the things that could go wrong along the way / You’ll get by with a smile….” Oddly, this particular scene evoked the same “optimistic” mood in the Philippine Department of Tourism’s tribute video for our frontliners where shots of an empty metropolis alternated between images of doctors, nurses, the armed forces, etc. with a female rendition of “With a Smile” playing in the background. While the national president threatens to “shoot people dead,” we will survive this pandemic with a smile. While a girl was gang-raped, everything was going to be alright as long as we stayed positive. In the midst of trials and tribulations, there is always hope. Unfortunately, not for Joy. After the graduation rites, each of the boys acknowledged her presence, but not a word about the night before was uttered. This was to be the last time they would see her alive.

Poster from

From the boys’ college experiences, the focus shifted from hereon to Joy’s struggle in the streets. Her Tiya Dely’s (who’d never be played better than by Sheila Francisco. Man, those pipes!) canteen was constantly being extorted by Banlaoi who happened to be their patron and “protector.” Unless they came up with a new gimmick, the eatery would go bankrupt and face imminent closure. Santos utilized the effect of the revolving stage here so that it wasn’t for the sole purpose of transitioning in and out of scenes but more importantly, for setting the mood and tone of every moment that defined Joy’s downward spiral. “Toyang’s Canteen” slowly turned into “Toyang’s KTV” where female waitresses, sex workers, male customers and drug pushers and users abound. From wearing a lot of yellow that accurately reflected her sunny disposition in Act One, Joy now wore different colors in cooler tones, her hair now loose and disheveled, her smile replaced with a fixed grim expression. Joy, as also symbolized by their eatery, had now completely lost her innocence.

Older Joy was played by Menchu Lauchengco-Yulo whom, in my humble opinion, I have seen in more note-worthy performances. It was easy to suspend disbelief on how physically different Yulo and Pangilinan looked, what with the former’s striking mestiza features, but her American enunciation of certain lines in Taglish and Filipino personally distracted me, considering that she was supposed to be from the urban poor. Nevertheless, it was apparent that the Joy we now saw was no longer the same person literally and figuratively. Naturally, an Eraserheads musical depicting rape would not be complete without singing “Spoliarium.” It was sung in staccato in the confrontation dialogues among the three boys as well as their grown selves (anyone else reminded of Tito, Vic and Joey?)—arguably the most powerful scene in the play. The perfect climax from a slow build of pent-up emotions of male guilt, fear and self-loathing because of what they failed to do for Joy then and how they now all deliberately avoided her when she needed them most. While they did lose their boyhood innocence along the way, it was not quite as tragic as in Joy’s case since her innocence was forcibly, violently taken away from her. Male middle-class nostalgia gave way to an intense clash of principles, justifications and differing, possibly repressed, memories in the heads of the lost boys. “Ewan mo at ewan natin / Sino’ng may pakana / At bakit ba tumilapon ang / Gintong alak diyan sa paligid mo?” Novenario’s writing shone brightest here.

The last 30 minutes, to me, was a pain to watch not because of Joy’s hit-and-run death—we already knew right from the beginning that this was not a tale with a happy ending—but because of the overwhelming romantic sentimentality surrounding it. The three men’s guilt came full circle when they met Joy’s daughter, Ligaya (played by The Voice Kids Philippines 2019 semi-finalist Alexa Salcedo), who casually recounted how her mother described each of them: the “bespren,” the “kuya,” the “pinakaminahal sa lahat.” How a scene could be both tear-jerking and cringe-inducing was certainly baffling to me. You know that these three men were full of bullshit, and yet you feel sympathy for them and pity for Ligaya and Tiya Dely. “Lahat tayo’y mabubuhay ng tahimik at buong ligaya.” Beautiful. Unsettling. Painful to watch. And somehow, I wish it ended right there.

Alas! There had to be a decent funeral for Joy, obviously, paid for by her more successful and fortunate friends. There had to be touching elegies and parting words from Ligaya and the three men preceding a big ol’ group hug to the lyrics of “Ang Huling El Bimbo.” “Magkahawak ang ating kamay / At walang kamalay-malay / Na tinuruan mo ang puso ko / Na umibig nang tunay.” Suddenly, a girl’s rape turned into three boys’ coming-of-age story that came to a closure just now as they were brought together again by her death. Joy who was not only raped, mind you, but was a victim of forced prostitution and drug trafficking, notwithstanding all her misfortunes which are innate to the social class she was born into, was able to teach these poor, miserable middle-aged men what love truly meant. Awwww. If nostalgia was a drug, this part would be the pinnacle of the high where intoxication breeds euphoria. And as in a hallucinatory sequence, the three college boys and a once more young Joy appeared onstage, climbing over the hood of the car atop a hill in Antipolo, while a ghost-like Ligaya joined them until they froze, all their arms raised towards the night sky as if to touch tomorrow. Was Ligaya the silver lining behind all the dark clouds that had crept into and cloaked over Joy’s life? For some reason, I was not quite sold on that metaphorical tableau. It was pretty to look at, sure, but it was too unnervingly romantic. If anything, Ligaya would only be another Joy once these men decided to backslide into their comfortable lives in social oblivion again, just as they did when they abandoned Joy many times over.

I would not go as far as calling Joy a “disposable woman” trope because her character was not flat like that, or the men’s arc as “redemptive,” although they tend to give those impressions on the surface level. The way I see it, the story was not about the three boys. It was always about Joy and how the system broke her through the men’s points of view. Because of this strong male perspective, Joy was narrowed into nothing more than a plot device that helped advance the men’s overall narrative and character development. There was an interesting symbolic analysis that I read on Twitter that said Joy represents the exploited poor, while Banlaoi embodies the exploiting, oppressive state. The government (Emman), the rich private sector (Anthony) and the media (Hector) can only do so much to alleviate the dire conditions of the poor because at the end of the day, they are still all instruments of the state. Ang Huling El Bimbo the Musical only intended to portray the harsh reality of being a Filipino, let alone being an impoverished Filipino woman. While legitimate, I still had problems with this appraisal based on the play’s form and content. To be honest, I found the musical to be leaning towards Idealism more than Realism because of the heavily romanticized rendering of forgiveness and absolution for the three men in the last few scenes. It was obviously teetering between some kind of resolution and resilience porn. “But that’s what rape victims are inclined to do in the end: they forgive,” some might argue, and carelessly and unfairly so. You’d be surprised to find out how many Joy’s you might actually know in real life and how many Emman’s, Anthony’s and Hector’s who allowed rape to happen and continue to tolerate it by keeping quiet. After all, isn’t rape the only crime in which it is the victim who must prove her innocence? Not all victims are able to forgive their rapists, and for this reason alone, my heart bleeds for all the Joy’s I know.

Photo from The Life

“But it’s not supposed to be revolutionary or progressive in the least,” some have said. Look, I know. Eraserheads are no The Jerks or Yano. Even the slightest indication of student activism in Emman’s line about being frustrated with the masses because they couldn’t understand the language of student activists (hence the need for “education among the masses” instead of the other way around) was a dead giveaway that this was no socially progressive play. The main protagonists, not excluding the adorable probinsyano, Emman, did not hail from the grassroots. And yet, in order for art to actually mean something, it has to mirror the times and in mirroring the times, social critique is inevitable. Otherwise, we would consider Brillante Mendoza’s poverty porn “supreme art” rather than what they simply are. This watered down social angling, to me, was the musical’s weakness. By choosing to be more romantic and idealistic in tone towards the end, perhaps to please the upper middle class audience for which it was originally produced and staged, the social commentary got lost, drowned by waves and waves of nostalgia. And you know what happens when historical nostalgia is delivered in high doses? It revises history itself. That is why by the end of the show, the men would earn the audience’s sympathy more than ire.

By making this theatrical production watchable for the larger part of the middle classes on the internet, it has opened a new, active discourse on theatre as a political venue in espousing progressive beliefs that should benefit the masses, not alienate them. It has also successfully given new life to appreciating theatre as an art form, the importance of its accessibility to the masses and the justness of fair and equal pay for all genders in theatre (did you know that female actors are sometimes paid less than their male counterparts?) for their hard work. And we live for these kinds of discourses. And yet, is it right to point some weaknesses out in the musical’s narrative and artistic expressions used? I believe so. Is it only right to challenge our artists and writers to come up with a musical, a story, that Filipino women, especially rape victims, deserve? Absolutely.

Not wanting to be an infinite wellspring of negativity, I watched the musical all the way through the credits. I was waiting for some sort of condemnation of rape and other forms of sexual abuse. None. But, hey, let’s look at the bright side: thunderous applause filled the whole of Newport Performing Arts Theater at Resorts World Manila when they called Eraserheads frontman, Ely Buendia, to join the cast of actors and production crew onstage. Indeed, Ang Huling El Bimbo the Musical was able to achieve its goal, which was simply to do the most iconic Filipino band in the 90s justice. #

Art town unites against mining extension

The people and the local government of the historic town of Angono in Rizal Province are petitioning the national government to prevent the extension of mining operations in their area, citing grave damages to their environment after five decades of gravel extraction.

Members of the group UMALMA, the Ugnayan ng Mamamayang Ayaw na at Laban sa Minahan sa Angono, said they support the local government of Angono in its “Yes to Rehabilitation at No to Quarry Extension” position.

The group said Angono no longer needs the mining companies’ annual fee of P33 million if it means exposing their town to dangers brought about by climate change and global warming.

“It is a fact that Angono also lies merely 15 kilometers from the Manggahan Floodway and the Marikina Fault Line should ‘The Big One’ happen,” the group added, referring to the predicted big earthquake that may hit Metropolitan Manila in the future.

Angono’s famous “Higantes” (Philippine Information Agency photo)

Famous for its annual Higantes Parade Festival featuring colorful paper mache giants, Angono is also considered as the country’s foremost artists’ hub having produced at least two national and other well-known artists.

Last Friday, January 3, groups gathered in front of the town’s municipal hall to hold a candle-lighting event and sign a manifesto against the continuation of mining operations by LaFarge Holcim Holdings and its associates Delta Earthmoving Inc., Batong Angono Aggregates Corp. (BAAC), and the Concrete Aggregates Corporation (CAC) of the Ortigas Group.

Five decades of extraction

Gravel mining in Angono started in 1969 covering 212 hectares of its hills overlooking the scenic Laguna de Bai lakeside town, UMALMA said.

Gravel extraction in Angono. (Photo courtesy of the Angono PIO)

The two current Mineral Production and Sharing Agreements (MPSA), extended by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) in 1995 and 1996 are due to expire this year and 2021, exposing an additional 106 hectares to mining, the group said.

UMALMA said that the companies applied for a seven-year quarry extension in 2017 that only became public knowledge when they asked company lawyers in a public hearing last January 2018.

The quarries shall have until 2029 to operate should the DENR grant their application. 

UMALMA, however, pointed out that the Mines and Geosciences Bureau of the DENR has the discretion to approve extensions of up to 25 years in accordance with the Mining Act of 1995.

The group revealed that the companies’ original petition for extension was actually for this period, possibly granting continued operations until 2046. 

“If the extension petition is approved, the companies will extract the remaining 57, 940, 264 million metric tons of gravel from the hills of Angono,” the group said.

UMALMA said the nearly 58 million metric tons is all that remains of the 482. 8 million metric tons lodged in the mountain system that hosts the historically and artistically important Angono Petroglyphs

The 10-year extension would exhaust the remaining 58 million metric tons at the current annual extraction rate of 4,100,000 metric tons by the companies, UMALMA said.

“It is clear that the mining companies have over-extracted from their stated 4.1 million metric ton target for 2018 by mining 4.6 million metric tons as published in its own ‘Sulong Angono’ newsletter,” the group pointed out. 

‘Responsible mining’

LaFarge Holcim for its part said it is practicing “responsible mining” and undergoing “progressive rehabilitation” of areas affected by its operations through tree planting.

Its Angono operations also use a Zero Discharge System water treatment in its settling pond that prevents wastewater from being discharged from nearby water systems such as Laguna de Bai.

In its websites, LaFarge Holcim said it is a world leader in implementing international standards and sustainability in mining.

“Sustainability is among our core values at Holcim Philippines. We believe it is a key driver of our business success and we strive to practice this every day in our operations,” the company said, adding it looks to “make a lasting positive impact and contribute more than building materials to the development of [the] country.”

This outlook may be seen in the company’s efforts to be respectful of the environment, ensure the health and safety of our people and partners and help uplift its host communities, it claims.

LaFarge Holcim said it also assumed the community development responsibilities of its partner CAC when its subsidiary BAAC took over the former’s Angono mining operations in June 2008 through its “LaFarge Way of doing things.”

BAAC`s implementation of its Social Development and Management Program (SDMP) has made the company quite a household name in terms of community development support not only in their two main host Barangays but also in the whole town of Angono, a DENR-MGB Region IV-A article said.

The article, written by one Sonny Villar, added the LaFarge Holcim subsidiary had been a recipient of a Titanium Achievement award for quarry operation in the 2009 Presidential Mineral Industry Environmental Awards.

Immediate rehabilitation

UMALMA, however, revealed that while LaFarge Holcim has petitioned for an extension of its mining operations, it has also submitted its Final Mine Rehabilitation and/or Decommissioning Program approved by the DENR-MGB last July 11, 2018.

The candle-lighting activity opposing the extension of mining operations in Angono. (Photo courtesy of the Angono PIO)

The FMRDP is a 10-year phase-out of mining operations in Angono that has a budget of P23 million, the group said.

Part of the phase-out and decommissioning involves the removal of mining machinery and equipment; formation of a monitoring team composed of barangay, environment organizations, the local government unit and the DENR; revegetation, air monitoring, noise and fugitive dust elimination; safety; and separation pay and benefits to 136 permanent employees and about 500 contractual employees.

Part of the rehabilitation program is to transform the mined-out areas into a theme park or a residential and commercial area, UMALMA said.  

But the group said the entire town has spoken and it wants the immediate implementation of the rehabilitation plan once current mining permits have run their course.

“It is the position of the local government, led by Mayor Jeri Mae and Vice-Mayor Gerry Calderon as well as the Town Council, ‘Yes to Rehabilitation at No to Quarry Extension’,” the group said.

It added that the local government is after environmental and health reasons as well as its legacy to young Angono residents. 

In their candle-lighting event last Friday, Vice Mayor Gerry Calderon said the Town Council supports Mayor Jeri Mae Calderon’s position not to extend mining operations in Angono.

“It is important to show that the people of Angono is united behind our call,” he said. 

Mayor Jeri Mae for her part said she is heartened to witness that her town’s people are behind the call to save what remains of Angono’s hills.

The town’s petition, addressed to the DENR and President Rodrigo Duterte has been posted on social media, reaching more than 107,000 views in three days.

“The people of Angono are one with our local officials in opposing the application for renewal operation of a mining company in Angono, Rizal Province, the Republic of the Philippines which has been operating for the past 50 years,” it, addressing Duterte, said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Kwento ng ina ng inarestong menor de edad sa Bacolod

Ibinahagi ni Jingjing (hindi tunay na pangalan) ng kanyang karanasan matapos hulihin ang kanyang 15 anyos na anak habang nag-eensayo para sa isang pagtatanghal. Kasama ang kanyang anak sa 57 na dinakip sa ginawang raid ng mga pulis at sundalo noong Oktubre 31 sa Bacolod City na ayon sa mga progresibong grupo ay malaking crackdown ng gubyerno laban sa mga aktibista.

Nagbigay-payo din sa mga kabataan at magulang si Jingjing na lubos ang pagsuporta sa ginagawa ng anak sa na kasapi ng isang pang-kulturang grupo. (Background music: Lovers by David Fesliyan Salin ni: Reylan Vergara/ Karapatan Bidyo ni: Joseph Cuevas/ Kodao)