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Fan Girl Review: Allegory of the Diehard Devout Stan (DDS)

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[Spoiler alert! Trigger warning: This film contains scenes depicting child sexual abuse.

By L.S. Mendizabal

In 2000-something, dressed in my high school uniform, I went to the local city mall during class hours to see Orange and Lemons perform live. Armed with my Nokia 7250, I remember chasing after the band members on the escalators—they were going up, I was going down!—desperate to get closer images of them. My fangirling skills include effectively elbowing my way through crowds at jam-packed concerts and shows to get to at least second row, but nothing as wild as what Antoinette Jadaone’s latest film’s titular character is capable of doing for a more intimate encounter with a stranger she equates to nothing short of a god.

Fan Girl begins like any other movie directed and written by Jadaone in the Filipino setting with its depressing nature often eclipsed by dry Pinoy wit and humor and an ambitious, strong-willed female protagonist. In this case, she’s a 16-year-old high school student (Charlie Dizon) with chipped hot pink nail polish and an unhealthy obsession with a celebrity (Paolo Avelino playing a fictional larger-than-life version of himself). Paolo’s omnipresence from the internet to life-size cut-out standees and billboards as well as his effortless evasion of traffic laws establish the character’s popularity. When the fan girl skips class to see him at a mall show and stealthily makes her way to the back of his pick-up truck where she hides herself amongst her idol’s posters, merchandise and gifts from other fans, the mood is light, airy, silly, even borderline rom-com. The only real source of conflict is if she gets caught. The minute Paolo drives past the toll gates and spews out his first “Putangina!” of probably a thousand, the viewer is taken into a darker, harsher environment: vast rice fields and grasslands, rough roads, no electricity, a heavily locked gate one should climb over, an old, abandoned mansion/drug den. The fan girl is now trapped, hours away from home, her phone unable to send a single text. In her eyes, however, everything is brightly optimistic, not unlike Paolo’s romantic flicks. She feels safe with him. He can do no wrong. She is close to him and nothing else matters.

Screengrab from the film Fan Girl.

The fan girl is clearly delusional. Blinded by hero worship and overall naivete, she is not a reliable storyteller. Like Paolo, the film undresses from its initially attractive exterior and reveals the plot at its core: an obsessed girl—a child!—is stuck with a vaguely threatening male adult, the object of her obsession. Without giving away too many spoilers, all the viewer’s fears come true as the two main characters spend a day and a night over alcohol, cigarettes and drugs. The fan girl takes everything he offers, eager to please her host. Dizon gives one of the most convincing performances I’ve seen of someone new to these substances. I’m happy to report that you’ll find none of that stupid “Pare, hindi ako lashing” sort of drunk acting here (if you’ve seen Filipino movies and teleseryes at all, you know exactly what I mean). Dizon is truly beguiling in the way that her character tries to play a more mature seductress (“Hindi na ako bata,” she says thrice) but is betrayed by her perennially sweaty upper lip, stringy hair and breath that reeks of vomit. In the hands of a cis-hetero male writer / director, scenes like this could’ve easily become something like a glorified sex scandal.

Screengrab from the film Fan Girl.

Paolo is appalled yet intrigued by the fan girl’s childish qualities. Her adoration fuels his ego and aggravates his desire to exploit and dominate her. I’ve seen many a disturbing movie but this one has still made me turn in my seat. Sometimes, there’s nothing more terrifying than watching a megalomaniac take advantage of a fanatic too smitten with him to see what he really is: a macho-fascist, misogynist and rapist. On the other hand, Paolo is written as somewhat of a caricature-like villain, complete with tattoos, alcoholism, drug dependence and a heavy metal score. Personally, I find this a bit much but I guess it was intentional. After all, he does remind me of the Dutertes and their refreshing “bad boy” strongman mass appeal what with their rugged demeanors and similar choice of expletives to Paolo’s in the sea of polished orators and traditional politicians. There are rare instances when Paolo shows a more human, sensitive side. This disappears almost abruptly with each opportunity of manipulating the fan girl. The car scene where she has a meltdown (Dizon’s award-winning moment, in my opinion) and asks if she could stay one more night with him is the viewer’s first glimpse of her personal struggle. We come to understand that she does not look forward to coming home to a mother who is similarly enamored with her abusive stepfather. The fantasy of Paolo has been her escape all along.

Screengrab from the film Fan Girl.

Fan Girl is a coming-of-age horror story and an allegory of sorts. Knowing one of the script consultants and film poster designer, Karl Castro, and his controversial yet critically praised thesis production, Manwal sa Paggawa ng Pelikula (2007), I can see how Fan Girl, too, is a critique of the film industry itself: how it keeps artists’ careers afloat with love teams and fake romances, how it feeds on stan culture and how the industry has looked the other way when its biggest earning stars go unscathed after sexually abusing or raping hapless individuals.

In a post-Duterte Philippines, where celebrity, influencer culture, fanaticism and social media are all effectively used and weaponized by the current regime against all forms of dissent, Fan Girl is undoubtedly a product of its time. We see how a diehard devout stan (DDS) continues to believe and venerate her idol despite all the truths she’s uncovered. It doesn’t bug her that he has lied about being Bea Alonzo’s boyfriend, or that he uses drugs, or practically treats her like trash. She only begins to question his morals when she discovers that he’s screwing a married woman. And then, without warning, the fan girl ceases to be loyal to Paolo when she witnesses him beat said woman. The instant she sees her own poor family in Paolo’s woman and child is when the fantasy is shattered. The spell is broken and her prince becomes a frog. The lack of transition is quite jarring. However, if seen and appreciated as an allegory, Fan Girl’s ending actually makes perfect sense: Now surrounded by posters and tarpaulins of President Rodrigo Duterte’s face, the fan girl, whose name we actually find out in the end, decides to help her family by putting an end to her stepfather’s abuse. Who does she turn to? The repressive state institution being championed by diehard devout stans, of course. She has exercised personal agency. The problem lies within the very system that only serves and protects Paolos.

Disturbingly dark, twisted, unforgiving in its honesty and social commentary, and arguably her best and bravest yet, Fan Girl is entirely unlike any other movie by Jadaone. And we need more stories like this now. More than ever. #

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)

Utos ng Hari

ni R.B. Abiva

Halos sa pagtitinda ng tinapa binuhay ni Aling Ason ang kanyang mga anak. Sa kanyang pagkakatanda’y kulang apat na dekada na niya itong hanapbuhay. At dahil nga sa katatagan niyang hinarap ang lumuluray-puno ng pagpapasakit  na ganti ng hirap at dusa, napagtapos niya lahat ang kanyang mga anak sa hasykul. Subalit hindi na sila kailanman nakatuntong sa kolehiyo sa kadahilanang inatake sa puso ang kapilas ng kanyang buhay, at sa kasamaang palad ay namatay ito na hindi man lamang nabigyan ng marangal na libing. Lahat ng kanilang impok ay nagamit sa pagpapagamot. Ang masama pa’y nagkandautang-utang sila nang may mataas na interes.

Mula nga noo’y nagkawatak-watak na ang pamilya ni Aling Ason. Namasukan bilang bodegero ng bigas at mais ang tatlo niyang mga anak na lalaki sa Siyudad ng San Jose, Nueva Ecija habang ang dalawa niyang anak na babae ay naging mga muchacha sa San Miguel, Bulakan na paglao’y napilitang mamasukan din bilang mga GRO sa isang kabaret na tambayan ng mga pahinante ng trak na nagluluwas ng kung anu-anong kalakal paloob-palabas ng Maynila. Puro panganay ang mga naging anak at nang malaman ito ng kanilang Ina, wala itong ibang naitugon kundi mabigat-makapal na hagulgol at pagkuyom sa dibdib na puno-mayaman sa pasakit. At mula nga noo’y sinisi na ni Aling Ason ang Diyos at ang kapalaran.

Hulyo 29 ng taong kasalukuyan, isang umagang tirik na tirik ang araw na sinasasabayan pa ng alingasaw ng sanga-sangang imburnal at alingasngas ng mga mamimili, ay umalingawngaw ang megaphone na hawak-hawak ng empleyado ng munisipyo. May kasama itong abugado, mga pulis, traffic aid, at eskirol. Inanunsiyo nitong lahat ng mga may puwesto sa gilid ng Pamilihang Bayan ng Tarlak ay papalayasin na at nakatakdang gibain ang kanilang mga puwesto kinabukasan. Ito raw ang utos ng Hari na nakatala sa Memorandum Circular 2019-121. Marami ang naalarma sa pabatid publiko. Marami ang nabahala kung saan na sila lulugar. Marami ang nag-isip kung paano na ang kanilang pamilya na sa mumong ganansiya lamang sa pagtitinda umaasa. Maraming katawan ang ngayo’y aligaga at hindi mapagsalubong ang katwiran ng utak at kalam ng tiyan!

Bago magtapos nga ang nasabing buwa’y naganap ang inaasahan. Maagang dumating sa Pamilihang Bayan ang empleyado ng munisipyo, ang abugado at ang bando ng mga armadong pulis na may kasamang kalalakihan na nasasandatahan ng maso, bareta, martilyo, at kabra. Totoo ngang babaklasin na nila ang mga istruktura na ayon sa kanilang Hari’y iligal ang pagkakatayo. Nang mga panahong yao’y nasa palengke na nga si Aling Ason kasama ng kanyang mga panindang tinapa.

Sa malas nga nama’y siya pa ang unang sinita. Sinigawan siyang umalis na sa kanyang kinapupuwestuhan kung ayaw niyang masamsam ang kaniyang mga paninda. Sa gulat ay hindi nakagalaw ang matanda at wala itong ibang naiganti kundi isang mukha na puno ng bagabag at pagmamaka-awa  at tigalgal. Subalit bakal ang puso ng kanyang kaharap, linapitan lamang siya nito at hinablot nang malakas-pilit ang hawak nitong basket, na yari sa uway na puno ng tinapa. At dahil hamak na mas malakas ito sa matanda, bumagsak si Aling Ason kasama ng kanyang mga tinapa.

Dahil mahina-hina na ang tuhod ay unang lumagapak ang mukha sa marumi-basang sahig ng palengke, at nang i-angat ng matanda ang kanyang sarili’y tumambad sa madla ang duguan nitong ilong at bunganga. Nanginginig ang mga laylay na kalamnan nito habang lumuluha ang malabo na niyang mata. Usal niya sa may kapangyariha’y “ Parang awa niyo na, huwag niyong kunin itong aking paninda,” subalit ang tugon ng kaharap ay “ Katanda-tanda mo na’y hindi ka marunong sumunod sa batas! Mangmang! Hindi niyo na ba kami kinatatakutan?!” Akmang lalapit ang matanda subalit isang sampal-tulak ang kanyang natikman.

At ang mga sumunod na pangyayari’y naging laman nga ng balita. Nang umaga ngang yao’y nangagsisayaw ang mga anino, nag-iskrimahan ang mga braso-kamaong may hawak na kutsilyo-itak-tubo-kahoy, at umalimbukay sa mga kanal na tinangay naman ng hangin ang sanghaya ng dumanak na dugo ng mga anak ng araw. 

At bago nga lumubog ang araw at ganap na isilang ang takipsilim sa langit na siyang saksi, pinulot ang mga tadtad-warak-tumimbuwang na katawan ng mga mahihirap ng kani-kanilang mga kaanak. Ang isang katawang nakasubsob-basag ang bungo-butas ang leeg sa gilid ng latang basuraha’y ang naka-barong, naka-slaks, at naka-sapatos nang makintab na abugado. Walang pumapansin sa kanya maliban sa pulutong ng bangaw at langaw na sa kaniya’y nagpipiging. #

Oktubre 19, 2019, Lungsod Quezon, Maynila

ATANG

ni. R.B. Abiva

Anim na araw nang inaapoy ng lagnat si Bitot. Anim na araw na rin siyang hindi nakakalabas ng kanilang barung-barong na nakatirik sa pasigan ng Estero Dolorosa. Anim na araw na ring aligaga ang kanyang amang si Kulas na kantero sa itinatayong SM gayundin ng ina niyang si Marta na tindera ng sampagita sa Parokya ni San Nikolas ng Tolentino, ang pintakasi ng mga kaluluwa sa purgatoryo. At sa pang-anim ngang araw ng kanyang pagkakasakit, siya’y pinukol ng walang katulad na deliryo.

Napauwi nang wala sa oras si Kulas mula sa konstruksyong pinapasukan gayundin si Marta. Inabutan nilang umiikot-tumitirik ang bola ng mata ni Bitot. Nanginginig at walang ibang usal ang yayat na katawang may tuyong bibig kundi ang ngalan ng kanyang ama at ina.

Kumaripas ng takbo si Kulas palabas ng kanilang tahanan at dagli nitong tinahak ang madilim-masikip-mabahong kalyehon papunta sa bahay ni Kapitan Tiyago. Uutang siya ng kwartang ipampapagamot sa nag-aagaw buhay niyang anak. Noong mga sandaling yao’y abala sa paglalaro ng madyong ang kanyang pakay. Nilapitan niya ito subalit isang malaking pagtanggi ang kanyang natanggap. Lumuhod siya. Nagmakaawa. Subalit uyam at irap pa ang kanyang tinamo. Ano at saan naman daw huhugot ng ipambabayad ng utang ang gaya ni Kulas na isang kahig, isang tuka? Ni Kulas na wala man lang magandang asawa?

Nang mahimasmasang walang mapapala’y nagpasya si Kulas na umuwi na lamang. Pagkarating niya sa bukana ng kanilang barung-barong ay sinalubong siya agad ng mabigat at matalim na alulong at palahaw. Boses iyon ni Marta na isinisigaw ang ngalan ni Bitot. Malakas. Malakas na malakas!

Ano pa’y kinutuban na ng masama si Kulas at pagkabukas niya ng kanilang pintuang yari sa yero, animo’y sinakmal ang kanyang puso’t sumungalngal ito sa kanyang lalamunan. Nanginig ang kanyang laman at animo’y ibinudbod ang kanyang puso sa isang palanggana ng bubog. Laylay-matigas na ang katawan ni Bitoy sa pawisan-luhaang dibdib ng kanyang ina habang tirik-nawalan na ng pusikit ang kamay nitong mahilig kumaway sa tuwing aalis si Kulas.

Balisang nilisan ni Kulas ang gigiray-giray nilang tahanan. Umalis siya sa araw ding yaong napabalitang ipinakain kay Kapitan Tiyago ang mga bola ng madyong. At sa araw ding yao’y natagpuan si Kulas na nakasubsob ang ulo sa kulay lupang mascuvado, may apat na butas sa katawan at dalawa sa ulo.

Oktubre 9, 2019

Lungsod Quezon, Maynila

Tala: Atang- Iloko ng alay.

ALIPATO (Kay Ka Gelas)

By Rene Boy Abiva

“And wild bears never daunt the brave/ Plum blossoms welcome the whirling snow/ Small wonder flies freeze and perish.”— Mao Tse Tung, Winter Clouds

Larawan mula sa pamilya ni Gelas Guillermo

Dinuyan, inakay, at tinangay ka ng hangin

matapos ang pag-aaklas na gaya sa isang kaingin,

at nakiisa’t inihatid ka ng mga nagluluksang alitaptap

na sindami ng buhangin

sa ibaba ng kulay abong alapaap,

at bago ka bumagsak sa lupang kayumanggi

at ika’y tuluyang lamunin sa huling sandali

ay napagtagumpayan mong iginuhit sa dilim

ang sunod subalit huli’t kaabang-abang na pangitain.

Gamit ang natitira mong anag-ag

winika mo’y mahuhubaran, magagasgas, mabibitak,

babagsak, at sasabog ang agimat

gayundin ang imperyo’t templo ng iilang yayamanin.

Winika mo pa’y aalagwa, aaklas, at makikipagpatayan

sa mapangahas na alindog ng dugong sing-itim

ng sunog na asukal at sing-alat ng asin,

na sinlapot ng lusaw na bato’t tingga,

na sing-init ng pugon

na pinapaypayan ng matatalim at maninipis na elesi,

na mainit, mabigat, at masakit sa baga

ang hininga’t samyo ng bunganga

ng dambuhalang pigsa

sa loob at labas ng Maynila-

ang mga daantaong bihag ng mala-tisa sa puti,

at mala-marmol at pormika sa kinis at dulas na salamin-

na bininyagan, inensensuhan, pinabanguha’t hinilamusan

ng ‘di-mabilang na kwarta, kamanyang, mira, at ‘Ama Namin’.

Pipitik-pitik ang iyong liwanag

nang dahan-dahan, marahang-marahan

hanggang sa ang tibok ng iyong puso’y ‘di na napakingan

pito,

anim,

lima,

tatlo,

isa,

wala,

wala

hanggang sa tuluyan kang ‘di na naaninag

maliban sa naaalala ka tuwing sinasabog

ng bukang-liwayway ang kanyang liwanag

o kapag nagsisisayaw sa alon ang telon

ng Dakilang

Aurora Borealis. 

-Enero 18, 2019

Lungsod Quezon, Maynila

WHICH SHALL COME AHEAD?

By Jose Maria Sison

Which shall come ahead?
The blazing of forests,
The thawing of icebergs,
The rise of oceans,
The drowning of cities,
The parching of the land,
The whimpering death?

Which shall come ahead?
Sudden fright at the big burst,
Mushrooms in the sky,
Blinding light in a trice,
Before the endless night
Under the seamless fog,
The freezing of the land?

Which shall come ahead?
The endless rule and lure of greed,
The cycles of boom and bust,
The captive flow of blood and sweat,
The ruin of the greenscape,
Or the breaking of chains
To end myths of the endless?

Which shall come ahead?
The rise of the human spirit,
The liberation of the oppressed,
To smite the vile sources
Of greed, wars and plunder
To end the absurd choice
Of calamity to doom all humankind.

 

ALIN ANG MAUUNA?

Alin ang mauuna?
Ang pagliyab ng mga gubat,
Ang paglusaw ng mga yelong bundok,
Ang pag-ahon ng mga karagatan
Ang paglunod ng mga lungsod,
Ang pagtigang ng kalupaan.
Ang maungol na kamatayan?

Alin ang mauuna?
Biglang takot sa pagsambulat,
Mga kabute sa kalangitan,
Saglit ng makabulag na liwanag,
Bago ang gabing walang hanggan
Sa ilalim ng walang siwang na ulap,
Ang pagyelo ng kalupaan?

Alin ang mauuna?
Laging paghari at tukso ng kasakiman,
Mga siklo ng paglobo at pagsabog,
Ang binihag na daloy ng dugo at pawis,
Ang pagwasak sa luntiang tanawin,
O ang paglagot sa mga tanikala,
Nang wakasan ang mga mitong walang hanggan?

Alin ang mauuna?
Ang pagtayog ng makataong diwa,
Ang paglaya ng mga inaapi,
Upang bigwasan ang mga imbing bukal
Ng kasakiman, digmaan at pandarambong
Nang wakasan ang balighong pagpili
Ng kalamidad na tatapos sa sangkatauhan.

             —Utrecht, October 16, 2018

Writers and artists nominate Joma Sison as National Artist

Hundreds of groups, artists and personalities nominated Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) founder Jose Maria Sison as National Artist for Literature Saturday.

Nominators led by the Concerned Artists of the Philippines and National Artist for Literature Bienvenido Lumbera beat yesterday’s deadline by a few hours as they submitted hundreds of pages of testimonials and lists of Sison’s works at about 8:30 in the evening at the Cultural Center of the Philippines.

Citing his profound impact on many Filipinos and on Philippine society through his poems, essays and other articles, the nominators and endorsers urged the Conferral Order of National Artists to formally include Sison in its list as one of the country’s greatest writers.

“The nomination of Jose Maria Sison for national artist for poetry and the essay is moved by recognition of the crucial role he has a played and continues to play in the making of the Filipino community and nation by developing and enhancing the Filipino capacity to understand the Philippine crisis through the poems and the hundreds of essays he has written on the manifold aspects of that crisis,” a part of the nomination entitled “Jose Maria Sison’s Enduring Legacy: People’s Art, People’s Culture” read.

A copy of Sison’s nomination as National Artist for Literature entitled “Jose Maria Sison’s Enduring Legacy: People’s Art, People’s Culture.

Lumbera, University of the Philippines deans Luis Teodoro and Roland Tolentino, writers Alice and Gelacio Guillermo, playwright Bonifacio Ilagan, National Democratic Front of the Philippines peace consultant Allan Jazmines, Davao-based writer Don Pagusara, UP professor Rommel Rodriguez, and director-producer Soc Jose led hundreds of individual artists, writers, academicians and personalities who nominated Sison.

The Concerned Artists of the Philippines, College Editors’ Guild of the Philippines, Sining na Naglilingkod sa Bayan, Linangan ng Kulturang Pilipino, Teatro Obrero, Artista kag Manunulat nga Makibanwahanon (Panay), Artistang May Diwang Dagohoy (Bohol), Sining Banwa Performance Collective (Albay) Panday Sining (Metro Manila), Liga ng Kabataang Propagandista, Southern Tagalog Exposure, Kodao Productions and The Philippine Collegian were among the organizational nominators.

Sison has authored dozens of books of essays and poetry published locally and internationally and translated into various languages. He has won several awards as a writer, including the Literary Achievement Award for poetry and essay writing from the Writers’ Union of the Philippines, National Book Award for Poetry (Prison and Beyond), Manila Critics Circle, the Southeast Asia (SEA) WRITE Award for the Philippines for essay writing and poetry (reputedly the most prestigious literary award in Southeast Asia) and the Marcelo H. del Pilar Award bestowed by the College Editors Guild of the Philippines.

The nominators singled out Sison’s Struggle for Nationalism and Democracy, Philippine Society and Revolution, and Prisons and Beyond as his most influential books, saying these undoubtedly changed Philippine history and helped define Philippine society.

“[Sison’s essays] have enlightened several generations and inspired them into living lives dedicated to the service of the people in furtherance of the empowerment of the poor, the marginalized and the powerless so they may themselves transform their own lives in a society of peace, prosperity and democracy of their own making,” the nominators wrote.

“He has thereby raised the level of public discourse on such issues as poverty and underdevelopment from the confusion and misdirection of the past to its current focus on their historical and structural roots, and as neither mandated by heaven nor an affliction inherent in the human condition, but as man-made and therefore susceptible to human intervention,” they added. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)