Lorna (2014) poster

Putukan at poetic shit: A review of Lorna.

By | November 17, 2014

There was this wonderful trick in the first sequence of Sigrid Andrea Bernardo’s Lorna: It essentially summarized the story we were about it watch, but one will only realize it once the movie finishes. It also introduced the recurring metaphor for love used in the film. Bullets fired from guns were the modern-day Love arrows, and they left a bloody mess where they struck.

Lorna (2014) poster

Lorna was the story of one woman’s quest for love and the many men in her life: the ex-husband who left her, a foreign boyfriend, a returning old flame, and a charmer who pops up every so often. She was occasionally accompanied by two long-time friends, her son from her ex-husband, and a very randy housecat. The film had an impressive cast of actors, with Shamaine Buencamino as a very effective lead actress. Maria Isabel Lopez and Raquel Villavicencio were her two best friends; Ms. Lopez totally deserved her Best Supporting Actress win for playing the hilarious Elvie. Felix Roco was adorable as Lorna’s emocore son. Juan Rodrigo was refreshing as the guy with embarrassingly corny pick-up lines. Angel Aquino had a short, but scene-stealing appearance. And, of course, there was Lav Diaz.

Tangina, I love Lav Diaz.

Sigrid Bernardo is one of the probably few feminist filmmakers working right now, and Lorna had strong feminist themes. The beauty of it is how one won’t notice it at first; the feminism does not get in the way of entertainment. Lorna, just like her previous work, looked into the many facets of women’s lives, making them fully fleshed-out characters with histories and motivation. The roles women took for themselves were discussed, and the ideas of motherhood and womanhood examined through witty banter (typical of Sigrid’s screenplays) that combines heavy musings with humor. One of the few directors to consistently do so, Sigrid candidly presented women’s sexuality as a natural part of their being, not merely as a subject for jokes or titillation.

Sigrid is also a queer filmmaker. Unlike her previous film, however, Lorna was not about a gay character. There is a very minor queer subplot, although it might be one of the weaker aspects of the story. It felt underwritten and was explained as how a person might “change” which seems to send a message that sexual attraction is a choice. One of my main criticisms for the film were the inclusion of these intriguing plot points (another one was the backstory of Raquel Villavicencio’s character) which were not addressed in depth, making them feel like missed opportunities.

Another thing I can’t quite swallow is believing that Shamaine Buencamino (who is 49 years old) et al are a bunch of sixty-year old folks. This was perhaps lampshaded in the movie when Angel Aquino admitted within the story that she is supposedly fifty (fifty!) years old, but was told that she does not look fifty at all.

The movie had a delicious ending sequence where the character of Lorna, steaming while reading a romance novel in her favorite restaurant table, was surrounded by several couples making out. One of those couples were a pair of men (“Ano ba yan, puro mga bading,” exclaimed a man sitting behind us), the first to be shown. The whole sequence was played for comedy, but the inclusion of a gay couple in that shot was a subtle but strong statement on how love does not care for a person’s age nor gender.

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LGBT National Day of Outrage

#IamJenniferLaude: Solidarity message for #LGBTOutragePH.

By | October 25, 2014

As representative from PinoyG4M.com, I was asked if I can give a two-minute solidarity message for the LGBT National Day of Outrage for the killing of Jennifer Laude. Like most things I do, I wrote this at the last minute while commuting from Makati to Diliman.

While I knew there will be media coverage for the event, I did not expect that I will be giving this statement in front of TV cameras.

LGBT National Day of Outrage

A comment from someone in social media: “Sometimes people of this kind are really not worth the sympathy sometimes.”

We are here to mourn the passing of Jennifer Laude and to express sympathy for her family and loved ones. We are also here to show our outrage, our indignation, our anger for the crime that took away her life.

This crime has touched a lot of issues in Filipino society: The double standard we seem to apply on crimes committed by non-Filipinos. The not-unfounded concern that Jennifer will be denied justice. The shock at the brutal and dehumanizing manner of her death. The disappointment on how some in the media presented Jennifer’s story. The disbelief over the victim-blaming in many public reactions. And the fear that we, the LGBT community, despite our seeming acceptance in society are still vulnerable to violence committed out of hate.

In a different instance, at a different place, it could be one of us who will be the reason for this gathering. You can be Jennifer Laude. I can be Jennifer Laude. Each one of us can be Jennifer Laude.

But isn’t that right?

I am Jennifer Laude. You are Jennifer Laude. We are Jennifer Laude. While each one of us are vulnerable to hate, each one of us can also stop this hate.

That we are all here today show that our lives matter, that we want justice, that we want an end to this violence. That we are all here today means we are taking up the challenge to ensure that these changes happen.

I am Jennifer Laude. And I take up this challenge.

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Pink shirts are for loving boobies.

By | October 23, 2014

“Team, in support of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, wear pink tonight. Even the guys.”

The announcement early this morning came from the manager of the neighboring account, broadcasted over the office speakers. The voice was friendly, but in between the lines was the expectation that everyone will follow the instruction.

Feel your boobies

That there was a gesture of solidarity with Breast Cancer Awareness in the office is nice, even if it felt just like that: a gesture. No information drive, no supplemental activities, no explanations on what was the connection of pink shirts and the breast cancer awareness movement.

It frequently happens that commendable campaigns to spread awareness on various issues or conditions get trivialized into merely wearing a colored shirt, or displaying a ribbon, or changing one’s social media avatar. Awareness is often measured by how viral a campaign has become, or how fashionable it was to be seen supporting it.

While these visible actions themselves effectively draw attention to the campaign, often lacking is the education and, more importantly, the discussion that should accompany the gimmick.

I hope at least one of my pink-ish shirts isn’t in the laundry yet. And maybe I’ll sneak a link to a Breast Cancer Awareness website in our team’s chatroom and convince people to look it up.

If you’d like to know more about Breast Cancer Awareness, you can visit:

The National Breast Cancer Foundation
http://www.nationalbreastcancer.org/breast-cancer-awareness-month

Breast Cancer Awareness (BCA) Campaign
http://bcacampaign.com

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Harmony, Ords, and Vicky Belo.

By | September 23, 2014

I had at least an hour to kill while a technician repaired my phone. I figured I’ll get the massage I’ve promised myself for some time now. After the stress of wondering about my HIV status, I could use some pampering to relax.

There was only the middle-aged masseuse when I entered the massage parlor. I looked at their list of services and asked what the “Body Mind Harmony Massage” was. It sounded so esoteric. It turned out to be a combination of Thai, Shiatsu, and Swedish message.

massage

Okay, I’m game.

The masseuse played a recording of tropical bird sounds as ambient sound during the massage session. I didn’t know if that helped me relax, especially since the recording included occasional squawks and (this surprised me the first time it burst out) an elephant trumpet which interrupted the chirruping of various birds.

But lying on a massage bed by itself was already relaxing. I was too tall for it, my feet dangling a few inches from the end of the bed. I decided I want to have one made for me, with a customized face hole so I can sleep on it with my face down. I also realized that aside from lying there and thinking, I was also narrating that exact moment in my head. The habit of dictating to my inner blog never really goes away.

The masseuse was okay, if a little uneven in how she did the massage. She was rather chatty too, which I appreciated, describing which parts of my limbs were tense.

I asked how she learned to massage professionally. She said it was from a livelihood program by the Binays, then she took a proficiency exam as TESDA. She told me of another proficiency exam from the Department of Health which cost twenty thousand pesos and includes several months of review classes.

I already expected some pain as she eased some of my knotted muscles. While I didn’t have a high threshold for pain, I do have a relatively high tolerance for it. She was amused when she found out that I was also ticklish. Several times, I was squirming while she rubbed by thigh, and again while she was massaging my neck.

“Eh di malakas yung ‘ords’ mo,” she teased me.

Ords? What the fuck is ‘ords’? I honestly didn’t know so I asked what she meant.

“Sexual ords,” she clarified. Ah… sexual urge. That got me laughing, and not because of the charming mispronunciation. “Yun ang sabi nila. Syempre, kayo lang pwede magsabi nun.”

She also asked about my wife (“Wala po akong asawa.”) or girlfriend (“Hahaha, wala din po.”). Oh, wow. Was the masseuse flirting with me? That was fun. I couldn’t shatter the woman’s assumption by admitting that I play for the other team.

It was a pleasant session, all in all. I figured I will return again after a month or so. I asked for the masseuse’s name before I left.

“Vicky,” she answered. “Vicky Belo,” she added with a slight emphasis, her face deadpan.

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Confronting a shadow.

By | September 23, 2014

A friend whom I sometimes sleep with admitted to me that he was found to be reactive in a recent HIV test. We’ve been hanging out (and occasionally sleeping with) each other for several months now. Aside from being worried about himself, my friend was also worried about me, apologizing several times after he broke the news. He said he wouldn’t be able to forgive himself if I was infected because of him.

I appreciated my friend’s concern and told him he shouldn’t be apologizing to me. I haven’t been tested in a while, the last was way before I met him. What I didn’t tell him that time was how I was more worried that it might have been me who infected him. While I have been practicing safer sex for several years now, that was not always the case. One never knows if some nasty surprise from one’s past will suddenly make an appearance now.

It’s no secret among many of my friends that I have had multiple sexual partners. Hell, a lot of those sexual partners eventually became my friends. I was not looking forward to breaking bad news to them and passing the worry that they might have been exposed to HIV risk because of me, however slight the possibility was. It wasn’t really rational, but my mind was beginning to panic.

HIV test

It was early in the morning when I went to the testing center. I decided to go alone, preferring to have a moment alone should I turn out to be reactive. The counselor pleasantly did the usual routine interview, asking about my personal history.

“…and how many men have you slept with?” he asked at one point.

“Oh, wow.” I forgot one gets asked this question. After a moment’s though, I gave a (probably conservative) estimate: “Fifty?”

“That’s still not a lot,” he chided.

After my blood was extracted, I went to the waiting area, took out a book, and pretended to read calmly while waiting for the result. When the counselor called me back, he asked how the waiting was and commented that I looked pretty confident about what the result would be. I simply smiled back and shrugged noncommittally. While I seemed to be nonchalant with the whole thing, in my head I was anything but.

The result came back as non-reactive.

That took a huge weight off my mind. I am not a statistic. I haven’t been putting other people at risk. Most importantly, I can assure my friend that he has nothing to worry about me.

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