I recently watched “Slumber Party,” the Cinema One Originals / Origin8media / One Night Entertainment / Outpost film. Despite very minimal publicity, I was eagerly anticipating this comedy based on a viral trailer I saw on the internet. I also had high expectations because two of the studios have produced a lot of quality films in the past, including one of my favorite aswang movies (“Yanggaw,” Cinema One Originals) and one of the most hilarious movies in the history of ever (“Zombadings: Patayin sa Shokot si Remington,” Origin8media).
Now, while “Slumber Party” over-all was not so bad, one thing left a very sour note: that male rape was essentially played for laughs. After the fratboy-wannabe intruder was captured by the three protagonists during a sleepover, one of them (Archie Alemania) secretly went and forced a blow job upon the hogtied, struggling eighteen-year old (to his credit, actor Sef Cadayona effectively conveyed his helplessness, anger, and terror at being molested).
Moreover, towards the end, it almost happened again, with Markki Stroem being the near-perpetrator until he was caught by RK Bagatsing, resulting in a rather melodramatic sequence about the secret resentments of all three. You know, because never mind the boy who was almost raped for the second time within 24 hours. Priorities.
I tried my best to see what the filmmakers would do with this. I waited patiently if there would be some kind of payoff in the end – such as the perpetrators getting their just desserts, or at least a stronger acknowledgement of the implications of the incidents. While rape can be depicted in art, literature, and media, there needs to be meaning to it, a purpose. Rape is so sensitive a topic that it needs to be handled with care if it is to be used at all.
However: Nope. Not even a sorry from the perpetrators. In the context of the entire film, there was no purpose to it as it was glossed over and ignored.
Does this happen in real life? Of course it does. Men, women, gays, lesbians, trans – there have been rapes committed by members of these communities. It is not that we disallow the portrayal of a social reality, but what we do with such a portrayal is the question.
There is nothing funny about rape. Even worse, this film perpetuates the myth that male rape is “okay,” that because the victim is male then nothing is lost, that the victim may have even secretly enjoyed it. It doesn’t help in this case as the guy develops a mild case of Stockholm Syndrome with one of his captors, albeit the only one who doesn’t attempt to rape him.
And no, even if he is the intruder in the first place (which is of course still wrong, albeit a frat prank), it still doesn’t make it right. Rape as punishment is not right.
This is the kind of depiction of male rape that makes it even more difficult for male victims of abuse to come forward. That somehow, it’s nothing, that it’s just a funny thing, a rite of initiation, that it’s just a “macho thing,” that being raped is a sign of virility because all the women and the gays and the trans desire him, that he is an alpha god.
Let me ask you: if that scene had involved an eighteen-year old girl hogtied to a chair, and a straight man comes in to pull down her panties and molest her, and all this in the context of being played for laughs, how do you think people would react?
And yet, because it is a boy tied to that chair, probably a horny one for he is a teenager after all right, people actually thought it was hilarious.
It is a sexist double-standard that is unfair to both men and women.
Worse, this further demonizes the bakla as nothing more than a molester. Even if it is to the film’s credit that the third bakla is decidedly not so, when two-thirds of your primary beki protagonists are molesters, then you are not doing the community a favor. Instead, you are reinforcing the myth that all bekis are predatory.
The rest of the movie actually had its good parts. Sef Cadayona, Markki Stroem, and Nino Muhlach cameoing as a “gay auntie” were comparatively effective in their roles, whether on the comedy side or on the dramatic side. There were of course some internal logic and plot hole issues, such as – exactly what were the three bekis planning to do with their captive, keep him there forever? Medyo hindi napag-isipan ng tatlong sisteraka ang plano nila. Also, as a friend put it, the movie fell quickly into the stereotype of the “effeminate, transgender freak as the primary comic relief” (not to mention the most vile of them, having been the rapist).
“Slumber Party” could have been a great effort. The trailers and premise showed a lot of promise. There were a lot of nice scenes and heartwarming sequences. It could have been used as a vehicle to promote good LGBT cinema.
It is unfortunate that it had to be marred by an unwarranted rape scene played for comedy.
I cannot help but sometimes think there is a conspiracy against education. Whether here or in the USA, education is one of the first institutions that tend to take a hit when budget and planning come into play.
In the USA, it seems the budget for the war chest takes precedence over education (which is not surprising, I guess, considering how many enemies the USA has and how many war profiteers there are in that nation). In the Philippines, education keeps on getting budget cuts, straining state universities and causing a deterioration in quality schooling, while the pork barrel of unscrupulous politicians just keeps on growing.
It is as though we are at war against education, and our leaders want to raise morons. This, of course, may not be that far-fetched because a world full of idiots is easier to control and manipulate.
Recently, it was reported that – in the new K-12 educational system being rolled out for the Philippines – the Department of Education is looking to downscale Literature and Humanities in the curriculum. This is despite the fact that the K-12 program seeks to add two additional years to the basic education of Filipinos.
(Do not get me started on the uselessness of adding two years to basic education. At this point, quality, not quantity, is needed. All that we will accomplish with two years of additional schooling is that even more of our poor countrymen who have no means will end up not finishing school.)
Needless to say, the proposal to downscale Literature and Humanities was not met with open arms by writers, Literature teachers, and anyone who actually has brains. And why should we meet this with open arms? As the article notes, it is strange that while two more years are being added to basic education, Literature and Humanities are getting the shaft by being subtracted from the curriculum.
One of the more preposterous ideas is to collapse 21st Century Regional Literature into World Literature. One is the study of Philippine Lit in regional languages, while the other is the study of works from other nations. It would be akin to these DepEd idiots collapsing Chemistry and Biology into one subject (and not in the sense of a true Biochemistry course).
Now, while the value of Literature may not be as easily apparent in daily life as, say, basic Math or Grammar, the value is nonetheless significant.
Literature helps develop critical thinking in people. People need to read more and more, not less and less, especially in this day and age where Twitter and Facebook have become the norm in feeding us ideas not always filtered with intelligence or the sublime. Mind you, social media has its value, but it should not replace true education, especially when there is so much garbage that needs a critical mind to be filtered out by impressionable young people.
“There are magazines, too!” I hear naysayers cry. Right, because there is so much depth to learn from reading Cosmopolitan and FHM.
The fact remains that, without Literature, people will not learn to think critically as they could and will not understand more about the world around them in ways that Math, Science, or even History cannot provide. I say this as a person who holds a Bachelor’s degree in Biology and who is a self-professed Math nerd. These disciplines show us logic and teach us about the objective; Literature and the Humanities show us emotion and teach us how about the subjective.
Literature and the Arts are about humanity. These teach us to understand and learn the human experience from all around us – whether it be through the local experience, the national experience, or the global experience.
Devaluate Literature and the Arts, and you risk devaluating how we learn to be more human.
I have been in the industry I work in for over a decade. Through various companies including the present, I have experienced its various iterations: call center, back office, insourcing, offshoring, global service center, global solutions. In all cases, it has shown me how world-class Filipino talent is.
Thus, it irks me no end when I hear an arrogant moron telling an agent, “Operator ka lang?” or when I hear a sneering ignoramus say, “Fad lang ‘yang offshore-offshore na ‘yan!”
(By the way, being a phone operator is nothing to be ashamed of. It is an honest living.)
Fact No. 1. Save perhaps for our heroic OFWs, often in jobs they are overqualified for, this industry has brought in more money to the Philippines than any other. Through many crises, we helped save the economy. It is no coincidence that, after the 1997 Asian crisis, the Philippines came out (relatively) unscathed because the late 90s was when outsourcing started gaining traction. It is no coincidence that we improved even with a USA recession in the late 2000s.
Fact No. 2. Offshoring is not limited to the call center industry. It is by far the most well-known of the business, and certainly one that has helped boost awareness of our capabilities, but it is a small percentage of the industry. Non-voice work such as healthcare and medical transcription are strong businesses, and definitely IT/web development is a powerful driver of the industry (or did you not know that a lot of the technology beyond our borders were actually created here?).
Fact No. 3. Offshoring is not limited to outsourcing. Many companies have started to “insource,” meaning, they set up “captive” offices in offshore destinations and utilize these sites as service centre hubs. It is the set-up of a multinational company, basically.
Fact No. 4. This industry requires brains. While certainly it is not rocket science, jobs in this industry require excellent communication skills (verbal and written, English or otherwise), strong analytical and problem-solving skills, and high computer literacy. Ever wonder why many people still do not pass screenings for these companies?
Fact No. 5. This industry requires high EQ. People skills are important, whether it be to provide empathy for customers or to deal with difficult clients. It also requires a strong sense of character, as most multinationals have very strict codes of conduct, compliance, and ethics. Resiliency and dedication are also key, for where others will crumble at the mere sight of floodwaters, workers in this industry brave such torrents in order to continue serving the world.
Fact No. 6. Training and professional development are given more importance than any other industry. Management training is also a key factor in the success of these companies. Note that many of these companies are run by people who do not always have management degrees; heck, my degree is in Biology. Most of my colleagues do not have MBAs, but they will run rings around those with MBAs if they were placed in a traditional company.
Fact No. 7. The average income in this industry is higher. Modesty aside, we earn more than most, thank you. Our international counterparts save a lot of money in labor arbitrage. They can fund companies here at a fraction of what it would cost to keep the work there. However, due to exchange rates, that fraction is still significantly above our cost of living, allowing employees here to be paid above the average income of local companies. They save money while we earn more. It’s a win/win situation and one of the main reasons this industry thrives.
Fact No. 8. The industry supports globalization. Those who refuse to see the value of an industry intimately tied to globalization will be left behind. Our advantage is unique. We provide cultural compatibility with most international markets given our strong Western influence, our Eastern heritage, and Filipino hospitality. Our workforce is strong in English, and we also have a good percentage that can support Spanish and (to some extent) other languages such as French, German, Korean, and more - a key differentiator that our competitors such as India and China do not always have. This allows us to support other markets and not just the USA, as incorrectly perceived by many.
Fact No. 9. What we do impacts not just ourselves, not just our country, but also the world. We are part of a bigger picture, and what we do moves not just our country, but also the world. I speak not of just mere customer service, but also how our work has spanned various markets such as government, trade, shipping, finance, economy, and more. We are movers and shakers of the world. Nevertheless, despite our global service…
Fact No. 10. … we serve our country. I do not have anything against people who migrate because they perceive a futureless Philippines, and with the bizarre circus we call Pinoy politics, who can blame them? However, I have always found it sad that they have given up on this nation. I am doubly-saddened by people I know who, after having been given the privilege of state-subsidized education, decide to take their skills elsewhere.
(I believe it was Winnie Monsod who suggested that those who gained state education should serve locally for X number of years before they migrate. Pay the country back and be grateful for what it gave you. I do not disagree with this sentiment; it is basic delicadeza. Do not complain about lack of Philippine progress if you will not do anything at all to help it. But I digress. It is a topic for another day.)
In any case, there are still those of us who believe there is hope for this nation, and the hope is in its workforce. There are opportunities here. If you work hard and have the right skills, there is no reason to leave and not serve the country right here. The only way for our nation to have a future is for us to trust and work for its future (them politicians be damned).
People complain about brain drain. We have people lamenting that our countrymen migrate, and yet the same people look down upon the one industry that can bring those same opportunities right here at home.
At the heart of it, this industry is basically the same as that of the OFW, except that instead of us going to other countries for work, other countries bring their work to us. We are the new OFW, laborers who support overseas markets but who do not have to leave their families behind to earn a substantial income.
Is that not good? We bring in the “dollars” without having to sacrifice being with our families. We are work-from-home OFWs.
And to those poor, uneducated souls who still refuse to see this reality and continue to question the validity of this industry, I ask you:
Has your work been crucial to the welfare of consumers around the globe, wherein if you don’t do your job, people the world over would have no support for what they have put their money in, whether it be utilities, products, or services?
Has your work involved the resolution of banking fraud, wherein if you don’t do your job, the risk to international banking will increase?
Has your work resulted in the creation of a technological infrastructure, wherein if you don’t do your job, governments could fall?
Has your work affected healthcare in other countries, wherein if you don’t do your job, doctors and hospitals do not get paid and medical services can be stalled, jeopardizing human life?
Has your work impacted global trade, wherein if you don’t do your job, import and export between countries can be aversely affected and international economies could potentially be destabilized?
Then please, shut up.
(And learn proper grammar and spelling while you’re at it. No wonder you’re bitter.)
The FB page of “My Husband’s Lover” recently asked a simple yet ultimately (as the comments section showed) divisive question: “Kanino kayo pumapanig: sa babaeng pinakasalan, o sa lalaking unang inibig?”
My initial reaction, swooning over #tomden and typical of the “follow your heart trope,” was to say, “Eric!”
Then I realized: If we want to look at this in a healthy manner, then the answer is, “Neither.”
The common response of the pro-Lallies is, “May pamilya na sila. They should stay together for the kids.” Often, there’s also the added rhetoric of the sanctity of marriage, blahblahblah. They fail to remember that the marriage was built on a lie. The sanctity was never there to begin with. It is not a marriage; it is a sham. Just ask Carmina Villaroel.
The common response of the pro-Erics is, “True love!” They broke up years ago. Please move on. It’s actually pathetic, when you think about it. Sure, there was no closure, but only the desperate would not have moved on a decade later. Moreover, he is rekindling the relationship under the shadow of infidelity. True love is not always right. Besides, ”How you get him is how you lose him.”
Also, a response to my comment on the post bothered me. “Paano ‘pag tanda nya?” (I spelled that out because the textspeak used will make you want to hurl large objects.)
If the only reason for you to get married and have children is to have someone to take care of you in your sunset years, then you have a selfish notion of what marriage and family are about.
You marry someone because you love them, not because you need a caregiver.
You have children because you want to share the world with offspring that you love. If they come back when you are old to take care of you, then great. If they want to be independent of you, then they have that choice, and it’s not bad, and you have no right to make them feel bad about it. Only selfish parents will expect their kids to be their crutch in old age.
This is why I respect my parents dearly. They have often told me and my brother that they want us to live our lives independently of them because they will not be around forever. If we take care of them in old age, they will welcome it; however, they do not expect it. It is easier to love and care for such parents as opposed to those who squeeze every last drop out of their kids – even if those kids already have their own families.
Love is giving and expecting nothing in return. If you think your children owe you every last minute to your dying day, then you should never have children.
Also, parents “staying together for the kids” will not always work especially if the marriage is broken irreparably. An environment of conflict or distrust can do more harm to the kids. Of course parents should always try to work things out, but if it is an intrinsic issue like the sham of Vincent and Lally’s “marriage,” then that marriage was never a marriage to begin with – just a piece of meaningless paper. Sometimes, parents who are separate but who nonetheless jointly provide love and support to their kids are the better option.
The healthy choice for Vincent is to get an annulment, especially since this is a valid annulment situation – not just legally in the Philippines but also ethically and morally. Then he should start anew with neither Lally, whom he lied to from the very start, nor Eric, with whom infidelity would have been the foundation of a renewed relationship.
This doesn’t mean Vincent should remain single forever, as the same brain-deficient simpleton commenter I noted above extrapolated from my initial statement (hence her question, “Paano ‘pag tanda nya?”). He can live a new life, seek out new lovers – whether men or women or both, whatever he is most comfortable with – and maybe along the way find a companion with whom he can start a clean slate based on honest love… and perhaps even grow old with.
Let’s face the facts. What Vincent has with both Lally and Eric are broken.
So start fresh. Be single for a while. Find someone new… and begin a new life based on love and not selfish reasons.
No, in my article, I don’t extol the virtues of the beautiful creature that is known as Tom Rodriguez.
However, I will extol his virtues here and say that he is one of the most beautiful creatures on the planet, isn’t he? I mean, just look at him. Ever since I first saw him on “Here Comes The Bride” emerging from the sea and into that beach, I knew he was something special.
Well, now is his chance to shine… and shine he does with Dennis Trillo.
Yes, #tomden is officially a love team. You know it’s official when their love team portmanteau is a hashtag.
In 2012, UP Babaylan celebrated its 20th anniversary. Two decades are quite the milestone for the first and most influential student LGBT organization in the country, and to further celebrate the successes of the organization through the decades,UP Babaylan worked hand in hand with the UP Center for Women’s Studies to publish and release a beautiful coffee table book entitled, “Anong Pangalan Mo? at iba pang tanong sa mga LGBT.”
The book, which was launched last 25 June 2013 in the Vargas Musuem, is basically an artistic photo journal wherein fifty alumni and resident members answered fifty questions commonly asked of LGBT. It is inspired by Weingarten’s “A Series of Questions” and attempts to unravel the realities of LGBT life in a series of black and white photographs accompanied by answers to those oft-asked questions.
And quite the answers they are! Ranging from the serious to the tongue-in-cheek to the oh-snap!, the answers help demystify the LGBT experience for the heterosexuals out there. Of course, it is neither a comprehensive nor a singularly correct collection of responses, and it is never meant to be. Responses, after all, span the spectrum of fact, opinion, and the non-response. It is, in essence, a slice of the LGBT life – a life that is, like that of the heterosexuals, uncontainable and cannot be boxed into a mere set of queries.
The questions have a life of their own, for these questions are a mix of the serious, the naughty, the innocent, the patently absurd. The questions are both hilarious and heartbreaking at the same time, for they reflect a lot of the misconceptions and misunderstandings that heterosexuals harbor about the LGBT community. Some are valid questions for the uninitiated but willing to learn, while other questions can be downright offensive.
06-2013 Anong Pangalan Mo?
Still, these are real questions that many LGBT people get, and the answers reflect the joys and the pains of the LGBT community in its struggles to influence society to raise its standards when it comes to tolerance and acceptance. It is, at the heart of it, a reflection of the community’s soul laid bare.
The photographs, taken by current Punong Babaylan Rod Singh, are gorgeous. These photos tell a story on their own, and behind every subject’s serious, unsmiling visage is a story.
It is quite a lovely visual journey into the psyche of the LGBTs.
Come and see what it’s like to be us.
Anong Pangalan Mo? at iba pang tanong sa mga LGBT
Now available at the UP Center for Women’s Studies for only Php250.00.
06-2013 Babaylan Book Launch
Punong Babaylan Rod Singh, who also was the book's photographer, delivers a speech to attendees of the book launch held in the Vargas Museum last 25 June 2013. An exhibit of some of the photos is displayed outside.[img src=http://www.allancarreon.com/wp-content/flagallery/06-2013-babaylan-book-launch/thumbs/thumbs_book-launch-02.jpg]25.2k0Old and New Alike
Alumni and resident members come together at the Vargas Museum for the launch and dinner at the Chocolate Kiss after.[img src=http://www.allancarreon.com/wp-content/flagallery/06-2013-babaylan-book-launch/thumbs/thumbs_book-launch-03.jpg]25.1k0Old and New Alike
Alumni and resident members come together at the Vargas Museum for the launch and dinner at the Chocolate Kiss after.[img src=http://www.allancarreon.com/wp-content/flagallery/06-2013-babaylan-book-launch/thumbs/thumbs_book-launch-04.jpg]25k0Generations
Twenty years of UP Babaylan: no, these folks represent just a small fraction of the entire organiztion.
Who do you think are the true experts, the undisputed authority, when it comes to men having sex with men?
Find out by reading this article.
Coming soon to a theater near you…
God must have sunk the MV Doña Paz in December 1987 because Ferdinand Marcos remained scot-free from corruption charges almost two years after he was deposed. He spared Marcos because he was in Hawaii, which is surrounded by water, and chose to punish 4000-plus people in a ferry traversing Philippine territory, which is surrounded by water.
God must have snapped that July 1990 Luzon earthquake into being, hitting Baguio and Cabanatuan the hardest, because Cory Aquino hid under beds during coup d’etats. He must have also let Mt. Pinatubo ravage Central Luzon and allowed Typhoon Uring to deluge Ormoc in Leyte the following year for the same reason. He spared Aquino because she lived in in Manila, far from those places, and it must have been too much effort to include her on the roster of victims.
God must have sparked the Ozone Disco fire in March 1996 because Fidel Ramos is Protestant. Most of the 200+ victims were young adults celebrating graduation. He spared Ramos because Ramos allowed Pope John Paul II to visit the country in 1995. This does not explain why God caused devotees to perish in the July 1993 Pagoda Tragedy, but perhaps He wasn’t sure if He should punish Aquino or Ramos for the power outages of the early 90s, and so He chose to punish Bocaue instead.
God must have caused the Payatas Tragedy in July 2000 because Joseph Estrada was a womanizer. He spared Estrada because he stopped acting in movies while other actor-politicians just kept on going, so the scavengers were the rightful objects of divine vengeance. Unfortunately, years later, Estrada chose to do a movie again via “Ang Tanging Pamilya,” released in November 2009; this is why God sent Typhoon Megi the following year in October 2010.
God must have sent Ondoy in September 2009 because the RH Bill languished under Gloria Arroyo’s administration, more than a decade after it was first proposed. He chose to punish residents of Metro Manila and other major areas of the country but chose to spare Arroyo because He knew she was in the habit of giving gifts and SUVs to Catholic bishops.
God must have allowed the Super-Habagat of August 2012 to ravage the country because He was mad at the endless railroading of the RH Bill. He sent the rains starting on the day an anti-RH rally was held and ensured the hardest hit areas were the jurisdiction of anti-RH congressmen: Manila (Bagatsing), Navotas (Tiangco), Pampanga (Arroyo), Rizal (Rodriguez), and Zambales (Magsaysay). Note that UST, that stalwart bastion of Catholic academe, became a massive lake.
God must have continued to be wildly pissed off that anti-RH lawmakers were still relentlessly pushing against the bill in early December 2012. As a result, He sent Typhoon Pablo to wipe out Compostela Valley in Mindanao as a warning against overpopulation. He also let the Visayas islands have a little taste. However, He chose to spare Batasang Pambansa in Luzon because, well, who knows. Probably because He wants to give the lawmakers the chance to experience safe and satisfying sex before unleashing fire and brimstone against them.
God must have let Pacquiao lose in his fight against Marquez on December 9, 2012 because Pacquiao had expressed anti-gay and anti-RH sentiments in the past. Pacquiao also forgot to wear his cross, further assuring the loss because (as a friend put it) Marquez is apparently an aswang. He chose to keep Pacquiao alive, however, because He wanted to make sure Mommy Dionisia would still get her Hermes bag, which will now be used to preach against Pacquiao’s conversion away from Catholicism. Pacquiao’s loss is also God’s judgment against Jinkee Pacquiao’s atrocious bangs and headband.
God will end the world on December 21, 2012 because the Mayans predicted it and because Psy will be holding a concert in Manila the night before. This is prophesied by Psy’s “Gangnam Style” video, where the imageries of horses, horseback riding, and cowboy dancing are an obvious allusion to the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. Psy, having conquered the world with his hit song, is the First Horseman known as Conquest. It will be the eve of destruction, ushering in a new day, the day of the apocalypse, and Manila will be the first to feel the wrath.
Take heed. Be warned. The end is nigh.
One of the true classics on this list, this is probably one of the scariest features in Pinoy cinema. Peque Gallaga directed this third segment of the seminal “Shake, Rattle, & Roll” film, which gave us two of the most famous local horror stories (this piece along with “Pridyider”). Showing early mastery of the genre, Gallaga would later follow through with many more aswang tales in both individual flicks as well as SRR features. This would set the standard for the aswang genre for generations to come, and its influence in future movies of the same theme would become apparent as time went by.
This was the tale of a young boy (Herbert Bautista) at the cusp of manhood who finds himself having to defend his grandmother (Mary Walter) and younger siblings from a manananggal. Setting it in a remote barrio during Holy Week was genius as it played on fears brought about by the rural belief that, on Good Friday and Black Saturday, God was supposedly dead. The story builds up slowly but intensely – from the young man’s wooing of the isolated maiden to his discovery of her dark secret and to the climactic bahay kubo siege, which remains to be one of the most gripping sequences in local horror.
Irma Alegre, more known for her daringly sexy roles, delivered a powerful performance as the manananggal. Casting her was another genius choice. One of the most memorable scenes was her transformation. With the exception of the shot of the obviously animated flying creature against a full moon, the rest of the scene was one of the most sensual and yet horrifying things ever rendered in Philippine cinema. With only the sounds of the night and minimal music, with Irma’s ominous and painful groans accompanying her slow and painful metamorphosis, with the disgustingly-realistic detachment of her torso from waist, and with the frightened teenager’s subsequent destruction by salt of the visceral lower half, the well-executed scene would influence many aswang movies to come.
If only for this, “Manananggal” cemented its place in the annals of Philippine horror.
This is not just a manananggal movie but also a white lady, kapre, and duwende movie. Still, the aswang formed the crux of the story as its relationship with “Lola” was integral to the featured family’s history.
While this is a Fil-Canadian production, with its producers and lead actors based in Canada, it is a Filipino film through and through: the subject matter, story, and setting are all distinctly Pinoy. The tale of balikbayans trying to make sense of the mother culture and of the secrets of their heritage hits close to home, especially for those with family abroad who have a hard time connecting to their roots. It is a classic tale of Pinoy diaspora and journey home against a backdrop of the supernatural.
The rest of its cast are also undeniably Pinoy, and what a cast it is! In major roles are of some of the best character actors that local talent has to offer: Noni Buencamino, Susan Africa, Phoemela Baranda, Cholo Barretto, Ketchup Eusebio, and Victor Neri. Meanwhile, Tirso Cruz III, Jaclyn Jose, Angel Aquino, and Alan Paule, among many others, provide pivotal cameos. At the same time, its Fil-Canadian cast members (Darrel Gamotin, Nadine Villasin, Caroline Mangosing, and Nicco Lorenzo Garcia) showed they are every bit as Filipino as their colleagues.
What makes this movie great is how it successfully interweaves various facets of Filipino lower mythology into one coherent and frightening tale without making it forced. The layers of sub-plots come together in the end, giving the film a cohesive direction that made sense while still giving the audience some very unexpected twists. At the same time, its horror – like other great horror – is borne of atmosphere, and director Romeo Candido expertly crafts suspense and terror along the way. The result is compelling, surreal, and engaging.
It is unfortunate that, probably because it was a Fil-Canadian production that saw minimal marketing when it was released here, this movie doesn’t get as much name recognition as others of the genre. The truth is that it runs rings around most of the mediocre 2000s’ Pinoy horror films. It deviated from the then-recent Asian horror formula of “serial deaths” caused by some ghost or curse, which was started by the classics “Ringu” and “Ju-On” but which later became stale when the imitators could not match the originals in quality and unpredictability.
By telling an exceptional and unique tale that relied on mood and suspense instead of effects, “Ang Pamana” turned one’s expectations of the genre on its head and gave viewers a new appreciation of how the deeply rich and diverse Philippine folkloric system could be a source of good, ethereal cinema.
2. Yanggaw (2008).
This Cinema One Original, also known as “Affliction,” is one of the best films of the 2000s, horror or not.
Richard Somes, who also directed “Corazon: Ang Unang Aswang” and SRR 2K5′s “Lihim,” is in his element here. Much like “Lihim,” this is not just about the story but also about how the production effectively tells that story. The film stock, somewhat sepia-ish, seems to be a story by itself, and the use of Ilonggo as the primary language contributes to the eerieness. There are no true special effects here, only creativity; despite that, or perhaps because of it, Somes delivers greater dread that others cannot. Unlike his dismal “Tamawo” (SRR 13), he creates an unearthly yet real environment where one feels the events can happen.
Subtlety is key to Somes’ success for most of the movie. One scene shows the parents casually discussing local elections when their daughter Amor, recently home with a strange illness, comes out of her room weakly complaining about strange noises. The angle of the shot shows her body through the dimly-lit living room but subtly hides her face. There is tension as the audience wonders if Amor’s face has changed or if some kind of attack was imminent.
Tetchie Agbayani, Joel Torre, and Ronnie Lazaro are all superb, as expected. Their lesser-known castmates, especially Aleera Montilla (Amor), all turn in fine performances as well. Choosing unknowns to round out the cast is a calculated gamble that paid off. As these faces, most of which are very Pinoy, are not known to the majority of the viewing audiene, the illusion that this story may be real is strengthened further.
What makes the film fascinating is that while on the surface it is a frightening aswang movie, underneath the trappings is a gut-wrenching family drama. It is not so much a monster movie as it is a journey into the terrifying world of a family slowly being torn apart by an affliction that none of them expected. No mainstream drama can match the harrowing experience the family goes through as they deal with a daughter unwillingly changing right before their eyes.
Although the climactic sequence (which inexplicably throws out the subtlety of the rest of the movie) borders on excessive melodrama, what with the orchestra’s rising crescendo and all the wails of despair, all roads had slowly led to that point, and the over-wrought finale can be forgiven once the repercussions of the situation sinks in, leaving a hole in one’s heart.
The movie is about the foolish choices, the hard choices, the frightening choices that families may need to make in times of tragedy. More so than its great production values, this is what make this film a true masterpiece of horror for a new era.
When Regal Films got the rights to SRR six years after the first movie was released by the now-defunct Athena Productions, they made sure they had a winner on their hands. And they did. The first two episodes – a chilling ghost story (“Multo”) and a horror-comedy about witchcraft (“Kulam”) – were well-done.
However, they reserved the best for last in that revival with the now-classic “Aswang.”
It stars Manilyn Reynes (of course), Aljon Jimenez, Anjo Yllana, Ana Roces, Vangie Labalan, and a very intimidating Rez Cortez. Richard Gomez appears in a cameo, while horror icon Lilia Cuntapay apparently makes her debut as an aswang horde extra noticed by director Peque Gallaga, who describes her as having very pagan looks and who went on to cast her in a variety of horror flicks, including several of those on my aswang list.
This movie tops my list to date simply because it is straight-out terrifying. While it does not have the depth of “Yanggaw” or the style of “Tiktik” or the intricacy of “Ang Pamana,” it reaches for the gut and pulls out from the collective fear of the Filipino folkloric subconscious, that cultural meme that has heard of the tale told here: a stranger in a strange town, brought as a visitor to be part of some local celebration, now knowing that she is to be the sacrifice offered by a bayanful of aswangs.
It is, in fact, an adaptation of the tale – some say it’s true – of the Iloilo town of Dueñas, rumored to be home to many aswangs.
The tale is told of Teniente Gimo’s daughter, who brings her city classmates over to her hometown of Dueñas under pretense of a vacation. However, her true intentions are more malevolent: Gimo’s daughter is actually their agent to the outside world, tasked with bringing home the annual sacrifice to whatever deities the aswangs revered.
One of the girls figures this out by accident too late. While she is unable to determine a way to save her friend, she is quick-witted enough to make a switch that causes the aswangs to kill Gimo’s daughter in her place, thus giving her time to flee. The girl is hunted down but manages to barely escape.
To this day, because of this tale, the town of Dueñas is regarded with suspicion, perhaps unwarranted but still an unfortunate reality.
Of course, for the film, some details were changed: there is only one girl brought in as a sacrifice, and how she figures out the duplicity and counters it with her own is also modified. There are other friends, as well, but they are present for other reasons, and a minor love story is introduced. However, the basic premise is there, and it is a story that haunts the collective mind of Filipinos who grew up on tales of the aswang.
The feature stands the test of time in being genuinely bloodcurdling. Unlike many of the movies I have listed so far (even my favorites) which do not seem as scary after a couple of viewings, this one still frightens me even after multiple re-runs throughout the past twenty years. Just last week, my friends and I watched it again, and we were still screaming during all the hair-raising moments of flight and fright. After all, who will not be petrified at the mere idea of being alone and trapped in a barrio of aswangs with no apparent way out?
The scene were Portia (Manilyn Reynes) seeks refuge in the ruins of a church that the aswangs cannot enter is eerie but alarming. As Portia challenges her pursuers with the words, “Hindi kayo makapasok, ano?” aswang matriarch Nanay (Vangie Labalan) cries, “Oo, hindi kami makakapasok, pero hindi ka rin makakalabas!” Then the aswang hordes surrounding the clearing slowly sit down and patiently, silently wait.
Later on, in a stressful attempt-to-escape scene, the momentum screeches to a halt as everything goes silent. Then, through some excellent cinematography, choreography, and lighting, the aswangs slowly creep into the scene, across the fields and in the trees, with a cadence that will keep one on the edge of his seat.
Portia and her friends are surrounded… and defenseless.
This movie gave me nightmares for weeks when I first saw it at thirteen years of age. The beats of tribal drums kept on ringing in my ears for a long time, bringing out some primordial fear that I can neither pinpoint nor stifle.
Watching it again more than two decades later still bring out the same reactions in me.
And that means it’s very powerful horror cinema indeed.
Read the rest of my “Aswangan” series: