Film Festival: Cinemalaya: Gayuma

A good yarn. This is what this movie is. Imagine a story built around a dancing Sto. Nino. The premise is very magical realist. In fact so is the whole movie, but based in a Bikolano setting. But it’s not like this movie was unoriginal. It had the beautiful pacing and humor of the earlier Alvin Yapan movie, I just wrote about in an earlier post.

There’s not much more to write about this film. Except that it is good entertainment. Now I want to watch the whole oeuvre of Alvin Yapan’s work.


Film Festival: Cinemalaya: Ang Sayaw ng Dalawang Kaliwang Paa

The Cinemalaya Film Festival is in town again, and the buzz generating around is that it could be the best one yet. The Cinemalaya is a festival that funds and screens Philippine independent cinema every year. The venues are the CCP and Greenbelt 3. Here is the complete schedule.

So far, I’ve watched Amok and Ang Sayaw ng Dalawang Kaliwang Paa. Below is my review of the latter film. The review is not well-written, but it will do for now. 🙂

How does one write about a great film? Sometimes it’s easier to write about a bad film, because it’s just so easy to castigate it. But a good film? How does one do that justice? Anyway, I’ll try.

A great film is a movie where a theme is repeated again and again as the story progresses. Here we have a story about how difficult it is to get attached to someone. You pour and pour yourself into one person and to what avail? This is the question proposed by this movie.

Ang Sayaw ng Dalawang Kaliwang Paa (The Dance of Two Left Feet) is about dance, is about love, is about poetry, is about music, is about gay love? Is it? If the last part is all you are going to take away from that movie, I’m not so sure if you get it. This movie was beautifully vague yet at the same time quite deliberate. Who loved who? And did they love each other in first place? And what kind of love was it? That is what makes this film delicious because it leaves so much to interpretation without being indecisive.

Plus there’s the poetry. I’ve never heard Philippine poetry read so well. The music was gorgeous. Far Eastern University was gorgeous. I’m glad someone was finally able to exploit the beautiful Art Deco that this university is so famous for.

The acting was also superb. I’m not familiar with these acters, who did a great job, but Jean Garcia was able to nail her part perfectly as the hot teacher.

Gawd, I’m not doing this movie justice. Anyway, this was the best movie I’ve seen made here since Ang Pagdadalaga ni Maximo Oliveros and Big Time. I am now inspired to see more Cinemalaya films. I hope they are just as good.

Maleldo 2011

I can not start this story without thanking for giving me a heads up about what’s happening in Ivan’s and my shared province of Pampanga during the Holy Week.

The top three things I saw this Holy Week in Pampanga were:

1) the church at Betis, Guagua, Pampanga

2) the chapel at Pio, Porac, Pampanga

3) the exploding Judas (Pakbung Hudas!) in Minalin, Pampanga

So let me begin, I’m half Kapamgpangan.  Ever since I was a child, I would go up to Pampanga to celebrate Christmas, Holy Week or a birthday of one of my many grand aunts.  I went from big house to big house, watched my relatives dress up the different saints for the processions, and, of course, eat lots and lots of food.  But I was always confined to the city of San Fernando.  I always wondered about the Bank of Florida(blanca) or the hacienda that my family, the Panlilio’s came from.  What was Mexico, Pampanga?  And more intrigingly, what was Sexmoan, Pampanga?  So this year I decided to find out.

My adventure began right away, on Wednesday night, I walked down Consunji St., to check out the SM being build right smackdab in the middle of the San Fernando Heritage District.  Grrr, SM (shakes fist).  I noticed a beautiful white house, which I’ve always seen, except this time it was lit up.  I thought, “Wouldn’t it be awesome if I could go inside?”  And as usual, as you declare something to the world, the world opens up to you.  When I went back  to our ancestral home, one of our guests actually lived there.  So I got to see it.  It was an awesome house, much bigger than ours.  My favorite feature was that it had a balcony overlooking the street.  And when the procession came by that night, they had giant wicker plates filled with jasmine that we strew on the saints as they drifted by.

The next day, I drove off to Lubao, the birthplace of Diosdado Macapagal, the father of our last president, and a president himself.  Ivan and his crew have already constructed brown signs on the road to help us find the different tourists sites of the province (but we could still have more ;).  Lubao church, even though it was the oldest in the city, wasn’t that exciting, and neither were the neighboring churches in Sasmuan (Sexmoan, damn Yankees) or Guagua.  The winner church was in the town of Betis in the municipality of Guagua.  Betisanyos (yes, they have their own name) have a proud history of woodcarvings.  Their church was full of them.  But my favorite part was the whole floor of the church was covered in hardwood.  That’s pretty awesome.

The next day was Good Friday.  It was finally my time to watch the crucifixions in San Pedro Cutud, one of the barangays of San Fernando.  One should park as early as possible, and as close as possible to the site.  And honestly, if you could bring a beach umbrella to the site, you should.  It’s darn hot.  You could buy a “souvenir” if you like of one of the pamalos that the penitents use to whip themselves for 300 pesos.  The crucifixions themselves were actually passion plays where one should be reverent, but even the announcer could not deny that the highlight was the nailing.  Are these things moral?  No.   But I did look.  It wasn’t as gross as I expected it to be, but it sure must’ve hurt like heck.  One day it will probably be banned.  Just like the holy stampedes of Quiapo.

On Holy Saturday, I continued my exploration of the province.  I went to Floridablanca, Basa Airbase, Porac, and Poracay.  But my favorite place, and again thanks to Ivan, was a little chapel in the barrio of Pio in Porac.  It was probably more a hacienda chapel than a full-blown church according to a commentor on Ivan’s blog but it was extremely cute (if you could call a church that).  It was built on top of a hill in 1861, and it’s still used by the community every Saturday at 5pm for Mass (Ivan).  I liked it.  I could imagine it being used for intimate weddings or baptisms.  I went to another chapel in Hacienda Dolores,  also just outside of Porac, but you have to drive deep into the hacienda to see it.  After I ate in C on the Perimeter Road of Clark Air Base.  I had a really expensive panizza which was good for two, oh well, at least it was good.

On Easter Sunday, I went to Pakbung Hudas or Exploding Judas in Minalin, Pampanga.  The parish priests want to say it’s now more a symbol of all the sins of the world, but we all know in the end, we’re blowing up Judas.  Sto. Tomas, the neighboring town, now blows up a paper mache Earth instead of a Judas.  How corny.  Minalin is going to kick their butt.  Minalin blows up Judas at 9:30 AM and Sto. Tomas at 12:00 PM.   So you could actually watch both.  But Minalin’s is better.

So that’s my lenghty recap of what I did for Holy Week.  Next time I’ll check out Willy Layug, master sculptor of Betis in San Agustin, Barangay Ursula.  I’ll find out why the Macabebe scouts are so reviled.  Might get even closer to Arayat.  See the swamps of Masantol and Candaba.  And see the original hacienda in Mexico (Masicu, damn Yankees) in Pampanga.

Good Friday Crucifixions

Well since my uncle seems to be running it, might as well post it.
The re-enactment of Christ’s Crucifixion that is practiced each year in the City of San Fernando originated in 1955 with staging of “Via Crusis” (Way of the Cross), the only Kapampangan piece on the passion of the Christ written by an amateur, Ricardo Navarro.

It was first performed during the Holy Week fifty four years ago by amateur volunteer artists of Barangay (barrio) San Pedro Cutud, who, like the rest of the Filipinos during that period, had time on their hands because work or exertion on those holy days was taboo.

It was only in 1962 that the barangay first witnessed an actual crucifixion during the play. The Christ was portrayed by Artemio Anoza, a resident of nearby Apalit town and a quack doctor who dreamt that he would become a religious leader and a full-fledged healer. Wanting to realize this dream, he volunteered himself to be crucified as a sacrifice.

Since then, not a year passed without an actual crucifixion taking place during the re-enactment that has now been joined in by many penitents as a “panata” or vow of sacrifice. In 1965, the role players and the penitents were invited to perform the sacrifice outside the barangays, this time in Betis Guagua. The occasion caught national interest and subsequently became an international tourist attraction.

Through the years, Rolando Navvaro passed on the family tradition he began to his son Ricardo and then to his grandson Allan Navarro who is the present director of the street play “Via Crusis’.

About the Tradition

The Philippines is Southeast Asia’s largest Roman Catholic nation with a rich cultural heritage that is steeped in tradition.

One of these Filipino practices is the observance of Lent and the Holy Week that for Catholics, is a time for atonement and sacrifice.

For Filipinos in Pampanga, the observance is characterized by the “senakulo” or “pabasa” which is the chanting of the passion of the Christ as read from a book that locals call Pasyon. Other penitents called “magdarame” carry wooden crosses, crawl on rough pavements and slash their backs before whipping themselves to draw blood, to ask for forgiveness of sins committed, to fulfill religious vows (panata), or to express gratitude for favors granted.

On Good Friday each year, in the City of San Fernando, particularly in Barangay San Pedro Cutud, thousands flock to witness the world-renowned crucifixion that is re-enacted on a man-made hill after the two-hour street play, Via Crusis is performed as it has been done for the past 55 years.

Contrary to the Catholic Church’s teachings and the commercialization of the event, the fervor for the tradition stays, with the townsfolk sticking to their faith and spiritual practice, constantly remaining pure in their panata which continues to be a source of community solidarity and strength.

Schedule for April 22, 2011 (Good Friday)

Barangay San Juan                           –              9:00 am

Barangay Sta. Lucia                          –              11:00 am

Barangay San Pedro Cutud               –              starts at 11:00 am



For more information and a map of  where the crucifixions are taking place, click here.


Getting there

According to my uncle, the way to get here is by taking a Victory Liner Bus that is heading to Bataan or Olongapo.  Tell them that you are getting off at the corner of MacArthur Highway and the Olongapo-Gapan road.  From there, take a jeepney into the city of San Fernando.

Wholly Thursday

Now here’s something totally random and if you nothing to do on a Holy Thursday

Wholly Trek Day

The Via Astris (or Star Trek Club of the Philippines) has a get-together every Holy Thursday of Holy Week at their command center, Fandom Cafe. I’ve been wanting to check out this place for awhile. So tomorrow’s the day.

So if you’ve got nothing to do and you are of the geek kind (which you probably are) drop on by this annual event. Been going since 2002 🙂

Fandom Cafe
G-09 Regalia Park Towers,
150 P. Tuazon Blvd.,
Cubao, Q.C. 1109

Holy Week traditions in Catholic Philippines

But literally every Catholic provincial town in the Philippines celebrates the Holy Week.

On Holy Thursday, you can visit any church in the Philippines and they will be spruced up to their finest best (sic?). It is a tradition called Bisita Iglesia (which I haven’t done). The tradtion states that you should visit seven churches that day.

On Holy Friday, a grand funeral procession is held at night to honor the dead Christ. There is even normally a funeraly carriage for his body.

On Easter Sunday, in the early morning, some churches, even in Metro Manila, celebrate the Salubong or the moment when the angels came down from heaven and woke up the risen Christ. There is one that happens in Sanctuario de San Antonio in Forbes Park that the church builds an elaborate stage for every year.

Meanwhile, in Pampanga during the Holy Week, besides the regular crucifixiions, you have “sinners” walking around whipping themselves with bamboo cat o’ nine tails till their backs become all bloody. A gory sight but fascinating nonetheless.

Nothing to do during the Holy Week, go to the main church of any Catholic province, and you’ll see most if not all of these real Filipino Catholic traditions.

Religious Festivals in the Philippines

Have nothing to do this Holy Week in Manila? Go to the literally hottest event in the country on Good Friday.

In Cutud, Pampanga, crazy diehard penitents (okay, they’re not crazy, but I think they are) crucify themselves to a cross with nails and all. I’ve never seen it, but I’m thinking about going there this Friday. This is all done in the blazing afternoon sun at 3:00 pm. Cutud is near or in the capital San Fernando City in Pampanga (not to be confused with San Fernando City in La Union.)

Though very extreme, this is not as mad as the devotion to the Black Nazarene, every January 9, in Quiapo. There without fail people get injured if not killed. Why the Catholic church doesn’t officially just disown the damn event, is well, very old school Catholicky to me.

Another worthwhile event (which I’ve never been to) is the Ati-Atihan in Kalibo, Aklan also in January. Here people paint themselves in black, wear flamboyant costumes made from painted leaves of coconut trees (pretty nice actually) and dance in the streets in a wild rumpus of whistles, banging drums and other clanging noises. It’s kinda like a Mardi Gras in the Philippines. Kinda. I’d like to see it someday.

There is also Sinulog in Cebu. All I’ve heard about this though is that it causes a major traffic jam in Cebu. But I’ve never been, so I have no authentic opinion on this.

I’ve been to the MassKara in Bacolod, but I’ve yet to be sold on this one. Also the Panabenga in Baguio city.

Another event I would love to go to is the Parada of the Lechons (Parade of the Roast Pigs) in Balayan Batangas every June 24. Considering Anthony Bourdain said we have the best roast pig in the world, it makes sense we honor them (though we kinda knew our roast pig ruled, but it’s good to get outside confirmation). So this Parada of Lechons can be counted as a religious experience, lol. What’s awesome also is that it gets to become a great big water fight. Always fun. And water conservationists don’t be alarmed. June is already the rainy season in that part of the Philippines.

On May 15, every year, in Lucban, Quezon province, they celebrate the Pahiyas festival. One street a year is covered in leaves made of colored rice paper and the bedeck the roofs, eaves, awnings, and walls of every house. It’s a photographer’s dream. Again never been to this one, but no reason why I can’t write about it.