ONE year into lockdown. What keeps you going? Nagbyahe ako minsan from San Francisco to Vientiane for a three-day meeting. I was having breakfast at the hotel tapos biglang may nag-HOY sa akin. I looked up and was surprised to see Frank Cimatu. Huy, ano ginagawa mo dito? Conference din daw at pauwi na rin sila. Nagmamadali at may session pa. Anyway, sabi niya, congrats.
Di mo alam? Awarding kagabi sa Sa Free Press?
First ka gago.
Saka ko lang naaalala. Mikael De Lara Co was supposed to message me. Shit. Totoo nga.
Sige, sabi ni Frank, balik na ko. Okay, sabi ko. Wala pang five minutes yun. Parang nagkasalubong lang kami sa Session Road. Tapos hindi na kami nagkita. Naalala ko the year his father and my father died–same year. We were in our mid-twenties. Pinuntahan ko siya sa Pampanga. Sabi kasi sa akin sa Baguio nagbabakasyon daw sa mga relatives. Ginising si Frank tanghaling tapat. Condolence, sabi ko.
Syet. Paano ka nakarating dito? Frank was too perplexed by my presence for my condolences to register. We’re like black and brown, sabi niya. Ako naman ang naperplex.
Norman Black and Ricardo Brown? Di mo alam?
Apparently, one of them lost his father and the other parang naghihintay na lang. I didn’t want to think about it. Sandali lang ako doon. It took me two days to find him at nag-usap kami sa harap ng bahay nila.
Kitakits. Marami akong ganyan. Si Carolyn Gamiao Wallace, si Cecilia Tobler, Lito at si Ces at iba pa. Pasulpot-sulpot kami sa buhay ng isa’t-isa sa Pilipinas hanggang sa ibang bansa. Nabuo ang ilang dekadang friendship sa fleeting encounters that took place at critical junctures in our lives. That now feels like a world away. Back then the idea na hindi kami napapako sa bahay somehow reassures me that wherever we go, there’s a possibility that we’ll bump into each other. Hindi lang charging station, but you also get to see a friend’s life unfold. You get to be a witness to a walking metamorphosis. Kaya siguro hindi kami harsh sa isa’t-isa. It’s like we’ve lived each other’s lives vicariously from youth to adulthood to middle-age and hopefully, post-quarantine. You don’t miss somebody whose life you’ve nurtured and nurtured yours. It’s always inside you and full of the world.
Huwag po nating sinasabing sensitive ang nasaktan lalo na’t may karamdaman siya. Insensitive ito at isang opinyon na kulang sa kaalaman. Iyon pang maysakit ang sisisihin natin? That’s cruel. Hindi ito pagiging balat-sibuyas. Ito ang malicious and vicious side ng social media. May mental health epidemic ngayon. Let us end kuyog culture. This has nothing to do with right or wrong. Yung mob mentality can work whatever position we’re in. Improve natin efforts natin to be kinder to each other. Brutal na nga ang pamahalaan puro nakalabas pa ang mga pangil niyo. Paano nating malalabanan ang diktadura kung tayo mismo ang source ng terror, the reason why people feel unsafe. Ang pagiging aktibista ay hindi isang korona ng kabutihan na ipinapatong sa ulo mo. Marami sa ating mga aktibista ang flawed. Ang pagiging isang aktibista at iskolar ay isang pananagutan sa kapwa. It has nothing to do with self-righteousness.
Seven Reasons: BAKIT BRUTAL SA PANAHON NG PANDEMYA ANG KUYOG SA SOCIAL MEDIA
1) Whether you’re an introvert or an extrovert, our isolated state means that support systems are critical. Kuyog takes that away.
2) Those living with mental illness, a pre-existing condition, are left defenseless. Suddenly you are being pressured to speak and explain your behavior (in my case, at a time when I was undergoing treatment). And even if you’re perfectly healthy, kailan pa naging entitled ang iba na malaman ang state of health mo when you’re not okay with it? And make that public on social media? Definitely not okay.
3) Gagamitin ka ng mga uninformed na mental health advocate for clout. Many of the harm done to me was a result of being insensitive – mga remarks and behavior that puts somebody living with mental illness at risk. Ikakalat ang mga screenshot at video mo when you are at your most vulnerable. Remember what Dr Phil did to Shelley Duvall? How can you live with that?
4) It spreads negativity bias. Dito pa lang talo na ang may sakit. Walang baril si Winston. Siya pa pala ang dangerous. How come we never question the one who always assumes that and spreads disinformation? They are never held accountable. They sow doubt and get away with it.
5) Hindi lang buhay ng kinuyog ang sinira niyo. Pati buhay ng mga nagmamahal sa kanya.
6) The person’s mental condition worsens and his physical health deteriorates. Recovery is long and painful.
7) Kuyog supports and strengthens a system and a set of cultural beliefs that stigmatize mental illness, instead of working together with the mentally ill and health practitioners to break this down.
Stay human, guys. Reach out. Let’s improve our efforts to be kinder to each other.
Forgive but don’t forget
In late 2019, I dropped off copies of my book in a small shop at the Cultural Center of the Philippines in Manila. The shop specializes in Filipino books, film, and memorabilia. I bought a book that evening, a screenplay collection written by Lualhati Bautista, Butch Dalisay, Fanny Garcia, and Armando Lao. I have always loved this shop when I used to work in the building. To return to the Philippines and see Kilometer Zero, my collection of personal essays, displayed in the glass window, was to stand at one end of a time portal. You slide through different sized windows. Window after window of undying worlds, leading to a small room with gorgeous skylights. On a shelf next to the book of screenplays I saw a weathered window from my childhood—my first porn magazine. Pic Vol. 2 No. 4. July 1972.
The Reveal. The line drawings that I traced in the magazine turned out to be nude sketches of future National Artist, H.R. Ocampo. Who knew he worked as a cashier at the prewar Maypajo Cabaret in Caloocan? And that he later became the publicity chief of Fernando Poe Sr.’s Palaris Films. I traced Ocampo’s ink drawings. I drew them over and over, a series of unbroken lines, suggesting shapes, the rolling arcs and curves of a female figure. The pleasure I derived from it was pure. From imitation to intimation, from creation to appreciation, my confidence bloomed. Finally, my feelings—light, open lines on paper. Behold. Me.
“Nubile breasts.” Text: Penelope Kim. Four-page color photo by Philip Talladen. “Her name is Leah.” Seeing the model’s photos next to Ocampo’s line drawings took my artistic practice to another level. My eyes traced Leah’s body with Ocampo’s lines. Leah had inverted nipples. I thought all women had inverted nipples. Andy complained when he saw my drawings of Leah. “Bakit baliktad ang utong?”
Gemma Cruz Araneta wrote a personal essay on women’s lib. But even better was reading it side by side with Zenaida Seva Ong’s “Gemma and Her Irrelevant Brouhaha”.
“Aba, akalain mo, AP attributed the opening statement to me. Hindi man lang ibinigay ang credit sa Makibaka. They capitalized on my name and concocted a story about it… Kung hindi diyan sa pahamak na AP, hindi sana ako nabisto. Kasi, they let the cat out of the bag. I was supposed to be a judge this year. I accepted because I wanted to write about the contest from within. You know, I was going to interview all the girls and ask them why they joined the contest, questions like that… pero nabisto. So I already wrote Stella telling her I won’t be a judge anymore. Paano pa?”
The magazine’s tonal range is remarkable. Along with articles on beauty pageants and progressive ideologies is a film review of Remembrance, Vilma Santos’ 1972 Manila Filmfest entry.
During a visit to the family hacienda brothers Edgar Mortiz and Jay Ilagan learn why a worker killed their father: “Sa halagang kaunting bigas na pinagkait ng inyong ama.”
We meet the brothers again in Manila where the story turns into a sibling rivalry over Vilma Santos in “hot pants”. All three drive their own Mustang, “parang parada militar” and take turns singing during a picnic in Tagaytay. “Sino ang magsasabi na nasa bingit ang kabuhayan ng Pilipinas?” wrote Nelia Tan in her review.