Thursday ∗ 07 Jan 2010

2009’s Notable Cultural chevers*

As with all year-ender lists, this is necessarily full of itself, and can be accused of having a false sense of power, imagining itself to be comprehensive and truthful and correct. Unlike many of those Best of 2009! lists though, this is conscious of itself and its limitations, and is willing to be shot in the foot for missing the point entirely. Too, this isn’t really a Best Of list (haha!); this is really just a list of my top 10/11/12? spectacular (-ly negative, positive, happy, disappointing) things that did happen in our shores as far as popular, alternative, online, indie culture was concerned, as distinct from what have been termed notables of the year in books, theater, art and music. All these terms of course are highly arguable, but then again, culture is highly arguable, and is in process, as with everything that is lived. So maybe this is really just a way of reckoning with the past year, looking at what we did, where we are, what else is there to do, given the good the bad, the sad the happy, the almost-there-but-not-quite, that happened for and to culture in 2009. The hope is that we will continue to argue in the year 2010, over and above – and more importantly because of – the relationships we hold dear, the interests we treasure, and well, where we clearly stand about real and relevant change.

1. Uniting Against the Book Blockade. In the summer of 2009, poet and teacher Chingbee Cruz blogged about being taxed at the Post Office for books that she had ordered online. This would begin the fight against the taxation of imported books which, according to U.P. Law School Dean Marvic Leonen is against the law: books are tax-exempt, no ifs and buts about it. And yes, the last we heard, we are going to court on this one.

2. Will the Real Pinoy Macho Please Stand Up? It was witty, tongue-in-cheek, necessarily hyperbolic, self-deprecating and -effacing, bastos and kadiri in turns, absolutely Pinoy in its configuration of what makes a real Pinoy man. It was difficult not to get into Hay! Men! Ang Blog ng Mga Tunay na Lalake! a group blog that just had everything going against it, including feminist and heterosexual academia, and the (closet) conservatives of this world, who aren’t necessarily humorless, but are quick to take offense. But the TNL blog was also really a test of a particular public’s maturity about gender politics, owing to the truth that it is at its most complex now, given capitalism and how it changes our perceptions of ourselves – whether male or female – practically every day. At the very least, it required an open-mindedness about the project of asserting the oppression of the male within the patriarchy that we all presume has given them the time of their lives. Of course TNL has since won a Philippine Blog Award and would seem to have a book in the offing – not at all the standard path for women wanting to speak of their oppressions. I can hear them TNLs invoking the John Lloyd Rule: Trabaho lang. Magpainom man lang kayo, mehn.

3. Losing FrancisM and Alexis Tioseco. Two very different kinds of intellectuals, from different generations, with different interests, but the loss of both FrancisM (to cancer) and Tioseco (and his girlfriend Nica to a horrid unsolved murder) left many of us in tears and continue to sadden us.  Tioseco’s short career as independent film critic, is replete with fearless debate and an unquestioning stance for independent cinema. FrancisM’s music and career, which defines whole generations is impossible to replace or repeat. Both of them defined Filipino-ness in a way that was particularly about believing in what we could all still do for nation, given the sense of what it needs. And for both of them? It was about staying. Here. Now. Paging you who’s thinking of leaving for greener pastures when your grass is as green as it can get in these shores.

4. The Gang is Here! Gang Badoy that is. It’s always difficult to measure the value of organizations like RockEd, for which Gang has become iconic figure. But Gang and her ilk’s contributions might be more particularly measured by what they did during Ondoy, with Gang on radio and her friends and kind on Twitter and Facebook, telling people where to go, what to bring, how to organize themselves. Carlos Celdran’s right when he says that the way Pinoys utilized Facebook and Twitter during and post-Ondoy is worth talking about, if not celebrating. And he and Gang have got it right too when they push the possibilities of debate through these fora – petty-minded and childish responses notwithstanding. Activists have been doing this for a while now, it’s about time civilsociety/themiddleclass join the fray.

5. Are You Listening to UR? Though it began earlier than 2009, it was only in the past year that we were reminded of what we had in — and have missed since — the 90’s with NU107. This time though, it’s Ramon Jacinto station UR (Underground Radio) 105.9 that’s got us all back listening to radio, and with Billy B’s daily primetime show, giving us a taste of contemporary Pinoy rock that doesn’t discriminate: no indie versus signed band, no old versus new rock star, everyone is given the light of day no matter how silly they are when interviewed or how much they refuse to speak, and everything is grounded in our own tradition of rock ‘n’ roll (and reggae and blues). You can almost hear Pepe Smith doin’ his signature: rakenrol!

6. The Eraserheads’ Final Set. It was well-conceptualized, taking from the various albums of the band, refusing to be limited to just their hits, reconfiguring some songs and making them more current in light of the members’ individualities. It was probably also the most rehearsed anyone has ever seen the Eraserheads. There might not have been a lot of friendship and cheesiness onstage, but there was definitely respect and nostalgia and youth. It’s a fitting end, a last hurrah. No other band can live up to this one. Not even the Eraserheads.

7. Finding Juan! Between the CCP exhibit, and the art inspires music inspires art project, CANVAS’s “Looking For Juan” Pinoy identity project already had a pretty good thing going. But rendering the works on tarpaulins and installing them on the streets … yehey for public art! It can be done elsewhere other than in Angono, where the Neo-Angono Artists Collective has shown us how to do it and why it’s important to do it. And it can happen because we imagine art to be for the people. Sana. Dapat. Beyond the galleries, and onto the streets!

8. Criticism is Alive! In the summer, the first ever criticism workshop of its kind in this country happened. The UST Varsitarian-J. Elizalde Navarro National Fellowship in Criticism on the Arts and Humanities gathered together a diverse panel of teachers, academics and art practitioners, alongside an even more diverse set of critical works from students, teachers and professionals across various institutions and disciplines. The essays ranged from the scholarly and academic, to everything from the review, the travel essay, the feature article and personal narrative. The acceptance of this kind of diversity, and calling them all “cultural criticism” was undoubtedly the most wonderful thing to happen to Philippine criticism in a long time.

9. Half-Booked. While there wasn’t a huge haul of literary titles this year, interest was sustained by Milflores Publishing’s two titles: Side A/Side B by Vlad Bautista Gonzales, and And The Geek Shall Inherit the Earth by Carljoe Javier. Both are books of essays, one in Filipino, the other in English; both, in the process of speaking of childhood and growing up in this context, actually create discourses on Pinoy male stereotypes and its oppressions. Sounds familiar? Yeah, tunay na lalake lang ang dalawang ito. Add to this the kind of well-grounded, self-conscious rebellion Adam David espouses in his writings, both creative and critical, across the various cultural productions/genres/institutions it exists within and against, and in the end his winning the Madrigal-Gonzales Best First Book Award 2009 for The El Bimbo Variations, and 2009 really just seemed like a good year for the Pinoy male, yeah? I dare say, it’s about time.

10. Re-Booked. (1) Anvil Publishing’s re-issue of National Artist Nick Joaquin’s Reportage on Lovers and Reportage on Crime.  Enough said. (2) Clothing company Freeway’s National Artist line of clothes, with Nick Joaquin and Ang Kiukok works emblazoned on T-shirts and dresses, jackets and wallets and watches. The only sad thing about this one is that it’s just so expensive, and a sale doesn’t seem to be in the horizon.

11. Indie Indie Indie! Movies: Raya Martin, Brillante Mendoza, as expected, yes. But also Soxie Topacio’s Ded na Si Lolo and Peque Gallaga’s Agaton and Mindy. Few people may have watched these movies, even less may have appreciated it, but it was interesting and quite refreshing really, to see what these established directors would do with the concept of indie. Yes, there is more to this country than its povertyviolencesex. Music: Peryodiko Peryodiko Peryodiko: the best thing to happen to original pinoy rakenrol in a long time. Aaraw-arawin mo.

12. Real Revolt? But maybe what’s been truly great the past year has been the possibility of entering debate and not letting it go with a simple sorry, or a pat on the back, or some beer shared. Contemporary culture and technology has given life to a kind of intellectualism that’s premised on the validity of opinions shared on one-liner statuses on Twitter, short notes on Facebook, indie productions on YouTube, and the (violent) reactions these necessarily invite. The bigger picture of course requires that we see all these as tiny steps towards real change, the kind that revolutionizes the way we live and share culture. It would’ve been fantastic for example, had www.tunaynalalake.blogspot.com’s archives remained online, even after it said goodbye as an up-yours to the possibility of book production that’s really all about ownership and capital. Even more fantastic? Had Adam David refused his first book award: an up-yours to the academic and literary institutions that he has critiqued time and again for its patronage politics. Now that would’ve been him practicing his own patricide.

Napaka-tunay-na-lalake lang sana no’n. But then again, we can all try and do better this year.

*chevers: contemporary gay linguistic term used to refer to things that are difficult to categorize or put under one label, usually used when the pertinent term escapes the speaker at the moment of articulation. Synonymous with eklavus, but not eklat. And not chika, or chos, or chuchu.

Posted in: akademya, aktibismo, arteng biswal, bayan, iconography, kalalakihan, kapitalista, kawomenan, kultura, libro, media, panitikan, pelikula, pulitika, tugtugan

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7 Comments/Pingbacks

  1. Gelo
    January 7, 2010 at 3:49 pm

    “The bigger picture of course requires that we see all these as tiny steps towards real change, the kind that revolutionizes the way we live and share culture. It would’ve been fantastic for example, had http://www.tunaynalalake.blogspot.com’s archives remained online, even after it said goodbye as an up-yours to the possibility of book production that’s really all about ownership and capital. Even more fantastic? Had Adam David refused his first book award: an up-yours to the academic and literary institutions that he has critiqued time and again for its patronage politics. Now that would’ve been him practicing his own patricide.”

    –But these are simplistic steps too. As simplistic as, say, much of the crud produced by the Neo-Angono collective (altho I still pretty much like the bulk of Wire Tuazon’s oeuvre) w/c you seem to like, as simple-minded as the Freeway National Artists line of clothing (w/c makes no interesting interventions in neither art’s relationship w/ the advertising/marketing world nor in the popularization of the oppressive high/institutional arts) w/c is just plain ugly (who wants to wear an Ang Kiukok anyway). Perhaps the steps toward real cultural revolts (but is a cultural revolt even necessary?) are already being taken, but some people are possibly too busy reading books published by capitalist hegemoths like Anvil & feeling good about themselves & their own supposedly progressive stances.

  2. Gelo
    January 7, 2010 at 4:05 pm

    Not saying the TNL site & Adam’s book are minor achievements — they are major triumphs, actually, if I had a say in it — but what you purport to be a progressive trajectory (TNL rejecting book production as a fuck-you to notions of ownership & capital, Adam declining the award) could only be a backward step: For example, regarding the potential choice to keep the TNL blog alive, it can only mystify the fact that notions of capital & ownership also DO exist in the Internet (it would be naive to fetishize the world wide web as some kind of market-free vacuum of free-flowing information). Won’t Adam’s rejection of the award simply reinforce the phantasmatic position (& I emphasize here “phantasmatic”) of institutional literature’s machinery? Why can’t his acceptance, in fact, be the consummate subversion of this institution by way of infiltration, as a means of performing how easy it is for even an outsider (not that Adam is a complete outsider; one can even probably say he was born into it) to penetrate the center, won’t the more productive rebellion consist of using the prize money for the production of more books outside the radars of traditional presses w/ oppressive tastes & modes of selection?

  3. ina
    January 7, 2010 at 4:48 pm

    hey gelo!

    super true ka diyan. though i have a soft spot for all these projects you see as “simplistic” or just ugly (hehe), as the freeway clothes (wait, i really do want a womanwithtwonavels dress for you know, the heck of it. actually ang issue ko sa kanila ay ang mahal at pangit ang tela, at kailangan kasing payat mo si anne curtis para maganda sa’yo ang damit). anvil’s repub of nickjoaquin’s books, well, talaga namang pagkakakitaan din lang nila ‘yon, i guess i just imagine that at least si nick joaquin kesa si… ehem… margie holmes? chika. ang totoo, puwede namang ma-xerox ang mga librong yan ni mang nick, return-to-cover pa, equals mas magandang papel at cover.

    but the neo-angono artists collective i still want to be surprised by, which is not to say that i “like” everything that they do. the last time i was in angono though, i realized that they were at that point of having ingrained their notion of public art (however that may be defined) into the lives of the angono masses, with the people involving themselves in the creation, care and maintenance, ownership of art. parang maganda pa ring tingnan kung anong kahihinatnan. :)

  4. ina
    January 7, 2010 at 5:06 pm

    hmmmm… as for capital and the refusal of it as a possibly “more” revolutionary trajectory…

    i really just would’ve wanted to see both TNL and Adam take it to what seemed to be the path they were creating for themselves, as that of a refusal to be pre-/re-/defined by the institutions that exist and to escape its clutches as much as it can. and you’re right that TNL’s refusal to remove their blog archives might just create the illusion of “no capital” (other than the symbolic of course). on another level, it could have also forced the current mode of book-in-print production to contend with the fact that online publication has restructured/redefined/reconfigured our notions of publishing and authorship and ownership and power. at the very least. parang “manlang” siya.

    as for adam, let me get another cup of coffee for that. :)

  5. Anton
    January 8, 2010 at 4:36 pm

    Hi. I work for Thirdline. We manage Peryodiko. So flattering to see people appreciate the group for what it is. Thanks for the compliment!

  6. ina
    January 9, 2010 at 2:17 am

    @anton: i’ve been wanting to write a review for the album, but i’m the one who runs out of words. pero magawa ko sana soon, dahil dapat lang. :)

  7. ina
    January 9, 2010 at 2:20 am

    @anton: at sabi ko nga kay simontan (na fb friend ko na! hehe!), ang kulang ko lang last year ay ang mapanood ang peryodiko ng live. sana magawa ko this year!

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