Watching plays

Sadly Virgin Labfest is ending today. I watched two sets for two Saturdays; that’s a total of six plays. The plays were definitely worth the almost an hour of queueing for tickets and the long commute from Quezon City all the way to CCP in Manila.

Paying 270 pesos for an escapist Hollywood flick at an SM cinema and be seated next to a really bad audience or paying three hundred for each set and be carried to three different, highly-charged slices of life in a single night is a no brainer comparison. The plays are a runaway winner.

I hope we can have something like the Virgin Labfest all year round.

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Is the world any better after 25 years?

No one can claim a more privileged spot under the sun anymore. Each of us is assigned a unique number that corresponds to nothing but happenstance, devoid of any divine plan we all are wont in deluding our pathetic selves that we have. And this interesting thing  I found in http://www.bbc.co.uk, by now has long lost its novelty, only shows how insignificant we all are.

I’m the 4,914,589,331st alive person on the planet, this number changes depending on the number of mortality and births at the moment. Not very special I must say.

I was told that I could expect to live up to a not so ripe age of 64 years and six months. My heartfelt thanks go to BBC for reminding me of my inevitable demise and conditioning my mind into thinking that it’s 64.5 years and tata. And more thanks, this time to fate, because I happened to be born to poor Filipino parents. Had I been a Japanese I could have expected to live up to 82.7 years, too senile for me (I am not an ageist!), but not too young as in the Central African Republic (45.9 years); I still want to get a PhD. before I reach that age and have those initials affixed to my name on my tombstone (or not anymore because it’s tasteless).

I expect to stand before my God, at most, when I’m in my 50s, though. Extending my life after those years, for me, is already overstaying my welcome.

To you who was not ‘informed’

It was a rainy morning when you found yourself at the corner of two normally busy streets. Thinking it was your lucky day because of the unusual absence of heavy traffic, save for a body of water that separated you from the other side of the street, unsuspectingly, you maneuvered your car and crossed the divide that separated you and the other end of the street. And lo! Your car, like a flimsy paper boat, got carried by the raging flood which for you at first appeared nothing but an over-sized puddle, or at least a more forgiving flood. Floods, you realized, although very late, are never forgiving. So you had to have yourself subjected to such shame, thin little boys pushing your car to the salvation afforded by dry concrete.

A nearby team of an overeager TV reporter and his crew ran to you and asked you some perfunctory questions. Thinking rudeness will save you face, you responded to his every question with as much ire you could muster, forgetting that you were being taped by his equally overeager cameraman.

The following evening, you saw yourself on TV, not looking very intelligent, shouting “I was not informed!”. The next morning, portion of that newscast was uploaded on Youtube by some unscrupulous netizen. An hour after the upload, the whole world mercilessly called you names from something as riling as ‘stupid,’ ‘in want of simple commonsense,’ to something as inane as ‘in dire need of bra’. Your friends came to your rescue, giving you encouraging words, supporting you, retorting sarcastically that all of a sudden ‘everyone is informed‘.

From this writer’s point of view, you and your friends are missing the point. It is not your supposed stupidity (or not being informed) that led to the lambasting of your person on Youtube by anonymous individuals. People who have viewed your videos would have, in most cases, felt more pity than derision, would have even ignored that senseless video had you not unleashed your crassness on TV. It’s plain and simple. You were base.

And shouting ‘I was not informed’ in a city as pitiless as Manila, that you were not told it was a raging flood rather than an innocent-looking, little ephemeral stream you thought it was, is, in my humblest of opinions, rather juvenile.

Cynic

My long absence from my blog allowed me time to reflect about the entire idea of cynicism, and why people in this part of the world are so adept at cloaking their mistrust of their fellows by feigning happiness and careless abandon. Now I have a clearer understanding why the guy seated next to me on a train straddles his backpack in front of him, choosing to look ridiculous than having his possession snatched from him by me or that guy with a suspect stare standing right in front of him, clutching the bacteria-strewn stainless bar.

My optimism about anything and everything that this city stands for has been totally demolished, confronting me with a cold reality of my insignificance and of everyone else’s who lives in this place. I want to spray sharp invectives at the first, second, third, and so on person I meet every time I leave my room darkened by the shadow of gloom of the building beside it.

It used to be easier to steer myself away from this cynicism before, but as I age, I found it more and more difficult to keep myself unconsumed by it, unscathed by it.

I’m back to writing now.

But I am not the same man.

The run

We were welcomed by a sea of runners wearing yellow and black and some who are in gray jerseys (which I think looked a lot better; had I known I would have chosen to run 10k, but I’d be dead after the race, I think) when we arrived at The Fort five minutes before the race began.

It was our first time to run a race. I do not know with my brother, but as far as I am concerned, I shall join runs like this as often as I can.

I used to find the pretense of running-for-a-cause rather abhorrent, I still do, in fact, but I found myself enjoying the whole thing. This one by the National Geographic channel was a marketing ploy on a massive scale. They’re more than happy to announce that 10,000+ runners joined the race. Still big considering that there was a simultaneous fun run around SM Mall of Asia organized by GMA7’s Kapuso Foundation which I think would have attracted more as Filipinos are dead serious when it comes to their TV and movie stars. This one by Nat Geo which was founded upon a cliched advocacy of saving the environment dubbed  ‘Earth Day Run’ would pale in comparison to the tremendous pull of the roster of up-and-coming starlets of this local TV network.

Surprisingly, the cable channel still was able to attract runners, mostly in their 20s and 30s, to join the race. Organizing a race involving 10,000 plus professionals, enthusiasts, or plain curious, like me, was no easy feat.

However, the race posed a tinge of bitter irony: drinking stations were littered with discarded paper cups. It might have been that the advocacy of the race got lost, or mistranslated, along the way. Sad. But oh, what can one expect from something driven by marketing a cause that is misconstrued, or worse, not taken seriously?

The pretension of it all was sickening, but this will not keeping me from joining the next run in the metro.

Framed: the Fox News Journalism

The early years of the 21st century is marked with a sense of insecurity both by the individual and the state. No one feels safe because of the threat of terrorism that is perpetrated by groups who fight for reasons of ideology, religion, or for plain criminal intent. The state, however, also made use of terrorism to maintain its own interest which it cloaks surreptitiously using legitimate justification such as the utilization of war to preserve national security and protection of its citizens but by putting in peril lives of people in places where it conducts operations to fight the supposed terrorists.

A discussion on terrorism and how it influences the consciousness of the people who live in this period in history is incomplete without the inclusion of the media in the formula. Terrorism should then be discussed on a broader discourse platform. This can only be done if the role of media in depicting real-time news scenes and the constant replaying of these scenes before billions of media consumers all over the world is thoroughly considered and rigorously peered into.

In the Philippines, the people’s conception and opinion of terrorism is shaped mostly by the far-reaching and intensely democratized television. It is interesting to note that Filipinos, at least in general, empathize with the United States and are supportive of the actions made by the US against Iraq, Al Qaeda, and other terrorist groups in the Middle East. These international terrorist groups turned out to have strong connection with other terrorist organizations in the country, specifically the notorious Abu Sayyaf Group and Jemaah Islamiyah.  Despite the unpopularity of American intervention in Iraq among Southeast Asian countries, the Philippines remains a loyal ally of the US in this fight. Opinion polls conducted during the height of the war against terror declared by the Bush administration also indicates that most Filipinos are supportive of the deployment of American troop in Iraq and Afghanistan.

This popular opinion during the time came about, although direct causality is difficult to establish, when local media started using film clips syndicated from their media partners in the United States, specifically Fox News Channel, which provided local TV networks with videos that were taken directly from the war zone. In fact, the country’s biggest network, ABS-CBN, got most of its video from the Channel.

Because media outfits in the Philippines syndicated film clips gathered by the American news channel, these clips which replayed infinitely quenched the thirst of the people for information about the place where their loved ones are employed as contract workers. But this did not come without a price—the Filipino nation became an avid supporter of the Bush administration’s rabid war against terror. The nation accepted without question the prevailing idea at the time: “Every nation in every region now has a decision to make. Either you are with us, or you are with the terrorist.” No one question the assumption and the possibility of the existence of other perspectives.  And the people, at least the public in general, swallowed the agenda that the rightist Fox Channel advocated—that is, the perpetuation of the war waged in Iraq.

Outfoxed: Rupert Murdoch’s War on Journalism, a documentary film by the director Robert Greenwald, criticizes the type of journalism espoused by the Fox News Channel headed by the media mogul who owns the network, Rupert Murdoch. The documentary asserts that Fox is biased toward extreme right lines in Washington that strongly support the war waged in Iraq. This predisposed leaning of the network conspicuously runs in opposition to the channel’s claim of fairness and balance.

The one-hour-and-a-half film, which was unfortunately not released in cinemas, examines the expansion of Murdoch clout in the American and global media industry, and how this strong presence eventually led to a concentration of media ownership in his hands thereby leading to the infringement of press freedom and curtailment of objectivity—values people in the industry hold with utmost value.

It will be helpful to use a framework in understanding the role of Fox News Channel in creating the shared consciousness of the audience and how the use of these clips that were syndicated by different media outfits all over the world, the Philippines including, also affected the prevailing popular opinion about the war in those countries.

The idea of ‘news frames’ refers to the interpretive structures that journalist use to set particular events within their broader context (Norris et al 10). The essence of framing is selection that will give priority to some facts, images, or development over others, thereby promoting one particular interpretation of events (11).

Through frames, apparently scattered and diverse events are understood within regular patterns. Without knowing much, if anything, about the particular people, groups, issues, or even places involved, the terrorist and anti-terrorist frame allows us to quickly sort out, interpret, categorize, and evaluate these conflicts. In international affairs, framing serves several functions by highlighting certain events as international problems that affect American interests, identifying and explaining the source of any security threat, and offering recommendations for particular policy solutions designed to overcome these problems.

The use of terrorism frame serves several functions by linking together disparate, almost unrelated facts, events and leaders and also by naming perpetrators, identifying victims, and attributing blame. On the other hand, it can also function to forward an agenda that serve the interest of the people who control the media organization.

Outfoxed fully captured, although in a rather prejudiced fashion, this blatant use of framing by the Fox News Channel through Greenwald’s careful utilization of the different ‘news frames’ that have been a result of careful documentation resulting in a film that is as telling as it is harrowing and that would pin the channel firmly to the ground for its lack of independence and obvious bias.

However, the film also erred in one, major aspect. It failed to get the side of the Channel as well as that of Murdoch. It would have been more effective had it attempted to erase any feel of propaganda that enmeshed it all throughout. It is a victim of the very problematique it aimed to critique. This lack of balance in reporting diminishes it into a card-stacking propaganda material aimed at discrediting the already discreditable Fox News Channel.

__________

Framing Terrorism the News Media, the Government and the Public. Pipa Norris, Montague Kern, and Marion Just, eds. New York: Routledge 2003. 10-11

Hammond, Philip. Media, War, and Postmodernity. Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge 2007. 46

Outfoxed: Rupert Murdoch’s War on Journalism. Robert Greenwald director. Film documentary. Brave New Films.

Magsimula ka

I didn’t know that the classic OPM song Magsimula Ka came from a musical of the same title. It was, according to my friend Gibbs Cadiz, one of the very first musicals in Filipino staged in the 1980s. With the onslaught of Broadway musicals that almost totally eclipsed the Philippine musical theater scene during that decade, Magsimula Ka was a welcome respite from the tried and tested production of musicals imported from that famous street in the Big Apple.

After my Media Literacy class at UP last Thursday which ended at around 7:30 in the evening, I took a cab to Greenhills. It was my first time to be at the Music Museum, or the Greenhills Shopping area, so I had no idea where it was except that it’s “sa likod ng mall”. I thought of directing the cab driver to ask around where the venue was as he was also not knowledgeable. It was a good thing I did not because the word Music Museum was in bright white neon light, drowning all the other signage in the area. I climbed up the narrow semi-spiral staircase and was directed by a very amiable staff to my seat.

The venue was not as big as I imagined it to be based on the video clips of concerts shown on Showbiz reports of the nightly prime time Tagalog news programs I used to watch. I got not expectations of the production either. I am not keen on singing and dancing. But since Gibbs invited me, I thought of giving it a try. Although i know it’ll run for more than two hours which is my threshold of boredom for musicals and other forms of theater.

The musical was not extraordinary. There were some painful moments, probably because of the un-updated script or the exaggerated acting, but the play was, shall I say, passable. It reminded me of Janice de Belen or Manilyn Reynes starrers that failed not in giving me goosebumps when I am reminded of them now. And interestingly, Magsimula Ka gave me lots of those.

Ciara Sotto’s performance was very noticeable. It was noticeably unnoticeable. The rest were forgettable. Though I remember, while writing this line, that the maid and her paramour who were both superfluous in as far as the story line was concerned, did catch my attention. And to think that the musical could stand on its own without them. But Magsimula Ka would have totally lost my attention had it not been for the duo.

I wonder why my professor in that Media Literacy class did not include theater in the list of media we will be dissecting in class. I got to suggest it to him then.

Thanks to Gibbs Cadiz for the ticket and the wonderful during- and after-dinner conversation.