I am yet to figure out whether the word baroque which refers to “a period of artistic style that used exaggerated motion and clear, easily interpreted detail to produce drama, tension, exuberance, and grandeur in sculpture, painting, architecture, literature, dance, and music” (from the ever reliable Wiki) is where the pejorative Filipino slang ‘barok’  came from.

Barok refers to the person, language, or way of doing that exhibits crassness, inappropriateness, lack of a sense of taste. In popular Filipino media, a stereotypical barok is a provincial lad arriving at the big city, unknowingly being taken advantage by a swindling Manileño whom he trusts his everything. The provinciano usually speaks with a heavy accent, which is usually Bisaya, dons a camisa chino and cotton pyjama ensemble, and carries a bayong.

It is hard to relate this barok from the baroque classical music that I listened to last night at the Trinity Lutheran Church in Worcester. It was a concert by the Salisbury Singers entitled “Baroque Brilliance” that featured George Philipp Telemann’s and Johann Sebastian Bach’s music.

Not schooled in appreciating classical music, I only listen to what I think is worth listening; at its simplest, my taste in music is barok. I’d find myself switching from Wagner, to Eheads, to the Beatles, and the next minute to April Boy Regino. But if beauty transcends culture and a listener’s level of education, then something that is deemed beautiful is what it is no matter who is listening. And interestingly, despite the cold, and some glitches with my camera, I was able to enjoy the concert.

And felt last night’s music touching my soul, my spirit.

With all seriousness.

The beautiful and brainy Filipina

One runs the risk of being labeled gay if he talks eloquently about beauty pageants. A man, specifically a macho man, in the Filipino society is not supposed to be passionate about 80-plus women strutting in long gowns or skimpy bikinis, unless, of course, this passion is erotic in nature, otherwise he is either automatically categorized a homosexual, which is more likely, or a sociologist, which is not very bad, only a covertly homosexual sociologist, that is.

But labels will remain very practical and utilitarian, and they will remain so no matter how smart or dumb they sound so long as people think these labels function to simplify what could have been things too complicated and complex for them to comprehend, so long as people think that not thinking is the next best thing by letting labels think for them, instead. Stereotypical labels are for the intellectually inelegant.

Now allow me talk unabashedly about our obsession as a nation with beauty pageants. While in some countries these spectacles that ‘celebrate’ the sublime beauty of a woman are shunned for being exploitative, shallow, or vacuous, in the Philippines, these spectacles continue to feed the masses’ quixoticism and give the needed affirmation that they can also be beautiful, especially if a representative of the Philippines reaches the top 15, then the top ten, down to the final five contestants.

Seeing their supposedly beauty-and-brain Miss Universe contestant sauntering, traipsing, and walking like a de-legged praying mantis is like seeing themselves on-stage, surmounting whatever challenge thrown to them — tripping on-stage because a portion of the gown caught in the 9-inch hill of the shoe, donning a 200-kilogram national costume, or answering a question from an obviously racist and unqualified judge — all  in the name of bringing honor to the country. Nothing triggers the Filipinos sense of nationalism other than international beauty contests, boxing fights of Manny Pacquiao come to a close second.

Filipinos define being beautiful as having the features of a mestiza (although this is slowly changing), tall, slender, with a 36 (or even bigger)-24 (or even smaller)-36 (this is usually fixed) body statistics.

And because Filipinos have these delusional tendencies that they are smart, they also expect that their beauty queens to be not only freakishly beautiful but also abnormally smart and articulate.

Being brainy, on the other hand, means being able to speak in English complete with all the trappings of accent and twang of a native speaker. As for the substance of her answer, a beauty contestant can always rely on canned responses prepared for her by her trainers, proven through years of experience to always impress the judges whose tastes on beauty are very discriminating and irrevocable; these judges are the final arbiters of the very philosophical question: who is the most beautiful? and by induction, what is beautiful?. Or who gave the smartest answer? and by induction, what is an intelligent answer?.

Regardless of the flaws in the definition of these abstract concepts, a Filipina sent abroad to compete in a beauty contest must possess these two. It’s beauty-and-brain or nothing. Non-negotiable.

So when their beauty queens choke during question and answer, give downright pathetic responses, or let go of grammatically suspect sentences, the Filipinos back home cringe and cry foul.

My pity goes to these women whose major, major mistake is joining these tired competition.

My sister’s drawing

My 12-year old sister drew this in my computer when I visited our hometown two months ago. I found the drawing several minutes ago while looking for old files in my hardly-opened folders. Indeed, most beautiful things are found hidden in the least expected of places.

How I miss my sister.

Who isn’t?

Finally I am convinced of the bigotry and lack of utter sense of some people in the upper echelon of power in the Philippines. Not that I was too naive to realize this very late, but because I gave them a little benefit of the doubt.They cannot be stupid, I thought, but my subconscious was telling me that they are all morons.

I admit that I do not have a crystal clear grasp of gay politics in the Philippines. Filipino homosexuals, especially those in the fringes of urban areas, are disorganized, silent, and do not see themselves a part of the great gender revolution that is happening in Manila. However, I must say that even in Manila, few gays are politically involved. So calling it a gender revolution is a bit exaggerated. Being involved means getting ‘out of the  closet’. And gay men know better what it means to be ‘out’ in this society.  As a consequence most gay men distance themselves from each other, or at least from those who look flamboyantly gay.

This fear, to call it such, of a closeted gay man of being associated with other gays, as this will unavoidably lead to him and his secrets being brought to the open,  is the reason why it is difficult to organize homosexuals in this country.

The recent disqualification of the party-list party Ang Ladlad by the Commission on Elections with a justification that the party and its openly gay members led by the Ateneo de Manila professor Danton Remoto, definitely with the inclusion of all other gay people within or without their closets, are ‘immoral’, barred them from enjoying their right to run for public office.

From these I gathered that the commissioners assigned to the most daunting task of holding the elections in may 2010, who are in the rein of making sure this country will have a new lease of life,  have brains as microscopic as that of protists. Protists, by the way, do not have brains.

And so they declared a party ineligible for reason of immorality. As regards the basis for which this declaration was based, I do not know, and I can only, if you’ll allow me, speculate:

1. Pink, purple, fuchsia, and rainbow (since the commissioners who are the power-that-be this season consider this as one of the color of the spectrum!) are immoral colors because they are unpure, bastard mixtures of primary colors.

2. The gay parlance is a hybrid that changes endlessly. The last week’s most hyped word could easily be outmoded in seven days time. This is the sign of the scheming devil, continually changing forms and shapes to deceive the faithful.

3. The male body is ugly. The female body is beautiful. Beauty can be a moral question too, aside from it being a question of taste. Gay men lust for the male form, a breach in the universality of beauty. They are immoral because they worship ugliness.

4. Gay men participate in activities that are considered inappropriate, dirty, wanton, contributing nothing in man’s burgeoning gene pool. They express love by inserting an appendage of their bodies in holes unsanctioned by church leaders. And because they get unspeakable pleasure from this act against nature, they become moral zombies.

5. And lastly, they are immoral because the creator of the universe gave life only to the male and female of the species. Anything or anyone that does not fall in any of the two categories are definitely of the devil, including gay lions and lesbian garden snails.

But being stupid is the most immoral thing for me. And the COMELEC committed the most despicable form of immorality–being so stupid.