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issue no. 36 opposites issue
group publisher editorial manager creative director designer junior content creators
04 music Anarchy in the multiverse
staff photographers and videographers
06 film Working progress 12 food Taste the flip side
copy editors contributors
17 feature Sound and vision 22 cover story Alden Richards 30 portfolio Rydel Cerezo 32 editorial Tokyo stories 39 music The future is femcee 42 profile Watch the queen conquer 45 culture Altered states 48 culture Tell me my future
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Illustrated by Malayo Pa Ang Umaga Welcome, dear reader, to our Opposites issue. Here, we attempt to understand the world by examining the polarities that move within it. We talk to interdimensional musicians and regional coming-of-age filmmakers across the country, dive into Twitter’s alter culture, and more. We hope that you find unorthodox insights and fresh voices in our 36th issue’s pages. Most of all, we just really hope you enjoy it. To whet your appetite, let us start you off with a case study on contrasts through Malayo Pa Ang Umaga’s illustrations.
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The Rising Wave special feature
This year’s dreampop/ shoegaze stage at Fête de la Musique succeeded with the support of a lifestyle brand Jared Tomines (top) and Pao Sancho (bottom) of PИZR showed what shoegaze is all about: heavy guitar distortion and feedback, loud volume, and effects.
Reef continues to make waves in the local scene by supporting homegrown bands and artists.
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Every June, the streets of Makati come alive with the frenetic energy of Filipino music at the yearly Fête de la Musique. Over the years, the festival has evolved into a monumental celebration of a wide range of local homegrown music, with the support of various organizations and brands—one of which is Californian beach lifestyle brand Reef. Reef, a brand that’s all about empowering people to enjoy life and expressing their individuality, was the major partner behind the Fête’s dreampop/shoegaze stage last June 22 at restaurant Paseo 59C, along with local music community Furiosa. With music being an inseparable part of Philippine culture, Reef views it as an artistic means for one to be free, creative, and fun. The brand is even supporting bands such as Ciudad, The Geeks, We Are Imaginary, and Rusty Machines. The stage brought together a strong lineup of dreampop and shoegaze acts from all around the Philippines. By all accounts, this particular leg of Fête was one of the most successful. Paseo 59C was packed with fans and enthusiasts who all wanted to have a good time and listen to some totally thrilling music from both young and veteran acts alike. Putting the dreampop/shoegaze stage together wasn’t hard for Furiosa, which is in the service of making independent Filipino music great—whether it’s up-and-coming artists or established icons—in the year and counting it’s
been alive in the local scene. “With dreampop and shoegaze in Metro Manila, we’re trying to band everyone together,” said honcho Romel Chua Amoncio, who was extremely ecstatic with the night's turnout. “It’s a community effort. Furiosa is actually a community, so I was telling bands who want to play, you don’t really have to kiss our asses,” he says. “All you have to do is support us—go to the gigs, support the gigs, support the bands, support the community, and the community supports you back.” Chua owes the roaring success of their dreampop/shoegaze leg to the valuable support of Reef, who has been backing their stage and the showstopping bands playing on it since last year. “We really thank them,” Chua said. “Last year, we only had one major sponsor, which was Reef. And we can’t believe they believed in us and supported us. The things Furiosa really supports are individuality, freedom, and freedom of expression, and Reef embodies all of that. That’s why we told them, if you support us, we’ll take care of the rest. The best thing is they support bands we also love, who are also our friends.” Reef continues to support both Filipino music and a clean, healthy environment with its next event, Free the Sea Movement 4 in Baler—the brand’s biggest annual event which features a two-day beach cleanup, surfing clinic, and music festival happening this October.
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Anarchy in the
multiverse One night in March 1982, in a single dimension in this infinite multiverse, The Ravelos’ own world was about to take a turn. Before that, the band was like any other group echoing the punk subculture’s rebellious spirit. The Ravelos have their day jobs. It’s just that they moonlight as crime-fighting superheroes, in a world where snake people are the norm. The Ravelos’ original lineup consists of the brawny Kapitan Barbel on drums, the immortal Last Stick Man on bass, and Teeny Tony, who was later kicked out for his lack of punk cred. Darnuh Vergara filled up the spot for vocals and lead guitar, with super strength and flight in the rest of her arsenal. Flash Bombas entered the scene as their shockwave and demon-summoning roadie, but his knack for songwriting and guitar-shredding later promoted him to center stage. Life was like clockwork for The Ravelos: They fought monsters on the side and dominated shows by night. Pesky villains notwithstanding, it was as tolerable as any alien-infested dimension. It all changed during a gig at Jewel’s, when they were unknowingly pulled into a time portal that transported them into this dimension. For The Ravelos, the world as we know it is strikingly different from theirs: Snake people are reduced to monsters in B-movies, and superheroes are relegated to blockbuster fads. Compared to their home universe, Manila ’19 is a lackluster dystopia. It has all the oppressive horror of “The Terminator,” but with less Arnold Schwarzenegger cyborgs and more smartphones at gigs. I sat in front of them in September 2019, right in the commotion of this dystopian timeline. Their manager, Deeng Vergara, hovers over the band, whose members’ restless spirits could barely be contained by this universe. With such a drastic change in environment, they’re slowly getting by, but not without their ethos fused in whatever they do. Their released tracks can all be streamed online, yet their music recalls an era of radical songs played through a Walkman, of being caught in between a cultural and political revolution. It’s a taste of The Ravelos' dimensionhopping situation and a testament of their skill as a band, when their listeners are transported through time themselves. This could also be one of their hidden mind-controlling powers at work, but whatever it is, it’s effective.
When a time portal mishap sends them out of an alternative universe, The Ravelos bring anarchy to 2019
Words by Katrina Maisie Cabral Art by Rob Cham
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Once they score a time machine from their friendly neighborhood mad scientist, The Ravelos will head back home. In the meantime, they’re serving today’s crowds with a taste of otherworldly, old-fashioned punk. So far, how’s this timeline treating you guys? Despite this dystopia, would there be a part that you’d miss? Flash Bombas: I wouldn’t miss much. I miss the way things were and can’t wait to go back. I hate it here, honestly. The fascist government, the wanton disregard for human life, the rapid deterioration of the environment, and all the ads. It’s hell. Deeng: What Flash is trying to say is, uh—when the time vortex phenomenon displaced us in your timezone, we didn’t know what happened at first. We thought we died and went to hell. Now, we know that this is all real. Kapitan Barbel: We’re getting used to it, and what’s been helping is your internet. Oh man, I’d definitely miss your smartphones. I know that when we go back in time, we would get these in 30 years. I might be dead by then. I’d also miss the milk tea you guys got. What’s a day like for a Ravelo in 1981? What about in 2019? Last Stick Man: Back in the day, what we would do is we all just go to work and gig at night with superheroics in between. But I have to tell you, freelance superheroing doesn’t really pay as much as you would think. And so I would work as an office worker by day, fight a supercriminal, and try to make it to a gig by night. I just want to be in a band, but I’ve been gifted by these powers from a radioactive box of cigarettes. If I see that I can help, I will. But, I’m also an artist, you know? When I got here, I’d been living off YouTube. I get a lot of Patreon backers from around the world who ask me to morph in different stunt videos. It’s a living. Flash Bombas: I did superheroing full time, since it pays the bills. Often, companies can put you on a retainer or you’re hired for onetime gigs. That’s how I got into The Ravelos, where I was their roadie and bodyguard. But then, I started writing songs and showed it to them, and now I’m part of the band. How different are today's crowds from your home 'verse? Last Stick Man: What I like about the future is what the music scene has grown into, man. Back in our day, no one was interested in going to bars to listen to combos play their stuff, they
wanted covers. You had bars that catered to Manila Sound, disco, sentimental love songs by love teams, and pop music from child stars. It was what was allowed and deemed radiofriendly by the government. Flash Bombas: Also, not a lot of you have superpowers anymore. It’s interesting how that has faded into obscurity. We only see a few witchcraft practitioners and body modifications here and there, but nothing too extraordinary. Where have all the heroes gone? And villains? Darnuh: We used to have to fight supervillains who would plan to attack us while we were at a gig. So, it’s a nice change that we don’t end up destroying the venues we play music in. Deeng: I used to have such a hard time booking events for the band because of the added risk factor, but then we got more bookings when news coverage came about, and people saw that as part of the appeal of our shows. I don’t encourage thrill-seeking since the band is about the music. Although, it’s good that we earned some fans because of the curiosity.
Kapitan Barbel: I think Batman’s awesome. Amazing what you can do when you’re super rich. But yeah, I don’t think that anyone with that much money could ever be a good guy knowing what we know. It’s definitely just a power fantasy. Most of the supervillains back home are these super-rich assholes, while the superheroes we know barely get paid for the work they do. Last Stick Man: I just wanna know where they get their costumes and how much they cost, honestly. They have really nice costumes. I just go out and fight crime with whatever’s clean still.
Do you think that fictional superheroes here are accurate representations? How do they compare to the real deal back home? Flash Bombas: I noticed that a lot of ’em are too nice and noble. And handsome. There’s no way that they should all be that good-looking and ethical. It’s suspicious.
What do you think is the best track you’ve released? Last Stick Man: “Anuna.” We wrote this back before the time travel about our frustrations living with a corrupt government and the systematic abuse of its people. It’s sad that it applies to the 2019 situation. Darnuh: I like the new songs we’ve been making since we got here. We’ve been inspired by the new music and experiences we’ve had, so it’s definitely influenced our music.
If you could trade places with another member of the band, who would it be? Last Stick Man: I mean, I could do that already. [At this point of the interview, Last Stick Man uses his shape-shifting powers to imitate the likenesses and voices of everyone in the group. Everyone else finds this disgusting and tells him, “Stop, please stop doing that, we’ve told you before, please never do that.”]
What’s your advice for aspiring crime-fighting musicians? Flash Bombas: Know your limits. Sometimes, when you try and fight a bad guy, the bad guy might be out of your league. You gotta pick your battles talaga. It’s important to protect who you can, but you can’t do much if you get too hurt. So, I think it’s best if you can get a sense of when someone is too much for you. Kapitan Barbel: Parang relationship advice, ah. Flash Bombas: Shut up. Last Stick Man: Have a roadie watch over your things while you fight crime, and support each other however you can. My archrival and evil twin from a different dimension, WalastikMan, once showed up at a gig to challenge me during our set. He demanded a one-on-one fight, so the band just played fight music while we fought. That was good support. ■
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Working progress What does it mean to be a young Filipino? The answer lies in well-crafted cinematography and unique perspectives from regional cinema's films
Words by Rogin Losa
Youth culture in the Philippines isn’t defined by one term. In a nation of 7,641 islands and 110 ethnolinguistic groups, being young means different things to different people. We live under one flag, yet there’s a disconnect with each other’s culture. So how do we try to change this? Maybe the answer lies in regional cinema. Viewers gain new perspectives through regional cinema’s lens. And thanks to these filmmakers, coming-of-age stories shorten distances and demolish cultural borders. These stories may not represent every kid within our 110 ethnolinguistic groups. But don’t worry, that isn’t a bad thing. It only means we need to give more storytellers from different regions a platform.
“Si Astri maka si Tambulah,” 2017
“Si Astri maka si Tambulah,” 2017
From Zamboanga City, Zamboanga Del Sur: Xeph Suarez, “Si Astri maka si Tambulah” What does it mean to be queer in a traditional community? And what more in a conservative Sama Badjao community? Zamboangeño filmmaker Xeph Suarez attempts to answer this in his critically acclaimed short film “Si Astri maka si Tambulah” (“Astri and Tambulah”). “It shows a different story about the struggles of the LGBTQ+ community,” he explains. “Most of the current queer stories in popular media are set in Manila. I wanted to show these issues affecting LGBTQ+ Filipinos in the provinces.” In the film, a young queer couple, 16-year-old Muslim transwoman Astri and her 17-year-old boyfriend Tambulah, try
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to protect their love after Astri’s father forces her to marry a woman she’s betrothed to. Growing up, Xeph watched coming-ofage queer stories on YouTube. It helped him become more confident as a gay man, which eventually helped him come out to his loved ones. He returns the same favor to young queer Zamboangeños by giving them a story to relate to. “One must be sensitive when tackling tradition, yet be as honest as possible in discussing your stance on the issue and your advocacy,” he admits. “The film shows there are traditions and practices prohibiting the LGBTQ+ community from fully expressing their truths. I want to show that love is love— regardless of culture.”
From Tuguegarao, Cagayan: Glenn Barrit, “Cleaners” In the early 2000s, growing up in Tuguegarao meant building Friendster profiles, knowing who David Cook of "American Idol" was, and tuning into MYX after class. When Glenn went to Manila for college, he learned that almost every Manileño went through the same phase. “It just differs slightly with language, food, culture, and how each adapts with what can be consumed.”
This was his mindset while creating his QCinema International Film Festival 2019 entry, “Cleaners.” “It’s a term for a group of students who clean their classrooms during dismissal. When I was conceptualizing, I realized cleaning can be used thematically for different high school stories.” By using photocopied stills colored with highlighter pens, he immortalizes memories of high school life in his hometown. “It’s where my high school memories happened. I thought it would be more nuanced if I filmed these recreated memories in the actual place where it happened,” he says. “I realized we can tap local talents. We got local actors and interns who are interested in filmmaking and other art forms. Sadly, pursuing the arts remains a privilege there. We hope this somehow opens doors for them.” Capturing high school life in Tuguegarao isn’t his only goal. As a storyteller, he also uses nostalgia as a way to encourage deeper conversations about growing up. “Comingof-age films have a gradual way of showing how harsh the world can be,” he explains. “They tell different ways of losing innocence, so we can understand how the world operates unforgivingly. It reminds us to navigate through it all kindly.”
From San Mateo, Rizal: Gilb Baldoza, “Kontrolado ni Girly Ang Buhay N'ya” Honing his passion for queer filmmaking, this young Rizaleño’s thesis film explores life as a gay teenager below the poverty line. “I wrote ‘Kontrolado ni Girly’ as a journey from the province to the city. We shot it in San Mateo and in Brgy. Batasan, which is right in the middle of San Mateo and Quezon City,” he explains. “It shows how the rural youth, personified by Girly in the film, seek a brighter future in the city— and how the city and life’s realities challenge this dream.” Girly’s story sheds light on Filipino queer representation. This is a story for young Filipino queers who are uneducated, underprivileged, non-masculine, jobless, and abused. “I wrote his character to validate the existence and struggles of young queers living in this age of sexual and gender equality revolution,” he says. “I want to not just show, but immerse viewers into the reality of living under multilayered oppression.” He developed this short film at the height of the #MeToo movement. He wants people like Girly to have their voices heard. “This film became a way of saying these struggles also happen to the LGBTQ+ community and that Girly’s story and other women share the same
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10 film “Kalinguan Tane Ing Lutu Nang Ima,” 2019
“Kontrolado ni Girly Ang Buhay N'ya,” 2018 goals: to gain control of their own lives and to stand up against patriarchy, discrimination, poverty, and harassment.” “Girly” became a way to educate others and embodied the filmmaker’s personal growth. “I sought coming-of-age films to educate myself on the human condition, as I reflect on growing up from poverty,” he reflects. “Through them, I learned my struggles with sexuality and socioeconomic status are intertwined and inseparable.”
From Minalin, Pampanga: EJ Gagui, “Kalinguan Tane Ing Lutu Nang Ima”
“Kontrolado ni Girly Ang Buhay N'ya,” 2018
Bringhe is Pampanga’s answer to paella. Traditionally, this dish contains meat, vegetables, green peas, and chorizo. Determining recipes usually require a simple Google search. But that’s not the case with Letty in “Kalinguan Tane” (“Time to Forget Mother’s Cooking”), as she attempts to recreate her late mother’s signature bringhe. “The idea came from my belief that you make your own success,” the young Kapampangan filmmaker explains. “In relation to the film, I want to give Letty a new mission in recreating herself without her mother’s shadow, that she can also have something original to offer, to give her a chance to be as unique as her mother.” EJ sees his short films as a chance to reflect on past experiences. By centering “Kalinguan Tane Ing Lutu Nang Ima” on his hometown’s native dish, he manages to create a tale of loss and internal growth. “Developing comingof-age stories helped me understand my own experiences. Through my short films, it made me appreciate them artistically and see how I‘ve matured as a person.” “Kalinguan Tane Ing Lutu Nang Ima” deals with loss through the painful ordeal of recreating someone’s palate. For Letty, cooking her mother’s bringhe means recreating something
she can’t perfect, an attempt to immortalize a loved one’s memory. This short film forces us to answer the question: Who are we without the people we love?
From Biri, Northern Samar: PR Patindol, “Hilom (Still)” Dioskouroi retells the tale of mythical twins Castor, a mortal, and Pollux, an immortal. In the original Greek story, they are inseparable until Castor dies in battle and leaves his twin inconsolable with grief. To bring his brother back, Pollux asks Zeus to let him share his own immortality so Castor will be saved. Zeus places them both in the sky, reuniting the brothers as a constellation named Gemini. The tale inspired PR Patindol’s short on twin brothers who survived and want to heal in their hometown, a small fishing village ravaged by Typhoon Yolanda. “The story of "Hilom (Still)" was inspired by an incident when I was growing up when the discourse on sexual identity was necessary," Patindol says. "Through these young twins, we intended to explore what innocence and what love is.” "Hilom" is a young person’s coming-out story. But at the heart of it, it runs deeper than early romantic love. “What was deliberate was to highlight the strength of the bond between brothers. I hoped that the film’s final frame conveyed an uplifting resolution. This image of twins connected in water, like they once were in their mother’s womb, was important to me,” Patindol says. “After the hurt, what I believe the twins discovered is that they have each other.” ■
“Hilom (Still),” 2016
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special feature 11
Ride or Die
Keeping friendships requires three things: skill, sincerity, and simple efforts Text by Eternity Ines Illustration by Zaila Mae Urmeneta Like it or not, humans were built to be social (sorry, introverts!). Much of our life is spent around forming relationships and seeking out communities where we can be accepted and where we feel that we belong. From the discos of the 70s to the memes and TikTok videos of 2019, socializing has shape-shifted throughout generations. But one thing remains common whether you’re a Boomer or a Gen-Z kid: the desire to keep in touch, preferably over bottles of cold beer and the promise of an amazing night out. These days, you can literally make friends with strangers at the swipe of a ﬁnger. But keeping them? That’s a whole new ball game. Here, we’ve gathered some simple ways to keep your friends close—tried and tested for generations. Be their personal hype man Did your bud manage to scrape a passing grade on their midterm? Give them a gold star. Have they ﬁnally emerged from their cave after an awful week? Hype them up! Did they ﬁnally bag the job they’ve been interviewing for since time immemorial? Reward your friend with a bottle of beer. Whatever the case, be a friend always at the ready. Bolster your buddy’s conﬁdence in
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taking charge of their lives and claiming their goals. When it comes to friendship, “Kahit kailan, walang iwanan” is your new “Hakuna Matata.”
Go” awakens the dancing bug in you, head to the closest bar and do an awkward slow jam to Lil’ Nas X with the gang.
Voice calls and chill With growing up comes change, but that doesn’t mean your friends have to come and go. Aside from tagging them under the funniest memes or giving their Twitter rants an RT, go further than reacting to their IG stories and take the old-fashioned road by giving them a call. Even though your IRL presence is incomparable, hearing your voice could be the small push your buddy needs. If you’re that extra, you can even create a Powerpoint presentation that details all the life events and stories that they need to know to catch up with you.
Long-lasting friendships aren’t just the stuff of legends, they can be the real deal, too. Like action movies and Sylvester Stallone, drag queens and a contour stick, or philosophy majors and bucket hats, with San Miguel Pale Pilsen, you and your ride-or-die can be like peanut butter and jelly (or, more appropriately, San Miguel Beer and sisig). Scan the QR code below and share San Miguel Pale Pilsen's Side By Side Campaign, which shows how San Miguel Pale Pilsen has been keeping friendships stronger than ever, no matter the generation. Show your friends the true meaning of "kahit kailan, walang iwanan" with a bottle of San Miguel Pale Pilsen.
Self-care is taking care of yourself AND your best friend Whether you’re in thesis mode or at your ﬁrst job out of school, we all can get swamped with work. Don’t forget to take a day off from time to time and tag your friends along. Veg out on the couch, watch (too many) YouTube videos of WHAM! and Fleetwood Mac from the ’80s, and crack open a bottle of San Miguel Pale Pilsen. Once the alcohol and “Wake Me Up Before You
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When you're young, hungry, and on a budget
Text by CHRISTIAN SAN JOSE Photography by SAMANTHA ONG
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Pancit canton bรกnh mรฌ with chicken nuggets Stuff a short baguette with cooked instant pancit canton (calamansi flavor), chicken nuggets, and Sriracha. OPTIONAL: cilantro for freshness.
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Sinigang fries with honey-Sriracha dip Season plain salted fries with sinigang powder mix (a little or a lotâ€”depends on you). For the dip, mix 1 part Sriracha with 2 parts honey.
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food 15 FEELING MORE ADVENTUROUS? US, TOO. IF YOUâ€™RE READY TO EXPLORE WILDER COMBINATIONS, HERE ARE A FEW by Grai Avar Taho with crushed Choc Nut and dried mangoes * Binatog with chocolate syrup * Grilled cheese ensaymada with Tteokbokki sauce * Okonomiyaki pandesal slider with cheese spread * Kuchinta with caramel and pork isaw
Krispy Kreme glazed sandwich Slice a Krispy Kreme glazed donut horizontally and stack with crispy bacon and fried egg. Drizzle with Sriracha and cheese spread. Serve.
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Cheesy Doritos kwek-kwek Dredge quail eggs with flour. To make batter, mix 1/2 cup flour and 1/2 cup water in a bowl and season with salt and pepper. Dip eggs in batter until lightly covered and finally, coat with crushed Doritos Nacho Cheese. Deep fry until golden brown (approx. 2 mins). OPTIONAL: Serve with a cheese dip.
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Sound and vision Three pairs of artists, each with diverse viewpoints, on pushing the boundaries of art, film, and animation
The evolution of art, film, and animation in the Philippines isn’t a one-page plot. We talk to creatives from the same field with different styles about what’s up and what needs to be changed.
Interview by KATRINA MAISIE CABRAL Casual exhibit-goers would think Anton Belardo and Maria Jeona Zoleta absolutely agree on their vivid depictions of reality. This would be a misconception. Anton (a.k.a. Jellyfish Kisses) calls his work a confessional diary masquerading as an unearthly, possessed housewife from the '60s. Jeona’s explanation is both brief and mystifying: “[My art is] a burst of magic rainbow sparkle energy...from my vagina. And Madonna is my vagina, and my vagina is a vampire.” Jeona and Anton delve into the struggles they face in the arts and what lies ahead for the local art scene. How is the art world making space for women and queer artists? How are you making space for yourself? Anton: The local art scene is a lot more accepting in comparison to other industries. We’re free as artists, but there’s not a lot of queer visibility. A lot of them still fit in the archetype of cisgender passing, because of stigma and possible discrimination. Mas gusto ng iba maging paminta [closeted], sa ibang salita. I’m not here to judge them. They’re valid fears. As a country, we’re conservative. But what they think of as negative traits, I turn into an advantage. I’m louder, I’m experimental, I’m more out. Jeona: There’s one artist who uses a lot of disguises. You can transcend definitions, it’s all human. Anton: And it’s because he’s very out. 'Yung sinasabi ko lang kanina ay mga artists na hindi pa nila kaya. They’re not yet ready to be like him without fear.
Jeona: What does it take for others to be as expressive as you are? I’m just curious. Like what you said, cisgender…? Anton: Yes, archetype of a cisgender. Someone who fits the typical female or male roles, who doesn’t come out of the normal. Ikaw, hindi kita nakikita as an archetype, girl. Experimental ka, alam mo ’yun? Tsina-challenge mo ’yung pagiging babae. It’s a choice being out there. Are you willing to be judged by people? As Jellyfish, I still get judged. Nakakatakot pa rin 'to, kinakapalan ko lang talaga 'yung mukha ko. [laughs]
passing of the] SOGIE bill, and that’s where you can see how conservative the country is. The fight for diversity still goes on. Not just for the art world, but for the country as a whole. Jeona: Sana pag nangyari ’yun, buhay pa tayo. Anton: At sana ma-experience ’rin siya ng anak mo. Kung paano man siya mag-identify, hindi siya matatakot ipahayag ang kanyang sarili. Jeona: It’s also inevitable that curators and audiences will evolve. Hopefully. Nakakainis lang siguro ’yung mga packaging, kunwari “colorful artist.” Anton: It’s like they need to force you into a label. We’re always compared with each other, just because we’re both “colorful.” They even say that we’re clones. Just so I won’t get annoyed, I tell myself that I love Jeona and her work. May pagkakatulad, pero hindi dahil porke’t colorful kami pareho, pareho ’yung work namin.
How should the industry push for more diversity? Anton: We need to be more educated and more open to certain things. What’s missing in the We need to be willing to art industry? listen to new ideas. Let’s Jeona: Collectors, in say gender identities. general. ’Yung mga There are still people Maria Jeona Zoleta taong may pera na who debate about this. pwedeng magpasiya. For the art scene, change [laughs] ’Yung iba, hindi might start with curators, but the audience itself sila talagang experimental. ’Yun ’yung kulang, is more important. If we understand concepts ’yung mas out there na curator, o ’yung gallery like this, fears of artists are lessened and queer mismo. Sobrang konserbatibo ng mga bumibili. individuals are able to come out and become Kulang pa ng mas bata, mas kapal na mukha, their authentic selves. ’yung mga baliw. Sa ibang bansa, ’di ba Jeona, ’yung Anton: Sang-ayon ako ’dun. Minsan parang representation ng women and queers naggusto nila i-tone down lagi. improve na? Pero, pansinin mo, hindi pa sila ganun ka-pantay. Kunwari, pitong artists. Baka How has the art world changed through limang artists na lalaki, dalawang artists na the years? babae. Laging mas konti ’yung mga babae na Jeona: When I was starting out, there weren’t binibigyang-pansin. For queer artists, minsan many young or female artists whose styles wala ka pang makikita sa pito na ’yun. Baka were out there. That’s why I paint like this nagtatago sila o hindi sila out. Pag ibang now. Here, artists’ works are unlike [those of] bansa, ang dami-dami na mga queer artists German Expressionists who paint while they’re na out, mas madami nang women artists na naked. It’s about time that we have that kind of out there. Pero dito, karamihan pa ’rin ay mga representation in our country. Where did all this straight males. conservatism come from, anyway? Jeona: Tapos super judgmental pa. Parang pag Anton: Maybe they come from the period when may baby [ka na], hindi mo magagawa. Hindi we were colonized. As for me before, I made art totoo 'yun, mas marami kang energy. for myself. Now, art is mainstream. ’Nung dati kailangan mo pang talagang humanap. Ngayon, punta ka lang sa mall, meron ka nang makikita. Women and queer representation in the local art scene is somehow improving. But I think audiences have to be really open to it. We’re still divided on issues [such as the
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The Rising Wave
Interview by JELOU GALANG
Philippine cinema celebrates its 100th birthday this year. A lot has come and gone, but formulabased films and passé themes have endured. This has inspired young moviegoers to gravitate toward stories that are unfamiliar, and we thank filmmakers like Dwein Baltazar and Jerrold Tarog for that. In this conversation, Baltazar and Tarrog talk about Philippine cinema’s evolution. They also take a stand on creative progress and the rights of storytellers who want to move forward. What is Filipino cinema’s current state? Dwein: As storytellers/filmmakers, we are evolving. Ang tanong, kasabay ba natin ang audience? Jerrold: That’s always a concern, whatever the era. Because we're "content providers,” we're more aware of what's out there and maybe have a sense of where we're going, or where we want to go. But yes, sasabay ’din ba ang audience? It’s a push and pull. Dwein: It’s wishful thinking, ‘yung sana makasabay ang audience. At paano nga ba natin sila tutulungan "makasabay” para mas maging open sila sa bago? Jerrold: The really smart ones will just be slightly ahead of the curve without being completely avant-garde. Then it’s all a matter of timing and luck when it comes to releasing the film. But it’s always trial and error if we're talking about "new" stuff that will succeed. Tapos pag nagsucceed, perahan with sequels and similarly themed films. Jerrold: Tapos na ba ang hugot era, Dwein? Dwein: Ang tagal ko nang tanong ’yan. I thought it was gonna shift—I was hoping after “Ulan.” Pero ang tilt parang pa-genre ngayon.
we are. I remember a time when action films and family drama films were the norm. Then gradually, it became romcom 1.0., 2.0. Dwein: Kung personal na sukatan ang pagiging successful ng pelikula, hindi ko iisipin ang box office. Kaya ko naman siyang masukat, kapag may isa akong na-i-inspire. Jerrold: It's always a cycle. You score big with one film, then come the sequels, then the revisionist films, then it’s dead. Although it will be a long time until that comes to Marvel. ’Yung mga revisionist films, ginagago niya ’yung established norm. Like in Western films, ’yung mga “Sergio Leone,” “Eastwood,” “Peckinpah.” Romcom 2.0 was revisionist. Dwein: Isa doon si [director] Tonette [Jadaone]. Nang-shookt siya eh. [laughs] Jerrold: I think ganun 'din ’yung ginawa ni Chris Martinez, regarding my historical films. When he released the third “Septic Tank,” although I didn't see it. But then again, I don't consider “[Heneral] Luna” and “Goyo” as the norm. Saan mo gustong pumunta ang evolution? Dwein: Alam mo, hindi ko pa alam! Parang reklamo sa 'tin ng international audience, wala raw
mukha ang Philippine Cinema. Hindi siya distinct. Jerrold: Either they have a good point or gusto nila madaling i-categorize ang Pinoy cinema so they'll champion certain types of films only. Dwein: I think nagagalingan sila sa mas madali or tingkad ang boses ng mga pelikula from, say, Korea or Japan. ’Di ko rin alam kung ano ’yung clear voice na hanap nila. Ang mukha natin sa festivals ay the Brillante [Mendoza], [Lav] Diaz. Nakwento sa 'kin dati ng fellow director na nagulat ang international audience nung malaman nilang ang bumubuhay sa industriya ay romcoms. Hindi nila alam na may gano'n tayo. [laughs] Jerrold: I hope we’ll have more variety in local cinemas: romcom, horror, historical, action, musical. The films are there. Highly selective ang cinemas sa mga ipinipalabas. Dwein: Tunay na kalaban 'din ’yan. Cinemas. Jerrold: And they'll never let a film stay in cinemas for long out of a sense of moral obligation. It will always be about the money because it’s a business. Unless batas siya or something, things will stay this way. Dwein: Dami nating mambabatas na actors! Naghalal na nga tayo ng presidenteng aktor dati, wala namang nagawa! Walang napasang batas para alagaan tayo. Hindi lang sa aspetong ’yan pero napakarami!
What do you want to tell the Filipino audience? Jerrold: We've definitely changed a lot over the past few decades, but I think the dream is to have a local audience that's completely supportive of other genres, hindi lang romcom and horror. Pero nasa side ng storytellers ang trabaho, hindi sa audience. Malaking factor 'din ang support ng cinemas and distributors. Kailangan ng isang effective na batas. Except we don't have the kind of government right now that's fully supportive of the arts, or who understands the value of cultural currency. Dwein: Dahil wala siyang sinabi sa audience, susubukan kong kausapin sila. Sana ’yung audience huwag mapagod maghanap. Maghanap kung ano talaga ang gusto nila labas sa dikta ng lahat. Alam kong wishful thinking ito. Sobra. Pero meron at meron diyan, restless, makulit, hindi basta papayag na hanggang dito lamang ang kanilang mga mapapanood na pelikula.
What makes a "successful" film? Jerrold: Successful is equal to box office. ’Yun ’yung pinaka-obvious. Hiwalay sa usapang quality or relevance. Dwein: Papunta na nga ako diyan. I feel lacking since I still don’t have a box office [film]. Jerrold: But as to whether we're evolving, I think 26/09/2019 5:31 PM
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Interview by ROGIN LOSA
The Philippines is renowned for animation. But as Rocketsheep Studio’s Avid Liongoren points out, “We might be known for animation, but it’s for service work. It's like an extension of our call center culture—we’re known for labor.” This is what he tried to unpack with Pixar’s Fil-Am animator Bobby Rubio through a long-distance phone call. Fresh from their recent films (the teleseryeinspired anthropomorphic film “Hayop Ka” and the Fil-Am slice-of-life film “Float,” respectively) they try answering an important question: Where is Filipino animation heading? Do animators have a responsibility to tackle Filipino culture in their work? Avid: We have generations of animators trained only in anime or Western techniques, so Filipino animation is currently virgin territory. I always tell the students during lectures to wear our culture with pride. Most artists here don’t find Filipino iconography attractive. It's people like Bobby, who’s far away from home, that actually want to champion our culture more than the artists that live here. That’s why we made a point with “Saving Sally” to have detailed Filipino surroundings. And in our film, “Hayop Ka,” we’re making an homage to our country’s classic telenovela tropes. We're trying to develop our own visual language.
Bobby: You know, I have never been to the Philippines, and I look fondly to my parents’ homeland for inspiration. But when I go to Netflix, I look at Filipino movies and see telenovelas or romcoms. It looks different from what I'm used to, so I’m glad that you’re making an effort to make your backgrounds look like what the Philippines would look like. I think it'd be great if the film gets shown on a streaming service for the world to see our culture more. Why does Filipino representation still matter in media? Bobby: I can't talk as much about the Philippines and the culture, since I don't see it much here in the States. I remember growing up seeing two Filipino characters on screen, Ernie Reyes from “The Last Dragon” and Dante Basco from “Hook.” I am grateful to Pixar for giving me an opportunity to tell my story with “Float.” It's the first film with Filipino lead characters in CGI that I know of. I hope it opens doors for more Filipino stories to be told, not just here at Pixar, but all around the world. Avid: What I’m excited about “Float” is that you’re showing Malay features, with brown skin and flat noses. What pains me about working with young artists is that they don't like to draw themselves. It’s always drawn as anime with light skin, sharp nose, and big eyes. It's never Filipino features. Bobby: That’s exactly what I was pushing for. I wanted Filipino features like flatter noses, thicker lips, and almond-shaped eyes. The funny thing though is I got some flak on Twitter, saying that the son was light-skinned. And I told them, the father is a bit darker like myself and my son is 1/16 Chinese.
I based “Float” a lot on my real-life experiences. And unfortunately, “Float” cannot represent every Filipino. And that's why we need more Filipino stories out there. If they don't relate to mine, maybe they'll relate to this. Representation of Filipinos in live-action film is so rare, and it’s even rarer in animation. Avid: That’s why when I saw your film, it's great that you’re pushing for Filipino aesthetics. That's the one thing I hope our students and future animators would take away from your film. That’s the whole thing about beauty right now. There's this call for diversity in aesthetics, so it's not just focused on Eurocentric features. Bobby: The definition of beauty changes. My characters can be lead characters. They can have a whole story and people will be interested. As long as the story resonates— Avid: —all of this can be secondary to the story. With all of this in mind, where is the future of Filipino animation heading? Avid: For me, the grand dream isn’t global domination or anything like that. It’s for our aesthetic to be represented. The hard thing about being Filipino is that we assimilate so well. It's one of our best and worst traits. I'm hoping that we get to be known as a culture. Bobby: To jump on Avid’s point, there’s an article saying Filipinos are an invisible minority in America. Like him, I try to bring upon myself to bring our culture to the mainstream. I want Filipinos around the world to see our culture is out there. I want us to step out of the shadows and show the beauty of our culture. And I hope that “Float” could be a start. ■
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YOUR GUIDE TO MANILAâ€™S NEIGHBORHOOD HOTSPOTS, COMMUNITY GATHERINGS, AND CULTURAL EVENTS
Follow us on: @nolisoli.ph
13/02/2019 5:16 PM
Alden Richards is not only a full-fledged dreamer, but someone who's taking everything head on: here, there, and everywhere
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Alden Richards has reached singularity. He’s all over the news, not as AlDub or half of a portmanteau bearing the chains of an onstage/offstage relationship. Not even as Pambansang Bae, subsumed into a relationship, but simply as himself, Alden Richards, the 27-year-old Seoul Drama Award-winning, leading man of the highest grossing Filipino film ever. The uniquely Filipino phenomenon called the love team has a long history in the local industry. Mary Walter and Gregorio Fernandez were the first romantic film pairing, back in the ’20s and ’30s when films were still silent. A century later, studios still adhere to this formula, a testament to the enduring romantic hopelessness of the Filipino audience. Enter “Hello, Love, Goodbye,” a movie that took considerable risks with its lead cast but has since raked in more than P880 million worldwide with its timely portrayal of a young OFW couple living in Hong Kong. Kathryn Bernardo was hot off the heels of the highest grossing Filipino film “The Hows of Us,” her seventh with real-life partner Daniel Padilla. Alden, meanwhile, had just finished a post-apocalyptic TV movie for GMA called “The Journey,” and has been indelibly linked to Maine Mendoza since their “Eat Bulaga” pairing catapulted them to insane levels of stardom in 2015. Pre-AlDub, Alden was not yet a household name but he already had the makings of a serious actor, after winning an award for his turn as Jose Rizal in the TV series “Ilustrado.” Actors each from different networks and different loveteams, with their legion of intensely loyal fans, what’s not to fear? “It was a risk for Kath and [me]. We all took that risk. But it shows you don’t really have to be in a real relationship to make the scene work,” says Alden, who shows up at the Hinge office in sweatshorts and a gray James Perse T-shirt. He’s boyishly good-looking, a quintessential leading man minus the dark side.
“It's real; this is what happens in real life.”
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“Hello, Love, Goodbye” struck a chord with audiences because of its relatability, open-endedness, and treatment of OFW concerns. “The writers and researchers picked stories from different people and put them together, that’s how we did the movie,” he says. “It’s real; this is what happens in real life.” In real life, Hong Kong has become more than just a place where “no one stays forever,” as Kathryn’s character narrates in the film’s opening sequence. Ninety-five percent of the film was shot in Hong Kong, and just a week after they packed up the set, its citizens erupted in protest against the government. The team couldn’t return to attend the screening due to the instability of the situation. “It really saddened the team, we wanted to be there during the screening, to thank our Filipino counterparts who helped create the movie,” Alden says. “Of all places, Hong Kong should have been the priority.” He just came back from Cambodia, where he was surprised by the number of non-Filipinos who attended the screening. “They’re really just fans of romantic genres.” Perhaps there really is a wider market for our uniquely Filipino love team phenomenon. Alden is currently shooting the first few episodes of his newest primetime series, “The Gift.” After starring in the fantasy series “Victor Magtanggol,” he was hankering for a meatier comeback role. “Heavy drama is my comfort zone,” he says. “Mas na-fi-feed ’yung soul ko as an actor.” “Heavy drama” seems to be a genre particular to our industry. Of course, tragedy abounds in television and cinema all over the world, but we certainly have elevated suffering to a high art. “The Gift” premiered mid-September on GMA and has no shortage of tragic characters mired in unfortunate circumstances. Alden plays Joseph, who, in a failed kidnap attempt in Quiapo, ends up getting separated from
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“It’s not just a job. I would really like to be part of those changes in other people.”
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his wealthy family as a boy. He is adopted by Strawberry, a fruit vendor with dwarfism. Sep then gets blinded in a gunfight but wakes up with the gift of clairvoyance, which his stepbrother, a political aspirant, uses to his advantage. To make things worse, Sep and his mother lose their livelihood. During his immersion with a community of the visually impaired—including 30 minutes of walking with a cane while blindfolded—Alden learned that those who are born blind and those who lose their eyesight later in life go through different experiences. “It’s challenging to have gone blind. When I interviewed them, I felt their sadness, but most of all I felt their hope. [They were asking], ‘what can I contribute to society after being blind? What else can I do?’” It was serendipitous that Alden had also just released an athleisure collection with fashion designer Avel Bacudio, who underwent surgery for retinal detachment. Emerging from three days of darkness, Avel began to see spots of color. “When they removed the bandage, he first saw maroon, which were the blood clots. Slowly he would see more colors, blue, then green. Every aspect of the collection has meaning.” The first hues that returned to Avel formed the palette of the collection, which was primarily designed by Avel but inspired by Alden’s taste in tracksuits. Avel’s experience with sightlessness moved him so much that he has dedicated a portion of the proceeds to the Northern Luzon Association for the Blind, to help with the education of blind children in Baguio. Alden considers his role in the entertainment industry a service to others, but this view developed over time. “At first, it was a dream of my mom’s,” he says. “I wanted to be part of this industry for the money. We were not rich, my dad resigned from his job, and mom died. Eventually, project after project, I fell in love with the craft, with telling stories to an audience. The most rewarding part is when you meet people, and they tell you, ‘you inspire me, you changed my life.’” It is through these heavy dramas that Alden reaches his audiences on a more emotional level. Whether you think of them as melodramatic, escapist or just “suffering porn,” these dramas reflect the hardships of everyday life while offering glimmers of hope in the middle of despair. “It’s not just a job. I would really, really like to be part of those changes in other people.”
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Alden, too, has gone through some rough times, so he knows what it’s like to experience failure. His initial forays into showbiz were frustrating, but he believes that he would not be the person he is now if it weren’t for those rejections: “My faith, my family, my dreams kept me going.” Don’t be surprised if Alden Richards eventually becomes an international name. He’s set his sights on international projects. He’ll take on challenging, unconventional roles—one of his favorites was playing a wordless psycho killer in the horror film “The Road” (“I look forward to those kinds of movies, it saves me from memorizing a huge amount of lines”), and characters who are completely different from him (“Ethan [his character on HLG] was so not me—a happy-go-lucky playboy”). But when asked what exactly Alden’s opposite is, he hesitates to answer. “The worst: an extremist, doesn’t care about what people think or need from me, selfish. I really can’t imagine the opposite of me, and thinking about it now makes me uncomfortable.” People who have worked with Alden have nothing but respect and admiration for his good nature and polite behavior, and, for him, being the “good guy” is nothing to be ashamed of. “These people,” he says, talking about his team, “have been with me for the longest time. They know me, and I don’t think I’m going to change.” This is good news for all fans of the singular Alden Richards, who could have played it safe but didn’t, who could’ve lost his soul but hasn’t—because he, too, wouldn’t want to change a thing. ■
Words by Audrey Carpio Photography by Joseph Pascual Styling by Vince Crisostomo Makeup by Kusie Ho Hair by Aries Manal Photography assistant Joey Alvero Special thanks to MAC Cosmetics
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Across the sea
How does one deal with questions on identity? For Vancouver-based Filipino artist Rydel Cerezo, one must come to terms not only with personal history but also with the consequences of a nation’s collective trauma Interview by Oliver Emocling
Above: From the “Portraits” series. Right: “Quinn” The Book of Job tells the story of a wealthy man whom God favored for his faith and devotion. Job had a good, enviable life back in the days of the Old Testament. According to the Bible, he had: 7,000 sheep, 3,000 camels, 500 yokes of oxen, 500 donkeys, and “very many” servants. One day, Satan, who came along with a host of angels, barged into the gates of Heaven. The devil was searching the earth far and wide for a man with unshakeable faith. God boasted about Job, describing him as a “blameless and upright man…who feared God and turned away from evil.” But Satan refuted this. He said Job was only faithful because he was blessed by God. Once Job’s abundant life was reduced to ash and dirt, Satan said he’d curse God. So, God allowed the devil to try Job. Job lost everything in a catastrophe. He never blamed God, but he questioned him for his despicable disposition. “Am I the sea, or the monster of the deep, that you put me under guard?” he asked. It’s this verse, Job 7:12, that inspired Vancouver-based artist Rydel Cerezo’s photography exhibit “Am I a Sea.” “My attraction to this book of the Bible comes from
its unique lyricism,” Rydel says. The Book of Job is almost like a drama. It opens and ends with prose, while the entirety of the book contains dialogue all rendered in poetry. Like the Book of Job, “Am I a Sea” treads a similar path of inquiry and contemplation. The exhibition, which was shown by the Aperture Foundation in New York as part of the organization’s 2019 Summer Open, interrogates the concept of identity within the context of religion. Here, he photographed his younger brother, who represents Rydel, and his lola both dressed in red sweaters and jeans inside a chapel, as well as familiar relics of the Catholic faith. Rydel approaches the subject with tenderness and presents the images with sensibility. “Am I a Sea” gives a compelling narrative, as he tells London-based website It’s Nice That, about an “inescapable relationship fraught with trauma and love provided by the institution and the home.” The images present acts of worship, but there’s also an element of dissent: the boy sleeping in a space for worship, the broken bread amid rows of altar bread, and the boy’s hand in a playful gesture over a bowl of agua bendita.
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“It attempts to call upon the 333 years of western Spanish colonization over the Philippines and imagine the consequences of intergenerational trauma within the Filipino body. The inability to escape is realized as a consequence of centuries of colonization and familial inheritance,” Rydel tells It’s Nice That. Rydel puts himself in a vulnerable position as the series, despite his absence in the images, seems to be more of a selfportrait. As much as he is the lensman, Rydel ultimately takes the role of the subject. Such sensitivity is present in his personal works which anatomize these facets of his identity. In an e-mail interview, we talk with Rydel about dealing with the concept of identity in a foreign land and the role of photography in this discourse. *** How was life in the Philippines before you moved to Canada? I moved away at the age of 10, and before then I was intensely dedicated to Tae Kwon Do at the time. So most of my childhood memories are dominated by training and competing, and at one point I was a national champion. I’m sure the tenacity I learned from that sport has bled into my art practice. Can you remember the exact moment when you picked up the camera? I don’t know if I remember the moment I picked up the camera. Oddly I do remember when I first wanted one. It was the instance after I watched the “Rugrats Go Wild Movie” as a child, the character Susie had a polaroid camera. There was something in that movie and the way they used the camera to try and take a picture of the mystical and never-before-seen giant squid. I think I was also attracted to Susie’s attempts in recording her travels and family. Who are the photographers and artists you admire? I really admire the likes of Kerry James Marshall and Roni Horn. I love the way they approach [different] mediums. Marshall is a painter who is very involved with history and race in his practice, while Horn is a conceptual artist that employs the camera as a tool to question identity and place. Since you also do fashion photography, do you think there’s a difference between your approach to fashion and to more personal works like “Am I a Sea”? I think my process in making imagery in general comes from a lot of visual research supplemented by texts. I really believe in the work I make in both fashion and fine art and they are fed by the same interests. I am aware of the different contexts and purposes that fashion images and fine art objects have, but I think playing with those contexts and purposes through the medium of photography is where it gets exciting. As a queer Filipino living abroad, you’re dealing with queerness, masculinity, and race. You’re also dealing with religion in your work. How do you confront, if that’s the right word, these parts of your identity in a foreign land? I would suggest that another word that we can use is “negotiate,” as dealing with queerness, masculinity, race, and religion is an ongoing process for me. In this case, I believe context and time are keys to the way I grapple with these parts of my identity. The canons and ideas of queerness, masculinity, race, and religion greatly differ between the Philippines
Rydel's lola for “Am I a Sea”
“I am aware of the different contexts that fashion images and fine art objects have, but I think playing with those contexts and purposes through the medium of photography is where it gets exciting.” perception of the Philippines changed, if it has? Yes, they certainly are. “Under the White Light” is a work illustrating my negotiations with cultural and physical place. It is a marker of my first time returning to the Philippines since immigrating to Canada exactly a decade ago. I am exploring the repercussions of memory, familial relationships, and landscape from immigration through the experience of the "return." It highlights the peculiarity of my position after adopting Western sensibilities in the way I now perform as a voyeur in a place that I consider my own. Religion is such a complex I think the biggest subject. I know it plays a shift I experienced was my huge part in the lives of relation to space. Canada is Filipinos, but what do you a relatively large country, so think draws you to it? land is abundant and upon Honestly, it’s the spectacle visiting the Philippines From the of it. I love the flair of my perception of distance “Portraits” series Roman Catholic art and was disorienting—in this decor and how they way, the Philippines is like simultaneously conflate most European cities where sensuality and religion. there’s so much activity happening in such smaller spaces. I want to ask you about the series “Under the White Light.” Were the images taken in What do you miss most about the Philippines? the Philippines? If they were, what were the Taho in the morning and also warm beaches changes in the country that you noticed after to swim in. ■ spending years abroad? And how has your and Canada. Same sex marriage in Canada has been legalized in 2005 and with that leaves a resonance of acceptance. My coming out here in Canada was not the easiest, yet I know it would have not been possible or the same if I still lived in the Philippines. However, my relation to notions of race only heightened [when I became] Canadian— my siblings and I were the first Filipinos in our predominantly white elementary school. I think the acceptance that these things are complicated is key to allowing them to be understood over time.
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In a subculture tainted by sexism, these female rappers are out to reclaim hip-hop
The future is femcee Words by Katrina Maisie Cabral
The Philippines is one of the first countries who witnessed Asian hip-hop's beginnings. The ’80s witnessed the rise of a subculture in the local scene, when Americanisms were a second language, and profane tapes of Public Enemy and N.W.A. were sneaked into teenagers’ Walkmans, traded among peers as if it were contraband. Hip-hop was fueled by AfricanAmericans’ desire for artistic expression amid a system that continues to oppress them. Given the country’s colonial past, it makes sense that Filipinos are drawn to such a means of expression. Filipino emcees have their rounds of braggadocio typical to the genre, but tied to a pride for their roots—think Francis M’s patriotic repertoire, or what his mentee, Gloc-9, offers in a track like “Balita.” Even the seeming superficiality of rapper bling and diamond grills are treated as retribution for a deprived past. At the core of it, hip-hop spoke of freedom for marginalized groups. But how does it truly advance, when a fight like this operates in a subculture under fire for misogynistic representation? For this genre on the rise, the answer rings clear: the female emcee. Back in the west, Queen Latifah gained ground in “U.N.I.T.Y.,” lifting herself from the sea of gangsta rappers spewing “bitch” as a placeholder for “woman.” The group SaltN-Pepa flipped rap’s agenda, calling out the genre’s widespread slut-shaming in “None of Your Business.” In the Philippines, female names rose amid the Francis M’s and Andrew E’s of the rap locale. While Magalona’s wife, Pia Arroyo, is touted as the first recorded female rapper, women gained traction in the ’90s scene with Lady Diane’s “The First Lady of Rap,” and MC Lara’s eponymous album. Now, there’s an air of acceptance for female emcees in the age of Nicki Minaj and Cardi B topping Billboard charts. But in the industry’s system, the struggle for equality continues. The term “female rapper” or “femcee” itself is an area of debate, as some wish not to create the distinction. Why call attention to a gender descriptor, when “rapper” or “emcee” suit just fine? As explained by the A.Side, adding “female” to the name plays into the genre’s great divide, taking part in hip-hop’s case of Othering. In contrast, certain female artists have opted to take ownership of “femcee,” viewing the gendered title as a badge of honor. The reinvention of hip-hop goes beyond the title of “femcee.” Female emcees are reclaiming a genre with misogyny woven
down to its roots. Collectives such as the Cavite-based WeMan PH push for Filipinas’ artistic representation, breaking the barriers of patriarchal conventions. Last Aug. 24, the collective hosted performances featuring an all-female lineup, including the roster of Shnti, Bueni, Drea J, Kali, Parvati, Nicole Anjela and Psyche. For these underground rappers, the femcee revolution is still underway—but we’re here to witness it. What first got you into hip-hop? Which emcees did you listen to and think, “That could be me one day"? Shnti: If you had asked me if I’d be an emcee back in the day, I would’ve said no. I didn’t know if I had what it took to write rap and rap fast, until I tried it out for myself. I’ve always been into hip-hop, all thanks to my parents who influenced me by blasting ’90s tracks and R&B hits. Bueni: I've been exposed to different genres of music since my family is musically-inclined. The first female emcee I came upon was Ruby Ibarra. Her songs are a work of art, and
she inspired me to write songs about being a teenager in our current society. Drea J: I remember peeking through my cousin’s room every time he had his friends over. They would listen to Tupac, Biggie, and Wu-Tang Clan until they got pumped up. I even memorized [Wu-Block's] “Drivin’ Round.” Back then, I never told anyone that I could rap. Kali: My older brothers always wrote rap songs. I would listen to their playlists, then I grew up to love the genre. In 2017, I heard a track from DB of Baryo Berde. It made me feel like I had to do something, that I needed to speak not only for myself, but for the rest of women. I’m a big fan of DB, and now I’m performing with her at the same stage. Parvati: It was when my dad was switching channels on TV, then came across Francis M. The beat made me feel like I was the baddest and toughest gal in the world. I hold on to that feeling until this day. Nicole Anjela: I’ve been into hip-hop since I was nine years old. A lot of people around me listened to the genre. Singing was never really it for me, because I didn’t think I’d be
Bueni. Photo by Ma Lopez.
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in the industry given the range of my voice. I can’t belt out high notes like singers here. But after listening to artists like Jhene Aiko, June Marieezy, JCon, and H.E.R., that’s when I thought that I could do this one day. They made me love my tone more. Psyche: I'm new to the scene in terms of writing and making music, and I never really thought I’d do my own thing. Francis M and Gloc-9 were my childhood icons. As I grew older, lyrical rappers like Tupac, Biggie, and Kendrick Lamar have had a huge impact on me. I started writing a year ago to speak my mind, not for money or fame, but to spark a fire in the hearts of those who choose to listen. I know I still have a lot to learn, and I won't be able to change the world through my songs alone, but I want to believe that I’ll be able to influence and empower the people of the future to do so. As Nas has said, “If the truth is told, the youth can grow.” How has the presence of Filipinas in hip-hop changed through the years? Psyche: Given the industry's history of marginalizing the contributions of women,
Filipino hip-hop has long been dominated by men, and collectives are predominantly, if not all, male. Local hip-hop is also constantly evolving. What are your thoughts on the current situation of the local scene? Kali: The genre’s getting stronger, and the critics’ noise is lessening. A lot of artists want to prove themselves and that definitely contributes to it. Parvati: It’s obviously dominated by male artists. The underground scene is mostly attended by men, but not for long. We’ve got attacks that differ from what men can offer. Bueni: The scene also has a lot of work that needs to be done, especially when they draw a line for artists just because they’re “women.” Fuck that. Anyone can make a song, that's for sure. But not everyone can move your soul through lyrics. Drea J: As an underground artist, I’m proud to say that we did it. This isn’t about being male or female, but the mere fact that these collectives that started from the bottom are
Shnti. Photo by Gauis Tugob.
Nicole Anjela. Photo by Kahel.
it’s easy to see hip-hop as a man's world. Filipinas venture to stereotypically masculine activities, particularly in the hip-hop scene, because we realize that gender doesn’t affect the passion and drive of a person. The only way to liberate women from a patriarchal society is by normalizing gender equality, and raising children without having to teach them the same toxic beliefs that run the world today. Shnti: Filipinas in the scene are inspiring even when their development involved a lot of doubts from themselves and those around. They took no shit and did what they love to do, while proving people wrong. Bueni: Back in the day, groups like the Fugees struck and broke the gender norms. Now, it's satisfying to see more women in a maledominated scene. Although femcees face their share of criticism, women indulging themselves by breaking patriarchal standards has gone into a whole other level. Parvati: Female emcees from across provinces are performing all over different stages. The change that’s happening is massive. Drea J: I think we’ve surpassed the stereotype, where we only get a four-line chorus, having to sing it repeatedly with three different men rapping over it. We’re so versatile and creative that we can slay a beat better than half of the men in the scene—and that’s a fact.
Psyche. Photo by Gail Marquez.
now topping the charts. ’Yung dating sinasabi nilang “jologs,” ngayon sa kanila nakikinig. Anyone has the chance to make it, as long as these collectives continuously prove all the haters wrong. Nicole Anjela: More people are listening to local acts without the fear of being called "jeje.” The country has a lot of great talent, lalo na sa underground, and I love that emcees, especially women, are getting more recognized. The culture in hip-hop is rooted in misogyny, which is the genre's major point of contention. As female emcees, how are you able to reclaim hip-hop? Shnti: Even as a starting femcee, I had my fair share of experience involving misogynistic bastards. We shouldn’t let them interfere with what we do. Sticking to your guts can take you a long way; never doubt what you’re capable of doing. Isarado ang tenga sa mga masasamang salita, at isapuso ang iyong likha at gawa. Kali: Before I entered the scene, I knew there would be struggles. A lot of people think this isn’t for us, but I still keep going. I can’t just let go of this passion just because people don’t like it. This isn’t only for myself, but for every woman. Parvati: Hip-hop doesn't have an age limit or gender. We can have the same impact on music
“The diversity of hip-hop needs to happen now, because we’re already in the future.”
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Have you faced misogyny in this scene? Bueni: Countless times. Male artists would say I only got here because of my looks, or they would say a woman should just take care of the dirty laundry and serve their sexist mentality. Shnti: A group of guys made a diss track about us, and I didn’t even know who they were. They rapped about how we should move aside and let the guys show us how it’s really done. They really had the audacity to mention our names, saying we shouldn’t even try to be involved in the scene. That’s just one of the many times we’ve faced it. Kali: The first time I performed was in 2017. I couldn’t even feel my face. I choked up, and a lot of them laughed and shouted, “Umalis ka na, di ka bagay sa hip-hop!” Yeah, it hurt me a lot, but it didn’t mean that I was going to stop.
“The problem here is that some people think that hip-hop isn’t intended for us. Women can spit bars on bars on bars, and you will never know until you see us.”
Years have passed, and I still get disrespect when I perform. But I always remember that I’m here to prove something. Parvati: To be honest, I’ve even experienced misogyny from other girls. Just keep this in mind: When people judge when you perform, don't look at them. Mean every word you're spitting, make it powerful, make them understand whatever you’re talking about. When you’re up on stage, you own it. You’re on it for a reason—people like your music and they want to hear it. Do you think female rappers are more accepted in the scene now? Shnti: Some have already realized that hip-hop should have no gender boundaries. Drea J: Female emcees have penetrated the scene without anyone noticing. If you can’t beat them, join them. Parvati: This generation is more open-minded than the previous one. Every day there's a little girl that’s out to become the next emcee. Bueni: I think women supporting women is more than enough. Women were forced to compete with other women back in the day, but since collectives like WeMan started giving women the support they need to build their platforms, it has been the craziest adventure. Where do you think the future of diversity in hip-hop is heading? Bueni: The diversity of hip-hop needs to happen now, because we’re already in the future. Shnti: I can tell that hip-hop has a lot more in store for us. Hip-hop is not only a genre of music, but it is also a culture, a state of mind, a language, and a style. Parvati: More women and queer people will rap. The world will be surprised with what hip-hop can offer. We’ll be closer to achieving equality, and with more support, people will gain more confidence to perform. Isn’t that beautiful? ■
Drea J. Photo by Colourwayy.
Kali. Photo by Alex Hepburn Taduran.
fans that they give to their fans, maybe even more. The problem here is that some people think that hip-hop isn’t intended for us. Women can spit bars on bars on bars and you will never know until you see us. Nicole Anjela: And having events like WeMan PH, where anyone can express themselves is one way of reclaiming hip-hop. This is especially true in the case of female artists, because now we have a stage where we feel appreciated. Psyche: I create music opposing misogyny, proving that one can rap without having to objectify women. If we don’t change how we perceive women now, then I think we aren’t serving our purpose. Music travels through time, and one way to show how our generation left its mark is through expression, freedom, connection, and empowerment. Through rapping, I’m able to express thoughts, and seeing other people relating to [my music] is an inexplicable feeling of contentment. Hip-hop is not just a genre, but a lifestyle. And if we live a life that spreads hate and prejudice, not only toward women but toward whomever, then what kind of a life is that?
Parvati. Photo by Debbie Hortaleza.
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conquer Wrestling might be a male-dominated field, but in the Philippines, all eyes are on Filipino wrestlingâ€™s first and only queen
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profile 43 Filipina wrestling fans were taught men get championship belts while women get lingerie matches. Back in World Wrestling Entertainment’s (WWE) Attitude Era, Filipino wrestling fans had Batista, the half-Filipino phenom, representing them in the ring. Filipina wrestling fans never had a similar role model saying, “Maybe, just maybe, if we work hard enough and if we’re brave enough, we’ll be competing in that ring while the crowd screams our name.” This didn’t stop a wrestling fan like Crystal from going for the seemingly unattainable. Crystal has been an athlete all her life. She took up six years of competitive swimming, ballet classes, and gymnastics training; earned a black belt in Taekwondo; and was a cheerleader for San Beda Alabang. “The combination of Taekwondo and cheerleading helped me figure out my style in wrestling. I do a lot of flips, kicks, at doon nakikita ’yung athletic background ko.” Wrestling was her childhood dream. But it was a dream she didn’t take seriously until she was given an opportunity to try out Philippine Wrestling Revolution (PWR), one of the few wrestling companies in the country. “I was in college when my two friends invited me to come along with them to try out for PWR. I was game for the tryouts. But then, when the first day of training came, I was the only one who showed up.” It took her a while to even consider herself as someone polished. “I had reddish hair, wore an all-black outfit, and had no branding whatsoever. Back then, I wasn't Crystal Queen of Philippine Wrestling. I was Crystal… a girl,” she shares. What defined her as a wrestler was her first match with fellow PWR wrestler Peter Versoza. “It was an intergender match and we both proved there’s something about intergender matches. There was something about competitors like me,” she says. “Around that time, I didn’t need a persona as big as the one I have now. I had to prove myself first. I didn’t just wake up one day and claim that I was the Queen of Philippine Wrestling.” Since day one, she has proven to everyone why she deserves that title. She competed in the first intergender match in the Philippines and in Malaysia, became the country’s first female wrestling champion, and was also a former tag team champion in PWR. That’s why WWE had their eyes on her too. It’s clear that the crown wasn’t just given to her, she earned it. “When I started, there wasn’t any other women in PWR,” the 24-year-old wrestler says. “Now, I can say that I am the Queen of Philippine Wrestling ’cause I’ve done this the longest, I’ve been everywhere representing the Philippines, and people are seeing what I am capable of.” She proved her title once again in PWR’s event Path of Gold, where she competed with Japan’s legendary Emi Sakura, participating in the first ever international female wrestling match in the Philippines. We caught up with her before her match with Sakura, asking her about life in and out of the ring, how she constantly battles stigmas, and what pushes her to put Filipina wrestlers on the map. *** Is wrestling something you grew up with? When I was four, my grandma had breast cancer. We’d rent out VHS tapes of WWE whenever we visited her. We would play it on the small-ass TV screen in the hospital. And even though she had an IV in her vein and was frail, she’d clap and smile when her crush Bret Hart was on screen. Wrestling gave her a break from reality somehow. Even though she was in pain, it gave her an escape. That’s when I got hooked on the sport. What pushed you to pursue wrestling? I wanted to give back because wrestling gave hope to my grandma. That was really important during her last days because she was suffering a lot. Pero kahit na nag-susuffer siya, she’d be really happy when she'd watch an episode. Makikita ko ’yung smile kahit nahihirapan siya.
I always enter the ring or go to that show thinking, “I hope there’s someone in that audience who’ll appreciate this.” That’s what wrestling is. Wrestling is not mixed martial arts, it’s not theater—it’s both. This is sports entertainment. It’s in a league of its own. What's it like to compete in matches beyond your comfort zone? There’s still judgment. Like for example, when Robyn [a fellow female competitor in PWR] and I had an All Out War match, the audience and wrestlers backstage were worried about our safety. They were saying, “Please be careful,” or, “Don’t hit each other too hard.” We were just like, “Um, okay, we’re still going to give it our all.” In PWR, the fans are responsive and they’re respectful of the women. They don’t treat us like sex objects or, at least, hindi na ganoon. They treat us with more respect and they see the value of women’s wrestling as well here in the Philippines. Female wrestlers weren’t given the same opportunities back then. Did this stop you from pursuing wrestling? It’s easier to answer now since there’s the Women's Revolution in the WWE. If this was back in 2009, women would have a five-minute match. Nowadays, you see people like Sasha Banks or Charlotte Flair main eventing RAW, or main-eventing NXT, like the 30-minute Iron Man match by Bailey and Sasha. We didn’t have those opportunities before as female wrestlers. It was going to be hard if we were treated as the “potty break” match. But thanks to women everywhere who proved women’s wrestling is worth the anticipation.
“I didn't just wake up one day and claim that I was the Queen of Philippine Wrestling. Now, I can say that I am ’cause I've done this the longest.”
Why is your match with Emi Sakura important? It gave me a lot of pressure. It was unexpected, I just thought I was going to be in the Path of Gold, but Japan’s Emi Sakura was like, “I’m going down to the Philippines.” Sakura-san is a legend, she’s one of the best female wrestlers in Asia. Back when I represented the Philippines in Thailand, she was giving out lessons and I trained under her. It’s amazing since there’s so much that I wanted to learn from her. That’s why I’m so excited about that match as well. My match with her was a match I can be proud of. Not a lot of people can say they’ve had a one-on-one match with the legendary Emi Sakura. This was the first time Philippine wrestling saw a one-on-one match between a female Filipino wrestler and a female Japanese wrestler. Where do you see Filipinas in our wrestling scene heading? I see myself heading to WWE because that’s my goal. If it were up to me, I would push women really hard until one day we get our own belt—a PWR women’s championship belt. That’s what I want to do. I also want to inspire other Filipinas to try out wrestling. I’ve heard people say, “I’ve always wanted to be a wrestler. It was always my dream.” No one’s stopping you except you, so why not push yourself and do it? Just try it and then maybe the world can see that there is so much talent in Filipino wrestling. We have so many amazing female competitors in PWR like Jaye Sera, Robyn, and Jhemherlhynn. The spotlight has been on the boys for so long—it’s time for us to shine. Crystal is part of our new series SCOUT Follows. Watch our mini-documentary with the Queen of Philippine Wrestling on our YouTube Channel. Who should we follow next? Tweet us @scoutmagph. ■
Words by ROGIN LOSA Photography by ED ENCLONA
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special feature 44 Vernice Gabriel a.k.a. Crystal before her PWR: Path of Gold match with Japan's Emi Sakura
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Altered states On the outskirts of the public digital jungle that is Twitter lies a community that dabbles in taboo: the alterverse.
There is estrangement of homosexuality and emphasis on what’s normal. They all share the same need for community, affirmation, and a limelight that is both private and public. SCOUT36.indd 45
It might be cliché to quote “Sex and the City's” Samantha Jones when writing about a cultural shift in digital identities, but who else can comment on pop culture better than she can: “First come the gays, then the girls, then the industry!” Though this could be more politically correct, she may be onto something. In the economics of sexual orientation—a relatively new discipline—the contemporary is affected by society’s cultural gatekeepers: the people dubbed tastemakers. The ones who move merchandise off the shelves, who move restaurateurs to study minimalist interiors and subdued lighting, whose moving online discussions on politics, norms, and culture have been dictating social trends. Enter a Twitter phenomenon called the alterverse. Which is why Twitter has moved from being the celebrity-centric social networking mechanism that it was to the cultural phenomenon that it is now—rife with images of male bodies in promiscuous poses and men in uniforms wearing, well, only half of their uniforms. The agile space that is the Internet has proven that evolution can happen in a short span of time, with Twitter being a case in point. What it isn’t is another cosmetic dating app, but a community where an invitation comes in the form of strong heterosexist inclinations. There is estrangement of homosexuality and emphasis on what’s normal. This encourages their offline selves to itinerate to their private, alternative, online identities. Whether their chosen identities speak of a kink, their own “brand,” or a pseudonym, they all share the same need for community, affirmation, and a limelight that is both private and public.
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Connections are established through unidentifiable torsos, limbs, armpits, crotches. This time, the body is the language.
With the stigmatization of sex, individuals flock to Twitter as alters in search of a community. Be it simple premises of like-mindedness (a specific kink or a shared narrative) or a shared predicament (like closeted individuals, as an example), the transition from their real-world communities to their digital counterparts happens out of the need for affiliation. Connections are established through unidentifiable torsos, limbs, armpits, crotches. This time, the body is the language. It might also serve as a form of affirmation. Sure, social media has given everyone a level of existential affirmation over the years, its indicators and measures continuously evolving over time—but the kick someone gets from acquiring thousands of likes for a shirtless, flexed-up selfie is beyond conceivable. Fueled by the rise of spornosexuals (individuals concerned with having a fit and virile body, further sexing up the male body), what started as a series of uncensored selfies has progressed into like-generating content machines through videos, sexually liberal social media accounts, and well-produced storytelling. While Facebook and Instagram may have replaced cafés and bars for socialization, Twitter—at least in alter terms—has replaced saunas and the unlit, sleazy special bars along small streets. It validates one’s existence through a medium that ironically requires one to exist as someone else. So what is public and private within the alterverse? Like any other digital platform, it cancels out many differentiating rubrics. Distortion between the two occurs seamlessly when someone gets an all-access vignette into lives behind closed doors. Motels, hotels, tiny apartments, well-dressed condominium units, a car, a restroom cubicle—all with doors—open up and become accessible to viewing strangers, understanding fully the contexts where a scene comes to life. In many cases, location adds value. The more risqué, the better. The closer it swerves to the lanes of a pedestrian public—as in water delivery boy or UV express transport exhibitionist levels—the better. But private lives matter. It’s a beautiful paradox that while observers—
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also becoming participants in the process—relish each video, achieving a sort of high from the scenes they contemplated, the person behind the videos goes on with his daily routine. On another side of the city where he is, there’s dormancy once again. Like the common traits of your run-of-themill pornography, the alterverse provides a level of unabashed freedom celebrated between one’s eyes and LED screens. In relationships, it irons out creases of the guilt of infidelity as it happens online, devoid of realistic tendencies. It’s familiar yet novel, localized but universal, and always startling. Its value comes in the form of surprising insights—those which not only affirm the realities an observer lives in, but the ones he knows. But beyond the imagery and stigma of sex, Twitter’s alterverse has found a purpose beyond being a library of thirst traps. Digital anonymity also proverbially expands dialogues on HIV. Alters who are also people living with HIV (PLHIV) have finally found a safe space to engage in public discussions, outside of traditional face-to-face counseling. Conversations vary, from where to source medications to relevant information and health-related advice from fellow PLHIVs, from their own personal histories and accounts to realizations that serve as a warning to those who will come after. These dialogues occur in spaces of complete anonymity, a communal reassurance that the disease is not a death sentence. Most of them who gain supportive friends along the way
look to each other for comfort in times of discriminatory calls. The more people talk about it, at least in the Twitter space, the less it becomes a stigma. Years and years from now, digital archaeologists, reeling from the death of Twitter, will dig up the archives that appeared when one enters the hashtags #sarapngpinoy, #sekyu, #alterph, #altermanila, and #groupfun. Like an exact, mechanized library system, the hashtags will produce an endless scroll of relics that defined an era in LGBTQ+ history. The countless, headless, faceless bodies will still be unidentified by then, but unlike the Minoan or Greco-Roman statues found in excavations under rubble, they can never be touched—only seen with one’s eyes. ■
Words by RYEN PAUL SUMAYAO Art by ELECTROMILK
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Tell me my future
Mirror, mirror on the wall, tell me where my future falls Because of the fear of the unknown, no mystery is as actively sought as the future. Aside from the commonplace fortune-telling stalls of Quiapo, psychics are popping up online, and astrology has become a Twitter meme. If you’re on the fence when it comes to divination, mulling over the future doesn’t have to stop there—finding out what’s ahead may come in the form of hard science, or through those who know you best. In an attempt to get one step closer to knowing what’s to come, I spoke to three sources—a fortune teller, a parent, and a doctor—with a single question in mind: What’s my future?
“As a doctor, I would like to mention that my prediction will be based on your family history and your own health discipline. I think you’ll be living a healthy life since you know how to take care of yourself. You change your diet as needed, you’re also exercising. I know that you’re challenged by your work now, but you know how to relax for a peaceful state of mind. I think you’ll have a wonderful time ahead of you.” – Dr. Sonia Gako, cardiologist
“Honestly, I really cannot tell you your future. I think it’s only God who knows what our future will bring. But based on my observations of your progress as a person, your interests and what you’ve been trying to achieve, I think you’ll be a great writer. You’ll be able to publish your own books, you might even go into moviemaking. Maybe you’ll direct your own 'Star Wars' movie. You just have to pursue your interests and enjoy them.” – Rolly, father
“Meron kang pera na parating, ₱2,000 o ₱20,000. Surpresa ’yun. May isang tao ’rin na paparating pa lang sa buhay mo na magsisinungaling sa ’yo ng harap-harapan. Noong nakaraan, nagalanganin ka sa pera na naubos na at masama ang loob mo. Tinatalikuran mo ’yun dahil nangyari na ’din ’yan, pero maari rin bumalik ang problema na ito. Pero, magkakapera ka ng malaki, at mag-nenegosyo ka.” – Lina, fortune teller and card reader
Words by Katrina Maisie Cabral Art by Marx Fidel
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