It’s another week, another bundle of different projects scattered all over the map. But for the moment, a quick pause to register something nice that happened: the latest instalment of the Rizal Fountain Raps. This time, Grampians Edition.
Georgie, Sam, Jordan and myself took off for our corporate retreat a few weeks ago to the Grampians in Victoria, gorgeous mountains and really beautiful camping. It was our company AGM, which meant that we spent three days putting things on the agenda, checking the agenda and then rethinking the agenda. The key agenda item was: scheming up ways to impeach Bridget Balodis from her position as Chair of the Board. (If we had a board – we don’t, but if we did, Bridget would be the Chair of it, and we would be seeking to impeach her. Because as we understand it, this is what organisations do.)
Also we saw eagles. A pair of eagles, a couple, hanging on the thermals as we walked along the ridgeline of one of the higher peaks. At one point I came out from a stand of trees to the edge of the cliff just as one of the eagles was rising up the cliff face – we scared each other, and it veered back, and for a second we looked each other right in the eyes and it was as awkward and beautiful as any real encounter with nature is gonna be.
And then, of course, we recorded our Rizal Raps. Mine was the shortest yet – 25 seconds, it’s called 25 Second Rap, because it’s so brief – and I wrote it a few weeks ago, walking home past some grubby bar stuffed with adorable suits, what looked like the tail end of a drab wedding reception but was probably just an office party. Fucking humans, man, so goddamn lovely.
Sam’s piece emerged from a conversation he and I had while collecting wood, where he put it to me, ‘David, what would you do if you got back to the campsite and everyone was suddenly missing?’ and then upped the ante: ‘What would you do if you got the campsite and there were just a clutch of dead bodies in the tent, and it was our bodies, including yours?’
So then Sam’s piece is a lovely little bit of Blair Witchery, except he’s performing as me. Why, why, why.
Jordan’s is crisp and melancholy and eerie, a Berlin club story that could only be told on a wintry, rainy Australian day in a burned forest in the Victorian hills. This is how we do.
And Georgie’s, Georgie’s exists, but it is for private consumption by the 2MW associate membership only, and not for the likes of you. It’s called He’s Figured It Out and it was the perfect ending to a beautiful, wearying weekend.
In place of sharing that, I’m gonna share McAuley’s previous entry into the Rizal canon, her reflection on Robbie Williams she recorded in Sydney last year. This is just gorgeous, this piece:
And because I’m sharing things in this vein, this, this. A short piece I recorded last night, on Bourke Street in Melbourne. The trick is, the trick is, if you’re me, when you feel that horrible pressure that won’t let you rest or relax – when you feel like your happiness is suddenly out of your hands and you can’t get hold of it again – the safest trick is to go get lost in the crowds. City’ll fix it.
ah, Carl, while you are not safe I am not safe, and now you’re really in the total animal soup of time—
It’s coming up on midnight on a cold winter Thursday in Melbourne and I’m curled up by a heater, just the way I like it. And I’m a little ragged, so much so that I’m reduced to playing Grouper and A Broken Consort and this one Burrows song over and over. But it’s been a good two weeks, I think.
image by bunny cadag
At the end of May I sprinted out of Melbourne for a fortnight in Manila to take part in the Karnabal Festival. It was my second time, since I helped produce the festival’s international program in 2015. And I shouldn’t have gone, I shouldn’t have gone – I can’t even begin to explain to you all the ways in which it was a bad idea. I’ve got commitments here, I’ve got deadlines, I’ve got (maybe most importantly) no money, why was I going to Manila to perform at an experimental arts festival?
But it was magic and I don’t regret anything. You don’t regret things like this, I figure. You pay for them– one way or another you pay for them. But no, no, don’t regret.
Karnabal is Sipat Lawin’s extraordinary festival of experimental Filipino performance – a laboratory of new and developing work by Manila-based performers, and a dedicated stream of international collaborators. Sarah Salazar and Ninya Bedruz put the thing together, curated by Sarah, JK Anicoche and Eisa Jocson. It was a burst of activity across a whole range of different platforms, smeared across Diliman – all through and across Teacher’s Village in QC.
Two weeks of festival life, which entailed: staying in the new Sipat HQ on Magiting Street – JK, Eisa and Alyx’s new house, which was host to a swarm of international guests, volunteers, anyone and everyone passing through. You wake up in the morning, already sweltering hot, the sound of trike drivers and water sellers in the street. And then breakfast, and then people are beginning to move, gather, rehearse, the day is underway. Long conversations, chats that veer into lunch, or a shared trike ride, or sneaking off to the teahouse on Maginhawa to work and write, and then heading back to Mapagkawanggawa to the Papet Theatre, the festival hub, to start seeing work.
image by clyde enriquez
The heat, the heat all day, except when it rained, and then brief respite – except sometimes the rain came down so hard it drowned out the performances altogether, as when Tassos, Chris and Issa had to stop their performance on the last Sunday so we could attend to the monsoonal rain pelting the rooftops below us. And then art, performances, conversations, more people, more good chats, and winding up at TomatoKick or Flying House, through until 1 or 2am.
I always found myself leaving the late night parties early, walking home, and that’s one of my favourite times of day in Manila – between midnight and 4am, the streets quiet and cool, but not empty – never empty – and the conversations sleepier, more peaceful.
And then the next day, again. And again, for two weeks.
image by bunny cadag
The work was killer. Holy shit, I don’t even know how to say. For me, the standard was way up from last year. Issa Lopez. Chris Aaronson. Clyde Enriquez. Sarah Salazar and Detsy Uy. Teresa Barrozo. Bunny Cadag. Isab Martinez. Adrienne Vergara. Ninya Bedruz. Ness Roque. Daniel Darwin and Perky Parong. Kollab Company.
And the internationals this year were also brilliant. It was magic seeing the international guests from last year return and deliver on their proposed projects in really exciting and unexpected ways. Chikara Fujiwara – oh man, Engeki Quest. Riki Takeda. Natsuki Ishigami. Nikki Kennedy. And Tassos Stevens, rolling across from London, landing in the thick of it and not even batting an eyelid, knocking out two workshops and a full new show in a matter of ten days or so.
Me, I was there to do Foreignoy, the work I started late last year and which so far comprises of a song&dance number and a little bit of scrap writing around it. I didn’t really have the time to go much deeper in my research, so it was more a case of just trialling new material and seeing what came of it.I had two shows, so I tried two totally different tacks.
image by bunny cadag
The first was a spoken word piece, essentially. I was butting up against the inevitable dead end of trying to write about identity politics, white guilt, privilege, all that stuff that still exists, partly because of who I am, partly as a hangover from Kids Killing Kids. I knew it wasn’t getting me anywhere, but I couldn’t write around it, so I had to write through it. And digging deeper and deeper into that, the end result was a slightly insular work where I was digging in my own head for my motivations – why do I even want to create work at all? The theme under it all was desperation.
So yeah, I got naked in Black Soup and talked the audience through what a white body looks like. (I’m not very hairy for a caucasian, but I think, white dudes are generally more hairy than filipinos? Sa tingin ko.) The only image I have of the show is Bunny’s shot that I just linked to above, but as soon as I took my underwear off someone came racing in from outside with their ipad up ready and filming, so I guess there’s footage out there somewhere. Thank goodness.
image by rina atienza
The second show, I threw all that out and handed the entire show over to the audience. I got them to reenact an episode of Eat Bulaga, complete with Tito Sotto, Ryzza Mae, Lola Nidora, AlDub, a round of Hakot Pa More, Pinoy Henyo and Foreignoy. It was loose as fuck and super chaotic and I had a lot of fun.
And that show opened into my hosting Strange Pilgrims, Sipat’s beautiful open mic event, which ran through until 3.30am on Tomas Morato, and closed with Shing Shing Taberoarrr smashing out a violent set and me collapsed on a table outside watching through the window. Lot of feelings, lot of feelings.
And then Monday, on a plane again. Touched down to a message from an Australian, ‘You in my country on my coast!’, and, I guess I am.
image by brandon relucio
Now it’s straight into my research residency at Carlton Connect with Jordan, we’re presenting the results of our work on future scenarios next week in the form of a police procedural set in 2050 about the murder of a boy band member entitled CrimeForce: LoveTeam. And then Best Festival Ever opens in Arts House on 6 July. And then… what? I don’t even know.
The tricky thing is, what do you do with something like Karnabal? I’ve written this down, but how do I quantify it? How do I make it add up to something? I saw rad art, I had good conversations, I performed new work, I got sick then got better again, now what?
Since his press release and critique of the work in the Legislative Assembly, I’ve wanted for a long time to chat with him about it. As part of the You Are Here Festival, I held a forum to discuss some of the ideas and questions he’d raised (about taxpayer-funded political art, outrage and censorship), but unfortunately he was not in town for it. However, he kindly agreed to take some time to sit down with me this week to unpack his perspective in a little more detail.
Of course, the play’s title is deliberately attention-grabbing and provocative. I believe it’s justified by the content and by the context, but I could be wrong – and it’s always worth listening to people who disagree with you.
Smyth’s criticism of the project is down to the use of the word ‘kill’ in the title. He argued that the word is an unfortunate choice, and that the English language is so powerful, the choice of words in a title is crucial. To Smyth’s eyes, having the word there legitimises the thought. I asked if he thought that the title of the play increased the risk of violence against climate deniers – he said, ‘odd things have triggered violence’.
I agree with Smyth that the English language is incredibly powerful (as I should, I’m a writer), and that we must be careful with our choice of words. I also agree with him that we have limited arts funding – too limited – and that we need to use the funding we have wisely.
In Smyth’s view, art and artists are at the centre of our culture – and that the creative industries represent the future of our society. Artists are key drivers of innovation, and that is something we don’t harvest enough as a society.
Smyth and I also agree that the world is in a state of conflict and strife, and has been for as long as we’ve both lived. Having served in the army, he certainly has a perspective on political violence which I don’t, and I acknowledge his expertise in that area.
It’s also worth acknowledging that Smyth has been active for many years in pursuing environmental and sustainability outcomes for the ACT – including lobbying for the ACT to take up the Kyoto Protocol back in 1997. Whereas I consider myself functionally a climate denier, Brendan is definitely closer to being a climate activist, and I have to admire his work in this area and the real outcomes he’s achieved.
I asked Smyth if he had tried to contact Aspen Island Theatre Company, ArtsACT or myself for clarification about the work before sending out his press release, to find out anything about the artists or their intentions. He had not. When he led a call for the work to be defunded, he was not interested in the artists, the content or the context at all.
His critique was limited solely to the use of the word ‘kill’ in the title. Smyth does not believe that this word has any place in the title of an artwork under any circumstances. For example: Smyth has not seen Kill Bill, nor would he allow his children to watch it. Not because of any violence or explicit in the film (he identifies as a big Tarantino fan), just because of the title.
This is an internally consistent viewpoint and more or less impossible to debate, but it’s also not particularly interesting or insightful.
A provocative title like Kill Climate Deniers could (and maybe should) ring alarm bells. However, choosing to ignore altogether the content and context of the work you’re criticising doesn’t feel like a particularly useful or constructive way to conduct arts policy. If it’s a philosophy, I don’t think it’s one that usefully grapples with the complexity and specificity of arts and art making. So I felt like the opportunity for Smyth to fully stand behind his comments was a little lost.
All that said, I was impressed and inspired by Smyth’s obvious passion for the arts and creative industries in Canberra. I was pleased to give him a copy of the Kill Climate Deniers script – which he features in. Hopefully, when he’s read it, he’ll be able to make a clearer call on whether or not he thinks KCD deserved ArtsACT funding – and if not, why not.
I’m looking forward to hearing what he makes of it.
First, the festival and I put together a conversation event at the Canberra Museum and Gallery. Journalist Ginger Gorman, legal theorist Mark Fletcher and artist Bernie Slater gathered to speak about the idea of taxpayer-funded political art. Kill Climate Deniers is an ideal example of this, but Bernie Slater’s work also frequently falls into this mode. The conversation was fantastic, a really rich and lovely discussion, with probably just the right amount of raised voices and threats of violence. Don Aitken (who wrote one of the initial posts in response to Kill Climate Deniers receiving funding) wrote a reflection on the event which is well worth a look.
Then that evening, I presented my solo performance (An Attempt To Perform) Kill Climate Deniers at the festival hub. Sitting somewhere in between a performance lecture and storytelling event, this is my effort to capture the whole blockbuster action story of KCD in a single hour-long event. The crux of the event, and the most wonderful thing to happen to me in a long time, was that the solo show was backed with a dance party, with Reuben Ingall in his Dead DJ Joke guise playing a set of classic House and Techno from 1988-93. And there was no gap, the live performance went straight into the dance party with no break. And the audience were totally on board for this nonsense, and the second Reuben kicked off with Unbelievable the whole crowd burst to their feet and went for it.
Life is good sometimes, and by sometimes I mean when Reuben is playing.
Now the outcome of all of that is that the Kill Climate Deniers website is launched, and the ebook playscript is available for download. Which is exciting, and if you feel the urge, you should get amongst it.
The next step is that the album will come out, with music by Reuben and words from the play, released through the Clan Analogue label mid-year. But meantime, a coupleof quick thoughts.
This was the first public outing for Kill Climate Deniers, after being in development for more than 18 months. It felt really good to put this show out, even in rough form. It felt even better to dance about it. It felt good to dive a little deeper into what it means to create an overtly political work. It felt good to get to unpack the benefits and costs of rolling with such an evocative / clickbait title.
It is a divisive project – and bless all the people who have told me that they think it’s too much, too angry, too blatant, too inconsistent, too intellectual, too trashy, too everything – I appreciate the criticism, especially as a representative of all the people who might think the same things but not say it.
So many people have come through and fought for this thing to exist. So many people have given their time, energy, passion and commitment to this project for nothing, except out of the kindness of their hearts. People are good people. And I hit a point of being pretty exhausted about it all post-festival, but the truth is, when I lift my eyes up and focus on the end goal, on the work, on the thing that exists in this world, I am EXCITED.
finnigan and brother playing last weekend – pic by nathan harrison
A friend said to me, ‘I like the stuff you write that’s about you, that’s from your heart.’
Which, yeah. Me too. But on its own, that’s not good enough. For one, all the spoken word / super personal writing I do is just another white dude spilling his feelings into the world, which, we don’t exactly have a shortage of in the universe. And secondly, it’s not good enough on its own. There are poets and spoken word artists and so on who specialise in speaking the truth of their hearts eloquently and with passion, and bless them, but that’s not me, and I’ll never be one of them.
And then there’s the more cerebral stuff I do – stuff like Boho, which is sometimes probably too cerebral for its own good. And that’s doing well right now, but then, it’s also really niche, and it’ll stay niche. And I can’t invest my whole self in science communication, no matter how important I think it is, or how interesting it can be. Work should always be plugged into the world, but if my whole output is just about communicating the interesting ways in which scientists describe aspects of the universe – well, there are other people out there better at it than me, and they care more, too.
And then there’s the trash genre stuff I write. Which, let’s be fair, no-one is crying out for more of. Battalia Royale went well, but that was probably despite my writing rather than because of it. There are people who are both better writers of genre than I am AND better satirical commentators on genre. They know and love and care about nothing else. I will never be one of them.
And so these three strands in my writing keep pulling me in different directions, and everything I write is a mess because of it. Like Kill Climate Deniers – it’s a genre work-out, because I want so much to throw an audience into the world of a high-speed action film, fuckit, gunfights in Parliament House to a killer soundtrack, it feels right to do it. But stapled to it is all the high-concept bullshit I can’t stop thinking about and can’t put down – Geoengineering, Stealth Denial, Media Whiplash… And then I can’t remove myself from the picture, either, and there’s all my own commentary and fears and neuroses on display in sidebars and footnotes, undermining any energy or point the script manages to conjure.
kill climate deniers! pic by sarah walker
I mean it goes almost to the point of self-sabotage. When I was on the ATYP playwrights camp some years ago they asked us all to write monologues for young performers, and they’d pick the ten best to include in a published book of monologues that would be available for high school students. And I knew how hung up I’d get if my script wasn’t picked, so I wrote a piece that deliberately couldn’t be included – that referenced pop culture stuff that would be out of date in five months, that came with a stage direction saying it could be performed a maximum of nine times in total, and that mixed in text sampled from Lion King trading cards. Keeping it interesting for myself, but also, protecting myself from being compared with other writers by any meaningful measure.
I submitted a play to Playwriting Australia a couple of months ago entitled ’44 Sex Acts in One Week’ thinking to myself, ‘well, at least this won’t be accepted, I don’t have to worry about it’. Feels like there’s something maybe not healthy in that.
So yes it’s an avoidance, it’s an excuse, it’s a way of justifying the fact that I’m not a good playwright, I’m not a good poet, I’m not a good science communicator, I’m a dabbler across fields because I don’t have the commitment or persistence to really apply myself to any one of them.
But at the same time, and I can’t help it, I believe that there’s a reason for it. If I get it right – and I haven’t yet – but if I got it right – if I found the right balance, the right mix, then all three elements might sit alongside each other and somehow speak to each other, to an audience, to a reader, and say something real and purposeful.
Because pure writing from the heart, as beautiful as it is, often just feels like self-involved emotional indulgence to me. Because trash genre work-outs, as joyous as they are, don’t say anything interesting about the world. Because articulate non-fiction, as inspiring as it is, doesn’t usually crackle with a fierce energy that makes my hands shake.
But all together, sometimes, in my head, I can sometimes almost see it working – how a tiny nugget of facts about the world could be dropped in the midst of a flowing river of story, bright hard knowledge flashing in the heat and energy of a swirling high-speed action story or romance, and then that too pulling back at moments to show the scaffolding, the skeleton, the intentions of the maker, and those things sparking against each other, running parallel to each other, speaking to each other, clashing and jarring with each other, causing friction as they segue abruptly or shifting almost imperceptibly so the audience barely even knows they’ve been moved.
So the commitment is, if I make it at all – and by ‘make it’ I mean survive the next two years of my practice and still be an artist, even as the slope gets steeper and the cost to play gets higher – then I make it with all the mismatched parts of my writing. I don’t drop anything to focus on the other bits. I don’t give up the bad genre-writing, the earnest over-revealing personal nonsense, the incredibly unpalatable writing about science, none of it.* I’m trusting my gut on this one, which is a terrible guide to making decisions, but is at this stage of the game literally the only thing I’ve got to go on.
If I’m right, then in hindsight it will make a kind of brilliant sense. Of course there was some reason to keep trying to tape together vivisected fragments of science ideas, pulp genre and autobiography; This is why, this work (this work that doesn’t exist yet) that makes sense, has a real audience and connects with enough people deeply enough to keep my practice afloat a little longer.
If I’m wrong, then in hindsight it’ll look a lot like it does now – like I’ve spent years frantically running in multiple directions at once, unable to commit to any real progress in any of them and creating a body of work that doesn’t hang together or have any kind of audience.
At this stage in the game, being wrong and being right look a lot like each other.
*Unless, let’s be real, unless anyone offered me any real money or a good opportunity to do so. It’s easy to make these sweeping statements about yr creative integrity when there’s nothing else on offer; I’ll fold like a paper towel as soon as there’s a reason to. Give me a reason to.
It’s the beginning of February 2016. For a few of my own quiet reasons, it’s taken me a while to really get my head around planning this year, and now it’s upon me, I’m realising how crazy intense it’s going to be. But in good ways, I think. I hope.
2016 is a big year of Boho stuff. After a huge push in 2014 to get to London and finish Best Festival Ever, it felt like 2015 was a down year, at least for the BFE project. We did the first Australian season at the Street Theatre in Canberra, and also some corporate and private gigs, but no new developments of new work. And that was good, we needed that down-time, and it got us excited to get started on something new. And that’s now.
A few weeks ago, the BFE crew (myself, Muttley, Nikki, Rachel and Nathan) jumped on a plane to London to spend a week with Forum for the Future‘s Systems Innovations Lab. We’ve been chatting with Forum for a while – they do incredible work using systems thinking to help businesses and large organisations tackle sustainability challenges. We developed Best Festival Ever as a tool for organisations like Forum to use in their work – and now we’re hoping to be able to create something more specifically for them.
So we shared BFE with some of their partners, ran a game design workshop with them, and had some good days hanging with like-minded people.
Then to Sweden, for a month-long development with Miljoverkstan, an NGO based in Stockholm. We’re here to build a new game, in the systems-science-meets-interactive-performance format of Best Festival Ever, but based on the Flaten nature reserve south of Stockholm.
Flaten is a lake, surrounded by beautiful forest (oaks, pine, spruce, trees 500 years old or more), and a place where a lot of different groups intersect – swimmers and dogwalkers, itinerant workers camping in caravan parks, squatter camps in the forest, the nearby suburb of Skarpnack… Miljoverkstan want to try to capture some of the complexity of this system, and they want to do it through a game. So they’ve invited Boho over, to map the system with them and turn it into a game experience, a platform for learning and conversation.
We’re working in Miljoverkstan’s office in Flaten, a beautiful cabin on the shores of this icy lake (which I walked across on the way to work last week!). It’s a pretty stunning location to be in, and I don’t think I’ve ever worked anywhere like it.
The first week was spent in meetings, some preliminary resilience assessment mapping, performing Best Festival to a group of teens from a high school in Karrtop. Important work, but a bit fragmented, and we were all a bit dazed and sick, flying straight into the Swedish winter.
This last week – our second week of work – things started moving quicker, going deeper. A few days with just the five of us, in the fun creative phase of turning our research into a systems model, then making games. 11 of them so far, all terrible, but good to test our skills, generate material and be sure we still know how to do it.
On Friday we built a loop of five mini-games – games that each took inputs from each other and spat out outputs – in a mirror of our ‘Bateman’s Vegas’ effort from University College London in 2012.
By the end of this month, we’ll have completed our systems mapping R&D and settled on a broad format for the work, as well as creating some placeholder games. And then we come back in August and October to finish it off, and present it for the first time to a Swedish audience. This is a big project, with a short timeframe, and that’s pretty intimidating, but it’s exciting, too. And it feels like exactly what we’ve been working towards all this time, a practical application of all the things we learned making Best Festival Ever.
Plus it’s beautiful here.
(This was just a brief outline of the project – if you’re interested, we’ve got a really active project blog maintained by the five of us, diving deep into the creation of this work.)
All the pretty nature pics in this post are by Nikki Kennedy. The London ones I think I took, and Rachel Roberts took the Deer and the Fish shot.
I went to the Philippines twice this year (well, three times, but you didn’t fund me the first time and it was only two weeks anyway). I did my Asialink residency in two parts: 11 weeks from March – May, then 6 weeks over November – December.
This was all the stuff I promised to do in the application and it went well, I promise it went well, albeit as ragged and emotionally chaotic as always.
In November, though, I came to Manila with a whole different set of goals. Still worked on Gobyerno (we toured it up to Baguio and ran it for La Salle University students up there), did a bit of prep towards Karnabal 2016, but honestly, for a few weeks, I turned my head in a completely different direction.
This trip was my ninth visit to the Philippines in nine years. I have this sense that I’m in it for the long haul with my relationship to this country. And it seemed like time to do something with that relationship.
I spent a lot of my time this time listening, waiting, sensing – rather than leaping towards a project that I’d already articulated, I arrived with time up my sleeve, ready to follow opportunities where they emerged. I wanted to absorb more Pinoy pop culture and go deeper in my relationship with the culture.
Full disclosure: my collaborators and host company, Sipat Lawin, are also my dear friends. We live together, we tour together, we make art together and we also hang out and talk, constantly, unpacking and chewing over ideas, stories and feelings. This time I let myself be guided somewhat by that friendship, and I offered my time to them, to give each of them a nudge towards making something new, beginning a period in which Sipat will be presenting a series of new solo works. The earliest nascent forms of some of these solos were kicked off at a Strange Pilgrims event, a performance night we held at the TomatoKick on Tomas Morato in Cubao.
But alongside all this organic flow, I also came prepared with a very specific purpose.
Before I went over there this time, Asialink, I spent weeks in preparation, putting together a weird little parcel. Long distance, over many conversations, the members of Sipat helped me put together a collage of iconic Filipino poetry, folk music and pop songs, a sort of audio sampler of Pinoy culture. We sourced kareoke and instrumental versions of all these tracks, and then Australian sound artist (and also Sipat collaborator) Nick McCorriston mixed them into a single audio collage.
I didn’t tell you I was doing this, Asialink, because I was worried you wouldn’t take me seriously. And this project is very, very serious.
When I got to Manila, I began memorising this six and a half minute slice of Pinoy poetry and lyrics. I spent a lot of hours on this. It’s awkward to say how many hours, but one day I will share the rehearsal footage of me running each line of the Abra rap a thousand times, before piecing them together into the whole verse. You will probably say, why, what was the point of all this time and effort, but you don’t get anywhere great without a training montage, and this was mine.
At the end of it all, Sipat and I (and videographer Brandon Relucio) filmed the result – a one-take, long-shot performance video through the ruined school of Pugad Lawin in Quezon City. I framed it as an ‘audition’ for reality TV gameshow Foreignoy, even though Foreignoy is no longer being filmed. It seemed like a good way to help people make sense of it, though Carlos Celdran got it closer when he called it ‘an artistic intervention’.
The video went up on Youtube and got 1500 views within three days. After a huge cluster of people shared it with the producers of Eat Bulaga (the daytime show that produced Foreignoy), they got in touch to let me know they’d put me in the next lineup for the show, when and if that happens in 2016.
There’s a new show in this, Asialink, and here’s what happens next:
I’m going to get back to the Philippines in the next 12 months, and then I’m continuing on my journey to get up close and personal with the Pinoy showbiz industry. The machine, for want of a better word. I want to see it up close and get my head around it.
There’s a particular place that foreigners occupy in Pinoy pop culture. It’s hard to put your finger on precisely, but you see it in the over-representation of Mestiza (people of mixed Filipino and foreign ancestry) on TV, in the countless adverts for skin whitening creams and soaps, in the tense place that Americans occupy in the country’s cultural discourse, and particularly in shows like Foreignoy, in which foreigners literally compete to prove their ‘Filipino-ness’.
It’s hard to justify a project that doesn’t exist yet. We do it in grant applications frequently, but often there the language is, if not dishonest, at least not very true to how artists think and talk about our projects among ourselves. I can make a clear case for the value of engaging with the Filipino television industry in formal terms, if I need to. I would say things like, ‘this subject speaks to the complex ways in which Australians are represented within Filipino culture, and to our place within a broader Asian cultural context.’
All of that is true, and important. But honestly, I’m pursuing this because I have a gut feeling that this is a story worth pursuing. There’s something there. I don’t know what, and I won’t know what unless I dive all the way, and even then maybe I’ll be wrong (I’ve been wrong often enough before).
But in the meantime, Asialink, I got within striking distance of being cast as STEVE, a 40 year old ‘man of power’ and father-in-law of Filipino reality TV star Daniel Matsunaga in new ‘interracial love story’ soap opera BE MY LADY (I was not ‘heavy’ enough to pass for 40 years old, dammit), and I know this isn’t the first time you’ve accidentally nearly launched a south-east Asian soap opera career, but isn’t this at least slightly why Asialink exists? Don’t most, if not all, Asialink recipients end up as E-list daytime TV celebrities in whichever country they’re travelling to? (Don’t answer that question.)
I didn’t put this down on my official grant acquittal form, but I got really really close. And the quest isn’t over. Not even a little bit, not even at all.
Thank you for letting me sit with Sipat Lawin pursuing mad schemes this last few weeks, Asialink. I promise it’ll make sense in the grand fullness of time. You will look back on this and there will be some kind of meaningful artistic result, some kind of creative outcome that adds up to something worthwhile.
In 2010 I received a phone call from a Canberra theatre company that makes work for young people. As one of several ‘emerging’ playwrights in Canberra at that time, my name had bubbled to the top of a list of potential writers for a new project.
The lady asked me if I’d heard of something called sexting. I told her, ’Yes! Yes I have!’ She explained that they were interested in producing a new play about sexting, aimed at 14 – 17 year olds, and would I be interested in writing it? I said, ‘I absolutely would, I already have some ideas. It’ll be pro-sexting, right?’
The pause that followed was one of the most awkward silences I’ve ever had over the phone. Eventually she said, ‘It should portray both sides.’ And then she promised to email me a brief, which I could respond to with a pitch.
I never received that email, which means I never got to submit them my pitch, and as far as I know their sexting play never got made. In the meantime, after I complained at length about my missed opportunity, Hadley beat me to the punch by writing his superb piece ‘The Sexting Play Finnigan Was Commissioned Specifically Not To Write’, which is the best piece of theatre anyone has ever written.
EXCERPT OF HADLEY’S ‘THE SEXTING PLAY FINNIGAN WAS COMMISSIONED SPECIFICALLY NOT TO WRITE’
USED WITHOUT PERMISSION
A kid with a wild gleam in his eyes, Ricky, crashes into the room.
RICKY (outrageously): FUCK YOU SIDEWAYS, YOU MESSY PACK OF CUNTS!
Everyone cheers – Ricky is their king!
AMIRA: Did you get it?
RICKY: Did I fucking get it, I’m Ricky. I get what I want.
ANITA; Show it to us!
JIM: This is going to be fucking awesome!
BEN: Anyone need cigarettes?
SAL: On us, motherfuckers, this is too fucking exciting!
The kids all throws cans of beer to each other, pack up bongs, light up cigs.
MARCO: Wait, what are we doing?
JENNY: Yeah, no one told me!
Ricky poses, a light shines on him.
RICKYwith great magnitude: We’re going to sext Corrigan’s mum.
JENNY: Hahaha, Corrigan… Mr. Corrigan, the woodwork teacher?
RICKY: Yeah boiiiii
JENNY: Haha, well you’re not using my phone.
RICKY: Oh, we’re not using a phone. We’re using this.
Ricky pulls an Ouija board out of his bag.
RICKY: Corrigan’s mum is dead.
(I got distracted writing this blog post by re-reading the whole of Hadley’s script, it’s a goddamn masterpiece, maybe the only real masterpiece to exist)
But now, chewing through some old notes, I found my notes for the proposed youth theatre / theatre-in-education play, which sadly never even got the chance to be taken for a spin. Never even got rejected.
Fast forward a few years.
Mid-2014, none other than Glyn Roberts sat down and chatted with me about being a playwright in the Australian arts ecosystem circa 2015. He made the excellent point that in many ways, actually writing a playscript is a negative thing.
Have a great idea, sure, share that great idea with a theatre company, offer to build something in collaboration with a company or self-produce and go wild, but having a written script? Who wants an unproduced playscript? No theatre company wants to be inundated with completed scripts that they have to read, have to struggle through, have to shrug over and reject.
I can only imagine the dismay that you must feel as a literary manager when you receive another perky email from a playwright with a 125k PDF attached to it. (obviously a pdf because if they sent you a word doc you’d edit it and run away with the ideas yourself, right?)
I’ve grossly oversimplified Glyn’s comments here, so apologies to him and please don’t take this as a real representation of his opinion. If you’re curious about his actual take on the industry (and you should be, he’s a wise soul), go on and find him.
Look at those kind eyes.
What I took from Glyn’s comments is that it’s time for me, as a playwright, to stop writing plays, and instead do a better job of finding theatre companies, directors and collaborative artists who are willing to jump on board and support the growth of a good idea from the outset.
So the hell with it. I didn’t write this one, it’s there waiting to be written. All I need is a committed, passionate partner with the strength of will and conviction to turn this grit in the oyster into a pearl of Australian theatre.
SEXTING PLAY: A PITCH FOR A SEXTING PLAY
by david finnigan
It is the recent past, say 2013. A teen girl is contacted by an angel through her phone
The angel advises the girl that in the past, the agents of the Lord are struggling against the forces of those who oppose God’s word. The angel has managed to obtain smartphones from the present day, and sent them back in time to key moments in history where the conflicts are most desperate.
The girl can text help to those soldiers fighting in the past for God’s cause. By sending them nude pics, she can support their battle against paganism, against heresy and against tyranny.
Naturally, our heroine goes right ahead and sends nude pics to those phone numbers. She is rewarded by news from these ancient battlefields that her contribution has turned the tide, that the fight is finally going their way.
But! In history class at school, the girl learns something extremely disquieting about the Australian frontier wars, the Crusades, the anti-Communist purges in Indonesia in the mid-1960s, and many other historical atrocities. At a number of famous massacres, a naked female soldier with a strange accent and unusual turn of phrase stepped into the fight and slaughtered many innocents.
She realises that every sext she sent into the past has become a vile killer, a murderer of the helpless and a weapon for the unjust.
She refuses to send any further sexts, despite the angel’s demands and pleas. When she refuses to capitulate, the angel becomes angry and curses her.
Around the world, ancient naked versions of herself that she sent into the past and who have slumbered for many centuries begin to awaken in creaky museum cases, archive drawers and on ochre-painted cave walls. They gradually amass and march inexorably towards their originator, to slay her.
Now it’s one girl against her own message history in a bloody fight to the death, and there are no excuses and there is no escape.
image by peter newman
‘I think there’s something worth mentioning here about the fact that most conflicts feature men, not women. And history is made of men’s stories rather than women stories. So there’s something sad and ironic about her part in history being made by the fact that she can send pictures of naked body, the main commodity. So this is a political conversation.’
– Jess Bellamy
There’s a Jorge Luis Borges story called The Zahir. It’s about objects which ‘have the property of being unforgettable’. Once you see one, you won’t be able to get it out of your head – and eventually, it’ll be the only thing you think about. The zahir in the story is a coin – the protagonist finds it and then throws it away, the same evening. But he can’t forget it.
At first he tries to forget it – and he’s able to, more or less. In fact, he’s able to forget it so well that he thinks he can even afford to bring it to mind, occasionally. But that’s a mistake. Because more and more he finds his mind turning to it, and it’s constantly in his mind. He sees it day and night, awake and asleep, at all times the coin hanging in his vision. He sees both sides of the coin – not because it’s transparent, but more like his vision is spherical, with the coin in the centre.
He’s writing the story with what he knows is gonna be his final coherent thoughts. He says, ‘other people will think I’m mad – I will think of the zahir. Maybe I can wear it away by thinking about it. Maybe on the other side of the zahir I will find god.’
I didn’t think, when Ness told me about it, that I would ever watch a full episode of Foreignoy. I didn’t think that I’d ever expend any energy on an oddball reality TV show on a daytime GMA talkshow. But that was 18 months ago. In the last year and a half I feel like my whole life has narrowed down to a very sharp arrow – pointed straight at Foreignoy.
I don’t really remember what I used to want – if I wanted anything different, it was the product of a life that I no longer subscribe to. I want to be on Foreignoy. That’s the only thing that I want.
Now one minor issue is that I speak konti tagalog (maraming konti! grabe konti!), which is a major feature of the show. Another, more significant issue is that they are no longer producing Foreignoy. But this is only a real problem if you don’t have willpower.
Willpower and a group of patient, caring friends who are willing to manifest your insane quixotic dreams into being against all rational sense.
So my team of expert advisors devised a strategy for me to get on the show.
First of all, JK Anicoche, chief architect of my dreams. JK’s plan is to present me as something non-threatening. I can’t sing, I can’t dance, but maybe my awkward helplessness will be appealing in itself? My target market, according to JK, is the Titas of Manila. Now it goes without saying that my audition would include a pabebe wave, but JK stepped it up a notch and insisted that I give a wink while waving – he’s hoping to push #pabebewink into being.
Ness Roque, pinoy cultural expert. Ness, as well as teaching me all the tagalog I know, translated my poetry into filipino and selected and arranged a collection of classic pinoy poetry. Francisco Balagtas, Andres Bonifacio, Jose Rizal, Jose Corazon de Jesus. I’m going to share Ness’ commentary on Florante at Laura as a piece unto itself, because holy shit she’s good, and also utterly foul-mouthed.
Alon Segarra, Clyde Enriquez, Teresa Barrozo, Sarah Salazar, all helped me pull together a selection of classic and contemporary pinoy pop. And Ienne Vergara, who reverse engineered Sarah Geronimo’s choreography from watching this videoclip.
Nickamc, with his mad audio chops and extraordinary tolerance for my insane bullshit, mixed this collage into being. And it was filmed by Mr Dreamboy, aka Brandon Relucio, with the help of Ralph Lumbres.
This is me asking for your help. Help me. Help me get on this show. Help me get inside the machine.
Look I understand that there’s a lot of confusion, panic and pain in the world right now
but when I win Foreignoy, I promise, things will get better
When I win Foreignoy there’ll be no more pain
no more panic
when I win Foreignoy you’ll wake up in the morning with those aches and pains just gone
just flowing out of your system like the rivers to the sea
when I win Foreignoy everything will be a remix
everything will be a cover
I’ll be sarah geronimo, JK will be sarah geronimo, we’ll all be sarah geronimo
nothing but sarah geronimos, as far as the eye can see
when I win Foreignoy more sex to a better soundtrack
when I win Foreignoy it’ll be okay
it’ll be okay
magiging okay lang ang lahat
when I win foreignoy no more bad dreams
when I win foreignoy no more bad dreams
when I win foreignoy the heat the energy
when I win foreignoy the fire in the street just like the fire in your heart
when I win foreignoy the scream only you can hear
when I win foreignoy your only certainty is the certainty that we are not coming down. not ever.
#pabebewink there it is JK there it is!
so far no titas have expressed their appreciation for this move but the future is bright, the future is orangutan
Hi, I’m Clyde Enriquez, I’m an actor and snowboarding champion. I was 2009 silver medallist at the European International Winter Sports Games, representing Switzerland.
I don’t snowboard so much these days. I still like to get out on the slopes and cut a few sharp turns on some fresh powder, but what I really like to do these days is to think about what it means to be a human.
Today I’d like to talk with you about being alone. We’re all alone, really, but sometimes on our journey through life we meet someone else. And sometimes, like it or not, we lose that someone. And what happens then?
I learned a lot about this very topic from two very dear friends of mine: John Lloyd Cruz and Bea Alonzo, in their documentary ‘One More Chance’.
the film begins with john lloyd cruz and bea alonzo, talking to each other, flirting and being lovely, EXCEPT in classic rom-com style, it turns out that they’re both talking to DIFFERENT PEOPLE
I’ve seen this done a few times, most recently in Justin Timberlake and Mila Kunis’ Friends With Benefits, and it’s always terrible, but Friends With Benefits was the worst on so many levels, One More Chance is smooth in contrast
So both JLC and Bea are flirting with people who aren’t their partners. But whereas JLC goes in for the kiss with his friend, Bea is shocked when the guy goes in for the kiss with her. She is upset and she leaves, which means that for the rest of the movie we never see this guy again
WHICH IS A SHAME
JLC and his male friends stand around and complain about Bea, Bea and her friends stand around and they all insist she goes back to him.
This is the beginning of a major disparity in this film – Bea’s friends offer her very little support, when she says she wants to be free of this clinging, cloying relationship, they push her back into being with JLC because it’s convenient for their mutual friendship. JLC’s friends, by contrast, bend over backwards to support him no matter how much of a callow asshole he’s being.
All of this makes it even more impressive that Bea manages to push away from him, find herself, and grow as a human being, because she has to do it ALL BY HERSELF.
JLC and Bea break up because of the misunderstanding double-affair thing, but then JLC is a total fuckwit and won’t even let Bea leave the house without being a total fucking manchild about every little thing. Where I come from we call that abusive rather than cute, but whatevs.
Then after harassing the hell out of her, they begin to flirt and then they’re about to have makeup sex
one of the least appealing things I’ve ever seen in a film: JLC creeps under the bottom cover of the doona, so his face appears like some kind of beardless gremlin between her legs at the bottom of the bed. Fucking nightmare territory, man, I was making the sign of the cross at the screen like crazy at this point
BUT THEN his work calls, and he blows her off for work, and then begins the long, harrowing sequence of the movie in which he is both ignoring her and micro-managing her, controlling her, shutting her down, hemming her in, pushing her around, gaslighting her, flirting with other women in front of her, and then whenever she says anything about it to him, shutting her down in this super-reasonable, mature-man voice that makes me want to hit him
The highlight of this whole sequence was Kuya Bodjie as the cranky architect boss giving her shit about the scale model, because architecture something something. The whole architecture thing in this film isn’t really worked out in detail, but Bodjie goes for it nevertheless,
AND THEN THE CRISPY CHICKEN SCENE
JLC – It’s a good thing we got that model fixed or we would both be in trouble. I would be in trouble. You think I’d ever let that happen? Basha, remember, we’re a team. Don’t let your emotions rule you. You’ll end up hurt that way.
JLC takes Basha’s chicken and peels off the crispy skin. Basha watches it happen with hate blazing in her eyes.
JLC – Then you’ll complain that you’re tired of it. Don’t forget your 7pm deadline. We don’t want to be late for dinner at Kenneth’s.
Bash grabs the crispy chicken skin. Poy grabs her hand.
JLC – Bash!
Bea – Just this once.
JLC – You know that’s bad for you. That’s cholesterol.
Bea – Poy, just this once.
JLC – What’s your problem?
Bea – I want space.
JLC – Space?
JLC moves his seat away.
JLC – There. Space.
No-one has ever hated anyone as much as Bea hates JLC in the look she gives him now. She gets up and leaves.
There are another couple of forgettable scenes, and then it builds to a break up where Bea quits her job, and finally lays it out in front of him in one of the most beautiful, honest breakup scenes I’ve ever seen. She doesn’t accuse him of anything, she doesn’t complain, she just says that the relationship’s not working for her, and she needs to leave in order to be able to figure out what’s what.
This scene speaks to the universal misery that is a breakup. You don’t know exactly what’s not working, you don’t know in perfectly clear terms what you want, you can’t break it down in plain simple language, you just CAN’T, because it’s messy as fuck, and all you know if that something’s not right. But at the same time, you don’t want to walk out on the other person without giving them a clear and reasonable explanation.
But what if the only thing you know how to say is ‘It’s over because it doesn’t feel right?’ I mean is that enough?
I think it should be. At least to begin with. You can come back and debrief later, but at the time, if your partner says that to you, I think all you can do, as awful as it is, is listen to them and accept.
Of course, JLC doesn’t listen, he tries to shut her down and ignore her, even when she drops the bombshell line:
‘I want to stop wondering what if. I want to know what is.’
(I guarantee you when the scriptwriter finished writing that line, they threw their pen down, punched the air and said HELLO SUCCESS)
Now we move into the part of the film where they’re both a mess. Bea does the right things, she gets a haircut and becomes a new and different woman, JLC devolves even further into a spineless blob, his friends take him out to date someone new (!) while Bea works on her t-shirt design business, focuses on her art, and gets on with shit.
In one of the many uncool moves made by Bea’s friends and family in this film, her mum invites JLC around to fix the sink and surprise her when she’s trying to get ready for work. DO NOT DO THIS THIS IS BULLSHIT.
JLC even creepily goes to her house and watches her from the bushes for ten seconds, because… why? How is he a matinee idol? I hate him so much.
AND THEN beautiful lounge singer Maja Salvador rescues a drunken, vomiting JLC from the carpark, he grotesquely tries to make out with her and then pukes. Maja is a ray of sunshine in this movie and her acting is a whole other thing, but it is beyond even her to figure out how to make it make sense that her character falls in love with JLC.
Is he a witch? Does he have magic powers?
GOOD QUESTION JLC
He pashes her, she slaps him, he pukes, she leaves.
Next, we are introduced to our other top billing star. Bea parks her car outside a house, for no reason, gets out to look at it. Another car stops and out gets DEREK RAMSAY.
Derek – Can I help you? You’re lost, right?
Bea – Huh?
Derek – That’s what it says on your shirt.
Bea remembers that her t-shirt says LOST AKO and she laughs.
Derek – So what are you doing here?
Bea – I’m just looking at the house.
Derek – And?
Bea – This one is owned by a man without any plan to start a family.
Derek – Why do you say that?
Bea – The house is not kid-friendly. It has too many edges and the materials are too masculine, too tough.
A BIT LIKE DEREK, HEY
Bea – If I were the architect, I’d lessen the edges and put more curves to balance it out.
The subtext here is that Bea would be a sexy feminine influence on the rich male bachelor who owns this edgy man-pad
Derek – Maybe that’s why my ex-girlfriend left me. That’s what she said when I designed this house.
BOOM! In one line, Derek has dropped the following three bombshells: 1. I’m single 2. I own a house 3. I listen to your opinion
Bea – This is your house?
Derek – Mark Yaneza. The man who has no plan to start a family.
Bea – Um, I have to go.
Derek – You’re an architect?
Bea – Used to be.
Derek – I’d actually like to hear your creative input. Here’s my card. We have an opening at the firm.
The subtext here is that Derek would like to have sex with Bea.
Now we see Bea get a new job, a fulfilling job, she begins to rebuild her life, she makes a new friend in Derek, Derek drives her to a gathering of her old friends, a gathering where JLC is at. It’s a five year anniversary of their friend Kenneth going blind. JLC is a piece of shit and causes a scene, upsets Bea, makes everything awkward, ruins everyone’s night, picks a fight with Derek, and for some reason Derek does not pick up a folding chair and beat him to death with it.
JLC explains that you have to let three months pass before you find another boyfriend. It’s a good rule of thumb, but every case is different, and how do you know when you’ve moved on, when you’re ready?
Derek, in this shot, does not give a shit for the three month rule.
Not long after that, we find that JLC has somehow (black magic) seduced Maja Salvador into being his girlfriend. Bea rolls with it, and kindly wishes him the best. And then JLC’s deadbeat aunt and uncle decide that they need Bea and JLC to work together to design their house, because they’re insensitive to the most basic currents of human emotion.
But all of this is just a prelude to of the most moving scenes in the film, maybe one of the most moving scenes in modern cinema history: JLC and Maja Salvador’s monthsiversary.
Just FYI, the monthsiversary is a pretty pinoy tradition, or at least it’s not an Australian tradition, so this shit is new to me.
Maja jumps in the car.
Maja – I thought you were having dinner with Chinno and Kenneth!
JLC – I feel like being with you.
They affectionately hug and kiss.
Maja – It’s a Thursday. And what is Thursday for?
JLC – Music day. But can’t it be another Popoy day?
Maja – Baby I also have to give time to my music.
JLC you LEECH, just let the lady pursue her art, what’s the matter with you
JLC – But I want you to be there. I want to introduce you to them.
Maja – Baby you can do it. And you better do it now. Sooner or later you have to face them.
She squeezes his chin.
Maja – But since you’re here already… I wrote this for you.
She gives him a framed picture. She reads out:
Maja – I love you and I will tell you every day,
Every day until you forget the things that hurt,
I hate the things that hurt you,
And how I wish I could take them away,
If only it could be done,
I’d do it for sure.
Those are just the lyrics. I’m saving the music for our second monthsiversary. Happy monthsiversary!
He gives her a weird flat look.
Maja – You forgot, didn’t you?
He hugs her apologetically, but then SURPRISE he gives her a box. It is a bracelet.
JLC – Looks like you don’t need it.
Maja holds out her arm, he bracelets it up.
Maja – I love you baby.
JLC – Love you too.
Maja you stone fox! Maja is wonderful, Bea is wonderful, Derek is wonderful, everyone is wonderful in this film except for JLC.
There’s a scene where JLC and Bea meet each other, and he’s basically polite, and she’s so delighted with his remotely adult conduct that she calls Derek to be all excited and ‘why was he so nice to me, he didn’t scream at me!’ because that’s how low the fucking bar is set for this character, if he doesn’t yell at you it’s like he’s won an olympic gold medal or something
Christ, if you have a friend whose biggest achievement is that sometimes he doesn’t scream abuse at you, I think you need to Let Him Go
Now there’s a whole series of scenes where JLC and Bea are working together on building this house. I hate the house and I hate JLC’s aunt and uncle, but it’s worth it for some heartrending shots of Bea just looking full of feeling
Depressingly, a lot of the character arc in this bit of the movie is Bea realising that she’s still attracted to JLC. I get this, to a degree – if you’ve broken out of a shitty relationship, especially a long-term one, and you’re striking out on your own, there’s gonna be points along the way where the loneliness and the challenge of the unknown feels heavy and hard, and you crave the familiarity of a love that you let go, especially as time and distance softens some of the shitty edges. This is hard, and this is where good, true friends can help by reminding you of what you’ve got, of who you are, of keeping your eyes on the prize.
Bea’s friends, however, are total flakes, and they want her back with JLC for their own damn convenience. So she gets no support, no reinforcement, and JLC meanwhile is flirting with her like crazy, safe in the knowledge that he has another relationship on the go, a plan b, because he’s an emotionally crippled man-child.
If I were there, I would be helping Bea move on. If I could beam myself inside a movie, this would be it.
It all comes to a head in this scene, which is one of the saddest moments of defeat I’ve ever seen in cinema. Bea and JLC are arguing about designing his stupid aunt and uncle’s stupid house, and finally she gives up, because honestly, what’s in it for her, doing his family a favour after all the shit he’s put her through. They’re midway through an argument, he’s being patronising and insulting, and then interrupts her to take a call from Maja, with whom he starts being needlessly affectionate on the phone too.
Bea stalks out of the meeting because frankly who needs that bullshit?
JLC – Basha wait! Let’s talk about the revisions!
Bea – I’ll take care of it. I’ll just text you.
JLC – Basha let’s try to be professional about this, okay?
shut up you hypocritical patronising twat
Bea – I am being professional.
JLC – Yes, I can see that. Why are you being like this? Because I’m commenting on your plans? I’m not sourgraping. I’m in line.
Bea – There you go again.
JLC – There I go again what?
Bea – There! Saying that there’s no problem when there is!
JLC – Because there isn’t any. How can I fix the problem if you’re not going to tell me what it is? If I don’t know what it is?
Bea – Popoy, you can’t solve every problem. And believe me, you don’t want to know what my problem is.
JLC – Just tell me what’s wrong!
Bea – You really want to know? It’s me, Popoy. I’m the problem. Because I’m hurting even though I know I shouldn’t be. How I wish I can just pretend I’m okay and that this isn’t painful. After all, I wanted this… How I wish I can say I’m happy for you, for both of you. How I wish I can… But I can’t. And I feel so horrible… because the truth is, I’m still hoping that you’ll tell me… that’s it’s me… that it’s always been me… that it’s still me you love.
JLC – I love Tricia.
Bea – I know. I know.
JLC – She loved me at my worst. You had me at my best. And you threw it all away.
WHAT A FUCKING A-HOLE
Bea – Is that what you really think? Popoy, I just had to make a choice.
JLC – You chose to break my heart.
Remember, guys, always make sure to stick the knife in and twist it. If your ex-girlfriend confesses her feelings for you in a moment of weakness, make sure you use the opportunity to grandstand about how much she hurt you, throw it back in her face and make her feel like shit. God forbid you employ a little bit of compassion or kindness.
The next scene comes out of the fucking blue – one of their friends has just tried to kill himself by drinking shampoo after being broken up with. All the friends gather around, including Bea, JLC and Maja, and JLC delivers a speech about how good it is being broken up with because sometimes then you find someone better, really pointedly making it awkward for his ex-girlfriend, his current girlfriend, his suicidal friend, all their other friends, and the doctors who are wondering why he’s being such an asshole and making it all about him when his friend is on the verge of death.
THAT’S OUR JOHN LLOYD CRUZ, HEY
Then JLC and Bea have sex, because why not? I mean you’ve just made your ex-girlfriend feel like shit for the last six months, why not cheat on your current girlfriend with her?
It’s hard to tell, but the impression I get from the soft lighting and mournful power ballad soundtrack that this is pretty melancholy mopey ex-sex, rather than being fast, furious illicit sex out of a hunger and desire. Do either of them come? It looks like a couple of friends catching up for a quick coffee rather than anything super intimate.
Okay so skeezy deadbeat that he is, JLC has just cheated on his girlfriend, and the polite thing to do would be to confess and break up with her, right? But this is JLC, so even that much effort is beyond him. It’s up to the girls, as always, to do all the fucking work. So here we go, Maja Salvador to the rescue YET AGAIN.
JLC is sitting at a cafe, staring guiltily off into the distance Maja sits opposite him, her eyes full of knowing.
Maja – My song for you is done. Will you read it for me?
She passes him a napkin across the table.
JLC – ‘I love you and I will tell you every day,
Every day until you forget the things that hurt,
I hate the things that hurt you,
And how I wish I could take them away,
If only it could be done -‘
Maja – …but it cannot be done. I can’t do it, Popoy. Because you won’t let me. Popoy just say it.
JLC won’t say it because he is a coward.
JLC – Trish…
Maja – There’s no easy way to do this, because it already hurts too much. So just tell me the truth. Please. Do you love me?
JLC – Trish, you know I love you.
Maja – Do you love her?
JLC – I can’t stand seeing you hurt.
(while he sits there and casually hurts her)
Maja puts her hand over his eyes.
Maja – So if you hurt me, you won’t see. Do you love her?
JLC – I’m sorry.
Maja – Do you want us to end this?
JLC – Can you still forgive me?
BECAUSE IT’S ALL ABOUT YOU, ISN’T IT MATE
Maja gets up and leaves.
Now the next scene, JLC finds Bea on a park bench and apologises at length for being an asshole. This is quite a nice scene, I like this one. Finally he lets her know that he’s taken a job in Qatar for the next two years, and he’s fucking off. He farewells her, and off he goes to grow as a person.
In the ACTUAL final scene of the movie, he comes back after two years and they get together, but let’s imagine instead that he loses a leg in a workplace accident in Qatar, stays there for good, Bea meets someone else, someone who really cares for her, and she’s happy, and they never see each other again.
I think the point that this film is trying to make is that as hard as it is to be with someone else, it’s really fucking hard being on your own. We make all sorts of terrible choices to be with anyone – anyone – rather than being alone. We’d rather bone John Lloyd fucking Cruz than face staring at that blank empty darkness without another warm body to grab hold of.
Loneliness is freedom, freedom is loneliness. How do we be alone?
Are we gonna be okay on our own?
We have to figure out how to be okay on our own, or else we’ll end up with John Lloyd Cruz. That’s the fight we’re fighting. So good luck to all of us.
(As a little context, if you’re interested, I wrote this piece for Clyde Enriquez, who performed it for Sipat Lawin Ensemble’s Strange Pilgrims event at TomatoKick Tomas Morato, Manila, 16 December 2015. And she made it good and it was a grand performance. All the better because Clyde is actually an ex-professional snowboarder who did indeed represent Switzerland back in the day, so that added a certain verisimilitude to the whole thing.)