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.)