Sunday, June 27, 2010

On Jean Reno, L'immortel, L'Eternel, and (Hmm), Jose Garcia Villa

Two Sundays ago, I was waiting in line in a moviehouse at EDSA Shangrila. A couple of days before that I read about an ongoing French film festival and I thought about checking it out. Since the event advertises "Free Admission", I guessed that the moviehouse will fill up fast, so I showed up about 40 minutes prior to the 3 o'clock pm film screening.

"We can only accommodate 25 free admissions", the male receptionist announced, "please fall in line." It was such a wait for a movie that I was not sure if I will like or not. Patience, I said to myself, at least Jean Reno is in the film.

Ten minutes past 3. The smell of impatience was in the air. The receptionist then made a grave announcement.

"The theater is already full because many VIPs turned up unexpectedly. We can only admit 10 people."

I was 11th in the line. What infuriating luck.

While most of the disenfranchised left, I went to the receptionist and stated my case. It is not fair for me to wait in line for more than 30 minutes only to be told that I cannot be admitted. When the receptionist defended that we were late, I was gripped with a sudden impulse to snap at him ... good thing I bit my tongue before I could lash out.

In my greatest effort to be cool, I reasoned: "How could possibly say that we are late when we were here 40 minutes before the screening?"

A few more words from me and I got what I wanted.

Receptionist: "We can allow five more. Just five people." I was the first to get in.

(Damn, I thought. Had I learned about this earlier, I would have found a way to get myself a VIP ticket and not through all these hassle as if I am a beggar. But, never mind. I was finally inside the theater.)


Photo from this site.

The movie that was the root of my troubles was the Jean Reno starrer, 22 Bullets, aka L'immortel. This was released in early 2010 amidst mixed reviews. The story, in a nutshell, is about Charly Mattei (Jean Reno), an aging mafia guy in Marseille who was gunned down with 22 bullets but somehow managed to live and exact his revenge. People used to fantastic Hollywood slickly executed fight scenes and car chases may not find this film to their liking. (I sure liked the Audis in the film.)

I am not exactly planning to write a review. Suffice to say that I think the movie is just fine, with the characters well-played (and, it cannot be helped, I have a soft spot for Reno), and the violent scenes adequate, and I am a fan of French films, but honestly, this is not a movie worth waiting for 40 minutes.

For some reason, as I was watching the film, something kept on popping in my head: The concept of "eternel" and "l'Eternel".


Photo from this site.

It was probably because "l'immortel" rhymes with "l'Eternel". It was probably because of something else. The movie often alluded to the concept of right and wrong, of morality and accountability. Religious allusions were replete as well, and whether this was deliberate or not, they sure provided a good backdrop to the issues aforementioned.

Someone once told me that, in the French language, "eternel" is to be distinguished from "l'Eternel". The word "eternel" literally translates to "eternal". "L'Eternel" is referred to what in English is called "God", thus the capital letter "E". For some reasons I did not get to clear this one up in detail.

Maybe sometime, I will have that chance ... in another lifetime, perhaps?


The concept of eternity is one of the many things that I am fascinated with.

Apparently, so is Jose Garcia Villa, arguably one of the best Filipino poets to have ever lived. (Thanks to Lenn for the Jose Garcia Villa book that I received many weeks ago.)

As he, too, was gripped by ideations of God, Villa wrote poems that tackled God's immortality and humanity at the same time. There is one poem that I really like: it illustrates a very striking, almost blasphemous, but intensely brilliant, juxtaposition of God and Man amidst the backdrop of time.

Now I will tell you the Future
Of God. The future of God is

Man. God aspired before and
Failed. Jesus was too much

God. Since God is moving
Towards Man, and Man is moving

Towards God - they must meet
Sometime. O but God is always

A Failure! That Time is the
End of the world. When God

And Man do meet - they will
Be so bitter they will not speak.

I have reason to believe that Villa had a word with God, not just hello but a mouthful, many times in his life. Like Jean Reno's character Charly Mattei. Like many people I know ... myself included ....

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Happy Father's Day

Father's Day does not leave as much impact as Mother's Day for many people. I, however, know of male friends who are great fathers. Take a bow, y'all.^^ Your children (and, sige na nga, your wives na rin ;P) are very lucky.

To you my exalted father friends, Happy Father's Day.

(To JAB, yes you too, I know how much you love your kids, and I am sure they know that happy, wherever you are, I will keep an eye on your behalf....)

Friday, June 11, 2010

The Blog Rounds v.2. Start Of School edition: What I Learned From Nursery School

Hello once again. This is what I was talking about in my previous post. Jaaraf, my colleague in The Blog Rounds, called for articles, the theme for which is early childhood learning. A few days ago I wrote a little about my nursery school as a prologue to my own submission.

i learned a great deal in nursery school, and of course I am saying this in retrospect. My time in nursery school is replete with memories that never fail to make me smile until now, in spite of my pragmatism that I acquired later in life.

One of the activities that I got involved with that time was a little play, an adaptation of the fairy tale, "Hansel and Gretel". I am not too sure how I got a role in the play (Maybe my mother rigged it? Hahaha!). I am quite uncertain how I memorized my lines (I swear I have a bad memory when the mood hits me, and I know that as a child I was really moody.) Most of all, I do not know how I survived performing in that play, for I was, and still am, petrified of the audience, and not too many of my acquaintances would want to believe this.

But I did pick up some lessons out of my brief foray in acting (duh). Again I say this in retrospect. This may probably read as a list of tips to a novice actor, but the "tips" do seem to apply also in real life.

1. When one speaks audibly, he has a good chance of getting a role in a play. (One will not stand a chance if he has the voice of an ant.)

2. One must not take it personally when he is not given the role that he wants. (It is the same thing in real life. There has to be a "bida" and "kontrabida". There can never be no "kontrabida", or two "bidas" in a single instance.)

3. To play the role of kids like Hansel and Gretel, one just have to act out his age.

4. To play the role of a nasty stepmother, one has got to have a nasty streak.

5. To play the role of a weakling father is the easiest: one only needs to know how to scratch his head.

6. To play the role of a wicked witch, one need not be a female: it only takes a shrill laughter to cinch it.

7. An actor will be remembered not so much by his role but by the manner by which he executed his character.

8. One must not forget to smile, take a bow, and say "Thank you" to the audience after the performance.

William Shakespeare put it all too poetically centuries ago. "All the world's a stage, and all the men and women merely players: they have their exits and their entrances; and one man in his time plays many parts, his acts being seven ages." I may be a million times less creative, but I guess life's lessons are almost always universal.

Lastly, can you guess the character assigned to me in the play? *smile*

*****This is my submission to The Blog Rounds v.2 titled "All I needed To Know, I Learned In Kindergarten (or Nursery, or Pre-School) hosted by Jaaraf.*****

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Once Upon A Time, I Attended Pre-School

With classes nationwide starting a week from now, and with my colleague in The Blog Rounds Jaaraf calling for artcles, I thought of writing a prologue to my submission. My follow-up to my Ian McCulloch post and my other project may have to wait a bit more.

I attended nursery school at a time when the Apple Computer was nothing but a bunch of ideas in Steve Wozniak's fertile mind, the green revolution was a by-word, and the punk movement was taking the place of hippie culture in the musical landscape. In my country, the dictator was lording it over. But the world through my eyes seemed to be as young as I was. Understandably, I did not know any better.

My nursery school was not exactly, well, posh. It was something more like, a cottage industry, if I can put it that way. As far as I can remember, an old Filipino-Chinese married couple who loved kids set up a classroom in what was supposed to be a driveway to their house. Surrounding the makeshift classroom were large concrete divisions - ponds - where the couple grew various species of fish which they sell wholesale on the spot or probably somewhere in the heart of Manila.

My mother put me to nursery because she was quite alarmed. At four years of age, I was hardly saying a thing. In spite of my daily dose of Sesame Street at home and her own efforts to make me speak, there was no comprehensible word coming from my lips. The little nursery school was the nearest, and the friendliest place for me to at least learn how to talk before I attend kindergarten.

The class, during the Recognition Day

I certainly remember the classroom: the large blackboard (no such thing as whiteboard then), chalks, bulletin boards containing artworks from the more talented kids in the class, the wooden chairs. There were no walls, and the air was always cool and faintly smelled of fish. I remember the door, just beside the boards, that led to the Spanish-type house.

I remember that I would zealously exclaim "Ma'am, finished!" whenever I was done with a quiz or an activity. "Ma'am, finished!" were actually my first words, the second group of words that I would learn being "Hindi puwede (No can do.)"

I remember my teacher, Miss Josefina Mandapat, how she would ask all of us to put our hands on the armchair when she was about to start the day's lesson. I remember that she sang well, loved to make us do a lot of crafts, and that she never resorted to using a stick to hit any one of the students.

I remember that I would run to the fish ponds at the end of the class with a classmate or two, stand at the narrow concrete walls, and squat to watch these wonderful colorful creatures swim by. Grandpa, the school owner, and his caretakers would always call us to stay away lest we fall into the ponds. No kids ever fell into any of these ponds, as far as I can remember.

I remember some of my classmates - my second cousin Kat, Socorro, Glenn, Manggy, Noel, Glenn - and others whose names I have forgotten, but definitely no one among them was a bully. Who says there has to be a token bully in every class?

And yes, I remember my mother waiting by the sideline with the other mothers, either chatting with them, reading, or doing one of her beautiful doilies by crocheting.

Through my eyes then, it was a serene, innocent world (for I was not yet aware of the Vietnam war, the Munich massacre, and the First Quarter Storm). I felt very safe in my little cocoon. It was the best time to lay the groundwork for most of the lessons that I was to bring with me wherever I go for the rest of my life, when my mind was still not jaded, and untainted with the evils of the world.

The world has grown with me, and through my eyes, it is no longer as young as how I wanted to see it. The memories of my young and innocent world still endure, though. They have to. When all hope has gone, a person needs to have something to look back to, even when it feels that the only beautiful thing that is left in life are just memories.