Alben meng manyaman, boy!

March 27, 2009

ABS-CBN news on 'Balangingi' victory

'Nosebleed' wins in digital film awards

A Kapampangan independent film titled "Balangingi (Nosebleed)" won the [ETC] Best Short Film award from the recently concluded Philippine Digital Music and Short Film Festival held at the World Trade Center in Pasay City last March 12.

"Balangingi" is created by a group of young people calling themselves as Kamaru. The bilingual film, which uses English and the native Kapampangan [language], has a mix of intellectual humor and romance.

Jason Paul Laxamana, director and writer of a young group called Kamaru, said the film is about the romantic relationship of two philosophers and touches the Kapampangan culture.

"Pinaghalong intellectual at love story na may bearing sa kultura," Laxamana said.

The film's three characters Xoo, April and Jane were played by actors Jayvie Dizon, Frency Rodriguez and Raco del Rosario, respectively.

The three indie stars were thrilled by the award and look forward to making more Kapampangan digital films.

"Para sa iba, kung ano ang hilig nila, dapat linangin ang kanilang talento," says Diego Marx Dobles, assistant director of Kamaru, adding that they would encourage young Cabalens to develop their skills in digital film making.

Kamaru is now gearing up for the 1st Cine Kabalen Philippine Film Festival. With a report from Mylene Valencia, ABS-CBN News Pampanga

March 19, 2009

How to make the next gen of Kapampangans smarter

Kapampangan as medium of instruction will produce Brighter Kapampangans
By Jason Paul Laxamana
Urban Kamaru
Central Luzon Daily

Are you aware of DepEd's Lubuagan experiment? If not, watch this first:

Weeks ago, I got this message in my YouTube Mail from a certain user called Pachungchung:

“I am a preschool teacher and I am so sad na king school a pituturuanan ku, bawal ing mag-Kapampangan; it's a mortal sin ada pin ding Supervisor mi. I don’t know why, pero siguru effect na ning modernization.”

I frowned at the idea that the Supervisor’s knowledge on the relationship between language and education is still obsolete. I am quite sure many teachers, principals, and even parents scattered all around Pampanga are still thinking that the best way to excel in school and later on in the professional world is to expose kids as early as preschool in English—a method discouraged by linguists and education scholars.

That being proficient in English is equal with being professionally viable is another contestable issue, but I want to share with you excerpts from a primer on MLE or Mother Tongue-based Multilingual Education written by Former KWF Chairman Ricardo Nolasco. The author is also an Associate Professor in the Department of Linguistics of UP Diliman and an Adviser on Multilingual Education Initiatives in the Foundation for Worldwide People Power.


International and local research studies in the use of languages in education are conclusive—when the mother tongue is the medium in primary instruction, learners end up being better thinkers and better learners in both their first AND second language(s).

Sadly, legislators at the House of Representatives continue to ignore the studies and are in fact set to approve a bill “strengthening” English as the medium of instruction (MOI) from the elementary grades to the tertiary level.

This primer aims to clarify the issues related to language-in-education in the Philippines by addressing 21 frequently-asked questions about mother-tongue based multilingual education (MLE).

1. What is mother tongue-based multilingual education or MLE?

MLE is the use of more than two languages for literacy and instruction. It starts from where the learners are, and from what they already know. This means learning to read and write in their first language or L1, and also teaching subjects like mathematics, science, health and social studies in the L1.

2. When will children start learning Filipino and English?

As they develop a strong foundation in their L1, children are gradually introduced to the official languages, Filipino and English, as separate subjects, first orally, then in the written form.

3. Does MLE only involve changing the language of instruction and translating the materials into the local languages?

MLE is an innovative approach to learning. Apart from programming the use of several languages, it also involves the following: (a) the development of good curricula (i.e. cognitively demanding); (b) the training of good teachers in the required languages for content and methodology; (c) the production of good teaching materials (i.e., error-free and culturally relevant); (d) the empowerment of the community (i.e. school-based management). MLE will not work when one simply changes the language by translating existing materials into the local languages.

4. What kind of learners does MLE intend to produce?

MLE aims to produce learners who are: Multi-literate—they can read and write competently in the local language, the national language, and one or more languages of wider communication, such as English; Multi-lingual—they can use these languages in various situations; Multi-cultural—they can live and work harmoniously with people of culture backgrounds that are different from their own.

5. What specific weaknesses in the Philippine educational system does MLE seek to address?

MLE seeks to specifically address the high functional illiteracy of Filipinos where language plays a significant factor. As one educator, Professor Josefina Cortes, has observed, we have become “a nation of fifth graders.”

6. Why use the mother tongue or the first language (L1) in school?

One’s own language enables a child to express him/herself easily, as there is no fear of making mistakes. MLE encourages active participation by children in the learning process because they understand what is being discussed and what is being asked of them. They can immediately use the L1 to construct and explain their world, articulate their thoughts and add new concepts to what they already know.

7. But our children already know their language. Why still learn it in school?

What we and our children know is the conversational language or the everyday variety used for daily interaction. Success in school depends on the academic and intellectualized language needed to discuss more abstract concepts.

8. Why use the national language or Filipino in school?

The Philippines is a multilingual and multicultural nation with more than 150 languages. A national language is a powerful resource for inter-ethnic dialogue, political unity, and national identity.

9. Will the use of Filipino as medium of instruction and as a subject be advantageous to native Tagalog speakers?

It is partially true that native speakers of Tagalog enjoy a small advantage under the present bilingual education set-up in which some subjects are taught in their L1. But this is nothing compared to the overwhelming bias of the present system for English.

10. Will the use of the local and regional languages be detrimental to building one nation?

No, it won’t. On the contrary, it is the suppression of local languages that may lead to violent conflicts, disunity, and dissension.

11. Why use an international language like English in school?

Languages of wider communication like English should be part of the multilingual curriculum of a country. The graduates of this system should find relevance beyond their ethnic and national boundaries. Most world knowledge is accessible in English, and so, knowledge of English is certainly useful. It is not true, however, that students will not learn science and mathematics if they do not know English. The ideas of science are not bound by one language and one culture.

12. Will using the mother tongue as language of instruction hinder the learning of a second language like English?

No. Many studies indicate that students first taught to read in their L1, and then later in an L2, outperform those taught to read exclusively in an L2. Learning to read in one’s own language provides learners with a solid foundation for learning to read in any L2.

13. Will increasing the time for English or making it the exclusive medium of instruction improve our English?

No. This popular belief is increasingly being proven untrue. Large scale research during the last 30 years has provided compelling evidence that the critical variable in L2 development in children is not the amount of exposure, but the timing and the manner of exposure.

14. What is the best way to attain proficiency in English?

For non-native speakers of English, the best way is to teach it as an L2 and to teach it well. This depends on the proficiency of teachers, the availability of adequate models of the language in the learner’s social environment, and sufficient reading materials. Simply increasing the time for English will not work.

15. Are local languages capable of being used as languages of instruction?

Definitely yes. As far back as 1925, during the American colonial period, the Monroe Commission already recommended the use of the local languages in education.

Beginning 1957, the local languages, or vernaculars, became the medium of instruction in Grades 1 and 2. This vernacular education policy was abruptly abolished in 1974, when the bilingual education policy was launched by the Marcos government.

Languages grow and change in response to changes in the physical, social, political, spiritual and economic environments in which they are used. As a language is used for instruction, for example, it intrinsically evolves to adapt to the demands of its users.

16. Why not use an early exit program where the L1 is used from pre-school up to Grade 3 and English is used as the exclusive medium of instruction thereafter?

Early-exit programs can help but may not be enough. The international experience on the use of L1 and L2 in education, especially in Africa, reveals that children need at least 12 years to learn their L1. It takes six to eight years of strong L2 teaching before this can be successfully used as a medium of instruction.

The consolidated Gullas, Villafuerte and Del Mar Bill (or the “English-only” MOI Bill) pending in Congress appears to support the use of the local languages and also the national language in education, as it provides that “English, Filipino or the regional/native language may be used as the MOI in all subjects from preschool until Grade III.” However, the Declaration of Policy section betrays the Bill’s real intention and this is to strengthen English “as the medium of instruction in all levels of education, from the preschool to the tertiary level.” The optional use of L1 and the national language as MOI really means that they may not be used at all.

17. Don’t we need more English since the language will provide more jobs for our countrymen, such as in the call center industry?

Many believe that this is an extremely shortsighted view because not all Filipinos will become call center agents. The more important concern is how to solve the current mismatch between industry and the educational system. According to former Education Undersecretary Miguel Luz, the consensus among employers is that a high school diploma with its current coverage is inadequate for its purposes because Filipino high school graduates are weak in their ability to communicate, to think logically, and to solve problems. Luz adds: “It (the Gullas Bill) is a dangerous bill, however, because it places a misleading emphasis on English as the medium of learning. As such, the young learners and their teachers will concentrate on the language, not on Science and Math and literacy (that is more fundamental to learning).” The best way to learn basic science and math, problem solving skills, and reasoning skills is through the L1.

18. What is a better alternative to the English-only Bill?

A better alternative is House Bill No. 3719, filed by Congressman Magtanggol Gunigundo II of Valenzuela. The Bill is also known as the Multilingual Education and Literacy Bill, or the Gunigundo Bill, which is far superior to the English-only Bill in many respects.

19. Is it costly to practice MLE?

Contrary to popular belief, L1-based education may actually cost less than a system that is based on L2. If we consider the money wasted on drop-outs, repeaters, and failures, as well as other added costs, studies show that L2-based education systems are more costly than L1 systems.

20. What do Philippine stakeholders say about MLE?

• The Department of Education, through Secretary Jesli Lapus: “We find the bill (the Gunigundo bill) to be consistent with the Basic Education Sector Reform Agenda (BESRA) recommendations and the bridging model proposed by the Bureau of Elementary Education where pupils were found to comprehend better the lessons in class.”

• The National Economic Development Authority, through NEDA Director General Ralph Recto: “From the economic and financial vantage points, we believe that adopting this education policy (HB 3719), in the final analysis, is cost-effective...

• The Philippine Business for Education (PBED), one of the largest associations of businessmen in the country: “English and Filipino are languages `foreign’ to most children and legislating either as medium of instruction will do more harm to an already ailing system of education.”

• The Department of Foreign Affairs and UNESCO Philippines, through Secretary Alberto Romulo: “Multilingualism is the order of things in the UN and in the world. The unique richness of the world’s national identities draws on the many traditions that make up different countries and are expressed through local and indigenous languages. UNESCO supports mother tongue instruction as a means of improving educational quality by building upon the knowledge and experience of the learners and teachers.”

21. Do we have to wait for legislation to implement MLE?

No. The Lubuagan experience, the DepEd Lingua Franca Project, and other existing programs using the local languages tell us that it is already possible to undertake an MLE program without waiting for legislation.

Read the complete version here:

Below is a video by Rey Maniago documenting a certain Kapampangan class in San Fernando's Filbern school. Check it out:

March 17, 2009

Kapampangan art is not acclaimed in Pampanga

‘Balangingi’ is ETC Best Short Film Awardee
Why are Kapampangan artworks awarded in other places but not in the province?
By Jason Paul Laxamana
Urban Kamaru
Central Luzon Daily

World Trade Center, Metro Manila—our Kapampangan short film ‘Balangingi’ (Nosebleed) wins the ETC Award for Best Short Film at the First Philippine Digital (Phil Digi) Music and Short Film Awards last March 12. Competing in a certainly Tagalog-dominated category, ‘Balangingi,’ in spite of being the only regional language entry, still impressed the Board of Judges from Entertainment Central (ETC), causing them to declare it the winner.

‘Balangingi’ tells the story of Xoo, who seems to be a standard teenager who lives boringly like everyone else, but unknown to people in his surroundings is what happens in his head—philosophizing about things average people would deem mundane, down to the minutest detail. One day, he is forced to attend a blind date. To avoid turning off his date, he struggles to suppress his intellectual side. The short film gives a peek to that minority in Philippine society who are unlikely to survive socially by being themselves—the Filipino intellectuals. Thus, the negative connotation of the local word “pilosopo” when it’s supposed to mean a lover of wisdom (philosopher).

According to the official website of the Phil Digi Awards: “There have been a lot of songs composed that are worth listening to. Quality short films are created even with low budget but are amazingly filled with art, ideas and moral values. Unfortunately, because of budget constraints, tough competition in getting radio airplays and film screens, and lack of knowledge, these great songs and films are being shelved. This is why iSYS Business Solutions and Blue Fish Asia came up with first Philippine Digital Music and Short Film Festival.”
Kapampangan Kompetes!

As usual, being a cultural worker seeking to empower the Kapampangan identity, I participated in the contest to “advertise” what Kapampangan can offer.

Note: I said what Kapampangan can offer, not what Kapampangans can offer. There’s a difference. It’s easy to show the world that Kapampangans (by blood) can be excellent. But oftentimes, these Kapampangans drop their being a Kapampangan—either consciously or not—to command the spotlight unto them. This, in my opinion, doesn’t empower the Kapampangan identity much. Whenever this happens, I just shake my head and whisper, “We’ve lost another one.”

In the venue of the Phil Digi Awards, there were huge tarpaulins where participants and guests can write anything—a freedom wall. Amidst the Pinoy pride slogans, individual promotions, and indie artist empowerment statements, we decided to write a message: “Kapampangan Ku, Pagmaragul Ku.”

Hours passed, and messages became more cramped in the tarpaulins. Checking out the “Kapampangan Ku, Pagmaragul Ku” again, we were surprised to see a reply written by a certain Larry, saying, “Kapampangan ku mu rin!”

Fast forward. ‘Balangingi’ was declared winner in the ETC category. I went up the stage to nervously deliver the first acceptance speech of my life—which started with “Mayap a bengi pu” and ended with a message on promoting Philippine cultural diversity—before an audience of both indie and mainstream artists, while being covered by the media.

And then we left, but not before checking out again the tarpaulin. Another reply, written by someone else, was suddenly added: “Aliwa la talaga ring Kapampangan!”

Perhaps we need more of these, as I call them, contemporary sources of Kapampangan pride—those that genuinely bring elements of Kapampangan identity to a more prestigious ground. For if we keep on drawing pride from Kapampangans who are successful but don’t carry with them elements of our identity (such as language, heritage, etc.), then we’re perpetuating the idea that the path to being successful is to drop our Kapampangan identity, when it is very possible to stick with Kapampangan (or make it the foundation of our works) and still get national or even global recognition.

Ligligan Kilual

The very reason I join film, music, and other competitions outside Pampanga is because Pampanga doesn’t have these. Hence, if I depended on what the province has, then I would have no means of increasing the symbolic value of my works, in spite of some of them probably being valuable to a certain degree.

There are no renowned music awards in Pampanga that would honor the best of the locally produced original songs annually; only specialized areas like those Battle of the Bands and so-so solo and choral singing contests. There are no film festivals. There are no province-wide literary contests except for municipality-level poetry tilts that produce Poet Laureates irregularly.

In result, a lot of Kapampangan artists who wish to prove something, feast their eyes on Manila and other countries, where it is actually easier to get formal acclamation than in their own homeland, just for the sole reason that the province doesn’t care much about the artistic capabilities of its residents, as seen in the scarcity of serious award-giving bodies.

An unrelenting source of funds, a board of credible judges, sincere support from the government, and media hype—these are the key ingredients in carrying out annual contests which are supposed to be looked forward to by the community, and looked up to by the people. Emerging as a first-time victor in these contests should make one feel as if he has undergone a birth of fire. He should feel several notches prouder, being aligned with the past winners who are supposed to be icons of excellence, as well.

But we have none. Probably the highest award from the province that can be bestowed to a writer, musician, visual artist, photographer, filmmaker, or actor would be the Most Outstanding Kapampangan Award for Culture and the Arts. So all your life, you have to struggle with your craft, reap awards from anywhere but your homeland, and when you have enough nice foreign awards up your sleeve, that’s when the province honors you.

But the province itself doesn’t make impressive actions in encouraging the best in the various areas of art.

Sindi, Patda

Contests are often held because they serve significant purposes—to encourage the creation of excellent artworks amidst art being a financially unrewarding career path in the country (especially in the province), and to invite the participation of the community in a certain field of art.

In a seemingly robotic world where almost everyone is reduced to a mechanical being tasked to perform a dehumanizing routine to survive, sustainable development in the arts will remind people of their humanistic side. I believe that the acknowledgment and exploration of our humanistic side prevent us from being insane from routines; and permit us to choose wisely and embrace elegant world views that will guide us sensibly in our decisions in life.

I know for a fact though that fields of art like music and sculpture thrive both in rural and urban Pampanga, but as Phil Digi Awards mentioned, these are usually shelved. They are made, but not distributed. Not all of them are excellent, but I’m sure a couple are, and they deserve to be known.

Now I ask: What efforts does the province make to seek for these artworks that deserve attention? What steps does the province take to collect these pieces of consciousness, which in the far future will remind the people how the art scene—which reflects culture, too—in Pampanga used to be?

Pampanga is becoming more and more like a parent who doesn’t care much about the promising talent of his/her child. What will the child do? He will either suppress his talent out of discouragement and choose the “more practical ways of life” (read: be like everyone else, go where the flow is, don’t innovate, don’t lead, just follow); or he will seek for other people who will greatly acknowledge his skill—and stick with those people in spite of not having the same blood relation.

Or is Pampanga that poor for it to not think about these things? I thought we were boasting of economic progress for the past years. If indeed we are poor, doesn’t the Pampanga government bother to take advantage of national grants, like for example, those of the National Commission on Culture and the Arts, to organize decent tilts?

If this is how lifeless the Kapampangan region will be in the realm of arts, then let me have my second thoughts on federalism and having a separate state for Kapampangans.

March 13, 2009


1:30 am.

Just got home!

World Trade Center, Metro Manila—our Kapampangan short film Balangingi (Nosebleed) wins the ETC award for best short film at the 1st Philippine Digital Awards! Dakal a salamat pu!

I'd love to elaborate, but, sorry, I need to rest for now.Have to return to manila tomorrow/later for Cinema One Originals 2009. I'm submitting a screenplay there, too.

Para king Indung Kapampangan!

(L-R): Jason Paul Laxamana, Writer-Director-Editor of Balangingi, etc.; Jayvie Dizon, lead actor; Jeremy Cortez, dubbing assistant; Diego Marx Dobles, Asst. Director-Music Scorer-Location Manager, etc. Photo was NOT taken during the Awarding. Photo was taken backstage after the last run of Oedipus Rex at the Angeles University Foundation, where Dizon played the lead role as well.

March 8, 2009

'Balangingi' is Jack TV/ETC short film category finalist

I was told just minutes ago that my Kapampangan short film Balangingi (Nosebleed) is a finalist in the Philippine Digital Music & Short Film Festival.

Jack TV and ETC have joined Isys business solution and Blue Fish Asia in the Phil Digi Awards. The Stylish and posh ETC and the Outrageous and Manly Jack TV channels launched their new categories in the Phil Digi Awards Short film competition. The Jack Short Film Category and ETC Short Film Category are the latest addition in the Phil Digi Awards Short film Competition.
Jack TV is looking for chic, witty and funny short films, may it be with a Live cast or better yet an Animated one as long as it can tickle the funny bones and can made a ton of laughs, it's a sure ball for the Jack TV Short film category. ETC on the other hand is looking for reality based Short films, so for those who has a keen and sassy eye for making reality based Short Films, the ETC Short film category is for you.

Since people love Balangingi (and it seems it's effective as comedy), we decided to make a 15-minute version of it and submitted it to the Jack TV category. I don't know how the screening committee reacted to it, especially since it's in Kapampangan, but, uyta, it's a finalist.

It will be a two-day event, but I might be attending just the second day (even though I also want to attend the first day, which has a series of discussions on artist management and other stuff about commercial music, an area I would love to know more about).

The second day, the program will be more of a film and business forum:

8:00 – 9:30 Registration
9:30 – 10:00 Opening Ceremony
Opening Remarks
10:00 – 10:30 Trends and Opportunities in animation
10:30 – 11:00 Producing an Original Content in Animation
11:00 - 11:30 Setting up your own Business in Animation
11:30 – 12:00 Animation Open Forum
12:00 – 1:00 Screening of Short Film Entries
1:00 – 1:30 Movie copyrights and Publishing Rights
1:30 -2:30 Producing an original film contents
2:30 - 3:00 Finding Grants
3:00 – 3:30 E Commerce
3:30 – 4:00 Broadcasting and Marketing your Content
4:00 – 4:30 Film Business Outsourcing through the internet
4:30 – 5:00 Trends and Technologies in Film Making

At 8PM of March 12, it will be the awarding of the winning entries of PhilDigi Awards. The event will be graced by the presence and performances of Heber Bartolome, Dulce, Hilera, Typecast, Session Road, Zelle, Moonstar 88, Yosha, DJ Benjo and more.

I'm after the screening of the finalists, because I enjoy observing the reactions of people. Balangingi proved to be effective to Kapampangans; now let's see it fare in Manila. I'm not sure though if many people will be watching, but nonetheless, it's something I'd like to see.

March 6, 2009

Cinema One Originals 2009: Fantasy is welcome

Of the very few cash-granting film festivals present in the Philippines, the Cinema One Originals Movie Festival seems to be the boldest when it comes to picking up screenplays from the many aspirants vying for the now-one million peso grant for the production of their films.

While Cinemalaya does a good job producing ten feature films a year which can serve as alternatives to the mainstream, it seems as though—some Pinoy film enthusiasts would agree—it is beginning to box itself in a certain type of genre others would call “the mainstream indie,” or the “typical indie.” That is to say, realistic stories that give emphasis on humanity.

This used to be a good thing because most of the mainstream films produced back then by gigantic studios were purely imagined, ranging from formulaic romantic flicks to slapstick comedies.

Wanted: Creative Imagination

Then came the next problem—the marginalization of creative imagination. Addicted to seemingly true-to-life stories, we have forgotten that humanistic issues can also be artistically expressed in genres like science fiction, fantasy, horror, and even experimental, whatever this genre is.

My favorite “political film” for instance is not a period film or a docu-drama type of work that boasts of a true-story basis. It’s “V For Vendetta,” a cult action-thriller film. It’s social science fiction set in Britain in the year 2038 where the country has come under totalitarian rule. The lead character, V, is a seemingly superhuman anarchist wearing a Guy Fawkes mask attempting to end the fascist dictatorship.

With lines that get quoted even in my Sociology 10 class in UP Diliman, such as “We are told to remember the idea, not the man, because a man can fail; he can be caught, he can be killed and forgotten, but 400 years later, an idea can still change the world,” and “...artists use lies to tell the truth, while politicians use them to cover the truth up,” the movie has found its way in my Favorite Movies in both Friendster and Facebook.

Enter the Gothic

It is fascinating how films like “Dilim” and “Yanggaw” have made it to the list of finalists in the past Cinema One Originals. The official synopsis of “Dilim” goes: Dilim is an enigmatic creature that roams the streets at night and does vigilante work, saving innocent victims by literally devouring the villains. Conflict ensues when a do-good policeman goes hot on his trail.

I personally haven’t watched “Dilim,” but the synopsis itself proves that it’s not your typical indie film boxed in the world of realism. Whether “Dilim” has literary and philosophical strengths or not is another issue, but Cinema One’s willingness to produce such type of film is laudable.

“Yanggaw,” a Hiligaynon word for ‘infected,’ is an Ilonggo horror film exploring the life of a family with one member, the daughter, mysteriously becoming sick—she uncontrollably transforms into an aswang crunching on random people in the village every night. Under this dark and fantastic packaging is the screenplay’s tackling of Filipino issues of kinship and community. I was able to watch “Yanggaw” weeks ago at the Cinema Rehiyon Film Festival in the Cultural Center of the Philippines, and “Yanggaw” was an impressive alternative to the “mainstream indies.”

Struggle of new fantasy and sci-fi

Our ancestors used to have a lot of interesting stories to tell—from celestial gods that warred in the heavens to a mighty deity that wove the universe like a net, and from a fire-breathing monster tortoise burrowed under Mt. Pinatubo to witches that can burst into flames at will. Even “Ibong Adarna,” which was a required reading back in High School, is of the fantasy genre.

With the risen popularity of socio-realism in literature, the biggest propagator probably being Jose Rizal (although at closer look, Rizal’s novels can be categorized as social science fiction), fantastic fiction has been pushed to the kiddie world, comic books, mainstream television, and that endless series of True Philippine Ghost Stories. Queer works have even become “more mainstream” than fantastic or science fiction. Fantasy that is as praiseworthy as “Lord of the Rings,” or science fiction like “The Matrix” are lacking in bookstores and literary celebrations.

Literary fantasy is slowly being explored in the country though, albeit some have the tendency to go neo-colonial by pretending to be anime fan fiction writers instead of creating new local fantasy. But while speculative fiction is a genre slowly being popularized in certain literary circles, the annual Palanca Awards chose to remove science fiction from its categories, with reasons I am clueless of.

Literary fantasy is showing signs of penetrating movies, mostly alternative ones, as seen in some entries to the Cinema One Originals Movie Festival, but an almost impressive attempt was “Nieves, The Engkanto Slayer,” the third act in “Shake, Rattle, & Roll X.”

Currently, Pinoy science fiction and urban fantasies are rare, and I look forward to seeing films and literary pieces under these genres.

March 13

The deadline in submitting screenplays to the Cinema One Originals 2009 has been extended up until March 13. See for details.

March 4, 2009

Korean Singers attempt to conquer US market!

I wrote before a blog entry about Korean entertainers trying their luck in US—BoA, Rain, and Se7en.

BoA has already debuted with a fantastic music video, but I don't know how well-received she has been in the American market. With an obvious Asian accent when singing her English songs, BoA could have either irritated ears or she could marked her identity as an Asian in the US music scene. Nonetheless, "Eat You Up" has astounded people with BoA's dancing skills.

And then we have Se7en, my favorite among them all. He seems to be the most fluent in English, even though not a native speaker. A different accent can still be detected in his American English, but people perceive it positively, with girls falling in love with it, finding it sexy and cute.

Boasting of an album with popular American producers, the sound is very much like the typical American RnB and pop crooners like Justin Timberlake and Usher. Compared to BoA's "Eat You Up" though, Se7en's debut "Girls" is more lyrically creative.

Se7en's official debut video will be released March 10.

Both BoA and Se7en are obviously Americanizing their images though. Instead of bringing Korean heritage to the US, they are trying to immerse in the established American pop culture and seek to prove that Koreans are a wave to watch out for in the genres and styles the Americans are known for.

As regards Rain, I have no news about him.

March 3, 2009

March 1, 2009

Scarcity of Young Kapampangan Storytellers

Scarcity of Young Kapampangan Storytellers
Kapampangans at the Taboan Philippine Int’l Writers Festival
By Jason Paul Laxamana
Urban Kamaru
Central Luzon Daily

Last February 11 to 13, literary writers from different provinces gathered in Quezon City to attend the first ever Taboan Philippine International Writers Festival. The gathering is the offering of the Committee on Literary Arts of the NCCA (National Commission on Culture and the Arts), which for the first time celebrated a non-Manilacentric National Arts Month.

‘Taboan’ is a Visayan word meaning assembly, marketplace, meeting place, or rendezvous. In the Kapampangan language, the closest translation is ‘tabnuan’ or ‘sasmuan.’

True to the title’s meaning, the festival gathered both young and old writers from the regions to attend various discussions on topics ranging from writing for a living, literature and publishing in the provinces, new forms of publishing, children’s literature, language and literature, building literary careers, emerging genres of fiction, to transforming literature to stage and screen plays, the non-reading youth, experimental poetry, feminism in literature, and writing for an international audience.

Delegates from the province were Kragi Garcia, representing the older generation, and yours truly, the younger generation, both accompanied by UP Pampanga Directress Prof. Juliet Mallari, who happens to be part of NCCA’s Literary Arts Committee.

Decentralizing Pinoy lit

Like Philippine Cinema, Philippine Literature has often been Manila/Tagalog-centric. The ongoing history of national literature has always put the spotlight on the writers from the center, not taking into account the developing—or perhaps, even the long-existing—literary scenes from the regions.

In my elementary and high school years, all the literary works we were required to read for our Filipino class were Tagalog pieces, rendering me ignorant of works from other provinces and even of Kapampangan literature. Only during my self-imposed literary journey have I been exposed to the works of Jose Gallardo, Juan Crisostomo Soto, and other Kapampangan luminaries.

English and Tagalog literature have for a long time occupied for themselves the box called Philippine or National Literature, that is why non-Tagalog and non-English works settled for their respective regional titles—Cebuano Literature, Waray Literature, Kapampangan Literature, Ilonggo Literature, etc.

If logic be applied, then it means Cebuano Literature is Cebuano Literature, not Philippine Literature, same way as having to coin the term Bisrock for Bisaya Rock, when there’s already Pinoy Rock. This is because Philippine Literature has always been associated with Tagalog and English.

With the organization of Taboan, however, this might begin to change eventually. Any Filipino work, regardless whether it is in Ilokano, Kankanaey, or Maranao, will be called Philippine Literature. If the language be needed to be emphasized, we’ll call a Kapampangan work “Philippine Literature in Kapampangan.”

The undocumented present

By listening to the stories of other people about their respective regions’ contemporary literature, I’ve realized that the Kapampangan literary scene is more endangered than I thought.

It’s not about the dispute over orthography—although this is still a problem. It’s probably not even about the illiteracy of young Kapampangans in their native language. For me, it’s the scarcity of this generation’s authentic storytellers—using whatever medium—that poses the biggest problem.

I was in the Angeles University Foundation last week delivering a lecture about contemporary Kapampangan culture to Communication students. I asked the audience if there were writers among them. No one was raising a hand—not until I complained about the pekat-pekat attitude of my fellow youth, which I said was a disgrace to our mighty ancestors.

So one girl raised her hand and I asked her what she writes. Fictional prose and poetry, she said. Then I asked her to recite the synopsis of her favorite among her own works. She told me the story of a Mindanao-residing boy affected by the war in the Middle East and in Mindanao—or something like that.

Then I asked her if she has ever written anything with a Kapampangan as a main character. She shook her head. “How about a story set in Pampanga?” I received the same answer. It didn’t surprise me though.

Of course she’s just one girl, and I know that to conclude based on the account of one person is illogical—but really, I have been encountering this case as if it’s the norm—a scary one—for the Kapampangan youth, even the supposedly bright ones. Aside from refusing to use their native language in literary writing, they write about stuff happening either nowhere or elsewhere, anywhere but never their homeland.

If one is to get a feel of the Kapampangan region through literature, the present decade and probably the 90s would be murky “mirrors of society.” Or probably, they would be “mirrors of society in the eyes of the elders.” The perspective of the young storyteller has gone missing.

Mystery of the rappers

This might come as a surprise, but, actually, local underground rappers are probably the only consistent homeland-rooted storytellers of my generation. Their rap tracks are available only through the web or through pirated CDs in Angeles City, but if you listen to their lyrics, albeit usually not in Kapampangan, you’ll get the impression that they are writing about their immediate surroundings—something not done even by most erudite college publication writers in the province.

The topics of their rap songs of course are not the type that would win Palancas or even the Buwan ng Wika writing contests, but you can somehow detect the local storyteller within them.

The mainstream example would have to be Apl De Ap’s “Bebot” song. Apl De Ap of the Black Eyed Peas is from Sapang Bato, Angeles City, and in spite of his international fame, some of his compositions still mirror his Kapampangan life. Take for example an excerpt from “The Apl Song.”

Listen closely yo, I got a story to tell
A version of my ghetto where life felt for real
Some would call it hell but to me it was heaven
God gave me the grace, amazin' ways of living
How would you feel if you had to catch your meal?
Build a hut to live and to eat and chill in.
Having to pump the water outta the ground
The way we put it down utilizing what is around
Like land for farming, river for fishing
Everyone helpin' each other whenever they can
We makin' it happen, from nothin' to somethin'
That's how we be survivin' back in my homeland

How to solve

I don’t have the antidote to this dilemma, but I can share my thoughts. First of all, schools play an important role in making students aware of the culture, history, and literature of the Kapampangans. I think if our young storytellers were exposed more to homeland-rooted literary works, they would be somehow swayed to that direction.

Being chained to the past would most likely be the next problem. If these storytellers only read works that speak of life in the peaceful meadows, Japanese period struggles, and other pieces where all female characters are Maria Claras, they might end up writing about the past, the way they imagine it, instead of writing about their own time.

We are a unique generation compared to our predecessors. We are the MTV generation, the DIY generation, the anime generation, the digital generation, the global village generation, and many other things, such that only we can probably write about directly from the heart. We are a generation addicted to social networking simultaneously having Friendster, Multiply, Facebook, MySpace, YouTube, and probably even Xtube accounts, while keeping diverse contacts in our phone books—and to not include these things, along with other “strange” concepts that cause our fights with our parents, in our generation’s literature will be a great denial of reality. Literature then fails.

Also, perhaps we should promote Creative Writing more in our province. I wonder why we don’t have annual writing workshops like those of Cebu, Negros, and Baguio. And how come we don’t have a Kapampangan category for the Palanca Awards? Or better yet, why don’t we have local literary contests, aside from the oral poetry (pamigale) contests where elders dominate?

Creative Writing has always been limited to the school publications, making it seem as though it’s the grandest thing a young Kapampangan literary writer can achieve locally—to be published in the school paper.

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10 Tips for Indie Filmmakers

1. WORK WITH WHAT YOU’VE GOT. Don’t write that epic crowd scene unless you know there’s a festival happening next week that you can steal as a backdrop. Play to your strengths. There’s probably something unique that you or your family have access to that you can use in your movie. If your dad has a tractor, write a movie around that. If he doesn’t, don’t.

2. YOU CAN’T BEAT HOLLYWOOD. Tempting as it may be to try to imitate the style and gloss of your favourite blockbusters, let’s face it; the game is rigged in their favour. You can try, and your failure may be unique and interesting (or at least funny) in its own right—but you can also just do your own thing, and try something that the studios wouldn’t have the balls or the imagination to do in the first place.

3. STUDY FILMS. A lot of the mistakes that young filmmakers make could be avoided if teenagers actually just paid attention to their favourite films. Pick a movie you love and watch it with the sound down; look closely at the camera angles, the editing and the lighting. Watch short films on Youtube and see how an effective story can be told in five minutes. You won’t be able to match the production value of these films—and you don’t need to, anyway—but oftentimes the craft of good filmmaking doesn’t cost any money. You just have to actually watch films.

4. PUSH YOURSELF. Every film you make should teach you something you didn’t know before, and achieve something you didn’t know you were capable of. This doesn’t mean you have to go out every time and do something that you have no idea how to do. You should draw on the skills and techniques you’ve already learned—but if you’re not building on them, if you’re not pushing yourself further in some way, you’re playing it safe. It will show.


6. TEST SCREEN. Showing your film to an audience is one of the most important ways of figuring out what you’re doing right or wrong as a filmmaker—but that isn’t the same as saying that you always have to try to please the audience, or make a film that you think “they” will like. A lot of the time just seeing your film with other people in the room will help you see it more objectively. And if you’re still thinking your film has to be 20 minutes long, just imagine how long that 20 minutes is going to feel when 300 people are sitting beside you watching it…

7. DON’T NEGLECT THE BASICS. Audiences will forgive a lot of technical flaws in your film if your story is compelling, your actors are engaging or your jokes are funny—but there’s still a threshold point where the technical mistakes start to get in the way. That point is usually when they’re no longer able to clearly see, hear or follow what’s going on. So get to know your equipment, and practice with it. Learn the basics of shot composition. Do your best to record quality sound, and if that’s beyond your means, make a silent movie—there’s too much talking in most movies anyway.

8. EMBRACE LIMITS. The limitations of teenage filmmaking can often be discouraging. How the hell are you supposed to make a great film when all you’ve got is this crappy camera and your stupid friends? Well, the first step is to change your attitude. There’s an old French filmmaker named Robert Bresson who said, “Someone who can work with the minimum can work with the most. One who can with the most cannot, inevitably, with the minimum.” In other words, you should be celebrating the fact that all you’ve got is a crappy camera and some stupid friends: that means all your solutions to the problems you encounter are going to have to be creative ones, and as Robert Rodriguez wrote, “that can make all the difference between something fresh and different and something processed and stale.”

9. DON’T GIVE UP. If you haven’t failed at filmmaking yet, then you probably weren’t being ambitious enough. If you have, congratulations; you’re on way to becoming a great filmmaker. Just keep at it, and as Beckett put it, “fail better” next time.

Finally, the über-rule which contradicts all the other ones:

10. DON’T LISTEN TO ANYONE. Hollywood screenwriter William Goldman famously said of the film world that “nobody knows anything”; and it’s true. That doesn’t mean you should ignore everything anyone tells you, but if you’re really passionate about a project, don’t let anyone talk you out of it. Make the film that you want to make—not the film you think people want to see, or the film your teachers or your parents want you to make. Most of all, don’t listen to people who say that you can’t do something, or that what you’re aiming for isn’t possible. I’ve argued above that limitations are your friend, but the types of restrictions that really get in the way are the ones that you let get stuck inside your own head. Who says films have to cost a certain amount, look a certain way, be made a certain way, or contain this element or that one?

Hint: they don’t.