27 January 2017

The dearth of middle-aged heroines


In a 1994 interview with Charlie Rose, author and actor Emma Thompson shared that her ambition is to write as she gets older, and to write about being older. “Women reach their most powerful and often their most interesting in their fifties and sixties, and I don’t see any movies about women of that age,” explained the thespian. Incidentally, I chanced upon the interview during the time I was reading Mario Vargas Llosa’s Aunt Julia and the Scriptwriter, which chapters alternate between the main story and installments of radio serials featuring “a man in the prime of his life, his fifties.”

The number is intriguing. Terrifying, depending on your mood. There is this expression I learned from childhood and I wonder if it’s still being used today: “Lampas ka na sa kalendaryo.” It implies — as how I understood it back then — that you have reached your thirties without having done anything meaningful yet, such as raise a family. The clock ticks faster.

It seemed worlds away when you were little, until you hit 30 and, Bam! Still no clue what on earth you are doing living with your parents, not identifying as an adult. I’ve always thought that a person’s best years are in their twenties, that’s why hearing Thompson and Llosa talk of much older interesting men and women lifts my spirit a bit.

A bit. Because despite their words and the many who claim, “40 is the new 30, and so on and so forth,” there aren’t enough narratives to convince me (or am I not looking hard enough?). A novelist told me before that Young Adult Fiction is popular because all of us have been a teenager, and we prefer to dwell in younger times. Youth sells. But midlife and old-age are fascinating mysteries as well. What do people in their 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s do? What are their struggles, their fears and desires? What is their language?


When Repertory Philippines offered a preview of its 2017 line-up of shows, Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike by Christopher Durang stood out with a promise of everyday, relatable drama interwoven with clever gags. The story revolves around three siblings in the throes of midlife crisis. Vanya and Sonia manage mundane lives, while Masha is an enviable celebrity who has just got herself a boy toy named Spike.

Me and Miss Cherie
Rep’s production stars legendary kondtrabida, Cherie Gil as Masha. “I accepted the part for so many reasons,” says Gil, who describes Masha as “playful” — a departure from the the characters she’s been associated with, even pigeonholed into. “I want to do something different, comedy naman. Here I get to work opposite a young man and touch a young man’s body,” she cackles after racking her brain. “I was never cast in soaps with a leading man because the bitch never gets the man. At least in theater I can be more versatile and play wonderful roles such as this.”

There’s my cue to ask if she agrees that there’s a dearth of good roles for women her age. “I agree” is her quick response. “In fact next year I am co-producing a film with the same producers of Heneral Luna. It’s again a comedy — I want to break the ice and look at things in a light-hearted way — about a middle-aged woman and the journey that she goes through,” shares Gil, believing that a lot of millennials would like to know where they’re heading, “not to give them fear, but to know what they have to deal with in that stage.”

Like undeniable physical changes. “Whatever you do right now, do it to the hilt,” she advises. “Exercise, exercise, exercise. Because there will come a point when no matter how much your mind wills, the the body does not want to cooperate. When you get older, you have more ideas, more space in yourself to want to do things, to share, contribute. If you’re fit and have the stamina, you can still do anything.”

Blessed with an enormous amount of sense of humor, Gil adds menopause to the list of things ladies can look forward to in their fifties: “It is also something that I am embracing. I address it. I’m not in any relationship right now, so at least no man has to deal with that!”

Another reason Gil is eager to be in Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike is her connection to and appreciation of Masha. Both are actors undergoing midlife crisis to begin with. “It’s great to be able to play around that truth and laugh at it,” notes the star. The parallels between the two, however, go deeper. “We represent the strong woman, standing by herself, without the need of a man. Hey, we’re not gonna lie about this, a woman would love to have a man. And that’s why Masha goes to five failed marriages and a boyfriend. But if she finds herself alone, she will learn to accept that.” She continues with the slightest pause in speech, “I personally would love to have someone to be with, walk with, watch a movie with, have dinners with. But I’ve come to terms with that. I’ve allowed (not having someone) because I guess by destiny and maybe subconsciously this is how I really want to be in my life.”

What’s nice about conversing with a more mature woman is not the wisdom you gather but rather the recognition that you are more alike than different (she only got there first). Gherie Gil is as energetic and fun — funny, actually — as the next adolescent you’ll meet. She’s intimidated by new technology, yet admits to being paralyzed without her phone. She lights up recalling the joys of her generation, while stressing how wonderful it is to live now — even be a middle-aged woman now. “It’s a good time to recreate female roles that are more empowering and it’s a nice period to be born and be in midlife,” she says, “because women are beginning to step up to the plate.”

—Originally published on GIST

24 January 2017

Why does it hurt?

Woke up feeling great. Energized. Made delicious brunch, caught an ep of How to get away with murder and my all-time fave, Desperate housewives on cable (would rewatch every rerun of this and Charmed whenever there's a chance). Watched tennis. Yes, Rafa! Played the piano. I read faster. I am better.

Last night I dressed, danced, conjured new moves thanks to Panic! At The Disco and a heartbreak.

Never mind how but I did find out. Did the math. They've been together three years.

Why does it hurt?

Because they weren't together when we met.

I failed.

I wasn't the one chosen.

I lost to someone whom I didn't think was competition.

"...the worst is the thought that they tried you out and, in the end, the whole sum of parts adds up to you got stamped REJECT by the one you love."

The other was better.

14 January 2017

Or the night we bathed in laser lights

David Guetta takes a pause from his awe-inspiring, albeit mild seizure-inducing, concert to express his love for sports and music: “These are two of my favorite things because they bring people together,” says the French DJ, whose This one’s for you is the official UEFA Euro 2016 theme.

He’s not exactly right, though. Sports spark bitterness, if not among competitors, among loyal spectators from opposing sides; and music, especially pop music, is rife with rivalries, with fans ready to bite each other’s head off as they prove who’s better than whom, why this or that genre should cease to exist, and which era is superior of them all.

But we know what he means. And that kind of over-thinking and negativity displayed above disappears once you hit the dance floor and lose yourself among the crowd and to whatever song the DJ dishes out.

“I’m happy that we get to start the year together,” Guetta tells the ravers at the Araneta Coliseum last night. He’s quite chatty for a DJ, and you can hear him smiling. In one of his most engaging numbers, he asks that all the lights are turned off. “If you like it dark and sexy like me, make some noise!” he pleads in his unsexy English. But never mind his accent; he’s playing a rhythmic pattern that makes the shy gyrate. This stretch of musical foreplay culminates in a drop that’s matched by a crazy spectacle of lights.

For someone who welcomed 2017 locked at home, afraid of firecrackers and stray bullets, Guetta’s Unity Tour in Manila is a belated New Year’s celebration. His remixes and light-works are the noise and luminance I dig.

It is also GIST’s first major event in the calendar. Coming from a long holiday break, and a longer break from covering concerts, I fear that I may have forgotten how to do this. Seeing the pile of huge cases labeled ‘LASER’ as we go inside, however, is enough to excite me. The walk along the dim pathway is a walk towards home.

We’re back to the grind.

It’s naive to think that having a good start means having a good run. But that’s what euphoria does — it gives you some positive energy to carry on, and an easy way to reach that state is through music. So long as artists like Guetta keep visiting, providing reprieve from the daily stress and the saddest state of affairs, then we should be fine.

As chart-toppers Bad, Titanium, and Without you blast in the big dome, I get out of the zone and realize, “This is David world’s-highest-paid-DJ Guetta spinning for us. How lucky are we!” Welcome indeed, 2017. And thank you, David Guetta for being this year’s superb opening act.

—Originally published on GIST

09 January 2017

(National) Artist and muse


Reunion—that which excites and agitates me.

Things have changed since we last saw each other that there are stuff I (a) feel uneasy and (b) can't wait to share.

Mich, Alts, Jen, Allan, Me


It had probably been a decade since I went to this house, but as soon as I saw its facade, all the memories, its finer details, came back.

I thought he wouldn't remember me, but I learned he did when he called my name.

And when the pleasantries were over, we sat down at the table, had lunch, warmed up, eased our way to our usual conversations.

Is this the same cat from some ten years ago?


I became Dr Cirilo Bautista's student during his mellowed-down phase. Mellow didn't mean kind, however. He was blunt and all the same had no patience for stupidity.

What I remember most about his classes are the poems on newsprint, and among those poets, Philip Larkin stayed with me until I grew up: 'They fuck you up, your mum and dad. They may not mean to, but they do.'

And, of course, those jokes that were too corny they're funny.

At his age now, he could still crack them. We asked for a peep at his National Artist medal. He said, sure, for a fee.



All his books are dedicated to Rose.

Once we met her, we never stopped talking about her. The girls love her. 'Find a partner-slash-archivist'—we say, referring to Rose's role in Cirilo's life.

But to me, she'll always be the muse.

I remember another Cirilo joke, no another bluntness. In one class he was recalling how he'd write love poetry for money. His clients: friends who wanted to woo the ladies. He said he'd ask for a photo of their beloved for reference, and added that it was so much easier if the girl was beautiful—'You'll just write what you see', but a quite burden if the girl was ugly.

(National) Artist and muse


It's always a field trip when our group get together. And in the spirit of field trips, we had Doc Bau's new library at home to explore.

Inside the library


Already you write like a master: with genius in language and genius of imagination. No poet in contemporary America or Britain has your magnitude.

Therefore, to salute you is my honor.

—Jose Garcia Villa to Cirilo Bautista

Villa and a very young Bautista


In all honesty, when my classmates-turned-friends mentioned that there's a lunch invitation by Doc Bau, I was eager to join because I thought time was running out for him. 'The neighborhood knows me, and why wouldn't they, the ambulance always comes for me,' he said.

The same goes for me. After I publish this I might be hit by lightning or a speeding bus. So any chance of another meeting with those who have energized me so, I'm there.

(National) Artist and (maybe someone's) muse

01 January 2017


Whenever someone asks where my cubicle is, I always say, 'Iyong walang dekorasyon, iyong walang personality'.

I never mark my territory when it comes to the office—and I've worked in several offices. It's all temporary. My first job was short-lived: one, two months? In my first sort of stable job, I've transferred departments and climbed ranks, and there I started to learn to not be too attached to the desk.

This time, leaving is easier. Because it feels like an actual chapter from a book: full. I've had fun, learned a lot, and given much of myself. And because this leaving—unlike the previous ones—is not an escape but a natural ending.

This is not to say I don't believe in any form of long-term commitment (this blog is one proof that I do).

My current home, I'm very protective of. I groom it as I would myself. By that I mean I obsessively declutter. My favorite practice is throwing away things. In the corner of my mind, however, I know that this isn't my last mortal resting place. (So many plans.) But I think I'll stay here for quite a while.

The constants? Why art and friends, of course—and myself (sanity). I won't know how to behave without books, without fiction and poetry. I'm glad that I am capable of building and maintaining friendships. I wish I won't go insane or die anytime soon because I'm really loving me and my life.

If we've been friends for years, congratulations to us. We've surely changed but that we manage to still respect, admire and seek each other's company is something to celebrate. Happy new year to you!

If we've become friends in 2016, congratulations to us, but more precisely to me. I rarely connect with someone, so I must've been lucky that we've crossed paths. Happy new year to you!

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