Veronica Velasco’s film Nuuk takes us to the bleak and sunless sub-zero capital of Greenland, where the snow blinds the eyes, teenagers kill themselves over broken hearts and most folks melt their frozen blood with alcohol.
Living alone in the unforgiving tundra climate, in a cold and long snowy winter, is a Filipina named Elaisa (a makeup-free Alice Dixson). We catch her trudging through deep snow on the way to a pharmacy. And what a striking sight it is — this first ever Filipino film to be shot in Greenland. This alien world, beautiful and harsh. An endless gray punctuated with brightly colored houses.
It’s sinister and lonely. And your anticipation grows as you look forward to what this breathtakingly lensed psychological-thriller will bring.
So Elaisa arrives at the counter wearing a parka and a desperate face. But as soon as she opens her mouth, the film’s atmospheric visuals and somber mood are abruptly shattered. Elaisa talks in a whiny, melodramatic sing-songy tone of voice reminiscent of old, bad television. It felt like the beginning of a juvenile rom-com.
Then, to make it worse, Elaisa begs a refill of her Prozac without prescription, because she needed “to sleep.” Oh no. It immediately goes downhill from there.
Prozac is a common antidepressant, not a sedative. In fact, feeling drowsy with Prozac, or falling asleep with that drug, is a bad side effect that requires medical attention. Perhaps what she (or the script) really needed is temazepam? Or any kind of benzodiazepine? Like the common Valium? The one Sarah Geronimo purchased in Miss Granny without an Rx, as if they were multivitamins?
The pharmacy wouldn’t fill her bottle, so, like a child that was refused a lollipop, she turns away with a huff. Then lo and behold! A man walking away is carrying a bottle of Prozac. Elaisa’s mutant eyesight can zoom in on the tiny label of the man’s pill bottle. The guy turns around. It’s Aga Muhlach. A reunion, after their 1992 Sinungaling Mong Puso.
So Elaisa asks the man, Mark Alvarez (Muhlach), for some Prozac, to get her through until her next appointment with her psychiatrist. Mark doesn’t suggest that if Elaisa needed to sleep, what she needs is an entirely different drug. Or maybe just a cup of chamomile tea? Nevertheless, he gives in to her request and they exchange numbers.
It’s hard to ignore that glaring Prozac mistake, especially when we soon see Elaisa taking more than one pill in one sitting (oddly, swallowing them dry before taking a swig of alcohol) to knock her out. Maybe she is diagnosed with depression, too, but you never see depressive traits in Elaisa. She just acts like a childish woman and a nagging mother to Karl (Ujarneq Fleischer), a young, promiscuous and alcoholic man who speaks Greenlandic when frustrated.
Elaisa becomes attached to Mark and they go on dates. Muhlach, thankfully, gives a nuanced, committed performance, but this makes him and Dixson feel as if they are acting in two different movies. Dixson’s performance is incredibly out of place, and as the antiheroine in this forced tale, her character is half-baked. We know nothing about her, except she is an insomniac widow, an alcoholic and doesn’t get along with her son.
There’s one climactic scene when a psychiatric patient is wheeled to a recreation room, where a huge TV is playing a suicide news report. Really? Showing mental patients a sensitive, triggering topic?
You can sense a great struggle in the film to create an “intelligent” psycho-thriller. Sadly, a gorgeous cinematography, sound design and fascinating location cannot redeem a flawed story that lacks subtlety and research. There is no sense of thrill, fear or suspense — just lots of contrivances in order to create strained plot twists and weak red herrings.
However, the film is never dull. The surreal, dreamlike location of Nuuk, as well as your strong curiosity about how the movie will conclude, will ferry you until the end. And as the first Filipino film to be shot in Greenland (and it is lensed beautifully!), the film’s visuals will haunt you long after you’ve left the cinema.
1.5 out of 5 stars
‘Nuuk’ will premiere in the Philippines at the 5th Danish Film Festival at Shangri-La Plaza from 9 to 13 October 2019 and will have its commercial release on 6 November 2019.
Streaming soon: New films, TV series
The reopening of cinemas in the Philippines seems light years away, but thank goodness, new films and TV series are still coming to our homes through streaming services, providing an escape from our bleak, virus-conquered lives.
It’s wise to invest beyond Netflix so you can add more variety to your entertainment buffet. Here are some of the exciting films and series coming this September and October, which will arrive in your home theater, laptop — or whatever device you use to sit back, relax, and stream.
‘Welcome to the Blumhouse’ (horror anthology)
The month of October is upon us, which means we’re in for a slew of scary films. Amazon Prime Video is the best app to tap if you’re a fan of the horror genre.
Amazon Studios has teamed up with horror factory Blumhouse Productions to send chills down our spine with a series of anthology films all slated for next month.
Welcome to the Blumhouse promises four “unique” and “unsettling” flicks “under one roof” from internationally diverse casts and directors.
Prep yourself for a screamfest beginning 6 October with Black Box, about a single dad who undergoes experimental treatment for his memory loss, and The Lie, where two parents desperately attempt to cover up their teenage daughter’s morbid crime.
On 13 October, make sure you have a blanket nearby to cover your eyes (or a towel, in case you wet your pants) with the romance-turned-deadly-and-horrific Evil Eye, and a story about a sinister notebook in Nocturne.
‘Time’ (documentary feature)
Another reason to subscribe to Amazon Prime Video is Time, the critically acclaimed 2020 Sundance-winning documentary from Garrett Bradley, which will premiere globally on 23 October.
Fuel your passion for justice and human compassion as you follow abolitionist and entrepreneur Sibil Fox Richardson as she fights for the release of her husband Rob, who is serving a staggering 60-year prison sentence.
It scored a 92 percent on Rotten Tomatoes. And it’s shot in black and white. Critics around the world are calling it gripping, moving, vibrant and stunning. I’m sold.
‘The Forty-Year-Old Version’ (comedy film)
In these dark times, we need a hearty laugh more than ever. Dropping on 9 October on Netflix is Radha Blank’s 2020 Sundance-winning comedy The Forty-Year-Old Version, with a 95 percent score on Rotten Tomatoes. It’s also shot in black and white, set in New York City, with Blank herself playing a struggling playwright.
If you’re currently an anxiety ridden artist, or an aimless creative seeking relevance and motivation, or simply a fan of American indie, then this might be the movie for you. As the protagonist Radha nears her 40th birthday, she grapples to find her true artistic voice.
The film, which teeters between the worlds of theater and hip-hop, has been regarded as smart, hilarious and crowd-pleasing.
‘The Boys in the Band’
Missing Jim Parsons? Catch him in the 2020 remake of the LGBT tale The Boys in the Band, which will pop up on Netflix on 30 September. Both the 1970 original movie and this modern-day makeover are based on Matt Crowley’s 1968 Broadway play of the same title.
Joe Montello is at the helm, and Parsons is flanked by an all-star cast, which includes Zachary Quinto and Matt Bomer. The premise? A group of gay friends find themselves in a reunion at a birthday bash. When the host’s college roommate (and a closeted gay) crashes the party, the night takes a tumultuous turn. Sounds like a comedy because Parsons is in it, but the film is actually a drama.
‘On the Rocks’ (Comedy film)
Apple-using cinephiles will have something to look forward to on 23 October on their Apple TV+ app. Celebrated director Sofia Coppola reunites with Bill Murray after 2003’s Lost in Translation for the “bittersweet comedy” On the Rocks. Murray plays a playboy dad who helps his distraught daughter (Rashida Jones) follow her husband (Marlon Wayans), because something doesn’t feel right in her marriage.
On the Rocks is a production of A24, the indie house that brought us American indie gems nominated in the Academy Awards, like Lady Bird, Moonlight, Uncut Gems and more. And given it’s a Coppola film, this should definitely be on your must-see list.
If espionage thrillers are your thing, then head on to Apple TV+ on 25 September and indulge yourself in the high-rated foreign-produced series. It’s not in English, which makes it more authentic, as the setting is in Iran. It follows an undercover Mossad agent on her first mission. Yes, a girl spy, which makes it more exciting.
There’s been a lot of applause for this dramatic spy thriller and we are lucky enough that Apple TV+ is bringing it to the international audience, including here in the Philippines. So, check it out later today — grab your iPhones and see what the fuss is all about.
‘The Undoing’ (miniseries)
Nicole Kidman will grace your devices on 25 October in a drama series based on Jean Hanff Korelitz’s 2014 novel You Should Have Known. So make sure you’re subscribed to HBO Go for this.
Kidman plays Grace, a therapist who will soon be releasing her first book. But weeks before her book is published, her life turns upside down (of course). Kidman is surrounded by an exciting cast that includes Hugh Grant, Noah Jupe and Donald Sutherland, which is enough to give this a look-see. It’s directed by Susanne Bier, the Danish director behind Bird Box and the hit TV series The Night Manager.
Xian Lim takes the strings
Film-TV actor Xian Lim is about to make history (in the Philippines). He is all set to direct a pioneering Filipino puppetry film. (Yes, there are puppeteers in the country who are not with a foreign government and are also non-oligarchs. They are mostly little-known artists from hardly known cultural groups.)
Xian will direct a film with puppets as main characters for the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP), specifically for the program Sining Sigla of the CCP Office of the President, whose occupant was a film-TV director for many years, though he started his career as an artist as a theater director: Arsenio “Nick” Lizaso.
Foremost puppetry practitioner in the country Dr. Amelia Lapena Bonifacio of the University of the Philippines has acknowledged Xian’s work, which will be the first ever the country.
The actor will make not just one film, but two, though both will be adaptations of literary masterpieces of the Philippines: Florante at Laura and Ibong Adarna. The screenplays were written by ventriloquist-puppeteer Ony Carcamo who was once entertainment editor of a tabloid attached to a broadsheet (not the Daily Tribune).
Ony’s alter-ego puppet Kiko in his ventriloquist act may appear in any of the two films — with Ony himself giving voice to the puppet, as all ventriloquists do.
The puppetry films belong to Sining Sigla’s MALA project. The acronym stands for Modern Adaptation of Literary Arts. But as Ony explained at the virtual media conference for Sining Sigla, when MALA is written in lower case, it becomes the Tagalog prefix that means “resembling” or “like.”
“The films will be mala-Florante at Laura and mala-Ibong Adarna. They will not be the full-length versions of those literary masterpieces we inherited from our ancestors. Those two works have dozens of characters, long-winding plots that take hours to stage. So we’re doing film adaptations that can be viewed on a shorter time.
Our versions will be just mala,” explained Ony at the Zoom media huddle.
Xian has directed only one film so far, and it must be familiar to CCP officials and personnel. Tabon, a suspense-drama, was an entry in the 2019 Cinemalaya at the CCP. It had mixed reception, but a film is a film and not everyone can conceive and direct a film to qualify as an entry to a festival as prestigious as Cinemalaya. That acceptance must be more than good enough qualification for Xian to be asked to direct what is expected to be a historic film.
The films will be shown online for free at the CCP Facebook page in either October or November.
Sining Sigla is actually a festival in its own right. One component will be historic for actor-director Ricky Davao because it will be his first time to helm a project for the CCP. And it is a mini-festival in itself: Isang Pagbabalik-Tanaw sa Hari ng Balagtasan. That hari (king) is Jose Corazon de Jesus, more popularly known as the poet “Huseng Batute,” after whom a laboratory theater at the CCP is named.
It’s the third time that a mini-festival for the versatile literary man (he also wrote plays, essays, editorials and even screenplays for which he also acted) will be held at the CCP. Its format is a cultural variety show and this year’s edition will be hosted by GMA 7’s star comedian Michael V. Among the performers will be John Arcilla and soprano Lara Maigue.
Sining Sigla also has a jazz festival component that will be shown on the Facebook pages of the CCP and the CCP Office of the President on 25 to 27 September and 2 to 4 October 2020, all at 7:30 p.m. Among the artists performing will be saxophonist Tots Tolentino and Michael Guevarra, singers Nicole Asensio, Lorna Cifra, the all-female group Baihana, the Simon Tan Trio and pianist Pipo Cifra.
Aside from individual performances, there will be one grand performance for all of them to be directed by Stanley Seludo, a member of the CCP Board of Trustees who is a musician himself.
As of this writing, dramatic and messy events have broken out off-camera among showbiz idols, such as Liza Soberano getting upset by a female netizen’s Twitter comment that she is “sarap ipa-rape sa ano,” followers of former child star Xyriel Manabat howling at netizens’ nasty comments about the seemingly oversized breasts of the now 16-year-old Civil Engineering student. Also, Miss Universe Catriona Gray has filed a case against the (female) editor and (female) writer of a tabloid who published the world beauty queen’s alleged nude photo.
If those stories still sizzle by weekend, I’ll be able to deal with them in my Sunday column.
Never forget. These are wonderful words to live by. All of us have made mistakes or were wronged by someone. How we choose to get past our blunders or the transgressions inflicted on us is our own choice.
As a little girl growing up in a predominantly Catholic country, my indoctrination included being told “to forgive and forget.” There’s nothing wrong with it but as I grew older, I came to the realization that it takes a saint to be able to uphold it.
So I came up with my own version: “Forgive but never forget.” The logic is simple: forgiving makes moving on easier but choosing not to forget means holding one’s self accountable for committing the same mistake again or for suffering the same pain from a previous wrongdoing. Who wants to be called a fool for committing the same mistake and failing to prevent it from happening again?
This is great when applied as a personal motto but I believe this can even be a guiding force for us, the Filipino people, as a nation.
Remembering history seems to be not our strongest suit. There’s an air of forgetfulness that permeates these days. As a Filipino, today is a date we all should remember. It’s a day of infamy, one that cannot be refuted never occured. But for those who tend to forget or maybe have a warped sense of history, it was on 21 September 1972 that former President Ferdinand E. Marcos read Proclamation 1081, which placed the country under Martial Law.
Now, those who are Gen Xers and Baby Boomers know too well what this means. Logic, critical thinking and sensitivity should be able to let them know what it meant then. The annals of modern Philippine history have quite a list of related literature on what transpired during those years, and if they are of sound mind and heart, they would know better than to fall victim to obvious propaganda/revisionist posts on Facebook and YouTube.
Now, to the younger ones, the Millennials and Gen-Zs, I must commend the majority of them because they are the ones who are passionate about this particular part of our history. A quick search on social media would reveal the young ones soundly engaging in discourse about this particular time in the Philippines. It’s clear they have their history right, and it is both a relief and a shame — that those who were not yet born are the ones who are fighting for that part of history to remain true to itself.
Why should we be faithfully true to history no matter how distasteful and horrible it was? Let me quote American thinker and philosopher George Santayana who penned this immortal line in his 1905 book, The Life of Reason.
“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” His message is direct and clear: If we are to move progessively forward, we must not forget what happened in the past. History is marred with many ugly truths and miscreants leading governments but these details help shape a nation. A nation that forgets will always suffer a cycle of ugly truths and unscrupulous personalities until and unless its people conscientiously avoids repeating mistakes by not forgetting them.
For those who are conveniently forgetting what those “ugly truths” were, thankfully, there are quite a lot of materials with which they can freshen their memories.
First off, the ongoing “Daang Dokyu, A Festival of Philippine Documentaries,” opened with a selection of Martial Law related titles. These are Imelda (2003) by Ramona Diaz and Marcos: A Malignant Spirit (1986) hosted by seasoned broadcast journalist Angelo Castro Jr. These can be streamed on its web site: www.daangdokyu.ph/.
Marcos: A Malignant Spirit is a must-watch simply because it contains rare footages of the “baggage” that went with the Marcoses when they fled to Honolulu, Hawaii after Ferdinand’s ouster in 1986. The astounding amount of fur coats, boxes of freshly printed Philippine monies, and the ludicrous collection of jewelry, notably diamonds, sapphires and pearls, the latter which can occupy a 48-square-meter room when neatly placed on the floor, are quite incriminating pieces of evidence.
It also has taped conversations between Marcos and Americans Robert Chastain and Richard Hirschfeld who befriended the former and posed as arms procurers/dealers. They testified in a 1987 hearing on the US House Foreign Affairs subcommittee on Asian and Pacific Affairs about their series of wiretapped conversations that revealed Marcos’ plan to invade the Philippines and of his admission of “1,000 tons of gold hidden in a secret cache and $500 million in Swiss bank accounts.”
For context, it is best to read Carmen Navarro Pedrosa’s The Rise and Fall of Imelda Marcos (1987). This one details the early life of Imelda in Leyte, growing up as the daughter of her father’s second family; how she pined for a better life after growing up owning and treated less by his aristocratic family; of her, her mother and siblings living in an apartment above a garage while her siblings from the first marriage lived in a mansion.
There are also other accounts that detail the psyche of Imelda, the child and beautiful woman who would catch the attention of Ferdinand who she will marry a few days after meeting him. It also has pictures of the family, notably one that fashions Ferdinand and Imelda and their children as a royal family complete with sashes.
Among the better of Star Cinema’s offerings is Dekada 70, penned by critically acclaimed writer Lualhati Bautista. Aside from its stellar cast that includes Vilma Santos, Piolo Pascual, Marvin Agustin and Christopher de Leon, it illustrates how limiting and limited one’s freedom to expression was during that era.
Lauren Greenfield manages to elicit powerful and revealing statements and imagery in her 2019 documentary, The Kingmaker, which had successful repeat screenings at the Cultural Center of the Philippines last year. “Perception is real, but the truth is not,” Imelda remarked while seemingly oblivious to the severity of her statement.
Hopefully, Filipinos of all ages will not only forget what today is. But more than the date, it is implored for them not to be disheartened by our ugly truths. If we conveniently forget them, we’re bound to repeat them.
GMA 7 needs to sign up more talents
GMA Network won’t let itself be outshone by TV5, which has signed a number of stars from ABS-CBN including Piolo Pascual, Dimples Romana, Beauty Gonzales, Catriona Gray, Gloria Diaz, Billy Crawford, Alex Gonzaga, Ian Veneracion, Sue Ramirez and Yeng Santos.
The actors will soon appear on new TV5 shows to be directed by two other talents from ABS-CBN, Johnny Manahan and Edgar Mortiz.
Apparently not taking things sitting down, GMA is casting its biggest stars on its new drama anthology I Can See You. The show will feature four mini-series on the GMA Telebabad block every week starting 28 September. The mini-series are titled Love on the Balcony, High Rise Lovers, The Promise and Truly. Madly. Deadly.
Each story will run for one week.
Alden Richards top-bills the launching mini-series, with Jasmine Curtis-Smith as his love interest. The younger sister of ABS-CBN’s Anne Curtis seems to be the most preferable Kapuso actress to Alden’s diehard fans, after the end of his loveteam with Maine Mendoza who broke free from the screen romance because the fans (known as AlDub Nation) wanted it for real, which Maine did not favor.
Love on the Balcony is the story of a wedding video photographer who falls in love with a front-liner nurse amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Also in the cast are Pancho Magno, Denise Barbacena and Shyr Valdez. The series is directed by LA Madridejos.
High Rise Lovers stars Lovi Poe and Tom Rodriguez. They will portray a married couple whose relationship suffers from setbacks due to their different goals in life.
Also in this episode are Winwyn Marquez, Teresa Loyzaga and Kenneth “Tetay” Ocampo. It is directed by Monti Parungao.
The Promise stars Paolo Contis and Andrea Torres. It is the story of a widowed man who falls in love with an aspiring artist willing to go to great lengths to lift her family out of poverty.
To be directed by Zig Dulay, the series also stars Benjamin Alves, Yasmien Kurdi and Maey Bautista.
Truly. Madly. Deadly features real-life couple Jennylyn Mercado and Dennis Trillo. It is the story of a woman who leaves the city after being ridiculed online over a sex scandal with a married man. During her stay in a remote place, she meets a guy who will turn her life upside-down.
Joining Jennylyn and Dennis in the mini-series is Rhian Ramos. It is directed by Jorron Lee Monroy.
Who will replace Marian?
Fans are overcome with anxiety while awaiting who will replace Marian Rivera as the lead star of a new GMA 7 series, First Yaya. Marian quit the long-publicized project upon learning that she would be in a locked-out set for two weeks. She didn’t want to be away from husband Dingdong Dantes and their two children.
The fans have been voicing out on social media their preferences on who will take Marian’s role.
Among the names mentioned are Maine Mendoza, Glaiza de Castro, Sanya Lopez and Andrea Torres, all stars of the Kapuso network.
I wonder why GMA 7 has not considered signing up ABS-CBN talents whom the shuttered Kapamilya network is willing to “lend” to competitors that can afford them.
I think GMA 7 should grab the opportunity.
Why a song’s title is not in its lyrics
It takes skill, talent and inspiration to write a song. It’s not like conjuring something out of thin air, but then again, maybe it is.
To write a great piece of music is one thing, but writing the words to go with it is another. Quite often, the words are what give the music its emotion, though a brilliant instrumental piece, on its own, can be equally, if not more, emotional.
When a songwriter comes up with the lyrics to a song, sometimes, the title is not mentioned. Let’s look at some of the popular songs that fit the bill.
There are a number of reasons why a song’s title is not in its lyrics. There’s the artistic reason. Perhaps the artist deemed it appropriate to title the song differently.
An example is Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody.” You won’t hear the title in the song, although the classical definition of rhapsody — music that is episodic yet integrated, is apparent.
It’s a song with three movements: the first movement is a ballad; the second, an operetta; and the third is a rocking finale. Thus, by definition, “Bohemian Rhapsody” tells you what it is, but not what it’s about (“Mama, just killed a man…”) which gives it an air of mystery. It’s all part of artistry.
Another example is David Bowie’s “Space Oddity.” The song is about an astronaut sent to outer space where his mission goes awry and he can’t come back home. Personally, I feel that the title is a nod to Stanley Kubrick’s film classic 2001: A Space Odyssey, but Bowie’s song is as classic as it is.
However, other song titles pretty much tell you what the song is about, like Loggins & Messina’s “Danny’s Song.” Same with John Denver’s “Annie’s Song.” These are unmistakably written for and about a person.
Some bands have the habit of giving their song a title that is related to the words. Or not. New Order, for instance. Some of its most popular tunes have titles never mentioned in the song and, most often, have little or no relation to the words: “Love Bizarre Triangle.” “Love Vigilantes.” “Thieves Like Us.” Its biggest hit, though, “Blue Monday,” is reflective of its lyrics.
Many of Led Zeppelin’s song titles may be understood through their lyrics, like “Immigrant Song” (about Vikings “driving their ships to new land”). Amusingly, “D’yer Mak’er” is a reggae track whose title is a play on the word “Jamaica” pronounced with a Brit accent.
But the Led Zep music that defines a song whose title is not in its lyrics is “Black Dog.” The title is a reference to a black dog that wandered on the grounds of Headley Grange, the manor house where the band recorded the song, the first track off Led Zeppelin IV.
The Who’s “Baba O’ Riley,” the first song from its 1971 album Who’s Next. The title is a combination of two names — Meher Baba, an Indian mystic who influenced the band’s guitarist Pete Townshend, and Terry Riley, a classical music composer. The song was intended to be part of the score for Lifehouse, the follow-up to the rock opera Tommy. “Baba O’ Riley” is set in a wasteland, hence many fans mistake the title as “teenage wasteland,” which is sung in the song’s chorus.
Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit” was a monster hit whose title is never mentioned in its lyrics. The title was inspired by the band members’ friend Kathleen Hanna, lead singer of Bikini Kill. She drunkenly sprayed painted the words, “Kurt smells like teen spirit” on Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain’s bedroom wall, after seeing a can of the spray deodorant Teen Spirit in a grocery store.
Although the song made Nirvana famous, Cobain, uncomfortable with success in general, came despise it and refused to play it at concerts. But to many young people in the 1990s, “Smells Like Teen Spirit” was their anthem.
More examples: Beyonce’s “7-11.” LANY’s “13,” Smashing Pumpkins’ “Bullet with Butterfly Wings,” the Goo Goo Dolls’ “Iris,” Supertramp’s “Breakfast in America” and Nazareth’s “Hair of the Dog.”
Some may find it upsetting, but I don’t see how it should. To me, a song title gives the song an air of mystery when it’s not part of the lyrics.
In the end, whatever the reason, it’s all about the music, and the music is all that matters.
Side A’s original members excited to record again
What started as a Facebook post and a video chat between Side A’s original members —- lead singer/guitarist Rodel Gonzalez, drummer Mar Dizon, guitarists Kelly Badon and Pido Lalimarmo, bassist Joey Benin and keyboardist Naldy Gonzalez —- led to something that would make the band’s fans happy.
“About three weeks ago, I sent some old Side A pictures to the guys and they posted it on Facebook,” Rodel Gonzalez told Daily Tribune via email. “And then Mar wanted to see more photos. But prior to that, my brother Naldy, Joey and I have been trying to collaborate and record new songs, since we had time due to the pandemic. They were teaching me how to record at home.”
Gonzalez, currently residing in the United States, is now a visual artist. He’s in the roster of artists of Collectors Editions, the official licensee of The Walt Disney Co. and the global publisher of Disney Fine Art.
He recounted that when Dizon sent him a message about a band reunion, he said yes right away, contacted the rest of the members and proceeded to have a Zoom meeting.
From reminiscing about the band’s heyday at the old Hyatt Regency Hotel’s Calesa Bar and recalling funny and sentimental moments, Gonzalez said they agreed to record again.
“It was out of curiosity that we want to re-record the old songs and put a twist to them, now that we are all mature and accomplished musicians in our own right.”
Initially the plan was to re-record select songs from Side A’s debut album, he said, but they just might include all the tracks, “depending on what the fans want.”
So far, the band has recorded three songs from the first album and these tracks are on their final mix.
“We’ve recorded a new original song, but no complete tracks yet,” Gonzalez said. “We’re also doing music videos of each song. The challenge is the time to upload and download and share files from audio to video and throwing them all to the editor and music engineers who will do the final mix. It’s a long process.”
While Gonzalez recorded his tracks at home in the US, Dizon, Lalimarmo and Badon recorded together in a studio in Manila.
“Recording together is so much fun,” Gonzalez said. “That’s actually ideal, so you can interact and feed off on each other. Naldy and Joey have to do it in their homes, too.”
For the project, dubbed “Side A redux first album,” the band tapped the website patreon.com to handle content which will consist of “original music, music videos, back stories and more.”
Fans need to subscribe and pay a membership fee as “patrons” that starts at $10 a month. “The patrons who will subscribe can go in and out (of the subscription) as they choose,” Gonzalez said.
“Ahh, we’re so excited with the project!” Benin said via email. “We found out that it’s best to send uncompressed audio files through Telegram. We learned it from Ernie Severino (Side A drummer). We just need to get used to the technology, but we’re getting the hang of it. Everyone was in their element while recording their respective parts.”
Benin wrote the band’s first single, “Eva Marie” and went on to arrange most of its original songs.
We asked him whether he did the arrangements on a voluntary basis, or did the band members ask him to handle it.
“We always work as a band. It’s just that I like to write, program and do the demos for our originals,” said Benin. “But after the demo, usually the songs evolve and each band member does his own take on how to play it. Which is nice.”
Side A was formed after Gonzalez, his brother Naldy, Dizon and Lalimarmo, who were then members of the band FM, decided to end their contract as performers in Singapore.
“Pido stayed behind in Singapore and played with other bands,” recalled Gonzalez. “So we got Kelly and Joey. We approached Wyngard Tracy to help and manage us. Our first gig was at Tavern on the Square at LPL Towers in Makati. Then Calesa Bar hired us sometime in 1987. That was when Pido came back and rejoined the new band.”
In 1985, Benin was in his third year at the University of the Philippines (UP) College of Music when he first heard of Side A.
“They were amazing musicians, their lineup of songs was broad, from pop, rock, blues and jazz,” he recounted.
Before joining Side A, he had played with other bands and was contemplating whether to continue playing or not. “I told myself, if I was to join another band, it would have to be either Rage (which was big at the time) or Side A (I was a fan). One fine day, walking in Abelardo Hall (at UP), I bumped into Mar Dizon.
“He asked me if I was interested to join Side A. ‘Sure,’ I said. My heart was jumping with glee. It was like an answered prayer, good timing, just when he wanted to quit music.”
Benin said Side A had a way of covering songs that made them sound like the band owned them.
“I found out that a lot of these had to do with Mar, who later on told me that songs should evolve, so our treatment on how to play them should also evolve without compromising the important elements in the song. We could be playing ‘Foolish Heart’ every night, but each time we played it, there was a thought, ‘what will happen next?’ I told myself, ‘now this is the real music school.”
Benin now lives in Silay, Bacolod, and operates the resort Punong Gary’s Place.
What’s it like to reunite as Side A?
It’s really exciting, even in this setup,” Gonzalez said. “The anticipation and passion of each member are so contagious because we miss each other. Beyond the music are the many years of being friends. The camaraderie is so obvious, and with our maturity as individuals and as musicians, we are just happy and grateful that we can all do this again.”
Will they also be recording covers, especially the ones that drew the fans at Calesa Bar, where they played six nights a week for a year?
“We want to relive them and record them,” said Gonzalez, “but we’re still checking on the legal implications of copyrights when we post them online.”
ABS-CBN alive and kicking
Despite the rains, September has embers glowing in some quarters of Pinoy showbiz. Pardon the mixed metaphors.
ABS-CBN is determined not to wave the white flag of surrender. It soldiers on to create new content and innovative ways to stay in touch with its wide Filipino audience. That’s the stance of a market leader that has been disenfranchised from mainstream television.
After launching Ang Sa Iyo ay Akin, ABS-CBN has another new teleserye: Walang Hanggang Paalam starring Angelica Panganiban and Zanjoe Marudo. This, despite being forced to shut down amid the pandemic and the retrenchment of thousands of its workers.
In fact, the network is ahead of the rest in producing new teleserye episodes. It is never content with replays. Followers of FPJ’s Ang Probinsyano and A Soldier’s Heart have been watching all-new episodes. Love Thy Woman just ended a successful run, with positive feedback on social media from viewers.
The Kapamilya network embraced the new norm under the COVID-19 pandemic by accelerating its digital pivot. It pulled off a successful finale of The Voice Teens Season 2 by having the 12 finalists perform in their own homes.
On the other hand, when Ang Sa Iyo ay Akin starring Jodi Sta. Maria, Iza Calzado and Sam Milby premiered on 17 August, it became the first ABS-CBN series to entirely launch on digital via Kapamilya Online Live, aside from airing on cable on the Kapamilya Channel.
These are just the icing on the its wide array of fresh digital offerings, undiscovered perhaps by many.
ABS-CBN Films, for instance, used its YouTube and Facebook accounts as platforms for original content. Star Cinema streamed a weekly talk show called I Feel U hosted by Toni Gonzaga and the first-ever visual podcast in the Philippines, The Four Bad Boys and Me.
Black Sheep launched the massive boy love (BL) hit series Hello Stranger that has become the most-watched Filipino digital series with over 13 million views.
The company’s subsidiary, Creative Programs Inc. has joined the Pinoy live-streaming app Kumu with a string of digital shows at the FYE (For Your Entertainment) Channel, such as Bawal Ma-Stress Drilon with Ces Drilon, Rise Here Right Now with young Rise artists, among others.
The irony is, after taking a beating in Congress, ABS-CBN is still leading, investing and keeping the industry alive with many offerings on cable and satellite TV, digital and music.
While others wait for better days, ABS-CBN continues to find ways to serve Filipinos who are tired of watching replays in their homes. It has even launched a virtual talent contest, Ultimate Bida Star, to search for a new idol online — completely knocking off some people’s expectations that it is slowing down.
The Film Development Council of the Philippines (FDCP) is sizzling this September.
“Sine Sandaan,” the year-long celebration of the centennial of Philippine cinema that the government agency kicked off in September last year, is about to end. FDCP is now in the thick of preparations for “Sine Sandaan: The Next 100.
All of FDCP’s programs for the month reflect the agency’s vision and hope of ushering Philippine cinema into the future through innovation, collaboration and solidarity.
FDCP chair and CEO Liza Diño, who in July and August was criticized for alleged overstepping of duties, said: “This September marks the official closing of the celebration of 100 years of Philippine cinema. Despite the pandemic, the FDCP wants to ensure that our efforts will meaningfully honor this once-in-a-lifetime event through various events, activities and programs all year round. And as we close Sandaan, we open our ‘Next 100’ by launching several initiatives as we look forward to a better, more sustainable and progressive hundred years.”
The FDCP held an online edition of the Film Industry Conference (FIC) on 11 to 15 September. Launched in 2017, the FIC brings together international film industry experts and stakeholders to discuss the latest trends, opportunities, platforms and cooperation that Filipino producers and filmmakers can explore for the development, production and distribution of their projects with the intent of crossing beyond local borders.
The 2020 FIC was held on Zoom and featured eight sessions free and accessible to the public. The sessions were streamed for free on the FDCP Facebook page and YouTube channel.
The conference also featured six master classes for film industry professionals and enthusiasts. Both public sessions and master classes were led by international speakers and mentors who are leading experts in their fields.
This year’s edition of FIC had FDCP partnered with local and international organizations, festival and film labs. The partnerships included streaming giant Netflix, Locarno Film Festival, Rotterdam Lab and Full Circle Lab.
All I know of snowflake is frozen rain — those icy, crystal-looking, often flower-shaped objects that are formed when a particle is subjected to extremely cold weather.
It is one of nature’s most beautiful sights, but it has now become associated with an unpalatable group of people.
“Snowflake” was officially added to the Oxford English Dictionary in 2018 to refer to “someone who is overly sensitive and entitled.” It has become a derogatory term, unfortunately, and is often derisively referred to many youngsters today.
It is a generational issue for as long as I can remember. Baby Boomers and Gen-Xers often taunting Millennials, Gen Y and Gen-Zs for being “too entitled and overly sensitive.” I’ve heard and read of these quite a lot of times, and even became subjected to it a couple of times.
Curiously, though, I was neither shaken nor reduced to tears for I’ve always been an in-denial “millennial.” I was born in the early years of the 1980s, which some argue are still part of the Gen X demographic.
Millennials and the generation that came after them have been called such too many times, and I admit there are instances when these are deserved, especially when they gang up on a celebrity or issue and threaten to “cancel,” meaning stop patronizing a product, issue or brand. I think it borders on bullying and it shows entitlement.
There are issues, however, that have merit and cannot be simply reduced to generational ones.
#CancelKorea and #ApologizetoFilipinos recently trended. Understandably, it gained national attention because of the involvement of a sovereign nation that has been like a friend to the Philippines. Just look at our annual international tourist arrivals which reflects that South Koreans are consistently on the top five.
Just a bit of a backgrounder on how these hashtags came to be. It all started when a Filipina TikToker named Bella Poarch earned the criticism of some Korean netizens for her tattoo. Among these marks was the Rising Sun flag, which is associated with the Japanese Imperial Army during World War II.
Poarch has since apologized for the blunder, saying she loves South Korea.
It should have ended there, but some netizens went off-topic and called Filipinos “ugly,” “plastics” and “uneducated.”
Filipino netizens, in turn, fought back at the racial slurs and trended #CancelKorea and #ApologizeToFilipinos.
The row became viral and even went published in several Korean news sites. Even Korean vloggers, notably those who have been residing in the Philippines, were appalled by the behavior of some Korean netizens.
Jessica Lee, a Korean YouTuber who also resided in the Philippines, made her own apology video on her eponymous YouTube channel.
“Any form of racial discrimination is unacceptable for me. I’m pretty sure with many of you guys as well. To those people who got offended by these comments of some Korean netizens, I would like to apologize from the bottom of my heart,” she emphatically said.
“I’m very sorry for you guys. I feel very uncomfortable because I also grew up in the Philippines for the same amount of time that I was in Korea. And so, I do feel very sorry for you guys. I would like to apologize on behalf of those rude Korean netizens,” she added.
Many of these Filipinos on Twitter were youngsters who did not devolve into name-calling although there were some who did not know any better. Many said they are momentarily going to drop their lightsticks and raise the Philippine flag. For those who are not familiar, lightsticks are associated with Korean idol groups. These are merchandise that fangirls and fanboys buy and bring with them to be raised during their favorite Korean idols’ concerts and shows.
Some expressed their disappointment, and rightly so. It was alright to be hurt, even if those descriptions did not have much bearing.
dark-skinned should not be an offense because it is many Filipinos’ natural color. “Uneducated” in this context was meant to be an insult, and thus, it has to be dispelled as Filipinos have different levels of education and literacy, but must be emphasized that many nationals from other countries come to the Philippines to study English. South Koreans are among those who come to the country for that purpose, aside from some rest and relaxation.
Clearly, the recent issue was not a “snowflake” moment. It was one of those occasions where the young ones, and even some Baby Boomers and Gen-Xers, had good reason to put up with such nonsense, and thank goodness they did.
BTS songs as soundtrack in outer space
“14340” is the asteroid number assigned to the former planet Pluto.
Did you know that in June 2019, three songs of K-Pop superstar group BTS were among those chosen for a playlist in a space voyage by the National Aeronautic Space Administration (NASA) in 2024 to celebrate the 50th anniversary of man’s first moon landing?
I wasn’t aware of it because I began to follow the group only when the pandemic hit the Philippines six months ago which gave me lots of time to surf online.
Reports that BTS has broken possibly all digitally monitored global charts for sales, listenership and viewership of a pop song had become ubiquitous by 2020, so I had to loosen up my nationalistic stance of paying attention only to Filipino entertainment events.
The three songs that NASA will play for the pleasure of astronauts (whose names have yet to be revealed) are: “Mikrokosmos,” “134340” and RM‘s “Moonchild” (BTS member RM’s solo recording). These were said to be the first songs the public recommended and
which NASA approved following the announcement of the search for #NASAMoonTunes.
Online reports in June 2019 said that the three BTS songs for the lunar playlist were most apt for the occasion. “Mikrokosmos” refers to the concept of the human world being a smaller version (or “microcosm”) of the universe.
“14340” is the asteroid number assigned to the former planet Pluto.
RM’s solo song “Moonchild” is self-explanatory. In the lyrics, RM talks to the figurative “moon children” who can’t appreciate the warmth of the sunlight, but rather embrace their flaws and pain while blossoming in the moonlight.
But prior to NASA’s #NASAMoonTunes search, the US space agency had preselected a number of songs, whose titles have not been revealed.
The space voyage will take six days — three days going to the moon and three days coming back to earth.
Meantime, latest big news about BTS is that its management company Big Hit Entertainment plans to raise $811 million for its initial public offering (IPO). The company also announced that each of the group’s seven members will be given shares of stock equivalent to $7 million. They are, after all, the company’s biggest earners (Big Hit manages other talents).
Big Hit is now reportedly worth over $2 billion, surpassing the original Big 3 companies in K-Pop: SM, JYP and YG.
As for BTS, according to various sources, the group might be worth anywhere around $45 and $60 million.
The fact that some of the boys will take turns to fulfill South Korea’s mandatory military training for two years does not dampen Big Hit’s spirit. Jin, who turns 28 this December, was reported to have been allowed to do training in late 2021.
I haven’t found time to research on the first moon landing by Apollo 11 in 1969, the same year the Philippines’ Gloria Diaz was crowned Miss Universe.
I don’t know if Apollo 11’s three astronauts (Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins and Buzz Aldrin) listened to music while in outer space. In any case, it feels good that the songs of an Asian group, BTS, will be in the playlist when NASA celebrates the 50th anniversary of man’s first moon landing.