Monthly Archives: August 2011

Mideo Cruz’s Kulo: Freedom of Mis-Expression

Heavenly Father, we come before you today to ask Your forgiveness and to seek Your direction and guidance. We know Your Word says, “Woe to those who call evil good,,” but that is exactly what we have done. We have lost our spiritual equilibrium and reversed our values.

We confess:

We have ridiculed the absolute truth of Your Word and called it Pluralism.
We have worshipped other gods and called it multiculturalism.
We have endorsed perversion and called it alternative lifestyle.
We have exploited the poor and called it the lottery.
We have rewarded laziness and called it welfare.
We have killed our unborn and called it choice.
We have shot abortionists and called it justifiable.
We have neglected to discipline our children and called it building self-esteem.
We have abused power and called it politics.
We have coveted our neighbor’s possessions and called it ambition.

We have polluted the air with profanity and pornography and called it freedom of expression.
We have ridiculed the time-honored values of our forefathers and called it enlightenment.

Search us, Oh God, and know our hearts today; cleanse us from every sin and set us free.

Guide and bless these men and women who have been sent to direct us to the center of your will. I ask it in the Name of Your Son, the living Savior, Jesus Christ.

Amen.

—Pastor Joe Wright

The prayer above was from my textbook in Christian Living when I was in third grade, I think. I lost that book, I forgot what part of Christianity were we studying by then but I never forgot this. This opened by young mind to the consciousness of my limitation as a person.

Sorry for not just choosing the part where I need most to discuss in this article. But I think everybody needs to read the entirety of that all encompassing prayer to understand the limits and excuses of humanity in justifying their wrong acts. One thing that I do not understand in the news nowadays is that why a lot of Filipino “artists” protests against the removal of the controversial “Kulo” exhibit of Mr. Mideo Cruz.  Of course, I do understand where they were coming from. To say the least, this right had been overplayed, overused and overstated to an overwhelming extent. As the Section 4, Article III of the 1987 Constitution so provides,

“No law shall be passed abridging the freedom of speech, of expression, or of the press, or the right of the people to peaceably assemble and petition the government for redress of grievances.” 

There is no doubt that exercising this freedom is what makes us all human and in a sense, sovereign from another person. This freedom is the means of a person or persons to communicate or to rage about discrimination in men as preference in employment, in the want for our LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgendered) brothers and sisters to be accepted by the community and in the thirst of some persons to practice religion where they are minority. This freedom also freed our country from the more than four hundred years of Spanish occupation. Jose Rizal enlightened us with Noli Me Tangere, El Filibusterismo as well as his articles on the bigotry and oppression of our forefathers. Other national heroes also resorted into writing for our freedom like Marcelo H. Del Pilar, Graciano Lopez-Jaena, Antonio Luna and the rest of our propagandists as well as the Katipuneros like Andres Bonifacio and Emilio Jacinto in history. During Martial Law, a lot of young men and women did fight secretly by publishing their anger on their loss of speech and the repression and hounding of the government to whoever fights for it. Yeah, I know you get the story that’s why we are now living in a world where we could easily express our views. This blog, of course, is a concrete example so is my Twitter account. The television, Internet and newspapers hardly have anything to regulate them. We love fiery arguments of another person, we love criticizing anyone mindlessly and we even like in-depth showbiz news which they all provide. Nonetheless, even though we overuse this freedom in our everyday lives, that doesn’t give us the right to be reckless.

Let me remind everyone again that there is NO SUCH THING as ABSOLUTE FREEDOM. But what limits it, you ask? The answer lies on the rest of our 1987 Constitution again which are other rights stated on the 22 sections of the Bill of Rights including due process, privacy of communication, freedom of religion. Simply put, you are going beyond the right vested in you from the time you are already stepping on the right of another person or group of persons. These rights are further limited by the Revised Penal Code. It’s a crime to uncontrollably say or publish defamatory or hurtful articles that’s why there is such thing as libel and slander. It’s even punishable if one incites to overthrow or incite war because this disrupts public peace. Pornography items are also illegal because it transforms the thinking of men with some women as sex objects. Offending religious feelings is also punishable just like what happened with Carlo Celdran and his “Damaso” sign. Just imagine a world with absolute freedom of expression. It shall be a more despiteful, more reckless and lonelier so to speak.

In Mideo Cruz’s “art work” he stepped on the feelings of the Christians who revere their religion. I wonder what would happen if he did a “Kulo” this time against Islam. I’m sure our Muslim brothers and sisters, who are known to be very passionate and brave with their religion, shall definitely also action on this. Just how important is Religion, the Supreme Court answered it with the 1974 landmark case, Victoriano vs. Elizalde Rope Workers’ Union et. al., to wit:

The constitutional provision into only prohibits legislation for the support of any religious tenets or the modes of worship of any sect, thus forestalling compulsion by law of the acceptance of any creed or the practice of any form of worship, but also assures the free exercise of one’s chosen form of religion within limits of utmost amplitude. It has been said that the religion clauses of the Constitution are all designed to protect the broadest possible liberty of conscience, to allow each man to believe as his conscience directs, to profess his beliefs, and to live as he believes he ought to live, consistent with the liberty of others and with the common good.

Yes, I am a devout Catholic but personally, I was more of annoyed than hurt when I see parts of the “Kulo” exhibit from photographs on-line. They said it was “mixed-media” style but for me, I just see pieces of things glued together and childish vandalism on the images of Jesus and Mama Mary. Really now, is this art? Frankly, it looks like garbage for me. I do not condemn Mr. Mideo Cruz as a person but indeed, I see no art in what he had done. Perhaps, this wouldn’t have been an issue had it not for Cultural Center of the Philippines better use of their “artistic eye”. Come on, CCP, there are so much, much more talents in this country that needs more support and attention than him. Rather than calling this a blasphemy, I call this a very juvenile and insignificant piece of junk that is not worthy for all the media and public attention it’s now enjoying had it been displayed in CCP, but of course whether there had been negligence on the part of CCP is another story and I’ll leave that to the determination of our government instead.

In conclusion, I end this with a quote from Sigmund Freud. This verse verily summarized what is the essence of this issue regarding freedom of speech or expression or any freedom for that matter,

Most people do not really want freedom, because freedom involves responsibility, and most people are frightened of responsibility.

Now the question remains: Who would be responsible for this “Kulo” hodge-podge?

Oras na ba?

Marahil, isa sa mga pinakasanay ako na pakiramdam sa mundo ay ang pagiging mag-isa.

Madaldal ako, oo. Alam mo ring hindi ako mauubusan ng kuwento. Malakas rin ako tumawa. Kaya hindi masyadong halata na sa kabuuan ng araw, mas marami ang pagkakataon na mag-isa ako. Sanay kasi akong gawin lahat ang mga bagay-bagay na mag-isa. Nung nasa hayskul at kolehiyo ako, ‘ni minsan wala akong tinawag na kaibigan na samahan ako sa banyo, hindi tulad lahat ng mga ibang babae na ka-edad ko. Kaya ko rin kumain mag-isa lalo na ngayon na buong araw ko halos hindi kasama ang pamilya ko dahil sa almusa at paglisanl nila upang mag-aral at magtrabaho ay himbing pa ako sa pagtulog at pag-uwi ko naman ay tapos na sila mananghalian. Sanay rin ako gawin ang mga bagay-bagay na nais ko mag-isa. Bata pa lang ako, nakapaglalaro na ako mag-isa. Napakarami kong mga manika, sapat na sila ay nabibigyan ko ng buhay mag-isa. Mahilig rin ako magbasa ng tahimik. Hilig ko rin gumuhit at magbasa. Kaya ko rin magsayaw at kumanta mag-isa. Tsaka isa pang ayoko ay may kasama ako mag-aral. Malamang sa malamang, dadaldalin ko lang rin ang kasama ko at parehas walang mangyayari sa aming mga buhay.

Subalit ngayon, masasabi kong pagod na ako mag-isa.

Isa sa pinakanakabibigla kong dasal ngayong umaga ay humiling na ako sa Panginoon ng katipan. Hindi ko ito hiniling talaga ng diretso sa kanya dati. Dati ang dasal ko ay sana nasa mabuting lagay ang taong inilaan Niya para sa akin at maging handa kapwa kami sa isip, puso at kaluluwa sakaling kami ay pagtagpuin na. Hindi ko ito ipinagdarasal dahil sa totoo lang, wala akong ibang hiling kundi maging napakahusay na abugada baling araw at makatulong sa pamilya ko lalo na sa aking mga magulang. Naisip ko na rin na sakaling wala talagang nakatakda para sa akin ay tatanggapin ko ito ng bukas loob. Ngunit nagkakamali ako. Ayoko mag-isa. Dalawampu’t tatlong taon na akong mag-isa. Gusto ko magkaroon ng asawa at magkaroon ng mga anak. Nais ko maging ganap ang aking pagkababae at magampanan lahat ng ito.

Pero dahil ba sa dasal ko ba ay masasabi kong handa na ako? Nagugulat ako sa sarili ko, subalit gusto ko sabihing oo.

This Bird Had Flown: My Thoughts on 2010 Japanese film, Norwegian Wood

And when I awoke, I was alone, this bird had flown
So I lit a fire, isn’t it good, Norwegian wood.
—Norwegian Wood by the Beatles

I opened the month of August by watching the 2010 Japanese film, Norwegian Wood, based on the novel of the prolific writer, Murakami Haruki. To be candid, I never read the book that is why I have to compare it none other than what I perceived in the film.

The story revolves around Watanabe Toru (Matsuyama Ken’ichi), a student during the 1960’s. It was the era where Japan looks very much like the Japan today minus the cellular phones and other jaw dropping gadgets and ultra fast trains. Going back to the story, Toru was involved with two women, Naoko and Midori, which were interestingly, very different in character. Naoko (Kikuchi Rinko) is a quiet girl who had really low self-esteem. She was the girlfriend of Toru’s best friend Kizuki. Naoko and Kizuki had always been together since they were three years old. They were almost never apart until Kizuki, the reason was neither supplied nor implied in the story, took his own life. After Kizuki died, Toru moved to the city for college where he had a roommate who was popular with women. He introduced Toru to some women whom he knew and Toru awakened his sexual side to the same.

Shortly after that, he met Naoko again. They meet during weekends and gradually became very close because of the mutual comfort they receive from each other from the lost of Kizuki. On the 20th birthday of Naoko, Toru took her virginity. She disappeared the next day and eventually settled in a secluded village where some people who suffered mental anguish such as her took sanctuary. Her feelings on both past and present conflicts as one part of her forever died together with Kizuki. Toru sometimes visits Naoko but it only pained him seeing that Naoko cannot give himself fully to him. Naoko is always with another patient, Reiko, a middle-age woman, who acts like a guardian to her. Reiko sang Naoko’s favorite song, “Norwegian Wood” by the Beatles. Obviously, that was the film namesake.

Back on the university, Toru became close with Midori (Mizuhara Kiko) who was the exact opposite of Naoko. She was vibrant, self-confident and unable to contain herself from saying what is going on her mind. She is bold enough to tell Toru her sexual fantasies over her. Although Toru admits to Midori that he is in love with someone else [Naoko] and that Midori has a boyfriend in her hometown, this did not prevent both from falling in love with each other.  That further complicated the emotions of Toru. Toru decided to go the village where Naoko was but bid Midori goodbye first and expressed his feelings before he left. Midori admitted that she now broke up with her boyfriend. She also told him that he would wait for him until he comes back, embracing and thinking only of her.

When Toru and Naoko saw each other one winter day, he immediately told her about his plans on leaving his boarding house and rent an apartment. He asked Naoko to come with him, however, the latter did not give a direct answer but promised that she would think about it. Toru went back alone and tried looking for Midori but she was already avoiding her calls and even telling him outright that she does not want to talk to him. A few days later, the worst news arrived to Toru as Naoko hanged herself. Her death impacted his life greatly and he went somewhere very isolated to mourn for Naoko. When he returned to his apartment, he saw Reiko waiting for him outside. They comforted each other and then Reiko asked a request to Toru to sleep with her which shocked him but eventually granted her request.

The film ended with Toru phoning Midori. He was professing his love for her at the phone, even using the word “Aishiteru” which the Japanese people hardly use for saying how much they love someone because it was very emphatic. Midori was initially cold when she answered the phone but Toru’s words softened her and asked her where he was. It ends here, not knowing where Toru is and what would happen between him and Midori.

My thoughts on the story are mixed. First, let’s discuss the good parts of the film. I love Toru’s actor, Matsuyaman Kenichi, interpreted his character. Toru may look like a detached character from the world but you could feel his love and compassion to the two women. Surprisingly, his actor was L Lawliet’s actor from the infamous live-action films of Death Note. You would really see the versatility of this young actor. The other characters were picked well too, except that I was kind of annoyed with the actress of Naoko. One would hear fingernails screeched down the blackboard when she cries, or rather wails. Probably, that’s how Murakami-san wrote it but it really got into my nerves. Lastly, you would really commend how good the background music made for this film. It was made very powerfully and emotionally that it really captures your heart and empathize with twisted and melancholic emotions of the characters.

Personally, the bad parts of the plot is why they focus how sex was used to be determinative the feelings of the characters. Like for example, when Toru and Naoko first spent the night together, that’s the only point where in they realized that they actually have this existing love each other. Second example was, it was only after Toru and Reiko had sex where both characters fathomed who really matters in their life. For Reiko, it was her husband and child whist for Toru, it was Midori. I thought that it was rather odd making sex as ascertaining love. It is not debatable that love is different from sex. Sex may be a part of love but definitely not its determinative factor. That concept is particularly incomprehensible especially on the part where Toru and Reiko had sex to realize what they wanted in life.

My last comment would go on who Toru truly loved between Naoko and Midori. I would have to definitely say Midori. I believe that though Toru had strong feelings for Naoko that is not purely love. In a way, he is morally obligated to protect and care for Naoko because she is her best friend’s girlfriend, childhood friend and basically, his soul mate. On the other end, Naoko may have taken her life understanding fully that she never really loved Toru and that in a way used him to get over Kizuki which she can’t move on from. Kizuki is clearly her dream, her man and her raison‘d etre. For Naoko, without Kizuki, nothing makes sense in her life, in her universe. It incised her heart even more after she realized that she kind of betrayed Kizuki’s memory by sleeping with his best friend.

In contrast, Toru loved Midori without any mental obligation or reasons. He loved her even if she suspected that she already have a boyfriend. He loved her straightforwardness and her kindness. In return, Midori truly loved him too. She broke off with her boyfriend and swore to wait for Toru to come back to her and embrace and love only her without any assurance that it was what Toru would do. The ending too, was a hint that they would eventually be together now that Naoko is gone, Midori’s boyfriend is gone and that Toru is now sure of his feelings to Midori, that in this world, nothing else matters to him but her.

Naturally, I won’t be surprised if you, my darling reader, would rebut my statements and observations above because of the several interpretations we perceive from the dynamism and fullness of the characters made in the movie. Moreover, the open-endedness even opened more questions on the minds of the perceiver than answers. But that is the beauty of life embarked on literature—we all make and shed our own light on its obscurity.

"I guess I've been waiting so long I'm looking for perfection. That makes it tough...No, even I know better than that. I'm looking for selfishness. Like, say I tell you I want to eat strawberry shortcake. And you stop everything you're doing and run out and buy it for me. And you come back out of breath and get down on your knees and hold this strawberry shortcake out to me. And I say I don't want it anymore and throw it out the window. That's what I'm looking for."