Wednesday, March 16, 2005



K2 and I went to the British Council's 25th anniversary program, which they chose to celebrate by throwing a party and inviting a bagpiper to wail at people for two straight hours. ("Parang awa niyo na, pumasok na kayo," I overheard him mutter, as the last stragglers hovered around the buffet table, refusing to go into the Shangri-La Plaza's vaunted Cinema 1.

What we were there to see was the documentary Bunso, by Ditsi Carolino, about three children sent to prison for petty crimes. All I can say is: Ow. There was, as this review of an earlier screening noted, a stunned silence after the film ended. The director was seated just a few places away from us, and I wanted to go up to her and mumble my thanks, but she was surrounded by a steadily growing number of well-wishers that she actually knew, so I stayed out of it.

This was just so well, well done. Have I been so out of it that I'm surprised that Philippine documentaries have reached this level of excellence? The last Filipino movie that I saw--Panaghoy sa Suba, that World War II/river drama with Cesar Montano (like Bunso, it was filmed in Cebuano and subtitled in English)--was still a disappointment. I'm tired of making excuses: It was good...for a Pinoy film. Bunso was, however, very good, full stop. It never stooped to easy sentimentality when hard reality was there; and the effect was devastating.

Documentaries. It's a weird art. It's at once significant, for sheer veracity, and futile, for the limitations of distribution and audience. I don't need to point out, Luis, that much of our magazine writing career is also about documentation: witnessing a moment in time, and then writing it up so people can share the experience, so they can know and remember, even after our glossy, too-thin bookpaper pages fall off and turn to dust.



Forgot to say something about the CD that I was putting together for you. Part of the reason yours works so well is because you had a message in every track--they all said something. The problem with the CD I made, besides being laden with alternative-rock tracks that don't hold a candle to the dreamy chillout standbys and surprising rock tracks that you picked out for yours, is that they weren't all there to say something. Some were just there to document the experience, no matter how pointless or painful the exercise. So the whole thing comes off as a little rude, actually.

Maybe it has to do with me being a writer, and how I'm interested in chronicling events, for whatever good it does. In your line of work, you have a mission and a message, and that's what you work for. Or maybe it has to do with the way I've always used music like heroin, to wallow in my misery.

Too bad, because the songs were nice. And I liked how I was able to bookend the tracks with songs of almost the same title, but how the sentiments behind them are still somewhat surprising. So rare that you can find things to fall together like that.

Still, I'd bet your CD wins hands-down in the Midnight Drive Soundtrack Department. Hands down. Mine will probably fall under the Forehead on Steering Wheel category, and it won't be very highly rated, either. Yours: four oranges. Mine: three, maybe three and a half on a good day.

I won't inflict it on you any time soon. But it'll be there and ready for when you want to wallow in it (which I'm doing), or when you and me both can laugh about it. Or maybe I can give it to M--, with the title, One Good Burn Deserves Another. ;)



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