Saturday, May 30, 2009


Lady Godiva (1898), painting by John Collier (1850 - 1934)

I wrote this piece for the Philippines Free Press back in 1969, forty years ago. Substitute "smut movies"--or "X-rated movies" or "smut magazines" or "Internet porn"--for "smut komiks," and you begin to realize the truth of the adage that the more things change, the more they remain the same. As the song goes, some things that happen for the first time seem to be happening again.

By Jose F. Lacaba

Probable the cutest development on the protest scene since Lady Godiva rode through the empty streets of Coventry--to express her opposition to a particularly burdensome tax--was the recent demo against pornography. About 1,000 students and young professionals, according to the reports, took to the streets with placards on which were scrawled such inscriptions as "Help
Our Cause: Stop Buying Smutty Comics!" and "Is Decency Dead?"

Do your own thing, as the hippies like to say, and of course the young vigilantes, a clean-cut crowd, judging from the photographs, are well within their constitutional rights to go out there and denounce the abomination that offends their sensibilities. It's a free country. But though I grant them nobility of intentions and all that, I can't help but have misgivings about this crusade of theirs.

What particularly bothers me about it is that it seems like a manifestation of rank discrimination. For what is the specific target of this decency crusade? Those little magazines capitalizing on sex, locally produced, that have recently swamped Manila's sidewalks and stalls. They're cheap, costing from 35 to 40 centavos, therefore easily accessible; and they're known by such flip and vulgar titles as Pogi, Dyagan, Toro, Barako, Pil-Yeah, and what have you--they're proliferating so fast I can't keep track of them all. Their pages are replete with pictures of burlesque dancers and movie starlets in scanty costumes and provocative poses, comic-strip serials dealing with such taboo topics as impotence and venereal diseases, Tiktik-type crime stories, instructional articles on subjects such as masturbation, and cartoons this shade of green. Without exception these magazines are, no question about it, trash.

Pogi was the first of these magazines to appear, and when a friend of mine showed me its maiden issue, my initial reaction was to call it the poor man's Playboy. It lacked Playboy's gloss and sophistication but shared the same crusading zeal about the beauty of sex and the necessity of having a healthy attitude toward it. The very title of Pogi was evidently inspired by Playboy's.

That first issue I found amusing; the whole thing was low camp; and its humor was very very low (example; "I like my cigarettes king-size. Of course, I like my men the same way"). The latest issues of Pogi I've seen are toned down, have fewer cheesecake photos, and now for real vulgar humor you'll have to go to its imitators. To anybody's maiden aunt, I guess, Dyagan is the devil incarnate.

Now what I mean when I speak of discrimination is this: Playboy and its many variants have been around for I don't know how long, and though the post office has made a few confiscations nobody has ever marched against those American publications, nobody waved a placard asking "Is Decency Dead?" It's no use arguing that Playboy has been an intellectual magazine for quite some time, publishing interviews with Sartre and Fellini and Gore Vidal, and thoughtful dissertations on the Vietnam war and the American political conventions. That is not the point. The point is that Playboy puts out big glossy color photographs of naked women--Mr. Hugh Hefner himself will be the first to admit that it isn't Sartre but the Playmate of the Month that sells his magazine--while Pogi can only afford badly printed black-and-white photos of women who are at least partially covered by bikinis. Toro can only afford pirated photos from American magazines; and yet nobody but nobody has staged a 1,000-man demo against the American publication and others of its kind.

Is that a sign of a colonial mentality? Maybe not. The chief objection to Pogi and its relatives seems to be that they are cheap, in both senses of the term, but specifically in the sense that they are inexpensive. This is where discrimination comes in. Anybody with more than five pesos is free to go into a thoroughly respectable bookshop and get a copy of Playboy, but the jeepney driver with 40 centavos to spare can't go down the sidewalk to pick up Pogi without a horde of comstockians jumping on his neck.

I'm not being entirely facetious. The poor in this country are oppressed enough, and yet we won't even allow them the pleasure of indulging their little vices. "The law, in its majestic equality," in the words of Anatole France," forbids the rich as well as the poor to sleep under bridges, to beg in the streets, and to steal bread." In this country, it forbids the rich as well as the poor to smoke in jeepneys and on buses. Of course, they can smoke in taxis and cars; if some poor bastard really wants to smoke his stick of Matamis that badly, he should get himself an air-conditioned Mercedes.

The double standard for the vices of the rich and the poor obtain in many areas. With the possible exception of the blackshirts of Cadiz, cops are usually loathe to accost a Mafia type with a hip that displays the bulge of what may be an unlicensed automatic; but they'll promptly pick up for questioning a gangly teenager from whose trousers pockets the sharpened handle of a comb sticks out. The cigar-smoking congressman can play roulette behind the massive steel doors of a casino on the boulevard, but the washerwoman who has left her baby with the next-door neighbor to play sakla at the corner isn't so sure that her favorite hangout won't be raided by the mayor himself. And who doesn't remember that salesgirl who got sentenced to how many years in jail for snitching a few pesos? The crooks in the government can put away in Swiss banks millions of dollars in kickbacks and still go on to higher positions and larger kickbacks.

If the neo-puritans really want to strike at the root of the immorality in this country, the place to look for it is not in the pages of the poor man's Playboy, nor in those of the real Playboy. If they want to restore decency to our society, they should go to where the real indecencies in our midst are. True smut is not in the photographs of nudes, but in the reality of social injustice, in the oppression and exploitation of man by man, in the degrading poverty that afflicts more than 90 percent of our population, the poverty that leads to crime and revolution.

Even in literature and the arts, decency and obscenity and pornography are relative and subjective terms. "What is pornography to one man is the laughter of genius to another," wrote D.H. Lawrence. And though it is patently absurd to mention the word genius in connection with a comic strip in Pogi, still it is necessary to come to the defense of that silly comic strip, because the unmistakable characteristic of the vigilante is that he cannot distinguish between what's good and what's bad, he cannot tell a D.H. Lawrence from a Mickey Spillane, a Roger Vadim from a fifth-rate maker of blue movies; and to allow him to suppress Pogi is to give him the power to ban from the mails a magazine carrying a reproduction of the Maja Desnuda. [P.S. 2009: I forgot to mention Botticelli's Birth of Venus. Subscription copies of the Free Press were confiscated in the mails when it used the Botticelli painting to illustrate an editorial.] The mind of the vigilante, however pure of heart he may be, is the middle-class mind that would kill what it cannot comprehend; it cannot understand what the benighted stevedore's son finds in dirty comic books, it cannot understand what the college intellectual sees in James Joyce's Ulysses; and being unable to recognize this hierarchy of taste, appalled by the taste of the proletariat below him and bewildered by the taste of the cognoscenti above him, he demands that everything be on his level, he would impose his taste by banning the taste of those above and below. He cannot stand the crap manufactured by those he considers his inferiors, nor the art that emanates from those whose superiority he is dimly aware of and unconsciously resents.

That is why we end up with paradox--that the crap must be allowed to exist if the art is to be preserved.

The question of literary pornography is certainly a bothersome one, especially to parents who have the moral health of their children to worry about, but I tend to agree with Bertrand Russell that "frank pornography would do less harm if it were open and unashamed than it does when it is rendered interesting by secrecy and stealth." The present campaign against smutty comics will only lead them underground, and make them doubly attractive, the way sex itself becomes more fascinating when it is invested with the dark mysteries of taboo. The taboo may succeed in becoming a law, but the law will only enhance the desirability of what's forbidden. Russell again: "Nine-tenths of the appeal of pornography is due to the indecent feelings concerning sex which moralists inculcate in the young; the other tenth is physiological, and will occur in one way or another whatever the state of the law may be."

That the attraction of pornography diminishes the moment it ceases to be forbidden is shown by the experience of Denmark. Two years ago the Danish Parliament abolished all censorship of anything written. The result? Bookshops and newsstands were suddenly swamped by a deluge of new pornographic books (one publishing house came out with a "Porno Series"), books so explicit and detailed in their descriptions of sexual practices as to make Mrs. Grundy turn in her grave and never stop turning. But did the expected buyers come running to the stores? That they did not. In fact, buyers grew fewer. "Four to six months before the law was changed," griped one publisher, "you would distribute 20,000 to 25,000 copies of a new pornographic title. Now only about half of that number are printed, and a third of them come back. I suppose we only print for onanists, and that's not youth, but mostly people from 45 to 65." Said another publisher: "There really is a very poor market in Denmark for erotic literature, now that it is no longer forbidden fruit." The government found the results of its experiment so encouraging it decided to abolish all censorship of movies and pictures.

All the fuss about the smut on Manila's sidewalks is really a case of making a mountain out of a molehill. It's reminiscent of the earlier hullabaloo that attended the advent hereabouts of the miniskirt. While the professional moralists go about measuring skirt lengths, and confiscating the dirty little magazines and arresting publishers, they do not see--or refuse to see--the real mountain before them, the true immorality. It is all around us, and it is what makes this country sick.

You want examples of true immorality, the pornography of reality? There is the politician throwing the people's money to the winds to win an election. There is the law enforcer concocting a tale of assassination or of gunbattle to cover up a cold-blooded murder. There is the newsman playing poker in his hotel in the capital and waiting for the press handouts from the candidates in the boondocks. There is the cleric who enthusiastically holds folk masses in his church and is not even aware that many of his parishioners hardly survive on rice and salt. There is the school administrator who charges exorbitant tuition fees but will not buy an extra book for the library or add an extra peso to the teacher's salary. There is the hacendero who puts up a so-called amelioration fund for his workers but will pay only one-third of the minimum wage due them.

Do the young want a crusade to take up, a cause to champion? Let me give them one.

There is this guy in Cadiz City in Negros: Reynaldo Mallari. He is accused of murder, and he is in jail. Perhaps he is guilty and deserves to be there, and then again he may be completely innocent. But he has not been tried yet, he has not been convicted, and therefore according to our laws he is presumed innocent until proven guilty. The terrible thing is that he is already being meted out a punishment that can only be described as medieval and inhuman: he has been placed in a dungeon, a cell below the ground, and this dungeon is dank, dreary, mosquito-ridden, and only about five feet high. Reynaldo Mallari is about five-feet-seven. There is no way he can stretch his legs. All day long he sits on the steps of his dungeon, staring into the void, his hands on his lap, securely manacled; in the beginning those hands were bound behind his back. At night he crawls down to a damp floor covered only by newspapers, to get what little sleep the mosquitoes will allow him to have; he cannot slap them without somehow bruising his handcuffed wrists.

This is the real obscenity.

There are many others in this country, not necessarily behind bars, who have been or are being given worse treatment than Reynaldo Mallari, who have suffered or are suffering worse travails than Reynaldo Mallari. But this is one case known to us, and it is one case you can do something about. Write to your congressmen and to newspaper editors, go out into the streets and demonstrate--do something to get him out of that dungeon, to get him the treatment that a human being deserves.

The dungeon he's in is the pornography that deserves to be condemned. What are miniskirts and Pogi magazine compared to the immorality of a society that permits such dungeons? It is the same dirty society that perpetuates the blight of poverty, the poverty that corrupts and degrades and kills.

Sunday, May 24, 2009


May 22, 2009, was Lino Brocka's 18th death anniversary. And May 19, 2009, three days earlier, was the fourth death anniversary of his mother, Pilar Ortiz Brocka. The following article first appeared in Philippine Graphic Weekly Magazine.


Nila, Ver, Bey, Glenda, Yasmin, Boy, Norma, Malou, Rico, Ricky and Ma remember it well.


ON MAY 21, 1991, a Tuesday, Lino Brocka woke up at around 6:30 in the morning and went to feed his birds.

He had a mini-aviary in a corner of his house where he kept a pair of lovebirds, a pair of pigeons, and a mynah that liked to screech “Panget!” The pigeons were his gift to his mother, retired schoolteacher Pilar Ortiz Brocka, for Mother’s Day, May 12, and he would spend hours just looking at them. “Ang ganda pala ng kalapati, ano?” he would tell Nila Radoc, 30, his maid of 13 years. “Nakakatuwa pala ang kalapati.”

The day before, Lino had come upon Nila’s younger sister Inday feeding the birds. Lino was scheduled to leave for Palawan in a few days to shoot Huwag Mong Salingin ang Sugat Ko, Ricky Lee’s modern-day rendition of Rizal’s Noli Me Tangere, and he entrusted the birds to Inday’s care: “Paano na ’yan, Inday, ikaw na ang magiging ama’t ina ng mga ibong ’yan.”

After spending a little time with his birds, Lino went to his dogs. There were seven of them, two grown ones and five newly bought puppies. Two were named Escolta and Ongpin, because it was on those streets that he bought them; two others were named Tyson and Ali. That morning Ali was sick. Lino spoke of bringing him to a vet. Nila thought there was no need for that; she could take care of Ali, feed him, give him his medicine.

One other dog had been taken to the vet a few weeks earlier, and Lino had then noted with pained irony that his dogs were better taken care of than the human poor. “Mabuti pa daw ’yong aso,” Nila recalls, “pag nagkasakit, pinapadoktor, naka-dextrose pa daw, samantalang ’yong mahihirap, basta na lang daw namamatay.” After staying two days at the clinic, at 190 pesos a day, that other dog had died anyway. Lino was therefore understandably concerned about the sick Ali. What a pity it would be for a puppy as pretty as Ali to die: “Sayang naman kung mamatay ’yan, Nila. Ang ganda-ganda niyan, huwag naman sanang mamatay.”

He advised Nila to observe the dog carefully. If its condition did not improve, they would take it to the veterinary clinic the next day.

As Nila prepared a breakfast of fried eggs and tuyo for her Kuya Lino, she reflected on his unusual behavior in the past week. Usually, the first thing he did on waking up was to shout for the newspapers and magazines. He bought practically all the dailies and weekly magazines in town, including tabloids and fan magazines, and if he was up before the newsboy arrived, he got restless, he couldn’t eat, he would keep looking toward the door. But now he was calm, relaxed, in no hurry to read the day’s bad news.

He had turned 52 just the month before—on April 3, to be exact. Lately he had not been marching in protest demonstrations or attending the protracted meetings of the cause-oriented groups to which he belonged. He had come to the point, he told some friends, where he felt that whatever he wanted to say, he would say primarily in his movies, whether these were commercial entertainments undertaken to pay his bills, or personal projects with serious artistic intent. Which was unfortunate for the protest movement, because his flair for drama had helped to humanize the movement’s grim and determined image; but salutary for the film industry, because his social concerns served to counterpoint the industry’s general frivolity.

For Lino, the last two years were a time of extraordinary activity as a moviemaker. He had made a string of box-office hits, and now for the first time in his life he was “making lagare”: editing one film, shooting a second, doing pre-production work on a third, and having separate conferences with his scriptwriters to discuss a host of forthcoming projects. He even had time to work on television commercials, the best known being the Royal Tru-Orange “Natural!” series of ads, and on telemovies. To be sure, compromises had to be made, concessions to commercialism, curtsies to box-office fashions and trends; but at the same time he was doggedly injecting a measure of seriousness—the anger of the politicized, the compassion of the conscienticized—into whatever he made, into even the tritest of formulas, and discovering with a pleasant surprise that this new formula had somehow become acceptable to producers and popular among moviegoers.

Not long after the December 1989 coup attempt, he had moved from his old apartment on Scout Albano, in barangay South Triangle, Quezon City. The apartment was neighbor to Channel 4, Channel 2, and the now abandoned JUSMAG (Joint US Military Action Group) compound, and it gave him an unwanted, nerve-wracking ringside seat to each and every bloody coup. Now he was staying with his mother in a quiet house in Miranila Subdivision in Quezon City, off Tandang Sora Avenue, accessible by way of Tierra Pura Subdivision. He was paying for the house on installment and still had a million pesos to go, but his winning streak had suddenly made him the country’s highest paid film director (even when he was the best known, he was not always the highest paid). It was not inconceivable that he would be in a position to pay for the house after two more movies—unless, of course, and this was likewise not inconceivable, he blew it all away on another “serious film” that the censors would keep out of the theaters.

He was continually trying to use his bankability to finance the noncommercial projects, and as a result was perpetually in debt. There were still some of those infamous debts to be paid, but perhaps for the first time in his life since the Cinemanila bankruptcy he was in a more or less financially stable situation. If there was little cash in the bank, there was at least the promise of a steady income in the movie assignments lined up for him, in the producers willing to advance hefty down payments. At this point he probably had no need to fear that a sheriff would come and confiscate his few worldly possessions, something that had happened once at the Scout Albano apartment.

Reports of censorship still sent his blood pressure soaring. The state of the nation still made him high-strung, and he diligently marked, to be clipped later by his secretary Raquel, news stories about Marag Valley and similar events. And he still had celebrated feuds with celebrated friends and colleagues—though he had already made peace with some of them, and with others the truism that time heals all wounds was bound to come true sooner or later. On the whole, whatever the reason, he seemed at peace with himself and the world.

AT ABOUT NINE A.M. Virgilio “Ver” de Guzman, 42, Lino’s driver since 1985, honked to announce his arrival. Ver didn’t bother to go into the house; instead, he started cleaning the white Astro AUV which Lino used as both personal and service car, and which Ver normally took home after dropping Lino off at Miranila. The Astro was loaned out by Vision Films; it was advance payment for the next movie Lino would direct for the company. Lino’s own utility vehicle, a battered Toyota Tamaraw, had recently, inexplicably been carnapped.

Lino finished reading the papers and told Nila he was leaving. She reminded him about his pills and vitamins. He took 10 a day—medicine for his diabetes, vitamins for his eyesight, energy-giving vitamins—and it was Nila’s nightly routine to put them into three empty film containers labeled breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

In the car, Ver noticed that Lino was unusually quiet. He was still quiet about 20 minutes later when they got to his old apartment on Scout Albano Street, which Lino maintained as an office.

Virgilio “Bey” Vito, 35, Lino’s assistant director since 1982, wondered why Lino was so early, since the call slip for the movie they were shooting, Kislap sa Dilim, was for one p.m. Since Direk was there anyway, Bey started to explain the shooting schedule to him; they normally started a working day with a discussion of the schedule. Today they had three locations: a hospital, which the production manager was still scouting around for; a house in New Manila owned by Rica del Rosario; and the Scout Albano apartment itself, which was to be used for close-ups in what was supposed to be a nightclub scene.

But Lino didn’t seem to be in a mood for discussion. He asked only whether the trip to Palawan was pushing through, and suggested that the hospital be the second setup. Then he went up to his old room. When he came down again, he had changed into shorts and an old sleeveless shirt that had holes in it. In this getup he interviewed five boys for a role in the Palawan movie; the fifth boy was vivacious and got hired on the spot.

At about 11 a.m. Lino noticed William Tan, his stills photographer. A week earlier he had asked William to rush the printing and filing of photos William had taken, from Orapronobis down to Gumapang Ka sa Lusak. Now Lino wanted his picture taken in close-up. He directed William to print a lot of copies, which he needed the following day. William never found out what the photos were for.

A caterer brought lunch for the production staff, and Lino had lunch with two nieces and a nephew—all the children of his only brother Danilo, who was then in the States. Lino dining with all three was a rare occurrence. His eldest niece, Glenda, 25, lived with her husband Arthur Anupol and their two-year-old daughter in Gapan, Nueva Ecija, and was just visiting. The two others, Yasmin, 22, and Daniel, nicknamed Boggie, who was to turn 18 on May 23, were staying at the Scout Albano apartment during the schoolyear, but their schedules hardly intersected with their busy uncle’s.

Soon after lunch, Bey Vito left Scout Albano to “set up” the Rica del Rosario house—that is, prepare it for the shooting. Lino and Ver followed not long afterwards, but on the way to the set Lino had a sudden hankering for halo-halo. There was none at the first store they stopped by, a McDonald’s outlet, so they proceeded to Broadway Centrum. There, while having halo-halo, they were greeted by some aides of Miriam Defensor Santiago, who has an office at the Centrum. Miriam was the judge who acquitted Lino and his driver Ver, along with Behn Cervantes and others, in the inciting-to-sedition case filed against them by the Marcos dictatorship. Lino was seriously thinking of supporting her presidential bid: he had even joined the crowd at the Commission on Elections office when Miriam registered her political party.

Lino got to the Rica del Rosario house at about two p.m. Gloria Romero and Charito Solis were ready for their “sampalan blues” scene, but shooting couldn’t start because of some missing shoes and other typical production snafus. Lino kept his cool and went off to sit under a tamarind tree.

Ver had gone on to the Ramon Magsaysay Foundation building on Roxas Boulevard, to pick up copies of a slim pamphlet published by the foundation: the brief biography of Lino Brocka, Magsaysay Award winner for journalism, literature and creative communications. The copies had been waiting for Lino since April, but he had somehow never gotten around to having them picked up. Ver came back with 35 copies of the pamphlet. Lino got one and started to read about his own life. By this time, filming had resumed. Between takes, as camera and lights were being moved around, he continued to read the pamphlet. He read while seated in a corner, or standing by a door, or resting under the tamarind tree.

Minutes later the camera batteries broke down, and the camera unit had to go all the way to Kalookan for a replacement. There was a two-hour lull in the shooting. Lino went over to Bey Vito, who was lolling under the tamarind tree, and handed his assistant director a copy of the biography. “Here,” he said, “take a look at this, I just got this today.” Before Bey could start reading, Lino began telling his story in his own words.

He spoke of his childhood in San Jose, Nueva Ecija, living with an aunt who made him sell sampaguita necklaces and the seedlings of pakeleng, a plant probably similar to isis, since Bey says it has rough leaves that are used like sandpaper. Lino would go to the public market, and the butchers and vendors would urge him to put on a show, and he would do just that, singing “Kaming mga Ulila,” letting his tears fall on cue, finally closing with a spirited recitation of “The Charge of the Light Brigade.” Sometimes he would have Danilo with him, and his younger brother would wrap his arms around Lino while he sang his sad songs. At the end of the show, his audience was in tears—“mahilig siyang magpaiyak ng tao”—and his wares got all sold out. It was a story he had told in a late-1970s movie, Tahan na, Empoy, Tahan.

And he recalled how, when he was a teenager, he joined amateur singing contests in which the prize was a pail of Purico lard. “’Yang Purico noong araw, inuulam sa kanin ’yan, me kasamang bagoong,” he said. He wanted badly to win, and he prayed hard, “Oh, God, make me win,” but he never did. The hook of a walking cane would pull him out of the stage before he even finished singing.

“Obviously,” Bey remarked, “the other guy prayed harder.”

Bey, who was joined by William Tan and cinematographer Ding Austria under the tamarind tree, listened enthralled to Lino’s nonstop storytelling: “dalawang oras na kuwentuhang umaatikabo.” Lino stopped only when the new camera batteries arrived and shooting resumed.

For some strange reason, Charito Solis couldn’t get the scene right, couldn’t concentrate. She was normally a take-one performer, but this time she went up to take six, take seven. Lino patiently worked out the scene with her, and when that was over he asked about the next setup. Bey said a hospital hadn’t been found yet, and it was decided to go back to Scout Albano to do the nightclub scene first. It was now past five in the afternoon.

LINO got to the apartment first, followed by Bey. The others got caught in the rush-hour traffic. By this time his niece Glenda was no longer in the apartment; she had gone back to Gapan. Lino sent his other niece, Yasmin, and her brother Boggie to fetch Yasmin’s balikbayan godfather, Noel Villaroman, who comes from Lino’s hometown San Jose. Noel always treated Lino in New York; now it was Lino’s turn to take Noel out. The Astro had apparently developed some engine trouble, and the Brocka kids took a taxi to the Philippine Normal College, where Noel was staying.

Along the way the taxi hit a child. It is said that you are susceptible to accidents or misfortune before a birth anniversary, and Yasmin immediately associated the mishap with Boggie’s coming birthday. Yasmin and Boggie had to get off so that the driver could take the child to a hospital; they were not made to pay the fare.

Back at the Scout Albano apartment, Bey noted Lino’s restlessness. He kept walking to the door, as if on the lookout for someone. Perhaps he was wondering what was taking Yasmin and Boggie so long. He started to discuss the Palawan project with Bey, asking about the planes, the stars, other details. He was, says Bey, so hot about the project that when some of the actors appeared to be waffling—nagpapakiyeme—he wanted them replaced immediately. That evening he wanted Bey to take out of the Salingin cast a new star he had helped build up who seemed to be having problems with conflicting schedules. “I thought her head would swell after one year,” Lino said, “but it seems swollen after just two pictures.” Bey was for talking to the producer before taking any drastic action, but Lino straightaway started dialing the phone, trying to contact talent manager Bibsy Carballo. When he couldn’t reach her, he called up one of his scriptwriters, Roy Iglesias, who had written the then currently showing Sa Kabila ng Lahat and was working on another project for Lino, a Tarzan-type story called Mulawin. He also called up Ricky Lee and they talked about how the ending of Salingin should go. Who would they kill off—Christopher de Leon, Dina Bonnevie, or William Lorenzo?

Turning to Bey, Lino asked if they were still going through with the hospital scene. Bey said yes, because Lorna Tolentino was available for the scene. But Bey sensed that Lino was not too keen on doing it that night. Lino was like that, sometimes he wanted to pack up but would not say so, he wanted the decision to come from Bey, because Bey was in charge of schedules. So Bey, sensitive to signals, said, “Okay, it’s getting late anyway, and the traffic is terrible, so let’s put off the hospital scene for another day. Let’s just do this nightclub scene.” And Lino said, mabuti pa nga, because he was taking out a balikbayan friend to Spindle. Spindle is a nightclub on Tomas Morato Avenue, Quezon City; it is owned by singer Rico J. Puno, and that Tuesday night the singer was Malou Barry, who was to be introduced in Kislap sa Dilim, and who was to have close-ups taken for that evening’s Scout Albano setup.

By this time the rest of the crew had finally negotiated the rush-hour traffic. At seven p.m. the caterer arrived with dinner. Bey remarked on how extra-solicitous Lino was. There were about 20 persons in the apartment, and Lino walked around making sure everyone was being served: “O, kumain ka na ba? Oy, ba’t hindi ka pa kumain?”

At about 7:30 p.m. Yasmin and Boggie came back with Noel Villaroman. They thought Lino had had his dinner. He was not the type to wait on ceremony. “Hindi naman kami ganoon, hindi naman kami naghihintayan sa pagkain,” says Yasmin. But Lino had waited to share a meal with them. He asked someone to buy smoked bangus and tomatoes, and when it came they all ate with their fingers. Lino asked what Boggie planned for his birthday. A week earlier Boggie’s father Danilo had called long distance from New York, and Lino had said, “Ang putanginang bata, gusto, kotse.” Now he told Boggie he would just give him some money: “Is five thousand okay?” And of course Boggie replied, “Oho, okey na ’yon.”

DINNER was over when the tapes of Malou Barry’s songs arrived. She was to lip-synch one song in the scene to be shot at the Scout Albano setup, and after listening to the tapes, Lino decided on “A Song for You,” originally by the Carpenters. The tape containing that number was sent to Magnatech’s film laboratories just a block away, to be “synch pulsed”—a process that synchronizes camera and sound—and to be transferred to a quarter-inch tape, as well as to a magnetic tape that would be used for the film soundtrack.

It was probably at about this time that Lino sent home his driver. The Astro needed to be fixed early the next morning, and anyway Lino was expecting actor William Lorenzo, who had a car. Ver had been to Spindle with Lino twice before, once when Malou Barry was the featured performer, and the second time, just the Friday before, when Rico J. himself was singing.

At around nine p.m. Malou Barry arrived with her public relations manager, writer Norma Japitana, who also happens to be Lino’s fellow board member of the Concerned Artists of the Philippines. Norma says Lino was “vibrant, mataas ang energy,” and he went out of his way to show the new arrivals the album of stills that had been taken of Kislap. While waiting for the Barry tape to come back from Magnatech, Lino chatted with Malou, while Norma appointed herself secretary, dialing some of the numbers Lino was still trying to reach, including Bibsy’s.

At about 9:30 p.m. William Lorenzo arrived. He was not in the cast of Kislap, but he had a pivotal role in the Palawan project. He had been introduced in Lino’s Macho Dancer, had won a “most promising newcomer” award from the movie press, and had become almost a fixture in Brocka movies since then. William was the sinister drug lord Daniel Fu in the then currently showing Sa Kabila ng Lahat. He was going with Lino on the Spindle outing.

Another late arrival was Rosauro “Boy” Roque. Like Ver, Boy was detained with Lino and Behn in 1985. He was a production assistant at that time and had been arrested because he went to the rally site to apprise Lino of production schedules. Lately Lino had been giving Boy, a six-footer, bit roles and had encouraged him to take up bodybuilding, in preparation for a buildup lead role as the Tarzan-type character Mulawin, hopefully opposite the towering Ruffa Gutierrez. Boy, too, was going with Lino to Spindle.

William Lorenzo and Boy Roque stayed outside, chatting. Occasionally Lino came out to join them, but he said nothing and simply listened to their conversation. Boy found that strange: “Dati, pag lumalapit siya, kuwento nang kuwento.”

Around this time, Lino started to give away copies of the Magsaysay Award biography. “So you will know my life,” he joked as he inscribed the copy he gave to photographer William Tan.

When Lino started to get restless again, asking about the Barry tape, Bey himself went to Magnatech to fetch it. Shooting commenced as soon as Bey got back. The magic of moviemaking had transformed one wall of the Scout Albano apartment into a dimly lit nightclub stage. Malou stood against the wallpapered wall, facing the camera, and lip-synched to a playback of her own voice. It was, says Bey, “a very easy take.”

As the crew began to pack up, Malou and Norma went on ahead to Spindle to prepare for the night’s show, and Lino went up to his room to change. When he came out, in a striped blue-and-white shirt that Bey had not seen before, he invited Bey to join him at Spindle: “Sumama ka na sa amin ngayon at pakinggan mo si Malou Barry at nang marespeto mo.” Malou, being a novice in the acting department, was sometimes guilty of beginner’s bloopers, such as looking up at the director before he could shout “Cut!” and asking, “Direk, ayos na ba ang ginawa ko?” while the cameras were still rolling. This was a source of amusement for the crew and technical staff, and Lino was wont to upbraid them, kayo talaga, mga walanghiya kayo, for their lack of respect in his artista. So now Lino said, “You must join me and listen to her sing, and after you hear her you will learn to respect her.”

Bey begged off, saying that anyway he had already heard the playback and he now promised to accord her the necessary respect. Lino next extended his invitation to cinematographer Ding Austria, but Ding lived in faraway Marikina and was in a hurry to get home, and besides, he and Bey were scheduled to meet very early the next morning to discuss what lenses to take to Palawan. Lino then called up publicist Lolit Solis, who manages Gabby Concepcion, one of the stars of Kislap, but Lolit already had plans for the night and couldn’t change them at a moment’s notice. “Everybody,” says Bey, “had something else to do that night.”

Lino had asked Norma to reserve a table for ten at Spindle, but now he only had Noel Villaroman, William Lorenzo, and Boy Roque for company. They all piled into William Lorenzo’s car, a 1990-model Toyota Corolla. Boy Roque, who came in a borrowed Oppel, left it parked outside the apartment.

Bey Vito was still attending to the packup when Direk and Company left for Spindle.

NORMA JAPITANA had gotten Lino a front-row reservation, but he didn’t want a conspicuous spot. So two tables were joined together in the back, near the door, and Norma, on Lino’s invitation, joined the group. Lino, a teetotaler as well as a nonsmoker, ordered a pineapple juice for himself. Norma had kalamansi soda. No one remembers what Noel had, but it was likewise non-alcoholic. Between the two of them, Boy and William finished two and a half pitchers of San Miguel draft beer, roughly the equivalent of three to four bottles of Pale Pilsen—which, as any beerhouse regular knows, is small beer to the hard-drinking man. Boy says he was drinking faster, therefore drinking more, than William.

At the mike Rico Puno, Spindle’s owner, acknowledged Lino’s presence but didn’t make a big fuss about it. “Hindi naman siya matakaw sa karangalan,” says Rico of Lino.

Over sisig and calamares, Lino and Norma talked about “generalities,” about Malou Barry, about the other talents Norma managed, such as Cesar Montano. Norma thought the guys had things to discuss among themselves, and she excused herself at some point. While Lino and Noel chatted, perhaps reminiscing about their San Jose days, Boy and William talked about their plan of putting up a restaurant-bar.

That night Malou Barry sang “A Song for You,” “Don’t Cry for Me, Argentina,” “Saan Ka Man Naroroon.” On a previous visit to Spindle, Lino had asked her to sing “Help Me Make It Through the Night,” but she had not practiced it with the band, and she didn’t sing it that night. On that previous visit Lino had also told her he would direct her first concert, and the 25-year-old singer from Davao was thrilled no end that the world-class director was interested in her career.

At one point William went out of Spindle. Boy says William had gone back to the car to dab himself with perfume or cologne: “nagpabango.” Perhaps the cigarette smoke was getting to him. On noticing William’s absence, Lino went to the car and called him back into the club. This happened only once, says Boy: “Hindi labas-pasok. At hindi sila nag-aaway.”

When Norma passed by Lino’s table again, he told her, “Stay with us,” so she stayed put.

At about 12:30—it was now May 22, a Wednesday—Lino paid his bill; he always insisted on paying his bill, says Norma. He told Boy: “Mukhang magiging regular tayo dito sa Spindle every Tuesday.” At the door Lino hugged Rico Puno and said, “Rico, I really love this place.” The hug surprised Rico, because they didn’t really know each other well and that was the first time Lino had done something like that; but he surmised that Lino had grown comfortable with Spindle and therefore at ease with him.

From Spindle, Lino’s group proceeded to the Scout Albano apartment. It was decided that Boy would take Noel in the Oppel to Philippine Normal College, and William would take Lino home to Miranila in the Toyota. Boy and William agreed to return to Scout Albano and go out again for some serious drinking.

Boy came back to Scout Albano at about 1:15 a.m. and waited for William until past two o’clock. When William failed to arrive, Boy decided to go home and sleep.

About 30 minutes after Lino left Spindle, Quezon City Mayor Jun Simon and Dennis Roldan and Robin Padilla came in, separately. They were shooting the breeze with Malou, Rico, and Rico’s wife Doris when an aide of Simon’s rushed in with the shocking news: Lino Brocka was in a car accident, Lino Brocka was dead.

Malou Barry went into hysterics.

THE INVESTIGATION REPORT filed on May 23 by Patrolman Marcelo A. Sabado of the Metropolitan Traffic Police Command stated the facts of the case:

“It appears that on or about 1:00 AM, 22 May 1991, one WILLIAM CHUA known in his screen name as WILLIAM LORENZO, of legal age, single, movie actor ... was driving a TOYOTA COROLLA CAR with license plate # PPM-167, L Pil’90, with MR. LINO BROCKA, also of legal age, known movie director ... as his passenger/companion.

“It further appears that the duo were then cruising along East Avenue from the direction of E. Delos Santos Ave. towards Quezon Memorial Circle. Reaching the corner of Katarungan Street, beside the PLDT Office, this City, while Mr. Lorenzo is on the process of overtaking a slow moving vehicle ahead of him, lost control of his wheel, spinned around and rammed into a MERALCO concrete post being installed thereat, causing severe damages to said car and inflicting physical injuries on their person, rushed at East Avenue Medical Center for treatment, however, LINO BROCKA was pronounced EXPIRED by the attending physician thereat.”

Autopsy Report No. N-91-1311 of the National Bureau of Investigation’s medico-legal division, submitted by Dr. Ruperto J. Sombilon Jr., attributed the cause of Lino’s death to “hemorrhage, secondary to multiple traumatic injuries.”

The first person on the scene of the accident was a Good Samaritan with movie connections: Relly Silayan, son of the late movie actor Vic Silayan, brother of movie actress Chat Silayan, and brother-in-law of Mayor Simon. He was almost at the Quezon Memorial Circle when he heard the crash behind him. He turned back and helped to get the victims out of the car. He did not immediately recognize Lino, but felt his pulse and knew immediately that the life had gone out of it. He turned his attention to William and kept up a conversation with the half-conscious actor to prevent him from slipping into a coma. Relly Silayan was not much of a moviegoer, but one of the rare Tagalog movies he had gone to see happened to be Sa Kabila ng Lahat, and he recognized William. “You’re Daniel Fu,” he said.

Lino had no identification card on him, and the first person to formally identify him was again a movie person: director Elwood Perez. Elwood just happened to be shooting a movie at the East Avenue Medical Center, which was just a few meters away from the scene of the accident.

If the story of Lino’s last day were a movie, the coincidences would strain credibility.

NOT LONG after Lino left Spindle, Norma Japitana too went home. When she got in at a little past one p.m., the phone was ringing. It was Rico with the news of Lino’s death. Norma thought it was all a bad joke, but soon realized that Rico, for once, was dead serious. She couldn’t sleep. She called up Behn Cervantes, but there was no answer at his end.

Bey Vito made it a point to shut off his Pocket Bell when he got home; it had become, he says, an automatic reflex with him, like shifting gears while carrying on a conversation. He clearly remembers shutting it off as he waited for some trucks to pass so that he could turn left from Mariano Marcos Avenue into San Antonio Heights. So when he heard a beeping as he lay down to sleep, he looked in the direction of his wife’s Pocket Bell. But it was his unit atop the dresser which was beeping and flashing. He must have accidentally turned it on again, unless some supernatural power had done it for him. When he picked up his Pocket Bell, there was a message from Elwood Perez running across the little screen: LINO IS DEAD. PLEASE COME TO EAST AVENUE MEDICAL CENTER. He showed the message to his wife. They were still trying to comprehend the news when there was another beep and another message: IT IS CONFIRMED THAT LINO IS DEAD. PLEASE COME IMMEDIATELY. MOTHER LILY IS WAITING FOR YOU AT EAST AVENUE MEDICAL CENTER. Bey decided no one could be playing a bad joke like this and got dressed again.

At one in the morning Ricky Lee’s phone kept ringing insistently, but he resisted the urge to get up and answer it. In his subconscious mind he knew he had to get up early to write the still undecided ending of Salingin. At two a.m. writer Mac Alejandre came knocking at his door; it was the only way to bring the news to Ricky. When Ricky and Mac got to the East Avenue Medical Center morgue, they found Phillip Salvador, Gina Alajar, Michael de Mesa, Armida Siguion Reyna, Bibeth Orteza, and Lily Monteverde there. The press was also there, and Phillip kept saying, “Walang kukuha ng retrato, walang kukuha ng retrato”; but the paparazzi could not be stopped.

It was decided that Mother Lily should be the one to inform Lino’s mother. She took Bey Vito with her to Miranila. They ran out of gas on their way there.

The night before, Nila Radoc had found it hard to sleep. “Parang pinupukpok ang paa ko,” she recalls. She didn’t watch TV, went to bed early, but couldn’t fall asleep. At about 10 p.m. she heard the dogs barking. She peered out through a slit in the front door, but there was nobody outside. At around midnight, still unable to sleep, she prayed to the Santo NiƱo statuette beside her bed: “Patulugin mo naman ako, balisa ako, gusto kong matulog, patulugin mo ako.” When she closed her eyes, she fell into a brief, troubled sleep. The doorbell startled her awake, and she ran to the door. When she opened it, she recalls, she saw, standing outside the well-lighted gate, her Kuya Lino reaching out to unlatch the gate. The last time Lino did that, he complained that his arm got sore, so now Nila said, “Huwag na, Kuya Lino, ako na lang, ako na lang.”

It was not Lino at the gate, but Bey and Mother Lily. Bey says he had made no attempt to open the gate from the outside. Nila laughed when she saw her visitors: “Ay, akala ko si Kuya Lino ka, Bey.” She let them in. Bey asked about Lino’s mother, whom even Lino’s friends call Ma, and Nila said she was asleep. What, Nila asked, was the matter? Where was Kuya Lino? When they told her, her legs turned to jelly, she couldn’t walk. She left it to Bey and Mother Lily to select a barong Tagalog for Lino. Then she awakened Ma.

Ma was told that Lino had met an accident; they didn’t tell her he was dead. But when they arrived at the hospital and she saw the crush of people, she knew the truth right away. “Oh, God,” she said, “why didn’t you take me instead? I’m useless now, but my son still has a lot of things to accomplish.”

Yasmin Brocka got the news at three o’clock from Phillip Salvador. Her Tito Phillip apologized for waking her up. Then he sent his driver to fetch Yasmin and Boggie and bring them to the hospital.

In Gapan, Nueva Ecija, Glenda Brocka Anupol got the news even earlier. Her father-in-law had his ears perpetually glued to a transistor radio, and at about 2:30 a.m. Rafael Yabut was anchoring the live news coverage from the East Avenue Medical Center. When Elwood Perez’s confirmation of the accident victims’ identity was broadcast, Glenda and her husband bundled up their baby and rushed to Quezon City, making the trip in one hour. At the hospital she was told that her uncle was in the basement. When she saw the basement, she knew right away it was a morgue. She met a weeping Armida, and she knew for certain that her uncle was dead.

At six o’clock I was awakened by a call from movie director Mel Chionglo, who went straight to the point and said Lino was dead. I shouted “Ano!?” into the phone, and my shout woke my wife up. Mel said he was at the Funeraria Paz and apologized for not having called earlier, because for some reason or other neither he nor Ricky nor Bibeth could remember my phone number. There were no tears then; the tears came later, after the funeral, in the privacy of one’s bedroom.

Boy Roque only learned the news when he woke up in the morning.

Ver de Guzman found out when he arrived at the Scout Albano apartment at eight in the morning. “Hindi ako nakakibo,” he says. He went home to relay the information to his wife. Two days after Lino’s burial, he is back at the Scout Albano apartment recalling that awful morning. “Hindi ako napaiyak dito,” he says. “Noong paalis na ako, saka ako napaiyak.”

Saturday, May 23, 2009

POESIYA: Halaw kay William Wantling


Ni Jose F. Lacaba
Halaw kay William Wantling

Tatapatin kita. Kaya kong
gumawa sa pana-panahon

ng mga awiting maindayog at
humabi ng magagandang katagang

pag narinig mo'y mapapatulala ka
sa paghanga--pero, ewan ko,

ang lumalabas ay laging peke.
Parang walang silbi kung minsan

ang tugma at sukat at talinghaga
kung kailangang isalin sa papel ang

totoo, ang tinatawag nating
tunay na buhay. Tulad noong isang

araw. Noong isang araw naroon ako
sa may gulayan namin dito

sa Munti at itong punyetang si
Turko ay lumapit sa karantso namin

at ang sabi, Erning, balita ko
tinitirya mo ang bata ko. Sabi naman

ni Erning, E, ano ngayon? At naglabas
si Turko ng tusok at tinira

si Erning, kaya lang itong si Erning
ay may trey pala sa loob ng kamiseta.

Tumalbog ang tusok ni Turko at
inilabas ni Erning ang tusok niya at

siyempre wala namang trey si Turko at
nahagip siya sa gitna ng dibdib, grabe,

pare, at bumulwak ang dugo sa kanyang
mga labi, pulang-pula, galing

sa baga, at humiga siya sa petsay
at sabi, Tangna. Hindot. Puuutangina.

Hindot. At nagtatawa siya, matagal,
marahan, hanggang mamatay. Ano

ang magagawa ng tugma at sukat at kahit
talinghaga sa ganyang kalintikan?

Mula sa kalipunan kong Sa Panahon ng Ligalig (Anvil Publishing, 1991).

William Wantling

Ang tulang ito ay isa sa walong tula ko na binasa ko noong Mayo 15, 2009, nang maimbita akong magbigay ng short talk with poetry reading para sa mga medium-security prisoners sa Camp Sampaguita ng New Bilibid Prison (NBP) sa Muntinlupa, Metro Manila. Ang nasabing mga bilanggo ay mga estudyante ng isang “kolehiyo sa loob ng kulungan” ng Camp Sampaguita. Ang aking maikling pananalita at pagbabasa ng mga tula ay inisponsor ng Unyon ng mga Manunulat sa Pilipinas (UMPIL) at National Book Development Board (NBDB), bilang bahagi ng kanilang programang UNLAK, o UMPIL-NBDB Lakbay-Awtor para sa Kabataan. Sinamahan ako sa Bilibid nina Mike Coroza ng UMPIL at Bong Versoza ng NBDB.

Nagkataon na ngayon ding buwan ng Mayo—specifically, sa petsang Mayo 2—ang ika-35 anibersaryo ng pagkamatay ng makatang Amerikanong si William Wantling, may-akda nitong tulang hinalaw o inadapt ko.

Ang tulang “Poetry,” ang orihinal sa Ingles ni William Wantling, ay mababasa dito:

Si Wantling, na ipinanganak noong Nobyembre 23, 1933, ay isang dating Marine na nasugatan sa digmaan sa Korea at nang bumalik sa Estados Unidos ay nalulong sa droga. Possession ng droga isa sa mga naging dahilan ng pagkakakulong niya nang limang taon at kalahati sa San Quentin Prison, at overdose sa droga ang naging dahilan ng pagkamatay niya noong 1974 sa edad na 41.

Bagamat hindi kasing-sikat nina Allen Ginsberg at Lawrence Ferlinghetti, si Wantling ay kinikilala na isa sa mga nangungunang Beat poets. Ayon sa manunulat na si Yann Lovelock: “Amidst a life of petty crime and psychic disturbances, [Wantling] made a name for himself as one of the most respected poets of the underground, writing directly out of his experience. He was Kerouac’s hipster saint incarnate…. He is Mailer’s ‘White Negro,’ the violent product of intolerable times and conditions whose unrestrained reaction against them will ultimately destroy the state of directed violence we call by the name of civilisation.”

Mababasa dito ang artikulo ni Yann Lovelock tungkol kay William Wantling: