Monday, January 16, 2012

The Bitter Man and the Closing Door

"Some doors that close do not open any windows at all."

So I have just learned that the longest target of my unrequited love is now apparently engaged. Further investigation through Facebook did not reveal anything useful. Before she changed her status to "engaged" I even thought she was single. So, either she'll marry the wind or the next invisible man or she does not want to disclose who she's been in relationship with. I mean there was no indication at all that she was even with someone. No picture or even a name drop. Well she's not really active in that site that much and rarely uses the Internet. But no picture of the guy at all and no display of affection? That is a rarity. I could even think she just doesn't want some people (like me?) to know. It could even mean she is just joking or she's trying to...

Anyway, I don't really know what she thinks and I think I've already hurt enough before not to try to imagine / second-guess that whatever she might have thought is in anyway favorable to me. I'm just not part of her life at all. So yeah, for the purposes of this post, let us assume that it is true. Even if it is indeed a joke, I don't think it changes anything.

It has been a long time since we have first met and maybe that year would be one of the things that I regret. I have had a number of dreams when I even go back to that time and changed some things and I was happy. Just last week, I had a dream of her and I remember dimly that at the end her memory of me was wiped clean just so I could start over. That finally I could set things right without my past mistakes hanging over me.

But then I wake up.

And the reality was we both had changed throughout the years. Let me tell you that what you are high school changes over the years. So if you are popular, you should enjoy it. If you are one of the smart ones in your batch, you should savor it. It could be the best time in your life. When you are in college a lot of things will change. You will meet a lot of people and could get swallowed up by the population and lose your own identity. College will challenge what you previously thought you are and if you lose, you will become a shadow of what you were before.

When I encountered her next, I was in a losing battle. I have had failing grades and  I have had failed relationships, I have had failed friendships. I was okay but I have become a pessimist. Failure was a common expectation and maybe I was trudging along college. I found her through friendster back then and established communication. The next few weeks were great. It was perfect. I was hopeful again. She had a boyfriend, but it didn't seem to matter. Maybe nostalgia was so strong, the lingering question of "what if" so fragrant, that there was a chance to pull it off... but then came the downwards spiral.

I don't know what happened. Maybe when she saw me again after 5 years, I did not live up to her standards, maybe our grounds were too fickly (one year of teen crush will not sustain a long burn) and I failed to to use my advantage. But soon enough things got so out of hand that I lost another friend and I lost her as well. It was a terrible time. I was so dramatic back then, maybe I came off as desperate and bitter. I was obsessed with her, I guess. There was no better word for it. And maybe that obsession drove her away.. I couldn't even understand it, because I did not even know her that well. I tried to explain why but I didn't know how.

Sometime after that I got to talking to her again. It gave me some hope because she was the one that initiated it. By then I have not sent her any text for a long time because for months, she did not bother replying at all. But although we have talked through chat, nothing is the same. I do not feel the warmth in anything that she said. Things are so awkward and she doesn't ask anything about me like she doesn't care anymore. And I tried, I tried, I tried. We used to communicate through text but for financial reasons she can't text as much as she did before. Excuses.

There was a time when I asked her out. Everything was set. I even took a vacation leave just so I could go out with her. By then, things were running smoothly again. Not as they were before but enough to give me hope. She agreed to meet with me and all. But when the day came she stood me out. She did not even explain. After two weeks or more I was able to talk to her again and I asked her why. She gave me some off-handed excuse like it was nothing. Like it was nothing. And when I tried to ask her out again she was not available at all. Too busy or something.

It was wrong and I know I should have forgotten her then. But what we know and what we do about it are sometimes different things. And back then all I wanted was to fix this one thing so I could move on. If there was really nothing maybe I would. If she told me to stop, maybe I would have. But she kept me on a leash it seems (unintentionally or not?), always giving me something to hope for, showing up when I'm almost getting over her and pulling me back.

It has been that way till now. I'm not as obsessed with her as before. There was a time I even removed her from my chat list. But she always initiates the chat and then when I'm hooked again she leaves me hanging. I have seen her again during some of the reunions and it was so awkward between us. We didn't really get a chance to talk. I don't know what her problem about me was. If she had told me about it maybe I could have done something. But alas!

And now she is engaged and could be married this year. And some part of me breathes a sigh of relief. And some part of me is sad that it's not me. That part of me could sour grape that she is now more plump than before and all but yeah, that same part of me would be sad that she did not give me a chance. But I have given that part of me that is sad more than 10 paragraphs above to reminisce and that is enough. I would never ever again talk about her that long, this is the last. She has caused more hurt and for no good reason.

The part of me that breathed that sigh of relief is glad. Whew! Finally we can close that book after 12 years of nothing. I am so tired of her and I want to get over this. I would want to say that it is not only about her for those 12 years and yeah, we have survived without her affection and we don't need it. This shouldn't affect us at all. I don't know how you come up with the idea that you loved her back then when you barely really know her. You are making too much of an issue about this, this is something that is happening to other people who, though you met, has never really known you.  It is regret that you are feeling and it doesn't go away. What you do is you learn from it and you do not make the same mistake. Maybe make a different mistake next time.

Do not worry, do not be desperate. Some other person will come along. If no one does, it will be just fine.  You have other things to take your attention, let them take you away. Other people care. Let them. Remove her from your life altogether and stop checking on her, it will not help. This door is closing and be glad you are not inside. Instead of looking for windows in the same house, look for other doors... in other houses. Maybe theirs is open all along.

We should forget about this and move on.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

MANILA KINGPIN: The Untold Story of ASIONG SALONGA (2011) Review

While I originally planned to go to SM alone and pick up some last-minute grocery, I ended up spending Rizal day watching the latest Asiong Salonga movie with my family. Having heard a number of good things about it, I probably would have watched it on my own if they didn’t want to, it's a testament to how intrigued I am about this movie.

It's been a while since I’ve watched a Filipino action movie (not counting the old films I see during bus rides). Filipino movies these days tend to tilt towards romantic comedies, love stories or horror genres and it was refreshing to finally see some good old action. You may have gotten tired of the formulaic storylines, overused tropes or the gaping plot holes that frequent action films, more obviously blatant during their decline, but I think some of those movies were fun to watch.

When I first saw the trailer for this movie I found myself smiling. I remember even posting the trailer on my FB wall. Maybe part of its appeal is the nostalgia that it brought, since most of us have watched a few Filipino action films back when we were kids. (Remember the hype that people had when GMA brought back Voltes V? You’d think it was the best anime series of all time). The trailer also showed some actors who used to be in action movies and brought back from retirement like John Regala, Roi Vinzon, Dennis Padilla and of course Jeorge Estregan Jr, among others. Years inactive have made them plump, but as they say, real men have no abs (true story!).

However, the trailer also seemed to take itself too seriously that it was funny to me. I mean, for one thing, the balisong forging was done so flashy you would have thought they were forging Aragorn's sword or maybe the One Ring itself. And while the kalesa chase can be gutsy or maangas, it was also ridiculous when you think about it (I mean, are those horses bulletproof?). I haven’t watch any of the other three Asiong Salonga movies (1961, 1977, 1990) but this movie did seem to imitate a mafia atmosphere, with the pervasiveness of the tommy gun, the suits, the fedoras and all that territorial talk. I don’t know what they had back then in the 50’s but even if it’s not accurate, I think I can forgive it.

The movie is almost two hours long, and all of it was in black and white. It might take some getting used to for others, but since I have watched some old films for a time, it was not too much of an adjustment for me.  The movie was a good period piece, the director and the production staff took pains to make the atmosphere look the same as it did in the 1950’s. All the locations, the props, the fashion and style will make you believe that you are living in that era. It made the movie rich in history and feelings of nostalgia. The score is good as well, although I think the Tears for Fears’ Mad World instrumental at the end was not a good choice. I think the sound is too familiar that a lot of people would recognize it for a foreign song, and therefore find it out of place in a Filipino movie. There were some good scenes in the movie, the attack on Viray was executed well, showing the gang's teamwork and guts. The scene where they punished the traitor in their midst was violent but felt fitting. You can feel some of the tension during confrontations because the story and  the actors' portrayals have made you sympathize with Asiong and his gang.

Although the movie was one of the best Filipino action films I have watched, I felt that the movie was disjointed in some of the parts. Maybe because it was trying to tell a lot of things and did not have enough time, being already as long as it is. Some scenes were confusing because there was no indication of how much time has passed between them. Maybe some indication of date could have helped make the story more coherent. It also felt as if things were taken out of the final cut, some scenes were not related to the ones that follow after. Who was Jay Manalo, and why was he so influential inside the prison? And during an earlier scene, Asiong was skeptical of the Liberal party but in the next scenes he was like a hardcore Liberal.

I felt the bed scenes were awkward, maybe because I felt that Estregan was too old for the role and the women were old enough to be his daughters, but overall I think he did the character justice. There was a scene though where I can’t tell from his expression whether he was scared or trying to look menacing and in a scene when he was holding the tommy gun by the bed it looked as if he did not know what to do with it and it made me wince watching him. Geisler and Regala were noteworthy in their roles and it was no surprise when they were nominated for the supporting actor awards.

I think that the title Manila Kingpin is a misnomer for Asiong Salonga, since Manila is a large place and the movie did not show him controlling the whole area. The antagonist Totoy Golem (Regala) is more of a kingpin than Salonga (Estregan) since Golem appears to be the leader of the other gangs as well. At most, Salonga could be called the King of Tondo, since it was his turf and no one can touch it while he was around.

The action sequences are engaging but some of it felt impractical. Although the rain scene at the church had good effects, the slow motion Max Payne scene felt as cheesy as the kalesa chase I mentioned earlier. There was also a scene where Asiong and his gang attacked an enemy’s hideout but only Asiong went in and killed everyone inside. I also felt that some scenes in the movie were unnecessary while I found other scenes lacking in telling the Asiong Salonga story. I thought it would be about how he rose from ranks starting from when he was young, but how he gained control of Tondo was just told in the first scene. The confrontation at the end felt forced and impractical because there seemed to be no apparent gain and motivation for those who initiated it. There was also an absurd scene at the end with a bicycle that made the audience laugh when it was supposed to be sad and serious. Riding a bike while holding a gun does look ridiculous when done in live action.

Despite its flaws, I still think Manila Kingpin is one of the best Filipino action movies that I’ve seen. Maybe the story wasn’t that polished and some scenes were absurd, if not awkward, but the movie has more substance to it than other movies I have watched. I wonder if the director’s original version would've have better, maybe we'll never know. I’m not sure how much this movie will earn but I do hope that more people would see this movie, if only to encourage these types of films. Maybe the action genre will make a comeback in Filipino movies. Maybe the next movies will improve and be even better, I don’t know. But if it does, Manila Kingpin is a good start.