A SENSE OF THE PAST, NOW THAT ANOTHER YEAR IS ABOUT TO END

In the eve of 2017, and in the cusp of this heck of a year, let’s talk about … nostalgia!

For a movie geek like me, it is very hard not to associate the term to my love for movies, movies in general, remakes, and yes … series. 2016, like most years before it, was in way, full of nostalgia. From remakes, prequels and sequels one after the other, I think I probably was swept to the movies because of it! Now what is it about this spectre that gets us? Someone, or maybe most of you, will be quick to put the blame into lazy Hollywood  profiteering, and yet we still consume it. What does this say about us? Digital technology is instrumental to this argument. The internet is home to countless information – past, present, history, art, music, education, philosophy, it’s hard to find something not on the web these days (except my dog’s sense of humor). There are a lot of choices. And with so many, we retreat to familiar labels.

 

Is it too surprising then that we long for a static, unchanging past?

 

Quick question! How mang Spiderman films are there? Another one. How many films based on games have been produced?

Philosopher Walter Benjamin, argues that nostalgia is always full of the here and now. Meaning, we associate our sense of the past, to what we are experiencing today.

Others also say that this sense of the past can help us soar into the future. So which is it?

Is nostalgia just a retreat into the good old days? Or can it help us explore the future with a few familiar faces?… loosely borrowing from the past to fit their own vision of the future, some superhero remakes and Star Wars sequels use old ideas to analyze our own time in new ways.

If the original Harry Potter franchise was all about friendship, love, and family seen through the eyes of a teenage kid in the midst of puberty, its prequel (or should I say sequel? whatever…) is sure to have the same themes with a twist, aside from it being told in the eyes of a grown up man.

But enough about that. I’m done with movies for the day. Blame it all on the amount of sunshine my room got today (none). So… where did nostalgia come from?

The term was coined in 1688, by a medical student named Johannes Hofer who noticed symptoms from Swiss soldiers. They were experiencing fatigue, insomnia, and fever caused by the intense longing of their own homeland. He combined two Greek words, “nostos” and “algos” which when translated in a literal sense means homecoming and pain. At first, the condition was only thought to be exclusive to Swiss soldiers but as migration increased worlwide, it was noted that nostalgia can be observed in various groups. In fact, anyone who has been away from home for far too long experiences nostalgia.

By the 20th century, professionals no longer considered it a neurological disease but they categorized it amongst mental conditions similar depression. They argued that this stemmed from not being able to let go of one’s childhood and/or sometimes, the desire to be a baby again.

As luck would have it, and like everything else, the concept of nostalgia evolved. Its meaning, expanded from homesickness to a general longing for the past. A sense of wishing for a past you can’t recreate. Also, it is no longer seen as a disease but is now viewed as a poignant pleasant experience. And that despite being a complex emotional state that can include feelings of loss and sadness, nostalgia doesn’t generally put people in a negative mood. The feeling of being simultaneously happy and sad, ambivalence, the root of it, now it is seen that rather than a cause of distress, nostalgia can be a restorative way of coping with it.

Change is self-evident. A cliche we all live by. Our preferences change, our jobs change, our friends change (yes, this is heartbreakingly true)  over time. But we are people. And if my research serves me right, nostalgia, is about us… as what we are. People.

I am a person remembering something specific from my past. I am a person who existed in the past and am a continuous being. This concept then, is about me (you) connecting with my (your) younger self and building my (your) continuous identity.

I have come to realize, after articles, essays, video essays, and lectures, that nostalgia is a fascinating concept. Hah! Like that is a surprise.

New Year is only a few hours away and I wish you all well and a happy one as we all remember how our year has been and … how far we have come over the years.

George Bailey and Me says: It’s A Wonderful Life!

December has been a whirlwind of emotions.

Despite having reached another milestone in my blogging, me and my family were faced with the news that my grandmother has died. Despite having had to attend the burial and spend a wonderful, wonderful time with cousins, aunts and uncles, we head back home and a day before  Christmas, my parents picked the perfect timing to bicker and fight.

.

.

.

All is well that ends well, though.

The universe did not win.

Christmas might not have been that ‘fun’ but on my parent’s 20th wedding anniversary, incidentally also the day after Christmas, I got to meet my high school friends and my parents made up. In a span of 5 days, since Christmas eve, this whirlwind of emotions are all that encompassed our household. Yesterday, a family friend had her 50th birthday and we all went to celebrate with her. Much like the ending in the film, It’s a Wonderful Life, it’s easy to get swept away in this wave of feeling. However, it’s important to note what hasn’t changed for George Bailey (and me). EVERYTHING.

George’s: He still has to live in his old house; his business, despite being bailed out is still under threat from Henry Potter’s expansion.

Mine: My grandma is still dead and I will have to move on with and accept all the heartbreaks this year has thrown at me. Problems in the household? Still plenty. My pets are still giving me a hard time, laptop is still broken, a friend is still a friend, and I am still barely five feet tall.

Petty, yes.

Hah!

Kidding.

But in a macroscopic sense, to say that trouble is still around the corner, isn’t enough.

Frank Capra’s film, despite originally being a post-war box office flop, has lessons that still ring true today. Contradictions, perspective and hope. Success is not mutually exclusive to an ordinary life, and adventure can be found in a domestic setting.

Adventure : I journey in my hometown

For someone like me, whose farthest travel from home yet, is a field trip to Cebu City, a southern city almost a day away from the city I live in, I can truly understand. I have seen friends travel all across the globe and travel all on their own, watched videos they post on social media, and listen to them recount their tales of ‘reaching their dream to travel abroad’ when we meet. And though most of my travels are with family and never really ‘alone’ (the closest me time I get is my time at the movies), my books and the things I’ve read still help me dream. One day, I’d travel… meaningful travel.

Spot me! Haha! We were all messing around after a few drinks.

But for now, my adventure lies in the very place I inhabit.

My friend always said: It’s all a matter of ‘it‘.

Everything is a matter of perspective.

The film tells us this in a very ‘human’ way. When George saves his brother, he loses his hearing in one ear, when he warns his boss about a potential accident, he gets beaten, and when his father dies, he takes over it but loses his chance for travel. His every help toward his community ‘isolates’ him.

Like how my grandmother’s death has taught me, it seems kinda funny how death can bring people together when a lifetime of effort could not. Talks of, ‘see you in Christmas?’ or ones like ‘when will you come back?’ never get answered most of the time in the family, rarely in mine… if I must say. But death – the death of a person in the family calls (even compels) people to unite; a sudden reunion. Another awesome example would be the day she was buried.

Morning came. The ceremony started. I, the eldest grandchild, said my eulogy. My mother, the wife of the eldest child, said her thanks in behalf of the family for those who became a part of our grieving. Cemetery. Prayers. Songs. Flowers tossed. Balloons. Tears. Crying. Rain. That was how the day went. But come nighttime, you’d not think we had a very trying week at all. We (and I mean everyone) were all snuggled up on the floor, in grandma’s house. The older ones, parents and grandparents, watched as we, cousins, played cards. Laughter filled the air. It was mayhem. There were no tears. Just laughter. Lots and lots of it. Until midnight, we played. Until midnight, we laughed. Perspective, right? What did I tell you?

Our faces after the game. I actually won, but they wanted all of us to have ‘make-up’ so… that’s charcoal by the way. On our faces. 

Hope: The never ending flame

The year is about to end and with it, new hope springs eternal for us all. The world shines with possibility and adventure. And yet the responsibilities of family and of the community nag, they call us back, they ask us –  sacrifice. I will be graduating this year. My uncle will pass the licensure exam for teachers. I’m claiming it.

But much like the finial on George’s stairs, it shows that contradictions are never truly quite removed. There will always be an incompleteness to life. And yet still, hope is not naive.

The film showed us that a change of heart and perspective, far from powerless nostalgia in the face of an unusually divisive and a season full of emotions isn’t at all. And its message of hope and perspective is not so shallow as it seems.

MMFF 2016: I am Proud

Tonight is more than the success of their industry.

It is more than our history and/or how we make our films

It has never been about the quantity of the viewers

but the quality the audience carry and possess after an hour or two in that dim room.
Tonight we celebrate Filipino films.

Tonight and onwards, we shall…

We must support our own.

For if we don’t, who will?
Perhaps next year isn’t so bad after all.

How Christmas This Year Went For Me

This is how I celebrated Christmas, this year. 

Well, don’t feel bad. My Christmas celebration came early this year actually. On the day my grandmother got buried. 

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There is beauty in tragedy.

And in loss, something new is always born.

We lost my grandmother,

but we regained ourselves.

Funny, how death could always reunite people.

People reconvene in one place due to a single event. 

And yet a lifetime of effort, could not. 

Merry Christmas to one and all!

What Christmas in the Philippines is Like

Christmas, for the Filipinos, is the highlight of the year. As early as September, TV stations count the days until its arrival. For a nation as family-oriented and as festive as ours, it’s not that hard to imagine how much of a big deal celebrating Christmas is. One can even say that Filipinos truly embody the Christmas spirit.

Christmas – is not just about the gifts, thank you’s, and the people. It is – above all – the birthday of Jesus Christ. And for a country like mine that is mostly habited by Christians, it makes even more sense why it is a big deal, indeed. Why it is so meaningful and widely anticipated.

But what is Christmas like in a country where there is no snow? a tropical climate, political debates everywhere, and too much drama and poverty all over?

Well…
TV STATIONS’S CHRISTMAS JINGLES
The Philippines, as of now, has 3 main TV stations of which ordinary citizens without cable network can watch. And in addition to the holiday spirit of constant reminders on how much time is left until Christmas eve, these stations release christmas jingles highlighting the true ‘Pinoy Christmas’ as we Filipinos know it.

 

A new one every year, Filipinos get in the mood for the holidays as they sing along to these songs that surely bring out the joy in them.

CHRISTMAS CAROLS



Okay. This may not be a unique trait only to Filipinos given that music is in all cultures, worldwide, but as for me, this is the one thing that distinguishes Pinoy Christmas celebrations from others. Why? Rarely, at least I think, would you hear out of tune carolers outside the Philippines. In my beloved country, it’s a commonality! In all the places that me and my family have lived over the years, I find it rare to hear carolers with good voices, or at the very least, those in tune to the songs they’re singing. What’s amazing and truly very Christmas-y of this is… the families don’t seem to mind! Like they always say, “It’s the thought that counts, right?” And besides, Filipinos don’t celebrate Halloween so Christmas may be the only time that kids get to knock on doors and do some entertaining. Just as long as the dogs are put on a leash, of course. This is not to throw bad stones into our nation full of great singers well-known all over the world though, just an observation. And you know… something you might want to consider when you spend Christmas here.  Caroling is one I am proud to have experienced in my early days. Or was it caroling? Hmm… You see, I am pretty lazy when times permit so what I did was ditch my friends and went back to our house, that night, (I was maybe 5 or 6 years old?) where my godparents were busy drinking and being merry. I sang in front of them and voila! 500 pesos on the spot! I no longer remember where the money went though. Pretty sure in my parents pocket and I was tricked with chocolates. Haha!

LANTERNS AND CHRISTMAS TREES PLUS WHERE YOU FIND THEM SHINE

Another common aspect of this season. However, what’s special is how and where the Filipinos put up these things. I have had the amazing opportunity to pass by places with ingenious Christmas trees, one made out of bamboo, one where it looked like the Eiffel Tower, and even went inside one! Literally. Just for laughs.

 

SIMBANG GABI/MISA DE GALLO AND THE FOOD

Simbang gabi ta unya?

Sige.

Simbang gabi (night mass) is a nine-day devotional mass celebrated by Christians and Aglipayans in the Philippines. The masses start early in the morning from as early as three to five, depending on your parish. This early in the morning, Filipinos young and old, go to mass to pray and celebrate in anticipation for Christmas eve and also, to honor the Blessed Virgin Mary. Held daily from December 16th-24, the last day also known as Misa de Gallo (Rooster’s Mass), Filipinos uphold this tradition also in the hope that if they finish all nine days, their Christmas wish would come true.

Of course, after the mass, you eat. And what’s better than eating breakfast after praying? Eating food delicacies readily available for sale outside churches! From the very iconic puto bumbong, to bibingkas, and otaps for the children. Hot chocolate, sikwati and kape barako, is sold for the adults too.

 

Food for the body after food for the soul, indeed.

MONITO/MONITA, THE MYTH OF SANTA, AND GIFTS

Nothing says Christmas like presents and Santa Claus! Not a child does not know about Santa. When I was young, I still am, I believed in Santa and my eyes would shine like fireflies everytime my stocking gets full to the brim everytime I wake up the morning. That was — when one night, I woke up suddenly, nature calling me and as I stepped toward the toilet, I saw my ‘Santa’ is my dad. Thus was the story of how I became a prankster and why I constantly tortured my little brother about who Santa really is when he was still a kid, he is still a kid. I blame it all on my bladder! Nevertheless, kids in the Philippines pay no heed to who Santa Claus is. Sometimes, I even think that the streetkids are having fun and celebrating Christmas even more than me and my family does.

Through all the countless Christmas parties I have attended and neglected to attend, I have always had the notion that gift-giving is beyond the materiality and expensiveness of the gift.

For a lonely grandma, those out of tune carolers may be the best gift. For a grumpy grandpa, watching the blinking Christmas lights may be the only thing that could bring him joy.

And for a lonely, sad, wide-eyed girl writing words on the eve of Christmas, thinking about her friends and knowing they’re having a splendid time may be enough for her too.

 

Smiles are the best gifts, after all.

THE COUNTDOWN TO HIS BIRTHDAY

10…

9…

8…

7…

6…

5.4.3.2.1!


Merry Christmas!

Maligayang Pasko!