‘Ang Larawan’: a triumphant remembrance

The musical is a faithful adaptation of Nick Joaquin’s grand play.

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Ang Larawan begins this way: Bitoy Camacho (Sandino Martin), a young, bright man, makes his way down the historical streets of pre-war Intramuros and enters an old house. On his way up to the sala, he pauses and quietly admires the furnishings gathering dust in storage. This film is as flamboyant and loud as any musical, but it remembers to include such moments of stillness. Its story is populated by a full ensemble, but it starts small as it follows only young Bitoy, while he revisits the place of his childhood memories.

Ang Larawan is a proudly, defiantly nostalgic film. It is a period drama, one that is deliberately framed: the story is bookended by black-and-white footage, and it introduces color as a stage would open its curtains. The past that it presents is concerned less with authenticity than with theatricality.

The film adapts National Artist Nick Joaquin’s famous play, A Portrait of the Artist as Filipino, and it is as straightforward an adaptation as possible, adorned but unaltered even as it was translated by Rolando Tinio (also a National Artist) into Filipino, and in collaboration with Ryan Cayabyab was transformed into a musical. It is not Bitoy’s story; he only introduces it. At the heart of Ang Larawan are the Marasigan sisters, Candida (Joanna Ampil) and Paula (Rachel Alejandro), unmarried and growing old, living in their house in old Manila with their esteemed but reclusive father Don Lorenzo (Leo Rialp). Here, on the last October before the outbreak of war, the sisters’ peaceful lives are disturbed as various personalities—family and friends and other less-noble characters—come visiting upon news that Don Marasigan, the artist and patriot, has picked up his brush again and completed his first painting in decades.

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‘Hihintayin Kita Sa Langit’ (1991): evocative beauty and provocative intensity

Old-fashioned both in visuals and in story, this 1991 ‘Goma-Dawn’ film can nevertheless startle even modern audiences.

Hihintayin Kita Sa Langit is a 1991 adaptation of the classic English novel, Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë. That novel, while without doubt an excellent work of fiction on its own, almost begs the question: does it owe some of its success, part of its much-celebrated status, to the tragedy of being its author’s first and last novel? (Brontë passed away only a year after her novel was published, and so never came to appreciate her novel’s full success.)

This is not to criticize the novel’s value in any way, because no amount of sympathy for the author’s misfortunes can save a novel if the work itself lacks substance. This is merely to suggest that Hihintayin Kita Sa Langit, in drawing from Victorian literature, also acquires much of its charm in this association with its source material. Like the idea that the appeal of Wuthering Heights, as a creative work, is enhanced by the circumstances of its creation, there is neither criticism nor praise in declaring that its Filipino film adaptation borrows heavily from the beauty of earlier works—there is only acknowledgment, that any work of art cannot escape being part of something larger than itself, of a world beyond the boundaries of the art form.

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The Atrium in Makati, BlackBerry, and other past things

Inside an old building in Makati City is a BlackBerry service center: a dose of overthinking revealed its subtle irony to me.

The space inside The Atrium in Makati City, its own atrium, is cavernous.
The Atrium in Makati City.

The Atrium in Makati City is a quaint, dry and dusty building. It sits on Makati Avenue, across from the Ayala Triangle, and right beside the tall, solid glass wall of the Zuellig Building. Although both are unmistakably commercial edifices, being located centrally in one of Manila’s business districts, there is a striking contrast between the two structures’ appearances. One speaks of modernity, and admirable is the manner by which it blends with the sky. Viewed from a distance, on overcast days with a uniform gray sky, the Zuellig nearly disappears behind the reflection on its mirror-like exterior, and if one had poor vision she might not see it at all while gazing at Makati’s skyline. The other building, meanwhile, is from an older era. The Atrium is more at home with the utilitarian offices like those which house SGV & Co. and National Life Insurance on Ayala Avenue; its architecture belongs to that style which still dominates Legazpi Village and the many roads that feed into Ayala and Buendia. But not on Makati Avenue itself—here the ultra-modern reigns over all. Here, steel and glass captures all attention, turns all heads, and leaves nothing for the quaint, the dry and the dusty.

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