Ang Hirap Mong Mahalin

Rough translation: You’re difficult to love.

I still dream about convenience stores in Tokyo. We have Family Mart and Lawson in Metro Manila and I’m trying to fool myself that its essentially the same. It’s not. Like how Minute Maid in the US is worlds apart from the Minute Maid here in PH.

I miss Japan so much 😦

Of course, everything here is cheaper, it’s not even pretending to be anything more. It knows what it is and its nestled in its mediocrity. I’m tired of making excuses for the society I live in. Around this time last year, I was still idealistic that we’re doing something meaningful or noble by teaching in a public school. Now, I just feel cheated. I cannot teach anymore because I have lost faith and idealism. Sad, I know.

I’m not going into the specifics because I’m saving the frustration for my utopian-themed masters thesis, estimated date of completion, if all goes according to plan: 2021/2022.

I also stopped watching the news. If you’ve been listening to the local PH news, you’d know why. It’s not that I’m disappointed because that would entail you had faith in the first place. I’m amazed at how we are living up to the standards – there are no standards. Now, that’s how you survive this country.

I’ve been thinking a lot about privilege. There have been a lot of ‘woke’ people calling out the rich for being out of touch with the reality of the country’s current situation. 

The privileged may be out of touch, just as the poor are out of touch with the experiences of the rich. We can only taste what is served on our plate and probably have a whiff from the one across the table. How can someone who can call for takeout in an impulse line up for generic canned goods? Would someone who only drank coffee from a sachet differentiate robusta from arabica?

We widened the gap between the two ends of the spectrum with dissent. This is how rich the rich are. See that closet? That’s your entire house. That scholar walks several kilometers to get to school contrasts that brat who asks their driver if they can get milk tea on the way home. 

If all this is true: what do we do? How can we not pit against each other’s privilege and deficit? And what of the middle class? Their experiences oscillate across the entire spectrum, where are we situated in all this? The country’s social milieu became a crude narrative of injustice, suffering, poverty, and resilience. They even look at the last one with pride, like an armor, at every opportunity to brag that, we, the Filipino people, can withstand anything. We are resilient. If we helped each other out will it be enough? If only there was a structured system that bridges this gap… if only such a thing exists. 

Oh wait, it does.

Short Thoughts on Kurosawa’s Adaptation of Akutagawa

On the surface of Akira Kurosawa’s adaptation of Rashomon, it may seem like we are merely presented conflicting accounts of a murder. The film is a loose adaptation of two Ryunosuke Akutagawa short stories: In a Grove and Rashomon. Although the plot comes from In a Grove, the significant contribution of the titular story is the narrative device and the psychological and sociological state of the film’s characters. The woman and the servant merged into one ethically confused character, the woodcutter.  

There are seven simple statements, written as if pleading for the readers to believe their version of the story, with relevant inconsistencies. Akutagawa gave scarce descriptions, giving readers the characters’ absolute versions of the facts. Kurosawa bridges this scarcity with cinematic narration and possible clues to what transpired that afternoon.

© 1951 RKO Radio Pictures Inc.

Egotism and pride fueled the inconsistencies in the narrative which reveal more about their characterization and not the actual events. No one in the film shifts the blame – each one admitting accountability to the murder and trying to put themselves in the best possible light. The wife thinks that killing her husband would preserve her virtue, the husband gave one last attempt to maintain his dignity by suicide, and the bandit maintaining his notriety. But then comes the interruption of the last testimony, the woodcutter’s. I believe he has a pivotal role in the crime or that he has a self-serving agenda like concealing the fact that he stole the dagger. The fact that it is unresolved is the functional core of the film. Viewers could analyze the cues given by Kurosawa such as camera angles, lighting, length of statements, and body language. Kurosawa’s adaptation could either be a homage of a rebellion against Akutagawa’s withholding of a resolution.  I found a valuable academic article about this by Redfern, which I will reference below. Here is my attempt at tabulating the events that transpired.

If we follow the generalization that there is a protagonist in every story, I’m safely assuming that it is whoever killed the husband because everyone wants to be the killer. I’m taking the cynicism from the film as something we should exercise during these trying times. Fake news are everywhere, time to do some research and reading.

Film:

Kurosawa, Akira, director. Rashomon. RKO Radio Pictures, 1951.

Further Reading:

Redfern, Nick. “Film Style and Narration in Rashomon.” Journal of Japanese and Korean Cinema, vol. 5, no. 1-2, 2013, pp. 21–36., doi:10.1080/17564905.2013.10820070.

Parked Cars

But I have to pretend everything is fine. Lesson learned: never overcompensate with synthetic adrenaline. Forcing tedious moments to seem significant. It never is.

There’s that crash afterwards. When you realize the futility of your existence, bursts of happiness seem fake in retrospect. Turning off the ignition and the engine’s white noise stops. You’re not going anywhere anymore. You’re exactly back to when the day begun. Zero Displacement. I’m finally home.

It should’ve been relief at the prospect of the cold bed enveloping my body. I don’t want that. I just want to sit still in the garage, in a parked car.

Maybe I’m not the only one pushing an imaginary boulder in hopes of progress. I’m scared to change velocity. Maybe we all are. Don’t let temporary bliss blind that burden.

Item #1

It was green, hardbound, and 500 pages thick. The gold embossed letters gleam when the lights hit them. Its paper’s substance is impeccable, truly presentation paper, which costs five times more than the ones they use for photocopier machines, because it is five times more satisfying to watch the ink kiss the surface.  It immortalizes a year’s worth of mental labor on radiation simulation, something that would scare regular people, not exactly a conversation starter at a party, it could turn champagne cold and bitter.

There are 7 copies sitting on the table, each one ready for submission, the library, the physics department, their laboratory, and the other three for posterity, possibly glimpsing back into the days when it was all the author of this thesis ever thought about. Looking back at the rush that kept them going, the synthesis of all they ever learned in college, to open a path to conferences, publications, the essential road to graduate school: where everyone must go.