Friday, February 25, 2011

Dreaming of Oscar and other Stories

by Jay Fermin

On my last visit to the Philippines, we were in a room at L’Fisher Hotel celebrating. The Governor of Negros Occidental, Gov. Alfredo Maranon just announced an initial funding of a film about ‘Cinco de Noviembre’, (The 5th of November), a story of an event that happend 112 years ago on November 5, 1898 when the Katipuneros led by General Aniceto Lacson of Silay and General Juan Araneta of Bago successfully bluffed the Spanish forces.

The story revolves around two generals who converged from both north and south of Bacolod and led an offensive march to the residence of Spanish Governor Isidro de Castro. The Spanish reinforcements have not yet arrived from the nearby island of Panay. The Spanish Governor, thinking that they were outnumbered by the Katipuneros, finally signed the surrender at 5 p.m. of November 5, 1898.

What the Spanish Colonist didn’t know, the two forces that maneuvered to ‘attack’ were armed with ‘paltik’ firearms made with Nipa stalks with attached shiny knives. The numerous horse-towed cannons were actually rolled ‘sawali mats’ rolled into barrel shape and painted gloss black! It was all like Hollywood props.

Indeed a good story to tell on the wide screen. Governor Maranon provided an initial funding to start the film. Actor Joel Torre (his movies include Jose Rizal, Anak, and the famed Oro Plata Mata) happily expressed that the film project is good ‘because we have a good story’. The only contraint would be the budget. Ronnie Lazaro, a multi-talented professional actor and director( won Best Production Design: Manila by Night: City after Dark; 1981) who was also in the room, was just as excited. After all, independent film requires talent, a good story, and most importantly, funding.

This week, the media were invited to view a private screening of ‘The God of Love’, the short film by Luke Matheny, which is nominated for the 2011 Academay Award for Best Live-Action Short. It is a comedic short film directed by Luke and produced by Fil-Ams Gigi Dement, Stephen Dypianco, and Stefanie Walmsley, whom we talked to after the screening.

The story follows the quest for love of a lounge-singing darts champion Raymond Goodfellow, whose prayers are answered when he receives a package of passion-inducing darts. The film climaxes when he was left with his last dart of love. However the open ending continues with the black and white fadeaway scene of Raymond riding a motorbike slinging a pouch of even larger passion inducing arrows to spread the love that always escape from all of us. While I was watching the film, I understood deeply why cupid carries an arrow.

Indeed a strong contender for the Oscar Awards that is airing on Sunday, February 27, 2011 at the Kodak Theatre in Hollywood. It is also exciting because three of the producers are Filipino-Americans namely New York based Gigi Dement (who is originally from Baguio) and Stephen Dypiangco (filmaker and Producer of Marketing and Distribution PMD) who grew up in the suburbs of Los Angeles. He earned his BS in Foreign Service from Georgetown University and his MFA in Film Production from NYU. The other producer also based in New York is Stefanie Walmsley, who stated that being nominated by the Academy of Motion Pictures is like a ‘Cinderella’ story for her. She used to host the Philippines’ top rated variety show ‘Eat Bulaga’ and has appeared in theatre, TV shows, and numerous commercials. She is working as production coordinator for HBO but she talks about going back to the Philippines ‘ to chase the ultimate dream of mine’ which is to assist in getting independent films funded and produced in the Philippines.

This is a historic moment when there are growing number of Fil-Am nominees voted to the Oscar awards by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences.

Good luck to the Filipino Oscar Nominee/Contender Class of 2011:
Hailee Steinfeld, Best Actress, TRUE GRIT
Matthew Libatique, Cinematography, BLACK SWAN
Gigi Dement, producer, Best Live Action Short, GOD OF LOVE
Stephen Dypiangco, producer, Best Live Action Short, GOD OF LOVE
Stefanie Walmsley, producer, Best Live Action Short, GOD OF LOVE

The Red Carpet is being rolled out. The Gold Drape is furnished. The stage is set. Let us support the Fil-Am nominees at the 83rd Academy Awards. And after the glitz and glamour and parties, let us continue our support as they and countless others in cinema and theatre endeavour to tell the ‘story’ which we all can connect to.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Pacquiao Meets Obama

Balitang Kutsero: By Perry Diaz

World boxing champion and congressman Manny “Pacman” Pacquiao met U.S. President Barack Obama at the White House on February 15, 2011. The following is the transcript of their tête-à-tête:

Pacquiao: Good morning… I mean, good afternoon, Mr. President.

Obama: Actually it’s still morning here… so, good morning to you, Dr. Pacquiao.

Pacquiao: Sorry, but I’m still on jet set. He he he…

Obama: Jet set? Hmm… Do you mean, jet lag?

Pacquiao: Same thing. You see, it’s now afternoon, “PI” time.

Obama: “PI” time? What’s that?

Pacquiao: Oh, ahh… “PI” is shortcut for Philippine Islands.

Obama: Gee, I haven’t heard of “Philippine Islands” since I was in Indonesia as a young boy. You are now known as the “Republic of the Philippines,” amigo.

Pacquiao: But the last time I checked, there were still 7,100 islands in the Philippines, so “Philippine Islands” is correct. Right, Mr. President?

Obama: Ahh… Well, yes, you’re correct… “PI” it is then. Hey, since your visit is not official, just call me Barack, okay?

Pacquiao: Okay, Barack. Actually, my visit is just a curiosity call.

Obama: Curiosity call? Or do you mean, courtesy call?

Pacquiao: Same thing, same thing. Hey, your name reminds of Kapeng Barako.

Obama: Kapeng Barako? What is that?

Pacquiao: Kapeng Barako is a popular coffee brand favored by macho men…

Obama: Like you! You’re a macho man, right? Gee, with seven titles…

Pacquiao: Correction! It’s eight titles in eight weight divisions.

Obama: Wow! Ex… cuuuuze me! I’m impressed!

Pacquiao: You’re excused, Barack. Everybody makes mistakes. Even P-Noy makes a lot of mistakes. He he he...

Obama: So I heard. Hey, you must have mojo, Manny!

Pacquiao: Mojo? What is that?

Obama: Well, “mojo” is a magic charm that some macho men have… like you!

Pacquiao: Magic charm? Hmm… You think I’m charming, Barack?

Obama: Oh, no! No no no! It’s not what you think, my friend. What I mean is that you have a charm that attracts… ahh… women. Do you catch my drift?

Pacquiao: Catch? Where’s the ball? Try me cuz I’m a very good catcher.

Obama: I know you are. But what I mean is that did you understand what I was saying?

Pacquiao: Ahh… I think I know what you’re saying. Yes, I know how to catch chicks. That’s why they call me “chickboy.” He he he…

Obama: You’re funny, Manny. You’re my kind of guy… mojo macho man!

Pacquiao: You’re my kind of guy too… mucho barako! He he he…

Obama: Okay, okay. Ha ha ha… Stop it! My stomach hurts… ha ha ha… Okay, seriously… Manny, I’d like to ask you a big favor.

Pacquiao: Anything, Barack. Just ask. Your wish is my command.

Obama: Well, I know Sen. Harry Reid of Nevada won the election. It was because of you. You showed up on stage with him a few days before the election, you smiled and waved your hands without saying a thing. It was fantastic! It was all over the news on TV. And Reid won the election because of your endorsement! Can you do the same thing for me in my re-election campaign in 2012, my friend?

Pacquiao: It would be an honor to be on stage with you, Mr. President. Do you want me to deliver a temporary speech?

Obama: Temporary speech? Uhh… What’s that?

Pacquiao: It’s a speech without notes. Straight from the brain, you know.

Obama: Oh, you mean extemporaneous speech? And you also mean “straight from the heart,” right?

Pacquiao: Same thing, same thing.

Obama: Well, to tell you the truth, since it is going to be televised, some Americans might not be able to understand what you’re saying… because of your… uhh… I mean… ahh… just the way you say things. However, if you just smile and wave your hands, it might… uhh… amuse them and they would vote for me. You know what I mean, amigo?

Pacquiao: Mr. President, you insulted me! I will not campaign for you! I’ll campaign for Sarah Palin cuz she said she loves my accent. She said it’s cute.

Obama: Well, if that is the case, I’ll cancel our photo session. There will also be no official press release of our meeting.

Pacquiao: But Barack, I came all the way from the Philippines just for a photo opportunity with you.

Obama: Sorry, amigo, I suggest that you go to Alaska and ask Sarah for a photo op with her.

Pacquiao: Ay naku, naloko na!

Obama: I beg your pardon?

Pacquiao: Never mind, I’m getting out of here! Good-bye, barako!

Obama: Bye bye. Please say “Hi” to Sarah for me. Ha ha ha…

# # #

Disclaimer: This “transcript” is fictional and does not represent actual events. However, Pacquiao and Obama actually met but the White House didn’t allow Pacquiao to have a photo opportunity with Obama.


Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Hoodlums in uniform

PerryScope: By Perry Diaz

Once the pride of the nation for their heroic defense of freedom and the Motherland, a small band of military officers -- sworn to protect the people and the State – are now in the midst of a firestorm that could irreparably damage the image of the armed forces’ general staff. Indeed, it might even cause the eventual demise of the six-decade old Philippine Military Academy (PMA) – which was patterned after the West Point military academy of the United States -- where all officers of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) completed their formal training. And it’s all because of the greed and corruption that have spawned into a monstrosity during the last decade. As a result of all the corruption cases involving PMAers, there are now talks of tapping ROTC cadets for commissioning to the officers’ corps of the AFP.

And if one brave retired soldier – Col. George Rabusa -- did not come out to expose the shenanigans perpetrated by AFP’s high command, corruption in the military would remain unabated and unrestrained. But thanks to Rabusa, all of that might just come to an end soon and bring the hoodlums in uniform to justice.

Rabusa’s bombshell

It all began when the Senate formed an investigation panel to look into the controversial plea bargaining agreement that former AFP Comptroller Maj. Gen. Carlos Garcia – Rabusa’s former boss -- negotiated with the Office of the Ombudsman, which dropped the charges of plunder and substituted a guilty plea to lesser offenses of bribery and money laundering, with a promise to surrender P135 million out of the P303 million he illegally amassed.

During the Senate investigation, Sen. Jinggoy Estrada surprised everybody when he brought in Rabusa to testify. Rabusa accused Gen. Angelo Reyes of receiving P150 million including a P50-million “pabaon” (send-off money) when he retired as AFP Chief of Staff in 2001. He said that he and his boss, then AFP Comptroller Lt. Gen. Jacinto Ligot (Garcia’s predecessor), personally delivered the money to Reyes at his staff quarters, known as the “White House.”

Rabusa, who was the budget officer at that time, worked directly under Ligot and Garcia, who were then called the “Comptroller Mafia.” He was their “bagman.” He also implicated the Chiefs of Staff who succeeded Reyes, Generals Diomedio Villanueva and Roy Cimatu, saying that they illicitly received around P10 million monthly while in service and pocketed half of it. He indicated that he would execute an affidavit detailing the corruption under Reyes, Villanueva, and Cimatu, and the “rotten system” in the AFP during the period from 2000 to 2002. He said that Garcia and he “converted” – or laundered – almost P1 billion between 2000 and 2001.

“Dead man walking”

Reactions from the senators were spontaneous, some of whom said that Rabusa’s testimony was credible and that the government should file charges against Reyes based on his exposé. If charges were to be filed against Reyes and the others, Rabusa would most likely become a state witness, a specter that could bring a conviction of plunder against the accused. In fact, Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago was so optimistic of conviction that she said over the radio that Reyes was a “dead man walking.”

But it’s not going to be easy to convict Reyes. He has strong ties to former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, which means that he might also be protected by Gloria’s allies in the Judiciary including the Office of the Ombudsman, which is still headed by Merceditas Gutierrez, a close friend of former First Gentleman Mike Arroyo. Indeed, it could be an uphill battle for the government who may be able to secure a conviction from the anti-graft court Sandiganbayan – assuming that the Ombudsman would put real effort to prosecute Reyes – but would be stymied in the Supreme Court where Reyes – with Gloria’s aid -- could muster enough support from the justices to overturn his conviction.

It is interesting to note that Reyes’ link to Gloria was tempered during the ouster of Joseph “Erap” Estrada from the presidency in January 2001. Reyes, who was Estrada’s AFP Chief of Staff, withdrew his support of Estrada and threw it, together with his top commanders, behind Gloria at the crucial time. With the AFP high command abandoning Estrada, then Chief Justice of the Supreme Court Hilario Davide Jr. quickly sworn in Gloria as “President” instead of “Acting President” as he reportedly had agreed to -- while Estrada was still President! -- Gloria’s ascendancy was a fait accompli.

It is no wonder then that when Reyes reached mandatory retirement age, Gloria appointed him two days after he retired to a succession of plum positions: National Defense Secretary, Anti-Kidnapping Czar, Anti-Smuggling Czar, Environment Secretary, and Energy Secretary. Indeed, Reyes has served Gloria well throughout her presidency.

It did not come then as a surprise when Rabusa implicated Gloria in a fraudulent military transaction, which he said cost the government $2 million. At that time, Reyes was the Defense Secretary, Villanueva was the AFP Chief of Staff, Cimatu was the Vice Chief of Staff, and Garcia was the Comptroller. If Rabusa could provide a strong testimony, the government might be able to take all five of them down in one clean swoop. That would indeed be a major, major victory for President Aquino in his fight against corruption, bagging no less than the “Big Kahuna” herself.

Prosecute corruption

It is for this reason that Aquino should put all the power of his presidency behind the prosecution of corruption in the military. If corruption were successfully prosecuted, it could be the tipping point in ridding the military establishment of hoodlums in uniform.

And just like the Phoenix that rose from the ashes, the Philippine Military Academy could once again shine as a noble institution that produces disciplined and dedicated officers, worthy of the respect by the people they are sworn to protect.

As Edmund Burke once said, “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing,” the time has come for Filipinos to rise to put an end to the scourge that has wrought havoc for so long.

At the end of the day, all it took was one brave soldier who stepped up to the plate to right a wrong.