Category: Reviews

His Scarred Hands: Alive & Well

HSHbandphoto3

A new blood is rising, waiting to make huge waves in the music scene.

His Scarred Hands, a Manila-based independent Christian band, is still young in the industry. The band was formed in October 2012, driven by a common desire to spread good music based on the message of Jesus’ nail-scarred hands.

The band identifies itself as a non-crossover Christian band, passionate to inspire other bands with the same vision to venture out into the mainstream musicscape and show that good music belongs to God.

HSHbandphoto2His Scarred Hands has just released online its first mini-album, titled “Alive & Well.” The album, which features seven original tracks, proves that the band has a strong fighting chance to make it big in the industry. In this debut album, His Scarred Hands treats everyone with a great variety of music as each track is totally unique from the others; each song carrying its own character, groove and feel. The band also showcases its remarkable songwriting, with words that cut through the heart using poetry and effective story-telling.

The album kicked off with its carrier single, “Alive & Well,” giving it an interesting head start. You can’t help but nod your head to the beat at the start of the track as the band delivers a full-blast opening salvo. The song’s dynamic is excellently executed, and for a moment I thought I was listening to a song by Oasis.

Speak” is a personal favorite of mine because of its catchy groove and the vocalist’s remarkable singing prowess, giving character and spice to the song. It’s perfect to listen to while on a long drive on a Sunday morning.

Jesus Is” gives me the same kind of feeling that I feel whenever I listen to a Jars of Clay song. Aside from the fact that the band’s vocalist sounds like Dan Haseltine in this track, the acoustic-driven song strums some emotional strings in me. The band did well in communicating their message, that Jesus is the most reliable friend anyone can have.

Another one of my favorites is the track “That Love.” Something in this song makes feel a bit nostalgic. Perhaps it’s the song’s melody, or probably the perfect songwriting that hit a soft spot in my heart.

His Scarred Hands has all the ingredients of a successful band: cool music, amazing songwriting and a nice kind of swagger.

With the right connections and excellent opportunities to etch their name in the market, I am convinced that His Scarred Hands is a ticking time-bomb waiting to explode and make a huge dent in the country’s mainstream music industry.

If you’re someone who loves alternative music, is looking for some easy-listening playlist or someone who’s probably tired of listening to your usual Gospel songs, you’ll absolutely love His Scarred Hands. Buy their album and earn the bragging right as among the first listeners who made a rad discovery. “Alive & Well” is now available on iTunes. Click through this YouTube link for a preview of the entire album!

The Fault in Our Stars

THE-FAULT-IN-OUR-STARS-Cover-535x808Only a handful of novels had a powerful impact on me, but only this one actually succeeded in stimulating my usually numb tear ducts.

John Green’s The Fault In Our Stars is a love story, to say at the very least. But it’s more than just a story of star-crossed lovers who had a shot at romance. For one, the main characters are both dying of cancer. This tragedy sets the tone for the entire story, making it nearly foolish to assume that the story could still afford a happy ending.

Hazel Grace Lancaster, a 16-year-old girl with some form of lung cancer, tells her war story against the disease and how she, with some bittersweet twist of fate, meets Augustus Waters — a 17-year-old physically attractive college basketball athlete who survived cancer but lost a leg in the process. Their relationship grows by the day, but the fatal disease that slowly eats them away is like Damocles’ sword that looms right above their necks.

John Green succeeded in building up the story with a tear-jerking climax as the two helplessly cling for dear life while waging war against their own body.

The novel is not for the faint of heart as some parts are too depressing to read. As all novels do, The Fault In Our Stars provides a first-hand experience that allows readers to feel the roller coaster of emotions in every page. Its power lies in the strong sense of realism that dominates the entire novel. The characters, scenes and emotions are just too real; one can’t help but feel the misery of the characters.

The Fault In Our Stars created in me a deeper understanding of the plight of cancer patients — some of them, without the certainty of waking up to a new day, are forced to live their best life today amid the life-sucking pain. It developed in me a strong awareness of the reality of the struggles they face; that the disease consumes their dying bodies as much as it consumes their soul, their humanity.

You would see as you read along that The Fault In Our Stars is really more than just a love story. I think that its ulterior purpose is really to raise awareness about cancer and to honor those who are fighting a hard battle against it.

So, if you’re the kind of reader who has an aversion for cheesiness, you might want to give this a chance. Expect yourself to be a crying mess towards the end of the novel; much like someone’s cutting the onions as you read, since you really can’t help your eyes from welling up with tears.

I heard that a film franchise of the novel is being cooked up. I just hope that the adaptation will give justice to John Green’s masterpiece in every way.

Eraserheads: Ang sound track ng dekada ‘90

Tugtog sa PC: “Bahay namin maliit lamang. Pero, pero, pero, pero malinis ‘to pati sa kusina … Mahal ko si Toyang pagka’t siya’s simple lamang…

Sabi nila, malalaman mo daw ang tindi ng impluwensiya ng isang banda o artist sa’yo kung sa tuwing maririnig mo ang isang kanta nila, naaalala mo pa din ng klarong-klaro sa isip mo kung saan at kailanman mo unang narinig ang kantang ito…

1993. Seven years old ako nang sumikat ang “Toyang.” Naglalaro kami ng tumbang preso ng mga kalaro ko nang magpatugtog ang pinsan ko. Du’n ko unang narinig ang Toyang. Para sa mga batang katulad ko noon na ang simpleng buhay ay umiikot lang sa mga simpleng libangan tulad ng panonood ng Dragon Ball Z at Voltes V, pag-iipon ng tansan, panghuhuli ng gagambang bahay at paglalaro ng patintero at tumbang-preso sa hapon, ang pakikinig ng radyo ay hindi kasama sa listahan; maliban na lang kung Batibot ang pakikinggan.

Gayunpaman, tumatak sa isip ko ang kantang Toyang, at naaalala ko pa rin kung paano namin kinakanta ng pasigaw, kasabay ng malakas na cassette tape, ang mga linyang, “Pen-pen-pen de sarapen, de kutsilyo de almasen! Haw-haw-haw de karabaw, de karabaw de batuten!”

Isa ako sa nakaabot sa good old days ng OPM at radyo sa Pilinas noong dekada ’90. At kasabay ng aking pagkabata ang pagsikat ng musika ng Eraserheads. Nasubaybayan ko ang simula ng pagsikat ng banda at ang tuluyan nilang paghihiwalay noong 2002. Kinse anyos ako no’n.

Kaya sa tuwing maririnig ko ang mga kanta ng Eraserheads, hindi ko mapigilang magbalik-tanaw sa pagkabata ko: Kung papano kami nagtatalunan habang kumakanta ng “Tindahan Ni Aling Nena;” kung paano kami nagtatawanan habang kinakanta ang “Magasin,” dahil tinutukso namin ang pinsan naming hindi nabiyayaan ng kagandahan noong bata pa kami pagdating sa linyang, “Pagkat kulang ang dala kong pera. Pambili… Pambili sa mukha mong maganda.” Naaalala ko kung paano ako kinakantahan ng mga kaklase ko ng “Torpedo” dahil natotorpe ako sa harap ng crush ko nu’ng Grade 2.

Sino nga ba ang makakalimot sa “Ang Huling El Bimbo” na naging national anthem na dahil sa sobrang kasikatan? Pagkarinig pa lang ng unang linyang, “Kamukha mo si Paraluman noong tayo ay bata pa,” siguradong sasabay na ang lahat sa pagkanta. Natatakot pa kami no’n habang pinapanood yung music video nito, lalo na sa parteng nabuhay ulit yung babaeng namatay at bumangon mula sa hukay. Nalaman ko kamakailan lang na ang direktor pala ng music video na ito ay ang direktor ng Ang Pagdadalaga ni Maximo Oliveros.

Sumikat ang Eraserheads hindi lang dahil sa magandang musika at mahusay na tunog nila, kundi dahil na rin sa kakaibang song writing ng grupo. Mabilis na sumikat ang mga kanta nila dahil madaling naka-relate ang mga tao sa mga kanta nila, mula sa mga awiting tungkol sa panliligaw tulad ng “Ligaya,” “Torpedo” at “Harana,” hanggang sa mga kantang pang-basted gaya ng “Pare Ko.” Patok din ang mga kanta nila tungkol sa pagkakaibigan, gaya ng “Minsan,” ang Christmas song na “Fruitcake,” ang kontrobersyal na “Alapaap,” at ang kantang “Wag Mo Nang Itanong,” na nakahipo sa masa at naging imortal na sa puso’t isip ng mga Pinoy. Hanggang sa kasalukuyan, maririnig pa din sa radyo, TV o pelikula ang mga musikang pinasikat nila.

Muling nabuhay ang Eraserheadsmania nang magkaroon ng reunion concert ang banda sa The Fort Open Field sa Taguig noong Aug. 30, 2008, na nasundan pa ng The Final Set sa Mall of Asia concert grounds noong March 7, 2009. Wala pa ring kupas ang grupo at nagpakita pa sila ng higit na husay sa muling pagsalang nila sa entablado upang patunayang sila pa rin ang orig na tunog ng musikalyeng Pinoy.

Hindi maikakaila ang tindi ng impluwensya at kasikatan ng banda matapos dagsain ng libu-libong taga-hanga ang dalawang concerts na ito — patunay na hindi pa rin nabubura at maaring hindi na mabubura pa sa alaala ng mga Pinoy ang kanilang himig at musika. Ang makita silang muling magkakasama sa entablado matapos ang anim na taon at tinutugtog ang mga kantang nakatatak na sa puso at isip ng mga Pilipino ay isa sa mga pinaka-astig na pwedeng mangyari sa kasaysayan ng Pilipinas.

Sa isang pambihirang pagkakataon, muling sasampa sa entablado sila Ely, Raimund, Marcus at Buddy para pagbigyan ang hiling ng kanilang mga taga-suporta sa Amerika. Kamakailan lang ay inannounce ng grupo ang kanilang North American tour ngayong Oktubre.

Sino nga ba ang makakalimot sa Eraserheads? Halos lahat tayong mga nabuhay sa dekada ’90 ay may tinatagong alaala na karugtong ng bawat Eraserheads song; mga alaalang paulit-ulit na nagbabalik sa tuwing naririnig natin ang mga awiting ito. Hanggang sa kasalukuyan, marahil ay wala pa ring makakapantay sa tagumpay na nakamit ng banda at sa impluwensiyang naidulot nila sa musikang Pinoy.

Kung ako ang tatanungin – taliwas sa kagustuhan ng iba na muling buoin ang banda – mas gugustuhin ko nang manatili silang astig na alamat ng OPM na patuloy na hinahangaan, inaalala at binabalik-balikan.

Pero sa ngayon, tatapusin ko muna ‘to at itutuloy ang sound trip ko hanggang sa makatulog.

Tugtog sa earphones: Hika ang inabot ko nang piliting sumabay sa’yo hanggang kanto…

The Kite Runner

I woke up today with a gray sky outside my window. It isn’t raining, and I bet it’s not gonna rain until tonight. (Oh well, the rain just poured as I typed down those last words. Fine.) Grey skies remind me of sad departures, though I bet, too, that no one’s gonna leave soon. (But just as the rain poured as I just said that it’s never gonna rain, I’m not so sure now if no one’s really gonna leave because I might be wrong again. Oh well.)

It’s been three days in a row that I woke up with an itch to write. My mind’s trying to squeeze something out from my system. And so I guess I’m back to my not-so-olden days when writing was my catharsis whenever I feel like something’s not right with me.

Without having eaten my breakfast yet, and without going out of my room to check who’s downstairs, I turned on the PC, watered my plants in my Zen Garden, collected coins with Stinky, and left the game. Then I played some alternative music, opened a blank Microsoft Word 2007 document and faced the usual blank screen and the blinking cursor.

Funny how I didn’t find it difficult to stain the blank screen with words this time though I don’t have a particular topic to write about. Pardon me for such crappy writings these days. These are the days when I merely heed the writer’s call in me and just keep writing. These are the days when, despite having nothing in mind to write about, my hands and my head are on the move to write.

I watched a film on VCD last night. The Kite Runner. The story, which is set in Afghanistan, is about inseparable childhood best friends, Amir and Hassan, who were torn apart by a fateful act; a fatal mistake that caused a rift in their friendship. More than 20 years later, Amir embarked on a dangerous journey back to his homeland to redeem himself by displaying ultimate courage and devotion to his lost friend. Hassan died in the latter part of the movie and the story afforded a little twist towards the end of film.

Gray skies are dominant in the film. After all, the film is set on a desert country. And the characters in the film fly kites on gray skies…

The Kite Runner’s redeeming value implies that “there is a way to be good again.”
That although we couldn’t erase and correct the errors of our past, we still have the chance to redeem ourselves from those errors. There is a way to be good again. Those who have lost important persons in their lives because of grave mistakes they wish they shouldn’t have committed could relate to the film, and could find solace in the truth that there is a way to be good again; a way to rise from the ashes to redeem themselves and those who are valuable to them.

Gray skies remind me of sad departures. Grey skies are for flying kites. And gray skies now tell me that there is a way to be good again.

***

Posted on Facebook on June 26, 2010.

Philippines’ Cinemalaya: Indie no more?

The success of the 8th Cinemalaya Philippine Independent Film Festival is yet another milestone for the country’s indie film industry. The festival’s endurance to withstand controversies for eight eventful years is an achievement in itself, add to that the kind of films the festival has produced over the years that gave the country much recognition from international award-giving bodies.

However, the festival seemed to have taken a dismal turn for the last couple of years.

Because of the prestige and recognition that indie talents and filmmakers reap here and abroad, mainstream movie producers and talents were lured into the scene and inevitably altered the indie landscape.

True to the name that this 8th Cinemalaya carries, mainstream talents went in full force to invade the supposedly independent film festival. Industry bigwigs and renowned personalities  including Dennis Trillo, Ronnie Lazaro, Luis Alandy, Dawn Zulueta, Alessandra de Rossi, Mylene Dizon, JM de Guzman, Jodi Sta. Maria, Zanjoe Marudo and Rez Cortez, among others, joined the battle for recognition against nearly anonymous talents. Even Ananda Everingham, leading actor of 2004 horror film Shutter and one of Thailand’s most popular actors, had his shot at the festival in the entry, Kalayaan.

Last July 29, the festival has given its awards for various categories, and, quite unsurprisingly, seasoned actors, actresses and directors bagged some of the major awards. Eddie Garcia won Best Actor for “Bwakaw;” Joross Gamboa won Best Supporting Actor for “Intoy Syokoy ng Kalye Marino;” while Judy Ann Santos, Agot Isidro, Iza Calzado and Janice de Belen all won Best Supporting Actress for “Mga Mumunting Lihim.” This film, directed by no less than Jose Javier Reyes himself, won Best Screenplay.

Before Coco Martin and Ang Pagdadalaga ni Maximo Oliveros happened, it was indie film talents who go into the mainstream for a shot at fame – which was a normal and understandable course. But things suddenly went in reverse. Perhaps, everything that’s free and independent is bound to be invaded.

This sudden twist in Cinemalaya, when left unmitigated, might prove detrimental to the interest of budding indie talents and the film industry in general.

The Indie Invasion

Cinemalaya  exists to help budding filmmakers improve their craft and express their vision and artistry without the shackles of commercialism. It exists to provide a venue for young filmmakers who work on a budget to showcase their artistry and be given a chance to be recognized.

It is also where young and promising actors and actresses who aspire to make it big in the mainstream industry are given a chance to show the world what they got, in hopes that they be discovered by major filmmakers.

Unlike commercial movies, indie films are often limited in terms of marketing, distribution and funding. Because of this, one might wonder as to why industry giants who already made it big in the movie scene are still going indie, and hence, joining indie festivals such as Cinemalaya.

One reason, perhaps, is their desire for artistic freedom. Unlike in the indie landscape, film directors and talents are shackled by commercialism in a bid to bag huge revenues, never mind the story’s depth, the film’s quality or the actors’ performance. In mainstream movie-making, the actors’ marketability is more important than his acting skill. In mainstream movie-making, public clamor is the top consideration in making a film, as is the case with GMA Film’s Yaya & Angelina and Boy Pickup the Movie.

In commercial film-making, revenue is everything, which is why mainstream movies are often boxed up in sophomoric love stories, odd fantasy films, chick flicks and feel-good teen movies where the leading actors and actresses are the hottest love team of the time. Which is also why reality show contestants suddenly turn into movie actors and actresses, regardless if they can act at all or not.

Mainstream movie directors are also perhaps lured by the amount of prestige and recognition that indie films get from international award-giving bodies. Kinatay, an indie film by Brillante Mendoza, won the Prix de la Mise en Scene in the 62nd Cannes Film Festival in France. Mendoza also won the Best Director award for the film, besting Kill Bill’s director, Quentin Tarantino himself. And who would forget Ang Pagdadalaga ni Maximo Oliveros, which grabbed 15 international awards including best film, best actor and best picture.

The independent film industry is where art is not merely for art’s sake. It is where the real battle of craftsmanship and artistry happens. It is where free expression takes place, albeit odd, wild, absurd or unpopular.

Admit it, with the quality of commercial films these days, there are very little chances of making it big in the international moviescape.

With mainstream personalities invading the indie movie scene, it’s almost the same with the case of doctors getting a degree in nursing to up their chances of getting a job abroad.

Indie no more

While the move may be beneficial to mainstream talents and directors, this seemingly growing trend could already be taking its toll on the supposedly independent film industry.

With seasoned actors and actresses invading the indie landscape, the margin of opportunity for fresh talents to be recognized is getting narrower and more limited. And with seasoned directors entering the indie scene, small-time indie film directors are being forced to wage war against industry giants with deeper wallets, wider networks and stronger influences.

For the film industry’s sake, get out of the indie scene. When indie filmmakers get discouraged to compete with gargantuan rivals, the industry’s chances of developing and discovering precious gems might be put in peril. When young and inexperienced talents get intimidated by industry iconics, our chances of discovering another Coco Martin might become far-fetched.

Instead of crowding the indie film industry, mainstream filmmakers should instead improve their craft and not settle for substandard commercial junkies. Mainstream movie producers should invest in good quality films – with actors, screenplays and cinematography that are worthy of international recognition. Maryo J. de los Reyes did it in Magnifico in 2003, we can do it again.

Take risks in looking for and developing fresh talents and not settle for actors and actresses who are all-face but have no talent.

The Metro Manila Film Festival is the best place to start. Stop producing films like Enteng Ng Ina Mo or any other mergers with Enteng Kabisote.

While indie film-making is not exclusive for indie filmmakers (as film-making is an art that’s open to all), Cinemalaya should give small-time indie filmmakers a level playing field to showcase their craft.