Life Choices: 5 things to check out this week (Independence Day edition)

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This week is an all-Filipino lineup of books, video games, and other recommendations in time for Independence Day.

Manila (CNN Philippines Life) — In time for this week's celebration of Independence Day, we recommend a novel about Filipino-American relations, an anthology of textual works by Ray Albano, a new series of photographic works, an RPG about unsung Filipino heroines, and a podcast about the peasant communities across the country.

Book: "Gapô" by Lualhati Bautista

The Olongapo of Lualhati Bautista is familiar only to me via secondhand recollections, from the stories of my parents working during the time when Subic was an American naval base. Though the base has been shuttered in 1992, American imperialism and ideology remained a constant presence, and remains even up to now. What makes “Gapô” a relevant work is how it showcases racial relations, especially our reverence to whiteness as superior. It’s something that Bautista paints clearly at the beginning in the novel. White patrons at bars are favored by Filipinos because of their dollars, while fellow Filipinos, ever the hardworking backbone of the local economy, are relegated to the sidelines. It’s a known fact that colonial mentality did not die with the closure of the U.S naval base. Growing up, imported products from the U.S. were always perceived as superior, anything American — be it cartoons, chocolate chips, or coffee. But it’s apparent that our American counterparts only think of us as third class citizens. We may seem distant from the issues that the Black Lives Matter are tackling but the systematic problems that took hold during the era of American colonization are still alive and well to this day. — Don Jaucian

The book is available at National Book Store or wherever Anvil books are sold. Order it online here.

Anthology: "Raymundo Albano: Texts"

It’s interesting that our extended time at home has allowed us to (re)discover a lot of things online, things that would normally be swept away by the constant stream of content. One of my favorite finds is “Raymundo Albano: Texts,” a compilation of textual works, interviews, and some samples of his vast graphic design work by the artist, curator, and designer who served as the museum director of the CCP in 1970 until his death in 1985. The anthology was an accompanying publication of UP Vargas Museum’s "Place of Region in the Contemporary." A large part of the text are critical writings on art and local artists, but what I am in awe at is his “graphic design” system. Albano has produced quite a number of posters for the CCP (featured last year in the “Posterity” exhibit at the CCP) which, in a way, captures and preserves an era of Philippine design and culture. A interview with Ermita Magazine in 1976 lets us peek into Albano’s process as a designer where he talks about his inexpensive designs, favored techniques, and working with artists such as Roberto Chabet and Fernando Modesto. — DJ

Download "Raymundo Albano: Texts" here.

Photographs: Frank Callaghan's works in “Anticipating the Day”

Frank Callaghan’s long exposure photographs of landscapes and structures have always struck me as transcendent of what the photographic medium can capture. It helps that he mostly shoots at night, and has an eye for reducing details into the geometric and architectural. For his work in “Anticipating the Day” — where Silverlens Galleries invited their resident artists to “display” work that they have made during the COVID-19 lockdown — Callaghan showed photographic works that continue his preference for long exposure and minimal post-processing. The “works-in-progress” are his experiments in disturbing the reflection of moonlight on the water’s surface. Callaghan sort of treads new ground here. In the artist’s statement, “In past series, I lived by the rule to never intervene in the scene — to be a passive observer. Here, I cross that boundary to break the surface of the water, and send the resting state into disarray.” The results are surprisingly varied. The disruptions form valleys, breaks, distorted landscapes, waves — and even seem like traces of organisms (and from what origin, we do not know). It is a shame we’re only seeing these works online. Well, at least for now. — DJ

View the works here.

Video game: "Mamayani"

Save for Gabriela Silang, heroines are seldom celebrated in Philippine history. This is especially true for accounts about the American and Japanese occupation, which is a shame as we have quite a number of remarkable women who led and fought during these eras. Enter "Mamayani," an immersive, narrative-driven, online role-playing game that introduces the stories of underrepresented heroines from the American and Japanese occupation. Designed and developed by Meam Genovaña and Crown Patalinghog, the game, which started out as a thesis project, features the likes of Asociacion Feminista Filipina co-founder Concepción Felix, Sakdal leader Salud Algabre, and HUKBALAHAP commander Remedios Gomez-Paraiso.

The advocacy behind "Mamayani" has always been rooted in the intention to promote the lesser known parts of our history and inform young girls and women about their own heroism despite the more popular, male-centric version of our past. This isn't the only aspect of male dominance that the game seeks to correct. When I interviewed the creators last year, Genovaña and Patalinghog noted how the game development industry remains male-dominated. Projects like "Mamayani" challenge this by way of putting forth the stories and efforts of women — both as characters and game developers.

"Mamayani" goes beyond the aspect of entertainment and ultimately informs and demands us to ask: as we begin to historicize the narratives of the newer generations, are we finally giving enough space for women and marginalized identities? — Elizabeth Ruth Deyro

Learn more about "Mamayani" here.

Podcast: Radyo RUWA

Accessibility is almost always the primary barrier in communicating an advocacy — and this applies not only on the platforms used, but more so in the language. How accessible is the language spoken? The intent would be futile if not easily understood by the general public. This is why efforts by Cure COVID and AGHAM were so important: as the pandemic hit the country, these groups made information on COVID-19 more accessible especially to vulnerable communities.

Peasant groups and advocates have launched a similar initiative. Radyo RUWA, presented by Amihan Philippines and the Rural Women Advocates, is a series of audio webinars where members discuss the situation of peasant communities across the country — frontliners of food security who sadly are some of the most affected by the pandemic. Radyo RUWA's first episode, "Paliwanagan," presented a series of 5-minute briefers of peasant calls such as "Tunay Na Reporma Sa Lupa," "Tulong Hindi Kulong," and "Junk Anti-Terror Bill," spliced with music and soundbites.

Amihan and RUWA did an excellent job of explaining the current situation and calls of peasant communities in such a way that is accessible even to people who may not be well-versed in the topics. For their next episodes, Amihan and RUWA hope to continue discussing the situation of peasant women during the pandemic, and how the lockdown has affected them, among others. We can also expect press releases, poetry readings, opinion pieces, more radio drama, and songs. — ERD

Listen to Radyo RUWA's first episode on Soundcloud.