Alex Maskara


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Mallari



There are days like today when all the stress and worries are minimal. Nearly two weeks ago I was in the midst of endless worries about my rental AC, mold mitigation, and application for business. I have lost many nights of sleep. It culminated in me having a cold. I think I have recovered now. I find it pleasant to return back to more quiet and less tense days. I am not sure how long this ‘recovery’ will end but I am trying my best to enjoy what I can enjoy at the moment.

In order for me to do that, there is a need to discipline myself, at least mentally. The original reason why I am no longer working as much as I did, is to have more days to enjoy doing what I usually enjoy. These include reading, blogging, learning - about computer programming and expanding it to AI and animation and video creation. Ha! My lofty ambitions! Well, that is the plan.

All these plans require a single minded focus and effort. So when I dilly dally and procrastinate, I stop myself and take stock of my situation. To have mental discipline requires my brain to be in the zone. That is what I should always strive for - to get into the zone. Getting into the zone is similar to being on the road, with chaotic streets, like Quiapo in Manila with foot traffic and relentless noise, finally reaching my home or my hotel room and suddenly the noise is eclipsed by silence. Where I live and work, reaching my special zone means walking alone in the park, communing with Nature, or staying quietly in my room meditating, and once I do these, the clouds of trouble and stress and agony will depart and open a new world of joy to me.

Perhaps it is my age prodding me to maximize my zone. I see much younger people all around me as if their time could last eternally. Perhaps that is their zone. Sometimes I see retired people, like me in a few months, staring at empty spaces doing nothing, although I find them later sitting around fellow retirees. That too could be their zone. I wonder what old men talk about when they gather every morning. Is it the same topics they shared the day before? Are they prone to exchanging rumors and gossip like the old wives who got nothing to do? Do they share old men’s tales like old wives’ tales?

I may never know because my zone is solitude and doing something actively while in it. I can be categorized with those old men who want to spend time alone with their hobbies. Carpentry, tinkering with electronics, checking and rechecking cars under the hood, playing chess even when alone. I am more into reading or blogging/writing or meditation.

Sitting and idleness won’t cut it for me.

In fact, being surrounded by crowds would create havoc in my life and this is not against them, it’s on account of me having developed a lifestyle and habit of being alone. I am a mobile animal, more mobile than others, like a bee that needs to fly from flower to flower sucking whatever sweet leakings it can absorb. Still, even the bees have a beehive to settle into with other bees. I like settling alone. Away from anybody. This is the way I prefer and I don’t think I’d alter it.

What have I been busy with lately? Last Sunday I watched two Filipino-based movies on Netflix. Mallari and Gomburza. Mallari was a very enjoyable movie for me only because its location was based on my province. The characters reminded me of my ancestors. The movie’s period attire was still worn by my grandparents who were still living when I was a child. Women kept their hair long like my grandmother’s and for some reason I associated my Granny’s long hair with the smell of coconut oil. Her paineta was a must, together with smoking locally made cigarettes called Markangungot. My grandma on my father's side was a loud woman. It didn’t matter whether she prayed the rosary or cussed us children. She was just loud like the Cuban mothers I’ve encountered in Miami. She was a jealous woman who always suspected her handsome husband of womanizing. My grandparents were the main stars of the barrio. When she chased my grandfather with a bolo out of raging jealousy, swearing she’d hack him to pieces, my running grandfather would be hard to catch; he was light when running, muscular and yes, Mestizo-looking dude. I don’t know why I wasn’t blessed with his looks. But both of them were zarzuela and moro-moro players. Usually my grandmother took the role of a woman fighter Moro while my grandfather was the Prince. People sometimes associated their chasing and other scandalous behaviors as a part of their zarzuela and moro-moro enactments/practice.

These images of my childhood get easily triggered by period movies like Mallari. The calesa and caretela and carabo-driven cart were still in use during my childhood. Majority of the people of my childhood have already adopted the modern fashion of the times then but I still saw some old women like my grandparents and their generation clinging to their traditional baro’t saya while some old men folk wore their white camiso de Chino and well pressed pantalones; these were matched by straw hats, sombreros.

White Cuban hats and felt hats and smoked cigars were mostly reserved for the few rich and elites and professionals in the barrio.

Through those years, I lived a quiet existence for the most part of the day similar to what Mallari’s backdrop showed. So the ambiance and spirit evoked by Mallari is close to home. Another reason I wanted to watch it was because one of its main actors is connected to my elementary classmate so I was curious how he was as an actor. And he was really good. He knew how to own the character he was portraying; I was impressed.

Another reason why I love period movies like Mallari is because they stand for the time and age of the quietness I lived through as a child. True, my ancestors were loud in conversations but that happened rarely. For the most part of the day, my old folks were doing their farming alone and quietly, the women were busy doing manual tasks in the yard or in the kitchen, and we as children were trained to keep our own business and were allowed to go out to play at a certain time of day.

At my age, whether in the US or back home in the old country, I gravitate towards the environment that surrounded me as a child. I take long drives in Florida to empty parks that no one visits; sometimes I drive the road to Pahokee to find my piece of the world carpeted by sugar plantations on both sides of the road. Endless. Boundless. Like the blue-green mountains of Bataan and Tarlac provinces and the endless blanket of apple-green rice fields crawling out to the endless horizon or the foot of mountains.

And then somewhere in this big boundless green, stands a small hut, solitary; my now-departed uncle Yoyong owned a hut like that. In the hot afternoons me and my cousins would stay inside his hut, push open the windows and let the sweet rice field breeze blow over us. That is what I enjoy recalling the most. The same images I associate with my peaceful childhood are no longer there. They were replaced by concrete houses and the old farmlands were converted to housing communities. I still see those images however, but they are mostly found in the virginal islands of the Philippines in far flung north and south. Though nice to visit, they are no longer appropriate for someone like me who is old and suffering from weak knees. It would be a challenge to trek those farm field embankments, to climb elevations or take bamboo stairs. I am turning into a tourist in my country of birth, searching for my childhood sights and sounds even for brief moments. Adn with its rapid development like the rest of Southeast Asia, even these are being threatened by development.

But I am digressing from Mallari. Mallari is about a Spanish priest who was tried and convicted and tagged as the first serial killer in the Philippines. He killed more than 50 people who were deemed sinful and cruel. He was emulating the tradition of St Bartholomew. I have read a couple of reviews about the movie and mostly were critical of its cheap ineffective ‘fear’ factor; the make ups or facial prosthetics (especially those involving the beautiful Gloria Diaz) were cheap and unrealistic but listen, we can not compare high budgeted films with this film. I can see how inferior it was but the houses, rooms, santos, chapels and period fashion were enough for me to be thrown into great and happy nostalgia. My only personal reservation is about the manananggal scene which could have used a good CGI animator to craft it. But in general, I am still grateful for the attempt to bring history back to the Philippines through Mallari.
2024-06-30 02:55:28
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Self-Directed

Mod Dream

Mallari

Sunday Thoughts and Book Review

Lazaro Sembrano

Manila in the Dark

Boy Luneta

A Night at the Luneta Grandstand

Migratory Bird (circa 2005)

Manila Travel 2022

On Bad Blood (Part 1)

Understanding my unique Self on my way to Retirement

Intramuros 1

Pasig River

Proenneke

A Visit to Quiapo with El Fili2

Visiting Quiapo with El Fili

The Very Thought of You

THE DIARY OF ANTONIO PIGAFETTA

Visions of St Lazarus 1

Popong 9

Diary of A Masquerade

Acacia

Brother, My Brother (Ben Santos)

Popong 8

F Sionil Jose

Four Students - 2

Popong 7 - Meditation

Popong 6 - Meditation

Friday Night Thoughts

Current Interests

Bulosan Syndrome

Maid of Cotton

Popong 5

Popong 4

Current Readings 2

Popong 3

Reading: Name of the Rose

Current Readings

Popong 2

Web Projects

Getting Back in the Game – Technology

Four Students

Selya

Last of the Balugas

Introduction To Popong