How Ode to My Father Gained my Respect for Koreans

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I’ve been teaching  English to Koreans  for 8 years. So, getting along with them has given me the opportunity to understand their rich culture, custom, and history. I’ve been trying to learn how to speak,  read , and write  basic Hangul. I’ve even loved  their food ,and…allow me to cite the ones I always crave such as ssamkyupsal ( 삼겹살), ttakbeoki (떡볶이), panjeon (파전), jjajangmyeon ( 자장면) , ramen (그리고 라멘), and to name a few. Hmmm… My mouth is now watering. ..And I am even now trying to be a pale imitation of their fashion. Jeez whiz, I still haven’t  let myself be eaten by their system completely.

There is one thing that makes  Koreans  differ from us Filipinos: Their deep history that has molded their consciousness. That’s why it has been hard  for me to understand them in terms of their socio-cultural and economical policies. Koreans place too much value on familial hierarchy. Young people address the elderly with respect, patently obvious in their language- the custom  which is somehow no longer a big deal in the Philippines. Also, almost all Koreans are under pressure to conform to the standards of their educational system. Students go to academy ( 학원: Hag won)  to equip themselves with more skills. They even take part in more extra-curricular activities as another credentials once they look for lucrative jobs because hunting a job  is suicidal. Their  (close) friends can be even their frenemy in all aspects of  life should the need arise that they have to  consider their own interest. So, time is not more than gold, something I was not even used to when I started working for them. The long and the short of it, Koreans have been taught how to hit the ground running by this kind of  dog-eat-dog culture.

Right after watching the movie,  Ode to My Father, I sent a message to my beloved Korean students that I cried over it, and because of this movie, I respect their country, especially their history more. I explained further that this is a blinding revelation to me; I learned from this movie  how Koreans transformed themselves into new blood after the long period of extreme poverty during the Korean war.  It shows how the  war shaped Koreans’ philosophies in life  beyond their powers of endurance and resiliency. For instance, due to extreme poverty, they had to work hard to make their ends meet. They had to sacrifice by living away from their families while working abroad. They had to consider their families’ future no matter how life-threatening the available jobs were. They were  all determined to pull out the load weighing them down –the fighting spirit that has been observably inherent in their characters even up to this day. Perhaps, after this horrible chapter of  their history, it’s now their cultural “meme” that they should never let something like this pass again.

People must learn many moral lessons from the movie. The one that etched on my mind is that we can come up with alternative solutions to our problems. In the movie, Hwang Jung-min, the main character, found ways of how he could help alleviate his family’s miserable  life condition. I believe that  he can as well be the representation of all Koreans who did the same way. 🙂

The movie even made me break into tears as though the hem of my cloth was not enough to dampen my eyes. So, make sure that when you watch it, a hankie is not enough , but a diaper will do. It shows how the first Korean families were separated from one another after the 38th parallel, demarcating North and South Korea.  I could not stop blinking  my tears away some lachrymose scenes such as  when Hwang Jung-min  looked for his younger sister who had been missing for many years, and eventually found her on TV and when he  stayed in his room and  had an apparition talk with his father. They were heart-breaking. T_T

Would that  the movie were novelized, it would be more compelling and deeper, and I would surely wet its pages because of the emotional scenes conveyed in  beautiful sentences.

Rating: 5/ 5 stars ( It’s amazing.)

 

Billy Elliot: A Novel Based on a Motion Picture by Melvin Burgess: A Book Review

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I am also into reading novelized movies aside from watching adapted movies. I tend not to be content with watching movies with my mouth agape; I want to understand the whole story completely, for there are times that I can’t follow the dialogues because I’m not much familiar with accent with which characters speak.

Billy Elliot is the only movie that comes to my mind when someone asks me what my favorite movie is. It is a British dance drama film about an eleven-year-old boy desiring to be a professional ballet dancer. However, both his father and brother are inculcated in the negative stereotype of the male ballet dancer. Males into this kind of art in western society in the early 19th century were said to be weak, effeminate, or homosexual. In short, all boys in his countryside are supposed to do things only for males. So, it is a big decision for Billy, especially both his father and brother are miners struggling against the government’s plan to close all coal mines.

Reading the novelized movie has made me love the movie more. The novel and the movie have the same scenes. The dialogues became crystal-clear to me. The characters’ voices were even echoing through my head except Billy’s famous lines when a tutor asks him what he feels when he’s dancing. In the book, it goes, “When I dance, my body is full of fire, and I forget everything.”, but in the movie:

“Don’t know. Sorta feels good. Sorta stiff and that, but once I get going… then I like, forget everything. And… sorta disappear. Sorta disappear. Like I feel a change in my whole body. And I’ve got this fire in my body. I’m just there. Flyin’ like a bird. Like electricity. Yeah, like electricity.”

Also, it seems that the novel has been expurgated for the F-words steeped in the film. In the movie, I could almost hear quite a few bad words which seem to be a common way of communication among early Irish people. No doubt the movie has been censored for young audience as far as I know.

On the other hand, I have proven that Billy is not gay at all. Count me in those people who have the negative stereotype of the male ballet dancer. I deserve to be pilloried in public or put to the sword.(laughs)

The story is narrated by the main characters: Billy, Jack , his father; Tony, his older brother, and Michael, his gay best friend. So, I did not have a hard time reading it. In fact, the sequence of the plot is almost similar to the movie.

After reading it, I watched my favorite scenes in the movie again: when Billy dances to his father’s presence, when he auditions at the ballet school (definitely one of the unforgettable scenes) when one of the school tutors asks him what he feels when he dances, when he opens the letter whether he is in or not, when his father and brother go watch his major ballet concert and come across  his gay best friend Michael- the leave-me-in-the-air finale.

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My favorite scene in the movie when Billy dances to his dad’s presence

The major moral lesson of the story which is why it is one of my most favorite movies is that follow your dream no matter how harsh the culture you conform to. Such dilemma is still typical of our culture nowadays. There are still different traditional norms women and men should follow.

Aside from the novelized movies Billy Elliot and Brokeback Mountain, I also want to read the novelizations of Eclipse and Beach(2000) in which both starred by Hollywood actor Leonardo Dicaprio, Braveheart  directed  by and starring Mel Gibson,  3 Idiots (1999,India). I also wish that there are some available for my favorite pink movies such as Love of Siam (2007, Thailand), Boys Love 1 (Bōizu Rabu) (2006, Japan), and Prayer for Bobby ( 2009, USA), to name a few. 🙂

Rating: 4/ 5 stars ( I really liked it.)

Sa Puso ng Himala by Ricky Lee: A Book Review

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If you are a non-Pinoy movie snob , or  just a movie snob who has interest in watching international films,  I’d rather recommend you watch the  movie  than  read this book.  It is considered one of the best Filipino films of all time.  In fact, it won the Viewer’s Choice Award for the Best Film of All Time from the Asia –Pacific region in the 2008 CNN Asia Pacific Screen Awards beating out nine other films voted by thousands of film fans around the world. *

The movie may be falling out of fashion, but it is still immortal among   Filipinos, particularly among the generation of  my parents . I do not know if the young   Filipinos in this generation are familiar with this. When I was young , it was one of the common old movies shown on TV every Lenten Season here in the Philippines.

One of the unforgettable lines that marked us  and  are even parodied by comedians until now is:

 “Ipinatawag ko kayong lahat  dahil may gusto akong ikumpisal.

 Nitong mga nakaraang araw, sa loob lamang ng napakaikiing panahon, parang naranasan natin ang pinaghalong langit at impiyerno. Maraming sakit ang gumaling, maraming tao ang bumuti at nagkaroon ng pananampalataya.Pero nakakita rin tayo ng kamatayan, ng epidemya, ng pagpuputa, ng krimen at panloloko.

Kapag may masamang nangyayari’y sinisisi natin ang sumpa. Isinumpa ang Cupang. Itinaboy kasi natin ang maysakit noon. Kaya ganoon. Kapag may mabuti namang nangyayari, sinasabi nating ito’y gawa ng langit. Gawa ng Birhen. Gawa ng himala.”

( I summoned you because there is something that I want  to confess to.

These past few days, within just short period of time, we have experienced heaven and hell alike. Many sick have been healed, many people have been changed for the better and had faith. But we have also seen death , epidemic, prostitution, crime,  and hoax.

When there is something bad happens, we put the blame on curse. The Cupang was put on curse because we drove the sick man away before. On the other hand, when there is something good happens, we claim that it is created by Heaven. an act of the  Virgin, a miraculous act.)

And the last part of Elsa’s script which moved me to the bone:

“May ipagtatapat ako sa inyo.

Walang himala! Ang himala ay nasa puso ng tao! Nasa puso nating lahat’ Tayo ang gumagawa ng himala! Tayo ang gumagawa ng mga sumpa at ng mga DIyos!

Hindi totoong buntis ako dahil sa himala! Hindi totoong nagpakita sa akin ang Mahal na Birhen! Walang himala! Hindi totoong may himala! Tayo ang gumagawa ng himala! Tayo ang gumagawa ng mga sumpa at ng mga Diyos! Walang himala!”

( “There is something I  want to confess to.

There is no miracle! Miracles are in people’s hearts, in all our hearts!It is not true that  Virgin Mary appeared to me! There is  no miracle! It is not true that there is miracle! We are the one who make   miracle! We are the one who creates curses and gods! There is no miracle!”)

The woman in the book cover is the Philippines’ Super Star , Nora Aunor. She played in the movie as Elsa. This role is said to have redounded her to fame prior to her movie Minsa’y isang gamu-gamo, Once a Moth, which has another winning lines:

“My brother is not a pig! My brother is not a pig!  Hindi baboy ramo ang kapatid ko, kundi tao!tao!”

I found the movie   impressive and interesting. First, it can be understood in the context of religion and science. For instance, Elsa ( Nora Aunor ) admitted at the end of the story that she had lied all along , that there is  no miracle. She just made up the things people in the barrio thought of as the effects of heavenly providence. She disabused the mind of the people that miracle does not come from heaven.   Second, the settings, the locations,  are matched with the theme. It was taped in a desert somewhere in Ilocos Norte. It was  remote from the civilization. It was just a backward barrio located near a widely stretched sand dune, where superstitions were still observed. Therefore, the movie must illustrate that religion is   illogical, influenced by mysticism. Third, it also paints a portrait of faith-healing,capitalism, morality, and poverty.

The story was written by Ricky Lee, considered as one of the best writers in the Philippines.

The movie was   directed by Ishmael Bernal who was heralded as  National Artist of the Philippines in 2001.

The book is a compilation of the   behind-the –scene pictures- pictures of the cast and other  people  behind the movie, some trivia , how the idea of the movie was brought up. It also has the original scenes and scripts that were edited , particularly Elsa’s lines.

The things I did not know about the movie:

  1. It has been a 64 dollar question who killed Elsa? You can find out in the book that the hand holding a gun has a symbolic meaning.
  2. Some producers hung back from more than 3 million pesos budget. At that time, it was a big money.
  3. Charo Santos, the President of the TV network , ABS-CBN Corporation,  was  the executive producer of the movie . Indeed, she is one of  richest women in the Philippines.
  4. This is the first Filipino film to be nominated in the 1982 Berlin Film Festival.
  5. I confirmed  that Nora Aunor   was in the habit of  smoking when she was still a  super star. (Just saying)

Rating: 3/ 5 stars ( I liked it. )

Retrieved from: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Himala