Items filtered by date: Thursday, 28 September 2017

What is he thinking?


President Rodrigo Duterte likes cracking jokes, many of which fail to hit the mark. There are also times when he says something not intended as a joke, but which elicit laughter anyway.
This week, he came up with a biggie.
It is well known that like US President Donald Trump, Mr. Duterte has no love lost for media. He only appreciates media organizations which treat him like an emperor, which is why print and broadcast media organizations which have an independent streak are on his hit list.
The president hates ABS-CBN and he abhors the Philippine Daily Inquirer, among others. When he meant to snap at ABS headman Gabby Lopez earlier this week, he cursed actor Gabby Concepcion instead.
For those who may not know who Gabby Concepcion is, the guy is an actor who was big in the 80s. He married superstar Sharon Cuneta and the two had one daughter, KJ Concepcion who occasionally dabbles in acting.
Unfortunately, the political bug hit Gabby Concepcion after he split from his first wife, and he took the daughter of a local politico as his partner. He then ran for mayor, but his stardom was not enough to convince voters to give him a try.
In this regard, he is not unlike Richard Gomez who has run multiple times for a variety of elective posts, losing each time.
The moral lesson here is that good looks will not be enough to get elected mayor, governor, or senator. And don’t think of Joseph Estrada who has been mayor, senator, president, and mayor again. The man called Erap was never a matinee idol.
But I digress. For whatever reason, Gabby Concepcion was again in the news courtesy of Mr. Duterte. All this is well and good, I suppose, since Gabby Concepcion has never been able to regain his popularity after returning to the Philippines after a lengthy spell in the US. His movie roles have been sparse, as well as his TV roles. What he’s become mildly successful at is as endorser of a few consumer products such as bottled water.
Then came Mr.Duterte’s verbal error.
It was an unintentional joke heard all over the archipelago, so much so that  hashtags quuckly appeared on Facebook, to wit: #Standwith Gabby Concepcion, and #JusticeforGabbyConcepcion.
This is only the beginning. Soon, I expect videos to appear demanding that the former matinee idol be allowed to post bail despite committing plunder, or begging former wife Sharon Cuneta to give him a second chance, or asking either the opposition Liberal Party or administration PDP-Laban to include him in their Senate slates in the next elections.
A lot of silliness will crop up because of Mr. Duterte’s possibly honest mistake. I say possibly because it is not impossible to think that the president really had the actor in mind. Maybe he asked Gabby Concepcion to endorse him when he ran for president, and he declined? Who knows?
So I really wanted to ask, What was he thinking? But instead, I need to ask, What is he thinking?
From his actions, it would appear that the chief executive is not thinking clearly anymore. He says things off the top of his head which make little sense, and for whatever reason he has developed a habit of calling for press conferences in the wee hours of the early morning.
His words and his actions are disturbing, to say the least. It’s a good thing that the Philippines is still a developing country because it would be unthinkable for a president of a developed nation to say many of the things Mr. Duterte says.
Mr. Trump may say something stupid such as calling North Korean leader Kim Jong Un Rocket Man, and the consequences could be most dire. The insult is being used by the communist state to say that the US has, in effect, declared war on them.
For Mr. Duterte, there may be no consequences at all. 
Recall that only last week, he openly admitted lying about the supposed bank records of Senator Antonio Trillanes IV. This he did when interviewed over government television.
Nothing happened, or course. He lied last week, then lambasted an aging actor this week. What more can he do, I cannot say. What a lot of people are saying is that the president who previously admitted to regularly taking the dangerous drug fentanyl is no floating the idea that his daughter, the current mayor of Davao City, can succeed him when his term ends.
More inspired nonsense, huh?
But no, he is not insane. The fact that he refuses to sign a waiver so that his bank accounts can be revealed to the public shows that Mr. Duterte is still of sound mind, one that has a lot of secrets.

Bindlestiff Studio and Its Filipino Transformation


A few yards north of the corner of 6th and Howard in San Francisco’s once undesirable neighborhood around 6th and Mission, a small shoddy theatre stood.  The name meant a tramp, a person of limited means, possible homeless, itinerant and it was appropriate for its surrounding neighborhood.  I had the pleasure of attending a performance of one act plays at the original incarnation of Bindlestiff in the mid 90s, fan as I am, then and now, of art expressed off the beaten path.  The performance space was a fire hazard, the audience seating populated with metal stools, and the wine…at least they sold wine.  But the plays, well, they were different.  They took risks that mainstream plays dare not.  There was a date between two serial killers and another play was a monologue of a paranoiac on the verge of homocide.
Sixth Street feeds into and out of Highway 280 and over the decades I would look from my passing car for the graffiti-like posterboard that presided over the entrance of the what seemed like such a cool venue for theatre.  And one day, who knows when (since so much time has passed), it was gone.
I wouldn’t be writing about this theatre in this column if not for its 1997 transformation into a Filipino American performing arts venue with the appointment of Allan Manalo as artistic director.  That was 20 years ago and I had never learned of this until this month when I came across a social media post on an upcoming Filipino production at Bindlestiff.  What a pleasant surprise to learn that the theatre is still in operation.
I was fortunate enough to see the last night’s performance of one act plays, a reprise of my experience of the mid 90s, Stories High XVII.  The performances, which ran for two and a half weeks from August 31 through September 16, 2017 were the culmination of a workshop in which participants wrote, directed and performed in their own original plays.  The program is sponsored by PAWA (Philippine American Writers and Artists, San Francisco Grants for the Arts and the San Francisco Arts Commission.  My favorite performance was of a Fil-Am couple in the early stages of dating trying to hide the criminal dispositions of their respective families.  It featured belly-laughing portrayals of a Filipino father and a Filipina mother.  The workshop occurs over the summer and enrollment for next year is open to the public.
The Bindlestiff Studio is self-described as the “only permanent, community-based performing arts venue in the nation dedicated to showcasing emerging Filipino American and Pilipino artists.”
Compared to when I first went there more than 20 years ago, the space is new, bathrooms nice, stairs of buffed metal, surfaces painted.  It is less authentic than the original even though the coordinates are the same.  It seems rich.  Indeed, the entire neighborhood has undergone a shocking gentrification over the last 20 years.  Sixth and Mission may still possess some of the unsavory elements that has made it what it is, but it feels reasonable to walk around the area on a busy night now and the sprawl of tech wealth has left its mark around every corner. 
As for me, I am just glad to find that Bindlestiff is up and running again.  That it is now a Filipino studio sweetens the notion even more.
For upcoming events, go to
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