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Bacolod City, Philippines Thursday, January 3, 2019
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with Eli F.J. Tajanlangit

Fall of the icons

Rock & Refuge

Once the biggest Christmas and film event in the country, the last Metro Manila Film Festival just came and went, its highlight the success of stupid films like Fantastica and Jack Em Popoy. The festival that once gave us Pinoy film classics like Atsay, Rubia Servios, Ganito Kami Noon... Paano Kayo Ngayon, Kisapmata, Burlesk Queen and Himala has become just another public market for our movies. He who has the money controls things.

The outstanding movies in the last MMFF got awards but they could hardly get theatres to show them. Of course, commerce has taken over. The producers have to survive, and so do the organizers, the distributors and the theatre operators.

We can argue ad infinitum as to why we got here, but the MMFF is just one of the icons and iconic events in the country and the world that are dead or dying.

The phenomenon is true worldwide. There was a time when icons used to hold the world together as they led it in its march forward. For example, we once had likes of Jack and Jackie Kennedy who led not only the world of politics, but even in the lifestyle department. In fact to this day, Jackie’s boat neck wedding dress lives on; Megan Markle wore it last year. And even ordinary women still go for shift dresses and suits cut the way Oleg Cassini and Chanel made them for Jackie.

Of course there are now questions as to whether Camelot with all is expensive elegance and erudition plus its scandals could survive in a post-Watergate world,

Watergate changed the relationship between the press and public officials not only in Washington and America but across the world. The Watergate scandal, as it was known, redefined the press which exposed it and sustained it until it brought down a President and consequently emboldened the press around the world and encouraged them to break down the privacy of public officials, especially the President [By sheer bad luck, ours here in the Philippines was unable to hold its ground in the face of the ruthless Marcos dictatorship.]

There was Mahatma Gandhi who led India to independence from the British through a civil disobedience movement that became the seed for non-violent peace movements across the world. [Another case of bad luck: the Pinoy contribution to this, People Power, is now all but memory.]

Bruce Lee brought kung fu around the world, and in his time, practically every boy knew how to kick and shout the way he did. When was the last time that one movie star brought his style and moves to our homes? When was the last time we, all the peoples of the world, cried over one movie, the way Love Story did? Or what movie has swept the world the way The Godfather did? To this day we continue to mouth the iconic lines from that movie: “I’ll make him an offer he cannot refuse…” , “Never hate your enemies, it affects your judgment.”

It is ironic that as the world gets smaller and smaller, now that we have the communications technology and the platforms that broke down our barriers of time and space, we have also lost the icons that once held us together.

Again we can take as an example the way things are happening in our movies. Now we can watch movies at the same time that others across the globe do, courtesy of technology. Yet we seem to have lost the connectedness that movies back in those days wrought.

Oh, yes, we can argue we have the equivalent of world icons now in the persons of Bill Gates, Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg who are all the ones who brought us the computer technologies that admittedly changed our lifestyles. But maybe because the computer age also ushered in an unprecedented age of aloneness and individualism, the influence of these three cannot come close to those that a Jackie Kennedy or even Bruce Lee did in their time.

The Internet has brought us together but not as families or villages but as impersonal individuals pounding the computer or the smart phone. The closest example of that, is me who is pounding this piece that thousands of people will read tomorrow – nameless thousands whom I hardly care about and who hardly even know me, except my name and my face that appear on this page.

Happy New Year, everyone! *

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