Sunday, November 5, 2017

Loving Vincent (2017)

I have always thought of Vincent van Gogh as the poster child for suffering artists and for mental health advocacy. But beyond him cutting his ear and committing suicide, I really didn't know much of his life. I've also encountered his painting "Starry Night" and the Don McLean 1971 song "Vincent". 

Hence, when I saw that "Loving Vincent", a movie about his life, was already showing in cinemas, I decided to watch it at first opportunity. Luckily, Joyce was also available to join in watching this film.

It's interesting that this film was made to resemble cartoons; except that instead of simple illustrations or computer graphics, the each frame of the animation was an oil painting on canvas. These oil paintings were made by 115 artists and featured van Gogh's famous strong, thick strokes. In itself, the movie is a visual masterpiece.

The plot happened supposedly a year after van Gogh died. It followed Armand Roulin as he attempted to deliver Vincent's last letter to his brother, Theo. It turned out, through Armand's tracing of Theo's whereabouts, that the younger van Gogh had died of complications of syphilis. The letter eventually ended up with Theo's widow, Johanna. In his search for van Gogh's family, Armand was confronted with a few theories on why van Gogh committed suicide: a case of unrequited love; an effort to reduce the worries of his brother who was already sick; and someone else shot the gun that left him wounded in the torso (there's a murder mystery angle to the story).

In the end, whatever drove Vincent to take his own life couldn't be clarified. His last letter to Theo, however, resonated true with the movie:

"Well, the truth is, we can only make our pictures speak." 
-- Vincent van Gogh

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Surat Mangyan

In high school, part of the Filipino curriculum was learning about one of the country's ancient native scripts called Baybayin. I learned back then that this script was eventually abandoned because the Spanish, and eventually the Americans, encouraged the use of the Latin script for written communications.

But that's in the lowlands; the rules were different up in the mountains. In the lush mountains of Mindoro, groups of indigenous people called Mangyans live largely in isolation away from the Christianised Filipinos. This isolation has led to the continuous development of the Mangyans' old script, Surat Mangyan.

As I walked inside the Ayala Museum, I saw this bamboo tube (I'm not sure if it's an instrument) with Mangyan script written all over it. I suppose that this was equivalent to a book or a song. But I haven't figured out what's written yet, despite the translation guide provided.

What I can do, however, is write my name in Mangyan script. It is quite different from the Baybayin syllaboc script that was taught to us in high school.

The exhibit about the Mangyan script brought me back to that day in school when our teacher asked us, "If our ancestors were already using their own scripts, why did they drop these and shifted to the Latin script?" Perhaps, it's a question of practicality. The arrival of traders forced our ancestors to adapt to a script that was understandable to the parties conducting business... perhaps, ancient Filipinos traded with their Indian contemporaries, explaining why Baybayin looks very similar to the script I found in road signs I noticed in Hyderabad. Lowlanders also got exposed the most to the Spaniards, who heavily promoted the use of the Latin script. 

The reason why the Mangyan script has survived throughout the centuries can thus be similarly explained: most likely, the Mangyans were mainly isolated from the rest of the world. This allowed them to continue developing their culture and to continue using their script. Hence, Surat Mangyan lives on. I hope that this ancient script will continue to thrive so that Filipinos can see how rich our indigenous heritage is.

Friday, October 27, 2017

Feeling, the cat

And then there was one. Miming officially became the sole resident cat after Timtams disappeared. Not for long, however. A black and white tomcat appeared in the backyard and decided that it could shoo Miming (who's already in his senior years) away through bullying. 

I was intimidated with this tomcat because I'm not used to have aggressive feral cats loitering in my backyard. At first, I kept shooing it, at the risk of getting scratched or bitten, but eventually, I got convinced to allow the cat to share Miming's food (yes, even when Miming was eating soft foods, this tomcat also ate soft food).

Months later, I started calling it Feeling because it's feelingero (Filipino slang for someone who feels comfortable around others who aren't hospitable). 

The two cats were constantly competing for food until they figured out a system in which all kibbles placed above ground are for Miming while those on the ground are for Feeling. So now, the challenge is on feeding because that's when Feeling is most aggressive. In fact, he has scratched both Daddy and Anna in these feeding sessions. 

I'd like to believe that Feeling is getting tamer by the day because he has started becoming more docile when I'm around. Maybe, it's because he knows he's going to be fed in due course and because I'm not about to kick him. We'll see... I'm still not confident in handling this cat because of his mood swings.