Tuesday, November 7, 2006

Tapping the chords of nostalgia

"Impressions," TV Times, 16-22 April 1978


Who says nostalgia is irrelevant?

In the deep silence of night, when we hear the lovely kundimans of our countryside, do we not feel as if we are at last in touch with the very essence of being a Filipino? Bombarded as we are by jeprox lyrics and Pinoy rock, when the quiet of a peaceful evening is softly broken by disembodied melodies from a lone guitar, are we not brought back to a time and place that must have etched grooves on the collective memory of race and people?

Don't get us wrong. That jeprox music we hear on the air strikes a responsive chord somewhere in our here and now. But here and now is not history, and we shall remain lovers of history.

Of course, history cannot but transform, as time transforms. The music we now claim as truly flowing from the very depths of the Filipino "soul" may not have been really Filipino at the time they were composed and sung, but pale copies of a foreign experience. They, too, may have been part of a searching people's misdirected energies. But this question, we leave to those whose expertise is music.

Ours is feeling. And when we listen to Aawitan Kita, we know the feeling is there, rich and intense, a harking back to the memorable images in our memory bank: of sparkling rivers and little nipa huts and fishing boats standing lonely on a clear white beach, of a setting sun on a blood-red sea, of cloudless skies and cool clear waters rushing from the mountainsides down to the rich green ricefields below. Are these not the timeless images of our Philippine countryside?

If somebody should say that these images are treacly and artificial, too smooth and too much like a postcard, so what? What does it matter also if Armida Siguion-Reyna, in her lovely balintawak, looks too expensive and too citified to have worked in some ricefield all her life? What does it matter if Carina Afable, singing alone out in the open fields, wobbles as she walks down a rice paddy? What if the whole show sometimes reminds you of a Bayanihan suite?

Realism, after all, is not the stuff of romantic nostalgia. Besides, don't they all look good, as if Fernando Amorsolo himself had chosen to paint them on his own canvases in memorable colors from his own palette?

And like Amorsolo, Aawitan Kita is evidently a product meant to enrich a painstaking, cumbersome medium. The show counts on good--sometimes even lyrical--camera shots and angles, with special attention paid to little details: colors, costumes, props. When they roast lechon on Aawitan Kita, it is not paper lechon. Nor are exterior shots simulated using stiff studio sets. Location shooting is done on location, possibly in the best location the producer can find.

It is in one technical aspect that Aawitan Kita seems to do no better than other musicals: lip-syncing. This problem is essential. An excellent song can be completely destroyed by sound that does not match the singer's lip movements. The way we see it, there are only two possible solutions to the problem. One solution is expensive and time-consuming. The other requires real musical talent from singers who should sing and perform while the cameras are rolling. Or, if our singers still insist on taping their songs first before performing in front of the cameras, can we at least ask that they rehearse and synchronize their lip movements with great care and that the directors retake whenever there is need?

Of course, Armida Siguion-Reyna is considered one of the more demanding local producers. We would have wanted her episode on Aawitan Kita to tell a little more about the life and works of Fernando Amorsolo, but on a weekly basis, perhaps a fully researched and culturally rich presentation of such scope and magnitude is too much to expect.

Which is why we have always felt that people working on the more creative aspects of television production should not be expected to produce a one-hour show week in and week out. Much is lost when people have to meet a weekly deadline: thoroughness, a definite meticulousness, a comprehensive presentation of concept.

In the end, what is obviously left to the viewer is nostalgia.

-- NBT

No title in original published column

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