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Marra PL Lanot (second from left) with (Raquel Villavicenco (to her left), Banaue Miclat-Janssen, Shamaine Centenera-Buencamino flunked by their two friends

Vignettes of celebrities reading poetry and a gathering of heroes

If I were a poet gathering words and building images to tell a story about writer Marra PL Lanot’s book launch of her new collection of poetry in English, Filipino and Spanish, “Cadena de Amor,” it should be a montage of loves and scruples. By it, I remember the “Montage” poem of the late Ophelia Alcantara-Dimalanta, simply style and a woman’s private world. Whereas Lanot’s sphere is her social and public entanglements in a chain of experiences in her diverse roles—as an artist, wife, mother, doting grandma, friend, feminist, teacher, film creative, erstwhile censor, lover etc. which in this affair sent all her audiences and confreres in one and the same purpose.

It was one day after the EDSA People Power anniversary and there seemed to be a hangover of what could have been a more celebratory sense of the historic event thirty two years ago or still a harbinger of discontent. A nocturnal, lethargic air loomed around the skyline of Iago’s in Tomas Morato Avenue. It was a gathering of heroes, a battlefield waiting to be won but no war was waged only victory of the peace threatened by an impending monster of the complacent and the fake news. Everyone was all smiles hollowness were laughter. No, I refused to believe weariness had set in only wait and see attitude.

The other half of the singing duo, Inang Laya, civil libertarian and artist Karina David, had just came out of a rally in People Power Monument hours ago where she was feisty and critical of the current dispensation and later, the next day, joined her fellow nationalists with her guitar and music in tow.

Marra PL Lanot (middle, front row) with (from left, back row) Karina David, Julie Luch Dalena, Bibeth Orteza and Loli Mara

Free the artist spirit—although unspoken and no black ribbons pinned on chests—hovered in the air, descended, mingled and one with the guests from mainly, a broad spectrum of socio-political and cultural movers. A muffled voice was trying to let go only Lanot’s poems were audible at the moment.

All sides, sizes, shapes and colors were represented from arts and entertainment to human rights to academe to people’s struggles.

From the foyer, film couple director Carlitos Siguion-Reyna and scriptwriter Bibeth Orteza were in huddle with literary writer and critic Alfred Yuson, erstwhile ABS-CBN publicist and Marra’s former co-member at the Movie and Television Review and Classification Board (MTRCB) Maloly Espinosa and veteran actress Loli Mara. Bibeth stood up, planted a kiss on my cheek and we had pleasantries. After a while, she said: “Si Nestor Torre, nasa Lourdes Hospital. Half of his body is paralyzed. He suffered a stroke.”

Nestor Torre, Jr., the effervescent entertainment writer and film critic is still indisposed and recuperating. Everyone in the table hoped for his early recovery as MRTCB member Atty. Gaby Concepcion expressed her sadness over Nestor’s condition.

TV and film actress Raquel Villavicencio was asking if other movie press would show up but sadly, most of us were busy shopping stories if not collecting pittance fees for the next day’s deadline. Award-winning stage, television and movie actress Shamaine Centenera-Buencamino was engrossed in silently reading her excerpts of a Lanot poem to be interpreted in a few moments. “This poetry is about what a woman does in the month of October,” Shamaine volunteered. Thespian Banaue Miclat-Janssen was also ready to embody and to empathize with the meaning of one of Marra’s poems.

Centenera-Buencamino said she was invited by the author to read one of her pieces even way, way ahead last year so that she could calendar her schedule very smoothly. She is still taping ABS-CBN’s “Ang Probinsiyano” but in no rush at all and would start work anytime with a TV drama for GMA Network so she managed to squeeze in poetry reading in her diary. Poetry is Shamaine’s pursuit as well so she couldn’t say no to read one in public.

Simplicity if not frugality and Filipino-ness characterized the menu served during dinner—akin to Marra PL Lanot’s kitchen—lugaw (porridge), lumpia (veggies spring roll) and okoy (thinly fried shrimps in batter and chopped vegetables) and the gustatory nerves were stirred and properly nourished. One just had to look at the guests, most of them down-to-earth, hip even in their middle-aged and oozing with nationalist fervor like sculptor Julie Luch Dalena to see the satisfactory air they dug up from the treats.

Prizewinning literary writer, scriptwriter and entertainment magazine’s editor Jose F. Lacaba, also known as Marra’s hubby was busy hosting the event he hopped from one table to the other and sitting side by side in the crowd with literary giant Nicanor G. Tiongson.

Icons of people’s liberation Satur Ocampo and Bobbie Malay were one with Lanot’s voice in society’s emancipation from tyranny and misogyny. It was a rare chance for them to move around and think and thank alongside fellow progressive artists for the luxury time they still have to spend together.

National Artist for Literature F. Sionil Jose was seated with maverick novelist and screenwriter Lualhati Bautista when Bobbie greeted him. “You should write your memoir,” Jose her egged on as I eavesdropped. Malay couldn’t reply instantly she had a second of dead air. Later, Satur’s better half half-shook her head and shrugged off. “I’ve learned my lessons,” she quipped. That wasn’t a straight answer to F. Sionil’s plea in whatever contexts.

Lualhati, on the other hand, announced, is on with her writing a new novel which she plans to self-publish. Of course, it would still be on feminine equality and the quotidian.

Longtime MTRCB member and filmmaker Joey Romero, scion of the National Artist for Film Eddie Romero was announcing his participation in filming again a Jackie Chan action caper in the Philippines in June. “Actually, Jackie Chan had already shot in the country in the 1990s but it was deferred because he had to go back to Hollywood then for a rush project,” Romero recalled.

Being part of the first Chan film shot in PH, Joey said the Chinese superstar was apologetic for the delay of the shoot. “But he gave us our salary even if he didn’t push through with the project. He even doubled our talent fees, in dollars, huh,” he chuckled.

This time, Jackie’s movie will be partly shot in the country, the other portions already being filmed in Beijing.

On the local front, Romero will soon sit on his director’s chair when the movie camera rolls for BG Productions’ outing on a story of a woman from Dumaguete City which will star Alden Richards, Andrea Torres and Meg Imperial. He is also set to revive the TV public affairs show “MTRCB: Uncut” for Net25. This new edition will feature Gaby Concepcion and Boggart as hosts to replace Jackie Aquino and Bobby Andrews, ex-MTRCB members.

Jackie came late during the launch because she had to catch up with two meetings in a row after her Radio La Verdad show that early evening.

During the opening of the program which set the subtext tone of the gathering, the lady emcee remarked: “This is an alarming time when women are again debased, insulted, raped…” Through verses alone, a female voice such as Marra can salvage a woman’s woes.

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