FuneReal-time

I should probably be posting about my experiences here in Prague, but right now I’m still reflecting on the last few days of media spectacle in Manila. For those of you who didn’t understand my cryptic “1933-2009″ photo post from yesterday, it was put up in honor of the passing and funeral of Corazon Aquino, former president of the Philippines (the “L” being the LABAN sign. Erm, not “Loser”.)
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The significance she holds for so many Filipinos is more than I can capably explain in-depth, but here and here are a couple of quick links to more articles.  I can only say for myself that I grew up in the era where Ninoy (Cory’s husband) Aquino’s assassination, the ousting of the Marcoses, and Cory’s surreal, cinematic rise to the Philippine presidency were formative moments in Philippine history, and my childhood, and her death is something like the end of an era.
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As with Michael Jackson (well, sort of), there are still some questionable aspects to Cory’s saga that not everyone can get behind, but it’s still been overwhelming, witnessing the incredible international outpouring of emotion for her passing, and how it seems to have galvanized people. (To what end, I know not.)

A friend of mine had posted a link to the GMA7 livestream of Mrs. Aquino’s memorial and funeral, and I didn’t realize upon clicking through on it how utterly sucked in I’d be. Seeing thousands of Filipinos lining the streets of Manila for hours, humbly paying their last tributes to a woman whom many still see as the last true conscience the Philippines had, was incredibly touching. There were also the layers, as iconic, historic images of Corazon Aquino galvanizing people to take to the streets played out one last time in her death.
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I spent the next few days with the livestream on whenever I was on the computer: not even necessarily watching it, but just letting the ambient sounds of the viewing, wake and procession (street traffic, prayers, shuffling, music, speeches, cheers) from the nonstop broadcast play in the background. It was comforting, somehow: feeling connected to the moment, feeling connected to other Filipinos all around the world, as well.

New media theory-heads have already been furiously writing about it, I’m sure, but one of the most fascinating aspects of the livestream was its integration with other kinds of livefeed, related news and video, Facebook, and Twitter. It’s not as if other sites haven’t done this before, but in light of the Philippine diaspora, and Emily Ignacio’s writings on Filipinos and the internet, I feel like this takes on another couple of shades. And when I think of other masses-of-people, live-TV events I’ve watched (various Olympics, demonstrations, Diana’s funeral, Obama’s inauguration), they’ve always been accompanied by various types of canned professional commentary. The integration of Facebook and Twitter was phenomenal, seeing various peoples’ world-wide status updates and commentary roll in on the sidebars, while the unedited video of the slow procession, and the rituals in Manila Cathedral and the Memorial cemetery played on and on, inter-cut every once in a while with old footage of Mrs. Aquino’s triumphant moments and interviewed recollections.

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This was a humongous spectacle, somehow reduced to a personal scale. While there are the generally amazing/creepy aspects of something so intimate as a family’s grief suddenly becoming the entire world’s real-time close-up, it seems that most people felt grateful for being able to share the moment, and share their emotions, too.  The whole thing was a massive, multi-day extravaganza: I’m still chewing on my experience of it critically, but sentimentally, I was absolutely absorbed by its poignancy.

Last summer, I was similarly compelled by the NY Times coverage of photographer Paul Fusco’s book RFK Funeral Train. Similarly, there’s something so affecting and tender and poignant about seeing throngs of people lining up to pay their respects. But there’s also something harder for me to put my finger on, which has more to do with the way in which these moments are documented.
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When I was still working in one-hour photo labs as a college kid, I was always fascinated by the momentous (and not-so-momentous) events that people chose to photograph: the only time I ever remember someone bringing in massive amounts of incredibly intimate negatives to develop of a family funeral was a Filipino customer, though. Hm.

Come to think: there are these, from my own family archive.
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2 Responses to “FuneReal-time”

  1. kim Says:

    Woff: this is a fantastic post. The family photos juxtaposed with the livestream images make all this shared grief really palpable. They reminded me of my own family archive: the few photos I’ve seen of my grandfather’s funeral are the only ones that show all my mother’s siblings (except for my mother). All these funeral photos say a lot about distance and diaspora.

  2. joe mckay Says:

    Great post woffles. I too think it’s interesting how big events make us take a second look at our technology. Both Iraq wars were huge for telecommunications. Or Twitter and the “unrest” in Iran – it’s not as if twitter wasn’t already huge, but it put the application into a new realm.
    There should be a history of this somewhere. I remember the first G8 summit where protesters were combining cell phones and internet to avoid police who had no idea how they were doing it.
    Did you see the article that the NYPD spends over a million dollars a year on TYPEWRITERS?! awesome. Almost feel sorry for them.

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