Rafael Lerma’s Photojournalistic Take on the Duterte Administration’s Drug War: A Counter-Barthesian Semiological Study

Rafael Lerma is an award-winning and outspoken Filipino photojournalist who works for the broadsheet The Philippine Daily Inquirer. When President Rodrigo Duterte took office on 01 July 2016 and started to implement his campaign promise to mount a thorough war on drugs, Lerma became one of the photojournalists who consistently documented the grisly track of the said war. His most iconic image—that of a dead pedicab driver being cradled by his grief-stricken widow—did not escape the rambling speech of the President himself during the latter’s first State of the Nation Address. This paper culls 25 of Lerma’s most famous images related to the Duterte administration’s drug war. From these 25 images, six recurrent sociocultural icons have been identified: 1) poverty; 2) the dehumanization/demonization of the casualties; 3) religion; 4) the weakness of governance in the Philippines; 5) Operation Plan Tokhang conducted by the Philippine National Police; and 6) the state and the nation. By subjecting these visual sociocultural icons to an inverted version of the semiology of the early phase of the French philosopher and cultural critic Roland Barthes, the researcher textually explores Lerma’s take on the said war. Furthermore, this paper theoretically tests the capacity of Barthes’ semiology to tackle not only ideological discourses that are tucked beneath some sociocultural icons but more so counter-ideological discourses that are launched by the less privileged sectors of society.

Madonna and Me: Isang Pagmimito

Tinatangka ng “Madonna and Me: Isang Pagmimito” na isalaysay ang mito ni Madonna bilang tagalabas, at ilapat ang mito na ito sa praktika ng pagsulat (at bilang epekto, sa pagbasa) ng isang Pilipinong manunulat. Ang paglikhang ito ng mito ay hindi lamang isang anyo ng poetika, maaari rin itong tingnan bilang halimbawa ng pag-aaral sa isang postkolonyal na subjectivity, at isang teorya sa pagsulat.

“Madonna and Me: An Act of Myth-making” attempts to delineate the myth of the Western popstar Madonna as an outsider, and reinscribe the same myth into the writing (and in effect, reading) practice of a Filipino writer. This act of “myth-making” is not just a form of poetics, it can also be seen as an example of a study of postcolonial subjectivity, and a theory of writing.

A Review of Received/Dominant/Western Film Adaptation Literatures, Or The Possibilities for a (De-Westernized) Filipino Theory

First, as part of a longer work on theorizing Filipino adaptation, this study discusses extant samples of komiks-to-film adaptations in the 1950s. The study reviews received/dominant/Western adaptation literatures that have dominated the field. Secondly, it argues for the following points as a springboard to construct a theory of adaptation:

  1. The limits of received/dominant/Western film adaptation theory dominating postcolonial cinemas such as the Philippines;
  2. The need to de-Westernize theory or to indigenize Filipino film adaptation theory; and
  3. To recognize constructs and formulate concepts from historical and cultural Filipino realities to inform the theory.

This study is a meta-theoretical discussion that will begin the construction of a Filipino film adaptation theory.