fireflies, and other stories

Grave of the Fireflies


An air raid. A boy carries his baby sister on his back and sits in the shelter, away from the bombs. Their house is no more. Later, their mother dies. In the midst of the carnage, the fire, the charred remains of his neighbors, a man in a soldier’s uniform stands tall and screams, Long live the Emperor!

This is World War II through the eyes of two Japanese children trying to survive motherless, perhaps fatherless (their father fights in the Navy, under the flag of the Empire), months before their country’s unconditional surrender. How easy it is to forget that there are also victims on the side of the “enemy”. Grave of the Fireflies forces us to become witnesses, to mourn the unmourned. Brother and sister comfort each other, play as children play, in scenes tender and heartbreaking. Even the happy scenes – Seita and Setsuko playing in the beach, catching fireflies in their aunt’s backyard, cooking their own dinner – become unbearable in their sweetness. What consolation can one expect from a film that begins with the line, September 21, 1945 – this was the night I died? There is consolation, perhaps, in the fact that this story is told, that we are made to remember.

I watched it twice in one day – alone the first time, with my brothers the second time. The film rendered my brothers silent, stunning them. It was my second viewing, and yet I did not think that the intensity of the film was diminished. One of my favorite scenes: Seita tells Setsuko about a naval review he saw when he was still an only child; he remembers seeing his father’s ship, the Maya, in formation with the rest of the fleet. He says, in a soft voice, I wonder where Dad’s fighting now. Setsuko is silent. Seita turns and sees that she has fallen asleep, on the far side of their bed. Seita rolls over twice, puts his hand over his sleeping sister, pulls her close.

I believe my siblings and I agree that this has got to be the most powerful war film we’ve ever seen in our entire lives.


The Hangover

Setup: Doug is getting married, so his friends and his future brother-in-law take him to Vegas. They climb to the rooftop of Caesar’s Palace, make a toast, drink. They wake up the next morning. One of the recliners is burnt. Doug’s dentist friend is missing an incisor. There is a tiger in the bathroom. And oh, Doug is missing.

This film is fun. No, FUN – from beginning to end. Oh yes.

The Ocean Waves

What is it about certain Japanese animated films that make the cheesy palatable and bearable? If this were a live-action film, I’d definitely be gagging.

Simple and sweet, with nostalgia effectively conveyed. But during the first half of the film –

Me: I think this is yaoi.

Brother: Stop it. There’s a girl and a boy on the DVD cover.

Me: [Onscreen, Boy 1 says, “So why did you call me here? Didn’t you want to tell me something?” Boy 2 replies, “No. I just wanted to see you, that’s all.”] Did you hear that?

Brother: (worried) If this is yaoi we’d better watch something else.

Me: [Onscreen, a flashback.] Look at this, they’re alone in the room together, there’s a pretty piano piece on the soundtrack, a breeze just blew through the curtains.

Brother: Magtigil ka nga ano.

Me: [Onscreen, Boy 1 narrates, I began thinking of Boy 2, different from the way I think of my other friends] (to myself) Either I’m over-reading, or there’s something completely wrong with the subtitles.

It was not yaoi.

Me: *facepalm*

Me, later: It’s like the writers started out with yaoi and then lost their nerve. Seriously, the girl’s like an ornament.

Brother: …

Akane-iro ni Somaru Saka

I don’t know what the title means, but it’s a Japanese animated series, very short, less than 15 episodes. A brother and a sister come to realize that they may be in love with each other. Taboo what? I’m on episode 6, and my head is already aching.

In conclusion,

I want to learn Japanese. I have this rather silly notion that maybe just maybe it’ll be much easier to learn than French. Then maybe I’ll be able to watch Princess Mononoke and Grave of the Fireflies sans the dubbing and the English subtitles. Won’t that be grand.


you have got to be kidding me

So today I received an email from Free Press Lit Ed Sarge Lacuesta. The Subject line reads “when you’re on a roll…congratulations from the Philippines Free Press”. I smiled because I thought he has heard about the Palanca win and was just kind enough to send me an email and congratulate me.

Well, yes, he did send me an email to congratulate me, but for a different reason. The letter begins

Dear Eliza,

Greetings! I am proud and honored to inform you that you are a finalist at this year’s Philippines Free Press Literary Awards for your story entitled “An Abduction by Mermaids.”

Holy. Crap.

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“An Abduction by Mermaids” is a short story I wrote back in 2008 (or late 2007,I’m not sure anymore, I have to find my drafts) (I used to date my drafts, hee), which appeared in the Free Press on April 26, 2008. No online copies, but I might post the full manuscript here one of these days. ;)

* * *

Now, let’s see. I need: a dress, some nice shoes, a date. Or, a companion with a camera. It’s the camera that counts.

I’m excited to finally meet Mr. Lacuesta in person. And the other finalists of course. Wonder if I know any of them.
* * *
I really need a camera.