(Note: I don’t typically double-post, or indeed triple-post, but some forms of mourning, or memorial, ought to be as wide-reaching as celebration, or an embrace. This is for the international cinema–and especially Southeast Asian cinema–critic-lovers here at Big Other, too.)
On September 1, 2009, Filipino Canadian film critic and founder of Criticine, Alexis Tioseco and his girlfriend, Nika Bohinc, were killed at home in Quezon City, “in an apparent burglary staged by three armed men who fled the scene.”
From Gang Badoy’s “Alexis, voilà (or the death of Alexis Tioseco)”:
Alexis is dead. He was murdered on the night of Sept. 1, 2009. I know this because I saw him dead. Not in the solemn way that we are accustomed to — prepared and lying in peaceful state but face down and crumpled on their kitchen floor with his girlfriend Nika Bohinc almost beside him. Nika was a respected auteur herself, hailing all the way from Slovenia. The two met at the Rotterdam Film Festival a few years ago, both fell deeply in love and built a high-powered partnership mantled in a gentle relating together.
When Alexis died almost everyone near him focused on remembering his life, celebrating his work, reveling in his love for film and passion for saving Philippine Cinema. I suppose it is normal for human beings to ask for the cause of death — in passing — and when found too difficult to stare at — we focus our pupils elsewhere. We toast to him and comfort ourselves with the illusion that it was after all “a full and good life.” It works for a few months but not for me who saw exactly how he fell, less than two hours after his murderers left (what is now known as) the crime scene.
As difficult as this is for you to read and for me to write, it needs to be said that Alexis died by violent hands. It was not clean and there was nothing graceful about what I saw. I can always use euphemisms — God knows I have been — but not today. I want to cut the ribbon of The A/V Club with truth.
The truth is Alexis was beat. He was bruised and his right hand shot. His left hand’s middle finger had something around it. I stared at it for a while, thinking it was a ring — I never remembered Alexis wearing jewelry so I had to strain and look through the blood and saw that it was his house key in a ring. He was shot while he was still holding the keys to his home.
I will never be able to describe how it is to see the crime scene investigators mosey around him with characteristic city-hall indifference. All I could do was remind them over and over to be thorough. I barked orders at many of them that night in the kitchen, so much so that after a while they started calling me “Attorney.” I would ask if they’d dusted the chair or the bottles for prints. When asked why I was allowed inside the crime scene I lied and said I was Alexis’ legal guardian and that I was a student of forensics and that they should just take my word for it. In my mind, Alexis and I had a good chuckle because he is (was?) aware that all the forensics I know is from watching CSI.
I stood guard watching over Alexis and Nika pacing around them, kneeling beside them every now and then to make sure they were comfortable — a most absurd thing given that they were already dead. I am not mincing my words now, am I? I am sorry if this disconcerts you but it is the truth. And the truth is we have to be brave enough to talk about their death. I know we have to continue remembering his life and celebrating his life’s work — but f*ck — shouldn’t he be living it instead? Tonight I am angry. I am sad. I am resolved. And then I want to forever look the other way. I want to forget but I need to remember. There are reasons.
Alexis and Nika were murdered and today, over six months after, there is still no progress on the case. His sisters and brothers, our shared good friend Erwin Romulo and I have wrestled through administrative meetings with the police, a general, the former Secretary of Justice Agnes Devanadera, you’d think with all our connections we’d get somewhere — still nothing. The courtesy calls to the heads of these departments were hell. We’ve witnessed the Forensics Department go antsy when they found out we consulted a private forensics expert, the big title game — and the delay of releasing documents because of red tape and ego. All hell. All hell to all the players in this game as I cling on to my childhood belief that both my friends are in heaven.
Between 2006 and 2009, as long-time readers of this space know, I was in the throes of deep mourning over my father’s death, as well as the throes of severe illness (how is grief an illness? how is illness a physiological manifestation of grief?). And for those three years, I neither read nor wrote anything, or almost anything–indeed, refused outright, to read or write anything, as in October 2010 I wrote in one of my first [PANK] columns two years ago (has it really already been two years?), “A FAILED ESSAY ON GRIEF, SICKNESS, ANTI-WRITING/ANTE-WRITING, WOUNDS, CIXOUS, PHILOCTETES, DÉBROUILLARDES, AUNG SAN SUU KYI, ON KAWARA, KANYE WEST, JUSTIN TIMBERLAKE, BARTHES’ MOURNING DIARY AND QUEER GHOSTS IN CONTEMPORARY R&B; IN THE FORM OF AN INTERRUPTED LETTER TO A DEAD PARENT”. During those three years, I completely abandoned the book I had started when my beloved was still in the world; untaught myself of reading; untaught myself of learning; untaught myself of living anywhere but in the wound; living in the wound, and not the world. I do live in the world now, though, I think. I admit I’m not always sure.
During those three years, despite neither reading nor writing, I did, however, watch movies. (I also watched awful-fantastic Japanese television and variety shows like VS Arashi and Bistro Smap, though the latter is a classic; the episode with Takeshi Kaneshiro and Tony Leung Chiu-Wai–of course, one of my great cinematic loves and alter-egos–is particularly good; I think they were there to promote Confession of Pain.)