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Total recall

Don Jaucian - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines - Life after the aughts, in between sickly beats of EDM and whatever ‘-ism’ or agenda we’re protesting online, it seems like we’re all riding high on a wave of ’90s nostalgia. The deluge of posts, ads, videos, and listicles (“21 Times NSYNC Lyrics Perfectly Captured Life In Your Twenties” headlined one BuzzFeed article that hit a sore spot) doesn’t help, factor in the virulence of content online and you’ve got a newsfeed that acts more like a time capsule of a generation enamored by the fast times of the grunge decade, just like when Baby Boomers romanticized their last great decade, the ’60s.

’90s kids had it good. Back then, it was TV that practically raised us. Mornings, we had like Sineskwela, Math Tinink, Bayani, and Hiraya Manawari — shows that were even brought into our classrooms when more educational videos were thrown in the mix to get us more into the subjects of science, history, and math (as if a television show could still stoke us into finishing our multiplication tables, hah!). Our primetime viewing had more grit and comedy and less drama. For every Mara Clara, we had a whole slew of sitcoms like Palibhasa Lalake, Abangan ang Susunod na Kabanata, and Tropang Trumpo. These were more than just laugh tracks to accompany our dinner, they were biting satires and commentaries about the prevailing winds of the era; back when producers and networks weren’t afraid of bulldozing anyone’s political career. It was a glorious era, indeed.

Halfway into the ’90s, “retro” became a thing: pants, songs, hairstyles — you were inclined to think that revivalism was really more of a fashion trend than a generational state of mind. But as more artefacts from our wily years seep into pop culture, it seems like we’re willingly setting up ourselves to parse the byways of lost time. Burning on your Twitter and Facebook news feeds: someone watching reruns of Friends (its recent addition to Netflix only adding fuel to the fire) and hoping a reunion will finally happen; a thread discussing why the animated X-Men is far more superior than all of Bryan Singer’s films; and the endless string of Sarah...Ang Munting Prinsesa memes, its relevance spurred by the re-airing of the animated series as well as Cedie, Remi, and The Dog of Flanders.



ASAP anniversary

Last Sunday, the throwback wave felt more like a tsunami. It was ASAP’s 20th anniversary, a milestone cementing its status as one of the formidable tentpoles of the ’90s, and one that has assuredly sifted into today’s cultural currency. Being a variety show meant it was more malleable than other programs from the era; it had to assimilate to the times, easily changing its repertoire from grunge, showtunes, to bubblegum pop, boyband hits, to a celebration of today’s Top 40 teen pop and R&B. Occasionally, it had to dip its feet into revivalism (ever heard Fruitcake’s Whoops Kiri leaking from someone else’s speakers? That’s probably because of Vice Ganda and ASAP resurrecting it back from the dead) but in celebration of its two decades on air, it dedicated a full-blown reunion episode — the first aired last week, the second part will air tomorrow. Ang TV girls Jolina Magdangal, Nikki Valdez, Lindsay Custodio, and Roselle Nava sang Spice Girls’ Stop; there was a dance off between Manouvers and Street Boys; and Kim Chiu, Maja Salvador, and Shaina Magdayao paid tribute to Dayanara Torres, the Puerto Rican beauty queen who successfully loosened her grip from local stardom and embarked into the waters of Hollywood. The pauses were even filled with reminiscences. Pops Fernandez and Zsa Zsa Padilla even brought out photos of Martin Nievera, Gary Valenciano, and Ariel Rivera from the baul. It was ugly, as anyone can imagine.

The show racked up points for anyone lusting after these bygone years, but it was also a bittersweet reminder of how far we’ve gone from being snotty adolescents into corporate 9-to-5 drones. Our “idols” weren’t spared either. At a post-performance interview, Roselle Nava revealed how conversations between her Ang TV co-stars have changed: from crushes to hair products, talking points now include motherhood and baby pictures. Vhong Navarro and Jhong Hilario still had careers, but to some kids these days, the rest of the dance group are total unknowns. Bald spots, muffin tops and slower limbs — in contrast with the hyperactive movements of today’s teen stars — give us a glimpse as to how the last decade has treated these celebrities that we once held in our pop cultural pedestals. This Sunday, even more reunions: JCS (John Pratts, Carlo Aquino sans Stefano Mori), Anime, more Ang TV kids, and Regine Tolentino return for an even fiery ‘Clashdance’.


Power Rangers bootleg

A few days later, it was the bootleg reboot of Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers, Joseph Kahn’s Power/Rangers, that served as a darker counterpart to the ’90s decadence. What once was a color-blocked superhero fare, Joseph Kahn and producer Adi Shankar turned into a grim future epic that had more bloodshed and treachery, far from Angel Grove’s balmier air. Even the rangers grew old and bitter, falling into whatever slot they can fill in after normalcy came calling.

It’s hard not to think of where we are now after the dust of nostalgia has settled. Recollection only affords us to gaze longingly back to a time when life was simpler: no smartphones to rule our lives, no deadening responsibilities that can spell the difference between survival and cynicism, no hardened hearts aching for an easier way out. Granted, most of the consumers today are within the generation who grew up in that era, which is why most of today’s cultural consumption harken back to a shared experience. But before we get swallowed by this groundswell, it’s also an encouraging reminder of our past selves and that we have a future that we can calibrate with these memories on hand.

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Tweet the author @donjaucian.

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