Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Beowulf back when

Aha, so it's pronounced “BAY-wulf.” All these years my high school classmates and I have pronounced it “BEE-wulf,” like how we were taught in English literature. The release of the movie should prompt us to consider holding one of our usual reunions just so we could officially adopt the proper pronunciation of the name.

You see, “Beowulf” isn't just a story to us. Mention the word, and it brings back a lot of happy memories. We're silly sentimental SOBs like that.

We learned about Beowulf and Grendel and Grendel's monster mother not from Neil Gaiman, but in traditional high school English literature. I'm not sure if students today are still taught this old English epic poem. Our teacher was Mrs. Resurreccion, a white-haired, motherly, tiny bird of a lady, all 4'11" of her (perhaps even shorter).

How old was she? We had no idea. My father and mother, for one, both learned their English grammar and literature from her. She was also the one who cast them in an English play at the local college, where they played a Mr. and Mrs. Coates. That's how they ended up together. What can I say: my destiny prefigured right there. But that story should wait for another post...

Mrs. Resurreccion had been teaching part-time in our seminary for years. Imagine the formidable patience she'd developed from dealing with generations of willful little rascals and ruffians. Seminarians as refined, well-mannered young boys? Phooey. Ask her that and she'd probably cackle. And recall what we did to her.

We took up the Beowulf tale for maybe a week or more. But it felt like an entire grading period. So engrossed was she in telling us the story that the epic's title character became our shorthand for her. As in, “Huy, maabot na si Beowulf!” (Beowulf's coming!) Later on, she'd exhibit a similar obssession with Gray's “Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard,” forcing us to memorize some stanzas and recite them as prayers before class. (“Full many a gem of purest ray serene, the dark unfathomed caves of oceans bear. Full many a flower is born to blush unseen, and waste its sweetness in the desert air.”)

There was another nickname for her, less popular but with a funny incident attached to it. Once, long after Beowulf, we began reading this Spanish folk tale about a maltreated cow named La Cordera. Because our class was in the early afternoon, we were prone to either dozing off or yapping away while our good teacher tried to talk about the subject.

Beowulf, I mean Mrs. Resurreccion, finally lost her patience one afternoon. She rapped on the blackboard, raised her voice (a first), and berated us for our inattention. Then she gathered her stuff from the table and walked out.

Jong called out after her, “Adios, La Cordera!”

So it was a choice between Beowulf or La Cordera. Beowulf won.

She's still alive, by the way. We dote on Mrs. Resurreccion now whenever we see her. She continues to play a big part in our epic, endlessly rehashed high school stories.

Beowulf the warrior is alive, too, in a ridiculous new movie by Robert Zemeckis that purports to be another giant stride in filmmaking. It doesn't use real actors, but computer-generated facsimiles whose looks and gestures were “captured” electronically from real performers.

Ashushu. The figures look cross-eyed, glassy-eyed, soulless--“too 'Children of the Corn,'” said the critic Stephanie Zacharek. Admire the waste of this film: Anthony Hopkins, John Malkovich, Ray Winstone. Why would you want to use zombified copies of these towering talents and not the real thing? Simply to show off a new toy. And the killer: a naked Angelina Jolie as Grendel's sea-witch of a mother--in stilettos.

Harrumph. I'll take our Beowulf anytime.


mitsuru said...

This post reminded me of a teacher in high school while leading the singing of the Philippine National Anthem.

"Bayang Magiliw, ready, Bluu!" :)

Hey, i'll take Angelina Jolie anytime. he-he.

paolo@khoops said...

ah. i heard it wasn't so good as well. that many were only watching it as per requirement. :P

Fire Eye'd Boy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Fire Eye'd Boy said...

Ang sunget ng review, I can almost picture you raising your eyebrows while you're writing this :p

I actually liked Beowulf better than I did 300. Then again, I've seen 300 more times than I bothered to keep count so that's probably why it's become bland.

and I'm all over the technology behind movies. I am THAT superficial, I knoez

P0ytee said...

I can picture you in a schoolboy's uniform throwing paper planes at Mrs. Resurreccion. How old is she anyway? 70+?

Jego said...

Kudos then to my high school English teacher who taught us to correctly pronounce it as Bay-vulf.

Dont care much about CGI actors. Theyre so close to real-life that they could fool you into thinking youre watching really bad acting.

utakGAGO said...

The one who taught me English Lit (and Beowulf was included) was Mrs. Espejo, who have taught the same old story to my 33 and 31-year old sister.

Is that a mere coincidence? lol

sephthedreamer said...


Kanina lang I heard my 2 classmates talking about it and they repeatedly pronounced it as Bearwolf.

"Pare astig yung bearwolf may monsters."

Had to wait til home to laugh out loud. Hehe.

Brings back HS memories 'tong post mo Gibbs. =)

dazedblu* said...

Hi Gibbz, Beowulf is one of the nicest and entertainign film of the season unfotunately it's not a must see or the anticipated one..

Just a few weeks when I heard the adaptation fer film.

Thought it wuzwell shot because of the 3D animation used almost 70 percent of the film... which means the artist (who played the roles given) are the only real thing here.

Anyways, I like it naman.

totepperez said...


i guess mam rexy (her other nickname, remember?)taught us how to pronounce beowulf correctly... but carefree adolescents that we were then, we never mind her charms... hehe!

thanks for bringing back the memories! kelan mo isusulat yung "episode" kay fr. roy na nagwalk out din dahil kay ian sa kanyang punchline na"upang mabuhay muli?" hehe. o kaya yung flying socks na nag walk out din si miss funtelar sabay hinimatay...

hey bloggers, were such a notorious batch, teacher terrorists, mwhaha!

FrRoy said...

aw ayaw man tabi. "what's too painful to remember, we simply choose to forget." not you guys, but a behavior of a struggling young priest trying too hard to give one's best, and for that matter, to be perfect. a perfect illusion, ideed! on a positive note, i am happy that i made a dent on your memories. and a blessing in disguise, we remain one in our imperfections. mea culpa. mea culpa. mea maxima culpa.

now, be nice.

Anonymous said...

Hi Gibbs. Obet here. I have to say that I was unexpectedly disappointed with Beowulf. How can something so rich and colorful be as drab and boring? I was scratching my head the whole time, seriously thinking if I am getting too old for a movie like this, or if it was just a bad one... thanks for the "ridiculous" tag on it. Couldn't they even make a decently scary Grendel? If you ask me, it's not just a waste of actors, but a waste of CG too.


lateralus said...

the movie sucked. I agree with your analysis. Why waste great actors by robbing them of their full acting presence?

Haha. The stilletos.

sleepy head said...

you called your teacher beowulf, we called ours grendel!!! haha!

gibbs cadiz said...

MITS, sino yang teacher sa high school, si ms. bongon? hehehe!

PAO, how's the new domain doin? :)

JEFF, haha, sunget ba? i was actually laughing while watching the movie. :)

POYT, ay sowee, super-good boy ako nun. college was another story, nyahaha! :)

JEGO, "...they could fool you into thinking youre watching really bad acting." nice one there! :)

KEVIN, no, not a coincidence. magkaedad talaga tayo. nyee! haha. next time when we watch a play, sama ka na ha. :)

JOE, hehe, time for you to tell us your high school memories. over san mig light again? :)

OBET, hear hear! :)

BENJ, or are we too old really for this kind of stuff? hehe. aay, bata ka pa pala. :)

SLEEPY HEAD, haha, pwede din! :)

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