In Memoriam: Noli Manaig

screencap from Noli Manaig’s Michel de Certau’s Metaphors for Everyday Life

Noli Manaig, poet, critic, and filmmaker, died last year at around November due to cancer, as narrated by his cousin, Nel, in an unusual update from their collective blog, the persistence of vision. I would not have found the news if I did not intentionally checked the blog, which I usually do whenever I am at a loss. It confused me for a while today, until I realize that Noli somehow exists in a similar vein within my world.

Noli is not someone you’ll come across accidentally. At least that’s how it happened to me. Back in the latter days when blogging is where ideas about film and film criticism are centered, Noli’s and Nel’s blog, the persistence of vision, will always come up in a blogroll, sporting a screenshot from Raya Martin’s A Short Film About the Indio Nacional as its banner. That’s how I always remember reading Noli and Nel. 

Noli eventually moved on to a different blog, Closely Watched Frames by the turn of the 2010s. There’s this infamous incident back when Noli decided to become active in cinephilia facebook (back then represented by CINEPHILES!) around the same time, and, around late 2011 or so, stumbled upon a brief debacle with Richard Bolisay about Whammy Alcazaren’s thesis movie. I remember Noli writing a long response he titled “Let us compare scatologies” which I remember was such a fun read. My only regret was that I never managed to archive that piece, Noli eventually deleted it from his blog. 

From then on, I am on a constant watch to every piece Noli will write in Closely Watched Frames. Noli’s criticism represents something at the time that was abhorred by a general consensus in the local film scene: his criticism is laced with academic-theoretical language. What, however, sets Noli apart from his actual academic counterparts is that his theoretical prowess is already synthetic with his critical impulse. He does not, unlike academic film theory, use films in the service of theory, but rather borrow from that pool of complexity to assess a work. Noli’s film criticism, first and foremost, uses the language of complexity to expound on the thematics of the work and weigh the work with regards to the thematic burden it tries to carry. Only years later, when I began my own threading into this theoretical line, I began to understand the demands of Noli’s criticisms. 

It would not be far off to say that I made the theoretical shift later on partly due to my affection for Noli’s criticisms. That Missing Codec is an attempt to make a materialist version (or a budget-version) of Closely Watched Frames. Even today, whenever asked who I think wrote the best film criticism, I always mention Noli Manaig after Edel Garcellano. 

I never met him throughout the years. There was a time that he stopped posting anything (2014), the same year Noli won the Palanca award for his poem The God Botherers. For that year, only a post for a short experimental video entitled “The Nativity will Not be Televised” was present. From then on, I get the feeling that Noli will eventually jump to making films. In 2019, he submitted the film Michel de Certeau’s Metaphors for Everyday Life in that year’s edition of Gawad CCP Para sa Alternatibong Pelikula at Video, a humorous documentary hybrid reflecting on the PNR train system. He went on winning the first prize. 

For most terminally online intellectuals, he’s probably most remembered as the entrepreneur of the Heteronymous Books online store, a somehow carefully curated online bookstore that manages to surprise me with his choices every single time. 

I have nothing but admiration for Noli. I don’t even know what he looked like, and, as I mentioned earlier, to think of him is always intentional. I always re-read Noli’s blog if I think I don’t have the right perspectives on films, despite our political differences. His cancer made me think of Noli as a body, somehow, someone that I do not have an image of. I know he does not owe me this. I am not sure if I will ever be regretful that I never met him even once. But encountering Noli through his works — his mind, gives me a glimpse of his very person whom I learned a lot from. His mind’s generosity, I owe to him.

Rest in Power, Noli. 

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