Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Just Another Magic Monday (Okay, Fine, Wednesday): A Dark Cloud Over The World Of Magic...

.:Just Another Magic Monday (Okay, Fine, Wednesday): A Dark Cloud Over The World Of Magic...:.

For the sake of prudence, I won't use a single photograph in this post. I think it would be for the best.

It's really not a good time to be a magician in the Philippines right now. Not only has there been a saturation in the market with dime-a-dozen magicians crawling out of the woodwork and giving stiff competition to more established magicians solely based on their price point, but the PR beating magic has taken has been insurmountable as of late.

Sure, among magicians, Bearwin Meily's exposure of magic secrets on TV 5 has been quite a big deal, what with even Ellusionist denouncing any connection with the apparent exposure. That affected magicians, but the average person couldn't care less.

There was also a bit of cheapening for magic and mentalism that happened during the whole Mind Master brouhaha where mentalism ended up being put in the same league as the Madame Auring's and the Jojo Acuin's of our society, and overall turning an art form into outright exploitation of the willingness of people to believe in something otherwordly instead of their own capacities.

All of this has yielded a marked difficulty in taking magic seriously, and ironically, utilizing my Laughs And Gasps approach, mixing magic and comedy in a way that makes no attempt to insult the intelligence of the audience, has managed to keep me afloat, personally. Other magicians of sterner stuff than the average have similarly found their own ways to move past exposure and bastardization and still continue to be forces to reckon with in the entertainment world. Hades, Erik Mana is opening for Rex Navarette and Mike Unson tomorrow for Rex's comedy show, so that definitely says a lot about Erik's longevity as a performer.

No, these aren't why I'm saying it's tough to be a magician right now.

I'm saying it's tough to be a magician right now because of what happened last April 3.

I was one of the last people to find out about this. In fact, I found out only last Sunday, from my friend and mentor, Tito Bing Lim-It. To this very moment, I'm still in shock, because I remember having shared the stage with Alakim just sometime last year, and even finding my picture in the newspapers along with his, when Ms. Giselle Sanchez wrote about us for her column in Manila Bulletin. I spoke very highly of Alakim as a professional, then, and I even met his wife during that one time we shared the stage for Ms. Giselle's party.

Later that year, I even met him again as he judged TSC's closeup magic competition, where I was asked to be a host. I have never had a single unpleasant experience with Alakim, and though I cannot speak to how he sees me, I always considered him a friend in the industry.

I guess that's precisely why I still can't believe what happened, and why I simply don't know what to make of this. I will not even try to play an armchair CSI agent and assume Alakim's guilt, because I personally believe in the presumption of innocence until he is proven guilty beyond reasonable doubt. I withhold any judgment on the man, simply because I feel it is unnecessary and uncalled for at this point. I am not an expert, nor would I pretend to be, and the last thing a potentially innocent man needs is yet another person accusing him of killing his wife, when he actually didn't.

Despite that, it is a very dark day for the magic community when a tragedy like this happens. Maricar was prominent enough for most of the magicians who made acquaintance with Alakim to know her, as well. Aside from that, it's difficult to see one of our luminaries have his career snuffed out like that. Guilty or innocent, this will affect Alakim in ways I cannot even begin to predict, much in the way that Ted Failon, despite being exonerated of any suspicions of killing his wife, still has people insisting that he was guilty, as if they were there when his wife died.

If innocent, Alakim is ruined. He is not quite like Ted Failon on the totem pole, after all. If guilty, Alakim ruined himself. Either way, magicians in the Philippines are affected by this, and the biggest parallel I can draw isn't even to the case of Ted Failon, but to a grislier one: Chris Benoit's double-murder and suicide case, which has affected and shaped the pro wrestling industry in ways nobody thought possible. To this day, Chris Benoit never so much as gets mentioned on WWE programming, and all his accolades as a pro wrestler are forever overshadowed by what he has done to his wife and son.

Alakim's actions, or even his circumstances, in no way reflects the actions or circumstances of any other magician in the Philippines. Yet with this case, all magicians, regardless of Alakim's guilt or innocence, will now possibly be viewed more warily purely by association. It's uncomfortable and it's terrible, but nowhere nearly as terrible as having a life snuffed out so needlessly last April 3.

I don't want to end on a note that makes it seem I'm more concerned about the reputation of Philippine magic than about the family that Maricar de Paz left behind. This day is a dark day for the Philippine magic brotherhood far less because of how the average person would look at magicians from this day on (And for all I know, maybe they wouldn't even know about it.), but more so because on that day, we lost two people: Maricar, and Alakim. No matter what happened on that fateful day of April 3, two people who were near and dear to a lot of us are taken away from us, and we end up asking ourselves what happened and why this had to be.

Rest in peace, Maricar. We ever met only once, but I won't ever forget you and the zest for life you had during that one time. May the truth come out and may it lay your soul to rest, and then and only then would I choose to speak about Alakim. They both at least deserve that much.

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