Archive for January, 2010

of cliches and timeless tactics

Posted in film school teacher talk, scriptwriting on January 23, 2010 by leaflens

I saw this link on cinemassacre.com posted by a colleague on facebook, and I can’t help but laugh at what it suggests. The feature tells of the top 10 movie cliches daw na sawang-sawa na ang author nito na napapanood sa sine.

I laughed a lot at most of the entries but the other entries I didn’t really find funny. It’s nice that someone does these countdown things for fun, pero I guess if you’re not a scriptwriter, you won’t realize that some of these cliches are timeless strategies to help move the film’s narrative forward, lalo na ‘yung unang-una, what he called the “stupid villains” who talk a lot just when they are about to shoot the bida or the protagonist. James Bond films daw marami nito.

It’s not such a cliche. It’s a dramaturgical device actually, na tinawag ding “monologuing” thanks to The Incredibles (when that non-superhero boy villain was explaining his tactic to Mr. Incredible) or originally, this was simply called “villain speech.” All action movies have this. Whether you see it as they suffer from it or it’s a needed device in Act 2 of the 3-act dramaturgical structure, it’s up to you. But it works. Kaya nga siya naging cliche, e.

Sorry can’t help it. The scriptwriting teacher in me needed to say that heheh. Ito kasi ang lesson namin in the next two weeks, plotting and dramaturgical devices, kaya tumambad sa utak ko ang reaksiyones na itey. Still, aliw naman ang site na iyon.

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muni muna

Posted in Hollywood dream factory, movie musical, sine muni with tags on January 15, 2010 by leaflens

Iniisip ko kung gagawan ko ng review ang ALVIN AND THE CHIPMUNKS (THE SQUEAKQUEL) pero parang wala naman yatang masyadong makabuluhang masasabi tungkol sa pelikulang iyon. Unless makabuluhan sa inyo ang nag-cameo appearance doon si Charice Pempengco, ang wonder singer na youtube discovery ni Ellen Degeneres at pinasikat. Sabi ng girlfriend ko, ‘yung Jabbawockees (tama ba spelling?) andun din, sila ‘yung hottest dance group na pulos Asian-Americans ang halo, at may Pinoy din daw yata doon. Di ko sigurado kasi sa cable TV yata sila sumikat, e wala akong cable sa bahay mula nang lumipat na ako sa condo. Wala lang, ayoko lang. I can live without TV actually, but not movies, of course.

Hm siguro saka na lang si Alvin. Para kasing kung pagkain ang pelikula, potato chips lang sila. E ang gusto ko ngayon e medium-rare steak. So malabo. Hindi swak ang feel.

Gusto ko ring ituloy ang MMFF09 reviews ko pero parang gusto ko munang habulin ang dalawa pang pelikulang pinalabas ulit sa sinehan malapit sa amin, ‘yung dalawang drama na MANO PO at I LOVE YOU GOODBYE. Pero dahil wala dito ang aking constant movie date at umuwi sa prubinsiya, parang wala akong ganang manood muna mag-isa, kahit ginagawa ko naman talaga iyon.

Hm, daming isipin, ano? Kaya heto, pasado alas-dos ng umaga, gising pa.

Excited din kasi ako sa mga pinanood naming DVD kahapon, and THE PRODUCERS at MIRRORMASK. Ang galing ng disenyo ng huli at maganda ang script ng una. Natawa lang ako dahil sa Mel Brooks production pala ito, mula script, libretto at producing. Kaya pala parang may old-feel sa akin ‘yung humor na pamilyar na, na medyo may kalumaan na bahagya pero komportable pa rin at masaya, kasi nga Mel Brooks pala. Naalala ko tuloy ‘yung ginawa rin niya noon na A HISTORY OF THE WORLD PART 1 kung saan may Hitler-bashing din doon tulad sa THE PRODUCERS. Punyetang “Springtime of Hitler and Germany” na iyan hahaha namatay kami kakatawa. At si Uma Thurman! “Ulla belt now.”Gaga, bakit ngayon ko lang pinanood ito hahaha. Hangsayasaya.

Pero parang ayaw ko ring rebyuhin sila. Iniisip ko pa. Kung sa pagkain, ito kasi parang isaw at brownies. Pero nasa steak mode pa rin nga kasi ako kaya luz. Walang maa-achieve.

Sige sa susunod na lang.

MMFF09: Ang Panday, Ang Queer na Panday, bow!

Posted in Philippine Cinema with tags , on January 9, 2010 by leaflens

Sige, kapit muna sa mga upuan habang binabasa ito. Aba, kung libreng-libre na silang i-remake ito, ako rin magre-remake ng reading!

Kaya ang full title ng aking review ay:
Queering PANDAY, or is that a punyal in your pocket, Flavio, or are you just happy to see Lizardo?

ANG PANDAY

d. mac alejandre
p. imus productions
s. based on Carlo J. Caparas-created comics characters
dop. regiben romana
c. bong revilla and a bunch of his kapuso co-stars

Pitch: The nth cinematic retelling of a classic comics fantasy-based character first brought to life by the late but great Fernando Poe Jr. (FPJ) which features a humble blacksmith chosen by higher powers to become the savior of his oppressed town from the evil clutches of power-hungry Lizardo.

Catch: SO… what’s new? And, um, where’s the script doctor?

Oh my, where do I begin, sabi nga ng kanta. Without the macho man embodiment that Da King of Philippine Cinema FPJ brings into this role always identified with him, it’s now open season for everyone to do their retelling. And seriously, Senator Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr.’s version is so… queer. Oh yes, we have politican-actors; they do this a lot. We are a surreal country, that’s why. Read the news, but I digress.

So where do I begin?  The story structure of this film is basically the same as the original story found in the comics and the earlier film (and even the animated version shown before on TV when I was small) and it still follows the tale of a quiet but respectful maginoo  man, the town blacksmith named Flavio. But this film version takes a short cut in telling a lot of details by instilling an animated plot dump at the beginning of the film to explain a certain evil dude Lizardo’s rise to power in their area, including Flavio’s town named Pulang Lupa, and how a prophesied meteor’s arrival will signal the start of the destruction of Lizardo from the hands of a chosen savior chenescheneschenes. When the animated part was finished, ayun na, live action and special effects ensue. And then my migraine began.

Everything at the beginning of the film shows all the obligatory set-ups needed to introduce the forthcoming plot points, like showing Lizardo and hear his men discuss the prophecy, Flavio and his flashbacks of how Lizardo’s men killed his parents, introducing the lady that will serve as Flavio’s muse to fight later on, and showing muscle-bound bad-acting macho bullies challenging Flavio thereby showing him as a wimp at first but who triumphs in fighting in the end but still remaining humble and maginoo in the process pa rin. However, some of the obligatory set-ups just felt so contrived, as everyone, led by the venerable old man of the town, the blind ex-blacksmith played by Joonee Gamboa, forced the story and the fruition of the prophecy onto the viewers and onto Flavio himself. There are several other circumstances that the townsfolk force the issue upon a reluctant Flavio, as they all point at him to be that Chosen One savior chuva. And herein starts all of the dramaturgical problems. And yes, more migraine for me.

can't help but miss the silver screen presence of FPJ while watching this...

Nothing appears to be queer by this point, but when the meteor arrived, ah, that’s another reading. Like in the comics, Flavio discovers the meteor’s core, picks it up and forges it into a dagger, or punyal as we call it in Filipino. Later on, whenever evil lurks around, the dagger turns into a sword. As recalled by my scriptwriter friend, the original transformation involved Flavio sticking the dagger into the earth, like it gets its power from mother nature or mother earth, and when the panday pulls it out, it becomes a sword already. This time, the mother earth device was eliminated. Thus, whenever Lizardo’s men or presence is felt, the dagger just… grows. It turns into a sword, and only then does the meek and mild-mannered Flavio becomes an emasculated macho defender. Uh, Neil Garcia, help! Eto na ang pagiging badinger-z ng PANDAY!

The way the dagger turned into a sword whenever Lizardo’s men are around or whenever Lizardo himself is around smacks of queerness that caught me off-guard. The scenes where Lizardo perennially taunts Flavio forces you to have this gay reading whether you like it or not. Baka sabihin niyong hindeh, bakla ka lang gurl, kaya ganyan ka manood ng pelikula. Dehins noh. The visuals speak for themselves, and the crappola dialogues contribute to that, and the other plot points.

Of course, there is a lady love, and that might save Flavio from the queer reading. But no, the existence of this lady love, played by the pretty Iza Calzado, was used as a mere carrot to dangle in front of Flavio, just to get the narrative going, as she was abducted by Lizardo to wed her for a strange, unexplained reason (as in “papakasalan ko siya sa ikawalong araw/kabilugan ng buwan, dahil may kapangyarihan siyang makakapagpalakas sa akin kapag nagpakasal kami” and duh, that power or kapangyarihan wasn’t explained, much like when the lady love’s assistant exclaimed “hindi mo ba kami kilala?” like they are royalty, it wasn’t explained or shown just exactly who they are and what power they have/hold. Migraine galore.). There were even times when Flavio, upon embarking on a quest to find the lady and to stop Lizardo, wanted to give up, because he didn’t believe in himself much, ditching the idea of his quest more because of being “afraid” of facing Lizardo, and not even thinking about the rescue-the-girl part — as in, magkalimutan na lang sa lady love teh, kebs na siya. Mas concern niya ang pagharap sa menchu, ati! O ano!

But Flavio didn’t want to be a hero in the first place, yet the townsfolk, led by the venerable old man, were bent on “outing” him as a hero, even if he didn’t think he was one. “Ikaw iyon, Flavio.” Ikaw ang tagapagligtas, Flavio.” “Ikaw ang pipigil sa kasamaan ni Lizardo.” And these lines just come out of nowhere in most scenes that you start wondering how the hell did their community have that collective opinion of him? Does Flavio look like a hero to them (as a swishy gay man looks obviously gay even if he doesn’t announce it)? Why are the others aware of Flavio’s hidden destiny even if Flavio himself is not? Why do they keep on badgering Flavio’s heroism to “come out” (much like how a community would sometimes badger suspected closeted gay men to come out, to magladlad)? And more importantly, why is Flavio so reluctant to “come out” as a hero? We understand the meek and mild-mannered persona, but is it because he is not “well-equipped” to live up to their expectations as a “hero” or savior (much like how gay guys, when outed, are expected to be effeminate women-wannabes even if we all know that not all gay men want to be or act like women)? And of course, what helps Flavio come out? His dagger which turns into a sword, much like how sometimes, the discovery of sexual liberation (by engaging in male-to-male sex) by gay men is what prompts them to “live up to it” and come out as gay. And I already mentioned that this dagger turns into a sword whenever it gets “excited” by the presence of another male.  Um, espadahan, anyone?

Thus, by eliminating the mother earth sword transition, the image of the female as Flavio’s backer and as main source of Flavio’s strength are gone, replaced by a male-to-male presence titillation (pun intended) which has to “explode” in order to achieve its climax each time (as visualized by the exploding effects of the villains whenever they are hit by the sword and explode then turn into ashes flown away by the wind).

It doesn’t help that a mythical female figure enters the picture without much motivation but only as a deus ex machina (or divine intervention, an easy cop-out to resolve a plot problem by merely inserting the solution without explanation). In the process of his fights, Lizardo hurts Flavio and makes him blind, and the sword gets thrown out of frustration. Flavio aimlessly (or more appropriately stupidly) wanders about due to his eyesight-loss panic, and a goddess-like figure named Adora (played by the beautiful Anne Curtis who once starred in the ABS-CBN fantasy teleserye Dyosa) suddenly appears out of nowhere, introduces herself to the blind blacksmith, and challenges Flavio and makes him “potent” again by giving him back his eyesight — without explanation of motivation. Wala lang. Ni hindi natin alam kung sino o ano si Adora. Basta she was just floating there to be gorgeously adored, tapos! More migraine please.

Hay naku, don’t get me started din on Philip Salvador’s two-dimensional acting in this film, and how half of his dialogues all instruct him to do an evil laughter laugh. Kaloka. Puwede ka palang manalo ng best supporting actor sa kaka-evil laughter lang (‘yung talagang nagsisimula sa prefix na “muwa” as in “muwahahahahahahahahhhhhh” ganon). And more so, puwede ka palang manalo ng best actor award sa festival na ito sa kaka-FPJ project lang. Hay… my poor national cinema.

There are a lot more problems than these, kaya lang parang mas gusto ko na lang kumain ng mainit na sopas na luto ng girlfriend ko ngayon kesa isa-isahin sila.

O siya sige, bahala na kayo dito.

Adios.

MMFF09: Nobody Nobody But Juan… but huway?

Posted in Philippine Cinema, Philippine film industry with tags , on January 7, 2010 by leaflens

And I thought my internet connection will already be smooth and working the rest of this week. I thought wrong. I shouldn’t really keep my hopes up about Philippine telcos anymore, but aah, that’s for another blog’s post.

Anyway, let’s to back to the MMFF ’09 entries. Oh yes, I’m not yet through with them. Let’s start with this Quizon-fare of a film.

NOBODY, NOBODY BUT JUAN

d. Eric Quizon
p. RVQ Productions
s. Eric Quizon, Bibeth Orteza
c. Dolphy and a handful of his sons

Pitch: A former pre-war vaudeville-performing old man, bored with his US nursing home life as a Fil-American — even with his sons around — finds enjoyment in watching noontime show Wowowee and thus went back home to Manila to participate in the show.

Catch: New ideas, please. USP’s too thin to be believable or even fantastically funny.

Originally titled JUAN, this film was retitled to include a very popular song of the moment, in this case that “I want nobody nobody but you” Korean ditty. Funny that another Dolphy film would do this title readjustment; just see my previous post about ARINGKINGKING 13 years ago. Oh my, 13 mother? Mother, what about our other dyuuuuties? Chos.

The film is interesting in the beginning, especially when we are shown a nursing retirement home’s environment, one run by Fil-Ams , managed by Pinoy nurses on working visas, and housed with majority of Filipino retirees. You could also get a glimpse here of how media could be powerful as a memory connection tool of Filipinos to their homeland, as the cable TV channel TFC or The Filipino Channel, run by ABS-CBN, serves that purpose on a daily basis. This, too, is a very interesting phenomenon of late, which explains why anybody who hosts a TV noontime show for this station and aired over the cable channel abroad could be (scarily) treated as a god by Pinoy viewers longing for something nostalgic to be delivered to their homes every day. And thus, we see Wowowee noontime show host Willie Revillame being treated as a god, revered as a god, and thus this rubs off on him, of course, as he sometimes acts like a god already, but hey, that’s insider talk hehe. More of that some other time.

Another interesting aspect shown in the beginning is the flashback scenes of the protagonist Juan played by Dolphy, who, as revealed, was a popular vaudeville or bodabil performer onstage during pre-war Manila, where he had a best friend named Tu with whom he does double-act comedy shows (“Juan en Tu” get it? played by Epi Quizon and Vandolph, whose moms are different… ah basta), a lady friend/comic played surprisingly nicely by Pokwang, and of course a lady love in the form of Heart Evangelista’s dancer character. It shows that the older Juan always pines for the good ol’ days of performing, and he misses his friends a lot, whom he lost touch with since the war broke out.

All of these things I mentioned should be enough for a 20-30 minute introduction to set up the beginning of the film and it should give us sufficient clues as to where the film’s narrative should bring us. Plus they serve as very interesting premises for the film’s USP or unique selling point as we call it in scriptwriter lingo, meaning that is something new presented to audiences by a film. But no, the filmmakers stretched this to a very weird one hour (or a little bit more), making you speculate as to where this film is heading. The main conflict was introduced early on, but it was also played out too long for a set-up. I’m talking about the clash between the older Juan, his ander-da-saya doctor son played by Eric Quizon himself, and the clash between Juan and Juan’s daughter-in-law played by G Toengi. All of these things, if tightly written in the plot, could be unearthed in about 30 minutes like I said, but the length just killed the film early on.

So during the height of the conflicts above, it was only then that the film takes another turn, which looks like another plot has been introduced, a secondary plot that runs parallel with the first plot! And it’s not even a subplot or a minor plot, that’s why it appears as lost and convoluted by the second half/hour of the film. This involves Juan being shipped to the care of his other Fil-Am son where Juan finds his passport and bank book hidden in a study desk, takes it, withdraws money and flies back unnoticed in the Philippines. This is part two of his adventures as they take place here already.

His first destination is to see Willie Revillame and watch Wowowee, but in there, he bungles because as we know, it’s not that easy to get in. Plus it was there where he meets his former buddy Tu, now an old man con artist played by Eddie Garcia who sells tickets to Wowowee to unsuspecting TFC subscribers (tickets to these shows are free). As it turns out, Tu and the comedian friend played by Pokwang are still in touch and in cohorts in this racket, where they bungle and hence reunite with Juan in the process. Hay, retelling pa lang, napapagod na ko. What more sa kritiko mismo, aney? Haggardo versoza.

So as you can see, you really have no idea where this film is going because of one seemingly nice plot being dropped like a hot potato in favor of a second plot, leaving no efforts of tying up both plots in a good way. Now, not having a direction is generally not really a bad thing because most European films–if not influenced by Hollywood styles–follow this narrative development. You don’t know where the story is going, but it’s intertextual, and many things are happening in the plot which, when you reach the end, they all tie up nicely as the seemingly disconnected events now appear connected and motivated. With JUAN, you don’t see any intertextuality whatsoever. Man, I’m already having problems accepting the primary context, what more more texts, contexts and subtexts!!! Hindi kaya ng powers ko iyon! And besides, those kinds of styles work only with plots that are character-driven, meaning the story highly depends on what the main character’s decisions will be. But it’s also clear here that JUAN is not character-driven, because his character is not really too three-dimensional to begin with, let alone not very well-written to roll and lead the driving of the story (it’s mostly plot-driven as the circumstances in the story’s plot is what drives the film to move). Hay haggard…

It’s also disappointing to note that the King of Comedy of Philippine cinema has… run out of new jokes. They get so tiresome, and they’re really old, man. Really. I mean, just how many times should you see Dolphy wearing only his exaggerated big briefs or baby lampin-like briefs in one lifetime of cinema-watching? Far too many na ang two. Hay…

And don’t get me started with the ending, where Juan discovers that his lady love is still alive, now played by Gloria Romero, but with Alzheimer’s and thus can’t remember who he is. It turns out that she got married to Tu, who just saved her from embarrassment after the war when she found out she was pregnant with Juan’s child. Ah yes, another mini-plot na sinubukang ipa-take off na di naman lumipad. Ang labo. Ewan.

I really am disappointed because this film could have said more about a lot of things it presented here — Fil-Am nursing home life and people involved, the Wowowee TFC-Philippine connection, the colorful bodabil history! Ang dami e. But well, they were lost on what plot point to prioritize, I think, that’s why they ended up with something so crazily convoluted. Oh well.

I hope they find more suitable material for Dolphy during his remaining years instead of this crappola material they wrote for him. He deserves more than that. Hell, he was Facifica Falayfay ano ba! Tapatan niyo naman iyon! But well, there are no more Lino Brockas kasi… oh well.

I’d pass up this one if I were you. Or wait for it in ABS-CBN’s other cable channel Cinema One, where you could watch it for free. It’s not worth all the 145 pesos I paid for it. Mga 40 pesos lang siguro. No wait, mas masaya pa ‘yung melon Fruitas shake kong ininom nang manood ako e. Okay 25 pesos.

Next!

My MMFF: ’96, ’97 and ’09

Posted in Philippine film industry, production life with tags , on January 4, 2010 by leaflens

To start this blog rolling, what better way than to scrutinize  the yearly festival which mainstream film industry practitioners peg as the festival that saves the nearly dying / dying / at its deathbed (choose your own era or who to believe) Philippine cinema — the Yuletide season Metro Manila Film Festival or MMFF.

This past year, we saw seven films competing for the usual MMFF box-office and “artistic merit” prizes, all produced by mainstream film companies like GMA Films, Star Cinema, Regal Entertainment, M-Zet or that Vic Sotto-owned film company, RVQ or that Dolphy-owned flm company, and the producer of the Manny Pacquiao film (I forget). Bigtime film and teleserye or telenobela (TV soap operas) stars came to grace the silver screen films as old and newer directors and filmmakers helmed the stories, special effects and other technical and artistic stuff.

But as I started conceptualizing the entry for this blogpost, I had to restrain myself because I was just asked to write an overall MMFF09 review for a publication. So to avoid redundancy, what I’m going to write here is a personalized individual review of the MMFF entries I saw over the holidays in the days to come. And by personal review, this means I will be my old usual “comic cynic cinema critic” self as I narrate to you all what I really, really, REALLY think of these films. Really, if you are not familiar with my style, then hop on over to my original blog leaflens.blogspot.com (also archived at libaycantor.multiply.com) and search the entries with the tags “cine chichirya” to read my previous short film reviews of films I saw. I plan to transfer or cross-post those old film reviews here anyway, but since I still have an ongoing saga with my home broadband service provider, that won’t happen as yet. Soon.

So for now, let’s start with an MMFF primer of sorts first.

MMFF was conceived by film industry professionals decades ago primarily to continue a rich artistic heritage of Philippine cinema which dates as far back as the early 1900s, and secondly as a way of combating a worldwide problem besetting national cinemas of non-western regions, continents or countries — the proliferation of Hollywood films which dominate domestic box-office sales and in the process marginalizing locally-produced films in their own native lands. If you think only the Philippines has this problem — and yes, it is considered a problem — then wake up and smell the celluloid chemicals. Our once prestigious national cinema has been losing this battle with products from the Hollywood dream factory ever since our economy decided to take a nosedive and do downward flips like Greg Lougainis at the Olympics, especially during the 1990s when the advent of pirated VCDs and DVDs also boomed as the Asian market crash happened. With the boom of the internet, the downloading of films became easy, and many people were content at watching films in their smaller screens than in the silver screens. And it doesn’t help that we continue to have corrupt government after corrupt government that makes our lives miserable by having inflation after inflation of whatever they could inflate, deflating our already meager sources of income which do not leave us with enough disposable income to spend on movies at the malls, and current a government that does not really uphold nor support the arts in general. So of course if we have little movie money, we spend it on surefire cinematic hits na lang, or in short, escapist Hollywood products. So if at first the MMFF was also conceived to highlight Filipino cinematic talent, that objective took a backseat to the grander objective of making Pinoys watch local films again instead of just following Hollywood films like zombies.

Hay, yes, we were once prestigious, believe me, like Cannes prestigious. If you are one of the thousands of neocolonial Pinoys who think any other foreign-made film is better than Filipino films, then let me encourage you to take a look at the history of Philippine Cinema. As early as the 1940s, our films have been featured in the western world, in international film festivals, and before the war (or do you even remember the Japanese ever invading us? Yep, pre-anime era, folks.). Or just try watching Lino Brocka, Ishmael Bernal or Mike de Leon films or the newer digital independent films of late and you’ll see that hey, Pinoys Got (cinematic) Talent. Huwag mo namang masyadong maliitin ang sarili mong mga kababayan, chong. We have a term for that, right? Crab mentality. Snip it away, folks! Snip it away.

So segue naman to my own MMFF experience. Kung kaya pa ng powers mo, basa lang!

my mmff badge pass thingie, plus a movie pass sample

As I worked in the film industry right after graduating from film school in the mid-1990s, I found myself immersing in MMFF lore when our company, Premiere Entertainment Productions or PEP (originally known as Premiere Productions, one of the four pillar film companies during the Golden Age of Philippine Cinema in the 1950s), produced a Dolphy starrer with the leading lady du jour, Fil-Am pretty Anjanette Abayari, in a 1996 film originally entitled “Ang Bodyguard Kong Sexy” (“My Sexy Bodyguard”). But there was also a popular campy novelty song at that time, and our company scrambled to procure the rights to use the song and append it to our original title. Appending such ditties have been an industry practice not just in film but also in TV, especially in TV teleserye or telenobela titles, to add more familiarity and to hope that the song’s popularity will rub off on the shows/films themselves. Thus, our 1996 MMFF entry was retitled
“Aringkingking: Ang Bodyguard Kong Sexy.” Yes, you can laugh now.

our cubicle, freshening up before the parade

If you’re already familiar with the MMFF practice, then you know that in the whole of Metro Manila (and recently in neighboring provinces, and last I learned, even faraway provinces na pala), only MMFF film entries are shown for 10 straight days beginning with Christmas Day. So come December 24, there is the usual Parade of Floats/Stars (I forget what it’s called now) where the film companies prepare trucks and make floats to feature their featured film entries, while some of the celebrities of the films ride the float and wave to people watching the parade. Of course film commpany staff are also present in the floats to assist these celebrities by handing them candies to throw at the parade watchers, even other movie collaterals and merchandise such as movie posters, fans, stickers or whatever giveaways were made.

I was once such a staff, being an able-bodied, quick-thinking and fast-moving 23-year old back then, who handed a pre-pubescent Vandolph and Boy2 Quizon candies and posters to throw to the parade onlookers (dahil kung hindi, sila ang itatapon ko sa audience sa kakulitan at kaguluhan sa itaas ng float arrrgggh!!!). The ever-so-game and kind Mang Dolphy, truly a legend and icon in the entertainment industry, was happily waving to the onlookers as we strived to shield Anjanette Abayari’s already sun-kissed complexion from the afternoon December sun with the aid of what looked like a beach umbrella. Hay, those were tiring but fun times, I tell you.

PEP staff after the MMFF parade

But that wasn’t the highlight of my MMFF years. The next year was more memorable, as I was an able-bodied, quick-thinking and fast-moving 24-year old who was handpicked by PEP president Cirio H. Santiago (or Bos CH as we called him) to be part of his pet film directorial project, the remake of Anak Ng Bulkan, originally a 1950s black-and-white fantasy film starring a pre-pubescent Ace Vergel (yup, the drug addict actor) and directed by Emmanuel Roxas, the father of one of PEP’s vice-presidents (Bos CH was himself the son of PEP founders who helped making FPJ, Bos CH’s kumpare, popular during his youthful years), the updated Bulkan film featured a G.I. baby protagonist in the form of a pubescent Tom Taus Jr. featuring newer animatronics and postproduction special animation effects that animated the fictional pterodactyl-like mythical bird creature which the volcano coughed out during eruption, and set in the onslaught of the Mount Pinatubo explosion in Pampanga.

We actually had two MMFF entries that year, and the other one was the Judy Ann Santos and Nora Aunor starrer “Babae” (“Woman”) which was the pet project of Bos CH’s younger sister and the Marketing VP of PEP, Ms. Digna  Santiago (whom we all call Ms. Dee). Even if I was already transferred to the Marketing Division then from being under the Office of the President, Bos CH still wanted me to be in the Bulkan team, so I stayed. So the other younger people in the office — my office barkada — were all involved in Babae, which was directed by legendary director Lupita Kashiwahara, who also directed a Ms. Dee-produced Ate Guy starrer “Minsan Isang Gamu-Gamo.” And yes, that was the year that another Bos CH’s kabarkada, Erap, decided to run for president, and he made Direk Lupita’s life hell by borrowing Ate Guy in his campaign efforts, leaving her scheduled shootings and voice dubbings hanging heheh. And of course, we all sat helpless in our office cubicles as we watched Ninoy’s direk sister angst it out while pacing back and forth as if she was staging Medea and it was already the “I will kill my children” scene heheh. Hay, those were the days…

sample movie pass. it's actually one of the earliest violence against women (VAW)-awareness films because it was done partly in partnership with the Dept. of Health

Bos CH wanted me in the Bulkan team because when I was just a month old in the company, he asked my then first boss there, Talent Division Manager Giselle Sanchez (yes, my ko-MassComm-er in UP Diliman), to ask someone to make a synopsis of the more than 150-page screenplay of Bulkan. And since Giselle was not cinematically trained to write such things, she passed it on to me, which was natural for me to do, because I was already transitioning to be a scriptwriter at that time, from my original film school ambition of becoming a cinematographer, and coming from an advanced scriptwriting workshop where we were trained by a French film school teacher and scriptwriter, who became like an older sister to me to this very day, but that’s another film story. So in short, I handed Bos CH a 4-page synopsis which kinda blew him away, I think, and immediately put me on his team and asked me to report to the first production meeting of Bulkan at his house, even if I didn’t exactly know what I was supposed to do for the team. Sometimes he would ask my opinion about some things in the films story or narrative development, but I was shy to intrude upon the territory of the scriptwriter, his barkada and also the scion of entertainment giants, Jose Mari Avellana, whose parents are National Artist for Theater Daisy Avellana and National Artist for Film Lamberto Avellana lang naman noh! Itsura kong taubin siya, right? So I just kept quiet.

Bos Ch (left) and direk Jomari during a production meet

But Bos CH really want me involved, and found Bulkan-related things for me to do (even if Ms. Dee was also pulling my arm to write her Babae press releases, as I was her official press release writer naman talaga for all films). In the end, I became the Bulkan “product placement girl” who scoured the script looking at possible scenes and shots to insert possible product placements which we could then offer to the products’ companies as a kind of paid advertisement (whether in cash or in exchange deals which means they give us some non-cash thingie in exchange for having their products “casually” advertised in our film). So if there’s a scene where the boy protagonist was searching for the flying creature bird in the dark using a flashlight, insert Eveready batteries and flashlight here. You get the drift. If you think this is weird, take a look at Sofia Coppola’s directorial debut “Lost In Translation” where an actual credit for a product placement person was listed. But back here at home, we don’t credit such jobs, but such jobs are done anyway.

Since I also had filmmaking background — and since I expressed to Bos CH and to VP Roxas that I want to train as a cinematographer pa rin somehow — they put me in the team the VP for Television Boots Anson Roa was making, the team that will do the TV special of The Making of Anak ng Bulkan. But another actor’s offspring was our director and someone else was scriptwriter of that project, so I ended up as the cameraperson of the behind-the-scenes (BTS) footage and the assistant of the editor in editing the TV special. My film school barkada, Hech, whom I convinced to apply in PEP, too, was on board the Bulkan BTS special, too,while he was not busy being Ms. Dee’s handpicked staff for the Babae project. Yes, if I was like Bos CH’s pet that time, Hech was Ms. Dee’s. I guess it’s the first time they interacted with youngsters who was so gung-ho about films and filmmaking like they were, and were educated in it to boot, and who had exciting ideas like they did. Yes, it was a dream job all right. And the Santiagos were dream bosses, their eccentricities included. It
also helped that there are other UP-bred people aboard the marketing team, like fine arts grad Carlo, our graphics and poster whiz, and Ene, our resident artistic babaeng bakla publicity and promotions person, together with other cool people like Ms. Dee’s assistant Nette and marketing person Che, and a host of other youngsters like us. Boy those were really the days.

that's me lugging the vhs cam (!) to shoot behind-the-scenes Bulkan footage

So what happened was, I was in the float of Bulkan babysitting Beth Tamayo and Tom Taus Jr. while the rest were in Babae. That was indeed very fun. We had the giant replica of the mechanical bird creature on the float, and it was a hoot!

Times change, I guess. People don’t really go out of their way to see this parade anymore, except for a few. I saw the MMFF parade footage in showbiz news and attendance was really dismal compared to a decade ago. But it’s good that people still go out and watch movies, if we look at the ticket sales of the movies. But the ticket grosses should alert producers to sit up and take notice of what people really want out of the film industry. After all, it’s no joke to shell out 145 pesos for a film and it’s even frustrating if the film turns out to be a dud.

Hm, did they? Let’s see. Wait for my reviews.

Ito muna for now. Buena mano posting lang for the new year. And if you’re curious about the months-long absence, it’s because it was only lately that I had my home landline and broadband connection restored after my city was gravely hit by Typhoon Ondoy last September 2009.

Ah yeah, Philippine telcos. That’s for another post in my other blog. Abangan!

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