Archive for the production life Category

MMFF 2013: 10000 Hours

Posted in action-drama film, film festival, MMFF, Philippine Cinema, Philippine film industry, production life, suspense-thriller film, women's issues in film on December 26, 2013 by leaflens

A first look at the box office results and it seems that Binoe’s latest action caper is like second to the last or something. But no! I believe this film should be seen by many since it’s well made. It’s not your average Pinoy action film mga beks. Anyway here’s my take on it na lang.

10000hours poster10000 HOURS

d. Joyce Bernal

p. Philippine Film Studios

sc. Teresa Barrozo

c. Robin Padilla, Bela Padilla, Carla Humphries, Michael De Mesa and basically a host of fine talents the country has to offer right now

Pitch: A senator about to disclose corruption details decides to run to Amsterdam instead and the story is his life as he was treated as a fugitive chenelyn chuvaness.

Catch: Script a bit didactic at times. But when one talks of corruption in Philippine politics/government/society, we all tend to wax poetic/speak in tongues/swear like there’s no tomorrow anyway, so what the hey.

Never mind that the film was loosely based on the life nga of Senator Ping Lacson as the producers and the PR said. Please overlook that “trivia.” And if you also want to enjoy this film, overlook na lang the fact that Robin Padilla sometimes overacts like he swallowed a “hey I’m a senator so I have to act this way” pill. Yes, some actors are burdened by roles like that: they don’t ingest and digest the role properly.

But what the hey. At least most of the time, we get to see the story unfolding around the senator protagonist. This is clearly a plot-driven narrative wherein the persecuted protagonist just goes with the flow of what happens, even if there’s this impression that the events transpire because he willed it. Anyway, scriptwriting talk aside, I like this film because the tightness of the script’s structure works for me. And it was in tandem with how the film was directed, shot, edited and scored. All of those major aspects working well in this film, working well together, I should add. No pabida effect. Not even the acting was pabida, meaning the actors knew their places and there was no outshining someone else, as they all were in character and played according to what the script/story/directing called for. Now that’s filmmaking at its finest. Like what I’ve always taught my students, filmmaking is teamwork, and I saw that here, clearly.

And yes, I should commend this because this is rare in Philippine cinema — or at least rare in the last decade or so. To see a film na pinag-isipan bago pa man ito mag-roll sa day1 shoot, that’s really something I admire. You would sometimes detect if a film was just treated in the usual “bahala na shoot” where shots appear tentative, dialogues appear trite and putting the film together appeared like such a chore for the editor. Dito, hindi. I think it helps that we have a director who’s sensitive to how a film will be edited, since Bb. Joyce’s original training was that of an editor kasi. Ito ‘yung may pulso. Kaya kailangan, alam din niya ang tirada ng camera, saan ito ipupuwesto para ‘pag niyari sa post, madali at smooth, mas madali pulsuhan ang edit.

And that’s what happened here. Most sequences had your usual invisible editing style wherein shots flow smoothly kahit cut to cut lang. Magic of filmmaking at its finest and most classic in approach. No fancy edits or paarte shots needed if you know your basics of filmmaking and you know how to harness the tech stuff well. But I also love the way they mapped out the senator’s escape sequences because they were also playful here. The dynamic way of shooting it was seeing the action thru CCTV cams interspersed with the usual stalker-type shots. Then edit them together and present them in multi-frame playback in one frame, but creatively, and you get a good and well-edited thriller that I haven’t seen in a long time in Philippine cinema. Oo, I really have to emphasize that because I love cinema and I love Pinoy ingenuity, and I hate how some producers or film outfits prioritize profit over ingenuity in this “business” cum artform. Hayst but that’s another blogpost na lang hane…

Mataas pati ang overall production value ng film na ito. It’s smooth and clean, well-lit and well-scored. Sakto ang elements sa pacing ng action as it unfolds. I admire the Amsterdam shots and they’re very lucky to have that creative freedom to shoot around town. Kahit ‘yung Pinas scenes naman malinis kaya like I said, mataas ang production values ng film so kudos sa producers ito. So yes, this is not you run-of-the-mill Pinoy action film but it’s more of a drama thriller with action sequences, let’s just put it that way. Action was a necessity only when the senator had to fight off villains after him. I appreciate the martial arts moves, the boxing and muay thai techniques shown “quietly” by Robin here, meaning parang fight sequences siya na totoong puwedeng mangyari in real life. So it’s not your exag x 50 action star acting. Sakto lang, and that works perfectly well for the drama it’s trying to unfold.

And the drama is where the didactic elements enter. Unavoidable, as I said, because the film is about the senator revealing who in the past and present government is in on the corruption stuff that he knows and discovered during his policeman days of fighting kidnap-for-ransom syndicates. Of course this means corruption that reaches the higher echelons of the ruling class in the country, from generals to high politicians yadda yadda yadda. Yes, alam na alam na natin itong mga storyline na ito, bilang Pilipino na sumusubaybay sa bawat corruption scandal na sulpot nang sulpot na parang kabute sa balita. At lahat tayo, may opinyon sa mga kaganapan, pedestrian man o “expert.” Kaya minsan, ‘yung mga linya sa pelikula, ganyan din ang tunog. Kaya didactic. Pero dahil madrama naman talaga tayong mga Pinoy in general, we forgive it.

But this kinda ending scene takes the cake. Didactic visualized = overkill. Minus 10 points for Gryffindor ito.

But this kinda ending scene takes the cake. Didactic visualized = overkill. Minus 10 points for Gryffindor ito.

And being didactic nga is unavoidable, especially given the kind of protagonist you have. If you really look at the heart of it, the story is about how an idealistic person still believes in the rule of law and abhors the corrupt who tarnishes it, because he loves his country so much. But it also discusses nuances that will make you think. Like for example, I like the way they were discussing when to reveal what they know. If I remember it right, there was a line there that said “sa tamang gobyerno/administrasyon” lang nila ilalabas ‘yung alam nila, timing para kalabanin ang matataas at malakas. And that’s very interesting for me. Kailan nga ba tamang oras maging tapat na Pilipino? May panahon pala ito, may oras? Kung whistleblower ka, kailan ka hindi mabibilaukan ng pitong ikaw mismo ang pumito para marinig ng lahat? Sadly, if you’ve been watching the news, you’ll know the answer to this already, to the point of being numb to the issues. Aminin, nakakapagod na. Pero nakakatuwa rin kapag may efforts tayong nakikita para baguhin ito, kaya tayo mismo ay lumalarga at nakikialam na, sa paraang kaya at alam natin. Hello Million People March Against Pork Barrel nga, di ba? There you go, people power Philippines, there you go.

Behind every great man is an even greater woman, gun handling optional. Good acting a must.

Behind every great man is an even greater woman, gun handling optional. Good acting a must.

But back to the film. Commendable are the actors here who played their roles well, regardless of how big or small they might be. As I blogged about in my media+pop culture site, I was lucky enough to be part of this year’s MMFF Most Gender Sensitive Film Award jury, so I’ve seen this film way before its Christmas release. And to tell you a secret, this film I voted as my number 2 choice for this particular award, simply because I like the mix of how women were portrayed here. A great revelation for me is Bela Padilla who looked like your “average” pretty broadcast journalist/reporter who turned out to have a chip off her shoulder which made her do the things she did in the story. She pulls off the role believably well, as she reminds me of colleagues and friends in the industry who indeed act and talk like that at work and at home, mga matatapang na palaban pero smart-ass din hehe. This girl should have more meatier roles in the future. Philippine showbiz, please be kind to this talent. At ilabas niyo nga sila ni Bea Alonzo sa isang pelikula hehe bagay silang mag-twin bill starrer teh! Magka-peg sa talent at ganda at aura hehe. But that’s just me.

Minahal ko siya lalo sa eksenang ito. A good confrontation scene with a very good plot twist of sorts. Haha I kras U Bela na talaga ang peg. #dykewoes

Minahal ko siya lalo sa eksenang ito. A good confrontation scene with a very good plot twist of sorts. Haha I kras U Bela na talaga ang peg. #dykewoes

I also liked the way women were pivotal in the life of the senator. Carla Humphries’ role in the Amsterdam portion was also good as she played this parang espionage-like maiden who was sophisticated enough to maneuver around town to legally/illegally help the senator, at the same time passing off as “just another person in town” to help conceal her true identity and the identity of the senator eklavu. Basta, it worked for me. Good characterization always works for me.

I’m just not happy with the two other women roles here, particularly the Philippine president role played by Bibeth Orteza. But hey, we know presidents could be corrupt, yes? Even if they’re women, yes? Okay, I’ll just leave that thought there.

Anak ka ba ng ina mo, o ng ama mo? Good acting nonetheless from Mylene, as usual. Although I don't think I could totally shake off the fact na junakis niya ang boylet na 'yan in age and stuff. Heniweys hemingways moving on...

Anak ka ba ng ina mo, o ng ama mo? Good acting nonetheless from Mylene, as usual. Although I don’t think I could totally shake off the fact na junakis niya ang boylet na ‘yan in age and stuff. Heniweys hemingways moving on…

As for the other woman, it’s Mylene Dizon who plays the senator’s ever-supportive wife. How I wish this character were a bit stronger in trying to pull her act together to keep her family left behind. But on the other hand, I also understand the vulnerability that such a burden would do to a woman like her. Mabigat, at masakit sa loob na sinusumbatan din siya ng anak na lalaki sa isang banda. I wish this character were stronger, but maybe it needed to be weak, to show how the male sons were struggling to be strong din. Hit and miss for me, but I understand the characterization nonetheless. So there.

So that’s my takeaway on this film. The moment the screening finished, I was happy to note that this film is way better than an action film they were touting as great earlier this year. Ahmsareeeh I think this is relatively better, lamang ng sampung paligo ito teh! Also happy to note that some of my former students (both formal and “informal” hehe) also worked in this film pala. Gujab guys! I’m so proud of you, as always. ‘Wag lang lalaki ulo, ha. ‘Yan lang naman bilin ko lagi sa inyo from day1 hehe.

So I do hope you catch it, and I do hope it wins awards on Friday. Let’s see. Goodluck and kudos!


sumu-showbiz…and then some

Posted in advocacy filmmaking, my production work, PBB, production life on December 31, 2011 by leaflens

It was also the year of going back to old loves — photography (both point-and-shoot + manual DSLR-ing), scriptwriting, and filmmaking. And doing some showbiz-oriented whatnots.

Taught a summer session on Basic Scriptwriting Workshop at UPFI

shooting three short documentaries for Mama Cash Netherlands here in Quezon City, Philippines

joined the Pinoy Big Brother team of volunteer writer-interviewers...

...and hung out with fellow kooky writers... different parts of the Philippines.

Accepted duties at the Cinemalaya film congress at the CCP.

(on location in Cavite) Got my heart into another advocacy filmmaking venture...

(on location in GenSan)...doing a short documentary on positive discipline...

(on location in Davao)...bringing a small but formidable production team with me...

(on location in Cebu)...interviewing parents, teachers and children...

(Children's Month launch)...for a project on children's rights.

Also tried my hand at directing a live event for the first time in my life...

..and it was awesome, in a high adrenalin way.

Sige lang 2011, maraming salamat sa mga kaganapang ito. And more for next year!

Mama Cash project 1: The Voice Convening

Posted in advocacy filmmaking, documentary film, my production work, production life on October 23, 2011 by leaflens

Since I updated my hardware at home, I am now more capable of dealing with online video things. So I was able to finally upload one of the latest projects I’ve done this year.

This is a music video-ish type of work I did for Mama Cash, an international NGO of sorts (mostly doing funding stuff) based in the Netherlands. They were here in Manila last May for a convening of their funded groups or something to that effect. Thanks to their cool communications team for this opportunity, also via my old international NGO office Isis International Manila.

What was really fun with this project is that I got to interact with different women, lesbian, queer and trans advocates from all over, as that is what Mama Cash supports. Also, I was able to practice what little I know of French and Spanish hehe in terms of understanding their basic thoughts during editing. We had the help of a translator onsite but when I was editing, I found out that she was actually shortening some of the words the interviewees were saying, so thus, my foreign language knowledge helped in that aspect. This actually made me want to go back to polish my French and maybe relearn Spanish, as I found out that I am more adept at making small talk in French rather than Spanish na. Hmm interesting.

Anyway, just thought I’d share the video here. Because I don’t want people to also “think” (heheh) that I am just a “critic” and not a “doer” so hence, ayan. Echosera! 🙂 Wala lang. Some people might accuse me of not walking the talk when I critic kasi, so ayan, proof! Poof! 😛 Hahaha cryptic lang.

Will try to upload more links of other works as soon as they are uploaded online.

I heart digital technology.

Iyo na! Iyong-iyo na!

Posted in drama film, Philippine Cinema, Philippine film industry, production life with tags on September 5, 2010 by leaflens

Or in short, my review of SA ‘YO LAMANG. Sa ‘yo na talaga! Iyong-iyo na! Baunin mo na, iuwi mo na! Chos.


d. Laurice Guillen

p. Star Cinema-ABS-CBN

story by five people, script by three people

dop. Lee Meily

c. Lorna Tolentino, Christopher de Leon, Bea Alonzo, Coco Martin and a bunch of ABS-CBN TV talents

Pitch: A seemingly well-to-do family’s life suddenly flips when their father — who abandoned them and was absent for ten years of their lives — suddenly returns and moves back in the house. Imagine the drama. Ho-hum.

Catch: It’s like watching your garden-variety nightly melodrama series. Ho-hum.

Let me share something I picked up in the becky world recently. The beckys (bakla) have this new expression of jest whenever someone seems to sound like they are grandstanding, intended or not, when they’re telling a story. Sort of like the pabidahan “wala ka sa Lolo ko” hirit. The beckys would say “Ikaw na! Ikaw na ang __!” Insert your own adjective in the blank, depending on the conversation you’re having. Ikaw na ang maganda at tinitigan ni Piolo nang nag-jogging siya sa UP Oval! Or maybe Ikaw na ang sikat na bineso-beso ni Angel Aquino sa La Union! Something like that. A variation of this is “Iyo na! Iyo na ang ___!” which also means the same thing, but to take it up to a level, like Miss Universe level, they could say “Iyo na ang spotlight/korona/scepter dahil __!” State your own reasons in the blank. So that’s like an added interpretation whenever someone would say “Sa ‘yo na!” and all that.

You learn something new everyday, noh? Chos.

But anyway, this film didn’t really fare well for me, having just participated in a regional meeting of the IAWRT or the International Association of Women in Radio and Television last week, where I entered as a happy observer and ended up as an impromptu speaker on the portrayals of women in Philippine cinema. Wadapak! But of course we pulled it off, since this topic is right up our alley — which doesn’t seem to be up the alley of the filmmakers of this here film. Hay.

Where do I begin? Hm, the producers?

Ikaw na! Ikaw na, Star Cinema, ang gumagawa ng pelikulang may gloss! Sure, call it high, clean production values. At least the people who work in their production design dept. seem to have a good handle of how to PD things. And Lee Meily’s lighting helps, too. So that’s a strength.

Ikaw na! Ikaw na, Lorna T. ang magdala ng universal women sufferance role! Sabi nga ng aking co-CINE CHICHIRYA host last Friday where we discussed Filipino families in film, women who were left behind seem to be the martyr who needs to carry this sufferance thing to the next level. I can’t imagine how a woman who was screwed over by her philandering husband not once, not twice, not thrice, but many times more, and then being left by that husband to take care of four kids for ten years, and then the husband comes back when his mistress leaves him, and then discovers that the husband is still trying to take care of the mistress who came back with a baby on the way, hay… I’ll stop myself. Sino’ng tanga ang tatanggap sa kanya? Eto, ang karakter ni Lorna T. Kaya ikaw na! Ikaw na talaga ang martir!

Ikaw na, ikaw na, Tope, ang hari ng mga macho shit double standard! When it was revealed that, during one of the first times his character had an affair, the wife — probably in retaliation — also had an affair that bore a child. When she was confessing this to him, he had the gall to say “Walang lugar ang batang ‘yan sa bahay na ito! Pini-pendeho mo lang ako!” Yeah, fuck you, too. When the wife commits adultery, she is shamed here to no end, to the point of having her abandon that child and give it up for adoption for the sake of keeping her legal family intact. Ano’ng intact? E iniwan nga rin sila ng nag-pendehong padre de familia, e. Nubah! Bullshit macho shit!

Ikaw na, ikaw na, Bea Alonzo, ang magkaroon ng ultra-schizophrenic characterization sa buong pelikulang ito! Her character, being the eldest child, takes on the padre de familia role with resentment, and she doesn’t let anybody forget this fact in like every other sequence.  The hardworking, successful, no-nonsense interior designer persona in the beginning suddenly takes a nosedive when a lover from her past, Diether Ocampo’s character, suddenly comes back, and she just throws all things in abandon as she dives into a beginning of an affair with him, leaving the poor, kind fiance of hers hanging on the side. And then she lectures her siblings of responsibilities and not forgetting them and being an adult and taking care of things? Ikaw na, ikaw na ang malabo!

Ikaw na, Coco Martin, ang mag-portray ng chick boy na nakabuntis sa karakter ni Shaina Magdayao na bigla na lang sumulpot (literally, under an umbrella on a rainy day, just standing there outside this bida family’s house without saying anything, hanlabo). Since Shaina’s character was somewhat a meek and mild-mannered poor girl, the mother figure let her stay in their house for the duration of her pregnancy, to the resentment of Coco’s character, of course. But one freaky night, he undresses and forces himself on her, and she can’t do anything about it, and after a few humping and pumping scenes, close up on his and her face as he slowly realizes that he loves her, and they kiss, like lovers. Wow. Now how’s that for covering up rape? Bali-baligtarin mo man ang pelikulang ito, ang ginawa na iyon ni Coco ay rape. It wasn’t planted anywhere earlier that he still likes Shaina’s character, so this is clearly rape. And this is clearly scary. And this is really maddening. My nostrils are flaring as I type this. It’s so infuriating! What message are you trying to relay with this one? Na dahil nabuntis na naman niya ang babae, puwede na niyang halayin ulit dahil nasa kama naman niya sa bahay naman nila at buntis na naman ng batang siya ang ama naman? Naman! Tumbling talaga ako dito.

At ikaw na, dear audience, ang manood ng pelikulang ito para ipagpatuloy na hanapin kung may kagandahan nga ba ito o wala. Aside from being religiously preachy (the Santo Nino/Mama Mary/various saints and religious icons designs in almost all scenes, plus that let’s-pray-while-hugging-the-sick-instead-of-calling-the-ambulance scene – OMG this scene is so fucked, wait for it, don’t walk out yet), this film is a failure in its execution of a story that sounded so contrived to begin with. Aside from questioning the other gender-based double standards of this film, the story plots out like a super-fast weekly television teleserye drama where plot point upon plot point upon plot point are unraveled so fast that it seems to be anticipating the next upcoming commercial gap. It doesn’t help that most scenes, especially the dramatic ones, are always framed in close-ups and medium shots and scenes just get dumped one after the other that you would think the filmmakers are allergic to this cinematic device called the establishing shot were you should put at least some semblance of contextualization of what’s happening in the scene, or where it’s taking place, or who the leads of that particular scene are. Ang gulo, ang labo, ang bilis.

This is the problem when people work too much on television; they forget that cinema has a different set of aesthetics altogether. Review, guys, review. Let the scenes breathe, and give the characters some pacing, so that they won’t resort to the usual melodramatic histrionics of releasing angst shouts on an open space or magdadabog ng walang kaabog-abog at magsisisigaw sa inis at magsisira ng gamit sa kuwarto. Puwede niyo namang i-execute ito ng maayos at maganda, e, without resorting to the old and ho-hum tricks. For instance, two bright and shining examples of this is when Bea Alonzo’s character confronted the father for the first time and just cursed at him, a curse that has been ten years in the making. That was good. Another was when, after the mother told Bea of a secret, she just cried there in the rain, under an umbrella, her hand silently covering her mouth, because they are outside a church after all, so no noisy histrionics there. E puwede naman palang ganun, e! Aside from those two scenes, I can’t find anything redeemable about this dangerously anti-women film.

Which got us thinking last Friday. Ito ba ang pamilyang Pilipino? We thought of asking ourselves, since cinema seems to depict Filipino families this way over the years — histrionics, ma-drama, and all that. Sure, some families are even worse than this, but is this representative of what the Filipino family is like? Hm, that’s up to you to find out, and see.

As for me, the main regret in watching this film is not having any chicha while watching it. I certainly needed the distraction. Oh well, you watch, you learn.


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 (also archived at 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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