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I S S U E 1 1 5 ———— F E A T U R E S

CONTENTS November 2017



“Mercurial” is a word often used to describe director Mike de Leon, whose temper and on-set outbursts have become as legendary as his oeuvre. With de Leon’s next film Citizen Jake in the works, Philbert Dy ponders the price we’re willing to pay for genius.

Although no longer quite so “new,” the French New Wave still holds a profound place in cinema, fashion, and pop culture. Inspired by this, we follow the story of a man making his way through Paris, the movement’s birthplace, in his search for solace and meaning.





In his latest film Buy Bust, director Erik Matti and his crew orchestrate three minutes of Anne Curtis fighting her way through streets, across rooftops, and off a building—all in one take. Philbert Dy narrates the making of what could be Philippine cinema’s most ambitious sequence.

The multiverse of cinema is nothing without its creators and crafters, each film giving way to a new realm of ideas— and inspiration to those who come after them. Three local filmmakers pay tribute to the idols and influences that have shaped their own movies.

“At the heart of all this is



Anne Curtis, who is almost always in frame, getting

A HISTORY OF VIOLENCE F.H. Batacan’s seminal crime novel Smaller and Smaller Circles finds new life on the silver screen in the hands of an unlikely group. Emil Hofileña uncovers how avant-garde director Raya Martin, TBA Studios, and an eclectic mix of actors somehow make all the pieces of this bizarre puzzle fit.


soaked in the same rain as everyone else, climbing up and down rickety wooden ladders...” PHILBERT DY


INTO THE WILD When three Filipino filmmakers joined the crew of Wong Kar-wai’s Days of Being Wild, they found themselves spending weeks without sleep, scrounging for clothing, and running after trains. Emil Hofileña goes behind the scenes of a classic filmed while on the verge of collapse.


I S S U E 1 1 5 ———— S E C T I O N S

CONTENTS November 2017



The story behind Stanley Kubrick’s unfilmed three-hour epic Napoleon unfolds in this limited release by Taschen; eight directors from this year’s Cinema One Originals Festival talk aswang, gender benders, and time travel; set in a call center, Glenn Diaz’s breakout novel explores the Philippines’ complicated relationship with the United States.

From an Italian villa built in the 1930s to a futuristic house in California, we revisit five designer homes that have become as memorable across generations as the characters who’ve occupied them in film; from furniture and luminaires to upholstery and tableware, the Maison & Objet Fair in Paris continues to bring together the best in all things decorative.



“Performance ang araw-araw. Kahit ano ginagawa ko, performance. Hindi mo na kailangan ng audience.” RENE AQUITANIA



From steel watches to brass lighter cases, we recommend inspired gifts the discerning recipient (and you) will be pining after this coming holiday season; Jimmy Choo’s men’s fragrance line finds similar paths with the White Wolf; bespoke tailoring shop William Lee is the gentleman’s new destination for well-made clothing.

Cebuana actress Chai Fonacier takes us deep into an underground current of good Filipino films fighting to rise to the surface; Petersen Vargas looks for himself in the baby steps local cinema has taken toward LGBTQ representation; Mariah Reodica narrates the events of a gin pageant in Rene Aquitania’s Pink Alley Cathedral Asylum.




ON THE COVER Photographed by Neil Daza Editor-in-Chief JONTY CRUZ Executive Editor JEROME GOMEZ Managing Editor JACS T. SAMPAYAN Features Editor PHILBERT DY Style Editor MANO GONZALES Copy Editor NANA CARAGAY Staff Writer EMIL HOFILEÑA Editorial Assistant PATRICIA CHONG

ART Art Director FRANCESCA GAMBOA Junior Designers PIA SAMSON, MARK SANTIAGO Online Art Director MAGS OCAMPO Online Junior Art Director ANDREW PANOPIO


PUBLISHING Publisher VICKY MONTENEGRO / vicky.montenegro@roguemedia.ph Associate Publisher ANI A. HILA / ani.hila@roguemedia.ph Senior Advertising Sales Director MINA GARA / mina.gara@roguemedia.ph Account Managers DENISE MAGTOTO, TRICIA QUINTERO Marketing Manager TRIXIE DAWN CABILAN

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THE EDITOR’S NOTE November 2017

Playing Favorites I’M THE LAST person who should be writing about movies. To talk about how much I love The Graduate or how I can recite every line from Coming to America or spend a thousand words on the masterpiece that is Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy is, I believe, too self-indulgent, even for editor’s note standards. So instead of channeling my inner James Lipton, I’ll leave it to our editorial team to share their desert island movies and why they picked them. But before that, a minor rant: it must be said that the dismal performance of Blade Runner 2049 in the box office should not in any way cast a negative light on how ambitious and impressive the film was from a visual standpoint. While the story does have its faults, what director Denis Villeneuve (who in my mind is perhaps the best director today) and master cinematographer Roger Deakins did for the film should forever be considered one of the highest achievements in modern cinema. And with that out of the way, let’s get to the team.

Philbert Dy, Features Editor God of Cookery. I’ve watched it a dozen times and it’s never failed to make me laugh. Andrew Panopio, Online Junior Art Director Be Kind Rewind. Jack Black and Mos Def reenacting a bunch of movies will keep me entertained every time I miss humanity. Jerome Gomez, Executive Editor Moulin Rouge! Because, as Rogue Editorial Assistant Patricia Chong says, when you’re tired of watching it, you can just sing along. Nana Caragay, Copy Editor Clueless! Even if I were all alone, Cher Horowitz and her girl gang are the only company I would need. Mark Santiago, Junior Designer Monsters, Inc. It reminds me of the kid inside me that’s now dead. Mano Gonzales, Style Editor Shame. Because it affected me mentally and emotionally. It was hard to watch, but also very captivating. Ang saya niya panoorin kasi ang cold nung film.

JONT Y CRUZ Editor-in-Chief

Emil Hofileña, Staff Writer Dead Poets Society. Because it gives me a rush of shamelessly sentimental inspiration every time I see it. Pia Samson, Junior Designer Almost Famous. It makes me feel strangely nostalgic for a time that I never even lived through. Mags Ocampo, Online Art Director Breakfast at Tiffany’s. Medyo cliché ata but it was so ahead of its time as a feminist piece. Plus, I just really love all of Audrey Hepburn’s films. (If we’re being honest though, my all-time favorite movie is The Princess Diaries.) Jacs Sampayan, Managing Editor To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything! Julie Newmar. Chesca Gamboa, Art Director Sleepless in Seattle. It’s actually less about the movie itself and more about the memory of always watching it with my parents. They just built it up to be the best love story, and I’ve loved it since then.



PETERSEN VARGAS was born and raised in Pampanga, and grew up to be the writer-director of films such as 2 Cool 2 Be 4gotten. A lot of his work focuses on the LGBT identity and his cultural roots. He currently lives in Pasig City with his cat, Wong Kat Wai.

MARIO CORNEJO has been directing since 2002, but people only started paying him to do it in 2006. Though now a full-time commercial director, he continues to make movies— among them, you may have seen Big Time or Apocalypse Child.

MARIAH REODICA is a researcher, video artist, and guitarist of noise pop band The Buildings. Eerie, a horror film she co-wrote with Mikhail Red, is set for release in 2018. Here, she talks to Rene Aquitania and the directors of this year’s Cinema One Originals Festival.

JAM PASCUAL is an editor for Young Star and former section editor for Rogue. He was also a fellow for poetry for the 15th IYAS National Writers’ Workshop. His band Imelda is currently trying to finish its first fulllength album.

NEIL DAZA has been shooting some of the most memorable sequences in Philippine cinema for over 25 years, doing everything from Chito Roño’s Dekada ’70 to television hit Be Careful with My Heart. In this issue, he shoots the set of Erik Matti’s Buy Bust.

QUARK HENARES makes films. One of them is a serial killer romantic comedy, another a love letter to the indie band scene, and some others are porn. He’s won some awards for these and for his writing.

SAMANTHA LEE is a Manila-based director who first fell for filmmaking in high school, making short videos for fun. Since then, she’s written, co-produced, and directed her debut film, Baka Bukas. Here, she writes about director Wes Anderson.

JAN PINEDA is a self-proclaimed pathological image hoarder—but he also creates them as a photographer, director, graphic designer, and artist. In this issue, he takes to the streets of Paris to shoot this month’s tribute to the French New Wave.

CHAI FONACIER is an actress from Cebu. Three of the films she was in this year—namely, Respeto, Pauwi Na, and Patay na si Hesus—came out in the same month and have gotten a lot of acclaim. Since then, she’s moved to Manila.


November 2017

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November 2017

Edited by



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Paths of

Stanley Kubrick boasted it would be “the best movie ever made.” Instead, his epic Napoleon was canceled before shooting even began. The tale unfolds in a tome that pays tribute to the director’s unfilmed masterpiece WORDS BY RAMON DE VEYRA





so good and/or important that they merit an entire book. Some directors create a body of work that hits a certain standard of quality that they merit an entire book. But Stanley Kubrick is a rare breed. Kubrick—whose every film, it could be argued, is a classic—gets books made about the films he didn’t make. And not just any book. A big, honking, expensive, deluxe hardcover beast of a book. The new edition of Stanley Kubrick’s Napoleon: The Greatest Movie Never Made by Taschen (taschen.com) is a more affordable version of the limited edition released back in 2009. Its 800 pages are the closest we’ll get to the literal roomfuls worth of research material that Kubrick amassed over two years for his unrealized epic. In the latter half of the 60s, around the

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time he was working on his adaptation of Arthur C. Clarke’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, Kubrick earnestly began gathering research on Napoleon Bonaparte, a person and historical subject he’d long been fascinated with. As an American, Kubrick saw Napoleon’s story as the story of Europe itself; his actions and decisions reshaped the map and affected the lives of millions. His obsession with Josephine somewhat mirrored Kubrick’s own with Bonaparte. Over the span of two years, the director and his coterie of assistants, along with the help of a couple of historians, generated mountains of material—including costume studies, maps, research into the daily lives of the era’s people, 15,000 location scouting photos, a “Napoleonic” image database with 17,000 entries, and multiple drafts of the screenplay, which Kubrick wrote himself. One of the assistants was tasked to travel to the notable locations of Napoleon’s life and take thousands of pictures of the landscape and sky. There was a card catalog with index cards for each significant moment of Napoleon’s life, as well as the movements and actions


Over the span of two years, Kubrick and his assistants amassed mountains of material. These included (above) over 15,000 location scouting photos of everywhere Napoleon had ever been, from Waterloo to Josephine’s rooms in Malmaison and (next) hundreds of costume studies for soldiers and members of the Emperor’s inner circle. Previous: Kubrick on the set of his film, The Shining.

of every important member of his inner circle. Kubrick could tell you the weather on specific days of the many battles Napoleon was involved in. At one point, he had allegedly even adopted the French emperor’s eating habits. In a note to studio executives, Kubrick himself said he expected to “make the greatest film ever made.” He’d certainly done enough research and pre-production. English character actor David Hemmings and Jack Nicholson were his frontrunners for the main role, with Alec Guinness, Laurence Olivier, Peter O’Toole, and Charlotte Rampling eyed for supporting ones. For Josephine, Kubrick wanted Audrey Hepburn, who at the time was taking a break from acting and politely declined, though she did ask him



Kubrick could tell you the weather on specific days of Napoleon’s many battles. He had allegedly even adopted the French emperor’s eating habits. came together for his dream project. While we’ll never know what could’ve been, we do have Taschen’s book to give us the nearest idea. Included are many samples of the location scouting photos, historical documents of the era, costume studies, the original treatment for the film, a facsimile of the final script draft, essays examining the script in historical and dramatic contexts, Kubrick’s correspondence with historians, an essay by Jean Tulard on depictions of Napoleon

in cinema, and an interview Kubrick conducted with Oxford professor Felix Markham. In 2013, Steven Spielberg announced he was developing Napoleon as a TV miniseries with the Kubrick family, which Cary Fukunaga was slated to direct. We’ll see if they have better luck. But with this exhaustive, detailed book, we have perhaps the best opportunity for fans to come close to the thought process and exacting preparation a genius like Stanley Kubrick requires.


As Napoleon

As Josephine

In Supporting Roles

Kubrick knew everything there was to know about Napoleon Bonaparte and the people who surrounded him—and he also knew who he wanted to play them

David Hemmings, Ian Holm, and Jack Nicholson were considered for the film’s eponymous role.

For the role of Bonaparte’s wife, Kubrick hoped to lure Audrey Hepburn out of semi-retirement.

When asked who else he would choose to star in the film, Kubrick would name the likes of Alec Guiness, Laurence Olivier, Peter O’Toole, and Charlotte Rampling.

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to “think of me in the future.” Plans were afoot to hire 40,000 Romanian soldiers to stage epic battle scenes. But at the end of 1969, MGM, the studio that agreed to finance the film, backed out, disheartened by the flop of the similarly themed Waterloo and wary of the box office prospects of a historical epic that was likely to be a very expensive production. Disappointed, Kubrick went on to make another classic, his adaptation of Anthony Burgess’s A Clockwork Orange. After, he tried to mount the production again with United Artists, but they, too, ultimately passed. Kubrick then went on to make Barry Lyndon. Try as he might, circumstances just never



ALL IN ONE Exploration and subversion are taking to the screens for this year’s Cinema One Originals Festival—but, amongst the directors, questions of gender, genre, and identity are only the beginning

NOW MORE THAN ever, the camera has become a tool for invoking empathy to bridge gaps, whether cultural, political, or interpersonal. Each filmmaker wields it in their own way, and that becomes clear when they converge, ideas and stories mingling. This year’s edition of the Cinema One Originals Festival unveils a lineup of films that couldn’t be more varied—but, at their heart, remain fearless explorations of a world still realigning itself in the wake of shifting powers and circumstances. We sit down with eight of the directors in competition to talk about their films’ inspirations.




he mythos of Mount Banahaw stretches far back, long before cinema even arrived on Philippine shores. However, its lore and mysticism are usually treated by media as curiosities, reducing the unique expressions of spirituality attached to it as nothing more than spectacle. Dempster Samarista’s documentary aims to bridge the distance between the urban dweller and the natural landscape. “Banahaw is a place you have to experience. It’s something that you cannot just talk about,” he explains. So he filmed the mountain as a way to transport his audience to the place, getting as close to his subject as he could. “My ambition is to be able to take them there and experience it the way I’ve experienced it firsthand, but not expecting them to create or understand what it really is immediately… but get a sense of what makes it special.” We get why Banahaw is sacred, but profane? “The profanity is actually me going in there and sticking a camera in their faces and taking stories from them. And what do I get to give them in return? I always ask myself that.”

“With all the things happening right now, I think it’s about time to step aside and kind of revisit history.” —RICHARD SOMES 18 N O V E M B E R 2 0 1 7



n contrast to Richard Somes’s historical epic Supremo (2012), Historiographika Errata is an irreverent reinvention of Philippine history. It features “a disillusioned and suicidal Rizal, a cross-dressing Bonifacio gripped with paranoia, a former Katipunero who signs up for the US Army to save his own neck, and a wife who trades sex for food during the closing years of the Second World War.” The brunt of centuries of colonial rule is also a personal burden, and Sisa isn’t the only one who has gone crazy. “We retold [history] and have rewritten it somehow to make it fresher and more interesting, and also to come up with something which is new,” Somes explains. The director also takes inspiration from Francis Ford Coppola in approaching a historical film with the use of fantasy—“The main goal or purpose of the script is not to go with the textbook style of storytelling.” Taking off from the inherently Filipino quality of finding the silver lining in even the direst of situations, Somes also subverts our common distaste for historical revisionism. “Maybe it’s about taking history on a lighter note, you know?” he says. “With all the things happening right now, I think it’s about time to step aside and kind of revisit history, and maybe you could smile about it also.”

Fatrick Tabada & Rae Red SI CHEDENG AT SI APPLE


atrick Tabada and Rae Red have already each written two of the most critically acclaimed films this year: respectively, Patay na si Hesus and Birdshot. Si Chedeng at Si Apple is their directorial debut. Put briefly, the film is about two best friends in their 60s and the severed head of a lover in a fake Louis Vuitton bag. Chedeng has come out of the closet after the death of her husband, while Apple has decided to end a toxic relationship once and for all by beheading her live-in partner. In the wake of these events, they embark on an adventure from Manila to Cebu to find Chedeng’s first love, her ex-girlfriend, as Apple continues to evade the police. “Mahirap magsulat ng drama, ng horror, pero mas mahirap, as a writer, magsulat ng good comedy,” says Tabada. “At the same time, mahirap siya i-direct.” The process of collaboration with their lead stars Gloria Diaz and Elizabeth Oropesa proved extremely significant. “Ang main purpose ni Fatrick for writing this, tribute niya for old people na hindi nakakapag-out earlier,” says Red. “It’s our love letter to them,” Tabada continues.



Kip Oebanda NAY


n the tradition of the Philippines’s fascination with body horror, Oebanda’s third feature film hones in on the dynamics of 13-yearold Martin and the maid, Nay Luisa, who turns into an aswang at night. Martin becomes Nay Luisa’s protégé, scouting warm bodies for her to devour. “I refused any tool that was not available to filmmakers in the 80s,” the director says. Drawing inspiration from horror legends such as George Romero and Wes Craven, Nay relies strictly on practical effects and eschews computer-generated images. This made the film’s production more tedious, but the results, says Oebanda, were enough to make his assistant editor queasy while working on its more graphic scenes. In Nay, the gore isn’t merely for titillation’s sake. “It’s not just the body that changes, but also the values and the mind of the individual,” says Oebanda. Hence, in this feature, each act of killing has a psychological effect on the lead character, transforming him over time. Also fueling the film is an urgency to address what the director sees as a diminishing empathy toward the victims of the current drug war. “Dati, when people were getting killed in the streets, every single person that died meant something. Ngayon, parang, ah, okay, we’re offended ’pag innocent. Later, we only get offended if it’s kids.” A terribly scary turn of events, if you ask him.



s soon as the curtains closed on the final show of the stage musical Changing Partners, director Dan Villegas turned to playwright Vince de Jesus and said, “Tara, tirahin na ’to.” The material seems easy enough: a May-December relationship which, after so many years, shows signs of wear and tear. But it is in the treatment that things get complicated. The male and female protagonists are each played by two actors—a man and a woman. Later, the men get into the shoes of the women, and the older actors assume the roles of the younger ones, raising the question: do gender and age matter when it comes to infidelity? The process of translating the play from stage to screen was a challenge. “Pero naging madali siya dahil ang staff and ang actors, sobrang game.” He didn’t even have to hold auditions; the play’s cast reprise their roles. “Bakit mo papalitan? E, noong pinanood ko sila onstage, iyak ako nang iyak.” One of the things that attracted Villegas to de Jesus’s musical was the shifting of the roles. “You don’t care kung anong gender ang nagsasalita. Nafi-feel mo na lang ang emotions… since it’s switching genders, you can relate, regardless of kung ano ka man.”

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hat feeling of being on your own and having to find your own way, that’s what inspired the film,” says Seno of her new feature. In this story of a girl able to discover the thoughts and feelings of nervous people through her pen, Seno examines the sense of rootlessness in growing up away from the Philippines and the emptiness that emerges despite the pleasures and conveniences of modern living. Seno, who lived abroad for a great part of her life before settling here, considers herself fortunate to have benefited from the advantages of globalization, but she knows that it has the tendency to curb one’s sense of nationhood. Her debut film Big Boy (2011) was also a personal exploration of alienation through a filmic recounting of her father’s stories of growing up in Mindoro. This time, Nervous Translation, set during the EDSA Revolution, turns its lens toward the “quintessential globalized Filipino family” whose lives are fragmented both in terms of interpersonal communication and identity. “I feel like, after People Power, there was so much potential. [There] was this amazing outburst. We overthrew a dictatorship, but then it kind of just turned into this consumerist, shallow society—that we’re still where we are, in a sense, today because we didn’t really get past the surfaces of things.”



e all have our what-ifs. What if you had the opportunity to change those?” asks Joseph Teoxon. It’s the same question his protagonist gets the opportunity to answer in #TBT. Primo, past the prime of his life—a life riddled with failure and just plain bad luck—is wracked with regret. He comes across an unfortunate (or fortunate?) glitch on a computer, and through an archaic chat interface reminiscent of mIRC, Primo communicates with his past self in order to convince him to make the right decisions. But nothing goes as expected; blame it on the old Primo’s sense of pride. The special effects in #TBT are kept basic. Or, as Teoxon puts it, “more grounded,” as he would rather focus on the emotions of the film than a display of CGI or elaborate production design. The central device is an old computer, which becomes a channel for Primo to confront his regrets and frustrations and a tool to usher in his eventual coming of age. The result is a story that is both personal and very human.

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ULTRAPOWERPLAY Glenn Diaz’s breakout novel about the Philippines’s complicated historical relationship with America asks, “Whose narrative is it anyway?” WORDS BY JAM PASCUAL ILLUSTRATION BY PIA SAMSON


Diaz’s Palanca Awardwinning novel The Quiet Ones, Alvin, a disillusioned call center agent, is having a conversation with his white anthropologist not-quite-lover, Scott. The latter tends to adopt the tone of an academic blowhard when talking about the Philippines. In an attempt at postcolonial power play, an exasperated Alvin says, “You obviously have not been to Divisoria during Christmas season. Baclaran on a Wednesday after mass. Megamall during a midnight sale. The bus terminals in Cubao on Holy Week. The Nazarene procession in Quiapo.” It’s a satisfying clapback, albeit momentary. The dynamic between Alvin and Scott is almost analogous to the complicated relationship between the Philippines and the United States. Think of it that way, and how, for Alvin and many Filipinos— whether in work or in love—existence can be a kind of prison. This figurative prison is the novel’s setting, in which Alvin and his call center colleagues become embroiled in a money laundering scheme with the objective of stealing from the US. But this is not a crime story. The Quiet Ones is a cynical book about what it means to be a Filipino just trying to get by. That feeling of being trapped, of distinctly Filipino drudgery, is one that Diaz knows well. Diaz writes what he knows and wrestles the zeitgeist into a chokehold. “When I was 19, I worked for a call center for more than a year,” he says. “All along, I couldn’t shake off an indignant feeling: that I was compelled by some unseen force to be subservient to these Americans.” Diaz admits that “a cursory knowledge of Philippine colonial history” is enough to make this force painfully obvious. The thematic scope of the project, and the frustration that fuels it, make for—and this might come as a surprise—a fun book. The Quiet Ones is buzzing with wit, told in an

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The Quiet Ones is a cynical book about what it means to be a Filipino just trying to get by. acerbic voice that never yields, no matter the predicament. “My neighborhood was always teetering between dog-eat-dog desperation and passable pockets of First World,” a line goes. And when Diaz isn’t hitting the bullseye with real world observations, he does so with what he describes as “meta-gestures,” similar to a review of related literature embedded into the main text. The genius of The Quiet Ones is that it employs a voice smart and punchy enough to confront the cultural context it is attempting to illustrate. I ask Diaz if he thinks there is such a thing as The Great Filipino Novel, in the same way that there exists the concept of The Great American Novel. Mentioning Noli Me Tangere and El Filibusterismo, Diaz makes the following case: “Taking off from what Rizal was able to do, I would think the next great Filipino

novel... will be politically alert, but also funny, intimate, and allegorical at the same time, perhaps from an oft-ignored periphery, away from Imperial Manila.” But what if we zoom out a little bit and ask a shamelessly loaded question about what makes for great literature? “I think good literature—or good art—is one that fundamentally and pointedly disabuses that hollow notion of the self as the center of the universe.” It’s too soon to say if The Quiet Ones succeeds at this, or if this book is just Diaz revving up his literary engines before kicking it into sixth gear. But if we’re going to dwell in complications, we may as well fix our gaze on the ones the book presents, and have fun in the process. The Quiet Ones is, after all, a fun book—an oasis in the desert of Filipino drudgery.



AN EXCELLENT SECOND Top whisky brand Macallan announces its latest limited edition Scotch in true aficionado fashion WORDS BY PAOLO ENRICO MELENDEZ

was blended by Bob Delgarno, who has been master maker under the Macallan brand since 1996, and the Spanish chefs Joan, Josep, and Jordi Roca. (El Celler de Can Roca, a Catalan restaurant often voted best in the world by industry insiders, holds three Michelin stars.) The Macallan Edition No. 2 was launched through an exclusive tasting held at Bonifacio Global City’s Manila House, which, if rumors hold true, counts no more than a thousand members. That evening, enthusiasts met with Macallan showrunners in an intimate corner of the main bar as thumping house and chill electronica tunes formed the backdrop to the whisky susurrus. The food was great, too. But the star was the drink. Sampled straight up or mixed whiskey sour style, the No. 2’s character immediately distinguished itself: rich, not too sweet, and full of body. Light

golden in color, it boasted flavors of vanilla, black pepper, and clove and hints of hazelnut, dark chocolate, and oak. Perhaps surprising to anyone used to Macallan’s dark and woody signature, this blend’s nose was fruity. But it settled on the palate with a balanced and pleasant oiliness, at once toned down and enhanced with a splash of water. It had none of that aggressive smoky undertone to most drams, and certainly none of the negative, sometimes even violent ways one’s body reacts to even the most expensive whiskies on the market. The No. 2 follows what is now an annual limited edition series. The No. 1 is still relatively easy to procure, although Macallan fans have been stocking up for the inevitable dearth. This followup, which is just as complex and drinkable, is shaping up to be another must for collectors.


IT’S ALWAYS A doozy when a leading brand moves to further strengthen its position in the market. Take Macallan as a recent for instance. Based in Moray, Scotland, Macallan is the third largest-selling whisky brand in the world. Founded in 1824—the same year Beethoven released his phenomenal Missa Solemnis, by the way, as though further proof of cosmic alignment—the distillery boasts a line of regular editions that are often received with the reverence usually reserved for the limited ones. So you can imagine, then, the pomp that accompanies the specials. A 1926 Macallan remains one of the most expensive bottles of whisky ever sold. And The Macallan 10 Years Old was named the official Scotch of the Speaker of the House of Commons in 2001. Continuing this limited edition pedigree is The Macallan Edition No. 2. This highland single malt Scotch whisky

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FLOAT ON With an intimate, offbeat approach to every project, production company Seabiscuit Films tests the boundaries of what’s possible in storytelling through video WORDS BY EMIL HOFILEÑA PHOTO BY ANDREA BELDUA

IF YOU CAUGHT the award-nominated

production house Seabiscuit Films in action around the time that they started in 2012, here’s what you would have seen: managing partners Sarie Cruz and Nicky Daez lugging two backpacks around Metro Manila and doing everything themselves—producing, directing, shooting, and serving as their own messengers. They worked out of Cruz’s basement for a year, building capital for their future company and testing if their working relationship could last. “It’s very important that we started organically,” Cruz says. “Partnerships are things that, in my opinion, you don’t really rush into.”

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You might not expect this kind of cautiousness from Cruz and Daez, especially seeing their fearless and take-no-shit attitude now, but the brand of madness that they’ve infused into Seabiscuit’s DNA needed careful consideration, too. After graduating from college, despite being certain of their love for filmmaking, both co-founders decided to survey the landscape first before diving straight in. Cruz joined an advertising agency to get a more holistic idea of the video production business, while Daez started an informal passion project with friends, learning the ropes before committing to something professional.

It’s a familiar road that many young filmmakers find themselves on, but Cruz and Daez had decided from the get-go that, moving forward, they weren’t going to stay on the beaten path; they had no plans of becoming an assembly line, amassing as many clients as possible. “We really wanted to go against the grain,” Daez states. “We believed in content already. From the very beginning, that’s what we wanted to pursue. We didn’t want to be defined by client work. We wanted to define ourselves.” Today, with Seabiscuit having grown into over a dozen team members and a five-year-strong portfolio to their names,

“Our ethos is ‘cinema in the everyday,’” Cruz explains. “We wanted to shoot things that we felt were real.” WORLD TRAVELERS

Seabiscuit Films prides itself on its genuine, professionally made work. Above: A still from their “Globe Tatt Awards Great 10” commercial. Opposite: Nicky Daez and Sarie Cruz in The Back Room, Seabiscuit’s own creative space.

it’s something of a miracle that the company has never really encountered a crisis of identity. They’ve retained the all-or-nothing, DIY spirit of the two original backpackers, while displaying all the professionalism and attention to detail that any international production house should possess. But the best way to understand Seabiscuit’s distinct voice is to let their work speak for itself. Apart from the client work they’ve done—which they still take pride in— the company has a modest variety of original shows brought together by a willingness to go beyond the surface. There’s Taste, which profiles local figures in the food business and asks about their definition of taste itself; Capture, a street-level travel diary that defines destinations around the world without relying on obvious landmarks; Display, a series of intimate portraits of artists who are set to present new exhibits; and Hungry with Chef JP, which fuses food and travel as JP Anglo attempts to visit every surfing spot in the Philippines. “Our ethos is ‘cinema in the everyday,’” Cruz explains. “We saw potential in shooting everyday occurrences, the mundane, not commercializing everything too much by making it perfect. We wanted to shoot things that we felt were real.” By this, she means deviating from the format of other travel and food shows that simply aim to promote. And you can tell that the Seabiscuit team understands how to use their craft—how a

subject is shot, how music and voice-over shape the final edit—to communicate a specific tone without pretension or overtly commercial intentions. In fact, even when Seabiscuit shoots exotic locations and expensive dishes, a little bit of themselves finds its way into the finished cut. For example, for their Fukuoka episode of Overnight—a half-hour travel guide around Asia, for which the company is nominated for an Asia Web Award for Best Documentary—the team took inspiration from the things that they just happened to be personally interested in at the time. (“It’s not a business!” Cruz enthuses. “It’s us! When you work with Seabiscuit, it’s us.”) Everything from the first season of Stranger Things to the works of Haruki Murakami shaped their vision. The end result: a fun, food-focused travel guide that also happens to be something of an art house short film. It’s far more accessible than it sounds. It might be tempting to say that Seabiscuit belongs to Cruz and Daez—they started the company and established its voice, after all—but Cruz makes sure that their entire team receives equal credit. “One thing I always say when it comes to hiring: you have to hire people who are better than you,” she asserts. As creatives and selfproclaimed non-businesspeople, Seabiscuit’s head honchos don’t place nearly as much importance on their employees’ résumés as they do on how much they care about content, and how well they can defend their favorite movie. However, Cruz and Daez’s relative weaknesses with the business side of things have led to burnout as well. “We went through our ‘dark nights of the soul’ in the past couple of months,” Daez remembers. “Business was good, projects were good, but

we were thinking, ‘Are we even going to keep this?’ It was really an existential crisis.” To remedy this anxiety over their company’s future, Cruz and Daez took to traveling solo and exposing themselves to new experiences. Daez in particular recently developed an interest in New Age practices and yoga—and through this, began to reorient Seabiscuit’s role as a company. “It’s not just a job anymore,” he explains. “It’s our responsibility to try to make humanity better, make the world better. I’ve realized that the medium we have, filmmaking—it’s the most powerful one.” Daez and Cruz have started working overtime on new projects that are purposely more advocacy-based. Daez’s upcoming video series Paliwanag aims to create discourse about spirituality, which he feels is seriously lacking in Manila. Meanwhile, Cruz’s cooking-themed talk show, Sarie Not Sorry, promotes little-known Filipino foods and, through Cruz herself, pushes for more local LGBTQ representation. Seabiscuit has come a long way from a two-man team covering events in the city, but as far as Cruz and Daez are concerned, it’s still more or less the same Seabiscuit—there’s just a little more on their minds. “My approach to everything is kind of anthropological or historical in the sense that we’re keeping a record with our documentaries and even the things we produce for fun,” Cruz explains. “This is what the Philippines was like at this point in time. This is what people enjoyed and loved and experienced.” Through the eyes of the Seabiscuit team, the Philippines takes on a more hopeful quality—this idea that there will always be more to the country than what the news may suggest. But this isn’t a view they keep to themselves; through good old-fashioned storytelling, they allow this Philippines to be ours, too.







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Kris and Tell The Queen of All Media solidifies her reign by becoming the newest brand ambassador for PLDT and Smart

EVEN WITH A solid track record in the entertainment industry, Kris Aquino is still raring for more. The Queen of All Media has strengthened her reign over the internet, producing several online video series such as The Kris List and Heart to Heart with Kris. Now, as the newest brand ambassador for PLDT and Smart, she cannot wait to share even more videos and experiences with everybody. “We’re honored to have Kris as part of the PLDT and Smart families,” says PLDT-Smart FVP and Head of Consumer Business for Market Development, Oscar A. Reyes, Jr. “I am confident that, together, we can empower and inspire more Filipino families to build the strongest connections at home through world-class internet and technology,” PLDT’s integrated HOME technology is Kris’s partner in raising her digitally savvy sons and providing quality entertainment for the family. “Nothing comes close to the joy of uninterrupted streaming for binge viewing and downloading my subscriptions to my [favorite] newspapers and magazines instantaneously,” she says. On the other hand, Kris relies on Smart LTE for her social media. “I edit some of my Instagram videos. Those organic ones get the most views because my followers know that I personally did them,” she says. She utilizes several apps and usually uploads while in the car. “I am super happy with how much LTE coverage from Smart has strengthened. I’m able to connect with my followers seamlessly. Smart LTE is reliable and I know [that] it can only continue to get stronger,” she shares. —GELO DIONORA

From Top: Marc Nelson and Kris Aquino; Marco Borlongan, Carlo Endaya, and Alex Caeg.

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From an Italian villa built in the 1930s to a futuristic California home, we take a look at five locations seared into different generations’ memories thanks to their cameo roles in these films WORDS BY ANIKA VENTURA ART BY PIA SAMSON




BLADE RUNNER Twenty seven thousand concrete blocks, 10,000 square feet, and 80 onscreen appearances mark this structure of superlatives. Built in 1924 for retailer Charles Ennis, it is among four of Frank Lloyd Wright’s “textile block” structures in Southern California, a nod to Wright’s interest in Mayan architecture. Made by hand, these “textile blocks” feature warm textures and geometric patterns. But beyond its dramatic facade, Wright’s intention was to explore the potential of industrial concrete, a cheap and unpopular decorative material in the 1920s—a fitting, otherworldly backdrop that figured prominently in Ridley Scott’s sci-fi classic set in dystopian Los Angeles.

1 MINOTTI Jacques armchair, Minotti, Fort Victoria, 5th Ave., corner 23rd Street, BGC 2 FIAM ITALIA Quadra coffee table, Furnitalia 30th street corner Rizal Drive, BGC 3 CALLIGARIS Cleveland sofa, Furnitalia



CONTEMPT / LE MEPRIS Leave it to a writer to dream up a setting conducive to solitary creation. The late Italian writer Curzio Malaparte’s former home stands above a cliff on Capri, Italy, accessible only by an hour-and-a-half walk on land or a 99-step climb from the sea. Malaparte commissioned architect Adalberto Libera for the structure, yet due to an unproductive relationship, their collaboration fell through. Its most iconic feature is an open-plan, no rails “rooftop staircase” overlooking captivating sea views. Director Jean-Luc Godard artfully weaves in the villa’s air of irresistibility and estrangement in the love triangle dynamic of the main characters in his film.

1 MINOTTI Noor coffee table, Minotti BGC 2 FIAM ITALIA Magma table, Furnitalia 3VENINI nopuram lamp, Furnitalia



FERRIS BUELLER’S DAY OFF Director John Hughes’s cult classic hits a climax when a vintage red Ferrari crashes through a glass-walled garage and into a ravine. Although we don’t see much of the entire property, the glimpses we do catch are enough to intrigue: secluded within surrounding woods is a steel-framed residence elevated by supporting beams as if floating above the trees and discreetly distinguished by wraparound glass walls. It is said to be modernist A. James Speyer’s greatest architectural work, with a showroom-like garage designed by Speyer’s student, architect David Haid, for the sports cars of the original home owners, textile designers Ben and Frances Rose.

1 ZANOTTA Judy chair, Kuysen, Ground Floor, The Eton Residences, Legazpi Street, Makati 2 MINOTTI Calder sideboard, Minotti 3 FIAM ITALIA Inori shelf, Furnitalia



I O S O N O L’A M O R E / I A M L O V E The exquisite mansion built by architect Piero Portaluppi is central to the film’s story of a powerful Italian family. Leading lady Tilda Swinton’s surrender to seduction is heightened by the villa’s elegant, yet austere elements: a generous use of marble, steel-embossed doors, and ornate chandeliers. Set in Milan, Italian filmmaker Luca Guadagnino described it to The New York Times as “a home that suggested great wealth, but also a restrained sensibility... It’s very severe, and feels almost unmovable, like a piece of rock.”

1 MOLTENI & C D.151.4 armchair, Furnitalia 2FONTANA ARTE Equatore table lamp, Furnitalia 3 CALIGARIS Leaf sofa, Furnitalia



PARISISBRIMMING A wealth of inspiration was made available to all at last September’s Maison et Objet fair WORDS AND PHOTOS BY JEROME GOMEZ

HAVING SEEN PARIS the first time in gloomier weather, which makes the city even more mysterious and alluring, visiting it again in bright and sunny September proved disconcerting: flowers in full bloom; kids happily crossing streets, rays of sunshine slicing between them; Parisians who just got back from their holidays mixing with tourists, producing a palpable warmth that gives the otherwise Gothic environs a happy, if quotidian, quality. Inside the mammoth halls of the vast Paris Nord Villepinte,

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however, where the twice-yearly Maison & Objet design fair takes place, all is as expected: a million things to catch the eyes for those seeking their own ideas of beauty. Flowers magically blossoming in filled teacups; flash and pizzazz in the myriad colors of Seletti’s neon-soaked world; the luxurious rugs of Thibault Van Renne; stuffed pink flamingos on swivel chairs; and the gorgeous multiple booths of Objet de Curiosité, each decorated with a scintillating personality in mind, each a world in its own. To Filipino visitors from the local design world, the fair, which continues to be the premier purveyor of the best in home decor and interior design, lifestyle, and architecture, could also feel like a party. Jinggoy Buensuceso, awarded Asia’s Rising Talent this year, came with wife Mutya Crisostomo. Ito Kish is a regular visitor, and so are the Firma tastemakers Chito Vijandre and Ricky Toledo. Buyers from SM and Rustan’s show up quite frequently, as well as Ben Chan, who runs Dimensione. This

September, the indefatigable Almario sisters Ivy and Cynthia are on a buying stopover from their European sojourn, on the lookout for objet d’arts for their ongoing residential projects. We spotted them at the VIP lounge Le Club with Philippine Maison & Objet agent Chiqui Veneracion, and then again at the Stone Senses booth at Hall 8 (where the highest of the high-end exhibitors show their wares). Fancying a delectable panel of marble wall, Ivy asks for the price and produces a calculator right away, deciding she will have to think about the purchase first. The lifestyle business maverick Drew Naval is also present, along with his partners, scouting for items and brands they could introduce to the Filipino consumers and carry in his multilabel enterprise. “Maison & Objet is always an inspiring venue for me to see up-and-coming design trends in home and objects,” he says, adding that this time around, it was the Scandinavian items that caught his eye. “Not only is it a trade exhibit, but also the coming together of global designs


Clockwise from top: Approaching Hall 5 of September’s fair; a booth of Objet de Curiosité; the Almario sisters at Stone Senses; exemplary concept brand Sempre was a hit; furry chairs as illustrations of comfort as the next important trend; and The Greenery by Design House Stockholm. Opposite, clockwise from top left: Carlo Evaristo’s cross pendant, with Kit Silver Jewelry pieces at the Design Philippines booth; the author at a favorite IG stopover; funky plates at Seletti; designer of the year Tristan Auer’s mood board; pop art at Seletti.

showing the culture of each participating country through its innovations.” Speaking of cultural representation, Design Philippines in Hall 7 has its own pavilion. Despite the logistics of putting together a show in a land as far away as Paris, the merchants—among them Mele & Mari, Beatriz Accessories, and the brand Catalina from Cebu (who brought in creative lighting fixtures like rattan and shell chandeliers)— all agree the trouble and expense are worth it. They’ve gotten significant inquiries and sealed business deals with distributors and stores from the US and parts of Europe. “Ang

tagal dito nung mga taga-Cartier, ang guguwapo,” Rosemarie Oamil of the accessories brand Mele + Marie tells us. “The market is hungry for creative pieces!” The Oamils have been showing in Paris since 2012, and just today the brand was invited to a private billionaires show in Amsterdam and Cannes. The day we spoke, Marie is set to have dinner with the organizer at the Grand Palais to iron out details. She also got invited to put together a collection for a boutique in New York. “It’s really where the serious buyers go,” says Veneracion of Maison & Objet’s pull. This September saw a significant increase in visitors, 21 percent higher than its numbers same time last year. Apart from its close to 3,000 exhibitors, it gathers design experts around the world to speak in forums about developments in lifestyle culture. The fair also consistently predicts trends that will influence design in the years to come (this year’s buzzword is “comfort”). While the fair has continued to improve its online presence, providing a veritable catalog


of products from its exhibitors, it continues to work on improving the experience of being in the Paris fair itself, tweaking the zoning of its hubs so that visitors with less time could easily be exposed to the merchandise they need. To illustrate: Hall 6 was divided into three color-identified parts: cooking and entertaining products (yellow), fashion accessories (blue) and gift items (pink). Furthermore, the curated exhibitions have increased. Outside of Hall 6, there’s the Best of Maison & Objet and More, which picks the best of the fair’s displays and puts them all together in an easy-to-find area. There’s What’s New, which showcases the most innovative offerings, conveyor-belt style. Paris may have a sense of the commonplace in September, but inside the world of Maison & Objet, a wealth of extraordinary things seem to converge. After all, to paraphrase a message from a video we saw in one of the forums, the creative universe is always about looking for that one thing that could make life magical.







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Life in Technicolor

The Lennox Block believes that good things—like color schemes—come in threes

VANCOUVER IS A BUSTLING CITY. It houses the busiest

and largest seaport in Canada, nurtures a thriving, artistic, and ethnically diverse urban center, and boasts breathtaking ancient coastal temperate rainforests and mountain ranges. There is much to explore in this West Coast seaport city, whether one walks within nature or hits the pavement. For its newest collection, Native Shoes returns to its Vancouver roots. Drawing inspiration from the region’s flora and landscapes, the brand imbues botanical colors onto industrial materials and designs. In particular, the Lennox, Native Shoes’ classic athletic sneaker, dons new color schemes in the Lennox Block Series. While the kicks retain the three-part ethyl vinyl acetate (EVA) construction,

they are available in three new color block variations with hand-painted contrast heel and mudguard details. The Dublin Block features Bone White, Shell White, and Torch Red colors; the Regatta Block sports cool Mist Gray, Pool Blue, and Regatta Blue tones; and the Jiffy Block carries Surfer Blue and Shell White hues. These Lennox iterations are “beast-free,” meaning no animal hair or hide was used in crafting them. Most importantly, they carry the signature “lite-ness” and ergonomic design that the Vancouver-based brand is globally known for. Inspired by adventure, Lennox Block by Native Shoes (Glorietta 4, Ayala Center, Makati; 729-3576; nativeshoes.com) will put a spring in your step as you venture into jungles both natural and concrete. —GELO DIONORA

November 2017

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FA S H I O N + S T Y L E + G R O O M I N G

Holiday shopping might be the hardest part of the season. Luckily, Rogue rounds up gifts you’ll want to give to others (and yourself) PHOTOS BY RENZO NAVARRO STYLED BY MARTINA BAUTISTA


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ASONGOFICEANDFIRE Jimmy Choo’s men’s fragrance line runs parallel with the heir to the Iron Throne WORDS BY JACS T. SAMPAYAN

THREE YEARS AGO, Kit Harington—riding high

on the success of Game of Thrones—fronted Jimmy Choo’s inaugural men’s fragrance as well as the corresponding accessories. The brand’s creative director Sandra Choi noted that the actor’s air of confidence and playfully rebellious aura matched the values of the relatively young line. “He has an overtly masculine style that feels effortlessly cool and a great sense of humor, and beneath that intensity he is a true gentleman,” Choi told luxuo. com. Since the first men’s collection launched in 2011, the same year the HBO hit debuted, the British fashion label has defined the Jimmy Choo man as someone who likes to mix up the classics. That year, Harington became the star of the campaign shot at the famed Sheats-Goldstein Residence, an edgy John Lautner-designed abode. (Incidentally, Rogue also shot its Design Issue cover at the same location around that time.) The scent that the Brit represented became a pillar for the category and was followed by the deeper and sweeter-smelling Jimmy Choo Man Intense. This year, celebrated perfumer Michel Almairac presents a fresher take on the fragrance. Jimmy Choo Man Ice opens with mandarin, bergamot, and cedrat and intensifies with woody vetiver, patchouli, cedarwood, and apple. Its base notes are a heady punch of musk, moss, and ambroxan. This latest concoction is housed in its signature hip flask, styled with white graduated lacquer. Brazilian model Marlon Teixeira picks up where Harington left off ff as the protagonist of the 2017 campaign, set in a villa dominated by the ocean’s blue hues. Perhaps going against the expectations accompanying its cool name, it seems that Jimmy Choo Man Ice leaves room only for warm seduction, and, curiously, y, none for brooding g heroes.

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FOLLOW SUIT A new bespoke shop brings Hong Kong tailoring to Makati WORDS BY MANO GONZALES PHOTOS BY RENZO NAVARRO

FILIPINO-OWNED BESPOKE TAILORING shop William Lee is establishing itself as a gentleman’s destination for well-made clothing. The newly opened shop in Legaspi Village features a selection of impeccably tailored suits, from classic English styles to house specialties that include unlined, unstructured jackets. Their extended network of seasoned tailors, wide selection of fine, globally sourced fabrics, and menswear expertise mean that high quality is achieved with every cut, swatch, and proportion, from the first stitch to the last . With partner workshops in Hong Kong, William Lee not only focuses on classic standards (properly executing each piece, right down to the centimeter) but also high-end service (accessible price points and a reasonable two- to three-week turnaround time), addressing the local market’s needs. “The aim is to make bespoke tailoring accessible enough to be an everyday affair, appropriate to any circumstance, yet far beyond ordinary,” says a brand representative. “We believe that there’s a suit for every occasion, and a material for every situation.” Now this is the kind of shop where you can walk in and leave with a wardrobe perfectly suited to your life.








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Happy Hours

When the German Oktoberfest meets the fiesta-loving Filipinos, the resulting revelry is an unparalleled feast of epic proportions

GERMAN CLUB MANILA’S 79th celebration of Oktober-

fest showed how serious Germans and Filipinos are when it comes to throwing a feast. The gastronomic revelry married two distinct cultures that share a love for merriment, great food, and free-flowing beer. Held at the expansive Harbor Garden Tent in Sofitel Philippine Plaza Manila (Cultural Center of the Philippines Complex, Roxas Boulevard, Pasay; 551-5555; sofitel.com), the two-day event saw over 4,000 guests consume 1,300 kg of German sausages, 600 kg of roasted chicken, 700 kg of pork knuckles, 300 kg of beef leg, and 28,080 liters of San Miguel beer. Oktoberfest brought traditional Bavarian specialties to Manila. Members of the German-Filipino community, corporate groups, expatriates, and festive Filipinos were treated to obatzda, bratwurst, weisswurst, sauerkraut,

gulaschsuppe, pork schnitzel, and apfelstrudel, all served with ice-cold beer. Guests donned their best lederhorsen and dirndls as they danced to energizing renditions of Oktoberfest anthems and popular tunes played by the Bavarian Sound Express (this year also marks the band’s 14th Manila Oktoberfest stint). Adding to the festivities was online influencer Mikey Bustos with his special version of “Despacito.” German Club Manila President Bernd Schneider, Sofitel Philippine Plaza Manila General Manager Adam Laker, German Ambassador Dr. Gordon Kricke, German Embassy Commercial Counsellor Dr. Andree Buhl, Pasay City Councilor Joey Calixto Isidro, and San Miguel Corporation’s VP-National Sales Manager Debbie Namalata led the ceremonial tapping of the first keg to formally open the celebration. —GELO DIONORA

November 2017

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Cinema Paradiso

Queer Pressure



The Shaman of the Pink Alley Cathedral Asylum MARIAH REODICA

In an archipelago with a million different cinematic voices, the outside world hears us more clearly than we hear ourselves

The journey toward varied and proper LGBTQ representation in film has been rough, to say the least. One fan turned filmmaker states what courses to correct

As Rene Aquitania prepares a retrospective of his work, a writer ponders the concept of preserving the ephemerality of his art


Chai Fonacier

on the struggle of regional films

CINEMA PARADISO In an archipelago with a million different cinematic voices, the outside world hears us more clearly than we hear ourselves ART BY MAGS OCAMPO

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FROM WHERE I sit, the current state of Philippine regional

cinema is dim. It is in the darker alternate venues, like photographer Jon Unson’s studio behind Turtle’s Nest in Cebu, where Christian Linaban and Ara Chawdhury held a screening of the selfproduced SuperPsychoCebu. It’s in badly lit barangayy basketball courts where filmmakers Keith Deligero and Remton Zuasola lug around regional films, a white cloth for a screen, meager sound equipment, and a projector. When there are no film festivals and venues are inaccessible, it’s in the lesser-known joints, in spots dingy or ill-equipped: a school’s theater or someone’s private viewing room.

Regional cinema can also be found in theaters in Cannes, or Toronto, or Shanghai. Unbeknownst to our local majority, it rakes in applause abroad. It has been in the everywhere that most aren’t aware of. Regional cinema is that dim underground current of good Filipino films. And it moves steadily. It has been cinema’s underground scene for the last decade or so, a source of the most freshly told, award-winning contemporary stories this country has seen on screen (if only their contributions were as lauded locally as Pia Wurtzbach’s or Manny Pacquiao’s victories). The filmmakers I mentioned are all from Cebu, the only community I can legitimately speak about at the moment as far as personal work experience goes. But ask any regional filmmaker and they’ll say they are no stranger to gypsy screenings, scouring for funds to fly to a festival, or the even bigger problems that plague the industry. But filmmakers keep powering through them anyway, driven by a common denominator: that we have stories from home, too. In a country with more than a hundred languages, the Filipino experience alone varies from region to region, and it is far from that of the highly urban capital, where filmic activity has for the longest time been centered. Audiences who have seen films like Lester Valle and Carla Ocampo’s documentary Walang Rape sa Bontok learned how and why the concept of rape is nonexistent within the tribe. Viewers described the humor in Patay na si Hesus as “distinctly Cebuano” (regarding that, director Victor Villanueva once wondered what makes “Cebuano humor” when, back at home, it was just plain “humor”). We saw how Martial Law surreptitiously crept into Lav Diaz’s rural Mindanao through Mula Sa Kung Ano Ang Noon. This, to my mind, is what lends freshness to regional stories. Regional filmmakers are deeply rooted in their unique sense of home, and this is where the lens with which they view the world stems. That’s not to say the stories are new. They have always been around, they just struggle to be told. These driving forces—like diff ff rent sociopolitical and cultural contexts, limited resources and venues—are also perhaps what make regional filmmaking great at finding workarounds and at answering the question, “Why not?” Ergo, the array of work born out of these unique worldviews has become the wellspring of films that make it to local and international festival circuits. It represents the sociocultural diversity that we ourselves struggle to grasp, much less appreciate. Our mistake has been to confine our diversity into a homogenous experience, but, as the saying goes, art connects. Specifically,

regional cinema is the platform for the kind of regionalism that edifies instead of divides or categorizes. Thus, it holds true to one of entertainment media’s responsibilities: informal education. So amidst the din of mainstream fare, regional cinema speaks for the rest of us. It’s no wonder then that in the last decade, a crop of festivals have sprung up in the regions: Salamindanaw in General Santos, Cagayan de Oro’s Cinemagis, Binisaya Film Festival in Cebu, Ngilgig Film Festival in Davao, and Nabifilmex in Nabunturan, to name a few, apart from the larger annual ones, like NCCA’s Cinema Rehiyon. This underground current is fighting to rise to the surface through these film fests, because the sad, ironic part is that, while the world has seen the best of our


cinema—regional or otherwise—most of our own people have not. This is a subject for a longer discussion, but suffice it to say that the struggle is difficult and messy. Despite that, regional filmmaking continues to move the way it sees fit. It rebels when it must. It provokes thought. It does what the craft of storytelling ought to. And what it ultimately can achieve is this: the further an artist journeys into himself, the more universal their work becomes. The better we know ourselves as part of our own regions, the better we can introduce ourselves to other subcultures. And the better we appreciate each other’s cultures, the clearer our country’s cinematic voice becomes in the world. That, then, is the stuff ff that real Pinoy Pride is made of.

Petersen Vargas g

on searching for himself in the Pinoy gay movie

QUEER PRESSURE Amidst the increasing variety of gay images in local cinema, the quality of queer representation in the movies leaves much to be desired ART BY MAGS OCAMPO

A HIGH SCHOOL memory: my teenage heart skips a beat as the glow of my Windows XP PC reveals an image I have never seen before: a young and decidedly gay probinsyano onscreen. The darkness of my tiny bedroom makes watching Joselito Altajeros’s Ang Lihim ni Antonio (2008) feel almost criminal, like a sin. The movie ends in murder and rape—a joyless finale to a somber depiction of a self I was trying to run away from since I first felt butterflies upon the sight of a shirtless Carlos Agassi. In my sophomore year at a small-town all-boys Catholic high school, I started crushing on a male classmate who eventually became my best friend. It sounds like the plot of your typical coming-of-age romance. (I’ve lost count of my Little tt Manhattan tt repeatviewings in an eff ff rt to avoid daydreaming about the messy situation a first True Love brings.) The coming-of-age films of the burgeoning Pinoy gay indie cinema of the 2000s were nowhere near the big-budgeted,

glossy rom-coms that equated young romance with kilig, never libog. g With one WingTip (a website at that time dedicated to sharing Pinoy content online) release after the next, gay romance onscreen was almost always depicted in full-blown grit, with the main selling points being fatal attraction and dangerous desires. It seemed like the prospect of True Love with this boy was ultimately doomed from the start, and the movies showed no glimmer of hope—only the odd reinforcement of the queer as a truly sexual, unfortunate being. Between that period of unhealthy obsession with sexy gay flicks and my current self—a young filmmaker whose recent works have contributed to Pinoy queer cinema—much growth and change has come to redefine the local landscape. Developments in both independent and mainstream cinema have steadily increased the visibility of the gay man, sure. But it has always worked as both a blessing and a curse, depending on



Their underwhelming split-second kiss caused controversy, yet it wasn’t enough to elevate all the talk to a meaningful takeaway. how you see it. Once upon a Metro Manila Film Festival (MMFF), after a Pinoy gay icon’s five-year streak of box office record breakers, it removed what would become its biggest seller yet from the 2016 lineup. The breakthrough star behind each hit, Vice Ganda, is openly gay, and in every movie plays the crowdpleasing effeminate jokester. No matter what each project promised—a tandem movie with Kris Aquino in Sisterakas (2012), a teamup with Coco Martin in Beauty and the Bestie (2015) and Super Parental Guardians (2016), or a movie franchise game-changer in The Unkabogable Praybeyt Benjamin (2011) and The Amazing Praybeyt Benjamin (2014)—Vice Ganda’s films opened, without fail, to sold-out theaters nationwide. He even starred as four

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iterations of himself, a concept that, on paper, would sound ridiculous. In Girl, Boy, Bakla, Tomboy (2013), Vice Ganda clones himself with the help of movie magic to turn into, well, obviously: a girl, a boy, a gay guy, and a lesbian. It was, inevitably, a hit. But in 2016, when Star Cinema and Viva’s regular Vice Ganda offering didn’t make the MMFF cut, an independently produced dark comedy, Die Beautiful, emerged as a somewhat necessary counterpart. Die Beautiful’s cast is led by Paolo Ballesteros, who plays a transgender beauty queen. It promised all the attractive exaggeration and extravagance of the comedy found in gay beauty pageants and men clad in women’s clothing. Die Beautiful eventually outsold all the other MMFF entries in Metro Manila, the LGBT flick once again

tickling the Christmas audience’s fancy. After a year, Paolo Ballesteros is set to release his next gay comedy feature, Barbi D’ Wonder Beki. For better or worse, this might be what has come to define local gay cinema for the regular moviegoer. Vice Ganda, dubbed “The Phenomenal Box Office Star,” reflects the decades-old commercial appeal of the way gay icons operate in the eyes of the Pinoy audience: comical and flamboyant. The burden of what could be a well-received Pinoy gay movie somehow still lies in this singular representation of the “bakla,” borne out of Philippine queer cinema’s history with the likes of Dolphy, Roderick Paulate, and now, Vice Ganda and Ballesteros. But who the Pinoy gay guy—or bakla—truly is, simply cannot be boxed into this single specific strand in an extensive, complex spectrum. Interestingly, during the digital boom of the early 2000s, the beginnings of a small niche industry emerged, in stark contrast to these profitable gay comedies. Looking back on the way films by gay cinema household names Cris Pablo (Duda/Doubt, QuickTrip, Bathhouse), Joselito Altajeros (Ang Lalake sa Parola, Kambyo), and even Brillante Mendoza (Masahista, Pantasya) and Adolf Alix Jr. (Daybreak, Muli) found their audiences, one can only credit the unprecedented phenomenon of digital independent filmmaking. The existence of independent cinema provided an antithesis to the usual big studio offerings, which seemed limited to a set of given narratives and genres. When Star Cinema and Viva found box office success in Vice Ganda, it was only through his signature comedies that these studios consistently celebrated—or, other times, even ridiculed and misrepresented—the queer identity. It was not until 2009 that Star Cinema offered the almost unimaginable: a Vilma Santos-starrer that paired Luis Manzano with Philippine cinema’s most bankable leading man, John Lloyd Cruz, in an arguably subdued gay romance subplot. The belated gesture that is In My Life at least showed the Pinoy audience a welcome look at two gay men living together, dealing with familiar domestic issues. Luis Manzano’s Mark even dared to argue with Vilma Santos’s Shirley about how none of his other siblings had the burden of “coming out” as straight. However, the little it actually devoted and offered as a deeper perspective to its gay characters and their relationship whittled their storyline down into mere pageantry. Their underwhelming split-second kiss caused a lot of controversy, yet it wasn’t enough to elevate all the showbiz quips into meaningful takeaways that might have shattered expectations and lasted long enough to matter. When the technology of moviemaking became accessible and, to an extent, cheap, the kind of gay narratives coming out—pun intended—finally began to diversify. You can look at a 2005 gem, Auraeus Solito’s seminal debut Ang Pagdadalaga ni Maximo Oliveros,

as a turning point, both for independent and Pinoy queer cinema. It not only found a way to profit from its theatrical and video releases both locally and internationally, it broke stereotypes of the gay persona in the movies and opened up essential discourse on matters of queer identity in local cinema. Maxi, a flamboyant young teenager, lives with an all-male family of macho thieves who embrace him all too well. Maxi comes of age and (as the title suggests) “blossoms” when the policeman he tenderly falls for becomes the very man who chases after his family’s crimes. It proves an essential work for its depiction of truth in the gay story, the family story, and the Filipino story.


Since then, local independent filmmaking continues to grow and provide narratives shaping a new wave of LGBT cinema. The Pinoy audience has already been witness to a league of gay zombies in Jade Castro’s Zombadings 1: Patayin sa Shokot si Remington; a gay man impregnated by unexplained forces in Ara Chawdhury’s Miss Bulalacao; an interracial gay love triangle set in Thailand in Bebs Gohetia’s I Love You. Thank You.; and so much more in between. Star Cinema very recently even had a bisexual Sam Milby in Jason Paul Laxamana’s The Third Party. As the history of Pinoy gay movies continues, many of us in the community eagerly hold on to the promise of being

rightfully represented, and rightfully entertained. With every hit or miss, each Pinoy gay movie release adds up to a sum of films that continue to try and make up for, collectively, a portrait of who we really are, who we’ve been, and who we aspire to be. I imagine a gay teenager like myself, the way I once was, searching through local TV or movie posters for any slight or overt indication of the way he feels and sees the world blown up on a giant screen. I imagine the gay teenager in 2017 now sees more than what I once saw a decade ago, and chances upon a version of himself amongst the wealth of Pinoy queer cinema available today. Or maybe not. Either way, we can only look forward to seeing more.

Mariah Reodica on Rene Aquitania

THESHAMANOFTHEPINK ALLEYCATHEDRALASYLUM As performance and installation artist Rene Aquitania prepares for a landmark retrospective of his work, a writer ponders the concept of preserving the inherent ephemerality of his art


THIS IS HOW Rene Aquitania’s last dream went:

“Nag-aalis ng buhol ng tali, kanina. Parang sigurong— parang buhay. Kailangan matastas tapos maging diretso na naman. Kailangan kasi ng tali.” The tangle was intricate and dense, but as he combed through the string, new colors emerged unexpectedly that he felt could somehow find their way into whatever he had set out to make. Like the rest of us, he doesn’t always remember how his dreams end. “Uy, ochre,” says Aquitania, distracted by the glorious sunset outside the window of his living room. The gin pageant has commenced in the Pink Alley Cathedral Asylum, the moniker bestowed upon his home nestled in the rolling hills of Baguio. Aquitania plucks a flood lamp off ff of a haphazardly arranged stack of bric-a-brac and dusts it off. He steps onto a creaky chair and stretches up, hands scanning the ceiling beam for a hook to hang the light on. There isn’t any. He calls out to his assistant, Mark, who is midway through a spirited rendition of an Eraserheads song on the guitar, for a spare nail. In the blink of an eye, the light is up,

Aquitania in his studio



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A ritual sending prayers to people who died in the Second World War

“Performance ang araw-araw. Hindi mo na kailangan ng audience.” the physical exertion and sacrifice behind them. Many of his paintings are left unsigned. On one instance, he left a painting suspended in Burnham Park, at the mercy of the weather. Great efforts are made to preserve works of art that are deemed relevant. The illusion that all art, even masterpieces, are still at the mercy of the natural processes of entropy is one that is often pushed under the rug because it’s difficult to accept; however, Aquitania embraces decay and decomposition as another part of his process. His casual reply to the initiative behind the retrospective is this: “Siguro kasi malapit na ako mamatay.” At the age of 56, death already seems to be a preoccupation. His mother was a healer, negotiating with the body as both a mortal being and vessel of the human spirit. Aquitania has had close encounters with death, in both a physical and spiritual sense, throughout his life. After the economic downturn that followed Ninoy Aquino’s assassination, he found solace in a community of the homeless in Malate. Even destitution did not extinguish his compulsion to make sense of the world through art, and its power to spark empathy in the people around him. “Performance ang araw-araw ,” he continues, “Kahit ano ginagawa ko, performance. Hindi mo na kailangan ng audience.” He pours gin into a yonic wooden bowl, utters a soft shamanic chant, and gently takes a sip before passing it around. There’s another dream that has been recurring in his sleep for the past few years: “Palagi mayroong sasakyan na nagigiba sa bandang huli ng panaginip. Pero ngayon, hindi siya nagigiba sa panaginip… e hindi ako marunong mag-drive! ” His main mode of transit

and thought is walking, an integral part of his way of life. “Marami kang naiisip pag naglalakad ka, kaysa nakasakay ka sa sasakyan,” he says. “Ang bilis ng oras, ’di ba? Pero kung naglalakad ka, andaming pumapasok.” He taps a finger on his forehead. While his performances are often spontaneous or improvised, the thought and spirit that goes into them stem from his inner being. “Pinapagod ko sarili ko, tapos habang naglalakad, nakukuha ko ang mga materyales na gusto ko. Tsaka sa paligid ko kinukuha ko ang costume ko, ang kwento niya,” he narrates, “Pagdating ko na sa performance area, iyan na. Wala na ang nerbyos.” What he does is not for the weak-hearted. His performances have involved pain and endurance, not for spectacle’s sake, but as a rite of purification. He unravels the intricately knotted problems of the commodification of art, the hollow glamour of consumer culture, and how urban living insidiously alienates one from nature and their neighbor. The outside world is madder than that of the Pink Alley Cathedral Asylum, and Rene Aquitania’s work is more resonant than ever. Not that there’s no reason to be too serious about it. Out of the blue, he quips, “Thank you for listening, sana mamatay kayo!” When times get tough, sometimes the only way to get through it is a sense of humor. The sky has changed color to a crisp shade of indigo, fog is rolling over the hills, and the barangay kagawad has knocked on the door, warning us to tone it down because the neighbors are complaining. Anyhow, the night is too young to worry about death. “’Di pa ako namamatay; wala akong alam sa kamatayan,” he shrugs with a smirk. “’Pag namatay ako, kwentuhan kita.”


illuminating what inhabits Aquitania’s home. On the table are a Sto. Niño beside small clay pots and his cat, who is missing an ear. Pinned to the walls are all sorts of obscura: a crumpled photo of Marilyn Monroe, a page ripped out of a sketchbook declaring “MORALIST [sic] OF THE WORLD UNITE,” a faded family photo, old prints, a yellowed lab coat, and a chain of sachets of whole pepper. From the ceiling dangles a small gem amongst spiky lanterns made of recycled barbecue sticks, all in what he calls his ecosystem. Rene Aquitania’s room is a world in itself. The objects that urban society typically dismisses as mundane are imbued with meaning in his hands, such as your average sheet of corrugated metal. He picks up a guitar with a missing string and improvises to Mark’s tune with esoteric notes that only he could’ve thought of playing at that moment. In this particular asylum, everything happens all at once and is never repeated. There isn’t necessarily a rigid, notated method to the madness. Rather, there are reasons Aquitania chooses to express in actions than in words, and the meaning lies in the eyes of the beholder. His performances are the stuff of legend in Baguio: emulating the senakulo during a political rally in Marcos’s time; constructing a Christmas tree out of garbage to put on display in Binondo for the benefit of political delegates in the country for the APEC in 1998; the Proposal Tocucan Bridge, where he restaged the ancient tradition in which two communities on opposite sides of a valley cooperate to construct a bridge; and most iconically, pushing a kariton proudly bearing a sign declaring “Art for Peace” on foot for five days from Baguio to Manila. When he arrived at his own opening night, he was so exhausted, he collapsed and slept. Aquitania has been spending the past months preparing for a retrospective at the Cultural Center of the Philippines, a landmark in his career—or more aptly, journey—as an artist. How does one even begin to comprehensively present his body of work? He’s a performer, painter, and installation artist. He’s acted in Kidlat Tahimik’s and Raymond Red’s films. Most of all, he has been mentor to countless people in Baguio, holding workshops on making art for everyone, especially those that elitist institutions tend to ignore, such as the homeless and underprivileged. Artists such as Kawayan de Guia, Angel Shaw, and Roberto Villanueva hold him in high esteem. Despite all of this, his work is largely underdocumented. Not that it’s a problem to him. Fame, validation, and conceit are the least of his concerns. He fully embraces the ephemerality of his performances and art. Countless paintings have been given away unsigned, or traded for art materials or necessities. Photos and footage of his performances can only show so much about





complaining about director Cathy Garcia-Molina’s treatment of extras on the set of the television show Forevermore. She was, in particular, shamed for cursing at one of the talents, berating him for not acting properly. The most interesting thing about it was the defense: that on the set, foul language isn’t anything out of the ordinary. While Garcia-Molina admitted that the cursing wasn’t right, per se, it had to be taken in the context of a professional film set, where that kind of thing happens all the time. And there are many ways to take that, but it seems to be implying that on a film set, a certain level of abuse is expected. Of course, Cathy Garcia-Molina wasn’t some brash, young newcomer with a temper and a new way of doing things. She’s an industry veteran who has been on many, many film sets. The implication is that she’s received this kind of treatment before, and she’s just doing things the way she knows how. In the film community, while no one was quick to defend Garcia-Molina, there were people who backed up that concept, at least. There are those who would say, in fact, that what the talent experienced was rather mild. They’d have stories about the withering wit of Ishmael Bernal, or the booming anger of Peque Gallaga. And then there’s Mike de Leon, who is often described as “mercurial.” It is perhaps the most diplomatic way to describe his behavior. The synonyms all connote something much less flattering: volatile, erratic, capricious, temperamental. “Mercurial” implies that the things he does are somehow elemental, as natural as the poisonous liquid metal. MIKE DE LEON was my first favorite Filipino director. Batch ’81

was my first favorite Filipino film. The movie was released one year before I was born. By the time I was old enough to see it, de Leon was already somewhat of a recluse. His last feature film was made in 1986. There was news that he was working on a Jose Rizal biopic starring Aga Muhlach, but that didn’t seem to be panning out. I knew little of the film industry back then, but I knew about Mike de Leon. I’d been told enough as a teenager that I’d missed out on the best years of Filipino cinema, that the stuff Regal and Viva and Seiko were churning out paled in comparison to the works of Brocka, Bernal, and Mike de Leon. So, I came into my first viewing of Batch ’81 with a heavy dose of rebellious teenage skepticism. Older people couldn’t tell me what was good and what wasn’t. I suspected that their nostalgia kept them from just appreciating the clear merits of something like Magic Temple or Eskapo. But of course, Batch ’81 just blew me away. It was unlike any other Filipino film I’d seen at that point: so taut in its construction, so confident in the expression of its ideas. And unlike many of the other lauded films that I had seen, Batch ’81 is genuinely entertaining from end to end, its sense of outrage funneled through a dark sense of satire that makes the audience complicit in the harm that takes place on screen. We are with the masters when they laugh at the humiliation of the neophytes. We are entertained by their Cabaret routine, which of course is just a musical welcome to the world of fascism. And in the end, the violence provides a visceral thrill, up until it gets too violent, and the strength of the film’s message is reinforced. It is a brilliant film that hasn’t really lost any luster since its debut. Just recently, it was digitally restored and screened as the


closing film of the Quezon City International Film Festival. I’ve seen the film at least a dozen times now, in a variety of different formats and settings. But I had never seen it clear, projected in a real theater. It was an entirely new experience. Mike de Leon was present at the screening. I’d only met him one other time before, at the premiere of another restored version of a film that he worked on: Maynila sa mga Kuko ng Liwanag. And just as on that night, he seemed to be in good spirits. They say you should never meet your heroes, but most of the time a casual social interaction won’t do much to ruin the image of your idol. No, the adage should really be, “Never work with your heroes.” It is always at work that the true monster comes out. IT HAS BEEN written that Batch ’81 is an allegory for fascism,

depicting how authoritarian tendencies take hold thanks to the passive acceptance of the vague idea of some greater cause. Sid Lucero keeps justifying the horrors that he’s confronted with in the name of brotherhood. It isn’t the frat’s fault that his friends died; it was their own fault, because there’s no way that the frat, which stands for some beautiful ideals, could ever be wrong. Interestingly, it was said that on set, the late Mark Gil, who played Sid Lucero, was the one who would tell his co-actors to calm down when de Leon was being his most difficult. The story goes that de Leon had this habit of just not shooting when he didn’t feel like it, even when everyone else was ready, even if they had been waiting an entire day for his orders. After making everyone wait around for hours, after arguing with his staff about the details that didn’t feel right to him, he would just order everyone in the production to pack up. According to Mike Arvisu, who played Abet in the film, Gil told the cast that actors are paid to wait, and if they couldn’t handle that, they should leave show business. Whether anyone saw the irony in this is unclear. But this is the sort of devotion that Mike de Leon inspires. He is clearly so brilliant that it is a privilege to just be working for him. It must be what went through the minds of all the people who ended up working on the production of de Leon’s latest film, Citizen Jake. Some dropped out of other projects for the chance to work with the aging master. Dix Buhay, for example, gave up his post as director of photography for Erik Matti’s Buy Bust for the gig. A lot of the crew that ended up working on this film were two or three generations of filmmakers removed from de Leon. They’d come to know him only through his films and his reputation. They’d heard the stories, certainly, but there are a lot of young artists willing to take the risk for the sake of being part of a great piece of art. What most of them probably didn’t know is that de Leon had been working on this movie for years, and had already alienated plenty of collaborators on the road to its production. And on set, they would all learn that his reputation was well-earned. No one is really willing to talk ill of the filmmaker on the record at this point, but the few rumors that have come out sound familiar: members of the staff and the cast berated and belittled, some told to leave with no real idea if they’re ever meant to come back. One story has it that a member of the staff was already on a bus home from Baguio in tears when she got a call to come back on set. And of course, everyone who found themselves on the wrong end of the filmmaker’s temper would justify their choices within themselves. They’d made it this far. They’re already in it. Why would they quit now? Why would they give up? They are, after all, part

of something greater, a component in realizing a genius’s vision. And once again we are brought back to Sid Lucero, telling his fellow neophytes that they only have to put up with the humiliation for a little longer. Soon they will be masters, too. Alpha Kappa Omega, ang simula at wakas ay kapatiran. WHAT PRICE ARE we willing to pay for genius? This is not a new struggle. Throughout history, lovers of art have been faced with the question of how to separate art from the artist, how to enjoy the output of brilliant men and women who turn out to be less than ideal as human beings. To be completely fair, it may be unreasonable to expect them to be the exemplars of perfect human behavior. And no one would emerge a perfect specimen of moral behavior under the kind of scrutiny that tends to come with creating brilliant work. And to be completely fair to Mike de Leon, the stories about him are comparatively tame when held up next to some of the other tales that have been floating around about the industry and the people in it. That he comes to mind at all in this context is mostly because I now personally know people who have worked with him, making it impossible to keep his famed mercurial nature in the abstract. But it is just curious how in all this, in the decades since de Leon created and maintained that reputation, he’s still maintained a certain loyalty among those who have suffered his wrath. It is still pretty rare to hear anyone talk about how he should try and change his behavior, how things could simply be better. Perhaps it is just the respect afforded to an elder. Perhaps it is in deference to his clear genius. Maybe people just accept that he’s from a different generation, and that’s how things were done back then. Cathy Garcia-Molina ended up having to make the case for herself. If she was mean to people, it was because she carried on her shoulders the burden of trying to make the best possible television show. If she was short with those extras, it’s because they were getting in the way of the work. If she had treated them badly, it was in the name of creating art. With Mike de Leon, it’s those around him who seem to make that case—those who have every right to complain. They protect and defend the director, letting him behave in ways that should no longer be acceptable, telling everyone that it’s worth it in the end. And maybe it is. Maybe it isn’t. Maybe Citizen Jake will be the greatest Filipino film ever made. Or maybe it will be the one film that will truly mar the legacy of the master. It doesn’t really matter. In recent years, the industry as a whole seems to have grown discontent with the way things are, and there are more professionals voicing their outrage over the unreasonable hours and general mistreatment of workers. People in general seem to be more aware when things go wrong, and are calling for action to address the issues. This industry, built on the shoulders of giants like de Leon, is slowly but surely changing. There will come a time when the country will assess the legacy of Mike de Leon. And it should be said that he is brilliant, that his contributions to Filipino cinema are important and indelible. But his behavior probably shouldn’t be written off as being simply mercurial. There are lessons to be learned from the way he interacted with people, from the way he is said to have hurt others. If we are to build a kinder, more ethical industry, we cannot only remember Mike de Leon for the genius of his oeuvre, even if that might seem like the easier thing to do.



In his latest film, Buy Bust, director Erik Matti and his crew, along with lead actress Anne Curtis, orchestrate one of the most ambitious and technically challenging sequences in the history of Filipino cinema. Philbert Dy visits the set to witness the madness unfold PHOTOGRAPHED BY NEIL DAZA



The rigors of this shoot have certainly gotten to him. Yesterday, he lost his voice, and was worried that he might not be up for another day of shooting. This day wasn’t even supposed to happen. It wasn’t in the schedule. Then again, the original schedule for this production is now a distant memory. They planned to have ended almost a month earlier. But here they are, back on set, with at least 10 more shooting days to go. But this day in particular was never in the cards. They thought they already had this sequence down. After two full days of working on this one sequence, after over 30 takes, they thought they could finally put it to rest. There was cheering. There was celebration. And then, Matti saw the take projected on a bigger screen. “It wasn’t perfect,” he says. “Some of the hits didn’t land as hard as they could. And some of it could look better.” And so, the crew returned to set on this Sunday afternoon, setting up once again for the most difficult sequence they’d ever shot. The film’s star, Anne Curtis, isn’t on set yet. They are letting her rest. This one sequence is grueling for the actress, and she needs all the energy she can muster. In the tent, they aren’t talking about the sequence. They no longer need to. They’ve tried shooting it so many times that there isn’t really any point. Everybody knows their job. Everybody knows what needs to be done. So, for now, everyone’s just relaxing for a bit, making jokes, enjoying the air conditioning, mentally preparing themselves for what could be another long night of trying to perfect what, until this point, has been an incredibly frustrating endeavor. At around 3:30 pm, the power in the tent suddenly goes out. They radio the generator people to ask what’s going on, but at the same time, they seem to recognize it as a signal to get back to reality. The producers, assistant directors, and camera department file out and walk to the set that they built, prepared to spend the next 12 hours trying to get one sequence right.

THE SEQUENCE GOES like this: Anne Curtis’s character, a PDEA agent,

runs through a dark alleyway in an impoverished area while being chased by its residents. She fends off some attackers and climbs up to the rooftops of the makeshift homes. While there, she has to fight off


even more assailants, punching and kicking her way to the other end of the compound, ending up on the second story of one of the taller structures. There, she fights off another goon before jumping out the window and landing on stacked graves. She fights her way down into another house where she has to fend off a knife-wielding woman. She goes down another alley and becomes surrounded by the area’s angry residents. She climbs up another structure, pursuers swarming her on both sides. With nowhere else to go, the intrepid agent is forced to jump off her elevated platform, diving into the unknown. If this sounds pretty standard, one should note that this series of chases and fights takes place entirely in one long take, which runs for about three minutes. The camera follows Curtis up and down the elaborately designed set, tracking her down the same alleyways, climbing up the same structures, milling its way through the same mass of bodies. The sequence involves coordinating the actions of dozens of bit players. It just so happens that today, they weren’t able to get the same bit players who were in the first two takes. So, the crew has to brief a whole new set of people on what has to be done, and how to keep safe in this monstrous structure with its multiple levels and potential points of failure. And if that isn’t challenging enough, the entire scene takes place in the rain. Water pours down from rain machines, making surfaces slick and generally adding even more complications to an already complicated sequence. “We already had this scene in our heads,” Matti says. “We knew we wanted to have this long action sequence that took place on two stories. We storyboarded it, and then when we got to the location, we figured out what was possible. And then we built the set.” This is the one sequence they’ve been trying to get right for two days now. The last take, the “good” take, was take 35. Matti shows it off on the monitor. To watch it is to witness a tiny miracle. It’s easy enough to pick out all the places where things could have gone horribly wrong. The production works hard, of course, to make sure that nothing does, but no one can foresee everything. A successful take of this one sequence requires a confluence of so many things going right that it’s best to simply ignore the probabilities. At the heart of all this is Anne Curtis, who is almost always in frame, getting soaked in the same rain as everyone else, climbing up


Anne Curtis plays a PDEA agent trapped in a violent slum in the upcoming movie Buy Bust.


From top: Stunt performers and background actors chatting in between takes; director of photography Neil Derrick Bion; detail on the film’s elaborately designed set.

AT THE HEART OF ALL OF THIS IS ANNE CURTIS, WHO IS ALMOST ALWAYS IN FRAME, GETTING SOAKED IN THE SAME RAIN AS EVERYONE ELSE, CLIMBING UP AND DOWN RICKETY WOODEN LADDERS... and down rickety wooden ladders, running on rain-slick rooftops, performing sliding kicks and hip throws in the middle of all the chaos. Even in the tiny production monitor, one can see the intense concentration on the actress’s face, and the way the physical exertion is taking its toll. To see her doing these things is part of that miracle, her star power lending the scene another dimension of awe. But it isn’t enough of a miracle yet for Matti. He points to small, specific moments in this one take where a punch wasn’t hard enough, or someone in the background didn’t look completely convincing. It is pointed out to him that he could cheat, that even the biggest Hollywood productions might fix these little problems in postproduction. The weaker-looking punches could be made to look stronger, for example, by cutting out a few frames to make the arm move quicker. A little camera shake and some smart foley work could sell the impact. And there are points in the sequence where Matti could make an invisible cut, perhaps editing in a better version of that particular segment. There would certainly be no shame in doing this. Atomic Blonde, lauded for an action sequence designed to look like a single take, employs many little shortcuts to make things look better. But Matti waves off the suggestion. “What’s the point of doing this sequence if we aren’t actually going to do it?” Charms Valenzuela, line producer, adds, “What’s the point of doing anything if you aren’t going to be ambitious?”

SONNY SISON, THE film’s action director, limps into the small room where the monitors have been set up. He is dealing with a bout of gout and has his bloated ankle in a brace. Film sets in the Philippines tend to be very superstitious. They offer eggs to spirits so that it doesn’t rain. Most productions don’t allow peanut products on set for fear of their supposedly unlucky properties. Erik Matti is one of the few directors who doesn’t ascribe any legitimacy to these long-held practices. But today—with his production going on longer than planned, his voice still recovering, and his action director suffering a gout attack right before going back to shoot the film’s most complicated action sequence—he seems to be a little more open to the existence of a world beyond our own. Many believe that the location of the shoot, a surprisingly large compound on the western side of Cubao, is haunted. The story goes that there was once a school there, but it burned down. Someone says that many kids have died there. There have already been several shoots here, but someone points out that they’re using an area that no one’s really used before, and they’ve built an entire set on it. No one actually knows what the truth is, but everyone has something to say about the place’s history.




The crew talks pretty openly about the strange things they’ve seen. Even Matti has to acknowledge that strange things have happened. He talks about a PDEA agent acting as their consultant who suffered a stroke on set. Later, the agent would send Matti a picture he took on his phone. It was one of the actors inexplicably missing his head. Perhaps it was a trick of the light. Maybe the camera malfunctioned. Word is that the PDEA consultant saw three shadowy figures surrounding the actor. When they noticed that he had taken a picture, the figures attacked him and caused his stroke. “How do you explain that?” Matti asks. Again, Matti is one of the least superstitious filmmakers in the country. But after all that, he had the production burn all the costumes. Better safe than sorry. Sison takes his position behind the monitors. He’s really the one who ends up having to orchestrate this sequence, relaying instructions to the people on set, making small adjustments, telling the actors and stunt people and dozens of extras to move one way or another. Because for this sequence, at least, he’s the only one watching the monitors while the cameras are rolling. “This scares me,” Matti admits. “I can’t watch the takes myself. There’s just so much that can go wrong.”

“NO ONE’S EVER offered me a role like this,” Anne Curtis explains.

She is already in costume, sitting in the same cramped little space where the directors are camped out. At this point in the night, she is all smiles. They gave her the entire day to rest. She is, after all, at the very center of this vital sequence. “I’ve always wanted to do other things, but no one was giving me these kinds of scripts,” she says. According to Matti, it was actually the actress who initially reached out to the production. One of the executives at Viva just told her about the film, about the story it was trying to tell, and she asked that she immediately be put in touch with the director. Matti was at the airport when he got the call. There were meetings after that, and it became very clear that Curtis was really committed to taking the role. “She’s been great,” Matti says. “No pretensions. No complaints. She’s here, and she does the work. She really wants to be here.” “I’m the one who ends up saying maybe we should take a break,” he says. “Anne is always, ‘Let’s go direk!’” The sequence asks a lot of Curtis. There is a point in the scene where she is replaced by a stunt performer, but it’s for just one specific stunt. Curtis is on camera for the other 90 percent, dictating the pace of the action and risking life and limb as she attempts to bring Matti’s uncompromising vision to life. “It’s also fun for me, getting to do all these things,” she says. It’s clear that Anne Curtis was looking to be challenged. She could have coasted off the success of No Other Woman and simply continued playing one of two rival vamps fighting over Derek Ramsay. Or she could have probably inserted herself into any number of local romantic comedies, the bubbly girl looking to fall in love. Her choices in the last few years have been a little more interesting. The Gifted and Bakit Lahat ng Gwapo May Boyfriend? could both be considered romcoms, but they challenge the genre in intriguing ways, both bearing agendas that go beyond the happy endings of a man and woman ending up together. And then there’s Blood Ransom, a small American film that had Curtis playing a young woman infected with vampirism, struggling against her desires. The film is a little hit-or-miss, but it made Curtis’s ambitions clear: she wasn’t going to be limited by what the local film industry was going to offer. And so, she is on the set’s makeshift network of roofs. She is taking instructions from Sison, who wants her to try a new way of throwing one of her assailants. She practices the move over and over, willing it to become muscle memory. She performs it on her much larger scene partner, and gradually, it starts to look more and more credible. It can be easy to forget just how fit and athletic Curtis is. That deceptively svelte frame has run the New York Marathon at a sub-five-hour pace. It actually becomes difficult to imagine who else could have done this, what other actress in the country has the physical stamina to put up with the madness of this one sequence.


Clockwise, from top: Behind-the-scenes of one of the segments of the Buy Bust set; Raymart “CJ” Cabusas, a parkour talent, has a smoke between takes; an intimate snapshot of one of the movie’s many extras; the crew setting up one of the various and intricate sets for the scene; Lyndzy Sarah Ragadio, one of the many talents to take part im the chaotic brawl sequence; Anne Curtis in between takes.


When she’s satisfied that she got the move right, she smiles. Even through the tiny monitor in this somewhat distant room, one can pick out just how happy she is.

EVERYONE IS OPTIMISTIC. At the start of the night, Matti says that

he thinks they’ll only have to do five takes. Some of the crew have put together a pool, betting on which take is going to be the good one. The highest anyone goes is 45. Things do not go quite as smoothly as that. It never really pays to be optimistic in film production. And with a sequence as complicated as this one, there are just too many things that can go wrong. In one of the takes, an actress oversells a hit, spinning around wildly before knocking into the camera. In another, one of Curtis’s kicks just doesn’t land right. In the next one, Sison is unsatisfied with the way the extras are acting. “Push harder,” he says into the microphone, his voice booming over the entire set. Then, a ladder that Curtis is supposed to use to climb down from the second level isn’t there when she gets in position. To her credit, she doesn’t just let the take end—she jumps down instead, unwilling to let a potentially good take go to waste. Unfortunately, it still slows her down enough to mess up the intricate timing of the shot. She’s got a hand on her back by the end, but she insists she’s okay. By around take 40, the images on the monitor start flickering on and off. Technical people scramble to find the problem, checking and rechecking dozens of feet of cable, tightening connectors, and restarting systems. At some point the problem just seems to magically fix itself, and no one knows exactly what happened. There are a few injuries: a bit player performing barefoot steps on something sharp, another hyperventilates. On take 45, the enthusiasm engendered in the extras works against them. By this point, the crew has spent all night pumping these bit players up, most of whom are new to the set and this sequence. They were instructed to give it their all, to push harder than what might be expected. This becomes a problem on this take, which is one of the ones that make it all the way to the end. In their zeal, too many extras end up trying to climb up some scaffolding, and a piece of

the set breaks off in the hands of one of these pursuers. He falls backward, landing on another talent. It’s nothing serious, but it’s enough to spook everyone a little bit. Matti admits to feeling doubt by around take 54. He’s considering his options, at least, identifying the places in the sequence where he might be able to cheat a bit. He’s making the case to himself, trying to justify the choice of giving up on the sequence that he’s been dreaming of since this whole thing started. He’s preparing for the sad possibility that he just might not get it. But deep into the night, long past what most would consider a reasonable hour to be working on this one sequence, it all just comes together. Curtis’s blows land with crispness and energy, and the stunt performers sell everything beautifully. The background players create chaotic, kinetic scenery in their own little corners of the set. And the camera captures everything perfectly. It is exactly what they had come here to accomplish. This day wasn’t supposed to happen. They already thought they had it with take 35. And to be honest, they did. Take 57 is undoubtedly better, but one does have to ask if the extra effort was worth it, if that bump in quality was worth this extra day of dealing with all the headaches that a production day brings, if it was worth working through sore throats and gouty ankles and the risk of further injury. When people watch this movie, they won’t see that extra effort. They won’t see the prior 56 takes that really tell the story of this one little miracle. But clearly, to everyone involved, it isn’t even a question. Of course it’s worth it. They didn’t sign on to this project because it was going to make compromises. They’ve already had enough of the compromises of the rest of the industry, where budgets are either too small to achieve a vision, or too large to accommodate it. Everyone seems to be keenly aware that Matti is working within unique circumstances, forging his own path through Filipino cinema, trying to find ways to expand its horizons. And they are with him because he’s just crazy enough to make it work, or at least bold enough to try. Days later, Matti is celebrating. He isn’t done shooting the movie, but he knows he’s accomplished something rather astonishing. He sips some Japanese whisky, and happily tells tales of that day, of that take, of the little miracle that he managed to put together.


Widely regarded as the Philippines’s first crime novel, F. H. Batacan’s Smaller and Smaller Circles went beyond genre trappings to became something more complex, tackling the systems of oppression plaguing our country today. With a Raya Martin-directed film adaptation on the way, Emil Hofileña speaks to its ensemble of actors and discovers that each of them has found their own truths behind the mystery, and Batacan’s story is as ripe for interpretation today as it was when it was first published 15 years agos ago













Most mysteries start with a murder.


With Smaller and Smaller Circles, director Raya Martin marks his first major foray into more straightforward narrative filmmaking. Opposite: The director with Nonie Buencamino and Sid Lucero on set.


This one begins with a confession. In italicized text, F. H. Batacan kicks off her Palanca- and National Book Award-winning novel Smaller and Smaller Circles inside the mind of an initially unknown speaker, nervous and paranoid. This early on, it becomes clear that Batacan isn’t simply interested in giving readers a puzzle to solve. In fact, on page one, she already hands us the key piece: she allows us to meet the murderer. From then on, contrary to its title, the novel branches outward, addressing aspects of Filipino society ranging from the lack of funding for certain institutions to the Catholic Church’s questionable position of power in the Philippines. So, unfortunately, this story—two Jesuit priests assisting in the investigation of what they believe to be a string of serial killings—is now perhaps a little reductively regarded as the Philippines’s first crime novel. Raya Martin, the director of the novel’s feature film adaptation to be released in December, considers the book to be less about particular characters or incidents and more about systemic oppression. “We’ve always been fighting the same fight,” Martin explains. “In a way, this story forces us to contemplate this, and how we really need to stop and think about where we are right now and what we can do—whether it’s in school, politics, the arts, or wherever—to really think about where we’re coming from and how we’re going to play our role.” Martin’s role for now is to enter personally uncharted territory: this isn’t just his first time translating a work of literature into a cinematic language (while still hoping to capture all of the book’s layers), it’s also the director’s first narrative feature in a prolific career comprised of documentaries and more avant-garde fare. Known for films such as Maicling Pelicula Nañg Ysañg Indio Nacional, Independencia, and How to Disappear Completely, Martin now finds himself taking responsibility over another artist’s world. And, as is the case with any film adaptation of a book, more cooks have to be brought into the kitchen. Helping Martin bring Batacan’s words onto the screen are writers and producers Ria Limjap and Moira Lang and production company TBA Studios, a conglomerate consisting of Tuko Film Productions, Inc., Buchi Boy Entertainment, and Artikulo Uno Productions. And then there’s the cast. Ever since its original publication in 2002 as a novella from the University of the Philippines Press, Smaller and Smaller Circles has become many things to many people. Now, it’s taken on yet another identity: a melting pot of actors from all corners of the industry and beyond. There are veterans here, like Christopher de Leon, Ricky Davao, and Raffy Tejada, and younger talents in the process of making their own distinct marks, like TJ Trinidad, Junjun Quintana, and Jess Mendoza—all of whom were handpicked by Martin and his team. There were no auditions held for the main roles, meaning every actor was intentionally brought onboard for specific reasons. No matter their background or interpretation of the material, these actors were allowed to play to their strengths—turning Smaller and Smaller Circles into an unlikely but honest snapshot of the Philippines’s landscape of screen actors for 2017. Thankfully, a portrait such as this is still eclectic and reverent enough to include the industry’s local legends whose successes have paved the way for the rest of the ensemble’s careers. It’s a wonder

It becomes clear that it was important to Martin, at least during the casting process, that his actors be just as interesting and dynamic off-set as they are on. that Bembol Roco, in particular—unmistakably the face of what many call the greatest Filipino film of all time, Lino Brocka’s Maynila sa mga Kuko ng Liwanag—is still getting roles today, and in independent genre pictures, no less. “We really wanted Bembol because we’re playing with the idea that he is one of the best actors of Philippine cinema and he’s also an icon. But he’s also a very normal guy,” Martin says. “He’s not showbiz at all.” In Smaller and Smaller Circles, Roco plays Director Lastimosa of the National Bureau of Investigation, a supporting role that Martin felt would benefit from the thespian’s stature. Roco himself, though, is soft-spoken, accommodating, and unaffected by his reputation. He says the character is just another role he considers equally as important as the rest of his filmography, which includes credits from Mario O’Hara’s Tatlong Taong Walang Diyos and the Peter Weir-directed The Year of Living Dangerously. “I have no idea why they chose me. I guess I may look the part,” he laughs. “I consider myself a dramatic actor. That’s what I am, that’s who I believe I am, that’s what I’ve done for the past 43 years.” Meanwhile, as Roco continues to navigate familiar territory, Carla Humphries—the only woman in the film’s main cast—has just reoriented herself. “Who am I to be amongst such wonderful and wellrespected actors?” she asks, still somewhat incredulous that her name gets to be on the same call sheet as her co-stars’. “It’s an honor to be amongst them—and also Raya, in his own right, has accomplished so much—so it was exciting to reenter the industry with something this substantial.” She plays news reporter Joanna Bonifacio, a character loosely based on Batacan herself, and one of the key people involved in solving these serial murders of children. For Humphries, Smaller and Smaller Circles is a reset button, her

rebuttal to her own self-doubts about getting back into show business after spending a couple of years soul-searching in France. “I was thinking that maybe my time had passed, that I hadn’t reached that certain peak,” she remembers. “I was maturing and reevaluating my life and thinking, ‘Is this for me or not?’” Luckily, while Humphries wasn’t certain her earlier attempts had been noticed, Martin found himself impressed by her in two vastly different projects: the Wenn Deramas comedy Bekikang: Ang Nanay Kong Beki, and the Joyce Bernal action film 10,000 Hours. “[I discovered] her in those extremes,” Martin recalls, “’yung ability niya to go from one end of the spectrum to the other easily, and then meeting her and seeing how she’s also so different in real life, like she has a world of her own.” It becomes clear that it was important to Martin, at least during the casting process, that his actors be just as interesting and dynamic off-set as they are on. “I think casting is putting together different kinds of energies,” he states. “It’s a puzzle na, okay, this person brings in this type of friction on set, so is it good or bad to the scene or to the story? Then we decide.” Humphries shares her director’s sentiment, anchoring herself on something more akin to spirituality as she continues to fine-tune her craft. “You really learn from an actor just by being in a scene with them, just by observing and having their energy in their presence during a scene,” she says. “It’s amazing. I don’t think any school could teach that kind of applied education. I think we all bring our own energies, and I think part of being with such a strong cast is to hold your ground.” As Humphries was preparing to be reintroduced to Philippine cinema, the film’s two main stars—Nonie Buencamino, who plays forensic anthropologist Father Gus Saenz, and Sid Lucero, who plays psychologist Father Jerome Lucero—found themselves somewhat



Clockwise from top left: Sid Lucero, Nonie Buencamino, Bembol Roco, and Carla Humphries. Opposite: Buencamino and Lucero play two Jesuit priests who also work in forensics and psychology.


Smaller and Smaller Circles will never be the film that everyone wants it to be. Once it is released into the world, the filmmakers will lose control of it.

underprepared for the very roles they were curiously handpicked for. “I’m not Father Gus from the novel,” the theater-trained Buencamino admits. “In the novel, he’s a tall guy. Long hair, white hair, medyo sloppy, so they took some license with it.” On the other hand, Lucero, known most recently for intense roles in films like Apocalypse Child and Norte, Hangganan ng Kasaysayan, felt challenged by the prospect of playing a character much less confrontational than his previous roles. “I’m really makulit, so it feels like it’s more of an effort when I control myself and inhibit reactions,” he says, before adding, “but I’d say [Father Jerome] is pretty intense, too. Just not explosive.” Having previously worked with both lead actors, Martin was never-

theless confident in choosing the two for reasons beyond physical requirements and typecasting. “They’re special collaborators to me,” Martin beams. “There’s this closeness of understanding of consciousness. It’s not just their craft. It’s more of how they think, how their presence is felt on set and in the story. And they’re perfect together; one exists because of the other.” The connection Martin sees between them is unclear, at first, until you speak with the two actors individually. “It was a personal journey for me, doing the film,” Lucero muses. “Not as Father Lucero, but as Sid Lucero.” Martin describes him as the more emotional of the leads, his performance driven strongest by empathy and feeling—traits Lucero carries with him even beyond the movie. “It taught me a lot about myself, because of the work environment that I put myself in. I was doing two shows, I was snapping at friends, I was coming to work not ready,” he reveals. “I learned a lot about myself in terms of what I can and cannot do.” Lucero is quick to clarify that the Smaller and Smaller Circles set, to him, was home; he just wishes he hadn’t let other projects keep him from enjoying his time there. This comes in sharp contrast to Buencamino, who, when asked about his big takeaway from the filming experience, chuckles and replies, “The French language is very hard. It’s so difficult that I should have practiced more.” Then, his tone turns a bit more serious. “It was a wake-up call for me to learn more, study more, practice more,” he continues. “I had time to get a script, but I should have practiced more with the French”—and you realize he wasn’t joking. It makes sense, given that Buencamino is the more evidently technical of the film’s two leads; he generously cites acting gurus Konstantin Stanislavski, Sanford Meisner, and Stella Adler, while underlining the importance of constantly returning to the fundamentals, even if it means attending workshops led by far younger actors. For him, acting is humility. With such a varied mix of styles on one set, one can only imagine the heavy lifting on Martin’s part to command the best kinds of performances out of each member of the ensemble. But all of the actors agree that he wasn’t hands-on with them at all. “Raya I find to be a very subtle director,” Roco says. “As actors, we are given the freedom



Humphries’s character Joanna Bonifacio was loosely based on Smaller and Smaller Circles author F. H. Batacan.Opposite: Martin with the film’s eclectic, varied ensemble of actors.

to express ourselves with our own ideas and ways of interpreting the character.” Humphries adds, “He’s very effortless. He’s not in-yourface about the character. There’s that certain trust that he gives you, and he’s not a dictator.” “Ang gift niya is how to bring it out of you,” Buencamino chips in. “He’s very soft, very subtle. Pero magaling siyang manood.” Lucero echoes this, likening his direction to acting blindfolded. “It’s a more cerebral way of attacking it,” he says. So the value of Martin’s careful, handpicked casting process has paid off: arguably the best piece of direction he gave his actors for this project was selecting them in the first place. Without having to give meticulous, irritating instructions, Martin affirms their natural talents from the get-go, assuring them that they’ve already brought to the table exactly what the film needs. And with that, the cast and crew seem to have everything lined up toward one unified vision. The problem now is that, since its publication in 2002, Smaller and Smaller Circles has become many things to many people. And with the film adaptation’s December release, the story is only destined to become even more things for an even wider audience. Amid excited comments on the trailers online are the occasional (if not altogether rare) grumbles that yet another Filipino film is attempting to be topical, or lamentations about the state of the country today, which neither Martin, nor Batacan herself, could have predicted would become the norm. There is no telling what kind of response the film will get upon its release. To be clear, none of the actors in the ensemble thought about Smaller and Smaller Circles’ potential impact while putting it together. Only after shooting wrapped a year ago did the cast begin to realize that what they had made could be even more special than they initially imagined. Humphries is optimistic: “It resonates with other problems we have in our culture, like how a life is so cheap in the Philippines, how people kind of sweep a lot of things under the rug. I’d be proud to show this to anyone, anywhere around the world.” Lucero, on the other hand, is a little more tentative about celebrating the film’s potential positive impact. “We’re really blind,


Filipinos,” he sighs. “We’re young as a society, we don’t know what’s happening, we don’t know what’s good for us. [The film] is a really nice, powerful piece, but I don’t think the ones who need to hear it are mature enough to understand what’s going on. I think we’re slowly getting there. Mabagal lang.” “They might not like my statement,” Buencamino warns before continuing. “‘Wag niyo na i-connect. The issue [in the film] is serial killing of children. It’s not EJK (extrajudicial killings). I think, more than anything, if they watch the movie, the overriding thing is mental health. We should be aware of people [with mental health issues] and be compassionate with them, and try to fix their situation or help them.” Among the various interpretations and messages people will choose to see when they finally get to watch the movie, the reality that reveals itself is this: that Smaller and Smaller Circles will never be the film that everyone needs or wants it to be. With any piece of art, once it is released into the world, the filmmakers will lose control of it—no matter how carefully the film was conceived, casted, and crafted. At the end of the day, despite the best efforts of Martin, Limjap, Lang, TBA, and the entire cast, a work of art will always be completed by the audience. And it will be up to the audience to decide what the film means for them, if anything at all. But Martin reassures us in the face of all this uncertainty. “Doing this movie made me realize, up to a certain point, that you can create your own world,” he states. “And you can go along as you shoot it. But at the end of the day, the important part is where magic comes in.” He differentiates “magic” from chance, but can’t quite find the words to articulate what he means. He concedes and concludes by saying, “The more that you just let it flow, then that’s when you start seeing all these things that can be beautiful, that can be possible.” Ominous, peculiar words, especially for a film about two priests tracking down a serial killer. But little else seems capable of being apt to describe what they’ve been able to accomplish—from the confident casting process, to the balancing of energy within the ensemble, to the minor miracle of even getting the film made. So for lack of a better word, magic it is.


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The French New Wave/Nouvelle V film scene with its bold and experi Today, these films still bear a prof Follow the story of a man making his birthplace, in a dreamy landscape t PHOTOGRAPHY





Vague electrified the international imental approach in the early 60s. found impact on popular culture. s way through Paris, the movement’s that pays tribute to the era’s greats TYLING NKS TO TUMI











The multiverse of cinema is nothing without those who create it. Here, three local filmmakers discuss the idols, influences, and inspirations that made them who they are today


Mario Cornejo WHEN THE CREDITS rolled on Magnolia (1999), I remember thinking

there was no more reason to make movies. The movie had been made. I laugh at myself now, but not too loudly. A small part of now-me still thinks that young-me was right: the ultimate movie had been made. It’s all over, and has been for 18 years. I had just graduated in 1999 and I knew I wanted to be a director. The 90s American independents were everything to me, from Quentin Tarantino to Wes Anderson to Richard Linklater, David Russell to David Fincher. While studying films, I grew to love the French New Wave and classic Hollywood, and fell hard for the 70s gang of De Palma, Coppola, and Scorsese, but those 90s American guys were my guys. And of those guys, I was all about P. T. Anderson. Paul Thomas Anderson didn’t make me want to be a director; that was Spielberg. He’s not the director I steal from the most; that’s Soderbergh. And the films I relate to the most are Baumbach’s. But Anderson is my favorite, and it’s all because of that film, with the frogs and the singing and all the goddamn regret. For those who haven’t seen it, this is the part where I’m supposed to tell you what the film is about. I really don’t want to. I’d rather you just watch it. But we all have our roles to play, and so it goes: it’s about one day in the lives of nine people in Los Angeles’s San Fernando Valley. It’s about what they’ve done and what was done to them, and how they go on living—or not. People make fun of it now, and they made fun of it then. The art house crowd is dismissive of Magnolia, and the mainstream crowd is frustrated by it. I don’t care, I really don’t. My love for it is irrational, like all true love. I may have watched it over 30 times and, in between the time I wrote the first sentence of this essay and this one, I’ve stopped and watched it again. Magnolia wasn’t Anderson’s first film. He did a small movie called Sydney/Hard Eight, a crime film about guilt and love, full of dirty Vegas cool, and it was mostly unavailable in the Philippines despite starring Gwyneth Paltrow. It was good, but if there was enough there to signal what Anderson would eventually become, I wasn’t perceptive enough to see it. I had seen and been a fan of his second film, Boogie Nights (of course). A portrait of the Los Angeles porn scene from 1977 to


the mid-80s, it was young and exciting and had all the sex and drugs that a young filmmaker could want. It had one of the most tension-filled scenes I’d ever seen, and he achieved it with Alfred Molina dancing in his underwear to the song “Jessie’s Girl.” It had Mark Wahlberg in the best role of his life, and the smallest biggest surprise at the end. Then Anderson did Magnolia and won me over forever. He then proceeded to pull his greatest trick: after making my favorite film, Anderson became a better filmmaker than ever. Punch-Drunk Love. There Will Be Blood. The Master. Inherent Vice. You could argue that every single one of these films is better than Magnolia. And I wouldn’t disagree, but I would never agree either. Everyone has a greatest love, whether we like to admit it or not, no matter how many times we fall in love. Admitting your love opens you up to ridicule and shame, so most of us hide it as much as we can. But in Magnolia, Anderson was brave enough to take some of the biggest risks I’ve ever seen in filmmaking. Brave enough to be so honest, so fucking honest, about pain and regret. It’s all a young, aspiring filmmaker could have hoped for. There’s a documentary about the making of Magnolia called That Moment. Before rolling on the first day of shooting, Anderson makes a short speech to the cast and crew. “So, uh, this is the first shot of this movie that, um, I think we should all unashamedly try and make a great movie. And don’t apologize, let’s just try and make a really, really, really fantastic movie. ’Cause there’s no shame in that, okay?” Right after making Magnolia, he said that for better or worse, he knew he’d never make a better film. Eighteen years later, I heard him say in an interview that it’s too long, and that he’d cut some storylines now if he could do it all over again. But he didn’t say which of the nine stories he’d cut down, and I’m glad he didn’t, because the thought is too painful for me to think about. Maybe he’s moved on from Magnolia, and in a way, I have too. I’ve experienced so many transcendent moments in a dark movie theater since that day 18 years ago, from so many amazing filmmakers. I’ve even made some films myself, and tried to face my own demons like Anderson faced his. In a way, though, I didn’t have to. Because Magnolia already existed. The movie had been made.


on P.T. Anderson


Quark Henares on David Lynch


DAVID LYNCH GOT me when I was 11. My dad brought home a

LaserDisc of this movie called Eraserhead and asked if I wanted to watch it with him. “It’s a movie by David Lynch,” he said, as if his 11-year old son would know what a David Lynch film was. He then proceeded to show me a surrealist horror fever-dream about a man with poofy hair who has to take care of his unwanted monster-baby. “Daddy, why does David Lynch make movies like that?” I asked him. “I don’t know. I think he’s disturbed.” I was too young to even know what “disturbed” meant, but at that moment I understood. When I teach independent film at Ateneo I always make it a point to show Eraserhead first, usually introducing the film with a question: “Are you ready to get fucked up?” Without fail, when the final reflection papers come in three months later, they all still talk about Eraserhead. Varying from “I cant understand why anyone would make a film like that, it’s really horrible” to “I can’t believe I’ve never seen a film like that, it’s beautiful.” I always tell the students the same thing: you may end up loving David Lynch, you may end up hating him, but you will never forget him. Lynch has been called many things—from genius and trailblazer to incomprehensible and indulgent. So what makes Lynch so special? Why, of all the auteurs and blockbuster filmmakers and indie darlings and cinematic rebels, is he my guy? Because nobody makes movies like him. Full stop. In fact, the more people have tried to be like Lynch, the more they’ve failed. Look at Oliver Stone and Wild Palms, or even something as recent as Darren Aronofsky’s mother! Doing a Lynch movie doesn’t mean you’re just being weird. There is a huge amount of improvisation and serendipity in his films, yes, but there is also a lot of thought and consideration. Lynch is one of the few filmmakers who I feel really understands the human subconscious. There are things he shows in his movies that feel so familiar, or that really get under your skin and keep you awake at night without being scary or shocking. But don’t get me wrong—the guy is great at being scary and shocking. Consider the uncomfortably extended murder-by-stairbanner opening of Wild at Heart, or the masterfully crafted death of Laura Palmer from Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me (still one of the greatest murder scenes of all time). Try to remember David Lynch villains like Dennis Hopper’s rape-you-while-wearing-a-nitrate-oxidegas-cannister Frank Booth from Blue Velvet, or scenes like Robert Blake telling Bill Pullman to call his house because he’s there right now in Lost Highway. The dark is strong in David Lynch’s work, and I think it’s because Lynch genuinely believes that evil exists. And if evil exists, that means good does, too. In Lynch’s films bad things happen to good people, but the goodness pervades, even if it doesn’t prevail. Sailor and Lula’s love will always save the day. Dale Cooper will always try to save the girl, even if it destroys him. Laura Palmer will always choose to die over giving herself to evil.

The best way to experience a David Lynch film is to do just that: experience. Stop trying to make sense of things. Just let things wash over you, and allow yourself to feel the film. That said, appreciating his oeuvre is a tricky task. Start with the wrong film, say, Inland Empire, and you could be turned off with him completely. So this is the journey I suggest you take: Blue Velvet (1986), Wild at Heart (1990), Mulholland Dr. (2001), Lost Highway (1997), Eraserhead (1979). It’s only if you’re still a fan after watching these five that you can finally take on Inland Empire, his most difficult film. In between those, as palate cleansers, you might consider what I call the non-Lynch Lynch works: Elephant Man, Dune, and The Straight Story. These are directed by David Lynch and have some of his signature style, but don’t feel like they belong in the same universe as the others. Dune, in particular, can be only appreciated through the guise of unconditional Lynch love. Keen cineastes will notice that I’ve neglected to include one key David Lynch work in the list: Twin Peaks. What many consider to be his masterpiece, Twin Peaks is a journey of its own. It’s something I feel you can watch from start to finish and not only come away completely understanding David Lynch and his work, but also understanding the many mysteries of life and the universe. What’s interesting about Peaks is that it starts out as a standard TV soap opera and gets increasingly crazy as you go along—tackling Tibetan philosophy, dark spirits, hidden dimensions, the nature of identity, and the essence of evil. By the end of it all you feel like you’ve violently snapped out of a 50-hour trance. Twenty-five years ago I saw my first episode of Twin Peaks, and the last scene featured a dancing dwarf in a red room with a dead girl whispering in the hero’s ear. I couldn’t sleep that night. It wasn’t that I was scared. In fact, it was more that I couldn’t place what I was feeling. What the hell was going on? What did it all mean? What was Laura Palmer whispering in Dale Cooper’s ear? I’d basically spent the rest of my life chasing this feeling. Twin Peaks taught me how much I could love stories, how fiction could sometimes affect me more than real life, how transcendental the moving image could be. After 25 years, the show finally returned. The new Twin Peaks was even more challenging than the original when it first came out. Much like the original, it was unlike anything you’d seen before on television, except it was at a time when most felt everything that could be done had already been done on TV. When the show finally ended, I found myself annoyed. So many questions were left unanswered, so many threads left hanging, so much unresolved. That night I couldn’t sleep. I just kept thinking— what the hell was going on? What did it all mean? What was Laura Palmer whispering in Dale Cooper’s ear? It felt like coming home.



Samantha Lee I RECENTLY MET a girl without a favorite film. We had been talking

for weeks, but I expertly managed to avoid revealing anything too personal about myself. I had long ago placed my heart in a box for safekeeping, and it wasn’t getting out any time soon. It was a rainy Friday night when I got a message from her telling me that she was sad, and that she needed something to cheer her up. Without thinking about it, I sent her a link to Rushmore with a message that said, “This is my favorite film. If you don’t like it, we should stop talking.” Girls come and go, but your favorite film will never leave you. I didn’t have a favorite film until I watched Rushmore. I was in Melbourne in the middle of winter and I remember borrowing a DVD copy from the local library. I was spending six months in the city as part of an exchange program; it was a welcome respite from all the conflicting feelings I had about film school, a pause button I so badly needed. At that point, I had already completed three years, and was completely unable to watch a film for the sake of pleasure. I would overanalyze every shot, cut, and score, even if it was High School Musical 3. And then came Rushmore. It felt so different from any of the films I had experienced before. It felt a lot like coming home. Wes Anderson is primarily known for a distinct visual style that has been copied and reproduced by many aspiring filmmakers around the world. A quick Google search of the key words “Wes Anderson Style” will result in pages upon pages of instructional videos on how to achieve the symmetry, patterns, and palettes that he’s become known for. In the introduction for the book The Wes Anderson Collection, novelist Michael Chabon compares Anderson’s visual style to the boxed assemblages of artist Joseph Cornell. He describes the rigidity of the filmmaker’s shots as a “guarantor of authenticity.” It’s as if this act of honesty, of pointing out the obvious—that films are miniature worlds in rectangular boxes—allows the audience to open themselves up more to the emotions they have been keeping from themselves. I’ve never really given much thought as to why I love Rushmore so much. Through the years, the film has become a security blanket of sorts, something I would always turn to when things weren’t going well in my life. I knew that I could see a lot of myself in Max Fischer, the high school outcast who is at once so connected yet so oblivious to everything that’s happening around him. His honesty and commitment to living life on his own terms, despite being isolated for the same reasons, has made Max a hero to me. “I guess you’ve just gotta find something you love to do and then... do it for the rest of your life,” 96

he responds when asked what the secret to happiness was. Hearing this line for the first time renewed my love for filmmaking at a time when I was convinced I was going to give it up. A lot of people give Anderson credit for his visual style, but I think what he really excels at is writing stories that make people okay with being themselves. Most kids had Disney films to teach them about going after your dreams, never giving up, and the difference between good and evil; those films served as a blueprint, a guide to life that I never really emotionally connected with. Instead, I found my map into adulthood in Anderson’s body of work. I think timing also had a lot to do with it. For the first time in my life, I was living alone in a different city. I had to figure out how to fend for myself without the help of anybody else. I was struggling with falling in love for the first time, figuring out who I really was, and holding down my first job, all while struggling to make it to my classes on time. I faked my way through adulthood by taking on the roles of Max Fischer, Peter Whitman, and Richie Tenenbaum. His storybook worlds taught me about brokenness, disillusionment, and loss at a time when I thought it was wrong to feel so broken. It’s as if confining harsh realities into neat 16:9 frames gave me the security to explore these feelings without coming unhinged. He taught me that sometimes, people who don’t end up together can slow dance into oblivion, and that’s okay, too. I’ve always been a solitary creature; it’s something that I’ve struggled with for some time. Society teaches us that we shouldn’t be okay with wanting to be alone, that no man is an island, that we should spend our lives in pursuit of our tribe and stick to them. But Anderson taught me that it was okay to build worlds within myself and to keep these worlds inside boxes. That the worlds we build inside ourselves are adventures worth pursuing, too. His body of work is a testament to the fact that it’s normal to feel completely alone, even when you’re surrounded by people in a research vessel in the middle of the ocean, in a cushy New York mansion, or in a packed commuter train in the middle of India. The morning after that rainy Friday night, I received a message from the girl with no favorite film. “Max covers all his brokenness with all these activities and white lies,” she said. And at that moment, I realized that by showing her my favorite film, I had inadvertently given her the keys to the boxes that were inside me. I couldn’t think of anything clever to say, so I turned to Anderson to save the day. “She’s my Rushmore, Max,” I said in reply, and moments later my screen lit up with the words, “She was mine too.”


on Wes Anderson



Wong Kar-wai’s second feature, Days of Being Wild, is widely regarded as the first film to showcase the Hong Kong director’s signature style. But before the acclaim, there were money problems, manpower issues, and a race against time. With its final 20 minutes shot in Philippine locations, Emil Hofileña spoke to some of the film’s Filipino crew to hear their personal stories of endless days and 21 sleepless nights



Then 32 years old, the Hong Kong director was in a hurry to film the last act of his sophomore feature, Days of Being Wild, before the movie’s fast-approaching December 15 domestic release date. Wong knew the story he wanted to tell: at this point in the film’s loosely structured narrative, the protagonist (played by the late Leslie Cheung) has left his web of broken relationships in his home country and is looking for his biological mother in the hopes of restoring at least one meaningful human connection. Wong also knew the kind of career he preferred to pursue. By then, Hong Kong was saturated with gangster movies, and Wong had made his own contribution to the crime genre in the form of his successful 1988 debut, As Tears Go By. But the young auteur saw in his rising popularity and favorable critical standing an opportunity to attempt something riskier: a film unfettered by genre and plot, relying instead on feeling and suggestion. Days of Being Wild would become a true realization of this attempt, almost completely abandoning the crime sensibilities of his first film. Unbeknownst to Wong, Days of Being Wild would eventually become the first part of an informal trilogy, followed by his massively influential In the Mood for Love (2000) and the less popular 2046 (2004). All three films display what critics now call Wong’s signature style: graceful, dreamlike visuals, melancholic soundtracks and voice-over narration, tightly framed cinematography focusing on the subtleties of human interaction, and a pervading atmosphere of longing and unfulfilled romance. Whereas In the Mood for Love touches on the dissatisfaction that can arise from a committed relationship, and 2046 speaks of the specter of lost love, Days of Being Wild goes back to the beginning, illustrating the inability to connect to others in one’s search for identity. But even before the idea of a trilogy would hatch in Wong’s mind, he still had to find a way to finish this first installment. The plan was to set the final act of Days of Being Wild in the Philippines, with Filipino actors and some dialogue in the native language. Wong and his crew needed 25 days of filming; what they had was somewhere between two to three weeks. None of them spoke Tagalog. “There’s a Hong Kong-based film. Bring your CV,” Jude Mancuyas was told. The call was abrupt and urgent, but to Mancuyas and his colleagues, it was just another job. He had worked as part of the wardrobe department

in various productions before, starting out on the children’s television program Batibot before eventually going on to local films and a couple of international projects by the BBC. “We had no clue kung ano [’yung film]. So we went,” Mancuyas says, before chuckling, “hindi na ako nakauwi.” There, somewhere in Makati, dozens of Filipinos— working in wardrobe, in the art department, and as stuntmen—were interviewed, hired on the spot, and immediately shipped off to be briefed. “The only qualification,” Joann Bañaga recalls of her audition, “was you had to have worked with Lino Brocka.” Bañaga wasn’t recruited the same way Mancuyas was. Instead, she remembers having to fight harder for her position as first assistant director (AD). “Of course I wasn’t really too familiar with Wong Kar-wai,” she says, “but everyone was saying, ‘Oh, he’s the Lino Brocka of Hong Kong.’” Bañaga had worked on projects associated with the likes of Chuck Norris and Cinema Paradiso’s Jacques Perrin, but hadn’t actually AD’d with Brocka. She brought up her having been able to work with Ishmael Bernal, and clinched the job anyway. Elsewhere, Oli Laperal can’t quite remember if he was assigned or if he himself volunteered to work on the film. What he’s certain of is that Wong Kar-wai’s team needed equipment, and they needed people to man this equipment. They contacted Laperal’s company, RSVP Film Studios, and he found himself roped into the deal. “Our biggest issue was that we just didn’t have enough time to do what they wanted,” Laperal explains. “So they said, ‘O sige, double the cameramen, double the grips, double the electricians, double everything.’ They were looking for a Steadicam operator, and I think at the time, I was the only certified Steadicam operator here. So I had no choice.” Together with the Hong Kong production team and the rest of the Philippine contingent, Mancuyas, Bañaga, and Laperal were taken to the Philippine National Railways’ (PNR) Tutuban station in Tondo, Manila. Twenty-seven years ago, the station hadn’t yet been partially converted into what is now the Tutuban Center Mall, but it did have something similar to a bar on its top floor. This was where Wong planned to shoot a brief fight involving Cheung, fellow Hong Kong actor Andy Lau, and the large group of Filipino stuntmen who had been recruited. “Maganda ’yung Tutuban noon. Nakakatakot lang tapakan kasi ’yung flooring was so unstable,” Mancuyas remembers. “Parati




Now recognized as one of Hong Kong’s greatest directors, Wong Kar-wai began his career with a gangster film whose success motivated him to write and direct the more experimental Days of Being Wild.


Days of Being Wild has been screened and re-released well into the 21st century. Above: Poster for a new release from Kino International. Opposite: Wong with Leslie Cheung. Previous, clockwise: Villa Escudero; Leslie Cheung; Tita MuĂąoz; a Philippine National Railways train; Maritoni Fernandez as a hotel maid; the bar at Tutuban Station; Fernandez with Andy Lau; Carina Lau; calesas outside Tutuban Station.


akong nasa baba noon kasi natatakot ako na may mahuhulog galing itaas.” This was, naturally, a cause for concern, especially this early in the shoot. Bañaga asked her Chinese AD counterpart what the plan was. “Wala silang script,” Bañaga marvels. “It’s all written in [Wong’s] mind. And when we were scheduled to shoot, ikekwento niya sa first AD niya na Chinese. And the Chinese AD, who speaks good English, would tell my brother, who was then my second AD, to write down whatever scenes [Wong] wanted to be shot.” It started to become clear to Bañaga that her job as AD on this film would not involve much direct communication with Wong at all, but would require her to act primarily as a translator. “Once [the script] was written in English, that was the only time I was able to break it down and distribute the requirements sa lahat ng departments,” she says. “Ganoon ka-tedious ’yung trabaho.” Mancuyas also discovered, a little earlier on, how much the production crew would be playing by ear. After his initial interview, Mancuyas and the rest of the art and wardrobe departments were brought to the house of production designer Joey Luna, who served as the Philippine counterpart to the film’s official production designer, William Chang. At Luna’s house, those in wardrobe were handed wads of cash and sent out to collect 60s-themed costumes for the Filipino extras and supplementary accessories for the Hong Kong actors. Mancuyas narrates, “Sabi ni Joey, ‘When we say 60s, alam niyo na naman. We won’t go into details, we know you know what you’re doing, we trust you, hetong pera, kayong bahala.’” And so a legion of Filipinos (the number of whom Bañaga claims reached a thousand) arrived at Tutuban, split into two units with two shifts, but sharing the same load—with the exception of Laperal. “There was a morning to afternoon crew, then there was a late afternoon to evening crew,” Laperal recounts. “The problem I had, because I was the Steadicam operator, I was only one. So I had to do both shifts. They were basically filming 24 hours a day.” This is not that uncommon for film productions, even today, but this set in particular seemed to be running on nothing but the willpower that the crew was willing to provide. “And these people never sleep,” Bañaga says. “I was not allowed to sleep.” “Literally jingle lang ang pahinga,” Mancuyas adds. “’Yung total hours of sleep siguro noon, a week’s worth. It was really hard. I missed my bed.” “Tinanong ko sa [Chinese] AD,” Bañaga continues, “‘Would you like to sleep?’ Sabi niya, ‘We can’t stop. We can’t stop.’” This common bond of sleeplessness notwithstanding, the Chinese production team still couldn’t help but be skeptical of this ragtag group they had assembled. Bañaga recalls, “Binulungan ako ng first AD, ‘Between us, the director does not think these people are stuntmen.’ Kasi mga stuntmen natin, kung hindi putot, maiitim. Sanay sila sa mga kung fu-kung fu na puro mga puti. Sabi niya, ‘You better show him how these people work.’ So I said, ‘Okay, give me a chance to talk to them.’” Livid, Bañaga descended to the station’s first floor. Shortly after, Mancuyas heard her voice and followed it downstairs. “Bumaba ako at narinig ko si Joann,” he laughs. “She was giving a pep talk to the stuntmen. ‘Magpapatalo ba tayo? Inaapi nila tayo! Ipakita niyo na magagaling tayo!’” The stuntmen returned to set. Bañaga announced that they were ready to show the routine they had prepared. “Nung nag-roll na, nagliparan ang mga silya, umikot ’yung mga stuntmen natin,” Bañaga beams. Within two minutes, Wong called cut, saying through his first AD, “Okay, okay, I believe you.” The Chinese team applauded. Though Laperal wasn’t able to work too closely with Bañaga and Mancuyas on set—instead collaborating closely with the film’s cinematographer, Christopher Doyle—he remembers a similar experience of being underestimated. “The Chinese gaffer, or one of the cameramen, was curious about the Steadicam,” Laperal says. “He was saying, ‘What you’re doing is easy.’ Well, I didn’t want to argue. He said, ‘Let me try that. Put it on me!’ [The Steadicam] is 60 pounds; you have to keep your balance. Sometimes it takes a lifetime to master.” Laperal smiles to himself. “Maybe after two minutes, he had a sprained back all of a sudden. He lay down very slowly then asked for a Chinese doctor. He disappeared for a couple of days.”


“THE CHINESE CREW LOOKED TO HIM ALMOST LIKE A GOD, LIKE AN INFALLIBLE EMPEROR.” But Laperal, who can speak Mandarin and Hokkien but not Cantonese, is quick to come to the defense of the Chinese as well, stating that they didn’t mean to insult their Filipino crewmates. “They weren’t looking down on Filipinos. I felt that they were unfamiliar with the system,” he explains. “They were also under tremendous pressure to finish the film. Mga puyat na ’to even before they came. Maraming problema sila. And I knew because they were telling me. It affected them a lot.” The shoot continued over the following days with the same restless energy, the crew still unable to sleep, the cast being as decent as they could be. “Mas machika si Andy. ‘Hi, how are you?’ Ganun siya when you hand over the costume,” Mancuyas remembers. “Si Leslie ’yung tahimik. Siya ’yung may inner turmoil. Kasi nakaupo lang siya, naka-underwear lang. Aabutin mo ’yung damit, tapos titingnan ka lang, tapos magbo-bow, then he’d look away. Nakakatakot. What’s going on in his head?” It’s a haunting, sobering memory of the actor, knowing what would befall him later in life. Over two decades later, in April of 2003, Cheung would take his own life in Hong Kong. For now, in the crew’s memories, Cheung is alive and working with them every step of the way as the production team moved to Chinatown, Binondo, and much later, the Quezon Institute. While preparing to shoot at Villa Escudero, Mancuyas remembers dressing Tita Muñoz, who was anxiously waiting for Cheung to arrive. Muñoz was one of the few Filipino actors, together with Alicia Alonzo, Maritoni Fernandez, and Angela Ponos, whose names landed in the credits. In the film, Muñoz played the biological mother of Cheung’s character.


“Hijo,” Muñoz cooed to Mancuyas, “don’t you have shoulder pads?” “You need shoulder pads?” “Yes, para imposing.” Knowing full well that the wardrobe department hadn’t prepared for her impromptu request, Mancuyas approached William Chang. “Uh, our actress wants shoulder pads.” Chang laughed. “You solve that,” he said, and dismissed Mancuyas. Mancuyas returned to the actress. “Uh, ma’am, unfortunately, we don’t have shoulder pads.” “Ah…” Muñoz trailed off. “Will a towel do?” As the December 15 release date loomed, the experiences of the crew began to blur together. As Mancuyas, Bañaga, and Laperal recount their time on set 27 years ago, they all begin to repeat themselves, revisiting anecdotes they had already narrated, looking for new details they hadn’t mentioned, and eventually admitting that it all just happened so quickly. But if all three of them remember one thing the most, it’s the train. Toward the ending of Days of Being Wild, the characters played by Cheung and Lau end up on the PNR and stay there for the remainder of the film. Following suit, the film’s crew, including hundreds of Filipinos, piled into the train, with each department being given their own caboose for their equipment. For what would seem like an endless amount of time, the train would travel back and forth from the Quezon area to the Laguna region, passing over a deep ravine along the way. The first order of business was to overhaul the interior of the


The final act is filmed in the same disjointed, dreamlike style as the rest of the film. From top: Leslie Cheung and Andy Lau inside Tutuban Station; the station before being partially restored into Tutuban Center Mall. Opposite, from top: A Steadicam scene operated by Oli Laperal; Tony Leung as an unidentified man at the end of the film.

train for the indoor shots. “Grabe, ang metikoloso,” Bañaga says. “[Si William Chang], mas matapang pa kay Wong Kar-wai. Binago lahat, pati ’yung seats ng tren. He needed to make sure na talagang of the period lahat.” Bañaga also remembers, at another location, Chang demanding that a scene where the characters purchase pandesal use authentic, period-specific money. “Akala naman kukunan ng close-up,” Bañaga remarks. Mancuyas attests to Chang’s meticulous nature, stating that the production designers asked for things like ashtrays and clothing hangers to be of the period. At one point, Wong instructed the ADs to tell Chang to hurry up preparing for a shot, since they were running out of light. Curtly, Chang responded, “You tell your director, I will not be rushed.” Bañaga says with a laugh, “Wala ring ginawa si Wong Kar-wai kasi award winner si William Chang.” With the train’s interiors customized to suit the time period, Wong could proceed with shooting Cheung and Lau inside the train cars. Anyone who’s been a crew member for a film will say that most of the time on set is spent waiting. Between takes, Bañaga and Mancuyas would sneak in as many minutes or hours of sleep as they could get, while Laperal remained glued to the camera department. Only when the train would reach one of the stops on either end could the crew

leave for a momentary bathroom break. “Wala namang banyo,” Mancuyas says. “Pagtigil ng train sa station, takbo kami, lahat kami [nakahilera] sa damuhan para jumingle, then we hopped back on the train.” “Hinahabol mo ’yung tren,” Bañaga insists. “May mga eksenang tumatakbo ka kasama ng tren hanggang sa ihahagis ka ng assistant director sa loob ng tren.” The constant stop-go movement of the train, coupled with the lessthan-ideal working conditions, eventually began to take its toll on the crew. “Nagkaroon ako ng motion sickness after the shoot,” Mancuyas states. In a moment of surrealism while over the ravine, he also recounts seeing a line of schoolchildren walking down the aisles of the train cars. “Ginamit pala nila ’yung train to cross the bridge,” he says. Laperal remembers having to scrounge for food while onboard. “There was no dinner because it went on another train. The 200 to 300 people on our train didn’t have dinner,” he says. “You’re literally lying on each other’s laps trying to get sleep, sharing food. The bonds are very intense.” He shrugs. “But that’s production. It’s controlled chaos.” Eventually, Wong Kar-wai stepped into a helicopter with some of his crew in order to get aerial shots of the train passing through the surrounding trees. The chopper would take long, wide rounds passing overhead with the train in motion, meaning each take would have to be properly coordinated and could not go to waste. “Dapat ako ’yung nasa chopper,” Bañaga says. “E hindi pinayagan because of my insurance. I needed to be insured to be able to take off sa chopper.” She stayed on the train instead, radio in hand, awaiting instructions from the Chinese AD.



alam ko, hindi nga kami nabayaran noon.” For the first time during Laperal’s trip down memory lane, he appears sadder, more solemn. “A lot of the people got mad at the production company. There was a group [of Filipinos] who wanted to go to court,” he says. “It was ugly. Kami, nabayaran partially, but what was promised didn’t happen. It didn’t end in the best way.” He clarifies that there are never just two parties involved when it comes to compensation for international productions, but different organizations representing different people. “The moral of the story is you work with people whom you know will pay.” Days of Being Wild was released on December 15 to disappointing domestic box office numbers, undoing Wong’s plans for a direct sequel. But the film would go on to win five Hong Kong Film Awards, and is now considered a classic of Hong Kong cinema. The scenes shot in the Philippines comprise about 20 minutes of the film’s total running time. To this day, Bañaga, who is now a producer with her own production outfit for film and television, still hasn’t seen the finished movie. Laperal, who is the managing director of RSVP Film Studios, has seen it, but admits that it is difficult for him to watch without feeling transported back to the set. Mancuyas, who has since left the film industry, has only seen snippets. “Na-trauma ba kami? Hindi naman siguro,” he says. “Pero alam mo, in hindsight, okay lang. At that moment, it was tedious. But it was fun. It’s now my bragging right. Si Joann, when she gave a talk and mentioned na nakatrabaho niya si Wong Kar-wai, she was deified. ” “[Filmmaking] is absolute chaos. It’s a conglomeration of problems that have to be solved,” Laperal states. “It can get very chaotic, very emotional. But 30 to 40 years later, [a film] is still very fresh in your mind. It’s like the first car you drove, or the first person you kissed. It comes from very deep inside you. Talagang once-in-alifetime experience.” I ask Bañaga, given everything she went through in that short period of time 27 years ago, if she would ever work with Wong Kar-wai again. Without thinking, she says, “Why not?”


As sunset approached and the helicopter drew nearer to the tracks, the radio buzzed to life. “There’s something on the train that’s not of the period!” There were PNR logos on the roofs of the train cars. “Lahat nagtakbuhan,” Mancuyas remembers. “Everyone grabbed buckets of paint, rollers. Sa pagmamadali, binuhusan namin ng pintura kasi parating na ‘yung helicopter.” But the tension on set reached its peak during another one of the helicopter’s runs. “Hindi nagustuhan ni Wong Kar-wai ’yung kuha. Pinababalik niya [’yung tren] sa kalagitnaan ng bridge,” Bañaga narrates. “Sabi ng nagda-drive ng tren, ’di pwede, mahuhulog tayo sa bangin. Sinabi ko kay Wong Kar-wai, ‘I’m sorry, sir, we cannot do that. We have a thousand Filipinos, we’re all going to die.’” The Chinese AD became angry and commanded them to pull back, despite Bañaga’s pleading. With no other choice, the train stopped in the middle of the tracks, over the ravine, and pulled back. The helicopter finished its run. After which, Bañaga was reprimanded. “Sir, that was a very dangerous stunt,” she said, which the Chinese AD ignored. They had gotten the shot they wanted. Through all this, neither Bañaga nor Mancuyas, and not even Laperal, were really able to speak with Wong Kar-wai himself. But none of them blame him for the difficulties they encountered on set. “[The Chinese crew] looked to him almost like a god, like an infallible emperor. I think he’s a master storyteller,” Laperal states. “They were good people, they knew what they were doing. I respected them quite a lot.” And just as suddenly as the shoot had started, production on Days of Being Wild wrapped shortly after. The Chinese crew pulled out from Quezon Institute, their last location, and hopped on a plane back to Hong Kong. Mancuyas remembers that they left behind a large assortment of accessories and imported clothes, which the wardrobe department salvaged themselves. But clothing wasn’t the only thing the Chinese crew had forgotten about. “Hindi kami nabayaran,” Bañaga says, matter-of-factly. “Tumakas sila. They claim we overcharged. I remember they even doubled my fee. Kaya hindi ko maintindihan.” Mancuyas confirms this, saying, “I think nag-abono si Joey [Luna] for us. Tapos siya na yata ’yung naningil. Pero


Days of Being Wild is credited as the first film to contain Wong Kar-wai’s signature style. Above: One of the posters for the film’s original domestic release. Opposite: The old Tutuban Station before it was partially renovated into the Tutuban Center Mall.


Since 2012, The EYE Filmmuseum has not only been a colossal testament to the beauty of cinem between private and public entitites and talks to the institute’s Publicity Manager, Marnix


ma, but also a celebration and example of its importance. Thea Garing details this collaboration x van Wijk, about its accomplishments for the last five years as well as its future milestones


The Institute, which opened in 2012, houses a vast number of film materials dating back to 1895, the start of the film industry in The Netherlands.

It is refreshing when an art form is not glossed over as something whose value is relegated to the abstract. Art is not a mirage; neither is it a speck, like glitter.


The EYE building was designed by the architects of Delugan Meissl, mixing light, space, and movement— parameters that are integral in both film and architecture.


“I am kino-eye, I am a mechanical eye. I, a machine, show you the world as only I can see it. Now and forever, I free myself from human immobility, I am in constant motion, I draw near, then away from objects, I crawl under, I climb onto them. I move apace with the muzzle of a galloping horse...”

institute dedicated to each art form. With distinct but complementary roles supported by the ministry, merger partners all sought to An excerpt from an email interview with Marnix preserve and promote Dutch Film (and film van Wijk, Publicity Manager, the EYE Filmmuseum in general). The compendium of events was The EYE has a very strong academic institutionfurther supported by the fact that both market cum-laboratory bent to it. Why was it and audience share of films spiked in 2011. necessary to underscore that aspect? One of the biggest box office hits that year We work closely with the University of was the film Gooische Vrouwen—think Sex and Amsterdam. There is the international MA course, Preservation and Presentation of the the City, but Dutch. As is often the case, film FROM A STENOGRAPHIC record, Dziga Moving Image (Heritage Studies). Staff members as an art form is something that appeals to Vertov shares this excerpt from a 1923 of EYE are teaching various subjects on this meeting of The Council of Three, his cross-sections of the population, so it’s with course. We believe that it is important to share optimism that the ROI, even if gradual, will not collaborators and fellow Kinokis or Kinoks our knowledge with future specialists. (“cinema-eyes” or filmmakers). He spoke only be in figures, but a variety of values. What are the biggest gains or successes A museum, an archive, and a theater all of the camera as if it was the human eye, that the EYE has accomplished in the last rolled into one, its mandate is nothing short but “better”—or that it can be bettered and five years? And what were the kinks? perfected. If there was a machine that could of ambitious. It’s even more astounding that Perhaps the William Kentridge and Martin Scorsese exhibitions, amongst others, but there they seem to be dead serious about hitting seize the world, it was the camera. A leading are too many. William Kentridge had more than targets in record time. In its collection is a thinker on cinema, Vertov’s philosophies, 70,000 visitors. What made it unique was that writings on the then-new art form, and whopping 40,000 films of varying genres, apart we had a new enormous installation which from other subsections such as thousands actual reel-works (films he prefers to call was made for the exhibition. For the Scorsese exhibition, bringing him to the opening was “documentaries”) were at that time deemed of photographs and posters, magic lantern difficult; he had to cancel his trip as his new film complex, eccentric, and sweepingly radical. slides, film equipment, sheet music, personal went into production earlier than expected. archives of more than 130 filmmakers and But from a local context, there is perhaps organizations, and an extensive and up-tonothing more radical than the notion of a Do you have a Filipino film in your collection? If none, what titles are part of your wish list? date library collection. With an impetus to state-enacted, subsidized, and networked Not really in the collection, but as part of the collect and acquire, digitize, and restore films support for the arts and culture. To be fair, program—we have shown Brillante Mendoza’s and other cinematic fragments in perpetuity, attempts to do so are not necessarily unheard films Lola and Kinatay at our museum and distributed them in the art house cinemas in the EYE is brimming with possibilities. It is a of or nonexistent. But Philippine history is the country as recently as 2009. Lav Diaz also programmer’s dream where innovations on rife with tales that forewarn that nothing had a screening and a Q&A for his films From the side of collection access, presentation, concrete can be done when faced (and dazed) What Is Before and Storm Children back in 2014, marketing, and even research and study are with a multi-sectoral failure of the will. in collaboration with the Prince Claus Fund. seemingly limitless. Needless to say, it remains a dream. What is the rarest, most interesting discovery It is refreshing when an art form is not Moving away from the specificity of the in the archive since you reopened in 2012? glossed over as something whose value is Soviet milieu and the precarious conditions Discovering a copy of long-lost British silent relegated to the abstract. Art is not a mirage; of the humid tropics, we land at the northern film Love, Life and Laughter from 1923. (Feared to have been lost, it was written and neither is it a speck, like glitter. What the bank of the IJ harbor in Amsterdam. directed by George Pearson. In 2014, the EYE EYE has done is present film in a variety of There stands a dream turned reality. announced it had discovered a copy.) ways: an art form, a heritage, and a body of Described with the buzz words “mixed-use knowledge. In doing so, it encourages diverse neighborhood,” Overhoeks reeks not only What are the new trends that the EYE anticipates in the next 10 years, in terms of the broad publics to engage with the museum and all its of the neoteric, but more so of the now. spectrum that describes film and filmmaking? This redeveloped district welcomed one of offerings in a variety of ways, democratizing We think that VR (virtual reality) will change the way its hippest tenants, the EYE Filmmuseum, film appreciation beyond the film scholar and films are made. So we are currently investigating the cinephile. Equally commendable is that, as during the first quarter of 2012. The EYE’s this form and making plans on how to present this. a multifaceted institution, it does not take its move to its multimillion home fits well with What are the milestones that the EYE the recent trend in the Netherlands, where many roles piecemeal; rather, its programming intends to achieve in the next 10 years? renovation and construction of museums is strategic and interconnected. Five priority Any dream projects for your team? areas are set in light of the gargantuan vision it are financed by both the state and the private The aim is to continuously bring in filmmakers of the world to present their work at our set out to accomplish, so as not to overwhelm: sector at staggering costs. Envisioned museum. Plans are also being made for by Delugan Meissl Associated Architects Dutch Film, International Film, Silent Film, an artist in residence program. (DMAA), a Viennese firm, and developed Experimental Film, and the newly added Expanded Cinema. The later addition of the by ING Real Estate, the structure that took state-of-the-art Collection Centre not far from six years to build houses four cinemas along with a vast space for exhibitions, the museum ensured a fitting laboratory that programs, and operations (including an will not only cater to the digitization project (called Images for the Future), but also other collaborations taken office, shop, and a café-restaurant). The design’s resonance was hinged on by the EYE in the field of collections management, research, and on replicating the cinematic experience, where light and movement is key. The amorphous shape and the number of windows offer multiple professionalization of its experts and staff. views of the harbor and Amsterdam, an experience akin to seeing stills The success of the EYE thus far is an answer to Ray Edmondson’s thoughts on the failure of archives: “Archives which start up with in motion, perfect for what is often touted as the “cinematic memory of the Netherlands.” lots of promise and then fail to survive organizationally or to As an institution, it straddles the line between a 70-year-old perform competently destroy public confidence in the whole idea of tradition (from its predecessors) and the excitement that a new preservation, and can do immense damage. Archives are inherently framework brings. A product of a merger that was conceived back permanent entities… government instrumentalities come and go, but in ’08 to ’09 between Filmmuseum, Holland Film, Filmbank, and archives have to go on forever.” Museums, libraries, and archives are the Netherlands Institute of Film Education, the EYE became the all living banks of memory. It is true that often, they chase after the national institution dedicated to film and the moving image. According past. But what compels them is the present, and the prospect of what’s to Marnix van Wijk, the EYE’s Publicity Manager, the Ministry of yet to come. As the EYE seems like it has gotten its act together, here’s Education, Culture and Science (OCW) aspired to have one national hoping that soon, we will too. 113


Rolando Tinio was one of the last of Philippine theater’s great enfant terribles, possessed of a savage tongue for errant amateurs, and blessed with a knack for translating Shakespeare and Chekhov into magnificent Filipino. As his last great work, Ang Larawan, awaits its turn on the big screen, Celeste Legaspi recalls soaking in a master’s genius AS TOLD TO JEROME GOMEZ

I WA S 17 WHEN I ME T ROL A NDO TINIO. He and Lino Brocka first saw me playing the lead role in Prinsesa Perlita at Fort Santiago. Shortly after, Brocka cast me in Mga Laruang Anghel (Cavort with Angels by Alberto Florentino) with Rosemarie Gil, and Rolando invited me to join his cast for the Jose de la Cruz komedya Prinsipe Baldovino, the premiere presentation that would open the CCP’s Little Theater. It was in the 70s and he was doing Filipino translations of plays by Shakespeare, Chekhov, and Ibsen, his efforts to contribute to the advancement of the Filipino language. At first I was hesitant to say yes. I was young and the Rolando I had in mind, from the stories I’d heard, scared me. He was a theater giant with a reputation for being temperamental. I was then singing with the showband Ambivalent Crowd where the boys would talk about him being quite the character. “I don’t think I can do it,” I told Rolando at first. While he said I would be with another young actor, the rest of the cast were veterans of the Philippine stage, Daisy Avellana among them, certainly much older and more experienced than I was. The idea petrified me. But Rolando prevailed. I would learn so much from that one production, and from the years of just being around him, soaking in his genius. He would bravely put up Teatro Pilipino, his own theater company, soon after our first Little Theater production. I would be sort of the foil to his beloved wife, Ella Luansing, his favorite actress whom he cast in almost all of his plays. He was exacting and demanded utmost focus from his actors. In one matinee of the play Ang Abaniko (Carlo Goldoni’s The Fan), I decided to go home for a while before the show, and for some reason took the prop with me, the abaniko. On my return to the CCP, Rolando was standing by the Little Theater entrance expressly waiting for me, as if ready to spew out his anger. Fides Cuyugan Asensio, the actress who played my mother in the play, broke into laughter. “Why were you late?” she asked. “Eh, it was a sexy afternoon!” I said. I remember we were rehearsing a play once when I decided to go for a toilet break. As soon as I returned to the rehearsals, coming in from the back, he would tell everyone in the room, “O, puwede na tayo magumpisa, nandito na si Ms. Legaspi, nakaihi na.” He was unpredictable. He would focus on me on our first play together, directing me like I was a neophyte in a workshop, and on our second play, Tiyo Vanya (Chekhov’s Uncle Vanya), he completely let go. I had to direct myself, figure out my blocking on my own. Yet I loved every minute of being around him. In his productions, Rolando was not only director, writer, and translator, but also actor, set designer, and costume designer, sketching and sewing the garments himself. When we did Negosyante ng Venecia (Merchant of Venice) in ’77, I was not only pregnant with my youngest and third child, Lala, but I was alternating with Leah Navarro


in another production, the rock opera ballet Tales of the Manuvu. In the latter, the famed fashion designer Ernest Santiago was in charge of the costumes, and I remember Leah wasn’t pleased that Ernest designed something loose for us just because I was seven months pregnant; she had a fantastic body to show. In Negosyante, however, Rolando—not exactly as known in the business of clothing as Ernest was—designed and made this very tight and long dress in which I surprisingly did not look pregnant at all. Rolando was one of our mentors in Ambivalent Crowd, even before I got to work with him as a soloist, policing our diction, showing us how to expressly pronounce the G’s in the Filipino words that end with the letter, how to sing a certain song as if its lyrics were pigeon droppings, or, in his more poetic Filipino, “parang ihi ng kalapati.” After translating Western plays, he tackled arias, and then pop songs, and he tapped me for the latter. He put together two concerts at the CCP, with Willy Cruz on the piano and me singing Filipino translations of songs like “So in Love” from Kiss Me Kate. He gave me 25 songs for that first concert and I loved them all. He could take a piece with such mediocre lyrics, like “I Want to Spend My Life with You,” and transform it to a pledge of unflinching devotion. “Kung kinabukasan,” he wrote, “’di kasing tamis ng nagdaan, dati nang ligaya’y ’di ba’t maaaring mahiram?” If my father, the National Artist Cesar Legaspi, challenged me to perform only original works—the showbands I belonged to in the 70s were big on cover versions—Rolando’s translations inspired me to keep singing songs in Filipino. The two concerts at the CCP were great successes. The first night was a sold-out affair. On the second show, people were sitting on the stairs, with the likes of H.R. Ocampo and Aurelio Estanislao watching from the wings. When I was preparing for the concerts, he would talk to me about Sarah Vaughan and Ella Fitzgerald. “You can become like that,” he was saying. “Who are they? Are they mezzo sopranos?” He explained to me who they were and I started to listen to them. And it was very flattering that he thought I could one day become like them. To a young singer, him pointing out those artists in relation to me confirmed something: that I had chosen the right vocation. Rolando never kept a copy of the translations; he just gave them all to me, typewritten. And I lost them all. When you’re young and stupid, you don’t know and you don’t care. Of the pop songs, the only ones on record are the 10 on the Popsongs Volume 1 album (there was to be no Volume 2). He made “Love Is Stronger Far Than We” to “Hindi Maaring Hindian.” Turned “The Lady Is a Tramp” to “Ako’y Bakyang-Bakya.” “Summer Me, Winter Me” became “Langit Mo, Ulap Mo.”


Clockwise from left: Ella Luansing playing the title role in Henrik Ibsen’s Hedda Gabler in Filipino; costume sketches by Tinio for Luansing’s character Petra in Kaaway ng Bayan (Ibsen’s An Enemy of the People); Daisy Avellana in costume for Kaaway ng Bayan, in a corner designed by Tinio; Tinio and Luansing backstage in 1967; the playbill of Orosman at Zafira (1977) starring Tommy Abuel and Legaspi; the lyrics to “So In Love” written in ballpoint pen by Legaspi, and the Tagalog lyrics in pencil, in Tinio’s handwriting, giving light to the poet’s process when translating. Opposite: A young Rolando in dorm room N-311 at Hillcrest Hall, University of Iowa, setting of his famous Taglish poem “Valediction sa Hillcrest.” Previous: Salvador Bernal’s set for Ang Abaniko, 1975.



From left: Legaspi as Donya Loleng, the family friend of the Marasigans in Ang Larawan, the movie musical adaptation of Nick Joaquin’s A Portrait of the Artist as Filipino; with the main protagonists Paula and Candida, played by Rachel Alejandro and Joanna Ampil, respectively. Legaspi, one of the producers of the picture, says they had to raise P5 million to complete the project. Opposite: The elaborate procession scene in the film, shot in Intramuros.

His words opened my ears to the beauty of the Filipino language. I fell in love with Tagalog because of him. When I was doing a series of shows for Top of the Hilton, I asked him to write Tagalog lyrics for “La Vie En Rose.” I treasure those lyrics to this day. Ryan Cayabyab charged me P800 for the musical arrangement. Rolando asked for nothing in exchange. By the 1990s, I was putting up plays myself with my manager, Girlie Rodis. There was a time when we had a love-hate relationship, Rolando and I. I didn’t always know why we were not on speaking terms, but I imagined he had his own burdens to deal with. Getting your own theater company going can be a lot. By the time we were going to do Larawan in 1997, the first time Nick Joaquin’s A Portrait of the Artist as Filipino was going to be turned into a musical, the enfant terrible Rolando had mellowed. His wife Ella had passed away two years prior. He had begun working in film, which I thought grounded him. Before that, theater giants like Rolando looked down on movies and TV and the people who worked in them. But I guess when these theater stalwarts saw the working conditions, the amount of work people put in, and how much they are able to produce despite the conditions, they started to respect these mediums. When we were already at work on Larawan, Rolando was so sweet that I thought to myself, I don’t remember this guy. But first we had to see Nick Joaquin, who was a good friend of my father, to ask for permission to put his play to music. It took a bit of wooing, but in the end, he said yes and didn’t charge us a cent. The only things he asked for were a typewriter and a San Miguel beer. “And I want Rolando to translate,” he said. He was insistent on Rolando because there had been several Filipino adaptations of his play, but none quite captured the flair of the Manila Tagalog, which Nick thought the Tondo-bred Rolando would be able to put in. It probably took Rolando less than a month to finish the libretto. “This is a direct translation,” he said to me. “Meron lang akong mga pinutol para mas maayos.” When I read it, I thought it was beautiful. The language, as he put it, was “very colloquial, with some period quality.” If Nick’s play was an elegy, his was a musical comedy. That’s what he said in his last interview. He was not interested in nostalgia, nor was he expecting the contemporary audience to relate to the Marasigan sisters, two highly impractical unmarried women in pre-war Manila longing for the genteel past. He wanted simply to present “a glance at history.” He didn’t want a serious homage. He wanted to entertain. Larawan, the Musical was his return to directing onstage. And it was a stage reunion of sorts for both of us. Outside of the theater we had become friends with his family, but it was really at work where we connected. Ten days before the play could open, however, he passed away. Was that why he seemed in a rush during rehearsals? He would block both Acts 1 and 2 in a day, which would bring me to ask him, “Ba’t ka nagmamadali?” It appears he had been sick for a while. We were having rehearsals one afternoon and I would notice he seemed short of breath. But it turned out he was already having chest pains. He said he was just

tired. He had previously suffered from a heart attack, I would learn. In the previous year, 1996, he was part of the cast of the movie called Mumbaki, which was produced by my manager Girlie Rodis. They spent two months in the mountains of Ifugao, walked a lot, got exposed to the elements. After the production, he fell sick. Until his very last days, Rolando was the captain of the Larawan ship, even directing our recording sessions for the soundtrack—which he was very happy about. We recorded on a Sunday. The next day, he was gone. That Monday at rehearsals, he was nowhere to be found. It was not like him to be late, or not show up without warning. I told the staff to go look for him, call his house. They rang his residence but couldn’t find Rolando, not even in his room. Until later on—and I remember this very distinctly—it was already around three or four o’clock in the afternoon, when a strange quietness settled in the rehearsal studio. I was with Zsa Zsa Padilla, who played Paula, the sister to my Candida. I was singing and I was crying and I don’t know why I was crying. As soon as the rehearsal ended, I told the staff to look for Rolando again, call the police if need be. Something must have happened. True enough, Rolando was gone. Fallen from his bed to the side where he wouldn’t be seen if someone had just checked on him from the door. While trying to reach for his medicine, he died of a heart attack. I remember one rehearsal day for the play when everyone was already in the studio. Everyone, from the veterans—Armida SiguionReyna, Gamaliel Viray, Fides Cuyugan, Zsa Zsa—down to the young ones, except the chorus. The chorus was always late. Finally, Rolando lost his cool and let them have it. “Why are you late?” he screamed. “You are only bacteria!” You could imagine the chorus members’ faces when they heard that. But they loved Rolando anyway. When he died, one of them said, “But we are Rolando’s bacteria. We are so proud of it.” Like the chorus, I was fortunate to have worked with Rolando Tinio. More fortunate because I had more than two decades of having him around. I will always remember trying to figure out why he refused to give me directions while working on our second play, after having directed my every move and guided my every word in Prinsipe Baldovino. I remember him almost walking me through it, that last scene. I had to deliver lines that ran for three long pages. I had to run around the stage, scream, be quiet, then sob, all the while wearing a 10-foot gold cape which, of course, was his idea and his making. I struggled through it, the costume and the lines. While sobbing, some of my words already came out incomprehensible, but Rolando said he didn’t care. So long as the audience saw through your soul, he said. If there was anything he taught me, you focus on a scene like that and you rise above it. If you allow yourself to be encumbered, you will be defeated by a 10-foot gold cape! I just gave myself up to his direction for that finale. And on the next play, he completely let me go. Maybe because he had already guided me so much, put me through the wringer, so to speak. ’Pag hindi mo pa alam ’yan, Rolando must have thought, I have other things to do.



FAMOUS ROGUE November 2017

MARK GIL, actor


THERE ARE FEW performances in Filipino cinema as iconic as Mark Gil playing the frat neophyte Sid Lucero in Mike de Leon’s immortal Batch ’81. There’s something to the unmistakable swagger Gil brought to the role: a creeping patrician menace that gives a deeper dimension to the character’s willingness to participate in the frat’s increasingly humiliating and harmful activities. The actor’s intensity served him well, and would carry him through the late 80s and early 90s as a staple villain to an endless parade of denim-clad working-class heroes. But Ralph Eigenmann (his real name) was anything but a villain. He was, till the very end, an actor who just really loved his art, never spending any considerable time away from the business in his 40 years on camera. In the early days of this age of independent digital productions, he was one of the first few established actors who lent his talents to these struggling young filmmakers, his presence offering a measure of legitimacy to these fledgling movies. And even on these ramshackle sets, the actor brought to his portrayals the same intensity, relishing in the work of acting, happy to share his talent with this new generation of artists.


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