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BY DANICA HERMOGENES AND FATIMA REYES

HE PLAINS of the countryside, the landscapes of hills and coconut trees, the serenity of remote villages, views of the sea and high bridges – these were some of the scenes that were unique to passengers aboard a Philippine National Railways (PNR) train which left Tutuban station in Manila a few minutes past 7 a.m. on May 22.

Looking through the glass windows, passengers saw people who lived near the railways – children playing, women busy with their laundry, and men taking their rest after a hard day’s work – waving their hands as the train went past them. Some of them covered their ears as they heard the loud sounds of cracking metal and blows of the horn. The long wait for commuters who desire non-stop travel from Metro Manila to Bicol province might be over as refurbished PNR

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Passengers get to experience the scenery and scent of the countryside.

REVIVING THE

trains are expected to be up and running by July. PNR successfully conducted its third trial run in May, beating its target of a 10-hour travel time from Manila to Bicol, said Jera Sison, PNR spokesperson. The train, which ran from 40 to 60 kilometers per hour, left the Manila station a few minutes past 7 a.m. and arrived at Naga City in Bicol at 5 p.m. It left Bicol at 11:00 a.m. from the Naga station and reached Tutuban at 9:00 p.m. The trip, one-way, is about two to four hours faster than the run in March and six hours more than the trial run in September 2010, when train took 16 hours to ply the 400-kilometer route, Sison said. PNR’s Manila to Bicol services have stopped operating since 2006 because of the damages caused by typhoons “Milenyo” and “Reming.” PNR General Manager Jun Ragrario, in an interview during the trial run, encouraged passengers to support the restoration of the Manila-Bicol train line saying it is a “cheap alternative to buses.” “Our fares are cheaper compared to buses because PNR does not pay the SLEX [Southern Luzon Expressway] toll fees,” he said. “Plus our coaches are wider

‘BICOL EXPRESS’ The revival of the Bicol Express provides commuters a cheap and convenient alternative to buses, generates employment, promotes efficient transfer of goods, and boosts economic activity in the Southern Luzon provinces.


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compared to buses.” He said the trial run was part of a major PNR project which aimed to fully restore operations in the main line south railway system. He said PNR would be offering a promo during the first months of their operations – rates from Manila to Naga would start from P500 to P550 for those who would avail of the seats in reclining coaches, P700 to P800 for those who would want to use the sleeper coaches and P1,000 to P1,400 for the VIP or solo cabins. As part of PNR’s security measures, Ragrario said they would not be allowing vendors to enter the train as dining carts would be available. First aid kits are also available, he added. There are two trained and armed rail police officers assigned in every trip to ensure the security of passengers, said Ragrario. There were also linemen assigned in every kilometer to inspect the safety of rails. PNR Bicol area Director Manager Constencio Toledano Sr. said their fare was “40 percent cheaper than other means of transportation.” Toledano noted that their daily fare to and from Manila to Edsa-Makati is P10; Manila to Bicutan, P15; Manila to Sucat and

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MANILA-BICOL RUN RESUMES

Before the South Road and provincial buses plying the Manila-Bicol-Visayas route, there was only the Bicol Express. Alabang, P20. “fit” Filipino passengers well, as During the trial run, guest pas- we are very “social” people. sengers were able to have a taste of Sleeper coaches, on the other the experience of riding two types hand, were more appropriate of fully-air-conditioned coaches for those who would avail of the the PNR would be using for the night trips, Ragrario said. Sleeper restoration of the operations. coaches featured rooms or cubiThe “tourist-bus” type of cles where two double-deck-like coach featured “reclining” and types of couches were placed fac“rotating” deep-cushioned blue ing each other. and yellow seats. The revolving Ragrario said the refurbished mechanism of the seats made it coaches were all donated by Japossible for passengers to turn pan. He said around 80 coaches and face each other and easily have been successfully imported communicate with one another. from Japan and that the country Ragrario said that these designs was expecting 50 more by September. He said PNR would need around P2 billion for the restoration project but only P 250 million pesos have been released. “Reviving old trains enable the PNR to provide job opportunities and improve our technology,” he said. He said PNR expected to gain P800 million additional income and a 33 percent increase in employment opportunities during the first year of the revival of the Manila-to-Bicol train line operations. “Around 4,800 families could benefit from the restoration of the train line,” he said. He emphasized the need for more trains

THE Philippine National Railways (PNR) resumed its Manila-QuezonBicol route, the so-called Bicol Express, on June 29. Presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda said the resumption of the rail service is one month ahead of schedule, “made possible by a new workforce and contracts for the Quezon-Bicol portions of the tracks, and vital infrastructure rehabilitation including the completion of the 50-meter San Cristobal Bridge in Laguna.” The rehabilitation plan includes the renovation of train stations in the provinces of Laguna, Quezon, Camarines Sur and Albay. Lacierda said one-third of the railway had been rehabilitated under the Arroyo administration and the remaining two-thirds was undertaken under the present administration. He said PNR earmarked P1.8 billion for the rehabilitation of the railway and P250 million for the acquisition of new trains that included 83 air-conditioned sleeper and commuter coaches. He said the new coaches donated by Japan are due to arrive later this year. The restored Bicol Express will have at least three classes of coaches: tourist class with reclining seats and in-coach movie and sound systems with sleeping cars that can accommodate a family or groups of four to six persons; executive class with individual compartments: and a dining car with first class dining amenities. The rehabilitated line will employ about a thousand workers including railway police to monitor and patrol the tracks and junctions. The rail service between Manila and Bicol started in 1938 but the devastating weather of the early 1970s destroyed the South railway and only token efforts were made to restore rail services. The railway was rehabilitated in 1985 but operation of the rail service stopped in 2006 due to typhoon damage.

The railway system still needs major improvement, including replacing the old railroad tracks and fielding modern cars. for the PNR to provide more services to around 300,000 commuters. “PNR could only provide services for around 50,000 passengers due to lack of trains,” he said. The train swayed like a boat at times, even rocked continuously, during the trial run but the passengers did not mind as they watched how the view from the window changed, depicting the differences between life in the city and the countryside. The train ride gave the passengers access to see the shanties and houses near the railways, remote villages and nipa huts, the green plains filled with vegetables and fruits, and the day to day plight of men and women of the provinces. “These are scenes you cannot see on a bus,” PNR spokesperson Sison said. Karl Brouwers, president of

the Railways and Industrial Heritage Society of the Philippines (RIHSPI), said the revival of the south line railways was a good way for the PNR to re-establish itself as one of the leading modes of transportation in the Philippines, and a way for Filipinos to realize how long they have come in terms of “industrial” heritage. RIHSPI is a non-government organization that has been closely working with the PNR in its efforts to preserve and restore railways and educate the public about the industrial heritage of the Philippines. Jaime Tiongson, former president and treasurer of the organization, explained that the 100year-old railroad route plied by the train was the first land route to Bicol, and that the trains have been part of Philippine heritage since the time of the Americans. “Travelling by train reminds me of different events from our industrial history,” Tiongson said. He said that ever since, the growth and development of a country was characterized by the quality of its railway systems. RIHSPI is planning to build an “industrial railway heritage museum” where they will showcase the “history of the PNR and the railway system in the Philippines.” The museum will educate the public on how the group deals with identifying and restoring locomotive motor and other heritage equipment for the PNR. (Philippine Daily Inquirer) n


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BY KRISTINE FELISSE MANGUNAY

N A tiny house at a resettlement area in Valenzuela City, a woman recounts a scene: watching her eight children devour half a kilo of rice among themselves. Pregnant again, 37-year-old Salve Paa says she is just as hungry. But she tells herself that a mother must make sacrifices, and waits for her turn to eat.

Minutes later, one of the boys starts to cry, a little finger pointing at the empty plate before him. The scene, though seemingly surreal, is typical in Salve’s life. Until recently, she has not heard of family planning and has no idea of the reproductive health (RH) bill, and admits that having so many mouths to feed has made such an episode a general norm. It’s something she laments, especially because she and Alfredo Francisco, her partner of 22 years, do not make much. (Alfredo, 64, has a first family from whom he is separated.) “It’s difficult. The little that we earn just goes to food and other ex-

SALVE’S LIFE:

Feeling the hardship of raising a big family, many Catholics defy the admonition and threats of the Church and support the Reproductive Health (RH) bill.

A STRONG CASE FOR RH BILL Salve does not know what the RH bill is, or what it stands for. But when asked, she says that she is not opposed to sex education. Had she known about the importance of family planning much earlier, she would not have allowed herself to get pregnant so many times, she says. The poor and the uneducated are the biggest beneficiaries of family planning but they do not have easy and affordable access to birth control methods.

penses in the house,” Salve tells the Inquirer in an interview at Northville, where families dislocated by the North Rail project were resettled by the city government. Salve works in a plastics factory (but she is temporarily off the grind because she is due to deliver another child this month). She is paid based on her output: On good days, she earns P1,500; on

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bad, P700. Alfredo earns P150 a day selling cotton candy. In all, they take home an estimated P5,200 in a month (roughly US$121). “But minus the expenses, we can barely make ends meet. We can hardly complete three square meals a day,” Salve says. She details the monthly expenses as: P200 for the house, P200 for electricity, P300 on the average for water, “which is only retailed to us,” and food for 10 people, among others. As a result, a regular breakfast for the family consists of rice porridge (lugaw) bought at P3 a cup. Small galunggong, the so-called poor man’s fish, bought at P20 a handful, are “delicacies.” “If there is enough, we have bread for breakfast, but that is very rare,” Salve says. Because of the money constraints, not one of the 37-yearold’s children has been able to finish his or her studies. Ana Liza, 21, managed to complete the sixth grade—the highest educational attainment in the family. She is married but often visits. Her brothers—Aries, 15, and Albert, 12—reached the first grade and prep school, respectively. “We can’t afford to send the children to school,” Salve says. “It’s already a struggle to put food on the table for them every day.” Then there’s the space problem. The family lives in a 32-squaremeter enclosed space with two tables and a makeshift wooden bed. A hole in the ground serves as the toilet. The windows consist of square holes covered with leatherette. During the rainy season, the water easily seeps through the concrete walls and onto the floor, Salve says. In the summer, the sun’s rays easily heat up the structure. “The roof has not been fixed,” she explains. At night, Salve has a hard time making the children fit on the “bed.” She says she manages to squeeze herself in.


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Alfredo sleeps on the floor. The situation has moved Salve to throw out two of her elder sons—Alvin and Alfred—several times in the past. She says that with the two fending for themselves, she figured that she could concentrate on feeding and caring for the rest who cannot as yet survive alone in the world. Take Angelito, the sickly 3year-old who has been in and out of the hospital in recent months. The bills for his blood transfusions alone have amounted to some P16,000, Salve says. “When he becomes ill, I take him to the National Children’s Hospital on España. They care for Angelito there, free of charge,” she says. But despite having been driven away repeatedly, Alvin and Alfred always came back, and Salve took them in with open arms. After all, she says, she is still their mother. The family should have been much bigger because Salve has given birth to 12 of Alfredo’s children. Christian and Trisha, then 4 and 7 years old, respectively, died in 2006, followed a year later by Sarah Fe, then 10. Doctors said the three died of sepsis, or the invasion of the body by pathogenic microorganisms. In 2008, Alvin was accidentally run over by a bus in La

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The family should have been much bigger because Salve has given birth to 12 of Alfredo’s children. Union. Salve lamented the loss of her son, also because the then 18year-old, who worked as a truck helper, was a big financial help to the family. Salve admits that her family experiences financial difficulties primarily because she has too many children. It was only when she was 26 that she learned out about artificial contraceptives. But by then, she had already borne eight children. In an effort to lessen the number of mouths they were obligated to feed, she and her partner also tried abstinence. But the attempt did not work. “At one point, I slept at the factory just so I could get away from Alfredo. But he followed me there,” Salve recalls with a chuckle.

Poor families experience financial difficulties primarily because they have too many children.

The Catholic Church remains firmly opposed to the RH Bill and its passage into law. Salve does not know what the RH bill is, or what it stands for. But when asked, she says that she is not opposed to sex education.

Had she known about the importance of family planning much earlier, she would not have allowed herself to get pregnant so many times, she says. This view is in line with some of the provisions of the measure that proposes the integration of sexual awareness in school curriculums and offers couples an informed choice in ways to plan their families. The proposed legislation is being debated upon in the plenary in the House of Representatives. If passed, it will be sent to the Senate, which can choose to adopt it

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or pass another version of it. President Benigno Aquino III himself has expressed support for the RH bill. But the Catholic Church and a number of lawmakers remain firmly opposed to the measure and have vowed to block its passage. “If we had fewer children, then we won’t have most of our financial problems,” Salve muses. She says that in her community, large families are the trend because some, if not most, of her neighbors do not become aware of family planning methods until much later. She cites as an example her elder sister who, in her 40s, has seven children. Salve says that like herself, her sister has to carry on her shoulders the responsibility of feeding too many kids with very little income. “If you don’t have much money, having too many children is too stressful,” she says. “You’re always thinking of ways to get them through the day.” Because of her newfound knowledge, Salve plans to undergo tubal ligation to avoid getting pregnant again. Her ninth (or 13th) child is due, but she says she cannot even think of celebrating. “Our earnings are better spent on food on the table,” she says, smiling weakly. (Philippine Daily Inquirer) n


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A ‘PROMDI’S’ DREAM COME TRUE BY JOEL M. SY EGCO

E WAS a battered young dreamer who frequently got a beating from an illiterate father who only aspired to see his son become one of the best auto mechanics in a sleepy little city down south. He stowed away to escape the wrath of an angry father, went to nearly a dozen schools and took on some of the oddest jobs before deciding to jump into the rat race in the big city.

‘I never imagined that I would make it this big. My dream was only simple - to be heard on radio in our province. I never wanted anything else because hearing myself talk on air was enough for me. When I finally did, I used to record my own audio clip and listen to it at home.’

“My life as a young adult was wayward. My father was a driver who didn’t know how to read and write. My mother was a market vendor. It was my older sister who watched over me. I learned to smoke in my first year in high school and eventually learned to

Being a first time home buyer is intimidating and a big life experience. First time home buyers often don’t know where to begin. We can help. Although many of the first-time homebuyers we have encountered are becoming more sophisticated and much more informed about things like credit scores, servicing housing costs and debt, there are still important questions that must be answered when it comes to buying your first home. Many new buyers do not understand the entire home buying process and may overlook an important step when it comes to making an offer on a property or locking into a mortgage contract.

drink alcohol. My father and I often argued because he wanted me to become a mechanic which I never really liked. He used to beat me up real hard so I had to leave the house in numerous occasions and escape,” recalled Ted Failon, one of giant network ABS-CBN’s most successful radio and televi-

Ted managed to survive his greatest personal crisis in 2009 by going back to his “comfort zone and best friend— the microphone.”

BUYING YOUR FIRST HOME

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or home appraisals •Suggesting how to better structure your mortgage to suit your needs •Suggestions for excellent legal advice There are lots of styles of homes and neighborhoods research you’ll want to explore as a first time home buyer before settling for a place and looking for homes. Search homes online and get help from a buyer’s agent to help you secure a great first time home at a fair price. The mortgage types for first time home buyers may be more difficult to get these days and the process intimidating. Once your offer is accepted be sure to check out moving resources to get quotes on mov-

ers and other tools for first time home buyers moving into a new area. As a first time home buyer be sure to keep some things in mind before you settle down. Is the neighborhood great? Is the area appreciating? Does your home have the room you need for family growth? How is the job market in the area and how close are your favorite hot spots? Once you find the right place, unpack and enjoy! Your first time home buyer experience is now complete. Please contact your community professionals for advice or you can always contact me at 403-422-2262 or on my email at crispaac@ homenwork.com.


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sion anchors, about his ordeal in the hands of an unforgiving father. Up until he became one of the most popular media personalities in the country, Failon carried this burden of having to disobey his old man in pursuit of his own small dream of becoming a broadcaster, armed only with nothing but his God-given gift: his voice. “I never imagined that I would make it this big,” he said. “My dream was only simple - to be heard on radio in our province. I never wanted anything else because hearing myself talk on air was enough for me. When I finally did, I used to record my own audio clip and listen to it at home.” “To become a famous broadcaster was farthest from my mind. I never planned it,” said the 49year-old Failon, whose full name is Mario Teodoro Failon Etong. He co-anchors ABS-CBN’s flagship news program TV Patrol and dzMM’s Radyo Patrol Balita: Alas Siyete with former Vice President Noli De Castro. He also hosts a weekday morning commentary program over dzMM entitled Tambalang Failon at Webb with Pinky Webb. This show is the successor of one of ABS CBN’s top raters, Tambalang Failon at Sanchez with Korina Sanchez, wife of former Senator Mar Roxas. As a high school junior, Failon was already working as a fulltime hotel room boy in Tacloban City, Leyte. He also worked as a waiter, construction worker and tricycle driver. Failon managed to attend college with the help of his sister, Teresa. He took up AB Economics at Colegio de San Juan de Letran while working as a disc jockey (DJ) in a small joint along EDSA in Cubao, Quezon City. Ted moved back to Tacloban in 1980 and enrolled in AB Mass Communications at the Divine Word University. He continued working as a DJ at different local discos. In 1982 he was hired at DYPL-AM, a local radio station, as a driver/reporter, which officially started his career in radio broadcasting. In 1983, at 21, he married Trinidad Arteche with whom he has two daughters—Katrina and Karishma Tedrina. “We eloped and got married’” he shared. “Necessarily, I had to quit school.” While working at DYPL-AM, he met the owner of DWGV-FM, a local station in Angeles City, Pampanga, who convinced him to work as a program and production director for the station while he was looking for a job in Manila. He accepted the offer and relocated to Pampanga. However, Failon kept going back to Manila to apply at different networks. “I never lost hope.

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Ted, Korina Sanchez and Noli de Castro, co-anchors of ABS-CBN’s flagship news program TV Patrol.

“To become a famous broadcaster was farthest from my mind. I never planned it.” Slowly, I made a name for myself until eventually my father began to appreciate what I was doing. Time came when he would boast to everyone that I am his son. Wherever he went, he always announced that Ted Failon is his son. Maybe he finally realized that this stubborn son of his can be of good use anyway,” he said.

Failon finally mended his severed ties with his father when, prior to the latter’s death in 2000,

Ted with fellow ABS -CBN news anchors Julius Babao (left) and Karen Davila.

he treated him to an all-expenses paid trip abroad and bought him a truck. “I really planned for that trip. I wanted us to be together. Just the two of us. It was only then that we were able to talk man to man,” he recounted. “I released all my angsts and frustrations. I told him how hard it was for me to live with such a heavy burden. After that, all went well. Our relationship as father and son became smooth. It was the happiest day of my life’” Failon never lost sight of the importance of education. In 1994 he enrolled at the Polytechnic University of the Philippines where, in 1996, he graduated with a degree in Broadcast Communications. He also took up Law at

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the Arellano Law Foundation in Manila but his tight schedule and heavy workload did not permit him to continue on. In May 1990, he applied at ABS-CBN News for the third time and was finally accepted as a desk editor. A few months later, he was given a break on dzMM where he became anchor of the 2-4 a.m. show, Gising Pilipinas! Soon he became a regular anchor of DZMM, co-hosting Bayan Ko, Sagot Ko and Bahay Kalinga, apart from hosting Mission Exposé and Wanted on TV Patrol. Failon got his biggest break at his home network when he covered an incident where an entire coastal village was wiped out by a huge wave in Leyte. Back in Manila to air his material, he was asked by the late Frank Evangelista and Rolly Cruz to fill in for Noli de Castro who failed to report for work that day. That fortuitous event was the start of his television career. “The first time I was asked to do live TV reporting, I couldn’t believe it,” he recalled. In 2001, he entered politics by running as an independent candidate for the first congressional district of Leyte. He bested Alfred Romualdez, scion of the wealthy and influential Romualdez clan and nephew of former First Lady Imelda Marcos. After serving for only one term, he realized that politics was not for him and returned to his first love - broadcasting. Failon faced a severe personal crisis in April 2009 when his wife committed suicide in their home in Quezon City. At one point the police suspected him of being the gunman. Asked how he managed to survive the tragedy, he replied: “I went back to my comfort zone and best friend—the microphone. Two months after the tragedy, I came back to the station and began airing again. That helped me recover. Doing what you love the most will help you survive such an ordeal.” To young aspiring broadcast journalists and writers, Failon has this advice: “Read, read and read. Read everything, even the Bible. Read it over and over. The voice is just a tool, an instrument. What comes out of that voice is different. What you’re saying is much more important than how you say it. . . Keep on dreaming. Consider yourself lucky for having a talent. Always think ahead of the competition as you continue to pursue that little dream. Most importantly, if you have to give anything to your family then, by all means, give them what is due to make them happy. You will never know when life will be over until it is over. In this world, everything is borrowed.” (Manila Times) n


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ON, LINO BROCKA LIVES

Brocka made Philippine cinema an effective venue for social commentary. Through his films he tried to awaken public consciousness to the disturbing realities of the life of the Filipino poor and to condemn the abuses of those in power.

One of the country’s greatest directors, Brocka lived and breathed films. BY INA ALLECO R. SILVERIO

T’S BEEN 20 years since award-winning director and activist Lino Brocka was killed in a vehicular accident in Quezon City but, to various artists, writers, filmmakers, poets and various movie buffs, his work remains influential and relevant. “Nothing has changed in society. The issues of political corruption and social injustice that Brocka tackled in his films continue to happen today,” said Ben Bernardo, a human-rights advocate, martial-law survivor and film buff. “Unlike the current crop of Philippine directors who only choose to depict the poverty of Philippine society and dwell on the native and negating aspects of it, Brocka and his contemporary Ishmael Bernal did not leave his characters to suffer without relief or commit evil without consequence. Brocka believed in resolution and in taking his characters to the task of taking action.”

According to Bernardo, Brocka “did not exempt himself from the struggle Filipino society waged against the Marcos dictatorship in those days and he chose to involve himself in the fight against censorship and for self-expression. He was also an expert

Brocka was a regular fixture in protest rallies during the Marcos years, denouncing social injustice, corruption, repression and censorship. his field. He was an artist who studied his craft, honed and improved it by studying and watching hundreds and hundreds of films. His own films are testament to his skills as a director, and to his activism.” Pepe Diokno, a 23-year-old filmmaker whose first film, Engkwentro, deals with human rights, poverty and injustice – themes that are familiar in many of Brocka’s movies – says Brocka remains relevant because “if you look around you, the poverty that


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Brocka saw 20 years ago is still the poverty that you see now. We haven’t really progressed since then, which is why filmmakers today are still tackling the problems that he was tackling.” Rolando Tolentino, chairman of the Manunuri ng Pelikulang Pilipino and dean of the UP College of Mass Communication, agrees. “To a large extent, the issues that Brocka fought against did not disappear. Corruption, political disenfranchisement, poverty, foreign domination. These are problems Brocka faced and it is clear that they remain and are ingeniously being taken on by independent filmmakers.” Brocka was the son of a carpenter and a teacher, and he grew up in poverty. He was exposed to the more bitter and painful realities of life at an early age, but this did not stop him from being an achiever and, eventually, the most popular and among the most respected directors of his time. Brocka lived and breathed films, Bernardo said. When he was a young boy, he spent his free time watching movies in the neighborhood cinemas. Brocka graduated from high school with six medals and won a scholarship to the University of the Philippines. He was unable to finish his formal schooling because his interest in films, acting and other aspects of

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Brocka tackled in his films topics that did not receive attention from mainstream filmmakers.

Brocka made Philippine cinema an effective venue for social commentary, as in the film Orapronobis. By many accounts, Brocka was the performing life demanded too much of his time. He honed his a pragmatic artist. He knew he craft by becoming attuned to the had to come up with commercial lives of his recognized audience films that earned money before he -- ordinary working people who could come up with a film that he tried to temporarily escape their really cared about. Diokno, who has received own economic and personal problems by spending a few hours in international awards for Engkwentro, including the Lion of the movie houses.

Future Award for a Debut Film at the Venice Film Festival, says Brocka did not necessarily influence his own filmmaking but he respected and liked what the late director did. “Brocka did more mainstream films than art house, neo-realist films,” the young director told InterAksyon.com in an interview. Still, he adds, “What I like about Brocka the most is that he was able to speak about the Filipino condition while entertaining” his audience at the same time. Brocka tackled in his films topics that did not at the time receive attention from mainstream filmmakers. Many of the issues he dealt with were taboo or controversial, but his approach was neither exploitative or self-righ-

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teous. Instead, he chose to handle these topics with intelligence and sympathy, his flawed characters finding some measure of resolution to their problems that were a result of either conflicts in society or because of their inherent weaknesses and biases. “Brocka was a political animal. He fought against censorship, and championed the cause for freedom of expression of artists. But beyond these issues, he also took a keen interest in concerns that immediately affect ordinary folk, the poor and working people: the lack of urban poor housing, increasing oil prices, joblessness. His movies did not depict fairytales but scenes that can very well happen in anyone’s life,” Bernardo pointed out. Brocka was viciously anti-censorship and he was vocal in his views about issues concerning the country’s sovereignty and political independence. An anti-bases activist, Brocka vigorously campaigned against the presence of US military facilities in the Philippines. Predictable favorites among Brocka fans are Bayan Ko (Kapit sa Patalim) (1985) and Orapronobis (1989). In the first, a laborer is forced to become a scab during a strike out of desperation to keep his family alive. He takes the owner of the factory hostage,


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but everything quickly goes south and he ends up being fatally shot, dying in the arms of his weeping wife. In Orapronobis, Brocka portrayed the abuses of the military and religious cults the Cory Aquino government recruited during its anti-insurgency war. The film was internationally acclaimed but, because of its controversial content, it was never shown in public theatres in the Philippines. Bernardo said that there are artists -- writers and filmmakers -who are acclaimed for coming out with works that “reflect” society and its corruption or weaknesses. Brocka, however, was not content in turning his films into “mirrors.” “It was not enough for him to reflect society in his films, to depict what was wrong in society, leaders, the people. He wanted to make lasting comments, to influence, to change what was through his movies. Remember, he made his movies during a time of great social upheaval. His films made a direct impact on the anti-dictatorship movement. Not all his films can be considered political, but they all challenged viewers to think for themselves, to react. This by itself constituted rebellion against Marcos and Imelda’s New Society here everything was supposed to be good and ideal and where Filipinos were forced to bend their will to the dictator-

ship,” he said. Bonifacio Ilagan, a screenwriter (Dukot) and activist, told InterAksyon.com that the present generation of filmmakers have much to learn from Brocka. But the most important lesson, he said, is story-telling. “Despite all these new technologies in filmmaking, the bottomline is storytelling and Lino was a very good storyteller,” Ilagan said. This story-telling is evident in most of his films, both the commercial and the overtly political. In the film Gumapang Ka Sa Lusak, Brocka made his views known on the abuse of power by self-serving politicians. In 1974, with about 100 artists and 10 businessmen, he formed the CineManila film company. That year, he directed Tinimbang Ka Ngunit Kulang, a film that revolved around a teenaged boy and the small town where he lived and its petty and gross injustices. In 1975, he came out with Maynila Sa Kuko ng Liwanag wherein a young man rescuing his girlfriend from illegal recruiters end up dead, killed by a criminal syndicate. Brocka’s sweltering slums, characters carrying on incestuous relationships, women killing their rapists, homosexuality and single parenthood were protests against the New Society because they contradicted the image that

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A pragmatic artist, Brocka knew he had to come up with commercial films that earned money before he could come up with a film that he really cared about. the Marcoses wanted to present about the Philippines. It was, at the time, subversive to not only put up a mirror against the social decay but more so to illicit reactions of disgust, of anger, of protest against it. “Brocka made Philippine cinema an effective venue for social commentary. Through his films he tried to awaken public consciousness to the disturbing realities of the life of the Filipino poor and to condemn the abuses of those in power,” Bernardo said. Some independent filmmakers

see more significance in his political activism. Tudla Productions, which organizes the annual Pandayang Lino Brocka of sociallyoriented films, points out that “It is Lino Brocka’s strong conviction that artists are first and foremost citizens, and must address the issues confronting the country. That’s why in his practice, his films ‘look with sympathy on the common man and the human condition’ and were situated in their dwellings and thoughts. Lino Brocka firmly believes that films and politics cannot be dis-

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sociated.” In 1983, Brocka created the organization Concerned Artists of the Philippines (CAP). He believed that artists were first and foremost members of Philippine society and as such they should involve themselves in issues confronting the country. CAP was very active in anti-Marcos rallies and was among those who joined the throng during Edsa 1. Post-Edsa Brocka struggled for a freer media atmosphere. Brocka made it his advocacy to fight for a political and cultural atmosphere conducive to a thinking, active media. President Cory Aquino appointed him to the 1986 Constitutional Commission. Soon after, he and a few other commissioners resigned in disgust after saying that the new charter the commission was drafting was “repressive and anti-Filipino.” Today, Brocka’s legacy is wellrespected in global cinema. Writing in The Guardian in January 2001, Derek Malcolm paid tribute to the Filipino filmmaker: “When Lino Brocka died in a car crash in 1991, the Philippines lost its outstanding director -- a man who, despite the constraints of a commercial industry and vicious censorship under Marcos, succeeded in making half a dozen films of great power and universal appeal.” (Interaksyon.com) n


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Planet Philippines (Calgary Edition) - July 1-15, 2011 Issue