Saturday, June 10, 2006

DIREK LINO BROCKA: REVISITED (2003)

Note: This article was first published in 2003 for the U.S. and Canada-based paper PLANET Philippines. This article further encouraged me to do my film "ANG ANAK NI BROCKA" which was first submitted to Cinemalaya but was later produced by Cinema One Originals. A VCD copy is now out on the market released by Star Records. Regular theater run wil be by mid-June on all SM Cinemas.

DIREK LINO BROCKA: REVISITED
Text and Photos By SIGFREID BARROS-SANCHEZ

HE would have been 65 last April 3. The retiring age, they say. But friends would like to believe that he probably would still be at it, doing what he was famous for to colleagues and comrades and notorious at to adversaries and foes.

He probably would still be down in his all fours, coaching and demonstrating inch per inch to an actor or an actress how he’d like a particular scene to be done. After a good take and a break, he’d probably be talking to his actor or actress, involving himself in their personal problems that would almost certainly color more their working relationships. If he finds out that the utility boy doesn’t get his payment from the producer until next week, he’d probably pack up the shoot and resume when the financer already has money for the littlest man in his set. Then, he’d probably be off to the streets, waging war against a forever worsening system that curtails the rights of the artists and strangles to no end the poor. He most likely won’t show support for either GMA or FPJ, his friends dividedly divulged, and would probably be belting his familiar P.I. cuss word at whoever takes the highest political seat in the country. At the end of the day, he’d be at a music lounge listening to his favorite singer soothe his angst just for the night. Then, just when you thought everything’s done, he’d call you around two or three in the morning to discuss about life, his passion and dreams, and the film project that would finally and forever put the Philippines in the international map (if he still hadn’t done it).

“Nararamdaman pa rin siya. Nararamdaman pa rin ng mga kaibigan at mga taong naka-trabaho niya si Lino,” scriptwriter Ricky Lee says after a deep breath.

Lino Ortiz Brocka. Lino to family and friends. Direk to others. Brocka to Martial Law and Edsa I generations. Thirteen years after his tragic death in May 21 in a car accident somewhere in a dimly lit portion of East Avenue in Quezon City, the director with the smallest frame in the film industry then, but definitely with the biggest and bravest voice that Philippine cinema has ever known, is still very much alive in the memories of friends like director Behn Cervantes, film editor Augie Salvador, production assistant Boy Roque, and Ricky Lee. These are the people who have seen him from pre-Direk Brocka to pre-production Brocka to actual production Brocka to post-production Brocka and to perhaps post-Brocka.

“I always remember him as someone who is very forthright, very visceral, very sensitive, very sincere, but didn’t want to be controlled by anything,” recalls Direk Behn, who, along with actor Joonee Gamboa, has been with Lino as early as their freshmen year in U.P. in 1956. “He had dreams. And these dreams were not basically materialistic. His main concern has always been the people.”

If Brocka was still around, Direk Behn’s friendship with the guy he calls “syano” would have been close to fifty years. Sixteen of those as foes, he discloses. “He was very unequivocal about his displeasure. He would never have succeeded as a diplomat,” he remembers with a smile.

He has seen him from his most embarrassing moment on the stage of the late Wilfrido Ma. Guerrero’s U.P. Dramatics Club to his proudest on the streets of Liwasang Bonifacio to Mendiola and Cannes in France. He played many important roles in Lino’s life from his first acting role to his conversion to Mormonism to his joining PETA to rallies against censorship to strikes of jeepney drivers in Cubao up to the day they were both incarcerated in Fort Bonifacio over charges of exhorting crowds to revolt.

“We were working together for something other than ourselves and still ourselves. It was politics that made us see eye to eye. Politics was very important to us personally. Therefore, we were able to forgive each other’s human frailties more,” he shares.

Ricky Lee, on the other hand, was one of four choice writers that Lino would always call once he gets a project. Ricky would always get the half-serious, half-commercial projects, Pete Lacaba the more serious and political ones, Jose Dalisay, Jr. for harried commercial films, and Jose Javier Reyes the most bongga and most masalimuot. Lee has penned “Jaguar,” “Cain at Abel,” “PX,” “White Slavery,” “Macho Dancer,” “Oca,” “Gumapang Ka Sa Lusak,” and “Hahamakin ang Lahat” for Lino on top of an aborted project for Columbia Pictures and other foreign projects that went with Brocka when he died.

“Very motherly siya and very protective,” Ricky recollects. “Tinatanong ka niya kung kumain ka na ba, kung sinusuwelduhan ka ba ng tama, o kung may problema ka. Aalagaan ka niya at ipaglalaban ka niya.”

Ricky’s first impression on Lino was “bigger than life”. He was “loud,” he says and “ang dumi-dumi ng bibig”. He also thought of him as “pakialamero” in a good sense. He always wanted to be involved with his actors’ and collaborators’ personal lives.

“Makikipag-away ‘yan sa ‘yo. Pupunta na siya sa gitna ng battlefield fighting for you kahit hindi niya pa alam ang buong isyu. Tapos lilingon siya sa ‘yo at itatanong, “Ano nga ba ulit ‘yung problema mo?”” Ricky recalls smiling.

Ricky and Lino had been to many pitches, the first major battle in filmmaking, as they always say. He was there when producers wouldn’t touch him even with a ten-feet pole for having a reputation as a “serious” filmmaker. At the height of bang-bang-pow-wow action films in the early ‘80s, they were able to convince a producer to bank on them only to end up with a more drama than action flick “Cain at Abel”. There was a time Brocka didn’t start shoot when he learned that Ricky and the other crew members didn’t get their just downpayments from a producer. And then there’s the story, which is almost legendary now, on their meeting with Columbia Pictures head honcho David Putnam. When asked how long it would take for them to finish the full script of “Guardia de Honor,” they gave the Hollywood producer the answer of “one month”. Sensing hesitation on the bigwig’s face, the two conferred and gave “two weeks” as their final offer. It turned out, Putnam couldn’t believe that it was possible to write a full-script as quickly as a month. If it had happened today, Brocka would have answered in jest, “Walang ganyan sa States!”

“Lino is a very passionate person. Siya ang taong pambihira mong makita na walang nararamdaman o walang opinion o walang passion about something,” says the renowned scriptwriter. “That was I feel a far bigger, bigger loss than the films that he could have made and the film projects that he could have done for the industry. Ang malaking kawalan talaga ay ang pagkatao ni Lino Brocka, the partisan Lino Brocka, the involved activist Lino Brocka, the pakialamerong Lino Brocka, the wholistic Lino Brocka na walang paghahati, and most importantly the Lino Brocka na hindi takot pumunta sa kalsada to be involved in issues. Malaking force ng strength and inspiration ang nawala sa industriya.”

As film editor of seventeen of Lino Brocka’s movies that include his locally and internationally-lauded ones such as “Tinimbang Ka Ngunit Kulang,” “Insiang,” “Jaguar,” and “Bona,” Direk Augusto “Augie” Salvador shares the same sentiments.

“Aktibista pa rin pihado siya ngayon,” Direk Augie assures. “Kung buhay ‘yon, disgusted ‘yon tiyak sa takbo ng industriya ng pelikula. Sasagupa na ‘yan. Paparada na sa daan. Laban sa piracy, laban sa mataas na taxation, laban sa mataas na raw materials, laban sa pagpapabor ng gobyerno sa mga foreign films kesa local movies, at laban sa lahat ng ills ng society. Lahat na siguro ngayon sasama na kay Lino Brocka.”

The oldest active film director and film editor is the same age as Brocka if the filmmaker was still around and would have, according to him, still be doing films like him but already on selective basis. “Kasi asa’n na ba ‘yung mga magagaling na kasabay ni Lino Brocka? ‘Yung mga sumunod sa kanya gaya nina Marilou Diaz-Abaya, Peque Gallaga, Mike de Leon, Laurice Guillen, at Mario O’Hara? Nakakalungkot pero mga wala nang ginagawang pelikula,” he sadly says.

He is also disappointed over the fact that to an Edsa Dos generation, the name Lino Brocka is considered, just that, a name, a footnote in history, or a line in their textbooks, if ever he gets mentioned.

“Hindi na nila siya kilala. Hindi na nila alam ang kanyang kontribusyon,” he muses. “Karamihan kasi sa mga bata ngayon patterned na sa foreign films, sa MTV, at sa kung ano pang napapanood nila sa TV. Iba nang technique ang gusto nila. Mga “Matrix” na at “Lord of the Rings”. Nawawalan na ng mukha ang pelikulang Pilipino.”

“Pangalan na lang siya. ‘Yun ang masakit do’n. Hindi na siya naaalala ng mga twenty-year old-pababa as Lino Brocka,” says Brocka’s long time production assistant Boy Roque who was with him in a bar ten minutes before he died.

Having worked with the filmmaker since “Bona” in 1980 as a member of the art department, Roque was in many colorful episodes of Brocka’s life. In pre-demonstrations, he was in-charge of painting the agitated placards that the megman will carry on the streets and distribute to his fellow-industry workers; in actual demonstrations, he’d be behind the director, holding his pants just to make sure he didn’t go as far as the police barricades would want them to be; and when he had crossed the border, he made sure he’ll be down with his idol-director in the prison cells of Camp Caringal or the Quezon City Jail and even Fort Bonifacio with the infamous Marcos Preventive Detention Action (PDA) --- the decree that made the former dictator sole arbiter then of life, imprisonment or death --- hanging above their heads.

“Kung experience, marami akong hindi makakalimutan kay Direk. Pero hindi ‘yon ang pinaka-importante sa lahat kundi ‘yung pagkatao niya,” Roque narrates. “Yung convictions niya, ‘yung prinsipyo niya, makikita mo sa simpleng pamumuhay niya. Hindi para sa kanya ang pera niya. Ipinamamahagi niya. Kapag may nagkasakit sa industriya, may namatay, may nangailangan ng pera, minsan kahit huling pera na ni Direk sa bulsa, ibibigay pa niya.”

“Hindi niya kino-compromise ‘yung tapang niya at ‘yung prinsipyo niya. Ang madalas na itinuturo sa amin noon ni Direk, kahit anong mangyari, tatandaan daw namin to “be sensitive sa kapwa niyo. Feel for them. Tingnan niyo kung paano niyo makikita ‘yung tingin ng ibang tao, ‘yung saya ng ibang tao. Maging sensitive kayo sa kanila.” Kahit hindi ka yumaman, ‘yun lang ang makuha mo, sabi niya, successful ka na sa buhay mo,” he adds.

That’s why, like Direk Behn, Ricky, Direk Augie, and countless other friends, colleagues, comrades, and even foes at that, were shocked when news got them the next day of his tragic loss. To an industry, it lost a powerful voice. To the parliamentarians of the streets, it lost an eloquent ally. To a nation, it lost an influential soul. To a world in waiting, it lost a forceful filmmaker.

“Nawalan ng poste, nawalan ng haligi, nawalan ng matapang, at nawalan ang industriya ng konsensya,” Ricky Lee laments.

“Nawala ‘yung boses,” says Direk Augie. “Andaming magagaling na bata ngayon na direktor pero wala silang boses. Wala silang Lino Brocka.”

“First and foremost, we lost a great Filipino filmmaker. We lost a Filipino storyteller. To him, the only international in cinema is his camera. What he captures in his camera has a cultural basis and has a cultural bias. He stayed true to himself and he stayed true to being a Filipino,” Direk Behn imparts.

In an industry diagnosed to be dying and losing to Hollywood’s aggressive and arrogant assaults, perhaps the only remedy will be for this generation to revisit Lino Brocka’s roots and relearn his examples. Although there can only be one Lino and one Brocka, there can be hundreds of Filipino filmmakers who can be as strong and passionate as his convictions. For the Pinoy movie industry to once again flourish and for its poor masa viewers to once again appreciate the art of Pinoy filmmaking made especially for them, Brocka’s teachings have to be dusted off the shelves. A re-education must be in place. For we may have lost a Brocka revolutionary but a Brocka revolution should and must continue to live on.

ANG PINAKA-‘ASTIG’ NA TRIP NI DIREK JON RED

NOTE: Some time back in 2002-2003, to make ends meet, I wrote articles for a Baguio-based newspaper SKYLAND NEWS and for PINOY WEEKLY. Here are some of the articles tha came out which I am sharing and saving here on my blog.

ANG PINAKA-‘ASTIG’ NA TRIP NI DIREK JON RED

HINDI ko na maalala kung ano ‘yung eksaktong tinext ni Direk Jon Red nang yayain niya akong maging bahagi ng “Astig,” ang bago niyang full-length digital film na magpe-premiere ng libre sa Pebrero 10, alas-7:00 ng gabi, sa CCP Little Theater. Basta ang naaalala ko lang, sabi niya, isang Kowloon na siopao daw ang talent fee ng lahat na sasama sa bago niyang ginagawa, mula sa kanya pababa sa mga artista hanggang sa mga nagsisilbi ng kape at pagkain sa set. Nagreklamo pa nga ako. Sa hirap ng buhay, tumaas na kasi ang talent fee ko. Dagdagan niya kako ng dalawang siomai at pihado mapapa-“Oo” ako.

Ang totoo niyan, hindi mahirap mangumbinsi ang isang Jon Red. Halos lahat ata ng matitinong artista ay gustong maging bahagi ng kanyang pelikula kapag nalamang may ginagawa siya. Patunay lamang nito ang mga taong pumara at sumakay sa bago niyang “trip” na pinapasada bagama’t, tulad ko, siopao lamang ang bayad na maipapangako niya. Minsan, kahit wala pa nga. Puno ng mga artista mula sa mainstream cinema, telebisyon, teatro, at independent scene ang bagong biyahe ni Jon. Kandungan pa nga bukod sa mga nakasabit sa estribo sina Albert Martinez, Francis M, Jeffrey Quizon, Alessandra de Rossi, Ronnie Lazaro, Jaime Fabregas, Nonie Buencamino, Dido dela Paz, Shamaine Centenera, Errol Dionisio (sa kanyang kahuli-hulihang pagganap), Maverick at Ariel, Jackie Castillejo, Benjie Felipe, China Cojuangco, Hector Macaso, Gary Rada, Raul Morit, Tado, at ang pinakasorpresa sa lahat, sa kanyang kauna-unahang pagganap sa isang eksperimental na digital film, si Robin Padilla.

“Ni hindi nga siya nagdalawang sabi, e. Pagkasabi pa lang niya na gawa tayo, “Oo” kaagad ang sagot ko,” pahayag ng tinaguriang Bad Boy ng Pelikulang Pilipino. “Hindi ko naman gagawin kung hindi ko nirerespeto si Jon, unang-una bilang tao at pangalawa bilang matalinong tao. Meron siya nung tinatawag na “kumpas”.”

Dalawang beses nang naudlot na magsama sa pelikula sina Direk Jon at Robin. Nu’ng 2002, nilakad ni Binoe si Jon sa isang Hapon na prodyuser para sa isang proyektong may pamagat na “Biyahe” (na ang manunulat sana na ito ang iskriptwrayter). Ginawa ito ni Binoe matapos niyang mapanood sa UP Film Center ang kauna-unahang idinerek ni Jon para sa mainstream cinema, ang “Utang Ni Tatang”. Naitambak ng prodyuser ang kwento subalit hindi nawalan ng pag-asa ang dalawa na makagawa ng isang matinong pelikula. Nu’ng isang taon, muling kumatok ang pagkakataon nang may nagpahayag ng interes kay Jon upang kunin siyang direktor sa pelikulang “Gabriela,” ukol sa buhay ng pinakamatapang na babaeng Katipunera. Agad na tinawagan ni Jon si Robin upang ibigay rito ang papel na Diego Silang habang nagpapa-audition siya para sa gaganap na Gabriela. Ngunit, tulad ng dati, bigla muling nag-iba ang timpla ng magpipinansya at umatras na magtapon ng pera dahil sa gumegewang-gewang na sitwasyon ng industriya ng pelikulang Pilipino. Dito nabuo kay Jon ang balak niyang gumawa na lamang ng sarili niya.

“Kung gagawa tayo ng pelikula, huwag na tayong maghintay na may magpagawa sa atin. Ganoong attitude, ganoong frustration, at ganoong aspiration. Tayo-tayo, gumawa na lang tayo,” sambit ng 40-taong direktor at nakatatandang kapatid ng isa pang tanyag na indie at rebolusyonaryong director na si Raymond Red.

Sa angas na ito ni Direk Jon nabuo ang “Astig”. Hinugot niya ang ilan sa mga dati niyang kuwento na lagi niyang inilalako sa iba’t ibang kumpanya sa industriya at pinagsama-sama ang ilan sa mga karakter at ideya niya dito. Anim na buwan niyang nilamay ang paghihimay at pagsusulat hanggang sa mayari niya ang siyang tunay niyang nais gawin.

“Obligasyon ng isang manunulat na baliin niya ang nakasanayang paraan ng pagkukuwento ng istorya. Kailangang ipresinta niya ito sa ibang paraan,” ani ni Red.

At halos lahat nga ng nakaugaliang tradisyon sa pelikulang aksyon ay nilabag ni Direk Jon sa “Astig”. Sa kuwento pa lang medyo magkakainteres ka na. Lumilibot ito kay Bien (Robin), isang assassin na sa lahat ng magiging sakit ay “astigmatism”. Ang buong pelikula ay mapapanood mula sa “point of view” ng karakter ni Robin. Nagbibigay ang pelikula ng pakiramdam na parang isang interbyu o kaya’y isang monologue dahil lahat ng kumakausap kay Bien ay kumakausap sa kamera na si Robin ang nagpapatakbo. Naririnig natin ang boses ni Robin pero makikita lamang natin siya kapag tumitingin siya sa salamin. Binibigyan nito ng pagkakataon ang manonood na maging bahagi rin ng palabas at mamuhay sa mundo na ginagalawan ng pangunahing tauhan.

Ayon din kay Red, ang “Astig” ay bahagi ng isang trilogy kung saan ito ang gitnang kuwento na magdidikit at maghahabi sa dalawa niyang naunang trabaho, ang digital pioneer na “Still Lives” na ipinalabas noong 1999 at ang “Utang Ni Tatang” na umani ng Best Cinematography at Best Production Design noong 2002 Manila Film Festival. Bukod sa mga trabahong ito, nakalikha na rin siya ng ilan sa mga maimpluwensiyang short films sa kasaysayan ng independent cinema. Nariyan ang “Es” noong 1988 na ipinalabas sa Belgium Mondial dela Video Festival, “Tiempo” (1991), ang 1993 Metro Manila Film Festival nominee para sa Best Short Film “Trip”, ang maka-manggagawa na “Pabrika” (1995), ang anti-Martial Law na “The True, The Good, and The Beautiful” (1998), at ang dokumentaryo tungkol sa Abu Sayyaf kidnapping na “Bihag” na ipinalabas noong isang taon ng ABS-CBN. Direktor din si Jon ng mga pambatang palabas sa nasabing istasyon gaya ng “Hirayamanawari,” “Pahina,” “Sineskwela,” at “Epol/Apple”. Siya rin ang sumulat ng “Radyo” ni Direk Yam Laranas nu’ng 2001 na bumigla sa mga manonood sa bagong istilo ng pagkukuwento ng isang action-black comedy-thriller.

“Very improvisational si Jon, very experimental, very subversive, at very daring,” ayon kay Larry Manda, kaibigan at cinematographer ni Jon sa halos lahat ng naging trabaho nito sa loob ng sampung taon, kabilang na ang “Astig”. “May paraan siya para pagaangin pa lalo ang shoot. Siguro dahil sa sense of humor niya at siguro du’n sa state of mind niya sa tuwing magus-shoot. Wala kang makitang ka-pressure-pressure. Kung meron man, itinatago niya ‘yun o meron siyang paraan para hindi ipakita ‘yun.”

“Dynamic” naman ang matatawag sa kanya ng beteranong artista sa teatro na si Dido dela Paz. “Hindi siya plastik. Hindi siya nagpapaka-Hollywood kasi alam niyang hindi tayo Amerikano. Gusto niyang maging Filipino ang kanyang mga pelikula and be good at it. Meron siyang deeper insights kung paano ihahain ang istorya sa manonood na kapag nasanay na sila ay mas maghahanap na sila ng mas may kalidad na mga trabaho at hindi ‘yung basurang isinusubo sa atin ng Hollywood.”

Ayon kay Direk Jon, “laro” at “exercise” lamang kung ituring niya ang kanyang mga trabaho. Mas magaan daw kasi ang trabaho kung itinuturing itong mistulang “jamming” lang. Dagdag niya, sa bawat isa na kanyang idiniderehe ay para siyang estudyante na nag-aaral pa. “Sa buhay kasi, hindi ka natatapos maging estudyante. Pero kailangan hindi ikaw ‘yung estudyanteng seryoso at boring. Mas parang estudyante na naglalaro lang sa loob ng eskwelahan.”

Sa kasalukuyan, naghihintay si Direk Jon na maapruban ang alin man sa mga konseptong kanyang isinumite sa iba’t ibang malalaking produksyon. Kung walang mangyari sa mga ito, nakahanda siyang sumabak muli nitong bakasyon upang gawin ang “Kubeta,” isa na namang digital full-length film tungkol sa isang lalaking naglilinis ng inidoro na kumalaban sa malupit na pulitikong kapag umutot ay nayayanig ang buong kapuluan.

“Kapag maagang matapos, tamang-tama siya sa eleksyon,” nakangiti nang asam ng direktor. “At masaya kami kung may participation ulit ang mga mainstream actors.”

Sa panahon ngayon na mistulang pinamamahal na talaga ng mga dayuhang mangangalakal ang paggawa ng pelikula upang sa gayon ay mga pelikulang mula sa Hollywood na lang ang panoorin ng madla at sa patuloy na ring pagkatakot ng mga prodyuser na sumugal sa mga hindi pangkaraniwang konsepto at istorya, ang ginagawang rebolusyon ni Jon at mga kasamahan nito na lumikha ng mga pelikula sa pamamagitan ng digital camera ay isang magandang simulain upang muling mamukadkad ang mahuhusay, alternatibo, at mapagpalayang mga kuwento na magbubukas muli sa kaisipan ng mga Pilipino. Kung hindi man magawa sa 35mm na kamera ang mga rebolusyonaryong ideya na ipinamalas noon nina Lino Brocka, Ishmael Bernal, at Mike de Leon, ang digital filmmaking na maaari ang bago nitong midyum na tagapagsulong.

“Panahon na nga siguro para gumawa tayo ng mga pelikulang pinaniniwalaan natin,” ani ni Jon. “Panahon na para sa mga bagong filmmakers at mga bagong eksperimentasyon. Panahon na rin para sa isang bagong wave.”

Isang ‘astig’ na hamon mula maaari sa pinaka-astig na direktor sa ngayon. Isang astig na hamon na pihadong didinggin ng mga bagong manlilikha ng pelikula sa makabagong panahon. May siopao man o wala mula sa Kowloon.

ERIK MATTI: VISUAL PIMP (2002)

NOTE: Some time back in 2002-2003, to make ends meet, I wrote articles for a Baguio-based newspaper SKYLAND NEWS and for PINOY WEEKLY. Here are some of the articles that came out which I am sharing and saving here on my blog.

ERIK MATTI: BUGAW NG MGA BISWAL

PAKIRAMDAM ni Direk Erik Matti ay isa siyang “puta”.

“Minsan dumarating talaga sa buhay mo na pakiramdam mo ay isa kang prostitute,” ayon sa 30-taong director. “Sa sitwasyon na kinakaharap ng industriya ngayon --- krisis, kakulangan sa pera, piracy, kakulangan sa suporta ng gobyerno, pulitika --- pakiramdam mo puta ka na talaga… Isang malaking putahan ang Pilipinas.”

Hindi lang si Direk Erik ang unang direktor na nagsabing puta ang maging isang manggagawa sa pelikula. Ang premyadong Swedish director na si Ingmar Bergman ay nagsabing puta ang tingin niya sa sarili niya kung kaya’t ayaw na niyang gumawa ng pelikula. Si Direk Erik, bagamat dumaan at kasalukuyan pa ring dumaraan sa napakaraming pagsubok, ay nag-aanak pa ring ng mga mapanukso at mapang-akit na mga biswal na nagsisilbing halintularan at hulmahan ng mga batang filmmakers.

Sinasabing si Erik Matti ang nagsisilbing tagapamuno ng makabagong alon ng mga filmmakers sa bansa. Edad 26-anyos siya nang una niyang ginawa noong 1997 ang kanyang kauna-unahang pelikula, ang kontrobersyal na “Scorpio Nights 2” para sa Viva Films. Binasag niya ang makalumang tradisyon ng paggawa ng pelikula sa mga sumunod niya pang mga likha gaya ng “Ekis,” “Sa Huling Paghihintay,” “Pedro Penduko II,” “Dos Ekis,” at “Alas-Dose” (na 80% niyang dinirek pero personal na hindi pinalagay ang pangalan sa credits dahil sa hindi pagkakaunawaan sa isang miyembro ng produksyon).

Bugaw

Kung tutuusin, hindi puta si Direk Erik. Mas bugaw pa nga siya kung tutuusin. Ibinugaw niya sa ating harapan ang mga
katawan nina Joyce Jimenez (Scorpio), Sunshine Cruz (Ekis), Maureen Larrazabal (Ekis), Rica Peralejo (Dos Ekis) at Raven Villanueva (Dos Ekis) sa isang paraan na masasabi nating hindi bastos kundi mas nahahanay sa sining. Ibinugaw niya rin sa atin ang mga kakaibang biswal na sa kanyang mga pelikula pa lang natin nakita sa kasaysayan ng pelikulang Pilipino. Sino ang makakalimot sa mga maiinit na eksena ni Albert Martinez at Joyce Jimenez sa loob ng library ng isang pamantasan, maging sa isang makipot na dormitoryo sa University Belt? Ang pakikipagduwelo ni Albert Martinez sa swimming pool sa “Ekis” at ang pagsasayaw ni Sunshine Cruz sa tapat ng refrigerator? Sa “Pedro Penduko II,” angat na angat ang disenyong pamproduksyon at ang kakaibang uri ng komedya na inihain ni Matti samantalang kakaibang pelikulang aksyon naman sana ang gusto niyang mangyari sa “Alas Dose”. Sa “Sa Huling Paghihintay”, trailer pa lang ng underwater na halikan nina Rica Peralejo at Bernard Palanca ay naihanay na natin ito sa mga pelikulang banyaga, lalu pa nang mamalas natin ang eksenang may mga paru-paro sa bukid at ang unti-unting pagbagsak ng mga bulaklak sa isang kalye. At sino ang makakalimot sa sayaw ni Rica Peralejo sa “Dos Ekis” o kaya sa nakabaligtad na movie screen na tinitirhan ni Mark Anthony sa isang sinehan? Siguro nga tama ang sabi ng isang batikan na director na nakausap ko mga ilang buwan na ang nakakaraan: Si Erik Matti ang pinakamahusay na direktor sa pelikula sa panahon ngayon. At nakakatakot raw ang posisyon niya.

Prosti

Kung totoong si Erik Matti ang pinakamahusay na director sa panahong ito, nakapagtataka na ang kanyang kahuli-hulihang pelikula (“Dos Ekis”) ay noong Oktubre noong isang taon pa ipinalabas. Ayon sa isa niyang istap, “natatakot” daw kasi ang mga dati nitong prodyuser sa mga konsepto at mga eksperimentong gustong gawin ni Direk Erik sa paggawa nito ng pelikula. Bagay na pinabubulaanan naman ng kabilang kampo.

Gayunpaman, para sa isang taong minsan nang nagsabi na mabubuhay siya at mamamatay na gumagawa ng pelikula, ang pagburo at pagsakal sa kalayaan ni Erik Matti na lumikha ng sining na siyang natatangi niyang gustong gawin ay naging malaking dagok sa personal at propesyonal niyang buhay. Kung kaya, nang makasilip siya ng isang palya sa kanyang kontrata, agad siyang lumigid sa iba’t ibang produksyon upang ilako ang kanyang serbisyo at mga kuwento. Isa na rito ang pelikulang “Prosti” para sa Regal Films na nagsimula muna bilang “Bugaw” nang ang manunulat na ito (nagsulat ng konsepto ng pelikula) at ang direktor ay parehong nabuwsit sa industriyang kanilang ginagalawan.

“Ang intensyon ko talaga sa pelikula ay ipakita ang istorya sa point of view ng isang filmmaker. Na ito ay isang istorya tungkol sa akin at sa aking industriya,” paliwanag ni Direk Erik sa Ingles. “Isa itong maliit na istorya tungkol sa mga prostitutes kung saan ang mga prostitute ay hindi tinatratong mga biktima. More human, less cliché, more honest, at less politically-correct.”

Pinangungunahan ng bagong aktres na si Aubrey Miles at ni Jay Manalo, ang “Prosti” ang bagong pelikula ng Regal na magtatanghal sa ibang mukha naman ng mga prostitutes na hindi natin madalas makita sa pinilakang-tabing. Bagamat napakarami na ng mga pelikulang ginawa tungkol sa mga babaeng nagkakalakal ng kanilang katawan, ang “Prosti” pa lang siguro ang magpapakita ng mas natural na pagsasalita at pag-iisip ng mga prostitute.

“Hindi namin sila tinratong mga biktima rito bagamat totoong mga biktima sila. Lagi na lang kasi na kapag gumagawa tayo ng mga pelikula tungkol sa mga prostitute, parang ipinapakita natin na hindi sila marunong magdasal, na pinarusahan sila ng Diyos, na pumasok sila dahil sa kahirapan lang,” pagsasalaysay ni Direk Erik. “Ang buhay ng mga puta ay hindi lamang umiikot sa pag-iisip na biktima sila. May mga ambisyon din sila, may mga buhay. Umiibig sila, nagsasaya, nagsisimba, nagbibiruan, at nag-aaway. Mga tao sila at hindi cartoon character. Tao rin silang katulad natin. May mga problema rin silang tulad natin. Gusto rin nilang magka-cellphone gaya ng isang normal na estudyante diyan.”

At ito nga ang mga imahe na mamamalas natin sa “Prosti”. Sa isang advanced preview na isinagawa noong Setyembre 14 sa Roadrunner sa Timog Ave., ipinakita ng bagong obra ni Direk Erik ang iba’t ibang mukha at pagkatao ng mga prosti. May maliit ang suso, may malaking suso, may mataba, may payat, may mabenta, may hindi mabenta, may bago, may laos na, may nagnanais mag-artista, may nagnanais na makapag-asawa, may mag probinsiyanang nagpapagamit ng katawan para matustusan ang kapatid sa probinsyang nagpapabuntis naman pala, at kung anu-ano pa. Maging ang mga kostumer ng putahan ay iba-iba. May malaking tao, may maliit na tao, may mataba, may payat, may mabango, may mabaho ang paa, may nagpapakasawa, may naghahanap ng mapapangasawa, may mapera, may barya-barya, may mataas na opisyal ng gobyerno, at may simpleng estudyante. Lahat sila sa putahan ang punta dahil ayon nga kay Nanay Xedes, ang karakter ni Racquel Villavicencio sa pelikula,”Kaya sila pumupunta rito ay dahil sa pantasya at kapangyarihan.”

Kepyas

Isa pang malakas na makakatawag pansin sa pelikula ay ang eksena kung saan kinukuwenta ni Jay Manalo ang kikitain ng Pilipinas sa isang taon kung lahat ay magpuputa.

“Kepyas ang sasagip sa Pilipinas,” ani nito.

Kung papasadahan, simpleng tirada. Gayon din ang eksena kung saan binabanatan si Aubrey Miles ng Governor sa ibabaw ng mesa nito (i-suspense na lang natin ang manonood at baka rin mapuna ng MTRCB). Pero para sa isang director na hindi naman kilala sa paglalagay ng mga pulitikal na mensahe sa kanyang pelikula, nakakabigla ang mga imaheng ginagamit ngayon ni Direk Erik. Ibang-iba ang “Prosti” sa mga naunang pelikula ni Matti. Wala ito ng mga nakasanayang cinematics at laro ng camera ni Erik, gayun na din ang mga smoke machine effect at madudugong tuhog na nakasanayan na.

“Mahusay si Erik Matti sa blocking. Master na niya ‘yon. Napaka-passionate niya rin sa trabaho niya pero makikita mong hinahanap niya pa ang daan niya. Sana makita niya,” ayon sa cinematographer na si Larry Manda, 2002 Manila Filmfest Best Cinematographer at nakasama ni Direk Eirk sa “Sa Huling Paghihintay”.

At mukhang ito na nga ang timplang iyon. ‘Yun e kung hindi mahaharangan ng paboritong ahensya ng gobyerno ni Direk Erik, ang sinasabi ring “Most X-ed Director” ng nakaraang limang taon.

“Excited ako na ninenerbiyos. Nakakatakot siyempre na mag-submit ng pelikula base sa mga pelikulang binigyan ng ‘X’ ng MTRCB,” paglalahad ni Direk Erik patungkol sa mga pelikulang “Laman,” “Bakat,” at “Ang Galing, Galing Mo, Babes”.

“Hindi mo alam kung ang magre-review ng pelikula mo ay marunong nga talagang manood ng pelikula. Ang problema kasi dito sa atin, konting-konti lang talaga ang marunong manood ng totoong “pelikula”. Nakakatakot para sa mga katulad kong gumagawa ng R-18 movies. Pag sinabi kong R-18, hindi ibig sabihing bold kundi mga pelikulang may matatapang na tema at medyo sensitibo at kritikal. Ang dami kasing gusting gumawa ng mga R-18 movie pero dahil sa tipo ng MTRCB natin at sa paraan ng pagbibigay nila ng ‘X’, natatakot sila baka kasi hindi na maipalabas,” dagdag pa nito.

“Ang gusto kasi ng MTRCB e ‘yung loveteam movies at slapstick comedies. ‘Yung mga R-18, ayaw nila kasi tumatalakay sa lipunan, sa human nature, sa human condition. E ‘yun ang gustong gawin ng mga filmmakers na may gustong sabihin sa mga pelikula nila. Daring structures, daring visuals, daring themes. E kaso nga binabanatan ang pelikula ngayon kasi mas madaling banatan kesa corruption in the government. Nagiging pambawi nila ang pag-attack sa movies sa kanilang mga kasalanan sa ibang departments. Sana lang, tingnan nila ang intent ng isang pelikula,” pangahas na sagot ni Matti, isa rin sa mga Board Members ng Directors Guild (DGPI).

Kung kaya, bagamat mainit ang pagtanggap ng publiko sa teaser ad ng pelikulang “Prosti” sa TV at mga sinehan at sa pangunahing artista nito na sinasabing ipapalit kay Assunta de Rossi, malakas pa rin ang kabog ng dibdib ng mga naging bahagi sa produksyon ng pelikula lalo’t ipapalabas na ito sa Oktubre 2. Doble naman siguro ang kaba ni Erik dahil may ginagawa siyang bagong pelikula, ang “Una’t Huli” na pinagbibidahan ni Richard Gomez at Aubrey Miles muli na may sensitibo ring tema. Ngunit anu’t anupaman, sanay na siguro si Direk Erik. Gagawa’t gagawa pa rin siya ng pelikula kahit pa marahas at kritikal gumawa ng pelikula sa mga panahong ito. Sanay na sanay na siya.

Para saan pang tinagurian natin siya kaninang “puta”.


ERIK MATTI: VISUAL PIMP
By SIGFREID BARROS-SANCHEZ

DIREK Erik Matti feels that he’s a prostitute.

“Sometimes, you get to a point that you really become a prostitute,” admits the 30-year old director. “Given the situation that the industry is facing --- crisis, the lack of money, piracy, the lack of government support, politicking --- you really feel sometimes that you’re a whore and the Philippines is one, big whorehouse.”

Not since Swedish director and world film legend Ingmar Bergman did someone openly declared that being a filmmaker makes one a whore. Bergman said such when asked why he decided to quit making films despite very much at the peak of his creativity. Although not a Bergman, Direk Erik has gone through a lot for somebody who’s only five years into the business. He has risked personal, mental, and emotional aspects in his life to give birth to tempting and enticing works of art that serve as measurement and model for today’s emerging, young filmmakers.

If the 70’s and the 80’s has Brocka, Bernal, and De Leon and the 90’s has Lamangan, Roño, and Siguion-Reyna, pundits say that Matti spearheads the 2000 wave. He was 26-years old when he did his first film in 1997, the very controversial “Scorpio Nights 2” for Viva Films. He shattered the conventional and traditional way of filmmaking and storytelling with his next five assignments: “Ekis” (1998), “Pedro Penduko II” (1999), “Sa Huling Paghihintay” (2001), “Dos Ekis” (2001), and “Alas Dose” (2000) (80% of which he directed but decided to pull-out his name after a misunderstanding with a major member of the production).

Pimp

If we really look at it, Direk Erik is not exactly a whore. He is more of a pimp. A visual pimp. He has peddled before us the bodies of Joyce Jimenez (Scorpio), Sunshine Cruz (Ekis), Maureen Larrazabal (Ekis), Rica Peralejo (Sa Huling Paghihintay), and Raven Villanueva (Dos Ekis) in a way that is not malicious and taboo but more closer to, if not an, art. He sold us visual feasts that we have never before partaken in the history of Philippine cinema.

Who would forget the steamy scenes of Albert Martinez and Joyce Jimenez inside a library and a cramped dormitory in “Scorpio Nights 2”? How about Sunshine Cruz’s “refrigerator dance” and Albert Martinez’s swimming pool gunfight in “Ekis”? In “Pedro Penduko II”, Erik decided to up notches higher the Pinoy’s brand of comedy and production design, while the local action genre would have finally given a different face had he stayed at the helm of “Alas Dose”. “Sa Huling Paghihintay’s” trailer, which saw Rica Peralejo and Bernard Palanca kissing underwater, was at par with Hollywood pieces what more when we viewed its remarkable photography like the butterflies in the field and the falling flowers in high speed. And have our jaws recovered from awe when Rica Peralejo’s dancing body was reflected in stage mirrors or the effect of an inverted movie screen where Mark Anthony Fernandez lives, both in “Dos Ekis”? Perhaps, veteran megman and editor Augusto Salvador was right when he divulged in a movie set a few months ago, “Erik Matti is perhaps the best director in the industry today”. He, however, added that it is not a very secured place to be in.

Prosti

If it’s true that Erik Matti is the best interpreter of the film language today, it is very surprising to know that his very last film (“Dos Ekis”) was done exactly a year ago. According to one of his staff, his former production company was having second thoughts in approving Erik’s concepts for fear of experimentation and unconventional visuals and ideas on the part of Matti. Something that the production company quickly contends.

Nevertheless, for someone who has vowed to make films for the rest of his life, Erik Matti has survived the suppression and containment of his artistic rights to make movies. He saw a glitch in his contract that gained him complete freedom. Immediately, he made the rounds of different major film companies (even minor ones) and offered his services to them. Fortunately, Regal Films opened its doors to the visual genius via “Prosti”, his latest and believed to be his best work. Initially entitled “Bugaw”, the film is a product of this writer (conceptualizer) and Erik’s disappointment over the industry they’ve been roaming around. “Ganti natin sa mga konsepto nating ilang beses na dini-disapprove,” he says.

He further reveals his real intention in making the film, ”I was looking at it from a point of view of a filmmaker. That the story is about me and my industry. It’s a small story about prostitutes wherein they are not treated as victims. It’s more human, less-cliché, more honest, and less politically-correct.”

“Prosti”, which stars newcomer Aubrey Miles and Jay Manalo, essays a different look at the lives of different prostitutes which we don’t normally see on the big screen. Despite having countless films on these female sex traders, the film is perhaps is the first to feature the most natural way prostitutes talk, think, and express themselves.

“We don’t tackle them as victims but yes they are victims. Everytime kasi we do a movie about prostitutes, it seems like they don’t know how to pray, they’re damned by God, that they’re going in because of poverty, and it’s always an excuse,” Erik explains. “Their lives don’t revolve about thinking that they’re just victims. They go on with their lives, they have ambitions, they fall in love, they have fun, they go to mass, they joke around, and they also fight. They’re human beings and not just caricatures or cartoon characters. They’re real people just like us. They have problems just like us. They also want a cellphone like a normal student would want.”

Definitely, these and much more are the images that we will see in “Prosti”. In an advance preview last September 14 at the Roadrunner office in Timog, Avenue, Quezon City (where the film was dubbed and edited), Direk Erik’s newest obra show varied faces and facets of prostitutes as we have earlier written on its first draft: “Putahan. Dito ko na nakita lahat ng hindi madalas makita ng mga tao. Malaking suso, maliit na suso, matabang suso, payat na suso, nag-iingay na suso, mahiyaing suso, mayamang suso, simpleng suso, mabangong suso, may amoy na suso.” Juxtapose that with the customers that frequent the brothel house, “Putahan. Dito nagkikita-kita ang mga taong hindi madalas nagkikita. Malaking tao, maliit na tao, matabang tao, payat na tao, maingay na tao, tahimik na tao, mayaman na tao, simpleng tao, mabangong tao, mabahong tao. Ang putahan ay mistulang lipunang walang uri. Puro ari.” All of them meet and converge at Nanay Xedes’ (Racquel Villavicencio) house of sin because according to her, “Kaya sila pumupunta dito ay dahil sa pantasya at kapangyarihan.”

Kepyas

Another scene in the film that will most probably create a stir and recall to the audience is when Nonoy Laki (Manalo) computes the annual profit the Philippine government can generate if all its population will go the flesh route.

“Kepyas ang sasagip sa Pilipinas!” he exclaims.

A simple political statement from the Bacolod-born director who has seen the crudest and scummiest of the Filipinos when he arrived in Manila ten years ago. He also showed disgust at the government in a scene when Miles gets divirginized on top of the Governor’s table. Visuals show his disgust and it surprises a loyal Matti follower who knows that Direk Erik is not somebody who really puts a strong political message on his films. “Prosti” is every inch different from his past works. It doesn’t have the cinematics and great camera plays Erik used to toy before, nor does it have the presence of Matti’s old reliable smoke effect and crane flippant.

“Mahusay si Erik sa blocking. Master niya ‘yon. Napaka-passionate rin niya sa trabaho niya pero makikita mong hinahanap niya pa ang daan niya. Sana makita na niya,” views cinematographer Larry Manda, 2002 Manila Filmfest Best Cinematographer and who has worked with Erik for “Sa Huling Paghihintay”.

And “Prosti” is perhaps the road that Manda is talking about. According to writer Simeon Espiritu, “Pinakamagandang trabaho ni Erik Matti ang “Prosti”.” With these feathers, he is left with one major hurdle, his favorite government agency. The one who has given him a lot of X-es as grade.

“Excited ako na ninenerbiyos. Nakakatakot for people like me to submit based on the films that were given ‘X’ by the MTRCB,” he divulges, pertaining to the films “Laman,” “Bakat,” and “Ang Galing, Galing Mo, Babes”.

“You don’t know if the ones who’ll gonna review your movies really know how to watch movies. Ang problema dito sa atin, konting-konti lang talaga ang marunong manood ng “pelikula”. Nakakatakot for people like me who are doing R-18 movies. When I say R-18, it doesn’t mean bold movies but films who have really strong themes and medyo sensitive at critical. There are people who plan to do R-18 movies but shy away because it might not even be shown given the ‘X’-es the MTRCB is giving,” he adds.

Direk Erik, one of the director’s guild’s (DGPI) Board Members, has also noticed the following, “The MTRCB favors loveteam movies and slapstick comedies over R-18. R-18 movies kasi say something about either society, human nature, or human condition. Filmmakers want to say something and want to do movies about these. Daring structures, daring visuals, daring themes. E kaso binabanatan ang movies ngayon kasi mas madaling banatan kesa corruption in the government. Nagiging pambawi nila ang pag-attack sa movies sa kanilang mga kasalanan sa ibang departments. I hope they see the real intent of the film.”

Although the public’s attention has been tickled by “Prosti’s” teaser ads on TV and cinema screens during breaks and at the various half-naked photos of its main star in the tabloids, members of the production are still listless as October 2, opening day, draws near. Direk Erik’s heart is even believed to be pumping doubly hard, what with his next film, “Una’t Huli,” which stars Richard Gomez and Aubrey Miles, is undoubtedly charting the R-18 shores. But knowing Erik, he is used to the tension. He’d make his film and his next film and his next, next film, despite these times being hard-pressed and critical times to create such. He’s been used and abused, battered and tattered. He’s

TADO JIMENEZ (2002)

NOTE: Some time back in 2002-2003, to make ends meet, I wrote articles for a Baguio-based newspaper SKYLAND NEWS and for PINOY WEEKLY. Here are some of the articles tha came out which I am sharing and saving here on my blog.

BIG TIME NA SI TADO
ni SIGFREID BARROS-SANCHEZ

BUGTONG-BUGTONG. Hindi si Diether, hindi si Piolo; hindi si Marvin, hindi si Jericho; lalong hindi si Martin at hindi si Edu. Pero host ng sariling show. Paminsan-minsan nagkokonsiyerto. Lumabas na sa “Trip” at “Pangako Sa ‘Yo”. Nasa “Utang Ni Tatang” at “Radyo”. At madalas niyang raket, MTV, shortfilms, at isang kakaibang brew.

Hindi mo mahulaan?

Tado.

Hindi. Hindi kita minumura. ‘Yun ang pangalan niya: “Tado”. Siya ang bagong komedyanteng ipinaparada ng ABS-CBN sa kasalukuyan sa iba’t ibang mga programa nito. Nakasalamin si Tado na parang nerd, mahaba ang buhok, maliit, payat, at madalas nakapormang hippieng anti-gera: may beads, tie-dye na T-shirt, pinutol na pantalon ng ROTC, at itim na medias na sumasalungat sa kulay puting Chuck Taylor. Dahil nga komedyante ang pagkapakete sa kanya, hindi siya tipong Rexona Boys. Hindi makinis at maputi ang kanyang balat, walang accent at walang maintindihan minsan sa mga Ingles niya, at, marahil, hindi rin kasingkinis ang kanyang kili-kili.

Bagamat hindi produkto ng isang sikat na komersyal sa TV, pumaimbulog ang pangalan ni Tado nang maging isang cult hit ang “Strangebrew,” isang palabas sa unTV 37 tuwing alas-tres, alas-siete, at alas-diyes ng gabi, kung saan dinadala niya tayo at ng kanyang sidekick na si Erning sa iba’t ibang lugar sa Pilipinas para magtanong ng mga bagay na matagal na nating gustong malaman at mga bagay na hindi natin alam kung gusto nating malaman.

“Payag ho ba kayong magkabalikan si Guy at si Philip Salvador?” tanong nito minsan sa isang hardinero sa Lung Center. Sinagot naman siya ng seryosong hardinero, “Nasa sa kanila na ‘yon kung talagang nag-iibigan ba sila, e.”

Ganito ang uri ng comedy ni Tado. Spontaneous na mali-maling mga tanong na sinasagot naman ng spontaneous na mali-maling mga sagot. Ayon sa kanya, hindi nila intensyon ng direktor ng programa na si RA Rivera na maging katawa-tawa ang kanyang mga nakakausap pero sa takbo ng kuwentuhan at interviewhan, at dahil na rin siguro sa mababang budget, kung ano ang kanilang nakukunan ay ‘yon na ‘yung lumalabas. Wala nang Take 2 o Take 3 kumbaga.

Parang nu’ng isinilang siya.

Strangebrew

Dalawampu’t walong-taon na ang nakakaraan nang isinalang siya ng kanyang amang si Jose sa hulmahan ng kanyang ina na si Asuncion sa Leyte. Panganay sa dalawang magkapatid, nagtungo ang kanilang pamilya sa Maynila noong magha-hayskul siya at lumaki sa isang magulong kapitbahayan sa Pasay.

Simula pa lang ay nagpamalas na siya ng kakaibang kilos na nagbigay ng maagang konklusyon sa kanyang ama na kakaiba kumpara sa nakararami ang timpla ng anak. Nahilig itong mangolekta ng mga tabs ng Coke in cans upang balang araw ay gawing wheelchair pag nalumpo raw siya at mga cactus na itinuturing niyang sacred plant. Sa mura ring edad ay nahilig na ito sa pagbubutingting at paglilikha ng sariling sining, bagay na kanyang dinala nang siya’y tumuntong sa PUP-Sta.Mesa. Clinical Psychology ang kursong kinuha niya rito dahil ayon sa kanya, “wala kasing nakapila”. Napabarkada siya sa isang cultural group sa pamantasan kung saan mas lalo niyang nahasa ang kanyang pagiging “artist”. Sa panahon ding ito, inamin niya na naging magulo at palaaway siya. Anim na beses siyang nakulong, tatlong politically-related at tatlo naman sa kasong nag-ugat sa pagsigarilyo sa loob ng jeep hanggang sa marijuana possession. Tipikal na artist, loose, adventurous, at unconvential.

The True, The Good, & The Beautiful (?)

“Risen from the dead ‘yan,” ani ng independent director na si Jon Red. Si Direk Jon ang kauna-unahang nag-cast kay Tado bilang artista noong 1997 nang hindi dumating ang paborito nitong aktor na si Raul Moret. Papel ng isang pinahihirapan at pagkatapos ay sinalvage na aktibista ang naging papel ni Tado sa mala-short film na “The True, The Good, & The Beautiful” ng Foundation For Worldwide People Power (FFWWPP).

“Amuyong lang ako doon at taga-provide ng location,” ayon sa aktor. Nagtatrabaho na bilang writer sa PTV-4 si Tado nang mabalitaan niyang may filmmaking workshop ang Mowelfund. Tinanong niya ang isang kabarkada, na nagkataon palang kapatid ng cinematographer na si Larry Manda, kung paano makapasok sa Mowelfund at dahil walang pera, nakipag-X-deal na lang siya na magtatrabaho sa pamosong film school ng bansa hanggang sa mabayaran ang tuition.

Dahil na rin sa sistemang barkadahan ng Mowelfund, naisama pa si Tado sa mga susunod pang shortfilms ng mga iba pang baguhang direktor. Noong 1998 ay isinama siya ni Glenn Cruz sa 16-minuto na film nito na “Rehab”. Sinundan ito ng 1999 digital breakthrough na trilogy na “Motel” kung saan nagmarka ang kanyang “virginal” acting sa kuwentong “Desperado” ni Nonoy Dadivas. Nagkara-karate naman siya noong 2000 sa “Bruce,” isang tribute short ni Toppel Lee kay martial arts legend Bruce Lee at nag-cameo role kamakailan sa “Piso, Dalawampiso” ni Dennis Empalmado. Kung susuriin nga, mas marami pa siyang kita at raket kesa sa mga gumagawa ng maliliit na pelikula.

“Oo nga, e,” natatawa rin nitong naisip. “Una kasi, puro ka-edad natin ‘yung mga gumagawa ng shortfilms so kahit papaano me pagsasaksakan ako ng role. Pero hindi ko naman talaga inisip na isali ako o aakting ako. Part lang kasi ako ng production. Raket lang ‘to talaga. Nadaanan lang, kumbaga.”

Trip

Kung trip lang nga na maituturing ang naging paglalakbay na ito ni Tado, isang napakamakahulugang biyahe na ang kanyang napasadahan. Itinuturing na Pambansang Tour Guide ng Bayan dahil sa kanyang papel sa “Strangebrew”, kasama na rin siya sa mga programang “Klasmeyts,” “Okey, Fine, Whatever!,” at ilang mga piling episodes ng “Hirayamanawari” ng Dos. Mga ilang buwan na ang nakakaraan, lumabas siyang hippie-dormmate ni Jericho Rosales sa katatapos lamang na teleseryeng “Pangako Sa ‘Yo”. Dahil dito, hindi maiwasang hindi siya makilala ng mga tao, maging sa pinakasuluk-sulukan ng Baguio.

“Hindi ako makatawad sa palengke kasi nakikilala na ako,” kuwento ni Tado. “Putok na putok no’n ‘yung “Pangako…” kaya panay ang tanong sa akin, “Si Jericho? Si Jericho? Asan si Jericho?””

“Pero nagji-jeep pa rin ako hanggang ngayon,” bawi nito.

Malaking adjustment rin kay Tado ang paglipat ng kanyang sining mula sa maliliit na teatro gaya ng UP Film Center patungo sa komersyal na boob tube. Unang-una, iba ang disiplina ng mainstream sa indie at shortfilms.

“Iba ‘yung humor nila,” pag-amin nito. “Sumasakay na lang ako kung ano ‘yung agos do’n. OA. Hindi ka makapag-ad lib kasi supplied ‘yung humor unlike sa “Strangebrew” na abstract.”

“Atsaka malala ‘yung disiplina, pare,” dagdag ni Tado. “Call time alas-otso, ma-late man ako limang minuto lang. Magsu-shoot kami 10:30 o 11:00 na! Tapos hindi maayos ‘yung breakdown. Kung ano ang maisip, tira-bahala. Sa kanila hindi kupal ‘yon pero sa Mowelfund hindi puwede ‘yon! Maling gawain ‘yon! Mas magaling pa nga akong mag-ilaw kesa sa mga taga-Dos! Alam mo naman ang ilawan do’n: “Bulaga Lighting”!”

Utang Ni Tatang

“Ano nga ba ang utang ni Tatang?” Ito ang madalas itanong ng karakter ni Tado sa pelikulang tuluyang nagpasikat sa kanya sa tirahang-masa. Bago pa man siya sumabak sa obra na ito ni Jon Red, naging bahagi na rin siya ng tatlo pang pelikula: “Trip” ni Gilbert Perez, “Radyo” ni Yam Laranas, at “Akala Mo” ni Lyle Sacris. Rumaket din siya sa mga MTV ni Robert Quebral gaya ng “Harana,” “Swimming Beach,” at “Sori Na” ng Parokya Ni Edgar at isang MTV ng Rivermaya. Nagkaroon rin siya ng banda noon, ang Gitaw, kung saan napasama ang isa nilang kanta sa isang compilation album ng Documento Records. Subalit, sa pelikulang “Utang Ni Tatang” siya hinayang na hinayang.

“Hindi ako naniniwalang hindi ‘yon kaya ng audience. Hindi siya na-market ng todo kasi sa incentive pa lang sa Manila Filmfest at sa video rights e bawi-bawi na ang producer. Takot pa rin silang sumugal sa isang pelikulang tulad ng “Utang”,” tahasan nitong banggit.

“Ang problema kasi sa mainstream, nakikita nila na threat sa kanila ‘yung mga bagong director. Alam mo naman sa industriya natin, ang mga gumagawa ng pelikula e ‘yung mga tatay e dating director at natuto lang konti, gumagawa na rin. Darating ‘yung time na malalaman ng mainstream na may iba pa palang paggawa ng pelikula,” komento nito.

Pangako Sa ‘Yo

Kapag walang taping at walang raket na shortfilm, ginugugol ni Tado ang kanyang panahon sa kanyang tatlong babaeng anak na sina Leidulataja, 6, Diosa, 4, at Indi, 2, mula kay Lea Segovia na kanyang kasintahan sa kolehiyo. Sa isang inuupahang bahay sa Marikina, nawawala ng bahagya ang kanyang angst at kabulastugan sa piling ng tatlong batang tinatawag siyang “ama”.

“Perseverance, study well, and good sleeping habits. ‘Yan ang ibinibilin ko sa kanila kasi ‘yan ang principles ni Tado, e,” magkahalong kalokohan at seryoso nitong namutawi sabay banat na, “Pero ayokong gayahin nila ako. Ayokong maging artists sila. Putang-ina! Walang pera sa art!”

Sa kasalukuyan rin ay pinagpaplanuhan na niya ang kanyang kauna-unahang shortfilm na siyang matagal na niyang gustong gawin. “Parang Woody Allen film na Steve Buscemi lang ang artista.” Idol niya kasi si Buscemi at mas dito ibinabagay ang acting kesa sa madalas mapansing Garth na character ni Dana Carvey sa Wayne’s World. “Mamarka talaga sa ‘yo kahit maliit ang role niya.” Tinatapos rin nila ng kanyang mga kasama ang isang tribute film kay Rox Lee, ang ama ng mga Pinoy indie filmmakers, sa pamamagitan ng paggawa ng sequel sa “Juan Gapang” nito. Bumuo rin siya ng bandang new school punk, ang Big T.T. (Time Tado) na nag-ambag ng isang kanta sa soundtrack ng “Utang”. At kung matutuloy rin ang planong isapelikula ni Jon Red ang dalawa nitong scripts na “kuBeta” at “Martial Law Babies,” may nakareserba nang role kay Tado dito.

“Makulit ‘yan pero sumusunod naman,” ayon sa kanyang “discoverer”. “Tulad ng comment niya sa “Still Lives” ko, gano’n din masasabi ko sa kanya: may effort.”

At kung saka-sakaling magkaroon ng pagkakataon si Arvin Jimenez na tanungin ang kanyang alter ego na si Tado, ano kaya ang mala-Strangebrew na kanyang itatanong?

“Malamang wala akong matanong,” ayon sa kanya. “Siguro sasabihan ko na lang na tuluy-tuloy lang at kapag napatunayan mo na ang sarili mo sa ganyan, lahat ng sasabihin mo tama na.”

Sa pagtapak sa big time ni Arvin Jimenez aka Tado, isa lang ang hinihiling natin na sana’y maipangako nito. Na nawa’y maging wais, hindi ‘tado, ang mga diskarte nito.


BIG TIME BECOMES TADO
by SIGFREID BARROS-SANCHEZ

JOLOGS Generation’s cult icon, Tado Jimenez, is slowly feeling the bad effects of success. Baguio was the first to teach him an important lesson.

While roaming around the city’s famous ukay-ukay stalls in Session Road, he was surprised that he couldn’t get a discount like anybody else. He happened to be one of ukay-dom’s top supporter in Manila via the Bambang and Alabang, um, “branches” but it seems Pine City is not receptive of his wisecracks to cut rates unlike a few years before when he was there.

“Nagkataon pala, putok na putok na ‘yung “Pangako Sa ‘Yo”,” he narrates. “Nakilala ako nu’ng mga tindera. Sa “Pangako Sa ‘Yo,” ‘to, e, sabi nila. Kaya, panay tanong sa akin, “Si Jericho? Si Jericho? Asan si Jericho?” Akala nila kasama ko si Jericho at nagsu-shoot kami sa Baguio.”

For those who have erased their memory of the teleserye that made byword the names of Angelo and Ina, aka Jericho Rosales and Kristine Hermosa, Tado played the role of Jericho’s hippie-nerdy dormmate in Manila who, at one episode, gets to bed sexy seductress Bea Bianca (Vanesa del Bianco).

For those who are always glued to their TV sets during primetime, he is that familiar face now regularly beamed on ABS-CBN’s “Okey, Fine, Whatever” and “Klasmeyts”. He can also be seen some mornings of Sundays donning different characters for children’s show “Hirayamanawari”.

As for the Daing-Tuyo-Itlog (Dyologs) Generation, he is no other than one-half of the country’s Official Tour Guide via unTV 37’s cult hit program “Strangebrew”. Actually, it is in this NU 107 UHF Channel, seen everyday every 3PM, 7PM, and 10PM, that Tado and his sidekick-driver Erning became instant celebrities in the tradition of Beavis and Butthead, Ernie and Bert, or even Angelo and Ina.

“’Tang-ina naman, ‘tol! Labo no’n! Hindi naman tayo si Jericho at Kristine!,” he quickly rebuts. “Hindi ko nga matanggap sa sarili ko na komedyante daw ako. Raket lang ‘to talaga. Nadaanan lang kumbaga.”

Radyo

Tado is definitely not a Jericho. He’s not even close to a Marvin or a Diether or a Piolo. Nor is he Power Boys material although his popularity has reached that status and he has some shares of shrieks but for different reasons. With his looks --- long hair, nerd-like glasses, reed-thin body, and a japorms that belongs to the grunge era --- he is absolutely not commercial material. His voice may not even pass for an NU 107 radio jock. But what he possesses is the complete package that the masa loves to chomp and gobble in a Pinoy comedian. His skin tone and built is the Rene Requiestas-type, his peskiness is a cross between a Dolphy and a Chiquito, and his barok-English ways reminds us of that man we, funnily, once put in power.

“Ang gusto ko talaga mala-Woody Allen o Steve Buscemi,” Tado seriously notes. “Gusto ko talaga si Steve Buscemi kasi mamarka talaga s’ya sa ‘yo kahit maliit ‘yung role.”

And Buscemi he tried to aim with his first four film assignments.

Utang Ni Tatang

“Ano nga ba talaga ang utang ni Tatang?” continuously asked Tado’s character in Jon Red’s independent movie “Utang Ni Tatang”. To critics and art film buffs, the flick signified better projects to come for the 28-year old actor who is Arvin Jimenez in real life. His role gave birth to a new breed of comedian as he earned continuous laughs, alongside screen veterans Ronnie Lazaro, Joel Torre, and Jeffrey Quizon, during its premiere at the Manila Film Festival last June.

“Makulit talaga ‘yan pero sumusunod naman,” recalls Direk Jon. “May effort.”

Before “Utang”, Tado had the opportunity to work for some of filmdom’s young and visually talented directors by playing small roles like a security guard in Yam Laranas’ “Radyo”, a provinciano bum in Gilbert Perez’s “Trip” and as a goon in Lyle Sacris’ “Akala Mo”. But the dismal moviegoer-support for Red’s “Utang” affected him the most despite it winning Best Cinematography and Best Production Design in this year’s Manila Filmfest.

“Hindi ako naniniwalang hindi kaya ng market ‘yon,” Tado explains. “Hindi naman na-market ‘yon ng todo kasi sa incentive pa lang ng Filmfest bawi na sila tapos may video rights pa. Ni wala ngang lumabas na trailer sa TV, e!”
The movie, despite a meager budget of less than P3-Million and a less than a week “guerilla” shoot in Tarlac, earned praises for being the only intelligent film of the entries and the only one that dared go against the flow of traditional Pinoy storytelling and filmmaking.

“Nakakahon kasi sila na kailangan lahat ng pelikula may bold. Takot silang sumugal,” he fumes. “Ang problema kasi sa mainstream, nakikita nila na threat sa kanila ‘yung mga bagong direktor. Hindi naman sila balak i-overthrow, e. Gusto lang ipaalam ng mga independent directors sa mainstream na may iba pa palang klase ng paggawa ng pelikula. Na hindi porke’t direktor ang tatay mo at natuto ka ng konti sa paggawa ng pelikula ay puwede ka nang magdirek.”

Trip

If you’re finding it hard to understand why a comedian like Tado could say a mouthful about the film industry’s state, you’ll be even more surprise to find out that he holds in his hand a filmmaking certificate from Mowelfund, the country’s premiere film school.

His trip to strardom started in 1997 when, while working as a writer for a PTV-4 show, he chanced upon an advertisement for a filmmaking course in Mowel. He quickly packed his artist suit and rode the first jeep to its Cubao office right away. Although not having enough money to pay the tuition, he made a pact with the Mowelfund elders to pay them his balance by working for them.

One of his first jobs for Mowelfund was scouting probable locations for shortfilms of the foundation’s promising young filmmakers. It was while Jon Red was shooting a project entitled “The True, The Good, & The Beautiful” for the Foundation For Worldwide People Power (FFWWPP) that Tado’s thespian side was first tapped. Direk Jon’s favorite actor, Raul Moret, failed to arrive at the shoot and the director was desperately in need of an activist figure that would endure bullet torture and slaps from military-like actors. Tado, a real activist in his PUP-Sta.Mesa days, was picked.

The role would earn for him other slots at Mowelfund shorts. He was cast for Glenn Cruz’s 16-minute work “Rehab” in 1998 followed by a bigger part in the digital breakthrough trilogy “Motel” where he played, in Nonoy Dadivas’ “Desperado” episode, a loser who is about to lose his virginity to his boss’ wife in a motel. Toppel Lee then utilize his potentials in “Bruce” in 2000 in a Bruce Lee tribute shortfilm before getting a slot in Dennis Empalmado’s first outing “Piso, Dalawampiso” this year. His being a favorite among young filmmakers has earned him a reputation as an heir to the throne of Ronnie Lazaro, a favorite among Raymond Red’s contemporaries. Heck, he may be even earning bigger than the starving young directors he had lent his talent to!

“Oo nga, e,” he laughs after thinking it over. “Puro ka-edad kasi natin ‘yung mga gumagawa ng shortfilms so kahit papaano me pagsasaksakan ako ng role.”

His body of work doesn’t stop there. He has been a common fixture in MTV director Robert Quebral’s works such as “Harana,” “Swimming Beach,” and “Sori Na” for Parokya Ni Edgar and a Rivermaya tune which title he forgets. “Maikli pa buhok ko do’n, medyo skinhead,” is what he recalls.

In between these, he also has time to jam with his new school punk band Big T.T. (Time Tado) which song was included in “Utang’s” soundtrack (the one used during the rumble scene). He used to sing also for short-live spontaneous band Gitaw where no one knows how to play an instrument nor even sing. A track of theirs is included in a Documento Records compilation album and can still be downloaded.

“Ang gusto ko talagang gawin e gumawa ng short film ko. Darating ‘yung time na gagawa rin ako,” Tado swears.

kuBeta

Although the 2002 NU 107 Rock Awards is fast approaching, Tado quickly silence speculations that he is returning as this year’s host. “Wala namang nag-host ng dalawang taon na magkasunod, “ he says. For now, he is focusing on the new season and the new life given to him and Erning’s show after e-mails bombarded the NU office for new episodes for the duo. Also, a leading beer company now sponsors the show, provided that “Strangebrew” does a “Spot The Beer Contest”. Tado says it’s not selling out. He and director RA Rivera still controls all the creative inputs of the show. “Pa-chienes lang ‘yon,” he defends.

With these developments, we are assured that Tado will still ask us unproverbial questions like “Payag ho ba kayong magkabalikan si Guy at si Philip Salvador?” or “Bakit walang buko pie sa Ilocos?” during the rest of the season. Baguio may even get another glimpse of the guy who once asked an owner of the city’s strawberry farm a very simple question of spelling out his trade but to surprisingly negative results (“Naka-Take Three kami pero mali pa rin”). That is if his plan to shoot the show’s Christmas episode in the Spratlys doesn’t push through.

“Ang weirdo siguro Christmas nila do’n, di ba? May Christmas light kaya do’n?” he asks this writer as if preparing his first question for the episode.

If Jon Red’s plans pushes through by early next year, he may be tackling two more film assignments via his mentor’s “kuBeta” for World Arts Cinema and and “Martial Law Babies,” a finalist at the Cinemanila Scriptwriting Contest. While waiting for these and during TV taping breaks, he plays “ama” to his three girls Leidulataja, 6, Diosa, 4, and Indi, 2 by wife Lea Segovia.

“Perseverance, study well, and good sleeping habits. ‘Yan ang binibilin ko sa kanila kasi ‘yan ang principles ni Tado,” the cactus-collector shares.

We walk back to his place while connecting some people we know ala- “Jologs”. Some hiphop-clad teenagers were calling his name amidst the music booming from their jeep. In another vehicle, pretty young indays sheepishly smile upon recognizing him. He carefully answers in a familiar grin, as if saying, “Bow your heads! Tado, King of The Jologs Community, has arrived!”

INDEPENDENT FILMMAKERS JON RED AND LARRY MANDA (2003)

WRITER'S NOTE: Back in 2003, to make ends meet, I contributed articles to different small publications. Here are some of the articles I wrtote back thenespecially for SKYLAND NEWS in Baguio. Special thanks to Chit Balmaceda for featuring them on the pages of the paper. I am sharing the articles to anyone who might be interested to read about Directors Erik Matti, Jon Red, and Larry Manda, and actors Epi Quizon, Tado, Aubrey Miles, and Alessandra de Rossi.

INDEPENDENT FILMMAKERS JON RED AND LARRY MANDA
TEN YEARS OF “ASTIG” TRIPS TOGETHER
By SIGFREID BARROS-SANCHEZ, Contributor

The contributor is a 28-year old screenwriter and character actor whose credits include “Prosti,” “Alas-Dose,” “Bertud ng Putik,” “Dos Ekis,” and “Kilabot at Kembot”. He plays one of the goons in “Astig”.

THE way cinematographer Larry Manda describes his and independent filmmaker and friend Jon Red’s manner of making films, it seems that they wanna be known as Philippine independent cinema’s rock and rollers in the age of Friendster. Jamming and strumming their cameras and tripods to the beat of a 35mm, a 16mm, an 8mm, and more recently, a mini-DV tape rolling, they morphed into the Rolling Stones’ free-spirited leaders Mick Jagger and Keith Richards once on the set. Or to make it more fittingly Pinoy, The Jerks’ Chickoy Pura and Nitoy Adriano, the band they both tried to catch and watch at the end of their three-day shoot for their newest full-length digital work “Astig”.

“Astig,” which will have its premiere on February 10, 7PM at the CCP Little Theater and on February 13, 7PM at the SM Megamall Cinema 6’s celebration of this year’s Pelikula at Lipunan, not only marks itself as the first experimental digital film ever to be starred by action prince Robin Padilla. It also celebrates ten years of collaboration between Red and Manda, perhaps the two most influential and most respected indie filmmakers in the country.

The duo’s works have become so significant amongst up and coming filmmakers that one of them, MTV’s Robert Quebral, used the concept of Red and Manda’s first-ever collaborative work together (1993’s “Trip”) to be the theme of an Ogie Alcasid music video shot last year. “Trip,” an entry to that year’s Metro Manila Film Festival Short Film Division, tells the story of a young boy from the province who eagerly rode his jeepney to Manila only to end up disillusioned of what city life is really all about just by meeting all the passengers. Somehow, the film mirrors how the ride has been for Jon and Larry in the past ten years.

“Sa sampung taon, na-realize namin na kapag hindi mo mahal ang ginagawa mo, talagang hindi worth ang lumalabas,” explains the 40-year old Red. “Pero kung okey sa ‘yo, kahit ano gagawin mo. Kaya mong magpuyat, kaya mong hindi matulog, at kaya mong magkulang-kulang na meals.”

“Bumibiyahe kami ngayon na hindi namin alam kung saan kami papunta. Hindi namin kailangang mag-impake. Hindi namin kailangang magpaalam. Ni walang nakakaalam. Basta kailangan naming bumiyahe kahit na anong mangyari,” Manda philosophizes.

Red and Manda’s “artistic vehicles” were already crossing paths as early as 1985. Larry was a part of a Mowelfund filmmaking workshop whose facilitator was Jon’s younger brother, future Cannes Film Festival Palme d’ Or awardee Raymond Red. Dropping by the Reds’ Cubao residence to edit his Super 8 works, Larry would engage in art and film talk with the then-serious painter Jon.

In 1988, when Jon decided to ditch his canvasses for a much bigger one, a wide screen, Larry was already helping at the pre-production planning of Raymond’s most significant and most revolutionary, both literally and figuratively, work “Bayani”. By the time Larry was editing the younger Red’s second foray to full-length filmmaking via “Sakay,” he and Jon had already decided to heed their true calling. Jon for directing and Larry for camera and lighting. Luckily for them, the first and probably the last MMFF short film contest sprouted to give hope to their dreams. The product was “Trip”. And the rest, as the cliché goes, is independent filmmaking history.

“Ang maganda kay Jon, magaan ang shoot. And he has a way para pagaangin pa lalo ang shoot,” compliments Manda who now credits to his name DOP work to over a hundred TV commercials. “Siguro dahil sa sense of humor niya and siguro dun sa state of mind niya during the shoot na wala kang makikitang ka-pressure-pressure. Kung meron man, itinatago niya ‘yun o meron siyang paraan para hindi ipakita ‘yun.” A comment shared by their favorite indie actor and also ten-year co-collaborator Raul Morit, “Hindi lang si Jon ang hindi mo kinakikitaan ng pressure. Pareho sila. Maganda kasi ang rapport nila sa isa’t isa. Walang hierarchy. May concern sila sa trabaho ng isa’t isa, may respeto, at may puso.”

Witness to these are Jon and Larry’s other important works like 1994’s “Pabrika,” “The True, The Good, and The Beautiful” (1998), the digital pioneer “Still Lives” (2000), the 2002 Manila Filmfest breakthrough “Utang Ni Tatang” (which won for Manda Best Cinematography honors and for Bona Fajardo Best in Production Design), and last year’s ABS-CBN documentary on the Abu Sayyaf hostage-taking “Bihag”. In between those years, the two also worked on some episodes of TV shows like “Philippines Most Wanted,” “Hirayamanawari,” and “Pahina” where Red was then resident director.

Red and Manda also had separate dips into mainstream filmmaking before “Utang Ni Tatang”. The former wrote Yam Laranas’ “Radyo,” one of the sleeper hits of 2001 that broadcasted Jeffrey Quizon as a cerebral actor, while the latter did camera chores for Erik Matti’s 2001 remarkably photographed yet critically-snubbed, “Sa Huling Paghihintay”. However, it surprises that after they did “Utang Ni Tatang” on a meager budget and limited shooting days, no producer decided to gamble on them again.

“Meron naman. Several times nagkaroon ng prospects pero laging nauudlot. Pero right now, if I can earn a living through writing plus TV and commercial work tapos I can do this kind of filmmaking on my own, dito na lang muna ako. Pero I’m still open to it,” Red clarifies.

“Astig”, the story of Bien (Robin Padilla), an assassin who suffers from astigmatism, is an example of this type of filmmaking. Using the camera as a device to tell the story, the whole film happened from the point of view of Robin who also works as the camera operator while portraying the role of the killer. Whereas their early work, “Still Lives” was in static due to the fact that it was later revealed that the film acted as a surveillance camera, “Astig” takes the audience where the lead character goes. Somehow, it carries the same effect as the computer game “Counterstrike” only that the device was used to tell a story in a different yet clever presentation. It also transformed them into something they love being the best: daring, experimental, subversive, and improvisational or to put it simpler, rock and rollers.

“Para kaming may mga hawak na instruments na nagja-jam lang kami and everyone goes and dances with the flow. Pixieland!” exclaims the 38-year old cinematographer.

“Ang attitude kasi dapat ngayon ay ‘yung kung gagawa tayo ng film, huwag na tayong maghintay na may magpagawa sa atin ng film. Ganoong attitude, ganoong frustrations, at ganoong aspirations ang dahilan kaya nabuo ang “Astig”,” Jon swings.

Veteran stage actor Dido dela Paz, who plays one of the goons in “Astig”, best sums up Jon and Larry’s works, “Dynamic. I think the way they keep their films, hindi siya plastic. Hindi sila nagpapaka-Hollywood kasi alam nilang hindi tayo Americans. They want their films to be Filipino and be good at it. Meron silang mga deeper insights on how to bring the story to the audience. They give each other ample build-up and ample characterization. Kahit maliit ang role, meron siyang laman.”

Like its predecessor “Still Lives,” Jon and Larry’s line-up boasts of mainstream cinema actors (Robin, Albert Martinez, Francis M, Jeffrey Quizon, Alessandra de Rossi, Ronnie Lazaro, and Jaime Fabregas), theater veterans (Dela Paz, Nonie Buencamino, Shamaine Centenera, and the late Errol Dionisio), TV personalities (Maverick and Ariel, Jackie Castillejo, Benjie Felipe, and China Cojuangco), and indie figures (Tado, Hector Macaso, Gary Rada, Raul Morit, and this writer). According to Red, his newest “film exercise” with Manda acts as the sequel to “Still Lives” and a prequel to “Utang Ni Tatang”. Shot with only P200,000 as total budget, the production scored a first to become, perhaps, the only production team that paid communally and equally all its staff, actors, and crew (from the director to the cast down to the utility guy).

“I didn’t try to convince them. I just presented them the project na if they feel na there is something in it for you, sasama ka. Alam nila sa sarili nila kung sasama sila o hindi. At ang mga sumasali, seryosong actors. Mga artistang may iba pang gustong gawin other than their commercial works,” Red explicates.

“Maraming gustong baguhin at maraming gustong patunayan ang lahat,” Robin enthuses when asked why Red was able to convince him to join. “Kaya namin ginagawa ‘to dahil kailangang may makita na rin ang mga manonood na bago. Hindi ‘yung laging gano’n na lang ang paggawa ng pelikula. Hindi ko gagawin ‘to kung hindi ko nirerespeto sina Jon at Larry, una bilang mga tao at pangalawa bilang matatalinong tao. Meron silang tinatawag na kumpas.”

Coming from the original “astig” of Philippine cinema, the remark somewhat blesses the two filmmakers as “astigs” of their own kingdom, independent cinema. A tag that Manda tries to affirm.

“Mainit pa kami, pare. Kailangang ihanda namin ang mga sarili namin. Gaya nga ng sinabi ko, kailangan pa naming bumiyahe kahit anong mangyari.”

If this is so, we would like to reserve our seats to the next ten years of collaborative work from Red and Manda. After all, their most “astig” trips are yet to come.

WRITER'S NOTE: Back in 2003, to make ends meet, I contributed articles to different small publications. Here are some of the articles I wrtote back thenespecially for SKYLAND NEWS in Baguio. Special thanks to Chit Balmaceda for featuring them on the pages of the paper. I am sharing the articles to anyone who might be interested to read about Directors Erik Matti, Jon Red, and Larry Manda, and actors Epi Quizon, Tado, Aubrey Miles, and Alessandra de Rossi.

THE PHENOMENA THAT IS ALESSANDRA
By SIGFREID BARROS SANCHEZ, Skyland News

WE may agree or disagree with Toronto International Film Festival’s Steve Gravestock, but Alessandra de Rossi is definitely phenomenal. Throw in also the words exceptional, extra special, and unusual.

At first meeting, the Alessandra that greets you seems like a 16-year old fresh out of the kikay machine. She talks like a sward, blurting out the expression “nakakaloka” as often as possible and gyrates in a manner that’s more Quiapo than Session Road.

But ask her a sensitive question, especially something that pertains to her family (okay, just mention the word “Jules”), and the kikay becomes kicking like a fighter and the sward-speak turns into a sharp-edged sword. And then you watch her act. You follow her career from the nene abused by her father in “Azucena” to the retardate abused by her sister’s lover in “Hubog,” and finally to the young teacher whose new-school ways were refused by a small town in the much-publicized “Mga Munting Tinig”. Suddenly, your first impression of her gets lost in the mature talent that blooms before you. Her petite sixteen-year old frame is erased to reveal her true age of eighteen. Now, she’s not just Session Road but a woman of layers like the terraces. Can you blame Jenny Punter when she described Alex “the next Penelope Cruz” in an article written for Canada’s biggest paper, Toronto Globe and Mail? Jamon, jamon. Or rather, c’mon, c’mon.

International star

“Nakaka-flatter!” she blurts out when asked to describe the feeling. “Lumulutang ka sa hangin. Pero feeling ko marami pa akong kakaining bigas. Hindi pa ito ‘yon.”

But whether she likes it or not, Alessandra de Rossi is now an international star and the responsibility that comes with it is no simple task. “Mga Munting Tinig,” or “Small Voices” as it is called in international festivals, is the country’s entry to the Oscar’s selection committee for Best Foreign Film after earning raves in Toronto and, hopefully, when it is screened on November 8 and 11 at the American Film Institute International Filmfest in Los Angeles. Forget for a while that the flick is criticized for ripping off some foreign art films such as Zhang Yimou’s “Not One Less” (China) and Majid Majidi’s “Children of Heaven” (Iran) laced with Hollywood’s “Sister Act,” “Mr. Holland’s Opus,” “Stand and Deliver,” and “Dead Poets Society”. For one, Alex’s acting is no xerox copy of any foreign actresses. What she delivers is what she understands of the role that is written on the script. She swears she never watches films that reflect the roles she currently portrays to distance herself from being accused of imitating a particular actress.

“Ang kalalabasan kasi may ginagaya ako. Gusto ko lagi natural,” she divulges. She even shares that she never immersed nor got to meet real teachers for her role in “Mga Munting Tinig”. “Wala. Naghinhin-hinhinan lang ako,” she reveals laughing.

Alex’s acting formula has tallied three best supporting actress trophies for her, one for “Azucena” and two for “Hubog”. And with “Mga Munting Tinig” Oscar-bound, we can safely say that a best actress nod isn’t far behind come next year. She may add another feather to her cap if her audition for the role of Tom Cruise’s Filipina girlfriend in the World War II flick “Fertig” garners positive signals from Hollywood bigwigs.

“Nakakaloka!” goes her words again.

Young teacher

“Lahat tayo may karapatang mangarap, mayaman man o mahirap,” so goes one of Alessandra’s lines in “Mga Munting Tinig”. She plays Melinda in the film, a young educator from Manila who gets assigned to a remote mountain barrio after one of the teacher leaves. She eventually teaches the students her progressive way of thinking and encourages them to triumph over life’s struggle by joining a choir singing competition. Despite the different odds and hurdles posted by some fellow-teachers and some parents, Alessandra inspires her class and eventually awakens a sleeping barrio.

Alessandra’s journey into the industry started in 1992 when her Italian father and Filipina mother decided to visit the country after spending years in Leche, Italy. Together with sister Assunta and two other sisters, the vacation opened doors for the Da Rossi’s when some of their mother’s friends recommended that the kids be trained to speak Tagalog and hone some acting in them through workshops. Back then, the sisters were already lookers with their European features and heights that pass a model’s criteria.

Shortly after, Alex and Assunta were suddenly part of “D.A.T.S.,” German Moreno’s replacement for talent springboard “That’s Entertainment”. The show was short-lived and the Da Rossi’s trained their sights at the Star Circle of the other station. Alessandra made it to Star Circle 7 with Jodi Sta.Maria, Tracy Vergel, and Desiree del Valle. Her career, however, didn’t bloom with the group. She was petite, dusky brown, and also admits to be very lazy at that time to think of showbiz.

In 1996, she got a small part in Peque Gallaga’s “Magic Kingdom”. It’s a one-sequence experience that woke up the gifted in her. Her genius is further pushed when Carlitos Siguion-Reyna and wife Bibeth Orteza held auditions for the role of an abused daughter in “Azucena”. The role was supposed to be for Mumay Santiago but her late audition (she came at the last minute, at the last day) was just what the couple were looking for. The rest, they say, belongs to history.

Fifth choice

The role of Melinda was not offered to Alessandra in the beginning. Nor was she second or third or fourth choice. Vina Morales, Kaye Abad, and even Judy Ann Santos were the firsts to be invited to try out for the part but previous commitments and a very low talent fee, that is common on independently-produced films, made the more popular stars back-out. Their loss is currently Alex’s gain.

“Halos naglalaro lang kami,” Alessandra narrates of the whole “Munting Tinig”-experience in Lukban, Quezon. “Bihira ang Take Three o Take Four sa amin. Para lang kaming gumagawa ng telesine. Ito ang pinakamadaling pelikulang ginawa ko!”

Ironic it may sound but she never thought that the film will ever go as far as being sent to the Oscars. “Naloka ako,” she says. “Nu’ng nabasa ko ‘yung script nito, sabi ko, ang hirap pagandahin ng istorya nito. Sobrang simple talaga. Kailangan sobrang ganda ng pagkaka-execute ng mga eksena kasi nakakaloka.”

“Tinanggap ko ‘yung role dahil sa direktor,” she adds. “Dahil rin sa script kasi alam kong makakabuti sa akin. Basta kasi nakakabuti sa ‘yo, okey lang kahit na gaano kahirap ang role mo.”

One of the sacrifices she endured while shooting “Mga Munting Tinig” was the skin asthma that struck her due to the weather conditions in Lukban. During the interview, traces of whitish marks can still be seen on her hands and arms. She just shrugs them off as long as, she says, the film gets to the Magic 5 at the Oscars.

College life

As her character portrays a BS Education graduate in Manila, Alessandra has yet to experience college life. One of the things she had to give up to showbiz’s glitters is the privilege of pursuing a college course like her former classmates at the Our Lord’s Grace Montessori. She would have been a junior student now, perhaps taking Culinary Arts or Aeronautics if given the chance. She also dabbled on the idea of taking up Pre-Law upon her mother’s suggestion. “Lagi raw kasi akong may ready argument. Parang walang nananalo sa akin,” she shares in jest.

“Siyempre nanghihinayang ako. Maganda rin ‘yung sasabihin mong may natapos ka. Sabi nga ng Mommy ko, baka ma-karma daw ako at kapag may anak na ako e ayaw ring mag-aral,” Alessandra discloses. “Basta siguraduhin lang niya na meron siyang pagbabagsakan at pagbibigyan ko siguro.”

No matter how much she wants to break the karma, she currently cannot sacrifice yet a booming career for education. That’s “yet”. She tapes thrice a week for soap opera “Kung Mawawala Ka” as Paloma, the rebellious daughter turned cult leader. Then there’s teeny-bopper “Click” in between where she plays the tomboyish Ian. She also has TV guestings on other shows like the one she attended for Korina Sanchez’s “Isyu” before this interview.

“Ang Mommy ko magna cum laude dati kaya siyempre itinutulak niya talagang kahit paano e may natapos kami,” she lets us in. “Ayaw niya na isang araw e magigising ako at wala na akong trabaho at wala na ring kakainin. Pero naiintindihan niya na paano nga ako makakapag-aral e araw-araw busy ako.”

After “Mga Munting Tinig,” Alex also entertained ideas of becoming an educator someday. Although not the kind that she portrayed in the movie, the young actress is more akin to be a pre-school educator once she retires back to Italy.

“Mahilig talaga ako sa bata,” she tells. “Kasi parang andaling magturo sa mga bata. Nasa puso ko talaga sila. Natutuwa ako kapag nakikita ko sila. Pasensyosa rin kasi ako at tina-try kong mag-eduacte sa mga bata kahit papaano.”

Paranormal

During spare times, Alessandra turns to reading to educate herself. A science buff since high school days, she currently carries with her Jaime Licauco’s “Encounters With The Unknown” to know more about paranormal experiences and strange beings. She seriously divulges that she had experiences of having able to brush with these beings from time and again. She can’t recall but she thinks this one experience she had in Baguio last year has something to do with these activities.

“Three days kami do’n nung dalawang kaibigan ko tapos biglang sumakit ‘yung dibdib ko,” she stories. “Hindi ako makahinga pero conscious ako. Akala ko mamamatay na ako. Kung kailan pa naman ako nasa Baguio. Sabi ko, huwag naman sana dito sa Baguio.”

Lucky for her, her friend was able to medicate her in time or she wouldn’t be Oscar-bound now. After the incident, as if nothing happened, she proceeded to eat balut during the night and dove-in the next day at the ukay-ukay, where she got some of her bohemian attires and, on that lucky day, a P600 Pravda bag. Had she succumbed to the incident, the Pinoy fishmonger would have grieved one of the most colorful figures in the industry especially after series of lashing out at her sister and her boyfriend-husband.

“Huwag na tayong magpaka-plastic!” she answers when asked whether what small voice in her does she want to speak out loudly in public. “Sa showbiz hindi ka tatagal kapag totoo kang tao katulad ko. Konti lang ang nakakaintindi sa akin pero wala akong pakialam. Hindi ko kailangang magpaka-plastic kasi mahihirapan akong magsalita kung magsisinungaling ako.”

As Alessandra gears up for Hollywood, the biggest coddler of “tupperware” individuals and characters, we hope that she already knows what to do once she gets there. We advise her that it will take more than Alessandra, the phenomenal, to take on the giants. Like her character in “Mga Munting Tinig,” she’ll be counting on Alessandra, the cerebral.

AUBREY MILES ARTICLES (2002)

WRITER'S NOTE: Back in 2003, to make ends meet, I contributed articles to different small publications. Here are some of the articles I wrtote back thenespecially for SKYLAND NEWS in Baguio. Special thanks to Chit Balmaceda for featuring them on the pages of the paper. I am sharing the articles to anyone who might be interested to read about Directors Erik Matti, Jon Red, and Larry Manda, and actors Epi Quizon, Tado, Aubrey Miles, and Alessandra de Rossi.

AUBREY MILES: PATRON NG MGA PROSTI
mula sa panulat ni SIGFREID BARROS-SANCHEZ

PUTA. Ewan ko kung marunong pa akong magpatawa.

Nu’ng nakaupo pa si Erap, ipinakilala na raw sa kanya si Aubrey Miles.

“Ikinagagalak kitang makilala, Aubrey Mile,” may pagnanasang banggit ng dating pangulo habang nakatitig sa dibdib ng dalaga.

Ngumiti si Aubrey sa pagkakamali ni Erap. “Nakalimutan niyo po ‘yung “S,” sir,” puna nito.

“Oh, excuses me,” kabig ni Erap. “Let me corrects myself… Ikinagagalak kitang makilala, Aubrey Smile.”

Marahil nga na kung nu’ng panahon ni Erap binanggit ang pangalang “Aubrey Miles,” wala tayong kaide-ideya kung sino siya. Foreigner siguro, iisipin natin. Bagong kalye, maaaring isagot ng mga pilosopo. Ang katunayan, mga ilang buwan pa lang ang nakararaan, hirap akong ipakilala si Aubrey sa mga kakilalang nagtatanong kung sino ang bida ng bagong pelikula kong minamakinilya.

“’Yung nasa patalastas ng Greenwich Seafood Pizza…”

Patlang.

“’Yung nasa commercial ng Sprite na nandoon si Piolo…”

Akala ko nahuli na. “’Yung sumigaw?”

“Hindi. ‘Yung nakasalamin sa likod…”

May dumaan na anghel.

“Puta sa lahat na nagtuturing ang babae’y basahan,
Laslasin ang pulso at pasabugin ang tiyan…”

Nakakatawa pero hanggang sa matapos ang huling araw ng shooting ng pelikulang “Prosti” ng Regal Films noong Hulyo, hindi pinagkaguluhan ng tao si Aubrey. Lumibot na sa Pampanga, San Juan, Caloocan, Makati, at Quezon City ang mga lokasyon ng shooting pero hindi dinumog ng mga miron ang bagong Regal baby ni Mother Lily. Nagtatanong ang mga tao kung sino ang bida pero tanging si Jay Manalo lang ang kilala nila. “Ano ulit ang pangalan nu’ng babae?” madalas na itanong. “Audrey ano?”

Ito ay bago maglabasan noong isang buwan at pagpiyestahan ng mga kalalakihan ang mga seksing litrato ni Aubrey Miles sa mga tabloid. Bago maging palaman ang hubad niyang katawan ng September isyu ng isang panlalaking magasin. Bago maging paksa siya ng usapan ng mga manginginom sa umpukan. Bago kutkutin sa tsismisan ang mga pribadong bagay sa buhay niya. Bago maging ang pagbigkas ng kanyang pangalan ay parang sindali na lang ng pagbawi ni Gloria sa mga balitang nakuryente siya.

“Nakikilala na ako ng mga tao,” pagmamalaki ni Aubrey sa isang panayam sa Roadrunner Office sa Timog kung saan idinaos para sa mga PRESS ang isang special preview ng kanyang launching movie. “Simula nu’ng lumabas ‘yung mga litrato, may mga nagpapa-sign na, may mga nagpapa-picture, may mga tumatawag na sa pangalan ko, at may mga nagsasabing “Pamilyar ka, a! Pamilyar ka!” Mas nakikilala na ako.”

“Puta sa lahat na nagtuturing ang babae’y basahan.
Hilahin ang dila at galugarin ang lalamunan…”

Dalawampung taon na ang nakakaraan nang isilang si Aubrey sa isang payak na mag-anak ng mga Santos-Sandel sa Marikina. Sa isang awitin ng 70s folk-rock group na Bread kinuha ng ama niya ang kanyang pangalan. Walang kaalam-alam ang ama na balang-araw ay magiging bukambibig ang pangalang ibinigay, hindi lamang sa mga eskinita ng Tondo, kundi hanggang sa malalawak na opisina sa Ayala. Maagang naghiwalay ang kanyang mga magulang, bagay na labis na ikinalungkot ni Aubrey at ng dalawa pa nitong kapatid.

Sa acting workshop na isinagawa ni Direk Erik Matti noong Mayo hanggang Hunyo para mailabas at mahasa ang natatagong talento ng buong cast ng “Prosti,” nag-aalangan pa si Aubrey na pakawalan ang mga pribadong bagay sa buhay niya. Matigas pa ito at mapapansing sarado at hindi madaling magtiwala sa ibang tao. Bagay na naging pabigat sa simula sa kanyang direktor. “Matatapos na tayo sa workshop pero I still don’t know you,” natatandaan kong kumento ni Direk Erik. Galit rin itong pinalabas ng respetadong megman sa kuwarto na pinagdadausan ng workshop sa Regal office nang sa imbes na seryosohin ang exercises na ibinibigay ay nahuli pa itong bumubungisngis at tumatawa.

“Hindi ko kasi akalain na ganoon siya, na strict siya sa work,” pag-amin ni Aubrey nito na lang huli.

Huling araw mismo ng workshop nang sinorpresa ni Aubrey ang direktor at hinarap ang mga multo na matagal na niyang tinatakasan. Ikinuwento nito na naging malaking dagok ang paghihiwalay ng kanyang mga magulang sa kanya dahil, bilang bunso, siya ang beybi-beybi ng kanyang ama. Binalikan niya ang masasayang bahagi nu’ng magkasama pa sila ng kanyang ama at bagamat malaki ang hinanakit niya rito, ang pagkikita muli at pag-uusap nila ang siyang pinakaaasam-asam ng dalaga. Ito rin ang nagpabagsak sa maraming luha niya bagamat sa exercise ay pinapaalis niya na ito sa buhay niya.

Hindi ko rin masisisi si Aubrey kung sa ilang mga tanong ko sa kanya ay relaks siya at parang sumasagot ng tanong sa isang beauty contest. Ito kasi mismo (beauty contests) ang bumuhay sa kanilang pamilya noong panahong mag-isa na lamang ang kanyang ina na nag-aahon sa kanila. Kasama ng isa niya pang kapatid, lilibot sila at sasali sa iba’t ibang beauty contests, sa iba’t ibang lungsod sa Kalakhang Maynila, para lamang may perang maipambayad sa tuition at maiambag sa bigas at ulam sa araw-araw. Nakakatawang anekdota, pero gamit niya ang apelyido ng kanyang ama samantalang apelyido naman ng ina ang gamit ng isa sa mga timpalak. Naghahanap din sila ng kamag-anak o kakilala sa lugar kung saan may beauty contest para palabasin na kunwa’y sa bahay ng mga ito sila nakatira at sila’y legal na residente para makasali . Madalas, pareho silang magkapatid ang pasok sa finalists at kalauna’y nag-uuwi sa top three prizes.

Sa beauty contest rin na Elite Model noong 1998 nadiskubre ng pamosong talent manager na si Wyngard Tracy ang 5’6” na dalaga. Agad siyang binigyan ng pagkakataong ipamalas ang kakayahang umarte sa sitcom na “Beh Bote Nga” ng GMA-7 kasama ang isa pang baguhan na si Sharmaine Santiago. Pamangkin ni Tiya Pusit at Dick Israel na nagbabantay sa tindahan ng dalawa ang kanyang papel at naging love interest kunwa dito ni Anjo Yllana. Sinundan pa ito ng ilang guest appearances sa “Pira-Pirasong Pangarap” at sa “Bubble Gang,” at pagkatapos ay bigla na lang itong naglahong parang bula. Ayon sa ilan, gaya ng nakasanayan, tinangay raw ng pag-ibig sa lupain ni Uncle Sam. Marami pang usap-usapan ang nagsulputan pero hindi naman lumawak at pinatulan ng mga nagbebenta ng laway dahil, noong mga panahon na iyon, sino nga naman si Aubrey Miles?

“Puta sa lahat ng nakangiti’t nakatanga lang,
sa harap ng babae na kita ang laman…”

Mahigit dalawang linggo ko ring ginalugad si Aubrey para sa isang interview. Huli kaming nagkita sa España, sa isang bus station sa tabi ng Mayric’s at sa tapat ng dati niyang eskwelahan, ang UST, kung saan siya nag-aral ng dalawang taon sa Conservatory of Music. Shooting ito ng bago niyang pelikula, ang “Una’t Huli” kung saan itinatambal siya kay Richard Gomez sa isang teacher-student relationship, anti-tweetums trap na pelikula muli ni Erik Matti. Kung hindi nasa Bicol, nasa Subic ang dalaga para sa isang pictorial ng isang kalendaryo. Alas-sais ng gabi nang i-text ako ng assistant niya na tagpuin ko raw sila sa Roadrunner ng alas-siete at tutulak din agad sila at babalik sa Subic. Sa muling pakikipagharap sa aktres, iisa ang napuna ko: Mabilis na nakapag-adjust at nakapag-mature ang bagong sex symbol ng dekada. Bagay na sinang-ayunan ni Direk Matti na nanduon rin nu’ng araw na iyon.

“Nagkaroon na siya ng self-confidence,” ani ng direktor. “Kaya na niyang mag-tackle ng scenes with other actors na more established than she is. Hindi na siya naiilang.”

“Ang maganda kasi kay Aubrey, kahit na baguhan pa lang siya, ay madali siyang nakapag-adopt at natuto tungkol sa paggamit ng camera,” dagdag pa ni Direk Erik. “Ito kasi ang pinaka-last na natututunan ng mga baguhang artista, ang gamitin ang camera. Ito ‘yung pag-alam mo kung saang anggulo ka kinukuhanan ng camera, gaano kaganda ang shot, at gaano karaming arte ang iyong ibibigay base sa shot. Aware kaagad siya dito. At ‘yun ang maganda sa kanya.”

Bagay naman na ibinato pabalik ni Aubrey sa direktor, “Pinanood ko ‘yung “Dos Ekis” niya at “Scorpio Nights 2” kaya may ideya na ako kung ano ‘yung hihingin niya. Kung titingnan mo kasi ‘yung mga shots niya, hindi puwedeng bahala na. Hindi puwedeng basta-basta. Very professional.”

Kung kaya nga, istorya man ng pagpuputa ang pelikula, hindi ito lumabas na bastos at imoral. Maging ang bagong MTRCB, na kamakailan lamang ay nagpaulan ng ‘X’ sa napakaraming pelikula, ay walang nakitang malaswa at kontra-moralidad sa “Prosti” kung kaya’t magaan itong pinatawan ng R-18 rating, without cuts. Bagay na ikinabigla ng lahat.

“Nu’ng pinapanood ko ‘yung mga bold scenes, napapayuko ako pero hindi ako nahihiya,” sambit ni Aubrey. “Sobrang worth ‘yung pinaghirapan ko. May mga scenes do’n na sobrang pagod na pagod na ako na feeling ko sa mga scenes na iyon, hindi ko nai-emote ng mabuti. Pero nu’ng makita ko, okey pala. Magaling si Direk mag-motivate at magpiga ng acting. Pagod ka na pero kailangang i-express mo pa rin ‘yung nararamdaman ng character mo. Pagod ka na pero kailangang ipakita mo na hindi ka pagod.”

“Puta sa lahat ng nanonood at nakangiti,
Nakatanga’t nakangiwi, labas ang titi…”

Sa ngayon, hindi nga puwedeng mapagod si Aubrey Miles. Nagsisimula pa lang siya. Dalawa pa lang sa walong eksklusibong pelikula na pinirmahan niya sa kanyang kontrata sa Regal ang kanyang nagagawa. Malayu-layo pa ang kanyang lalakbayin, marami pang dumi at alikabok ng showbiz ang kakainin. Subalit, ngayon pa lang, pakiramdam niya ay kailangan na niyang mag-ambag kahit papaano sa lipunang kanyang ginagalawan. Alam niyang sa mala-birhen niyang mukha, malaki ang kanyang maitutulong para maiangat ng ibang kababaihan ang tingin nila sa kanilang sarili. Nakahanda siyang gampanan ang papel ng pag-asa’t patron ng mga prosti.

“Hindi lahat ng prostitutes walang pangarap,” matalas niyang banggit. “May mga prostitutes na may gusto ring marating, may mga prostitutes na gusto ring makapag-aral, may mga prostitutes na gusto ring umayos ang buhay nila pero hindi sila binibigyan ng chance dahil mababa ang tingin sa kanila. Ang gusto ko lang, mabigyan sila ng chance at pansin kasi lahat naman ng tao may karapatang mabigyan ng chance at umayos ang buhay. May mga tao pang mas kailangan ng hope.”

Ganitong ugali, kung mapapanatili, ang magdadala kay Aubrey sa kasikatan upang matamo ang inaasam na katawagang “artista”. Bayan na ang maghahatol sa kanya. Sa ngayon, tuloy-tuloy na ang kanyang katanyagan at kasikatan. May nakaantabay na na modeling contract mula sa isang sikat na clothing wear, sangkatutak na proposisyon para lumabas sa iba’t ibang kalendaryo next year, kaliwa’t kanang hiling na interviews at pictorials, umaalong product endorsements, iba’t ibang offer sheets ng recording, at lumalawak na mga tagahanga mula sa iba’t ibang rehiyon.

Sikat na si Aubrey. Hindi na siguro magkakamali si Erap sa pangalan niya. Pati si Ate Glo, malabong makuryente kung tatanungin tungkol sa kanya. Huwag tayong mabibigla kung isang araw ay makita natin siyang katabi ang Pangulo para sa isa na namang photo-ops. Kapag nangyari ito, isa lang ang pihadong masasabi ko…

“Puta.*”

(* mula sa tulang “Puta” ni Benilda ‘Wendy’ Castro)


LICK, SUCK, EAT, AUBREY
By SIGFREID BARROS-SANCHEZ

FILMDOM almost lost an Aubrey Miles to Baguio.

“Sobrang bilis ang takbo nu’ng kabayo,” silverscreen’s newest sex siren recalls her experience at Wright’s Park, “Nagtatatakbo siya. Tinatawag ko ‘yung ate ko pero nahulog na ako. Nagkaroon ako ng sugat sa mukha.”

Lucky for her and for us, the wound quickly healed so that when we watch her launching movie, Erik Matti’s “Prosti” for Regal Films, we won’t find any trace of the Baguio experience on her stunning and radiant face. The horse, perhaps knowing that someday the pretty looker’s body will be her ticket to stardom, miraculously averted his hoops’ possible brush with Aubrey’s toots.

“Pero sobrang happy pa rin ako sa Baguio,” she conciliates. “Nami-miss ko ‘yung ukay-ukay, ‘yung bilihan ng mga damit.”

Eat

It’s hard to believe that, a few months ago, I was having a hard time describing to friends the female protagonist of the story I was tinkering on my computer keys.
“Yung nasa patalastas ng Greenwich Seafood Pizza…”

Duh.

“Yung nadoon sa commercial ng Sprite na nandoon si Piolo…”

I thought they had it. “Yung sumigaw?”

“Hindi. ‘Yung nakasalamin sa likod…”

Dead stares.

For making them do something that they seldom do on their own (think, that is), I ended up treating pizza and soda instead. Funnier is the fact that up to the last shooting day of “Prosti” last July, people never even bothered to mill around Aubrey. Locations changed from Pampanga to San Juan to Caloocan to Makati to Quezon City but the usual Pinoy miron never ogled at her. Fact is, Aubrey can move freely to ride and drive her red car to and from shoot without fear of being groped or touched by male fans with shooting hormones. It was Jay Manalo, his co-star for “Prosti,” who solicits more shrieks, name calls, picture-taking, and autograph signing. For Aubrey, mothers carrying their kids has this constant question, “Ano ulit ang pangalan nu’ng bida niyong babae? Audrey?”

But all these have changed during last weekend’s special preview for movie writers of Matti’ newest opus at the Roadrunner office in Timog, Quezon City. All eyes, questions, cameras, tape recorders, and videocams were on this 20-year old lass from Marikina. As for Jay Manalo, he was comfortably sitting at the receptionist area playing a computer game, surprisingly, unbothered by anyone.

“Nakikilala na ako ng mga tao,” she beams. “Simula nu’ng lumabas ‘yung mga litrato at trailer, may mga nagpapa-sign na, may mga nagpapa-picture, may mga tumatawag na sa pangalan ko, at may mga nagsasabing “Pamilyar ka, a! Pamilyar ka!” Mas nakikilala na ako.”

Suck

The wheel of fortune is definitely turning in Aubrey’s favor. As if it was only a few months ago, I met her at Direk Erik’s acting workshop for “Prosti’s” first-time actors cast at the Regal Films office in San Juan. She was then very hesitant and cautious in dealing with the exercises the fame megman and basic acting professor was giving her. Something was definitely holding her back and she was very uncooperative at first which earned the ire of the strict Matti. She was kicked out of the room at one point. “Delikado. Mukhang matigas ang ulo,” I remember telling art director Richard Somes. But Direk Erik never gave up on her, even if they have a day left at the workshop and she was still giving the same “fuck you, suck my hinny attitude”. “Matatapos na tayo sa workshop pero I still don’t know you,” commented Erik then.
Who really is Aubrey Miles?

The staff of “Prosti” got the answer to that in a surprising twist of mind-set from Miles at the last minute of the exercise. She offered to take the middle of the room for queries, inquiries, and interrogations. She was ready to face her ghosts.
Miles, who is actually Aubrey Santos Sandel in real life, is a product of a broken marriage. The youngest in the brood of three, she was hurt the most when her parents split up because she was “Daddy’s little girl”. Her mother struggled to keep the kids in school and give them a decent way of life. To make ends meet, she got the idea of entering her kids to various beauty contests after friends find mines lying untapped in her daughters’ faces. Aubrey narrates that she and a sister would enter contests carrying different surnames, she her father’s and the other her mother’s. They will go in and around Metro Manila’s beauty pageants, borrowing the addresses of friends and relatives so that they could present proofs and documents that they really legally live in that place. Most of the times, the sisters would end up entering the finalists and romping off in the end with either of the top three places.

A beauty contest also paved the way for Aubrey to hook up with the promise and glitters of stardom. Veteran starbuilder Wyngard Tracy spotted her at the Elite Model contest in 1998 and immediately got her a stint at GMA7’s “Friends” and “Beh Bote Nga”. It was at “Friends” where she crossed paths with future fellow-boldies Maui Taylor and Pyar Mirasol. After a few guest appearances for “Pira-Pirasong Pangarap” and “Bubble Gang”, she burst into oblivion and the public heard nothing of her. Actually, nobody bothered and cared. After all, who was Aubrey Miles then?

Lick

In “Prosti,” Aubrey takes another crack at the world’s oldest profession by playing Merceditas Bernadas, the student by day, and Melody, the prostitute by night. Her pimp, Nonoy Laki (Manalo), breaks the first important rule in the prostitution ring upon seeing her: “Don’t fall in love with your prostitute”. Things get complicated when Nonoy accidentally kills Nanay Xedes (Racquel Villavicencio), the Mama-San of the brothel house.

“Kepyas, tang-ina, kahit saan kepyas. Kung lahat ng kepyas pagkakakitaan, yayaman ang Pilipinas,” Jay’s character narrates.

Aubrey, although not exactly literally, is following the pointers. Right now, her body, her bosom, and her booty have earned her a modeling contract from Her Bench and countless offers from liquor, cigarette, and magazine companies to pose for their 2003 calendars. Add to these the left and right requests for magazine covers, interviews, pictorials, TV and radio guestings, and recording contracts (she has in her resumé two years worth of training at the UST Conservatory of Music). She is also currently shooting her second film, “Una’t Huli,” for Matti which pairs him with teenage crush Richard Gomez. That’s just for the last quarter of the year.

“What’s nice about Aubrey, eventhough she’s a newcomer is that more than just being able to bring out the emotions needed from her as an actress, she easily adopts to and learn the camera,” Direk Matti lauds at Miles who right now is being teased as his Gong Li, Chinese visual genius Zhang Yimou’s once favorite actress.

“A lot of times, ang last na natutunan ng mga baguhang artista is the use of the camera. It is being to know where the camera is taking your shot, how nice the shot is, and how much acting are you gonna give based on the shot. What’s nice about it is she’s very much aware of it. And since she’s very much aware of it, she knows how to give just the right amount of emotions,” Matti adds.

Compared to the current list of sexy stars in showbusiness, Aubrey licks the competition. She does not have the biggest boobs nor the most whistlebait figure but what puts her above the rest is her sincerity and desire to disrobe her most intimate secrets before the public. She quickly admits that she is no longer a virgin and is proud to say that her “pomelos” are not the product of modern science. Unlike most boldies, who quickly grab at a recording stint even if they don’t have the voice, she, with that Broadway-like voice, is not rushing to have one. She plays the piano and is well-traveled, having gone to some Asian countries and some parts of the States. Heck, she may not even deserve the title “boldie” to her name! Actress? Artist? Well, she’s getting there.

One of her most kept secrets is the Chinese character tattoo she got in Hongkong placed just above the pubic hairline or the mons pubis. It translates to either “eat me, suck me, or lick me.” Also, at this stage, she seems to be carrying the flag for the country’s prostitutes by asking them to stand up, be heard, and fight for their rights.

“Hindi lahat ng prostitutes walang pangarap,” she says, shifting to a stance of a Gabriela. “May mga prostitutes na may gusto ring marating, may mga prostitutes na gusto ring makapag-aral, may mga gusto ring umayos ang buhay nila pero hindi sila binibigyan ng chance kasi mababa ang tingin sa kanila. Ang gusto ko lang, mabigyan sila ng chance at umayos ang buhay. Kailangan nila ng hope at ‘yon ang gusto naming ipakita sa movie namin.”

Definitely, Aubrey, like the Bread song, is not your ordinary girl nor name. And, like another Bread ditty, she’s positively going “miles away”.