DIREK LINO BROCKA: REVISITED (2003)
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.