Friday, December 30, 2016


OK.  I will join the club.  2016 will go down in my personal history as not one of the best years of my lives. But I console myself in saying that, "It could have been worse."  Well, it could have also been better.

But now that (as I write this) we are all inching towards the very last day of the year, let us pump up ourselves in the manner of the blow fish hoping that the new year will be kinder. Just the sheer enumeration of all the people who left us these past twelve months is already mind boggling: at first I thought I could handle it when David Bowie and Prince died. But when George Michael, Princess Leia and her mother all died within the same week, I said to myself, "The Grim Reaper is really hot in his dance ... but do you think he can take some suggestions as to who should be in his guest list?"  

2016 saw the year of the underdog, the Year of Living Surprisingly.  We acquired a rather different kind of president through an impressive number of votes.  Even the U.S. has elected its 45th president who is most likely unlike any other who came before him. Populism and protectionism is on the rise, political musical chairs keep playing, Russia and China and North Korea and Syria and the terrorist bombings in Europe. Name it and we've done and seen it all in this passing year.

And some effing pessimist gives me the finger and says, "So what makes you think 2017 will be better?"  Just think that by the end of January, the Naughty Monkey would have gone to be replaced by the Year of the Proud Cock.  Now if that is not assuring, I do not know what is.

In the meantime, I hope to change my luck by changing myself in some ruffled fronts.  My God, at my age --- I have come to realize that there are still a helluva lot of lessons to learn considering how fast the world changes.  Some people think New Year's resolutions are just a lot of crock --- but I opt to say that they are just personal guidelines.  

By knowing your vulnerabilities and objectifying who you are at this point in your life gives you not only context but a sense of direction. It is like that ubiquitous pin on the GPS map of your life telling you exactly where you are --- so that you can estimate which options you have in Uber to get to your destination.  It is not meant to be The Ten Commandments revised and revisited each year.  It is simply reminding yourself where to go ... and how to get there. So let's go.

1. I will not define my life or even my Universe by the things I read and share in social media.

It has become endemic: social media can overwhelm and even possess you so that you define your existence by the number of friends, followers, likes, dislikes and even livestreaming one can use to enhance the present reincarnation.

There is a need to curb that.  There is also a very important need to discriminate what is true from what is being made to look true in the worldwide web.  Information has become so accessible, abundant and cheap so that deception and authentication have become relative. It is easy to be misled and misguided by social media so that you get to a point that your life becomes a series of shoutouts and you even start posting pictures of your dying grandmother on her hospital bed or ... worse, showing one's self having an enema because it is good to share. Life has become a series of Instagram shots, Snapchat mini-videos and Twitter messages to turn one's daily life into a multi-platform reality show.

It begins to eat the very essence of being alive by diminishing your universe to URLs and hyperlinks.  You tend to misuse and abuse the idea of a friend because you have diminished something precious and meant to be cherished into a very common verb.

2. I will only react to chosen issues --- and even spend more time determining whether the rest of the world needs my reaction.

Some smart ass once sent me a DM to warn me that times have changed.  Said rectum personified said, "Now is the age of interaction. Soliloquy is dead. " Oh.  That simply means that once you read about something/anything in the internet (Read: Access to information) and give your five cents worth of an opinion (Read: Freedom of expression) then you better be ready for a thousand and one Magis and clowns to go hurling their precious comments about what you just spat out there.

But then again --- do you really have to?  Is there any real and practical reason aside from announcing to the world that you have an opinion --- or that you are in the know --- that you have to let the rest of the Universe know what and how you exactly feel?  Perhaps not ... but some people find it therapeutic to scream to the world what they are experiencing in the here and now.

Maybe I should put a lid on tweeting or making shoutouts cursing Manila traffic or the telecom company that I use for my cellphone or about how random strangers go up to me and call me fat.  Maybe I should just learn to hold back and think before I pound on the keyboard to express my thoughts --- because, honestly, does the effing world really care about what I think?

Maybe I should also be just a bit more careful about making statements, throwing allegations or even giving an opinion when nobody is asking.  After all ... there is such a thing as oversharing.  Worse, there is also a condition that can be overbearing.,

3.  I take promises with a grain of salt --- and not be devastated when somebody whose words of honor turns out to be just a lot of words not worth honoring.

It happens, right?  In the course of every year you come across people who will throw their arms around your shoulders, pat you on the head and make all sorts of promises short of insuring a good window seat on the first vehicle to be used in the Rapture.

But for some people, palabra de honor (or word of honor) is just a lot of words.

Some people will tell you things you want to hear, promise you jobs and even call you good. But the point is that --- they are just making you feel good and hopefully vulnerable and gullible to whatever it is that they will ask from you in the future.  And you, being that bright eyed bushy-tailed mammal of gullibility, will succumb to the charms and actually believe in the promises made by the demigods.

It would have been so much better if they just told you that the deal is off --- but for a great number of them (especially in my business), they simply fade away ... hoping that by some freaky law of physics you will also be sucked into another dimension.

So next time, the adage "To see is to believe" still works and should be the mantra of those perennially victimized by the bullcrappers --- who just happen to be the money bags and are riding the fancy cars. Which actually means you cannot tell them to "Goeth thee and fornicate with thyself !"  (Translation: Go f--k yourself!) because despite the fact that they are either congenital or professional liars --- they just happen to be your employers.

Call it sad reality.  We come across a lot of species in any line of work. You just pray that the law of karma.

4.  I will not allow others to set my limitations: fail or succeed, find out for yourself.

The rule is simple: be selective of the opinions/judgments/assumptions others give about you and what you can do.

Another rule to literally etch into your brains: People have their own motives which may or may not be for YOUR best interest ... so be on the lookout for yourself.

People will always judge you based on their own limitations --- but that does not mean that their assessment is necessarily true.  Maybe it is, maybe it is not. But go find it out for yourself.  Never let other people put the locks on the gates of your life. Other people's assessment are meant to be just that --- estimates and approximations.  

But nobody can qualify and quantify your life better than yourself.  Which leads us to ...

5. I will always have the courage to do something I never even imagined of doing.  I will always have the enthusiasm to surprise myself.

Never be complacent, never be smug.  Never ever think that what you have in the here and now is all that you are meant to have.  This has got nothing to do with the acquisition of material wants and needs --- but the enthusiasm, the excitement to gain newer experiences in life.  

This means being brave. The difference between bravery and stupidity can be as fine as a single strand of hair --- but then again, it is better to be stupidly brave or bravely stupid than to be a slug waiting for something to happen in order to affirm that there is still life flowing in one's circulatory system.  Nothing is more pathetic than somebody who chooses to just lean back and let the world make decisions for him.

Sometimes life can be so frustrating that letting your fate run its course can be quite a comfortable option.  But then again that is only a respite and never the solution, So it's good to have this deadline, telling yourself that you have to make a decision ... and when you decide, then go for it.

One thing that I have learned after six decades of human existence is that there is great truth in the saying: You can't have everything.  It is because you will not be given everything that you want that you learn to appreciate the some things that have been handed to you ... and to aspire to have something more than just any thing.

And this also leads to another very important mantra to engrave on my forehead:

5. I will never take myself much too seriously to think that the world cannot go on spinning without me. I will always arm myself with a high tolerance for laughter.

Oh, come on. There is no such thing as the perfect life, the perfect year, the perfect day. There will always be something to screw you up --- and you will be given a very important choice: will you be upset or will you fix the mess?

More often than not,  you get really upset (and start ranting/raving in the real and virtual worlds) only to realize that such explosions of energy and emotion do not really solve anything.  They are just very good opportunities to make a spectacle of yourself ... or to provoke people to think that you have crossed your sanity line.  Then, if you want anything really done ... or any real change to happen, you realize that you have to do something.  And that is finding a constructive way to fix the mess.

That is why I always believe in the power of laughter.  Sure, it gets really bleak at times and you get to do really strange things in your moment of abandonment.  But chances are ... when you look back and you already have that objective distance about the sad turn of events, you will laugh at yourself for all the crazy things you thought were so significant at that moment. 

Problems come and go. Some are serious, others are made worse by worrying or letting your imagination run wild about where to go and what to do.  But in the end, you will know what to do and you can only do that when you don't take your problems too seriously to lose your sense of perspective.  And that perspective can only come with a clearer mind that is usually accompanied by staying calm ... or just being capable of laughter.

More often than not, our problems look much larger because we imagine them to be so. But facing them head-on with no sense of entitlement and a calm sense of ease will change the way you view anything, anyone anywhere with a more positive and creative light.

And lastly ...

6. I will constantly remind myself that it is not only about me.

Nope. It is never just about you.  There are always angles to every story and the only way to understand life, events and even people who you wish were fertilizer is to have the broadness of mind and kindness of heart to realize that they too have their own point of view.  You may think that your nemesis is the ugliest, meanest and most worthless creature on the planet that should best be left as a statistic, but that ugly, mean and maybe not exactly worthless creature also has his own life and perception of you.

Maybe the biggest problems of 2016 is that the world has become so divisive.  People --- regardless of race or creed --- became so obsessed with territoriality, with insisting that issues are reasons enough to divide the world into us versus them.  We have forgotten that the world is not about tribes ... but how we are meant to work at the understanding of one another.  That is why we somehow wish 2016 will end so that we can have the excuse to have a new beginning.

Every year is a new beginning. We are not sure what 2017 will bring but we can at least try to still remain positive about our own lives and the fate of the world in general.  With all the hardship and tears that 2016 brought, there is no other way but up.

So bring on the New Year.


Thursday, December 29, 2016


Let's make things clear right at the start: I loved SAVING SALLY for a great number of reasons.

I was charmed. I was amused ... but more so, I was awed by the sheer work of labor put into this film that mixed live action with animation.  I was energized by the whole idea of Filipino animation artists finding their ground right here in this country ... I was delighted to see the exposure given to the subculture of Pinoy graphic novels, all these artists who have gained a cult following among the young and redefining popular literature not only in their art but also in their storytelling.

A certain frame of mind .. if not openmindedness is needed to appreciate Avid Llongoren's piece. It is sweet in its surrealism.  It is a millennial fairy tale if not a parable ... that uses the language of modern filmmaking to cut across its message.  Others will watch this film for its sheer novelty.  Although full-length Filipino animated films have been shown before, SAVING SALLY is a first as far as the MetroManila Film Festival is concerned: like SUNDAY BEAUTY QUEEN, the choice of this work was high risk for an audience completely unfamiliar with the genre thrown into mainstream booking.

Moreover, the narrative told about Marty --- a pained comics illustrator --- and the big love of his life, Sally --- a quirky and ballsy inventor of sorts who has friend-zoned him --- is a familiar story. It has been done before, retold so many times but not in this manner.  What makes this film exceptional is that it does not resort to the color-by-number tricks that commercial romance movies utilize to trigger queasy feelings from its audience. Instead, the story is told in a very quiet yet disturbing manner meant to re-create intimacy rather than sensational strokes of romance.

And that too is the importance of SAVING SALLY.  It is what I deem as this whole millennial melancholia --- this sense of disenfranchisement of young people springing from who they are and what they want to become.  There is a completely different language of romance here, availing of evolving technology that is reshaping the entire art of making films.  This is the visualization of a parable of loneliness and love set in a contemporary time based on what is Filipino but never fully pegging itself on any specific culture.

A friend of mine complained, "Bakit sila Ingles nang Ingles? Hindi ba alienating?"  I think not. Even if the characters only indulged in Taglish ever so often, the milieu represented by the animation does not pinpoint any exact place on the globe where the love story of Marty and Sally transpires.  Instead, with the magical animated imagery of castles, monsters and jeepneys, SAVING SALLY exists in a world of its own.

If also for that, then the film is important and brilliantly done. It is bringing the art of the Filipino animation artist to another level, intelligently woven into the charming performance of Enzo Marcos as Marty and the feisty rendition of Rhian Ramos as Sally.  What is equally significant is that ... finally, the ground has been broken to do something new for the next generation of Filipino filmmakers to explore. 

Although it is still much too early to shell-shock the popular (and paying) audiences to fully appreciate mixed media cinema, well --- we have to start somewhere.  And this, I can say confidently, is a most beautiful beginning.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016


OK, this early let's celebrate.

Yeah, right.  The lines are not that creepily long, the movie houses are not exactly bursting with SRO Audiences and theater owners are quietly shaking their heads remembering last year's box office gross.  But let us put all that aside.  Not that the results of this year's Metro Manila Film Festival will not and could not affect next year's fiesta, but let us bask on this moment. 

For two straight days and with four films, two of the entries so far are exceptional. The other two are good, definitely a head above all the rest you get to see every year ---  but two are absorbing and would leave you walking out of the movie house talking about the film, asking questions and compelled to immediate post a Facebook shoutout  to congratulate your friends who were responsible for putting these works together.

The joy of Die Beautiful is its humanity.  How many times have we seen movies like these --- yet in those various cinematic excursions how many attempted to go beyond what is expected from stereotypes of screaming overdressed homosexuals making spectacles of themselves in every nook and cranny and at the slightest provocation?  Let's get real here: Philippine movies have yet to treat the homosexual character with the dignity and respect that they deserve.  

More often than not, the exceptionally restless and noisy bading has become the surrogate village idiot.  He is the butt of jokes. He is the comic relief.  He is the pathetic clown who will do anything but everything for a laugh. Hindi nga ba the other movie has its lead actress saying "Masaya kapag may bakla?"

However, Die Beautiful went far beyond that.predictable portrayal of the transgender whose mission in life is to wear outrageous outfits and instigate havoc in whatever/wherever/whenever.  

This film had something much much more than what was expected or usually delivered. It is a compassionate and tender understanding of the gay treated with intelligence and heart in the same manner that Lino Brocka made us understand the pain of gay parenthood with Dolphy and Nino Muhlach in Ang Tatay Kong Nanay or all the other films (rare as they may come in these parts) that showed respect and treated the transgender with dignity.

So in order to avoid a tendency to ramble with a tsunami of descriptions and elaborations, let me simplify the discussion by citing seven very good reasons why no one should miss Die Beautiful in this year's Metro Manila Filmfest.

1. This is a movie with human beings and not caricatures.  

Comedy has its own laboratory of instruments and the choice of one set of tools does not necessarily mean that it is superior to another that opts for other approaches.  

However, with the case of Die Beautiful, the gender-bending lead characters go beyond what is familiar in our movie landscape where one of the biggest stars in the country is an androgynous performer. 

The flash and dash of transgender performances are almost de rigeur in the same manner that the flamboyance of the artistes of Club Mwah or the mind blowing evening gowns and national costumes sported in high camp by transvestites in their beauty contests (aka beaucon) are all part and parcel of the novelty of that world.

But Die Beautiful went far much deeper by showing the entire mindset of men who want to be women and the societal consequences that are defined as discrimination or even downright hatred even from family.  The journey of Patrick to Trisha Echevarria of the Bahamas painfully illustrates that beneath all the make-up and fancy national costumes and duct-taped bodies to accommodate their evening gowns and bathing suits lie the anguish for acceptance and even love.

2. This movie does not play for laughs: it is funny. Period.

No slapstick here. No Punch and Judy show.  The movie makes you laugh because it is real. There is no set-up, nothing contrived.  Even that scene that satirizes a famous confrontation sequence of Maricel Soriano and ZsaZsa Padilla was done so tongue-in-cheek for whatever commercial concession the movie had to play.  Name-dropping (like the off-the-cuff mention of a famous name when Barbs announces that he wanted to lie in state wearing a barong-tagalog) is done with the sharpest of wit and social commentary.  The shock-value lines end up funny because you know that people talk like that and not because the movie plays for the galleries.

When Die Beautiful decides to be funny, it is hilarious without going to familiar territory --- like what you see on TV sitcoms or comedy bars. It is even made funnier by the fact that you are laughing at real people in real situations.

It is only after all that laughter that you realize that there is so much pain inside the situation of people like Trisha or Barbs or that entire bevy of lost souls yearning for acceptance and to be loved.

3. This film is smart: Rody Vera's script is top-of-the-line.

Although others may be disturbed by the non-linear unfolding of events, Rody Vera's screenplay of Die Beautiful does not rely in more of the same-same.  It shuns from being episodic where scenes of laughter are threaded together impersonating a plot.  Rather it provides a concise balance between drama and comedy showing the ironic if not contrasting facets in the life of Trisha.

Even characters like Trisha's family --- embodied by his sister Beth and his dictatorial father --- are comprehensible in their weaknesses.  There are no two-dimensional characters so that even the presentation of the exceedingly macho Migs ( played by Albie Casino ) was made so familiar as we know all these homophobe bullies who inflict traumas in the minds of young gays who are already marginalized by society or mocked by their peers.

4. The film deals with issues and not merely situations.  More important, the issues are placed in a context that is so Filipino.

The friendship of Trisha and Barb, the subculture of the transgenders in our country, the contestitas who travel from one town to another joining beauty pageants with their outlandish costumes and rehearsed lines --- the laugh-a-minute self-introductions of the transgender beauty contestants --- and the even more surreal answers to that most dreaded Q&A: these are all too familiar to Filipinos who have watched beauty contests and have found entertainment in the wit as well as the dimwits who join these pageants.

Sunday Beauty Queen also explored the world of the beaucon but in the context of the surrogate community created by OFWs in Hong Kong.

Die Beautiful also delves into another subculture --- not in a foreign land --- but those alienated by society by the lifestyle they have chosen.  

Sad to say, these beautiful she-males who go through hell and high water to transform their bodies to approximate those of women are never fully accepted. They are tolerated and viewed for entertainment value but never embraced as human beings who have real needs for connection and validation.  They may be rejected by their own families, forming bonds among those of their kind only to discover that time is their greatest enemy .

5. There is this actor named Christian Bables.

The moment Barbs struts down the corridor dressed in his high school uniform with the young Trish, the audience gasps.  "Who is he?"  Better yet, we ask: "Where has he been hiding all these years?"

In a business where actors come and go, pre-fabricated/marketed/photoshopped --- talent has become a rare commodity.  Gone are the days of the Judy Ann Santoses who literally start as child stars who evolve into competent artists and not merely picture-worthy celebrities.  Nowadays, in the age of the millennials and centennials, everything is push-button accessible and disposable.  You come across too many actors on your tv screen to ask that mind-boggling and never exhausted questionj: "Da who?"

And you ask this question only because of two reasons: you are in shock that there is such a preponderance of artistas and quite a few who can really show arte. Or your jaw drops because you come across a talent who is ripe for the picking and has been hiding under the bushel, overcrowded by too many generic performers.

Then there is Barbs portrayed by Christian Bables who many will consider as the hidden treasure discovered in this festival.

To go mano-a-mano with Paolo Ballesteros is no easy feat --- because as a performer Pochoy is death-defying.  And to be able to hold his own and never cross the level of excess or venture into stereotype caricature, Christian Bables has just opened the doors for much greater possibilities.

This year we thought it was only JC Santos. We were wrong: there is also Christian Bables.

6. Ladies and gentlemen, presenting Paolo Ballesteros, the actor.

He may have wowed the internet with his make-up transformations morphing into everything from Michelle Obama to Beyonce, Kendall Jenner to Lady Gaga.  But the role of Trisha Echeverria is the defining role for Paolo Ballesteros.

He has always kept his cool with the other Dabarkads as one of the lolas in the now concluded kalyeserye of Eat Bulaga. He may have made his name familiar with his years of exposure in the most popular noontime variety show that has spanned for decades.  But nothing has prepared us for Paolo Ballesteros blooming into this wonderful actor who gives the portrait of a strong yet all too vulnerable portrait of a transgender seeking a definition for his life.

Amidst all the laughter in the film is a tragedy --- and Paolo knows this.  As a rejected son --- or a damaged young man, raped and confused thereby further warping his perception of gender, he never strikes a wrong note.  Together with Bables, Ballesteros gives a sensitive but more so intelligent performance that very well justifies that Best Actor trophy he brought home from the Tokyo Film Festival.

and lastly,

7. This is not a film about baklas dressed as women: it is a story of human beings seeking to fulfill dreams to give meanings to themselves.

Trisha is not about his costumes ... or his rehearsed lines in beauty pageants. It is not even about his transformations as he becomes so many faces but never finds himself until death. 

Like Sunday Beauty Queen, this is about resilience and finding strength in one's self by joining forces with others who also seek the same.

Die Beautiful goes beyond gender bending.  It is a comedy as well as a tragedy because that is what lives are all about.  And Jun Robles Lana, Rody Vera and Paolo Ballesteros have given us one of the best evidence that --- well, yes --- Maraming Magandang Filipino Films. 

Indeed, let this festival open doors to even greater possibilities.  And the fulfillment of dreams.

Monday, December 26, 2016


Put bluntly, it was not a gamble but a daredevil risk.

A feature length documentary in a Christmas film festival where rom-coms, fantasy and horror movies have become the staple menu for the past God-knows-how-many years? More than that, a documentary that does not deal with anything that screams on headlines, exploit controversies that add pages to tabloids or even play partisan politics with issues presently plaguing the nation.   But the subject matter of the film is as timely as it is timeless not only about the resilience of Filipinas who will sacrifice everything for the love of their families.

Baby Ruth Villarama's SUNDAY BEAUTY QUEEN goes much farther than the lives of our kababayan domestic helpers in Hong Kong --- the nineteen thousand registered women who work close to twenty-four hours six days a week, sleeping in cramped quarters while serving their amos and their children from five in the morning until they practically drop unconscious with exhaustion.  What is even more painful is that these women hold college diplomas: they finished IT courses, Hotel and Restaurant management ... and even education. 

But circumstances have forced them to opt for the higher paying job even if it meant giving up whatever it was they spent years learning in school. Because they had to. For their families back home. For their children.  One of them bluntly said that her residence back in the Philippines is far better than one of the houses in Hong Kong where she served ... and yet she was treated badly, fed leftovers, berated for sitting on the sofa and made to sleep on the kitchen floor near the refrigerator.  And these were the daily difficulties she had to endure until she found employers who embraced her and took her in as family.

For luck plays an important role for these OFWs in finding people who will treat them like human beings ... and give them any semblance of affirmation or even love.

This is the story behind the documentary --- and watching this film is a roller coaster ride of laughter, tears and even anger.  These women --- our daughters, sisters, wives, mothers --- endure sufferings ranging from exhaustion to humiliation yet exhibit such strength of inspiring proportions, braving pitfalls and picking themselves up with minimum fuss hoping that the next round of events will be better.  One cannot help but cry, marveling at how strong these women have become --- and just how much, how far they are willing to endure and sacrifice for the children and siblings they left home.

They find their strength not only in the occasional opportunities where they can find love and appreciation from their wards and employers --- but from each other.

How many times have we seen the Filipina domestics huddled together with their baons in various venues in Hong Kong each Sunday, swapping stories and trying to create an illusion of home and transplanted nationhood among themselves on that single day they are given to rest?  SUNDAY BEAUTY QUEEN explores that world --- and these women.  And somehow, we do not only learn to understand what they are going through.  We see ourselves as Filipinos --- as to what we have become in the mythology of the Bagong Bayanis.

This is the price paid for the dollars being sent home to prop our economy.  Our principal export is our people.  As one of the kindhearted Chinese employers said: if the Philippines stops sending its domestic helpers to other countries, the world order will collapse.  And as Jessica Zafra once wrote: Filipinos will conquer the world because of the maids, yayas and housekeepers who manage the lives of people of all nations and of varying degrees of influence and power.

SUNDAY BEAUTY QUEEN will break your heart. Twice.

It will break your heart to see the individual and collective lives of these women --- and you will understand the pain they live through and how they all hope for that day when they will come home.  It will break your heart to see not only their anguish but how they love their alagas and how these children end up loving them as surrogate parents.  It will break your heart to see our kababayans cry because of the affinity they develop to the kindest employers who show them kindness and ... yes, acceptance they grapple with loneliness in a foreign land.

It will also break your heart to know that this beautiful documentary may not last through the ten day run of the MetroManila Filmfest.

The reasons are clear and understandable.  It is all about practicality and economics, the inevitable as they call it.  It pains to see a beautiful movie not getting its audience because the movie-watching sector of our population is unprepared to patronize full length documentary films.  This is an untested genre, as I mentioned --- and even in world cinema, the documentary never stood a chance when put side by side with feature presentations. Documentary films, like shorts, have a niche market ... and knowing Filipino audiences during the Christmas season, it would always be the rom-com, the comedy and the horror movies that will surge ahead of the others ... especially those starring unfamiliar faces or untested genres.

Thus, in a tamer festival such as this year's version of the MetroManila Filmfest, it is the well-made romance comedy like Vince, Kath & James or the heart-filled Die Beautiful (that stars a familiar yet reinvented Paolo Ballesteros) or the moody suspense film Seklusiyon (fueled by the branding of Erik Matti).  It is understandable as to why these are the highest grossers in this year's festival where an experiment is taking place, deliberately defying all expectations and formulas.

Hopefully, the MetroManila Film Festival will also devote as much effort and time to promote their entries in a manner that is strategically designed to even the playing field.  Despite how good or well made a film is presented, when it is not marketed properly not only by the producer but more so by the festival as an organization, then the box office receipts will suffer.  Since you are only given two days to prove your worth in the ten day fiesta (you get pulled out of the movie houses on the third day if you are not delivering the figures in the box office --- understandably again), there is a need for the first day surge so that word of mouth can be fast-tracked.

Why select a documentary when the festival has little if not any time to promote the genre? Why choose a mixed-media film to be one of the finalists --- if there is no proper promotion to something so completely new and promising?  That is an even bigger failure than the "unappreciated response" of the public who was never even given a chance to know what Sunday Beauty Queen and Saving Sally are about.

In the meantime, we must celebrate the moment for what it is worth. Baby Ruth Villarama's film should hopefully open bigger doors and possibilities for Filipino documentary filmmakers.  Festival or not, it is about time we legitimize the genre --- as one that can be more awesome, more brilliant --- and more truth bound than works of well-designed fiction.

To all behind Sunday Beauty Queen, you are the reason why Filipino filmmakers should keep working ... creating and more so, evolving.  Congratulations.

Thursday, December 22, 2016


For reasons that are quite apparent, this Christmas feels different.

Except for the mall areas festooned with all the fairy lights imaginable illuminating the exceptionally humid December nights, am I but one who does not feel Christmas in the air ... in the city? Am I the only one so seemingly unaffected by Joe Mari Chan's charming carols that have always lifted the most dour of spirits to get into the December mode?

Maybe it is because I have crossed that age when the fascination for Christmas came to an end.  After a while, it becomes a tedious obligation --- a yearly ritual that is exhausting as well as expensive.  But then everything is in one's frame of mind  as to why you don your gay apparels and sing fa-la-la-la together with the maddening crowds. 

Yes, it is the crowds who fill up malls, create even more havoc in Manila traffic and go on a food binge like there were no tomorrow. It is all these Christmas parties, family reunions and the chance to people who you have not seen, talked to or even forgotten who emerge from oblivion to provide either entertainment or sentiment.

What makes this all so exceptional in these parts is that Filipinos take their Christmases all so seriously. Mind boggling as it may seem to those unfamiliar with being Pinoy, to hear Jingle Bell Rock and White Christmas playing in the malls as early as October can be quite eery if not pure Twilight Zone.  But that is how Filipinos are: we find every available excuse to celebrate.  We make careers out of holidays and build out lives around them.  This fiesta mentality must be one of our coping mechanisms that has become ingrained in our national character.

But, as I said, the Christmas of 2016 seems different. A friend of mine observed, "Bakit parang pilit na pilit? (Why does it look so forced?)"  I still wanted the benefit of the doubt. I replied, "Baka tayo lang naman. (It may just be us.)"

Well, it has got nothing to do with the fact that there will be no giggly and excitable mobs filling up mall lobbies waiting for the first showing of yet another Vice Ganda or Vic Sotto movie on Christmas morning.  But it has got everything to do with what is happening all around us ... and what we do not seem to feel because there is this apprehension of being contrived or just plain incomplete.

Maybe Christmas seems so different this year not only because there are no joyful displays of Yuletide happiness down the road of Tomas Morato, the restaurant center of the City of Stars.  Whereas before there were delightful colors and a conflagration of all sorts of lights and decor strewn on the lamp posts and windows of the various commercial establishments, now the landscape is not only bare but sullen.  Even the shops and restaurants look like they have been forced to putting up Christmas buntings that had seen better years before this season. It's the same old dilapidated and dusty synthetic garlands looking like dead green anacondas with token Christmas balls in order to impersonate merriment. They are the only signs of Yuletide celebration ... which still come across as more obligatory than sincere.

Yes, the malls may be teeming with people and an expedition in Divisoria can still be an experience to measure the wits of the Ultimate Survivor, but still there is something missing. There is something lacking this Christmas.  

A local magazine bore a cover that declared 2016 as The Worst Year Ever.  

2016 will certainly be remembered but maybe for all the wrong reasons.  Even those whose eyes are fixed on the stars cannot possibly blame Mercury on Retrograde for a year. This is the year of Murphy's Law --- of uncanny surprises.  And these surprises do not happen once but come in layers and layers of even more surprises.  2016 did not only introduce radical changes but radicalized the world's view of itself and seemingly redefined the parameters of decency. 

What we used to think as good and proper no longer holds.  This is the year of anything goes --- and it literally went everywhere.  This is the year when brazenness and crassness were equated with authenticity and courage and truthfulness.  This is the year when alliances were reassigned and political alignments looked like a game of musical chairs.

This the year when Syrian refugees could not find sanctuary to escape from the devastation of war in their homeland.  This is the year when images of dead and mangled children become daily fare in the news so that after a while you are so terrified of becoming numbed.

2016 ends with such uncertainty. 

World leaders have pushed the limits of diplomacy and are now threatening in their posture, dangerous in their eloquence.  People bestowed with great power have become entitled, even reckless --- because they feel that this is what is demanded from them.  Their fearlessness pushes the planet to the brink.  When compassion is replaced by protectionism --- and when people say that they do not give a damn about others and still be proud of it, you know that you are screwed.  Very, very screwed.

When nationalism is redefined as radicalism --- and racial discrimination is tacitly encouraged by sheer virtue of aspiring for national unity and greatness, you hear the Fuhrer giving his impassioned speech in front of Swastika-clad minions.  

When listening and discussing have been replaced by tough speech and cowboy machismo then prepare yourself for Westworld, where leaders are gun crazy and just raring to pick a fight. And try very hard not to be scared.

Maybe this Christmas is so different because the world is on the brink of imploding ... while everybody is either mesmerized or appalled by all the grandstanding and bully rhetoric.

When days before Christmas a Russian ambassador is gunned down and caught in live television in Turkey... and a truck plows through innocent civilians shopping in a Christmas market in Berlin  all in a matter of hours, then you realize how dangerous everything, everywhere has become. It is as if the world is so determined to self-destruct.  It is as if everything is being put in place for another Big Bang that will not start life as we know it ... but demolish most of human existence.

Christmas is different this year because at the back of our minds we are afraid.  We are so afraid that the world has gone completely crazy --- and that nobody listens, everybody just gives speeches and use braggadocio to convince the rest of the population that they are out to change the world.

There is just too much divisiveness, too much hate. And it is not only here. It is all over.

Yet deep inside you wish that even for a short while --- even for some fleeting moment for some days of the year --- Christmas can make us realize that we are all seeking the same thing. Our humanity.  That regardless of all the confusion and fear that surrounds us in the here and now --- or the ambiguity of what is right from what is wrong --- that all these are really unimportant.  Because all will come to pass --- and Christmas tells us the only thing we need to learn and to know: to value the unconditional love that saved us --- and will save us.

We all hope 2016 will be over --- and, despite all odds, 2017 will be better.  

We all pray that all the violence, all the anger will dissipate --- and man will finally quiet down and learn to listen to one another once again. Christmas feels so different this year because we have allowed our fears to overpower our faith and spirit.

Maybe it is about time we reclaimed our humanity by simply turning our backs to all this negativity and bring back the true meaning of this one most important day of the year when a man born two thousand years ago told us a lesson we have yet to learn: to take care of each other.  Only then can we reclaim the joy with the hope that we can still make a better world out of the mess we have created.

Saturday, December 17, 2016


In a week's time the 2016 Edition of the MetroManila Filmfest will open on Christmas Day --- and this early the controversies and heated debates on issue are already raging.  

That is quite phenomenal indeed --- as if to really engrave this year coming to an end as Annus Horribilis when everything that can possibly go wrong just went straight ahead. Usually all the fist pounding and complaints come flying right after the Awards Night ... or at the conclusion of the all-Filipino filmfest.  But this is one for the books.  Even before the announcement of the eight finalists, people were already squirming on their derrieres trying to make rhyme and reason out of what is happening.

But let us keep a positive frame of mind --- and please, please, please --- let's give a chance to the eight films selected to fill this year's menu.  

The thing of it is we have been so used to more of the same that the first time something foreign and exotic to our taste buds is presented to us, we simply freak out. 

Indeed, who would have imagined a Christmas without Enteng, Vice and Mother Lily?   That is tantamount to saying that you want to spread the Yuletide cheer without Santa Claus, Rudolph and Frosty.  In short, the mere thought of the year-end Pamaskong Handog without the regulars brings a state of knee jerk panic and even one of cold turkey.

However, there is more to just the reforms implemented in this year's festival.  These came as reactions to what transpired last year when everything ranging from a Congressional hearing to the forced retirement of film industry institutions in the Executive Committee were rendered if only to prove that the new dispensation means serious business.  

And when the new members of the organizing committee were selected together with those who will screen the submissions, industry insiders started to get nervous.  Moreover, this year producers are required to submit completed feature films (which eventually compromised into picture locks) not merely as first draft screenplays unlike years before. The insiders realized that indeed the winds of change were coming. It was more costly to join the festival because they had to invest the full amount of producing a completed feature with no real assurance that they have the Christmas playdate.  Afraid!

The moment an submission was eliminated, it had to squirm its way into the bookers' grid to find another suitable playdate that would guarantee a good chance to make money against foreign films released at that time.  There were twenty-seven (27) completed films submitted for consideration. Since only eight were selected for the Christmas showing, there are nineteen films that immediately needed dates of release in order for the producers to recoup their investments.

There is no such thing as a perfect set-up. People and film festivals need to evolve.  Changes must correspond with the shifts in both time and space, temperament and taste. That was why changes were most welcome when they were demanded and eventually proposed.

In the age of millennials, trends come and go based on socio-political developments not only here in the country but all over the world.  In the digital age where everything is fast-tracked and meant to cater to instant gratification, the standards of what makes a good movie or even a box office hit can no longer be diminished to a set of equations.  You may have found a formula to concoct a movie that can earn hundreds of millions but there is no guarantee that it will work for all eternity.  Walang forever, di ba? You can be this year's hit but by tomorrow afternoon you have become yesterday's sensation.

The most successful producers can strike gold with a winning formula --- but there is an expiration date for such a blueprint to work on.  There will always be a tipping point when the audience will stop watching the same-old-same-old and start looking for other alternatives.  Change happens when there is a willingness to embrace what is new.  It cannot be legislated much less forced down the throats of people. Change successfully happens when it is time to happen.

Change takes place when change is wanted.  (It is just like nagging a rather overweight person to go on a diet, exercise or maybe climb Mount Apo to regain his or her right to a waistline.  No amount of verbal harassment can yield results unless the person himself /herself looks at the mirror and says, "OK, I am tired of being fat. Now what to do?" )  And in order to institute change, there is a need for a lot of convincing, wooing and yes, even educating without sounding condescending your audience.  

You cannot and must never look down on your audience but instead know what is the right approach to slowly wean the them to find alternatives outside their comfort zones.

If change is needed, you cannot just knock down the door and say, "Enough of what you're used to. Now take these because we believe they are good for you!" You cannot assume you are culturally and intellectually superior to them because honestly, they do not give a crock of s--t. Hindi magkaiba ang pera ng taong nakapagtapos ng Ph.D. sa isang taong hindi gumraduate ng elementariya.

You do not woo your audience to dole out P250+ by insulting them --- and calling them plebeians.  And if they are plebeians, they couldn't give a flying f--k of what you think of them.  They will, only look at you with slight contempt and perceive you as a unemphatic intellectual elitista who has no business pilfering with their lives --- or their choice of entertainment. Or how they will spend their hard-earned money.

Hey, come on. There is nothing wrong with commercial movies.  I will repeat that over and over again. 

OK, fine: there will be some who cringe and sputter demeaning reactions to the movies of Vic Sotto and Vice Ganda --- but the hundreds of millions these movies reap during their exhibition does not mean that they are disposable, insignificant and intolerable. The myopia of intellectual snobbery only manifests the sheer lack of understanding of the audience. These movies may look and sound inane for the taste of others --- but they address certain needs of the audience that cannot be simply brushed aside. Ignoring these needs leaves both the scholar and the intellectualized artist completely devoid of knowing his audience. And that is bad. That is very, very bad.

But what is most interesting about this year's film festival is that share of good and bad news that came along the way even if the event still opens in a week's time.  Between now and then, God knows what other mind boggling developments will send the most vocal and passionate members of the executive committee to go into abandonment in social media. This year's festival is so typical of 2016 --- the year of living dangerously, of walking the tightrope and providing a series of mind-boggling surprises.

So as we move slowly into the opening day of the film festival, here are the good news and some bad news.

GOOD NEWS: This film festival has opened the doors to two completely new genres in filmmaking --- documentary and mixed media films.

This is indeed a pioneering effort.  Who would have thought that the Filipino documentary filmmaker will find his/her place in the roster of the MetroManila Film Festival.  Baby Ruth Villarama's piece on domestic helpers in Hong Kong is a breakthrough in mainstream entertainment.  For the first time, a docu film entitled SUNDAY BEAUTY QUEEN goes side by side with more commercial and definitely more familiar genres like romantic comedies and horror films.  But this legitimizes the genre as an option for future filmmakers to see documentary filmmaking not only as a special feature in a network or news and current affairs magazine show.  

Documentary filmmaking is an art all by itself with its own rules and aesthetics. It requires a tremendous degree of patience for the docu filmmaker to wait for the story to tell itself.  There is no scripting in a documentary film as the filmmaker becomes observer/creator, making rhyme and reason out of events as they unravel and tell their own story.  

Documentary works have been relegated to news and current affairs magazine shows in television.  Some of the best works from the major TV stations attest to the professionalism and technical know-how of Filipino documentary filmmakers.  But there is more to this than just a segment of a magazine how.  It is about time to legitimize the documentary director --- like Baby Ruth Villarama and others who are out there just waiting for a chance to come out with their works (Remember Ramona S. Diaz' Imelda Marcos documentary in 2003 or the controversial work of Miguel Collins and Marty Syjuco entitled Give Up Tomorrow in 2011 which won in the Tribeca Film Festival?). This is the first time that a mainstream festival like the MMFF accommodated a genre that has been long neglected even in the indie celebrations held throughout the year.

Then there is Avid Llongoren"s SAVING SALLY --- which is a feat just by the mere fact that it has been completed.  Filipino animation artists have been recognized and feted internationally with companies like Pixar celebrating the genius of our kababayans in this field.  Together with Pinoy illustrators and graphic novel artists, the wealth of this field has remained an untapped frontier.  So it is only fitting that if we have had animated films done in our country brought to  mainstream exhibition, why not something that would bring the talents of our artists to the much larger Pinoy audience.

Mixing animation with live action, SAVING SALLY is groundbreaking on two counts: because it is the first film employing this technology to be used in a full length feature and second because no one ever suspected/expected the MMFF to include something like this when the subject matter is not for children but for the legions of Leonards and Sheldons out there in the real world.  It took a lot of courage for the Selection Committee to field an entry that, like the documentary, has been untested to the popular audience.

For these reasons alone, we ought to celebrate --- because we are trying out something new.

But then, here's the other side of the coin.

BAD NEWS:  Films like SUNDAY BEAUTY QUEEN and SAVING SALLY require a lot of marketing and familiarizing.  The popular audience knows nothing about these genres save those who are film students and enthusiasts or who are merely curious and who has very minimum expectations about such projects.

Let us bite the bullet here and get real.  

Yes, your Ateneo/La Salle/UP college student will find it cool to pay P250+ to watch a documentary.

Yes, your University Belt crowd and the yuppies of Makati, Ortigas and Eastwood may find it cool to watch a mixed media feature film rather than remain fixated on the shows they are watching on Netflix.  

But how do you convince the everyday moviegoer who is in a celebratory mood to try out something new with his P250+ on unfamiliar genres?  How can you convince Manang Elvie to watch a movie about OFWs when there are absolutely no stars to herald above the title?  How can you convince Manong Benjie to watch Rhian Ramos interacting with an animated character without making him think that this is just cartoons na pambata?

Putting together these two films was a feat --- but selling them to the public is the other half of the tedious and hopefully fruitful climb.  You cannot select two little gems and just throw them on the table and yell "Smorgasbord!" to the ticket-buying audience.  There is a responsibility to sell these films --- as well as bring about an awareness of the public that such films are being made and can be savored with the same vigor and delight as horror, romcoms or action movies. It may be unfair to select these films and leave them to fend for themselves in a market so crowded and noisy and ruled by money, money, money in the final stage of promoting the material.

The MMFF should have a plan of action to help these producers who do not have the expertise, machinery and money of Star Cinema or Regal Films in  promoting their entries. Having a distributor is a blessing from the heavens but marketing the film forms a good seventy percent of its success.  No critical acclaim can be so cherished if nobody watches these films or they are simply dismissed because they have not been promoted properly.

Note: It is only a week before the festival and, yes, both films have not received the same media space as the others who are more well-oiled to promote films.  The MMFF Committee should take note that they should have a more aggressive machinery to sell the festival entries as a collection of eight films rather than relying on the individual producers to shell out more money to push their films.

GOOD NEWS: This year's MetroManila Film has taken the gamble of having very few big name stars to serve as attraction to the audience.  Now the game is about the film (with its content and technical excellence) rather than celebrity power to draw in the fans.

In the biggest film festival in the country staged during the most economically lucrative time of the year, there are eight movies with only Nora Aunor and Eugene Domingo as actors whose names have already appeared above the title in mainstream movies.

The Selection Committee has sent a very definite signal. Enough of the franchise movies.  If Vic, Vice and Mother Lily intend to join, then their entries must be up to par with the new standards that they have set.

Having been locked out of the festival, the three films --- Special Parental Guidance, Enteng Kabisote 10 and Mano Po 7: Chinoy were immediately shown in playdates weeks before the festival.

This, in turn, became a litmus test to the viability of these franchise films to succeed outside the window of an all-Filipino festival which does not allow foreign movies to be shown within the same slated playdates. Apparently Vice Ganda's box office appeal came across with similar intensity even Special Parental Guidance showed on a November 30 playdate.  As this blog is being written, cinemas are still showing Vice Ganda's movie on its third week. Reports from the producer stated that the movie made over P70M on its first day --- but no total gross receipt has yet been published.  However, one hopes that despite its regular playdate that the movie came close to what Beauty and the Bestie earned in last year's festival.  

Mano Po 7 opened a day earlier than the Philippine release of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story and Regal Films has yet to provide an official announcement about their opening day box office take.

Indeed, the good news is met with a challenge.  Can this year's MMFF yield a box office gross that could come close to last year's record of close to P1B?  Can a festival that is anchored on the concept and quality of films translate their excellence into popular patronage? In a festival devoid of giants, can Julia Barretto, Irma Adlawan, Joshua Garcia, Roni Alonte, Mercedes Cabral, Rhian Ramos, Joem Bascon, Ricky Davao draw the crowds to watch their excellently crafted and rendered films?

Again, we go back to the same problem as mentioned above: how do you market non-star driven entries? What are the strategies being taken so that the audience will pay to see films they know nothing about aside from the fact that they displaced what they were hoping to see during Christmas. Di ba?

BAD NEWS: Now we are reminded.  This is the MetroManila Film Festival.  MetroManila covers a certain limited territory.  Provincial movie houses are not obliged to show all the eight films.  Rather they will select which ones they feel appeal to their markets.  Moreover (and here lies the rub) they are not even bound by law to show only Filipino movies.  This is not a nationwide festival, Honey. It is the MetroManila Film Festival.

 Actually you cannot even call this bad news because it is the law that dictates that the film festival only covers MetroManila.  

Anything beyond the appointed boundaries of Bulacan is no longer within the territory.  Tracing the history of this all-Pinoy festival would bring us back to the years of Mayor Antonio Villegas who put up this celebration as part of the festivities of Araw ng Maynila on June 24.  It was only picked up and expanded by Imelda Marcos when she was the Chairperson of the MetroManila Commission in the 1970s.  

This means that theater owners outside MetroManila are not bound by law to show all the eight entries included in the festival.  In some provinces, there are not enough cinemas to show all the eight so that the theater owners select which of the entries best suit the needs of their audience.  That is, of course, a euphemism for which of the movies will sell best --- or has already exhibited selling power in its Manila run.

If ever MMFF entries are shown outside MetroManila then it is because of the discretion of the theater owner --- and not because the law tells them to do so.

Thus attempts to have a nationwide exposure to all the eight films failed dismally.  

Again, this has to be put in the proper context.  Going hand in hand with understanding the audience is to also see the reasons behind theater owners being selective of the products they will show at the most lucrative time of the year when people (especially kids) have money to spare and go out their way to celebrate Christmas by watching movies. As businessmen, it is but logical for them to sell what is already selling than invest on something struggling or non-performing.

But wait ... does this also mean that theater owners outside Manila can still show films outside the roster of the festival?  

Does this mean that there can be a spillover of foreign or local movies that have a more guaranteed market even during the window of the festival? 

Well, yes.  No amount of hairpulling, fist pounding or social media hexing can possibly change the minds of theater owners --- because they are here for the business and not for any other lofty purpose which should be relegated to cultural agencies of the government. These are commercial cinemas, attached to malls as there are very few stand-alone movie houses left. Good business practice tells everyone that you do not mess around with the opportunity to make more money by thinking of the "national soul."

You leave such lofty goals to cultural agencies.  

Does that make theater owners spawns of Satan?  No.  And again, I repeat, they are just doing what they are supposed to do.  They pay taxes to the government --- and the more they earn, the greater the taxes that they pay ... and end of argument.

And there is still more.

BAD NEWS:  The festival starts on Christmas Day and ends on the 3rd of January and not on the 7th as presumed before.

No, the festival was not deliberately cut short by theater owners because of their lack of faith in the box office clout of the entries.  Rather, it is in the IRR (Implementing Rules and Regulations) of the MetroManila Film Festival that the event should run through a course of ten screening days.

If ever the festival stretched to two weeks, then it was because theater owners agreed to extend the showings because the blockbuster movies were still raking in money.  

Again, there is nothing wrong with that --- because it is expensive to operate cinemas with the cost of electricity, labor, maintenance and other overheard costs. It is not a sin nor an insult to Philippine culture if they want to make money because they are in the business of showing movies.  Are they being bluntly commercial in their preferences and priorities? Yes. And there is no reason for them to say sorry.  It is their option to extend, eh ngayon ayaw na nila kaya sorry na lang. Look at the IRR and they will tell you ... the festival runs for ten days even if it has been extended to two weeks for the past sixteen years.

But this can also mean limiting the amount of time that the movies remain onscreen for an audience build-up.

This leads us to another ... well, bad news.

BAD NEWS: There was a request that all the eight movies cannot be pulled out of moviehouses despite poor audience attendance.  Whereas in the past, theater owners set a minimum amount of ticket sales per day. If a movie refrains from delivering this said amount, then the film's showing is stopped, replaced by a more lucrative movie also screening in the same venue. However, theater owners have agreed not to pull out movies only until December 26.

This means that each film is given an ultimatum: you better deliver by your second day of showing or else you will either slide ( which means limited to two showings with another movie for a day) or be removed from the cinemas completely.  

This does not give much chance for movies that do not have the promo machinery of the big studios especially when they finally go into their Juggernaut mode in the final stretch before opening.  Two days are not enough to generate word of mouth campaigns ... not unless they have already been fueled prior to the opening date.

Movies like Sunday Beauty Queen, Oro, Kabisera and Saving Sally need to pump up their audiences on Christmas and the following day (which has been declared a holiday) in order to keep showing in movie houses.  People have to go out and watch these films by the second day in order for them to stay for a week.  

The question is: are the audiences of these two exceptional films the kind of people who go out on Christmas or the day after to spend a day in the mall and watch movies?  Aside from film junkies, communication arts students and Senior Citizens with viewing privileges, who would really go out of their way to catch these two movies as if it were a matter of life or death (for the viewer and not the movie)?

 As I mentioned before, Die Beautiful (distributed by Regal Films) has the advantage of the buzz created at the Tokyo International Film Festival and Paolo Ballesteros' exposure in Eat Bulaga. Vince and Kath and James is a Star Cinema project --- and there is no need to elaborate.  Babae sa Septic Tank 2 has the marquee value of Eugene Domingo plus it is still a relatively fresh franchise skillfully doing their promotions through viral campaigns and limited TV plugs. Then there is Erick Matti's Seklusyon that has the reputation of the director as its selling power.

Will it be fair for the other four films considering that they come from much smaller productions to demand a certain level of output just on its second day? Or is this too tilting the balance so desired and aspired for by the MMFF? 

The lessons taught by this year to everybody involved in the MMFF brings us to another turning point. 

 The MMFF Committees were so preoccupied in towing the line with producers forgetting that it is the theater owners who really determine the fate of any film ... or the directions of filmmaking in this country.  Producers respond to what they deem as the market requirements of the audience but it is the theater owners that given an opportunity for such products to be sold.  Producers spend millions to make films ... but it is the theater owners who determine what films they will show ... where and when.

And, let this be another learning for the MMFF Execom:  you do not fight with theater owners. 

You can wag your fingers at producers and they will listen not because they necessarily believe in what you are doing but because their need for you is so strong that they will withhold this strong desire to feed you a fist sandwich.  

But theater owners do not owe either local producers ... or say any quasi-governmental institution to dictate what could and could not be shown in their theaters.  That is their private property and they can do whatever they want to do with their stars and projects. Besides, one thing the more verbose among us should realize: there is always Hollywood that theater owners can fall back on.  If local producers make it difficult for the businessmen to make the most out of their Christmas market, hello American movies.  Yes, there may be an executive order of sorts to legitimize the MMFF ... but then again...

Thus there is a need to woo the theater owners with the same gusto as you entice your audience. It is by convincing those who own and operate movie houses of the viability and potential of other genres as alternative entertainment.  It may take time but there should be clearly defined programs to prepare audiences to accept that out-of-the-box films can easily become accessible entertainment. Only when you have the demand of the audience that the theater owners will concede to your requests ... not demands. 

You do not intimidate theater owners because you can't ... you cannot threaten them with boycotts or the likes ... because they have the options.

Oh here's another disturbing news.

BAD NEWS:  A number of the films selected for the film festival warranted an R-13 rating because of the language, content and themes of the films.

Kumpirmado na ang sinabi ni Mother.  There may be only one or two films that kids can watch.  The family ekskarsiyon on Christmas morning to the malls to watch the opening of the MMFF films complete with the chikitings will be greatly affected. 

Perhaps we should realize that excellence in quality and maturity in taste does not necessarily lock out the kids who really want to enjoy the festive atmosphere of the year-end Christmas movie marathons.

As one professor in La Salle complained during a forum held on this year's MMFF, "I have a ten year old son who joins my wife and I for the first day screenings of the movies in a mall. Ano na ang panonoorin namin ngayon?"

Let me end this blog on a positive note.

GOOD NEWS: There will be a 30% discount given to students, senior citizens or those who are PWDs in the purchase of MMFF tickets.

At least that should and could make people happy. No, happier.

But what is important is we go watch as many of the movies as we can.  The backlash of the failure of this year's festival will not only hit the organizers right on their faces but can create a setback on viable alternatives to bring new directions to Philippine cinema.

Somebody said that the road to hell is paved with good intentions --- so let us just get this done and over with and enjoy what is there to savor in our attempts at merriment and hopefully cinematic fulfillment.