Saturday, January 16, 2016

#143TY in Myanmar

Something is going to happen at the end of the month. I have been looking forward to this since last year. "I love you. Thank you." will be screening at the &Proud Yangon LGBT Film Festival. This was originally scheduled last November but the organizers had to move it to January because of the elections in Myanmar.

The description of "I love you. Thank you." at the &Proud website.

Established in 2014, &PROUD is a non-profit initiative of a number of organisations and individuals in Yangon. They organise cultural events in Myanmar for the LGBT community to make LGBTs more visible to the rest of the Myanmar society.

The film festival is still a baby, only on its second year this year. With the country expected to see a major shift when the government changes in 2016, the predominantly Buddhist country is still antagonistic of LGBTs. Section 377 of the penal code - prohibits same sex sexual activity and sodomy - is still in effect. 

A still from "I love you. Thank you."

I think &Proud Yangon LGBT Film Festival significant for providing an avenue for LGBTs in Myanmar to form a community that opens their eyes on their culture and how LGBTs are in other Asian countries. I am excited to go there because first, it will be my first time to visit Myanmar. Second, I want to meet Myanmar LGBTs who have interesting stories to tell and third, I want to see how they are going to react to the film. It would be exciting to see and hear new perspectives and I can't wait to prove that unrequited love is indeed, universal.
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Wednesday, January 13, 2016

No 'Char' in Churros

Churros are Spanish fried-dough pastries dipped in chocolate that are traditionally eaten as breakfast in Spain. In the Philippines though, Pinoys are crazy over churros, usually eating them for snacks.

There's this small churreria called La Lola that sells churros packaged in a huge cone with the option to eat it with or without a chocolate dip on the side. We went to their branch in Megamall located at the 2/F Mega Atrium.

I am used to having short or U-shaped churros but La Lola's churros are long and straight, fried only upon order. You can order the classic ones (P110, medium size, 6 pieces) and a separate order for the chocolate dip (P60 for medium size) which is quite disappointing. I think churros and choco are an automatic pair.

They also have churros dipped in dark chocolate (P195 for 6 pieces), churro ice cream sandwiches (P145) and Xuxos (stuffed churros with choice of nutella, speculoos, dulce de leche or strawberry jam). These, I have to try yet. Churros is a heavy snack so two pieces are enough for me. If you're not wary about eating greasy snack, this one's a good deal.
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Sunday, January 03, 2016

Contemplation of learnings from the year that was

I was floating with optimism when I entered 2015 back at home in Davao City. We just came back from the New Year’s Eve mass at St. Francis of Assisi Church, a family event that has become a tradition, and it was made more fun because for the second straight year, Mayor Digong Duterte chose to attend mass there. He spoke in front of the churchgoers and he was strong about his stand on not running for the Presidency.

Trying to hide my fascination by posing at abandoned building with graffiti in Berlin, Germany.

Three hundred sixty-five days later, on the same pews I kneeled on a year back, the rain was pouring heavily. I must've been tens of kilos heavier, I had slightly no idea. How would I know, I lost count during the year. This time, no Mayor Duterte to speak about Federalism in front. In a year's time, I changed cellphones twice and I became a coffee drinker. I don't know if I'm going regret it but I've been drinking coffee since I came back from Baguio a few weeks ago. Fortunately, I cut on alcohol this year so I guess that balances my unhealthy lifestyle. 

The rain was cinematic, a symbolic change of skin - leaving the past year behind, cleansing your baggages and having a new you. You know, all that cliché when a new year starts. It was different for me, though. I don't consider 2016 as starting anew but a continuation of what I started in 2015. I had a lot of leftovers from the past year and I have to carry them over for 2016. I chose to because I needed to.

Posing beside the huge Berlinale logo at HAU 1 in Berlin.

I started 2015 with a huge anticipation and excitement over going to Europe for the first time. I was accepted for Berlinale Talents when I applied for it, on my first try I have to brag, in 2014 while on a train from Hoi An to Hanoi in Vietnam.

Experiencing winter, seeing and actually holding a snow, meeting filmmakers from around world, being in a major film festival, seeing Darren Aronofsky, Howard Shore and Wim Wenders in person, everything was overwhelming. Exploring Berlin, having my Before Sunset moments in Prague, reminiscing Before Sunrise in Vienna, meeting an old friend in Budapest, trying to work out a develop a relationship in Köln, musing on oneliness in Paris, exploring Amsterdam. The trip was magical. 

The grave of Edith Piaf in Cimetière du Père Lachaise, my first stop right after I arrived in Paris.

It depressed me that Jim Morrison's grave is too modest for his status as a legend.

Surprisingly, coming back home almost broke didn't bother me. I had the happiest time of my life in Europe but I kind of doubted myself after a week. I think I should’ve saved a little more before the trip so I would have something to spend because I was uncertain about getting a project when I arrived. For a while, I contemplated on going mainstream but I held my horses.

I took the opportunity of editing the 3rd season of “It Takes Gutz to be a Gutierrez”, a reality show on E! Entertainment Asia. I heard horror stories about the production process of that show in their first two seasons and I heard that this family is hard to work with. I had nothing to do then so I took the offer believing it would finish within a month or less. I worked with a funny Scottish director, Steve, and a few Pinoy crew and Gutierrez’s matriach, Annabelle. Five gruelling and stressful months passed me by and I regretted every moment I worked on that show. I’ll spare the details because she makes a worse enemy and it’s not worth it.

I shot “I love you. Thank you.” in August of 2014, one of the films that is personal to me. We worked on finishing the film until April 2015. In contrast to Gutz, I had the happiest days working on this film. It was my baby waiting to be born, pouring much of my soul in it. It premiered at Bangkok Gay and Lesbian Film Festival in June, competed at the World Premieres Film Festival a few weeks after, was shown to jampacked screenings in UP Dililman Cine Adarna and UP Los Banos, then at Q! Film Festival and Ayala Cinemas last October.

A still from one of my favorite scenes of "I love you. Thank you."

The process of doing “I love you. Thank you.” taught me to listen to others even if I disagreed to most of their decisions. The film is a product of team work and yes, there’s no I in TEAM! I had to consider three more heads in deciding the fate of the film.

At the Awarding Ceremonies of the World Premieres Film Festival in Manila.

With the actors of "I love you. Thank you." Joross Gamboa, CJ Reyes and Prince Stefan.

The film didn’t quite had the takeoff that I expected it to have in 2015. We made a few wrong decisions and priorities here and there, talked to the wrong people but I believe in the film’s power to make it big. Bigger than it should’ve been last year and I’m carrying this baggage in 2016. #143TY is a big thing just waiting to happen with the right timing.

After all the hurdles we faced, this film taught me patience and resilience.

A still from "Chasing Waves".

“Chasing Waves”, the film that I shot in 2014 and was finished in 2015 had its World Premiere at the Southeast Asian Film Festival in Singapore last April. Thanks to Philip Cheah, the festival’s programmer, I was able to go back to Singapore with a renewed love for vinyl when he took me to the best vinyl stores in Singapore. It made me kind of regret not buying the vinyls in Vienna (Teuchtler Schallplattenhandlung where Before Sunrise was shot). 

At the Singapore Art Museum.

"Chasing Waves” taught me to be humble. It is a small film not screaming of attention. The shoot open my eyes to the inadequacies of our government. It gave me the drive to do my part to stop the abuses most of our lumads go through everyday. To be the voice in behalf of the oppressed who are not fortunate enough to be provided with the basic social services.

Outside the Singapore Art Museum where Chasing Waves was screened.

In September, the film competed in Split Film Festival and I contemplated on going to Croatia to attend the festival and experience Europe’s autumn but my funds and Gutz held me back. It was also shown at the CinemaRehiyon in Cebu City where I also did a side trip to Oslob and experience whale watching.

Playing around with actress Ging Hyde on our back to Cebu City from Oslob.

I believe that Chasing Waves is a Mindananaoan film that deserves more audience and I hope to bring it more screening venues in 2016.

I didn't go to the awards night thinking I wouldn't win but Martin, Hamog's producer called me to get my trophy. 

I came back to edit for Cinemaone Originals, another film for Joel Jover. This one stars Zaijian Jaranilla, Terry Malvar, OJ Mariano and a few first-time child actors. I was lucky enough to win my second Cinemaone Best Editing trophy and what a comeback that was! Working on “Hamog” taught me to trust my instincts and fight for what I think is right.

I never imagine myself directing commercials because I thought they're too glossy for me but ABS-CBN Global gave me an opportunity to shoot one for online release slated last Fathers’ Day. I got a taste of corporate dynamics as I went through the briefing, shooting and all that ad agency thing.

With the cute kid of that myRemit commercial.

This shoot was particularly memorable for me because it was the first time I snapped on an actor. It was raining already and we were slated to use the Clark International Airport until 5pm only and we still had two more sequences to shoot. It was 4pm, I was pressured by the producers to finish the sequences, lest we’d pay the extension fees and the actor was not cooperating. Well, he couldn’t deliver what I wanted. Out of stress, I shouted at him and snapped and regretful as I was after, I couldn’t take my words back. I was too embarrassed to face the people from the agency and I didn’t know how to convince them that I didn’t work that way.

The commercial came out well anyway and I learned to be take control of stress.

In November, Epi, a college classmate, approached me to create a video for the launch of LG’s newest mobile phone, the LG V10 and it was another first for me. I didn’t know if I was credible enough to be a spokesperson for a product but it excited me because it was an opportunity that doesn’t come my often. This project taught me to completely believe in yourself.

November also had me working on another first, this time, working with veteran directors. Directors whose names I had only been reading on the 90s movies that I watched on television. Toto Natividad, veteran film editor and famous for action films, was my editing supervisor for “Angela Markado”, a remake of the 80s film by Lino Brocka starring Hilda Koronel.

It ws direted by comebacking National Artist, Carlo J. Caparas, the famed dirctor of massacre films in the 90s. I rever Carlo J. as a comics artist whose works I used to read while I was a kid. The first time I was introduced to him, I was amazed at his trademarks: shades and hat. He was an amiable man who talked like a artist. He said “mukha kang artist. Maganda yan kasi tayong mga artist, may mood swings. At least, magkakaintindihan tayo.”

In the proess of working with him and Direk Toto, I realized that Carlo J. is a more of a writer who focuses on the story and development of his characters than indulge himself in the technology of editing and visual effects. That's what Direk Toto was for. Carlo J. knows what he wants to see on screen and I consider that a good trait of a film director.

With friends from University of the Philippines at a birthday party.

2015 also marked a new beginning for me as I transferred to a new house, another first where I have to share a condo unit with two friends, Kim and Jam. 

August was a special month because I was finally able to open my heart and tried to get myself in a new relationship. The dating phase was quite fast and I didn’t expect us to end up in a relationship. After my failed attempts to find someone right for me - distance and situation-wise -  I found someone who was ready to embark on a commitment. I was not prepared for it but life has many pleasant surprises. We may different from each other, he from a Nursing background and me from showbiz, but we are learning a lot. It has been four months and we are steady. We vowed to read more books, travel together, get fat together. I have been single for a long time and it may have caught me off guard but it's good to finally have someone to share everything with. I am taking each day slowly and it is wonderful.

At my brother's civil wedding in Davao City.

I went home to Davao to attend my brother's wedding with his long-time girlfriend. Their love story is one for the book, a test of love's endurance. They are childhood sweethearts and I don't think my brother ever had another girlfriend other than Langging. They battled long-distance relationships - once, when my brother stayed in Manila to study college and her, when she went abroad to work. What a lesson on love! I can imagine both of them braving the downs of not being together but they succeeded. Now, they live together separately and I wish they'll have a baby soon.

I rarely take selfies but this one was hard to resist. Taken at Berlin, Germany.

I have been dreaming. I have been dreaming big. But dreams don’t come to you fast. One must have the patience and drive. One has to strive for your dream, reach for it even if others say you can't, cry over unsuccessful attempts, take a break to find yourself then go back to striving to reach for your dreams agains. One cannot stop.

I left 2014 with a lot of hope for 2015 but a lot of my plans did not materialize. I thought 2015 was my year of planting and 2015 would be my year of reaping but it didn’t turn out the way I envisioned it to be. Now, I left 2015 bringing me the lessons it taught me. 

I am ready for 2016. My goals are just within my reach. I just have to try harder. Timing is everything and 2016 will be my time.

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