Alben meng manyaman, boy!

January 29, 2009

My Kapampangan short film @ CCP this Feb!

February is heralded the National Arts Month in the Philippines, and because of this, there is a huge Philippine International Arts Festival to happen in the whole month of Feb.
"The National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA) is making an innovation in the usual National Arts Month (NAM) it has been organizing in the past 18 years. Beginning this year, the NCCA will start calling it the Philippine International Arts Festival. The talents of Filipino artists will be presented while at the same time promoted to the rest of the world. Artists from all over the Philippines will join the events of the PIAF. Local governments and arts groups will also take part with this event, thanks to funding from the NCCA. This year's theme is Ani ng Sining. Instead of celebrating only in Manila, numerous events are slated to happen in Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao."
One of the events will be Sinerehiyon. This is a showcase of nascent cinema from the regions. From the highlands in and around Baguio to the heart of Bicolandia that is Naga City; across the thriving Visayas cities of Cebu, Bacolod and Iloilo; and through Mindanao between Cagayan de Oro and Davao, a new generation of artists is telling stories of their own cultures and people in cinematic form. This will be from February 17 to 19 at the CCP.

Representing Kapampangan cinema is this short film I wrote and directed Ing Bangkeru (The Boatman)! We're gonna go there to see our work screened at a national event! Glory be to the regions!

January 28, 2009

The Screening of Brillante Mendoza’s ‘Kaleldo’

And the Surprising Kapampangan Alternative Cinema Audience

Last 23rd of January, the Holy Angel University screened ‘Kaleldo’ (Summer Heat), one of the internationally award-winning films of Kapampangan alternative filmmaker Brillante Mendoza (2008’s Most Outstanding Kapampangan awardee for Mass Media) which like his other films exhibit a great deal of Kapampangan culture.

Even though I have already watched ‘Kaleldo’ in several cinemas and have viewed it over and over through my VCD player (yes, I bought an original VCD), I still made it a point to be there during the screening to observe how the students of Holy Angel University would find the film. Being bombarded with Hollywood- and Manila-produced movies in our local cinemas, it may be concluded that Kapampangans in general are still unaware of this thing advocated by Mendoza called alternative cinema, which does not rely on formulaic plots and glossy factors.

Mendoza the Advocate

Alternative cinema most of the time slaps social truths right in front of our faces. Even though we are immersed in these truths, we get so absorbed in them such that we are eventually inclined to ignore them. Instead of promoting escapism among the audience, it seeks to remind the viewers that the presentation of truth—regardless whether saddening or to be proud of—is another important function of films. This Mendoza realized when his debut film ‘Masahista’ was shown in Switzerland (where it eventually won the Golden Leopard Award in the video category). As he stated in hi speech before the screening, “I have come to realize how powerful a film can be.”

Right now, Mendoza is more than a filmmaker and a producer; he’s an advocate. He shows his films to various universities in Pampanga and shares the beauty of alternative cinema, hoping to spread the ideology to Kapampangan students for them to eventually widen their taste in movies—something which I believe my fellow kabalen are still lacking.

I am hoping as well that through the screening of Mendoza’s films in Pampanga, aspiring indie filmmakers, especially students, would learn to localize their content and be observant of their immediate surroundings, instead of trying to mimic what they see on television and pirated CDs. One clear sign of this is the preference of student filmmakers to use Tagalog as the medium of their films, even though all the characters seem to be Kapampangans. Goodness, I even know of one film which used 100% English as medium!

The film ‘Kaleldo’

‘Kaleldo’—which in Kapampangan means summer, but the English title is ‘Summer Heat’—is the story of a family in Guagua ten years after the eruption of Mt. Pinatubo. The story focuses on the three sisters: Grace (Juliana Palermo), the youngest among the three who is freshly wed to a Mama’s boy type of guy; Lourdes (Angel Aquino), a career-oriented and aggressive woman who is having an affair with a bank manager; and Jess (Cherry Pie Picache), the butch-type lesbian maker of atchara, who is also the eldest among the sisters.

The film is divided into three chapters, depending on the character on focus: Angin (Wind) for Grace, Api (Fire) for Lourdes, and Danum (Water) for Jess. Each element artistically represents the personality of the character and the mood of the chapter.

Even though the film is, as Mendoza described, “audience-friendly” because of its dramatic treatment, ‘Kaleldo’ can still be classified as alternative because it is not the type that would entice an average moviegoer to buy a ticket to. The actors are not exactly stars that have blind fanatics patronizing them in any activity they pursue unlike Sharon Cuneta, Aga Muhlach, Richard Gutierrez, or John Lloyd Cruz. The topic of the movie is not really something that would tickle the average man’s senses unlike the usual love stories and sex comedies of Star Cinema, GMA Films, Regal, etc.

Strange Kapampangan Audience

Strange—this was the adjective that appeared in my mind after observing the general reaction of the audience to ‘Kaleldo.’ Was I too judgmental? Honestly, I thought the Kapampangan students, who are not very exposed to indie films, would get bored with ‘Kaleldo.’ Yes, their “mababong kaligayan” was still evident, in that they made big deals over what I consider insignificant things in films such as butt exposures, local bad words, sex scenes, and homosexuality, but they likewise enjoyed the other serious scenes as well.

Could it be because the film exposes Kapampangan culture and we could relate? Could it be that reality is charming after all, in that being reminded of it (reality is buried in our subconscious, thanks to the escapist effects of mainstream movies) sends us laughing while thinking “so true, so true,” unlike the slapstick and corny jokes of Tagalog comedies?

Actually, even our short film ‘Ing Bangkeru’ (The Boatman) was screened as a front act to ‘Kaleldo.’ It’s a 10-minute short film with an artsy and eerie treatment, and I was expecting it to bore the students. I was surprised that the students not only appreciated it—they enjoyed it, especially in the climactic sequence.

The version of ‘Kaleldo’ screened at the University Theater was, I believe, the director’s cut, as the sex scenes were shown in full, unlike when I first watched the movie at SM Pampanga. One problem with the Kapampangan audience is that they sometimes see sex as sex alone, along with its traditional effects to our pretending-to-be-conservative psyches—that sex is private and showing it in public, even through film, is either immoral, taboo, or humiliating.

The students, too overwhelmed with the graphic sex acts unfolding in front of them, failed to see the embedded messages in each sex scene. Upon closer look, Grace’s sex scene with her husband is an illustration of one of the gender-related problems which I first came to know in Albina Peczon Fernandez’ class in UP Diliman—the one-way sexual satisfaction between couples. In the movie, Grace and her husband have sex one night, but it was only the husband who was satisfied; he cummed quickly and ordered Grace to stop despite her not reaching orgasm yet. Lourdes’ sex scene on the other hand is for me an illustration of this phenomenon called marital rape, where the wife is forced to have sex with her husband even though she doesn’t feel like it; unfortunately, it’s hard for the woman to complain about it they’re married anyway. The sex scene of Jess, the lesbian, with her girlfriend (Criselda Volks) is more than a sex scene—it’s a genuine love scene, because she and her girlfriend performed intercourse because they loved each other. The only obstacle in their relationship was the conservatism of society, especially their father (Johnny Delgado), who still found girl-to-girl relationships strange.

In spite of the students not seeing these messages (probably because gender issues related to sex are not yet familiar to students), I believe only a few got “offended” with the explicit showing of bed scenes. The movie still went on and the majority still loved the film.

Could it be that alternative cinema has hope for the Kapampangans? We cannot conclude yet. Almost all the viewers present during the screening were students required by their respective professors to watch and to make reaction papers afterwards. Even though they enjoyed the film while watching it, I can’t help but to ask: if no student was forced to attend the screening, will films like ‘Kaleldo’ still entice a number of Kapampangan viewers to patronize? Like Mendoza, I doubt it. That is why an increase in awareness of alternative cinema and its beauty is needed in the province.


In the afternoon of January 31, HAU will be screening two more films by Brillante Mendoza—the Ayta-Kapampangan film ‘Manoro’ (The Aeta Teacher) and the equally cited ‘Foster Child’ starring Cherry Pie Picache. Tickets are sold at P50.

January 26, 2009

Kapampangan B/W short film 'Ing Bangkeru'

Last Thursday and Friday, Kalalangan Kamaru screened Ing Bangkeru (The Boatman), directed by yours truly. It is a Kapampangan short film that is a screen adaptation of an anonymous Kapampangan ballad of the same title.

Having a lot of long takes, being in black and white, and having an unconventional (philosophical) story line, I was expecting the audiences to get bored by it.

Last Thursday, we went to Systems Plus College Foundation in Balibago, Angeles City and screened all of our works, including the first episode of Kalam, to all the 4th year high school students.

Surprisingly, Ing Bangkeru was able to keep up, as the students not only appreciated it -- they enjoyed it. They understood the story very well and cheered, hollered for the clever boatman when he was owning the arrogant student. There were two screenings, one in the morning and one in the afternoon; the reactions of both batches were just the same.

Then, Last Friday, Brillante Mendoza's award-winning Kapampangan film Kaleldo had two runs at the Holy Angel University Theater. Serving as front act was Ing Bangkeru. I watched (even paid a ticket), majorly only to check out the reactions of the audience to our short film.

Boy, were my assistant director Diego and I ecstatic with the audience reaction! They enjoyed it as well, and their reaction was like an exact copy of the reaction of the students from Systems Plus. The difference, the HAU Theater has 1000 seating capacity. That makes 2000 individuals (because it had two runs, and the theater was full in both runs), and to see them applaud for our short film in spite of its strange treatment, it was very heartwarming. As Diego stated: maybug kung gumaga (I want to cry).

Haven't watched it yet? Here:

January 19, 2009

YouTube: 'Kaplas' Kapampangan music video

It's done! Please watch the official music video of Kaplas by the Nora Aunor Fans' Club band from Guagua. Song is part of the RocKapampangan album, the first ever Kapampangan rock album -- a compilation of 16 Kapampangan band songs from 16 Kapampangan bands from Pampanga and Tarlac

January 14, 2009

Another Kapampangan music video, comin' up!

It's just January but we in Kalalangan Kamaru are already craving to produce lots and lots of Kapampangan films! May they be short films, music videos, PSAs, documentaries, or what have you.

After the completion of Balangingi, the thing to watch out for is a music video of one of the songs in the RocKapampangan album: Kaplas by Nora Aunor Fans' Club (a band from Guagua). The song was actually used in the Cannes-participating film by Brillante Mendoza, Serbis.

It's going to be a hilarious music video which will involve various vices, dirty dancing, and other comic insanities! Check out these behind-the-scenes photos:

January 13, 2009

Kamaru Kapampangan short films to be screened?

Two of Brillante Mendoza's internationally acclaimed films will be screened at the Holy Angel University theater in Angeles City. Kaleldo (Summer Heat) will be screened on January 23 while Manoro (The Aeta Teacher) will be on January 31.

I asked Direk Dante and the Holy Angel University whether we could screen our Kapampangan short films as front act to the full-lengths. They agreed! But it's not yet certain. He said he will pick 3-4 short films to screen before his works.

I will be submitting the following for consideration:

If ever these or some of these get picked, they will be screened for the first time in a huge public venue! And as front act to an idol in the film industry. It'd really be an honor. It'd feel kinda like a starting band performing as front act to Eraserheads or something.

I have another Kapampangan short film -- my very first! But I am not very confident in showing it in public because I was still in my learning stage when I did it. Its title is Anak Ning Kapri (Son of the Kapri). How ironic that that film was produced with the highest budget among all of Kamaru's short film productions! Yet, for me, it's the ugliest, hehe.

January 11, 2009

5-day "Balangingi" full online screening

For a period of five days, we will be screening Balangingi in YouTube. After that, we will already be taking it down.

Balangingi (Nosebleed) is a Kapampangan short film that takes a peek into the life of Xoo, a young Filipino "pilosopo" who is forced to attend a blind date set by his nephew. He attempts to suppress his intellectual side but gives in and shows his true color to his date.

January 9, 2009

Baler and Kapampangans

By Jason Paul Laxamana
Urban Kamaru
Central Luzon Daily

After watching the animated fantasy film ‘Dayo: Sa Mundo Ng Elementalia’ last Christmas, I at once bought a ticket to the cinema featuring Viva Films’ period love story ‘Baler,’ starring Jericho Rosales and Anne Curtis. Interested in both the historical and the regional aspect of the movie, ‘Baler’ was among the Metro Manila Film Fest entries of 2008 that I ascertained myself to not miss.

My trip to Baler

The municipality of Baler is the kabisera of the province of Aurora, which, after being separated from Quezon Province, became an addition to Region III. Being in the north-easternmost part of Central Luzon, Aurora is not very known among the urban people of Region III. Thus, only a few know about its natural and cultural beauty, its economic promise as an agricultural hub and tourist attraction, and its history.

Together with a few members of the Advocacy for the Development of Central Luzon (ADCL), I went there and stayed for a night at one of the province’s state university. The season seems to be eternally wet, although rains do not get heavy; they are just limited from drizzles to slightly heavy downpours. Partnered with its lush green forests, the place makes respiration a psychologically uplifting experience. Given all these descriptions, one could conclude that the place is like a less urban Baguio, with a twist.

Imagine Baguio City with an ocean on its side—an ocean met with winds and waves strong enough to allow people to enjoy surfing. In Aurora’s case, this ocean is none other than Dagat Pasipiko, the Pacific Ocean, which one can read in the place’s souvenir shirts. Ilongots, Tagalogs, Ilocanos, Kapampangans, and Dumagats compose much of the population of the place.

Plant all year long

The wetness of the season all year long has been permitting the people of Aurora to turn any part of the year a planting season. Some people can plant rice in February, some in June, some in December. To add to the wetness of the season all year long, Baler is also abundant in free flowing fresh water.

The predicament however, in the aspect of rice, is the drying of the harvest. With little heat from the sun penetrating the gloomy clouds of Aurora, the “over-blesssed” rainy season has its share of toll.

But the government of Aurora, aided greatly by Sen. Edgardo Angara, started a very intelligent project that gives tangible evidence not only of the government’s good governance, but also wise governance. In partnership with a Korean firm, they have erected a facility that artificially dries the harvest. With this technology, farmers need not worry about the wet weather because they now have a huge facility that takes the role of the sun in drying using big machines. Further developments especially in the area of marketing present the potential of making Aurora an upcoming rice capital of the country.

Weeks ago, the Clark Development Corporation has given the province of Aurora a satellite office in Clark. In the coming months, it is becoming predictable that Pampanga and Aurora will be working closely with each other.

The film ‘Baler’

Dumagats and Ilongots, according to the Museo De Baler, are pointed to be the first inhabitants of the place. While some local and Kapampangan historians point to Kapampangans as early residents, a book published by Sen. Angara does not mention anything about this.

The name ‘Baler’ could have come from the word ‘balid,’ which in Kapampangan means tongue-twisted, but in another language spoken in the place, it means to return. According to the book, it could have also come from the old Tagalog word ‘balod,’ a certain mountain dove.

The Metro Manila Film Fest entry ‘Baler’ from Viva Films (Best Picture and a couple more awards) highlighted a romantic story during the siege of Baler in the Spanish-American transition. While the film did not mention anything about the residents of the place being Kapampangans, Kapampangans, to my surprise, were present in the story—in the form of Macabebe soldiers.

A friend and I, before the screening of the MMFF entries, were criticizing ‘Baler’ for getting Jericho Rosales as a Spaniard. “Anne Curtis looks more like a Spaniard compared to Echo,” my friend commented. Turned out, Rosales’ character, Celso, wasn’t pure Spanish. He was half-Spanish, half-Filipino. His Filipino blood came from his mother, whom Celso claimed was from Pampanga, making him a Spanish-Kapampangan.

But that’s not all. The other Filipino soldiers included in the Spanish army were always claiming that their homeland was Pampanga. Thus, they were Kapampangans.

While the film didn’t mention it directly, I have the best feeling that Celso, along with the other Filipino soldiers employed under the Spanish flag, were Macabebe warriors. The discourse whether Macabebe warriors were traitors was tackled shortly in the film, when the soldiers were conversing among themselves.

“Why are we treated as traitors to the country?” one soldier said. “We are just doing our duty—to keep peace and order.” This kind of sentiment really reminds me of disputes about the infamous brown soldiers from the riverbanks.

January 6, 2009

'Balangingi' short film official trailer

Here is the official trailer of Balangingi. Kalalangan Kamaru presents another Kapampangan short film ('Nosebleed' in English). It is an "intellectual" romantic comedy following a mind-boggling and unstable relationship of two intellectuals (read: nerds).

written and directed by Jason Paul Laxamana
crew: Diego Dobles, Arn Lagazo
music: Diego Dobles
starring: Jayvie Dizon, Frency Rodriguez, Raco Del Rosario, Crystal Herrera, Menchi Dobles

Xoo seems to be a standard teenager who lives boringly like everyone else, but unknown to people in his surroundings is what happens in his head--philosophizing about things average people would deem mundane, down to the minutest detail. One day, he is forced to attend a blind date. To avoid turning off his date, he struggles to suppress his intellectual side.

This short film gives a peek to that minority in Philippine society who are unlikely to survive socially by being themselves--the Filipino intellectuals. Or as laymen would call them: Nerds! As parents call them: Pilosopo!

We will be submitting this to the Cinemalaya short film category. We hope it would be a finalist.