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February 16, 2009

A review of the Filipino Kapampangan film “Jay”

Exposing the Dark Side of Public Service TV Shows
By Jason Paul Laxamana
Urban Kamaru
Central Luzon Daily

Weeks ago, another independent film, directed by a Manila-raised Kapampangan, Francis Xavier Pasion, was screened in SM Cinemas. It can be remembered that the film “Jay” has been chosen as the best film of Cinemalaya 2008 Full-length Category for its interesting story and almost flawless execution. Recently, it has also participated in various film competitions abroad, making it one of the best Filipino films of 2008.

“Jay” tells the story of two Jays—one a high school teacher in Pampanga who was stabbed to death in Manila by a masseur (let’s call him Jay 1), and the other, played realistically by Baron Geisler, an aggressive and equally homosexual field reporter for a TV station called Channel 8 (Jay 2). Jay 2 works for a program that features people who have been slain unjustly, and in the film, that victim is the teacher Jay.

The impressive detail of the film can probably be greatly attributed to the director, who has been working in broadcast media before deciding to cross over to film. As an insider, he should know the dark side of public service TV shows.

The Kapampangan Setting

The film is set in the less progressive parts of Bacolor, Pampanga, and a few scenes in Manila, where Jay 2 resides. If one would see the film and take it as the sole representation of Pampanga in the world of Philippine cinema, we would think that the province is all throughout a poor town buried under lahar, with backward-minded people going crazy over the presence of Manila media people.

The San Guillermo Church of Bacolor makes another appearance, the first being in Brillante Mendoza’s ‘Kaleldo.’ A local school, the name of which I am not very sure of (I think it was DHVCAT), where Jay 1 was supposed to be teaching was shown as well.

There were a few main Kapampangan dialogues and ambient Kapampangan dialogues in scenes that featured public places such as the funeral. If we are to listen carefully, we would hear that the ambient Kapampangan dialogues are just being repeated over and over—which is fine. I only find it amusing because I noticed it.

Manila and Manipulation

Like ‘Masahista,’ ‘Jay’ is another film that shows how Manila does the bad “F” word to Pampanga. The catch of the film is that Jay 2, a media worker from Manila, manipulates the whole happening for it to be dramatic enough to be featured on television, in the disguise of public service.

The respondents of interviews, on the other hand, contribute to the dramatization of the whole crime, by exaggerating their emotions in front of the camera—a proof that Manila media have turned us into soap opera actor-wannabes feeling all sorts of pressure when a video camera is pointed at us, as if we are auditioning to another season of Pinoy Big Brother.

The film starts with a TV documentary that reminds us of shows like ‘Wish Ko Lang’ and ‘Lukso Ng Dugo.’ It tells the life and clean reputation of Jay 1 as a teacher, as a friend, as a lover, as a son, and other roles he animates in society. It also shows the painful expressions of sadness by people who hold Jay 1 dear, including a Mayor who mightily declares justice for the murderer.

After the documentary, we are actually exposed to how the documentary was produced. We are taken to scenes where Jay 2 adds and/or omits pieces of truth from the interviews in order to compose a good episode for his show.

For instance, the weeping of the mother when she first saw the dead body of her son was actually a third take. The first take—which was the genuine coverage—had some technical problems, so Jay 2 had to ask Nanay Luz to re-enact the weeping. Another omission of reality was the reason the masseur (played by JC Castro of Angeles University Foundation) stabbed Jay 1 to death—Jay 1 tried to sodomize him. We see Jay 2 telling his editor to take away that part because it’s not for general patronage.

We also see Jay 2 becoming close to his respondents, such as Nanay Luz, Jay 1’s sister, and the shy straight-acting secret lover of Jay 1, played believably by Coco Martin—only for us to realize in the long run that Jay 2’s motive is to extract more controversial pieces of information from them to sensationalize his story more.

It was shown at the end of the film that Jay 2 is not really concerned with the plight of the less fortunate—that his public servant image is just part of his profession. After work, he’s an ordinary person passive of the issues of society. Jay 2 is being begged for money by a street kid, whom he shoos away with bad temper. I believe this is a character that represents many of well-known personalities who project themselves as beacons of justice and public service on mass media, but in truth are mere self-centered laborers of society.

Pampanga Projected

‘Jay’ is another addition to the growing roster of Philippine Kapampangan films, and I am very proud that they have all been making waves in NCR and abroad. The only challenge now is for these films to make waves in their hometown: Pampanga. When I, along with two friends, watched the film at SM Clark, there were only five of us in the cinema.

Yet again, ‘Jay’ is another addition to the growing roster of Kapampangan films that project Pampanga as a hub of backwards people who have been living mundane and traditional lives ever since the 1991 Pinatubo eruption. So now, I am still waiting for the full-length Filipino Kapampangan film that would tackle the urban life of Kapampangans. It would sure diversify the collection, don’t you think?

Ferdie Lapuz, the distributor of the film (and the distributor of most of Mendoza’s films), told me that Pasion’s next film will be about the Malaya Lolas—that group of women raped in Mapaniqui during the Japanese occupation, but only came forward to tell their story recently. A Kapampangan period film—now that’s interesting!

Images care of Paolo Feliciano.

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