“my cinemalaya 2015 memories…”— sssip*
IT WAS ONE OF THOSE COFFEE BREAKS. I went outside the side entrance glass doors of the Cultural Center of the Philippines, wanting to catch some fresh air and release some suppressed feelings of wonder and enchantment, by inhaling and exhaling my one stick of Marlboro cigarette.
The commotion in and outside the CCP was still all so powerful, I could not escape it. And as I looked at the smoking area, more than a few steps away from the side entrance, I saw students, all happy, and embracing one fine character actor. I knew him. Definitely, I knew him.
He’s one of those actors who would not snub you or look down on you as you stumbled upon him along the hallways of the cultural center. He was always smiling, always staying humble, low-key and friendly.
He was Soliman Cruz.
Students flocked and sorrounded him in the smoking area, taking selfie pictures with him and joking around with them. They all loved him.
And as I approached them, I felt so much love for this guy- who first acted out in theater before turning into becoming a movie actor. Just watched him acted-out as Nora Aunor’s leading man and lover in the film “Taklub” (the opening film of Cinemalaya 2015, under the wonderful direction of internationally-renowned Brillante Mendoza), and he looked so good and so okay on that film. He’s so handsome in those light romantic scenes with the Superstar.
I remembered, he was there, too, at the opening night. He sat across the row of my seat. He was carrying a sackful of bag, talking with a refreshing, young actor named Aaron Rivera (who was always smiling to a blogger that night and they became friends at once), with faded clothes and wavy hair that looked uncombed. Soliman’s skin grew darker but he looked just fine.
I knew he’s an artist, and I greatly respected him that way. But I felt, he was on a journey within himself. Though I wished, anyone in the industry should have cared to him much greater. Via this, maybe they would.
And there I was, on that afternoon break after I had watched three films, on that smoking area, embracing this mighty man as I asked a CCP worker to take pictures of us- me, embracing Mr. Soliman Cruz. And as I checked it out, the pictures looked great.
But I had to leave him there. I had to respect his solitude as he drank coffee and smoked a cigarette. The students had left, and so were the CCP workers in black shirts. And I followed suit. I saw him for a last glance, in a pose like that of a Rodin thinking sculpture. I wanted to cry, but I can’t. I knew he was fine.
I never saw and had time with the boulevard this year. The Harbour Square on the side of the cultural center always looked so busy and full of people, I couldn’t talk with my “friends” there. But somehow, the wind of the bay caught me. It whispered. It loved.
It guided, too.
It would lead me to friends and people who could help me out a little on snacks, meals and transpo fares. Some were really kind, especially a character actress- Ms. Malou Crisologo- who never hesitated to grant me an interview on one fine afternoon as we watched one lyrical film, together with my mentor on movie magazine writing- Mr. Cesar Evangelista. The film we watched was “Ang Kubo Sa Kawayanan”, executed so greatly and left in me a beautiful feeling of existence.
In between smiles and gentle ways, Ms. Crisologo left in us an impression of how kind and understanding actresses of her genre could be to media people. “You people, the media people, help us a lot. You contribute a lot. You all sacrifice a lot. And we must help one another”, she said.
But somehow, everyone had to go on. Ms. Crisologo had to rehearse a play that afternoon, a play to be directed by Kanakan Balintagos- and she had to go. I simply promised her I will support her from thereon.
A lot of indie film directors looked so snubbish. They felt they were, indeed, GREAT. But it didn’t bother us, people like that won’t last long, anyway.
The more the veteran a film artist was, the more she or he was friendly to “us”. In one occasion, we were amazed by actress Cherie Gil’s very warm and loving smile as we accidentally sat beside her and Cinema One head- Mr. Ronald Arguelles. It was so eternal. It was so felt. Little things like that could transform a humble blogger to becoming a very grateful soul.
We sat beside Ms. Cherie Gil and Ronald all throughout, as we watched the truly enjoyable film “Lorna”, directed by a “smiling” indie film director- Ms. Sigrid Bernardo, who also sat beside this blogger inside the Dream Theater of CCP.
It was an unforgettable “two hours”. Sitting beside Ms. Cherie Gil, feeling her energy, hearing her laughter and her voice, left us “breathless”.
The film “Lorna”, earlier shown on the Cinema One Originals film fest, was such a delight to see on this year’s Cinemalaya 2015. The audience here were more appreciative, more alive and natural, without any ‘qualms’ at all in reacting to some very delicate scenes in the movie. This is the kind of audience that we truly LIKED.
Not hypocrites, we may say.
But there were ghosts and phantoms yet that we could not give some closures yet. We tried to escape. We ran as fast as we could, not wanting to be “confronted by reality”.
Even the smiles of Ronald Arguelles, nor the handsome grin of actor Sandino Martin, the friendly ways of my friends Kuya Ces (Cesar Evangelista) and another film director (a childhood friend) Neal ‘Buboy’ Tan- didn’t do much.
As we saw someone in a not-forgotten past, we ran as fast as we could outside the cinema, while the film “Esprit de Corps” was about to be shown.
We felt it was not the proper venue to be “seen”, or maybe, to be embraced with someone we befriended in the past.
We did feel, too, it was the END of our Cinemalaya 2015 journey. That very night, we “wandered away”. We were gone.
But LIFE had its own way of inviting you back. A few text messages from CCP P.R. people, telling me I had to get my Cinemalaya Media Pass 2016, lifted me back higher in spirits. “We” had to be back at the CCP.
And we were back. We saw the short films of the “upcoming new breed”, all products of the first batch of Cinemalaya Campus Foundation, with director Carlitos Siguion-Reyna as their head master. Among the short films included there was direk Arnel Ramos Felix’s “Te Amo Adios”.
We thought, it was all that. And once again, we had to go. But two living souls ignited a living fire again- when we managed to interview two new indie film makers- Mr. Christian Lat and Ms. Carmina Sera Jose.
With their very warm “Thank You’s” as we interviewed them, we felt we could not be gone anymore. Young people like them badly needed support from the media, from the writers, from the bloggers…. It was a great feeling to be alive once more.
The gentle ways of director Arnel Ramos Felix touched our very soul, too, as he invited us to eat lunch at Dencio’s restaurant, just across the boulevard. And Ms. Trixie Dauz, our ‘buddy’ was there, too, to assure us that we were indeed, NEEDED.
Being caught in little rain showers didn’t matter much. Seeing the beauty once more of Philippine Cinema, this time, alongside its neighbors via the Asian Cinema film entries at Cinemalaya 2015 week-long film festival, won’t be a great disturbance, as those rains poured upon your shoulders.
Life could be unpredictable. And the rains would stop at once. Just like what happened as we watched the film “Six Feet High” from India.
Immediately, there was the SUN. And as we entered the vast complex of the Cultural Center of the Philippines, an embracing wind again welcomed us. We felt a more loving energy, a more wonderful vision.
We could not, and we must not, miss the film “Six Feet High”, the first film to be screened on that day. And it was all worth it. The film delivered more and surpassed our expectations. It told of one man’s quest and journey for LOVE. But in the end, what he saw was his own Spirituality. Truly an incredible and a gem of a film.
Right beside us, again, as we watched the film, was our mentor, Cesar Evangelista, who also directed a film at this festival a couple of years ago. It was like a “deja-vu”, being with Kuya Ces again this time. Because now, I am 51 years old. And he was my magazine editor when I was just 19 years old. How time flew.
We both remembered our friend, the late movie writer Mr. William Reyes (who died this year), because William never failed to attend any Cinemalaya festival. Whatever kind of trivia you’d ask him about Cinemalaya and films, he could answer correctly. William was among the earliest media supporters of Cinemalaya fest.
“At the very first press conference of the first Cinemalaya film festival, William was already there”, Ms. Laurice Guillen, the woman behind Cinemalaya told us in one coffee break at the third floor lounge of the complex. “We all loved William. Without the media people like him and like you, Cinemalaya could not reach this and could have not survived.”
We felt “at friends” at once with Ms. Guillen as she spoke those words of comfort and sincerity. She knew, we were “there” all throughout. Yes, she knew. We vividly remember, too, she was one of our teachers in a seminar at Asian Institute of Journalism when the late writer Billy Balbastro (who also died years ago) invited us to be there. It was more than two decades back, that writing seminar, we mean. But we would not forget the elegance of Ms. Guillen as a teacher.
“Princess Kaguya”, an animated film also impressed us. It was so nice…
Other people we saw were: Ms. Lilybeth Rasonable, the entertainment head of GMA-7, who gave support to the new aspiring breed of students/film makers under Cinemalaya Campus, Mr. Ricky Lee, who insisted that we were not his First Batch of scriptwriters who undertook workshop to him many years ago, but rather, we were the third batch, according to him. Me and Ricky also reminisced some memories we had with one of the best indie film makers now- in person of Ralston ‘Joel’ Javier; Mr. Mell T. Navarro who never had any second thoughts of giving to us his one and only complimentary ticket for the film “Imbisibol” because on that day, we accidentally left our Media Pass for the fest, and lastly, the very assertive and reassuring P.R. lady of CCP- Ms. Irene Ladra, who treated us for lunch at the first of our visit to the screening of films at the fest.
And oh, how can I forget Ms. Marife Necessito, who approached us so sincerely and greeted us warmly with affection and care.
But the highlight was about to come. It was the film- “Imbisibol”.
We just didn’t know why this film mattered much for us. Not until we saw it again for the second time around this time at Cinemalaya.
As we entered the cinema, we felt mesmerized by the presence of our idol, Mr. Bernardo Bernardo, but it was overshadowed by our very overwhelming and happy feelings for director Law Fajardo who was seated beside Mr. Bernardo. The actor and the director seated beside each other to watch their film again.
But we were looking for SOMEONE ELSE. Yet, he was not there.
The movie started, and it was so good, so mellow, so calming. In between the calms, feelings of passion, hate, rage, loneliness, and wanting emerged.
Filipinos have sacrificed a lot. Filipinos risked loosing their loved ones just to work abroad to earn a better living. Filipinos lose themselves in the process, resulting to becoming gamblers and hustlers, killers and victims, targets and hitters.
If only the government could still only care for them fairly, more lovingly- to Filipinos here and abroad, maybe, it could be a lot more fruitful and worthwhile Filipinos.
If only the government, could care, too, with the Filipino artists who supported them right from the very start, maybe, just maybe… Filipinos could be a lot happier.
As one young man ran-away, running amidst the snow in the film “Imbisibol”, two souls saw HIM.
He was their child, longing to be home…
(“MY CINEMALAYA 2015 DIARIES”, written by the “6” in a separate dimension of space, time and eternity. August 17, 2015).*