17. The sun’s up

“We are spirited away from the meaning of everything because of all the noise, news, frenzy, trends, and flash reports.”

WHEN DID you last look up at the sky to appreciate the heat and light coming out from the sun? When did you last pause to see the finer details of life?

We’re all busy doing a lot of stuffs. There’s a mountain of responsibilities and deadlines that have to be met and sometimes, these things exhaust us. I know the feeling. I understand. But because of all these things, we sometimes forget to give ourselves a break; to reflect and once and for all determine to ourselves the essentials of everyday existence, the reason behind everything, our ends.

While we understand that everything that we see is fleeting, we’re consumed by our own doing. We are spirited away from the meaning of everything because of all the noise, news, frenzy, trends, and flash reports.

Today is a start to do otherwise.

Give thanks and smile at the Starbucks crew who prepared your drink and wrote your name on its container. Help that old woman at the stairs on her way to the train station’s ticket booth. Press that up or down button when you see a hopeful passenger rushing to get inside the elevator when you got off. Yes, even if she’s few meters away; sacrifice a lit bit.

If you have spare time, remind yourself of the joy you had when one afternoon you just stared at how nature moves: the ants as they transport their food or tirelessly search for one, the waves of the ocean that bring peace inside, the wind that caresses you every time, and the sun as she continuously glows with your appreciation or not.

And say, “There’s more to life than this.”

15. Pluviophiles

“It’s when raining that everything makes sense.”

I LOVE it whenever it rains. I like the cold weather, the bed weather, the suspension of classes (when I was still at school) because of the heavy rain. I like listening to the sound of every drop, the tiny and huge ones; the roof asking for mercy on its never-ending greetings.

They call us Pluviophiles, those who find joy and peace of mind during rainy days. For a number of times, I bicycled while it was raining, played basketball with my friends during a downpour, finished reading a book in one sitting while there’s a typhoon, and challenged myself to a 10K road run while everyone’s inside their houses watching programs on tv or savoring their hot, flavorful soup.

Rain cleanses our roads and reveals our inability to follow simple rules like throwing our garbage at the right place. Whenever it rains continuously, some areas become flooded. You can see plastic bottles and plastic bags floating; street kids diving into the murky water as if it’s a swimming pool.

Rain transforms us. More likely, traffic’s everywhere. People are on the rush to escape, to get off the road, to reach their destinations. But if you’re stuck, moods change, conversations become lighter, and we get to see and observe the little things around us.

It’s when raining that everything makes sense.

An Open Letter To ‘Kita Kita’ (I See You)

“We realized what we’ve been missing, what we’ve been waiting for, what it takes for us to willingly go to a theater and spend a little amount to treat film as an art form, an experience, and arm ourselves with so much respect to our culture and our gifts as a people.”

Dear you,

At a time when we grew tired of being bombarded with films with worn out formulas and endless sequels, you came as a delightful surprise. We felt helpless when the news broke that the Metro Manila Film Festival (MMFF) changed its format all over again and chose to revert to its old self which saw the return of familiar staples in the annual showcase. But being pulled out of last year’s roll of MMFF movies with all the controversy that surrounded it is the best thing that happened to you. 

You are an unexpected visitor in our consciousness and so, I would like you to have this that we may not forget each other as time passes by. Let me reminisce the memories we had the same way Tonyo and Lea (played by comedian Empoy Marquez and award-winning actress Alessanda de Rossi respectively) did. It’s about an hour and a half of a roller coaster ride that you and I experienced together. Let me start counting: 

One. One bicycle ride of Lea in the introduction and it hit me. I remembered a scene in the 2000 South Korean romantic television drama Autumn in My Heart where the main characters were biking on their way home from school. The background music was captivating. Lea’s vibrant face greeted us with a smile. Her eyes were magical. 

Two. Two questions popped inside my head: Firstly, did Alessandra and Empoy really act?  And secondly, is it true that they’re not friends before? It’s as if cameras were positioned in front of them and everything just unfolded, like in a reality show. It’s as if they’ve known each other so well that we felt the comfort in every pat on the shoulder, hands, and sometimes on the face. We saw ourselves in them, on how we deal with our friends and loved ones.

Three. Three elements made you outstanding: unconventional love team, cinematography, sincerity. Infested with ‘pabebe’ love teams around, the pairing of Empoy and Alessandra is something that we’ve never seen before. The visual texture of the film, the pacing, the overall mood are remarkable. As a country that has gone crazy with South Korean dramas, you captured us with pleasing imagery all shot in a foreign land: a garden with various types of flowers, plain green fields, rain. But more than these, you’ve shown us sincerity. Yes, sincerity that we’ve not felt in Filipino movies in a long time. I sensed it in every line, in every laughter whenever a joke is delivered.

Four. Four producers gambled on you. Piolo Pascual, film director Joyce Bernal, Erickson Raymundo and Suzanne Shayne Sarte made it possible for you to exist. It’s a difficult time for producing films. How many film studios have gone bankrupt in the Philippines? How many creatives and writers tried but failed? But they saw something in you. They saw your potential and cleaved to that. They’ve displayed courage all throughout the process which is a great example to us. 

Five. Five times I tried to stop myself from crying. Five times I saw those sitting at my left shed tears because of you. 

Six, seven.  Six or seven times I reminded my mother who’s in her sixties to refrain from giving her comments to some scenes for it might distract the other audience members. In the past, we would humorously tell her to not sleep inside the theater or she’ll miss the flow of events. But for the first time since she got her senior citizen I.D. card which gives her the privilege to watch movies in all theaters in our city for free, she did not fall asleep watching you. You got that hook. 

Eight. Yes, for eight instances I watched your trailers. It is also the number of times I hoped that you’ll be a blockbuster. I felt how your writer and director, Sigrid Andrea Bernardo, attempted to offer us a novel recipe that we can enjoy and be proud of. And she succeeded. No pretensions. No awful chemistry. No forced twists in the story. 

Nine. You left me with nine trademarks that will forever stay with me: cabbage, teddy bear, banana, heart, bell, bowls of ramen, Sapporo beer cans, paper cranes, and baby dragonfly. You gave each of them a different meaning that has never entered our imagination before. You thought us how to look at the minute details, the small things, and know how to value them. 

Ten. Ten million pesos was the amount of money that has been spent to bring you to life. But you know what? Because of that amount, we got to see ourselves better. We realized what we’ve been missing, what we’ve been waiting for, what it takes for us to willingly go to a theater and spend a little amount to treat film as an art form, an experience, and arm ourselves with so much respect to our culture and our gifts as a people. 

They say that your success banked on word of mouth. But I believe, it is because of word of heart. Our hearts finally spoke after a long time of silence and we just listened to them. You are a relief, a refreshing reminder of who we are as Filipinos. You made us believe again on our creative capacity, on our genius when it comes to storytelling, and on our distinct voice deep within us; that we may see and love even with our eyes closed.

Thank you for everything.

Sincerely yours,

Kabayan

13. Family dogs

“It was in his second month with us that the answer to why some owners sleep next to their dogs came to me.”

I USED to hate dogs. I used to cringe every time I see one wandering on the streets under the open sky, near our house, or even inside my room. They’ll bark at you unceasingly if you’re a stranger to them. Some will bite you without any notice or voluntarily and confidently share their saliva by licking your feet, your hands or sometimes your toes.

I can still remember how I told myself that I will never touch a dog again. In my childhood, one afternoon, our family dog bit me on my right cheek while I was eating a crispy fried chicken leg. My mom immediately approached me and tried to disinfect the wound with soap and running water. Her grip of the nozzle is still vivid in my memory. I couldn’t understand the gravity of what happened and the possible consequences of being bitten by our dog then. I didn’t know that it has to be taken seriously.

After going through careful examinations in the hospital, my mom told me to be brave because I had to be injected with Rabies vaccine just to make sure. I took more than five shots. All the doctors were fond of saying the same thing every time they held my arms: “Be a man… It’s just like a bite of an ant.” 

But one day that fear vanished inside. Everything changed when my younger brother bought an apple head Chihuahua in a pet store in the neighboring city. My family named him Chua and he greets me whenever I get home. He runs so fast that those sleeping in our living room have no choice but to be awakened. No, it’s not because of his short loud cry but because he runs over them. He’s a consistent and amenable welcome committee member.

Wagging tail. Tiny paws. Hanging tongue.

I would play with him as he nuzzles my leg and my anxieties would temporarily exit my mind. My initial distaste for him transformed into delight. It was in his second month with us that the answer to why some owners sleep next to their dogs came to me.

With the right fit, fun will show itself naturally with them around. Give it some time.

12. Discovering that you are a creator, an artist

“Fail. Stand up. Discover the creator, the artist in you even if sometimes it’s scary.”

IF YOU see yourself as a creative, do not give up. If you believe that you are an artist, embrace and nurture your craft. If you think that every cell of your body directs you to do more, to work on your passion, to reach the farthest limits of your imagination, try. And if an idea pops up in your head out nowhere, while you’re brushing your teeth, while taking a bath, while pouring tomato sauce on your plate to make your special dish, while walking, jogging, or sprinting, while waiting for the one that you love in a cafe, Japanese restaurant, or on a bench somewhere, while reading a book, or while riding a bicycle, a car, or a seesaw in a park, listen.

The world is filled with people who call themselves artists and poets and writers but do not know when to listen and be brave enough to spend their time to give their art its own form, life, and space. They do not want to feed themselves with new perspectives. Everyone is born a creator but not all of us are courageous enough to face its inexplicable faces, its inescapable enigma.

Fail. Stand up. Discover the creator, the artist in you even if sometimes it’s scary. I know because it frightened me to write this.

But we both know that there’s no other way.

Na-‘Kita Kita’

“Siyam na beses din akong aasa na hudyat ito sa muling pagtitiwala nating mga Filipino na kaya nating makagawa ng quality films na tatangkilikin at pararangalan maging sa international stage.”

HAYAAN MONG gaya nina Tonyo at Lea, magbibilang ako:

Isa. Isa kang rebelasyon, Empoy. Pinahanga mo kami. Matagal ko nang naisip na higit ka pa sa pagiging komedyante, isa kang artista. Naramdaman ko ‘yon noon dahil ‘ika nga nila, kapag komedyante ka, marami kang hugot, maraming pinagdaanan. Salamat pinatawa mo ‘ko sa sinehan kasama ang pamilya ko ng ilang beses. Maraming pinaiyak ang sulat mo.

Dalawa. Dalawang tanong ang nabuo sa isip ko habang pinapanood kita, Alex: una, umarte ka ba?; pangalawa, bakit parang ang tagal n’yo nang magkasama ni Empoy? Parang ang nangyari eh tinapatan ka ng camera, kinilig at lumabas ang dimple nang natural, at ayun! pelikula. Salamat sa mga patak ng luha mo sa dulo ng obra. Hanggang ngayon, hindi makamove-on yung ate ko sa napanood niya.

Tatlo. Tatlong elemento ang kapansin-pansing angat ang pelikula: unexpected love team, cinematography, at pacing. Pang-international yung dating. Salamat direk Sigrid Andrea Bernardo. Isa kang alamat! Hinangaan ko ang bawat eksena at anggulo. Nakagawa ka ng isang produkto na may kombinasyon ng lahat ng mga nabanggit na kinunan sa ibang bayan.

Apat. Apat ang producers ng pelikula: Piolo Pascual, Direk Joyce Bernal, Erickson Raymundo at Suzanne Shayne Sarte. Maraming salamat sa pagtaya. Sa panahon na nilalangaw ang industriya ng pelikulang Filipino eh naglakas-loob kayong gumawa, magisip, at magpuyat. Salamat sa pagpapanumbalik ng tiwala sa talento natin bilang mga storytellers at creators. Salamat sa respetong ibinigay ninyo sa aming mga manonood. Nabusog kami sa halakhak, lungkot, musika, saging, puso, at tunog ng kampana.

Lima, Anim, Pito. Naglalaro dito ang dami ng beses na pinaalalahanan ko ang nanay ko sa pagbibigay niya ng komento sa mga eksena. Madilim ang sinehan, maraming tao, at oo libre ang senior citizen sa sine sa Makati area.

Walo. Walong minuto bago mag-umpisa, ang haba ng pila para makabili ng cheese popcorn. Sa pagmamasid sa paligid, ilang dipa lang ang layo ng ilang tv personalities na nagaabang: Julius Babao, Bubbles Paraiso, Raymond Gutierrez. Physically fit na nga si Raymond gaya ng nabalita.

Siyam. Siyam na beses kong pinanood ang trailer. Siyam na beses din akong umasa na sana maging blockbuster movie ito ngayong taon matapos ipull-out last minute sa MMFF 2016. Siyam na beses din akong maniniwala na hudyat ito sa muling pagtitiwala nating mga Filipino na kaya nating makagawa ng quality films na tatangkilikin at pararangalan maging sa international stage.

Sampu. Sampung milyong piso ang budget ng pelikula. Inasahan ng mga producers na kikita ito ng 50 hanggang 60 milyong piso. Sa huling ulat, umabot na ito sa 200 milyong piso. Samantalang hindi ang takilya ang sukatan ng value ng isang work of art, gaya ng pangunahing karakter nito sa una, may higit pa sa nakikita ng mga mata. May ipinaramdam ang ‘Kita Kita’ sa mga manonood na matagal nilang hindi naramdaman sa ipinalabas na mga pelikula sa Pilipinas.

9. Birthday bash!

“Because each year is not promised. Open yourself up. Choose to be free.”

ALTHOUGH IT’S something that has been planned weeks ago (and even if it’s in my Outlook calendar), still, attending a birthday bash at work adds a sense of enjoyment inside.

There are games and songs and Q&As and strangers in a room full of balloons, cakes, and gifts wrapped in variety of colors. But do you know what’s more exciting than these things? It’s the chance to be reminded that one day in the past, you were born, may be, surrounded by relatives and nurses and doctors who were all smiles looking at you – the newest arrival, the cutest creature, the innocent one. It’s hard not to put value into it. It’s difficult to comprehend everything that had to happen for someone like you to exist: your parents met, they fell in love, decided to raise a family, hardships and challenges in between. They never cowered to face life head on to nurture you, to give you the best life they could give, that you may grow up to be a good person. Again, good. Good which sometimes we take for granted because of the menacing distractions around us.

And so, if you’re in your twenties, or thirties, or in your senior years, give yourself a break, play and jump and laugh just because you want to as you completely cross-out the 365 days that have passed. Because each year is not promised. Open yourself up. Choose to be free. Be birthday bashed!