Tuesday, February 24, 2015

The cross the line

By RG Alama

“I’ve just been through that stage, 5 months and counting. 6 months and that’s permanency” Joy scribbled in her blue tickler, writing her journal discreetly away from the prying eyes of her co-employees.

“Oh eto Joy.”  Sheila handed to her another set of tightly packed peso bills that were taken from the day’s transactions, and which would be recorded in the balance sheet. The money bundle reflected the flurry of the earlier banking hours.  

Joy took hold of the bundle consisting of different denominations, placed it on her counter and immediately began tallying the deposited cash and placing the figures on an appropriate ledger; amidst the occasional chitchat and small banter Joy doggedly homed in on her work.

4 p.m. glancing across the glass counter Joy could see the long pile of vehicular traffic in front of the bank. Trucks and cargo vans of different sizes had made their last supply run before calling it a day; unloading and loading merchandise along the rows of mercantile establishments in the middle of Chinatown. The swirl of dust and dirt had added to an increasing riotous clutter.

In the comforts of her office, away from the heat and grime, Joy is in the midst of harmonizing the day’s transactions unperturbed by her boisterous officemates. As if she was purposely trying to transform herself into a heavy-duty industrial workhorse.

Hoy Joy you might just become our bank manager someday” Sheila kidded her younger co-employee noticing her quiet industriousness.

Dili daw uy” Joy reacted with a faint smile.”

Kain tayo ng inihaw na saging, ma’m Joy “ Maila called out, the scent of grilled banana topped by melted margarine and sprinkled sugar permeating across the office.

“Sige lang, thanks” Joy answered, foregoing a daily afternoon ritual.

Ah sus, nabuang na dyud ka sa imung gugma, dili na makakaon unya sige’g hilak” Sheila said as she gently tapped the young lady’s frail shoulders.

Joy could feel the comforting tap of her ate Sheila; she had done that several times before, shortly after the break-up. She remembered how her Ate would dutifully remind her how it will come to pass. And if she asked when, her Ate would just say, “sa iyo na iyan kung gaano katagal.”

Inside the counter, all Joy could see was the figures of numerals printed and etched in the denominations and currency in the ledgers. Each amount measured by its corresponding value written in numbers.

“Could these numbers give value to the love I have given? Could it measure the hurt inside?” Deeper than the figures, her mind had betrayed her machine-like efficiency, memories of a not-so distant past intruding like a restless phantom.

“Nung nakita kita sa party na-realize ko. di ko talaga  kaya na mawala ka.” His words resonated like the gentle tinkle of a Chinese chime. He said it to her shortly after their tumultuous break-up. He wanted to reconcile for the umpteenth time, but these were the first and the last words she had wanted to hear.

“It’s all over asshole” was all she said, the strongly worded expletive had completely shocked her and had also taken him aback.  From that day she had redefined the line between him and herself.

It was June the 22nd; she remembered it as the day of infamy, when she had to start paying the price of her certainty.

This is DJ Johnny, welcome to the On the Spot, an hour of great music, where we will put the spotlight on your favorite artists.  Our artist for this hour is no other than Mr. Pure Energy himself Mr. Gary Valenciano

 Joy could hear the soft blare of the radio being played, the cleaning crew had arrived and so has the night-shift guards. A late afternoon routine was to switch on the office’s stereo component.

Brrrrrggg. The vibrating alert of her 6600 jolted her than the long-winded DJ talking on the radio who seemed to talk endlessly about Gary V.

It was Suzette, inviting her for an afterwork cup of coffee and a light sandwich meal at Figaro’s. Suzette was Joy’s trusted confidant. When everything dismissed her as the most stupidest-person-to-fall-in love-in-this-face-of-the-earth, Suzette’s ever-reliable shoulders were still there for her. When pain was unbearable she along with Leng and Mark were her much-needed anesthetic.

“Ayaw ko mang saktan ang kanyang damdamin, Ngunit kailangan malaman… Puso'y kumakaba, Sana'y matapos na di' makapag-umpisa… Ngunit kahit nais ko man pilitin 'Di na kayang ibigin… Paano ipadarama sa 'yo sinta na puso'y ari na ng iba wohh-wohh- wohh-wohh-wohhhh”

The lyrics slowly seeped into Joy’s ears, dissecting every word of that old Gary V. hit as if it was trying to command her to remember.

“Wala nay uban station ‘nong? She asked one of the cleaning crew.

“Unsa may gusto nimo’g istasyon ma’m?” asked one of the familiar faces.

“Ah kanang guwapo ug sounds gud.” She replied, making an effort to smile at the cleaning crew.

The man responded by pressing the component’s auto-program button.

“Constantly, you're on my mind, thinking about you all the time, I can't sleep no matter what I do, I just keep on thinking 'bout you” The crystalline voice of Juris Fernandez wafted through the air.

Arrgggh buwiset! That MYMP song, Joy remembered how he loved that song and would make an effort to sing it to her. I’m in no mood to drift into memory lane, what next? Nina’s version? She said to herself.

Within a few minutes Joy had punched her time card to the bank’s Bundy clock, it was 7:30 p.m. with the rest of the bank officers having left the building, and it was time to leave.

Darkness had enveloped Monteverde street, the bustle gone, the streetscape drastically altered into a transforming ghost town. The last of the traffic enforcers had left, except for a few passing cars and an occasional taxicab.  The street was a pale shadow of its daytime buzz.

Joy saw herself standing at the street all alone. Suzette would be meeting her at Figaro’s; she would have a sip of latte and nibble some Chicken Focaccia to stave off a slight pang of hunger. Or she would invite Suzette for a bite at Pizza hut.

“Wait lang talaga baby, I’ll just finish my beer.” She remembered one night when she waited for him.  The nerve! It was 7 pm and she! All alone in a near-desolate City street, had to grudgingly take a cab in a long ride home to Buhangin. Hours later another one of their fights would have began.

“Ano ka man uy! Ako lang mag-isa sa kalsada na iyun ba!” She raged at him.

“Hindi mo ako hinantay, papunta naman ako!” he answered pleading his case.

They would reconcile later, and Joy would be back in love, admiring her man, laughing at him especially in his funny jigs at the Liquid dance floor. And such was the usual case.

I have gone to heaven and I went to hell with him, how many times more? Perhaps I do not know.

“Joy just think about it, it doesn’t seem good. You have to draw the line,” Suzette said to her during one particular evening at Karl’s. “You can’t be this way forever; it’s becoming stupid and you know that.”

Suzette was right. Joy had felt it, but the biggest price was letting go. She knew she had loved him, no questions asked.

For everytime Joy would draw her line, it was quickly overwhelmed. As if she would start all over again, Re-loving, re-hoping and re-dreaming as if things would be better. An attribute her friend Mark would often compare to the blind obedience of a pet poodle.

“Dili na ma na gugma, mura na kag iro ana!” Mark would admonish her everytime she would seek solace after one of their many skirmishes.

Joy would reminisce how many times she had to seek comfort and fortitude, trying to search for answers only to come back with more questions.

Ate Shei, is it right to give him another chance?” Joy would ask Sheila .

And Sheila would then fish out a crisp one-thousand peso bill out from the bundle, to illustrate her point.

“You know what Joy, hindi ako ma-surprise pag na-imprenta ang mukha mo sa perang ito 

Joy felt that her ate Sheila’s patience was wearing thin; she was being compared to the images of heroic martyrs printed on the bill. And this is no complement. The difference was that they were heroes who became martyrs, suffering then dying for a gallant cause, while she was…

Pero nasa sa iyo yan, I’m just saying from my perspective, you just have to learn, I cannot teach you how to disengage from him, ikaw lang ang may sagot niyan, be prepared to fight for what you believed, but also be ready to give up when you know that it is hopeless.” Sheila said.

Joy remembered the words well, one day in the midst of her depression she had looked into the mirror in her room.  In the mirrored reflection stood herself looking like every inch an angel, an angel fresh from the chaos of apocalypse, battle-scarred and weary.

She remembered the day when she said it was all over. When she finally strode behind a solid demarcation line, no more turning back. But the days were marked with sadness and pain, often finding herself quietly weeping in pained agony.

Joy had prayed that someday it will come to pass. “Have faith. God hears the desires of our hearts, He knows exactly what we want yet He would only grant us what’s best for us because God alone knows what is right for us.”  She remembers putting it in her journal.

All alone along Monteverde Street, Joy had decided to take on foot and walk to nearby Sales Street turning towards Chimes and to Figaro Cafe. She felt hungry, suddenly craving for a hearty meal of burgers and pizzas. “It has been a long while, perhaps upon reaching Figaro I would just tell Suzette to momentarily forego her diet and join me in one big food trip.” Joy said to herself.

The sodium-lit street is virtually empty; Joy took in brisk evenly strides the steps towards Sales street about a hundred meters away. Behind the glare of the streetlights she could see the sparkle of distant stars.

“The expanse between our hearts is as distant as of the farthest stars,” her heart whispered as she gazed upon the starlit sky. A fact slowly entrenched in permanence.


Monday, December 15, 2014

The path of the broken-hearted is a road of endless possibilities

I peered through the capacity crowd at the Gaisano Mall Cinema. Seconds later I would be mouthing my short speech. I am the festival director of a film festival which I joined 10 years ago because of a broken-heart.

Yes, I was in a relationship a decade ago, but it wasn't a regular relationship. it was what I call a guerrilla romance. I was the third wheel, the girl had a boyfriend but perhaps blinded by "love" I gave in to our secret arrangement.  Until the time came when I wanted a definite status, asked the girl to choose me or him... she chose him.

In the process of broken-heartedness I wandered the streets of this peaceful city, in my mind the only thought was to forget the girl in any way possible. A friend advised to take up a meaningful activity, a new hobby perhaps.

Then I saw the poster posted along the electric post which advertised the Guerrilla Filmmaking workshops... a crash course on Guerrilla filmmaking, I was intrigued. I was wanting to join video and film production courses, only Davao City had no activities such as this.

The day after I went to the Alchemy of Vision and Light office at Anda Street and signed up for the workshop, paying immediately the P5,000 registration fee. This would be the first step in forgetting her.

We had weekend workshops and by the end of it, we had to produce a 30-minute movie. The production of the movie entitled ironically "Happy Ending" was mostly a nightmare, killer schedules shoots which lasted till dawn, bickering teammates, lack of resources characterized our shoot.

Fortunately we were able to finish the film, screened it in cinemas and won awards (Best Film) and the best of it all, I was able to forget the girl. Perhaps the problems of the production hastened the moving on process or perhaps obliterated the emotions and feelings bottled up inside.

I came to be impressed by the vision of the organizers Dax and Drei and by the next year, I hopped on board the organizing team, the Guerrilla Film Festival was renamed into the Mindanao Film Festival.

By 2012 I came in as Festival Director, there was unprecedented growth more films, more audience, by 2014 we established international linkages with Malaysia and Brunei for the East Asean Film Festival, I also was appointed as curator of the NCCA's Cinemarehiyon.

Funny how things turned  out, How after every rejection comes a new opportunity. What if she chose me, perhaps I would be trapped in the bliss of love, which is not bad per se but I would have ignored the compelling need to take a new endeavor. Perhaps it was God's way of leading me to a calling to serve in the field of  culture and the arts (but I wish it would be less painful to the heart Lol)

The experience gave me an important lesson that failures are actually doors which opens to another opportunity. Yes there will be heartbreaks and failures but there will always be another door.

Friday, December 5, 2014

My opening speech at the 10th Mindanao Film Festival

Maayong Gabii sa kaninyong tanan

Good evening.

I would like to acknowledge our honored guests, Councilor Antoinette Principe of the 3rd District of Davao,- Councilor Petite is the cousin of our featured filmmaker for the evening Adjani Arumpac; Councilor Al Ryan Alejandre of the 2nd District of Davao City-during the 1st Mindanao Film Festival in 2005, Councilor Alejandre was part of the cast of one film and also we have Wolfgang Doerner Program Manager of Forumzfd. thank you sir for supporting our young filmmakers.

Through these 10 years, the Mindanao Film Festival has its share of admirers, fans, supporters and also… critics.

The critics like to point out that the film festival has not improved, has been the same. The output qualitywise didn’t amount to be a significant improvement.

The critics maybe right, while screening some of the films I personally feel that some of our films needed improvement, the script, acting, cinematography, audio etc.

During our meetings I asked the foundation what is the direction of the festival, will we put stricter criteria or put these films into a more rigid curatorial process, that only the best would be shown or featured.

But the answer is…

Why wait for passion to refine into an exclusive craft.

Why not inspire others to try making films. By providing a film festival where they can show their stories carried in the medium of digital films. Where they can invite their families, friends or loved ones to watch.

To break the walls of this once exclusive enclave of cinema more accessible, no longer the domain of big studio people form Hollywood or mainstream Filipino movie companies or critically-acclaimed indie filmmakers.

That an ordinary Juan from a barrio in Nabunturan or from the streets of Agdao can make a film about their unique experiences, stories from their family, tales of their community. And show it on the silver screen.

There are many Juans and Marias in our midst, each with a rich imaginarium of stories to tell. . . And this is the goal of the Mindanao Film Festival as a venue for these films and their filmmakers.

Our theme is “Celebrating Regional Imaginations.” We honor the these creative minds has been fuelling our filmmaking movement into one of the active among all other regions in the country.

So this is our direction- For the Mindanao Film Festival to be a platform for up-and-coming Mindanaoan filmmakers to show their films. In the hopes that they will be inspired to follow their dreams. Later on as their passion dictates they will improve into fine craftsmen of their chosen art.

Maraming salamat po. Long live Mindanao regional cinema.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

The Torch at Carte Blanche

Carte Blanche 2014 which will be held this Saturday (November 15) at the Davao Crocodile Park concert grounds is touted as the biggest dancefloor in the southern Philippines.

The party is a gathering of  26 DJs from all over the country and Torch Gacuma aka DJ Torch will be one of those top DJs representing Davao City.

DJ Torch, became a professional DJ in 2006 taking up residencies in the city’s top clubs like Liquid, Pops, Metro Lounge and Starr. He is currently under Manic Nightnings Productions and a resident DJ at Acropolis Superclub.

Rudolph: What’s in store, in terms of music for the crowd at Carte Blanche 2014?

DJ Torch: Well, dolph it’s a carousel ride of music. Trap, Dubstep, Deep House, Tech, Techno, progressive house, electro house. It’s all there.

R: How is Carte Blanche different from you usual gigs?

DJ: This is different because I won’t be by myself, I’ll be sharing the decks with Brylle Aguilar and Wacky Masbad.

R: To you DJs, how important is Carte Blanche? 

Torch: Carte Blanche is the time to become the DJ that we originally started. It is expressing ourselves thru the music which we will be playing.

R: How are you preparing for CB?

Torch:  Lots of research involved. I am watching out for those commonly played tracks  from the popular music festivals around the world and trying to come up with a  different way of presenting that music.

R: How is Carte Blanche 2014 different from that of last year?

Torch: For one, the DJ lineup is bigger, we’re bringing in the biggest names in the EDM (Electronic Dance Music) industry  in the country.

R: How is it playing with the top DJs in the country? Being with them for Carte Blanche?

Torch:  It is always a privilege to share the stage with them. They are friends but you cannot help but become starstruck. Mga idols ko sila.

R: Do you think our local DJs has got what it takes to be at par with the top DJs in the country? What are areas for improvement?

Torch: Yes Dabawenyo DJs can be at par, there so much room to improve on and grow from. I think one area would be on the selection of music. As DJs we need to push the envelope further and keep the listeners guessing what music will be played next. When the listeners grow the DJs grow as well.

R: Tell me, why will I come to Carte Blanche 2014?

Torch: You have to be at Carte Blanche because this is our party. This is proudly Davao, proudly Mindanao. There is no other Dance Music Festival in Mindanao like this one and this only happens once a year. With a kind of line-up we have for Carte Blanche 2014, it can only get bigger in the coming years. Who would not want to be part of history? And who knows we might break last year’s attendance record of 10,000 attendees.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Mayor Duterte and the club sandwich

A few years ago then president Gloria Arroyo was visiting Davao and was billeted at Marco Polo Hotel.   Mayor Rody Duterte, after meeting the President  decided to chill for a while at  the Marco Polo’s lobby lounge. I together with 3 other media colleagues decided to join him for an interview.

While the interview was being conducted, club sandwiches were being served. One plate, then another plate and another plate of club sandwich arrived at our table. By the time the interview was finished and after having our very generous fill of club sandwiches we decided to leave and asked the mayor if we can be excused.

“Di pa naubos ang  sandwich, ubusin nyo, walang uuwi sa atin.” ( There are still club sandwiches left, finished them, no one leaves) The mayor said.

“Ipa-takeout nalang nato.” Suggested one mediaman.

“Hindi. ubusin niyo, walang masasayang na pagkain.” (No. finished it, no food shall be wasted.) He replied.

Seeing perhaps the fat guy in the group he then turned to me and said. “Dong. Kaya mo yan ubusin. (Boy, you can finish it)” which was seconded by my colleagues.

But I had my fill of club sandwiches, 3 plates were served for such a small group. There was a plate and a half left.

Umorder ka ng drinks.” The mayor said, and called the pretty waitress.

I asked for coke. And tried to finish the other plate. Now only one plate remained.

Di man na siya magdugay, muhawa lang na siya. Hawa ta paghawa niya. (He will not stay here that long, he will leave, we will also leave if he leaves.) A colleague whispered. We were counting on that the mayor will not have the patience to wait for us to finish the plate of club sandwich.

We were wrong. We waited for two more hours.

Dong ubusin mo na yan. Gusto ko na umuwi. he said yawning It was nearly 2 am.

By then I mustered all my appetite to finish the remaining sandwiches. 

Looking back it was a surreal scene, the mayor of a highly-urbanized city waited for me to finish a plateful of club sandwich. 

And that night as I swore never to eat the hotel's club sandwiches again, I also saw a glimpse of how a man's uncompromising leadership had transformed a city. 

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Flicks and Reruns: Sonata Maria

Ramon and Maria are erstwhile bandmates, one day their former bandmate Eric is set to return home from Manila, the three agree to meet up at the local carnival (karnabal). During the meet-up Eric's homecoming is delayed, leaving Ramon and Maria to spend the evening roaming around the carnival.

This is the main setting of the Davao indie film Sonata Maria, the carnival provides a rich visual language which filmmaker Bagane Fiola wishes to convey. The carnival glosses over the characters' anguish particularly Ramon Bonifacio (played by Krigi Hager) of living a boring routinary life buried under the excesses of a corporate rat race. His dreams provides his only escape and so is his memory- his suppressed feelings for Maria, the movie's setting marks the whirlpool meeting of Ramon's reality, dreams and memories.

Maria sort of plays a Manic Pixie Dream Girl, a cinematic character whose term was coined by film critic Nathan Robin.

According to Mr. Robin the MPDG “exists solely in the fevered imaginations of sensitive writer-directors to teach broodingly soulful young men to embrace life and its infinite mysteries and adventures.”

Among famous MPDG characters include Summer Finn of 500 Days of Summer (played by Zoey Deschanel), Penny Lane of Almost Famous (played by Kate Hudson), The Girl in My Sassy Girl (played by Jun Ji-hyun), Enid of the 2012 Cinemalaya indie film Ang Nawawala (played by Annicka Dolonius).

Maria played by PK Whittmer  existence in the story catapults the brooding Ramon out of his shell. The discussions between J.S Bach's music and poetry suggests a soulmate link between the two but there is a lingering distance between the characters and the wait for the dismantling of that gap between the two characters provides an engaging act for the audience, the filmmakers throws in a rich palette of visual, spoken and musical elements which makes this movie a class of its own among local indie films.

Sonata Maria will be shown on October 10, 11 am at Abreeza Mall Cinema 1. Rated R-16 by the MTRCB.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

A visit to the newly renovated Osmeña Park

Osmeña Park is a small park located adjacent to the Sangguniang Panglungsod Building bounded by Magallanes, CM Recto and San Pedro Streets.

The area was once the site of the original Christian settlement founded after Don Jose Uyanguren's conquest of Davao in 1848. The park is wedged between the oldest streets of the city, Claveria (now C.M. Recto) and San Pedro

Recently the City Government was concerned about the deteriorating conditions of the park. At night the unlighted area became the haven of indecent activities and some mendicants had taken residence inside the park. In some portions of the park, vendors have taken over by putting up food stalls which have become an eyesore.

Last summer the City Environment and Natural Resources Office (CENRO) poured in half- a million pesos to renovate the park that meant putting up lighting facilities, landscaping, fencing and rehabilitating the park's comfort rooms.

Last September 15, the newly renovated park was blessed with attendance of city government officials. A week after, I tried to visit the park and see the changes brought about by the renovation.

The park underwent relandscaping 

It is a shady oasis in the middle of a busy city.

Children's playground

Senior citizen's garden

among the plants at the park.

The park is now gated which prevents mendicants from taking residence in the park. The park is closed at night.

The chess club area was moved to a new nook inside the park

The comfort rooms inside the park were also rehabilitated.

Another attraction just across the park's Magallanes gate is Museo Dabawenyo (Davao City Museum)