History of alternative cinema: Unsung no more
WHEN I stumbled upon its last Independence Day, June 12, 2022, Liza Diño-Seguerra, the President of the Film Development Council of the Philippines, insisted that I come to the book launch of the great Filipino film historian Nick Deocampo. , Alternative Cinema: The Unchronicled History of Alternative Cinema in the Philippines, the fourth volume in his history of cinema in the country. So, I obliged and managed to fit the lunchtime event between the various activities I had planned that day, the third out of seven.
I thought I would just be a spectator, staying just long enough to buy the book, but someone led me to a seat with my name on it next to the big names in Filipino cinema today, including the great Dik Trofeo, Aureus Solito, Ricky Davao and Mon confiado. Also in attendance were film historian Teddy Co, Professor Adjani Arumpac, Cecile Guidote-Alvarez, Raymond Red and Khavn de la Cruz, among others. Like them, I would receive one of the first copies for free! I was extremely grateful to Liza for making me feel like a million dollars with great honor. Although I don’t look like an actor, my personal involvement in film would be as a historical consultant and speaker at some film-related events.
The many guests from various persuasions are an indicator that despite the tumultuous relationship between outgoing President Rodrigo Duterte and the art world, Liza, as President of the FDCP, did her best to engage filmmakers from different political persuasions. . That day, I personally thanked her for “being for everyone”.
Mayo Baluyut of Tarlac City filming “The Elders” in 2004.
Dik Trofeo, Ricky Davao, Xiao Chua, Mon Confiado, Nick Deocampo and Liza Dino at the launch of Alternative Cinema. PHOTOS FROM THE CHUA ARCHIVES
The FDCP co-produced the book with University of the Philippines Press. I attended author Nick Deocampo’s previous training on film culture for the Center for New Cinema in 2011. I was shocked when he included my name in a wall of “Filipino Alternative Filmmakers” as as creator and screenwriter of the historical documentary “Maypagasa: Ang Bantayog ni Andres Bonifacio” in the Ayala Museum exhibition “Hidden Cinema: The Virtual Experience of Philippine Cinema’s Centenary” in 2018.
Most cinematic histories tend to focus on the mainstream commercial film industry, including some of Nick’s earlier major works. Alternative Cinema: The Unchronicled History of Alternative Cinema in the Philippines is an updated 888-page thick tome that not only chronicles, based on solid historiography, the history of independent cinema, but also serves as a self- ethnography, personal narrative and reflection on his involvement in this history, being a pioneer in what he considers to be the second alternative film movement that emerged amid the repression and censorship of the martial law regime of the first Marcos administration in the 1970s. Yet he also recorded the achievements and edified other filmmakers in his narrative, and also shed light on the indie scene in the provinces. With authoritative text and many rare personal images that would otherwise not be seen by the public, it only goes to show that Alternative Cinema: The Unchronicled History of Alternative Cinema in the Philippines is a priceless and believable work.
I would, however, like to add some of the little-known contribution of my province Tarlac to Filipino alternative cinema. The book mentions Carlo Obispo de Camiling, Tarlac, who created several short films before writing the script for the movie “Bonifacio: Ang Unang Pangulo” and other television series.
In 2002, I played the role of a person with mental illness in “Talos”, one of the first short films by Tarlac filmmaker, artist and musician Mayo Baluyut. This was followed by ‘A 4some Affair’ (2003) and ‘The Elders’ (2004), inspired by ‘Strangebrew’ airing on cable channel UNTV at the time, in which I was also one of the protagonists. The first two films I helped him edit via the linear method using two VHS players. He transitioned to digital cinema, eventually entered the Asia Pacific Film Institute under National Artist Marilou Diaz-Abaya and went on to create a touching film about our unsung and beloved janitors, “Manong Juni, Okay Lang ‘Yan” (2007) with the teachers of our primary school, TFBCS.
Baluyut’s film “Talos” aired on a local FunTV cable show in 2002, an alternative production created by Dax Simbol, Philip Gatdula, Rad Daquis, Bogs del Rosario, Tet Valdebarona, Jocelyn Ayensa and Omeng Ibarra, OJTs of AB Journalism at Tarlac State University. Dax eventually joined Chug Cadiogan (now a popular wedding cinematographer), Neil Mendoza, Rein Bonifacio and Ting de Leon to create then-rare Tarlac documentaries for local Hi-Tech cable from 2004- 2005. They even won awards at the Philippine Cable and Telecommunications Association Inc.
Simbol, today at the Tarlac Provincial Tourist Office, testifies: “Personally, it was the passion to share stories at the time. It was the support available at the time. We had a talented team …” Before, it was only the Manila Networks that created these kinds of documentaries.
This is just the beginning of discovering more unknown stories of independent cinema!