VIRGIN LABFEST 13 Review: Set B

It’s that time of the year again folks! Our favorite play fest, Virgin Labfest, is on again at the Cultural Centre of the Philippines. VLF is now 13 years old, and this year, it features 12 plays which were carefully chosen among the 192 scripts submitted.

I decided to watch Set B last Friday night and I was just astounded to see what VLF has become now compared to what it was when I started watching three years ago. There’s undeniably more people and longer lines outside the theater waiting enthusiastically for the shows this year. It has a new home as well in Aurelio Tolentino Theater, which was converted into an intimate venue, and it is much bigger than the usual home of VLF at Huseng Batute. Huseng Batute is now reserved for the Revisited Set E shows.

The festival has truly grown from its humble beginnings in 2005!

Boses ng Masa

Playwright: Joshua Lim So

Director: Guelan Luarca

The first thing you will notice in this play are the monitors set up on and beside the stage. These monitors started the performance and quickly grabbed the curiosity of the audience with a quote from Umberto Eco’s Essay, How to Recognize a Porn Film. The play is set in 1994 and revolves around two members of an election campaign team and their moral conscience. Their candidate is lagging behind the polls but they have uncovered a sex abuse video involving their political rival’s son. Chris (Jerome Dawis) is hesitant to use the video for the election and rub salt to the wound of the victim’s family, however, Hector (Renan Bustamante) is feeling otherwise.

The first to middle part of the play was a little dragging. The script is really smart and wants to tell a lot of things and I really do not know what went wrong. Maybe it was the directing or the acting but it sure was less than what it should feel. Bustamante gave a powerful performance, but for Dawis, I think he can work more on his acting because there were times when it felt like his movements were so calculated and he didn’t look natural on stage.

Things got better towards the end. The end, specifically, was the most show stealing moment and would really make the audience think about their own morality if they were the characters themselves. Boses ng Masa is your common political play, but its message will never get old. It paralleled the rape of a woman to the rape of our country and the question is, until when can we tolerate this?

 

Ang Mga Puyong

Playwright: Ryan Machado

Director: Ricardo Magno

With a story setting I’ve seen a couple of times before in other plays, I initially had low expectation from this performance. On the contrary, it turned out to be my favorite among the performances that night!

It started with a charming rural scene in which Andoy (Reynald Santos) was on a rice field listening to romantic radio dramas and writing stories on his notebook when Pido (Ahmed Maulana) came; and their conversations turned from just merely deciding if they will get circumcised, to darker confessions about their past.

This play reminded me of VLF 10’s Sa Lilim, written by Reya Laplana. Both plays involve two young people in a rural setting having awkward confrontations. However, Ang Mga Puyong is undeniably more well-written and fun than Sa Lilim. The strength of plays like these most often lies within the performance of the actors, and that exactly where Ang Mga Puyong hit the jackpot. Santos and Maulana had a really good rapport. Santos, specifically, had a radiating charm on stage. It is worth noting how the play successfully portrayed the real life banter between normal kids. Even the darker topic of the play was treated like how real kids would treat it; which is something that they will quarrel about but something that would also fade out a little while until they become friends again. The directing choices did not disappoint as well. Every blocking and movement was consistent to the context of the play.

With all the complexities and wide range of emotions, Ang Mga Puyong truly felt like a wonderful wild ride.

 

Hindi Ako Si Darna

Playwrights: U.Z. Eliserio and Maynard Manansala

Director: Andoy Ranay

The most publicized and star-studded play this year is about the iconic superhero, Darna (Tetchie Agabayani), in her sixties wearing a conservative white sleeping gown. In addition to that, it is also about a perky waitress (Kim Molina), an old Kapitan Barbell (Jay Gonzaga), a still petulant Ding (Ricci Chan), a drug addict (Ekis Jimenez), and a flamboyant Valentina (John Lapus).

Honestly, the first part of the play was confusing. I mean I was like, what is going on with these pointless conversations? Until those pointless conversations turned into seemingly commentaries which have current social and political relevance. The writer gave a slap on topics like the war on drugs and women empowerment in a very loud and resounding way. Even if it features a person dealing with old age, the play still had this very young and pop vibe. It was also the most animated among the three plays in that set.

Gonzaga, Chan, Jimenez and Lapus were the ones who really kept the momentum of laughter. Nevertheless, I give credit to Agabayani for showing the different and more fun side of her. Let’s also not forget about the outstanding singing parts of Molina. She really has it!

The only problem I have with this play is that it seems to have no solid story at all. It felt like a series of social commentaries and funny banters that were put together. But still, whatever it turned out to be, it was still entertaining.

 

VLF is truly one of a kind experience. Go catch these performances and the other plays as well until July 16! See you folks at the theaters!

Sunday Beauty Queen Film Thoughts

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One thing about documentary films is that every story takes a really long time to develop and a filmmaker always has to guess what will come next. He or she does not need any special talent but just an ability to see right through the subject and capture not only its façade but its inner truths as well. That’s what Babyruth Villarama has achieved in Sunday Beauty Queen.

In one scene, you would see all these beautiful OFWs all dressed up and glamorous on a beauty pageant stage where they battle for recognition. But what are their real battles beyond the stage?

In the film, Hazel Perdido, a domestic helper in Hong Kong for eight years, watches her daughter’s graduation on her phone while fighting back tears. Cherrie Mae Bretana, who has been in Hong Kong for four years, spends more time taking care of her young charge Hayden than his parents ever do; and the boy’s obvious attachment to her makes it difficult for her to leave to another country with greener pastures. Mylyn, on the other hand, is taking care of an entertainment industry mogul who lives alone despite having several daughters and grandchildren. Meanwhile, Leo, a sassy lesbian, is dedicating his life in helping OFWs in Hong Kong by organizing beauty pageants that raise funds for them.

The subtle editing cuts back and forth between the subjects and clearly balances the ugly and beauty truths of living and working in a foreign land. Honestly, these truths are not new to us since there were some films about OFWs already made in the past such as Anak in 2000 and Caregiver in 2008. However, compared to those films, Sunday Beauty Queen presents this story without acting and formulated heavy dialogues. It’s not pretentious. It’s the raw perspective and that’s what makes it feel a genuine and special watch.

The film presents stories of ironies with the Department of Tourism sponsoring these beauty pageants for OFWs to welcome foreigners to the Philippines while its own citizens are leaving the country; and with Filipinas taking care of foreign children like parents when they can’t even take care of their own kids back home. Scorer Emerzon Texon’s gentle melodies perfectly brings the audience to the depths and heights of these realities. I must note that the ending credits song, Panahon ng Pagkakataon by Chlara Bear, is a perfect finale to sum up all the emotions you felt while watching the film from that one day that these OFWs could be themselves and be happy with friends to that bus ride home worrying if they will make it to the deadline set by their employers.

It would be a mistake though to expect Villarama’s documentary to have an entertainment value like the other MMFF 2016 entries have. What I actually mean here is, more than focusing on entertaining, it focused on touching people which I think is what the audience need more than just pure entertainment from films these days.

I know one documentary can’t hit all the important spots of a big social issue like this and Sunday Beauty Queen certainly did not; but Dexter dela Pena’s cinematography was enough to create a picture that evokes the feeling of familiarity and foreignness of working abroad. In the end, the perspective that working abroad is one of the saddest struggles facing many Filipinos today was not lessened or severed; the film just emphasized that each of them can make the best out of their conditions and thus it wrapped on a heartwarming note. It was so heartwarming that I think a lot of OFWs and their families felt a little bit closer even just for a while through these stories.

12 Practical Tips For TV Commercial Production Assistants

Hi reader! So you’re an aspiring film maker like me? And you are looking all over the web to know how to start off in this industry. Anywhere you go, it seems that everyone tells you that the best suggestion for this is always to get a job as a production assistant. It’s the famous starting point!

Well as you may and may not know, production assistants are not exclusive to film productions. These all around workers exist in film, television, commercial or any video production. Once you get a PA job in any of these video productions, it would not be that difficult to jump to any of the other types of production. There will be just some differences in the way you do things in each type but the skills you need are always the same.

In this article however, I shall discuss to you some really important tips that people may not tell you when you are a production assistant in a manner more specific to the process of TV or DIGITAL COMMERCIAL PRODUCTION. So here we go:

  1. Your phone is the most important thing in your life now

Always keep it around and always never go out of load! You would not want to experience an urgent matter at midnight where you have to contact people and not be able to find your phone or discover you do not have any load. Well lucky for you if you’re on a post-paid plan. If so, make sure to keep it that way. As a production assistant you’ll be responsible on relaying messages to almost everyone involved in the shoot; members of the production team, bosses, producers, admin staff, suppliers, caterers or any food establishment, and even service drivers! Be extra patient with service drivers, contacting them can really be a headache at times! Going to war without a gun is deadly, so take extra note of this!

  1. Taking down notes should be your hobby

Unless you’re a genius who remembers every single detail or information you receive then go ahead and don’t mind this tip but if you’re not, this is a must! Clients, the ad agency people and the producer all have different ideas and most of them quickly change their minds so if you won’t be able to take note of every changes then your preparations would be in ruins.

  1. It’s time to be a food lover

This may sound exciting because, well, to be honest there’s an abundance of food in this line of work. However, you’ll be the one to order and prepare everything. You should know the perfect food establishments or food providers where you can order for all kinds of meetings, for the shoot, for offline or online presentations and such. Know what your client and other bosses want to eat. Know the menu, services and prices of the food provider. Believe me, in this industry, if you serve good food, everyone will like you!

  1. Keep a document bag around

Don’t think you won’t deal with papers with this kind of job. Storyboards, pre-production agreements, call slip, attendance sheet, service request forms, requisition slips, liquidation sheets, and cash vouchers are just few of the papers you’d have to deal with. Dude, you’ve been warned!

  1. Liquidation sheet is the key to your pay slip

Unless you’re finish liquidating all your expenses, your full pay slip will be crawling its way to you so always make it a point to finish liquidating as early as you can. As I talk about expenses here, you should also budget the money of the project wisely. Remember, it’s not your money, so return whatever is left and better be extra careful and honest in the way you handle it.

  1. Save every contact

Every person you meet in this industry could help you with your future endeavors so always make it a point to save their contact numbers, emails or office addresses. Expanding your contacts will give you more options in choosing the people that could be best to work with in the future.

  1. Be a coffee-lover

Or if you can’t, take some Berocca during sleepless days. It’s like a vitamin tablet and you can get it in drugstores nearby. Trust me, coffee and Berocca could save you or if not, just steal some nap for goodness sake!

  1. Camera, Lights, Action!

Before the director could say that, of course you’d need cameras and lights, therefore, you need to book for those because it’s part of your job. Know the camera types and specs that you would need for the shoot. Be familiar with Arri Alexa cameras, Phantom, Weiss, Blackmagic, Red and the others. For lights, start getting to know Arrisun, CMC, Kino Lights, Xenon 1K-7K and such. Knowing these things will help you book/rent the right equipment and if the best option is not available, then you would always know some good alternatives as well. Anyway, DOPs and directors would also have their preferred equipment.

  1. Tick tock tick tock, mind the time!

Getting the job done on schedule is one of the best work attitude you could have. This is an extremely fast paced job so you would not want to be left behind. Be time conscious all the time, people are depending on it!

  1. Be a talk show host if you must

You don’t need to take this tip seriously if you’re not the type to but dude I’m telling you, being a good conversant will open doors for you. Of course, don’t do this during serious work hours. Find the right time to talk to people. It may be a client, an ad agency member, your producer or even the service drivers or caterers! Learn from people through this and also try to impart something to them. This will help you work easily with them and will be like building good relationships that could help your future in this career.

  1. Think ahead

You should always be ahead of everyone. Think whatever it is that you will need before people ask for it. During shoots, you should already be setting up the next scene even before everyone finishes shooting the current one. This will save a lot of time I swear.

  1. Take a dose of patience

Why buy water or make coffee for anyone? Why should I be opening doors for people? Why do I have to clean stuffs? These questions would often times cross your mind and will eventually make you pity yourself. Let’s be honest here, you will really experience these things as a PA but if this is really the career you want to pursue, be patient my friend, someday it will all just be funny memories!

Do you also have any experience as a PA? I want to hear it. Let me know by commenting there below! Thank you!

Paradise and My Wandering Soul

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Hi reader. I’m going to take you back four months ago when I was still a bum with some serious self-esteem problem. It’s good that I can actually write about it now since anyway time had passed already. Well, I can say that I am that kind of writer, I let a story develop and go through time first before I share it with anyone.

So going back, as I said, I had no job and I was in a state where I wanted to get away. I was burnt out for four years in college and I felt I needed to find inspiration first before I go through another few years of stress and hard work.

Honestly I did not know what I wanted to find and then I thought maybe I did not really want to find anything but instead, I wanted to get lost. The right opportunity came and there I went leaving everything behind.

A high school friend of my mom suddenly visited her and after a few conversations, I was already set to go with her to Polillo Island in Quezon province where she lives. Mom can’t go because of work and my siblings were too busy with some other things. It was a hasty decision but it was something I’m glad I did.

We departed the night after her visit and we rode a rented van to Real Port in Quezon where we rode a wooden passenger boat, “Lantsa,” to Polillo Island. It took us 3 hours to reach the port and during that time I can’t get to sleep with all the thoughts running in my mind. I felt nervous at first because it was the first time that I didn’t have a mother who will prepare all my travel needs for me or look after me. I also doubted if I will have fun since I didn’t have sisters or friends who I can share beautiful experiences. But I was still determined to be anywhere far from the busy life of the city.

We arrived at Real Port at 3 am but had to wait because the first travel of the boat to Polillo was at 5:30 am. On the boat, the film Around the World in 80 Days was being shown. It is about a London inventor who circumnavigated the world and engaged in an adventure that discovered the most exotic places in the world. The film brought up the exciting and adventurous vibe to my trip. I finally started to relax at that moment. The beautiful sunrise and the morning air that wildly blew my hair as our motorized boat went farther to the sea calmed my mind. That was more than enough to feel good.

After an hour, we were already in Polillo Island. Tita Myrna, my mom’s friend, is the cousin of the mayor of Polillo and so I had the privilege to live inside the house of the mayor for a week. Tita Myrna wants what’s best for me obviously. The mayor, Tita Cristina, has a resort and that’s also where her house is. I had the most comfortable and fun time there with all the fishing, kayaking, and seaside dinners that I had.

Tita Cristina and her family are really simple and down to earth. Their house looks like every normal house that you would see in Manila and they dress up like every normal resident of the island. I hope every politician in the country and their families could learn from the simplicity of the ones in small provinces and probably avoid using the people’s money on unnecessary things.

The islands in Polillo are mostly untouched which makes it a paradise for beach bums. White sands, large coral reefs, and the clear water are just some of the things you should expect when you get there. The allure of the island triggers a lot of story ideas for a writer like me. I was in awe to witness these heaven made places that it’s such a shame not to tell stories about it and share it with people. I hope modernization will never find out about places like this and will forever be a place for escape.

Burdeos, the town next to Polillo where we went island hopping, is just as pristine. Other than white sand beaches, there are also spectacular caves, underdeveloped waterfalls, mangrove forests, fish and bird sanctuaries and pearl farms resting on its islands.

Burdeos is an hour drive away from Polillo. It could have been shorter if the roads aren’t rough and bumpy. Anyway, we then arrived to Sabang Pier where island hoppers get boats and boatmen for their travel.

So our boat finally sailed to the islands of Burdeos. I imagined it like I will sail around the world and the islands will be like the continents. It was surreal. Our first destination was Pulong Buhangin. From a far, you would immediately recognize it with the coconut leaves that were put up to look like a resting area for visitors, though you could hardly rest under it. The islet disappears during high tide and looks really isolated from the others. I kind of felt at home at that small piece of land because just like it, I felt isolated from everyone at that time.

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Pulong Buhangin

The next destination is the famous Anilon Island. This island is a must for island hoppers in Burdeos because of the scenic tunnel-like cave that has a natural beauty of a panoramic perfect arch view. It also has a long coastline of golden beach sand and a wide plain of sea bed rocks that is home to rich aquatic life. We walked through a small forest before reaching the cave and I was quite surprised to see inhabitants and a few wooden houses in an isolated island like that. If the world gets really cruel, I think I would just live there too.

Anilon Island

We had lunch at a nearby island, Anawan. It’s just 30 minutes away from Anilon and you could actually still see the famous cave from there. Anawan is famous for its very fine white sand and it’s actually considered as the “Boracay of Burdeos.” But better be extra careful here because it is also believed to have snake inhabitants.

Anawan Island

After Anawan, it was a long boat ride to Malaguinoan Island Grotto. I took pleasure in watching the sea bed as the boat run through it. It is such an unbelievable thought that I was actually above a world where amazing species are living and along with a classical tune by Joe Hisaishi for one of Hayao Miyazaki’s films, I felt life was so magical right there and then. Did you ever felt grateful just to be able to open your eyes and marvel at such wonders?

Going back, Malaguinoan Island Grotto features the rock formation (stalagmite) that resembles the face of the Blessed Virgin Mary. It is the most visited site in the town during Lenten season. I just felt sad because some of its rock formations have vandalism. My name, “Kimberly,” was also written as a vandalism but I swear I had nothing to do with it. Why do people even touch things they do not own? Nature was never ours and it will never be ours.

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Malaguinoan Island

The last island is Binunbunan Island or what they also call, “The Burger Island.” It is a round shape island surrounded by golden sand. They say that it has the best swimming spot among the islands around. I took a walk on its long sandbar and took pleasure as the incoming high tide swallow it and at that moment, I wanted to swallow me as well, as I fear that my travel will end soon and I had to finally leave that place.

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Binunbunan Island

Anyway, island hopping was a success!

The night before I went back to Manila, Mayor Cristina was invited to a wedding and she tagged me along with her. It was really cool to see that this kind of wedding is still held today. It was like a fiesta. The festivity went with me to sleep until I woke up to pack my bags and head to the port.

The boat ride away from Polillo was more beautiful than the one going there. I stood on the deck at the back of the wooden passenger boat where you could see the whole Polillo and Burdeos Island while the sun is rising behind it. It was one of the most handsome sunrise I have ever seen in my life. It felt like a new beginning for me. Finally, the start of my adult life. The whole view was as if telling me, “Goodbye for now, I hope I made you happy. I hope I’ve given you joy and memories that could fuel you whenever life gets hard from now on. You’ve rested well, now go and do what you have to do, but come back the next time you have the chance. I’ll be here. Just forever here.”

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I send my love to that paradise and to all the other paradise I will discover next. I’ll work hard I promise until I have enough money to stay there forever.

 

 

Ikaw na Sumandal sa Akin

Oo, ikaw. Ikaw kuya na may glasses at naka-polo na white na mahimbing na natutulog at naka-sandal sa akin sa loob ng UV Express van pauwi ng Cavite. Ang payapa siguro ng araw mo no kaya ang payapa rin ng mukha mo habang natutulog sa balikat ko. Hindi naman ikaw ang unang tao at lalaki na sumandal sa akin habang bina-baybay ng barumbadong van driver ang ma-traffic na kalsada ng Maynila. Marami na kayo at sanay na ako. Pero kuya bakit ngayon pa. Bakit ngayong araw na to na para bang ang bigat-bigat ng mundo, dumagdag ka pa, edi wow. Kung gising ka lang, sana napansin mong iba ang tunog ng singhot ko, hindi yung tipong may sipon lang kundi singhot ng taong hirap sa kakaiyak.

Pag-tungtong pa lang ng van mapula na ang mga mata ko sa kakaiyak habang naglalakad papuntang terminal. Pasalamat na lang ako at gabi na at hindi bukas ang ilaw ng van kaya’t hindi mo siguro nakita ang malulungkot kong mga mata. Pero sana nga nakita mo na rin para naman nahiya kang sumandal at dumagdag sa aking pasanin di ba.

Siguro masaya ka ngayong araw na to? Pagod—-obviously, pero masaya. Siguro kaka-hire mo lang at yang magandang white polo mo ang nagdala. Ako rin may raket. Kahit freelance work to, feeling ko first job ko na rin to alam mo ba? Pero yun na nga ang problema, unang sabak ko to. Wala pa kong masyadong alam, inexperienced, baguhan at madalas nagmumukhang tatanga-tanga. Hindi ko naman sinasadayang ganon ang mangyari. I try my very best to avoid it. Pero ganon talaga eh pag bago sayo ang lahat. Sino ba ang hindi?

Ngayong araw lang akong umiyak nang ganito, pagbiyan mo na ako. Nawala ako sa comfort zone ko eh. Sobrang laking adjustment ang ginagawa ko. Alam mo ba yung adult world anxiety? Parang kelan lang ang secured ng buhay ko sa school knowing na marami akong masasandal tulad ng pamilya, kaibigan at kahit na mga propesor. Pero sa real world, para kang sinabak sa arena na kahit tinuruan ka namang lumaban, hindi pa rin sapat dahil first time mo nga, hindi mo pa nasusubukan kung kaya mo ba talaga. Kala ko ang galing galing ko na nung nasa unibersidad ako. Kala ko isa ko sa mga kakaiba. Pero sa mas malaking mundo ng matatanda, isa ka lang bagong mukha na maraming akala. Bawat mali ko na nagawa sa trabaho ay naging dahilan para isara ng boss ko sa mukha ko ang pinto at yang mga mali na yan ang bagahe na dala ko pauwi ngayong gabi.

Sana wala kang dala-dalang kaparehong bitbitin. Pero mga ilang araw mula ngayon ganito rin ang magiging sitwasyon mo; parang tangang umiiyak sa loob ng madilim na van habang ang lahat ay payapang natutulog at malamang ay nasa alapaap na. Maari ring mali ako at mas mabigat pa ang problema mo sa akin ngayon at maaring mali rin ako na iyakan ang ganitong problema na kumpara sa problema ng iba ay mukhang butil lang ng bigas. Pero hayaan mo na ako. Ngayon lang. Magiging okay din ako.

Kaya sige sumandal ka lang. Kaya ko naman siguro ang bigat. Hindi na rin naman ito siguro magtatagal, dahil ilang minuto na lang ay matatapos na ang byahe, bababa ako at bababa ka na. Matatapos din ang lahat.

Hey Jude

A new story from my other blog. If you have time please do read my other stories! Thank you!

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One Tuesday night, Jude was walking on his way home with his bag full of dirty clothes. He has not been home for three days and with the mere sight of their house door, Jude’s knees start to feel weak. Before he entered their house, he stopped for a while to take a look at the figure of a man sitting inside. It was Jude’s father, John. Jude thought that his father looks so calm on this particular view but Jude already knew that it would not be the case anymore as soon as he opens the door.

Jude took one last deep breath as he finally enters inside. As soon as his mother, Cynthia, saw him, she immediately hugged Jude. Jude returned the embrace and slowly turned to his father. Right then, Jude knew the look of death with his father’s gaze.

“Where the hell did you came from this…

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