a note, before i begin: during Alexis's wake i was sitting with digitaldaydream, pilya, sevenbohemia, sleeplessplanet and slambradley. we were reminiscing about the Livejournal days, which, compared to the Friendster, Facebook and Twitter days, were the happiest social networking days of our lives. a lot of my friendship with _fiction_ developed here, and i even made a tribute to him back in 2005. it only seems fitting that I return to LJ with this entry.
“So,” he says, holding up his fist as if he were holding a microphone--“what’s your favorite Stanley Kubrick movie?”
I’m thinking to myself, ‘oh my God. And I thought I was a dork’ as I stare in bewilderment at this tall and lanky teenager with short cropped hair who crouches in attention and periodically looks away while talking to me. He would then follow his older brother Chris around as they interviewed up-and-coming filmmakers for an Inquirer 2BU Special on new Philippine Cinema. It was the summer of 2001. It was the first time I met Alexis Tioseco.
After that I’d see him around the 2BU offices, since we both became writers for the section. Fellow writers nicknamed him Ardie, since he supposedly resembled an aardvark. Without fail, every time I’d run into him he’d do the same thing. He’d hold his fist up and go--
“Mr. Henares! Top 5 John Hughes films?”
“Mr. Henares! Godfather 1 or 2?”
“Mr. Henares! The Lord of The Rings is boring! Would you agree or disagree?”
Soon after we became part of a group who would gather at this food arcade in Ortigas every Wednesday to drink beer and talk about cinema and other people (mostly just other people). Since we were all very creative we came up with the most creative name: The Wednesday Group. This was where Alexis and I became friends, talking about everything from cinema to who the hottest girl in his then-campus UA&P was to hip-hop music. Around that time I released my first movie and found it touching how, being the very naive college kid he was, he’d champion it in forums and message boards like PinoyDVD and Pinoy Exchange. Even then you could see how much he loved cinema, writing away and making argument after argument about movies that were read by a total of 15 people.
And then he saw Lav Diaz’s Batang West Side, and his life was changed forever. Watching Lav’s opus prompted him to lead a life dedicated to furthering and promoting Filipino film. He wrote to film festivals and critics incessantly, asking them to watch certain movies he felt strongly about. He championed filmmakers like John Torres, Raya Martin and Sherad Sanchez before they made their first features. I asked him once why he didn’t pursue his dream of becoming a filmmaker. “This is where I can make a real difference,” he told me. “There are already so many great filmmakers. Why try to be one of them when I can help make their work known?”
A few years ago Alexis’s father, Boy Tioseco, passed away. His loving and warm family asked him to stay with them in Canada, where he grew up. After all, he wasn’t that interested in the family business anyway and he didn’t really have anything to stay for in Manila. He opted to stay, because he knew his place was here, and his work was here.
He loved Manila so much that he even convinced his girlfriend, fellow film critic and programmer from Slovenia, Nika Bohinc, to stay with him. And this, to me, was a love story of legend—two wonderful people who didn’t grow up here and didn’t have to stay made a decision to live in this country despite everything it was because of their love for each other, and their love for cinema.
And this is how we repay them.
I haven’t been able to sleep. This all just doesn’t make sense in my head. People who commit suicide have an air of finality around them, like they were ready to die. People who are sick give us time to grieve a little and be ready for their exit. Alexis and Nika were living life to the fullest, making plans and literally changing the world. You don’t just end a film in the middle of act 2. Even the vaguest, most challenging film by Alexis’s beloved Apichatpong Weerasethakul wouldn’t have that. It’s not proper storytelling, and it’s not the right way for two wonderful people dedicated to its masterful art to say goodbye.
It’s weird when someone you love is suddenly gone. You get these snippets of memories, remember insignificant details, and that’s what gets you crying. In the past two days I’ve had so many flashbacks, and they usually involve Alexis and Nika being really happy-- Alexis with that wide-eyed, mouth opened smile and Nika with her sly grin and raised eyebrow...
Alexis is making Lia and I edit his Amazing Race audition tape. In it, him and our friend Chris Costello go “i’m Chris. ½ Irish, ½ Filipino.” “I’m Alexis, ¼ Chilean, ¼ Italian, ½ Filipino.” “Together, we make 1 full Filipino!”.
Nika sees a bunch of giggly Assumptionistas screaming at each other next to her at Mag:Net. She turns her head, looks at me, and mimics their faces. I laugh uncontrollably. Every time we see each other after that we make that face.
Alexis is raving about chocolate polvoron. “I’ve had polvoron before,” he tells me, “but have you tried this chocolate polvoron? It’s ridiculous.” A few months later this obsession is replaced with one for Boy Bawang. That kind of lasts for 4 years.
I’m at Alexis’s house early in the morning for a Super Noypi shoot. I’m surprised to see him up and about. He sits on his father’s bed and puts in an obscure Eastern European film. He brings out his notebook and starts making notes. THIS IS AT SEVEN IN THE MORNING.
I catch Alexis and Nika buying tickets for Drag Me To Hell. I run up behind them and start shouting, “Are you two buying tickets for a film that is supposed to be entertaining?!” There is a look of shame in Nika’s face, followed by a defensive “we love all cinema, Quark” declaration from Alexis.
Nika is complaining about having food poisoning. “Oh my God my best friend for two days was the toilet bowl.” The cute little blonde then starts making vomiting motions.
I’m with Alexis and Cecile. After much prodding by Tioseco, we watch Godard’s Une Femme Est Une Femme. He ends up falling asleep. He always falls asleep.
I’m sitting in Alexis’s class, filled with eager students excited about the hot teacher and about being able to watch films in school. He announces that the first film will be a two-hour silent by Murnau. There is a collective groan.
After that I have my last ever dinner with Alexis and Nika. “Have you seen this thing on the internet? Keyboard cat? It’s crazy,” Alexis says, eyes wide, getting ready to launch another one of his monologues. Nika rolls her eyes and says, “oh no. This is not even funny.” He then goes on to talk about a scene from the gameshow “Where in The World is Carmen San Diego” and how Keyboard Cat expertly appears in the youtube vid to play off an annoying contestant. He may be internationally respected Alexis Tioseco, but to me he was still that lovable dork.
At the height of his career, when he was already flying around the world to judge for festivals, hanging with his idol Jonathan Rosenbaum and maintaining the renowned Asian cinema website Criticine, we weren’t really seeing eye to eye creatively. He called me a sellout during a public forum and also didn’t agree with me joining the Metro Manila Film Festival. Normally this would cause a rift between friends, but it didn’t affect our relationship in the slightest. Later that day we still ended up exchanging names to stalk on Facebook and debating on whether Wong Kar Wai really deserved all that praise. I think it’s because we both knew that the other was coming from a genuine love of cinema anyway, and that was the only thing that mattered, really. Alexis would go against all odds and fight the biggest names tooth and nail for what he believed in, and I’m proud he did that til the very end.
I told him once, when he started petitioning against the Metro Manila Film Festival back in 2005, "ano ka ba, Alexis? Don't you know there's no hope for the film industry? wag na tayong maglokohan." He answered, in his Canadian accent, "hay naku Quark. i will dedicate myself to changing your view on that."
And he did. He really did. Thank you, Mr. Tioseco.