I was nine years old, and literally didn’t know any better. I loved Hanging Tough, and knew every step in Step by Step by heart. I could also proudly sing Joe McIntyre’s “it’s just yooooou and meeeee” in perfect pitch. I watched the cartoon, and had a little NKOTB fan group with my grade school friends.
In the midst of this NKOTB lovefest a student came in from Boston. I instantly welcomed him to our fold, and asked him about his city, which is where the New Kids were from.
“NEW KIDS ON THE BLOCK!? YUCK! They passed by our school and I shot a spitball at Danny Wood. I hate those guys.”
This is how I met Ramon de Veyra, co-writer of Ang Nawawala. Being the impressionable 9 year-old I was, I instantly turned my back on NKOTB to join the cool kid. I was suddenly jumping around Maria Montessori grade school with Ramon singing the Beastie Boys’ Whacha Want. This continued on to high school, where we would spend hours on the phone talking about how life-changing Clerks was, or his obsession with Natalie Portman (he will kill me for saying this but he used to buy her perfume), or singing riffs off of Smashing Pumpkins songs because neither of us knew how to play the guitar.
And then there is Marie Jamora.
During my first year of college everyone would tell me that I had to meet Marie Jamora. “She edited the Eraserheads’ magazine, Pillbox!” “She has tons of CD’s!” “She writes for the Philippine Star!” Of course, I disliked her without even meeting her. Only one teenager in Ateneo could be friends with rock stars and have a cool CD collection, and it definitely shouldn’t be this Marie Jamora character.
I did meet her eventually, at Colayco Hall during a Ciudad performance. Suffice to say, we became besties instantly. She taught me all about emo in 1998, I experienced a David Fincher catharsis right beside her at a screening of Fight Club, and there was an almost-embarrassing incident talking to Wes Anderson at Momofuku (this, however, is Marie’s story to tell). We were regulars in each other’s houses, we took care of one another through our first heartbreaks, I wrote her yearbook write-up, and she wrote mine. We even have a band together called Blast Ople, and have been playing music for 14 years without proof of existence, unless you count our 24-member Facebook page.
Ramon met Marie separately, spontaneously conversing about The Sweet Hereafter. It was a scene worthy of belonging in their debut feature, and was the beginning of a great friendship and creative partnership. The two worked together on Project Runway Philippines Season One, and have done astounding things on their own. Marie is one of the most important music video directors in our country’s history, having done definitive pieces for artists like The Eraserheads (Maskara), Sandwich (DVD-X, Sugod, Food For The Soul), The Itchyworms (Buwan, Love Team) and Urbandub (First of Summer; Endless, A Silent Whisper). She’d also directed a number of amazing shorts; including Si Dexter Calliope at ang Ibong Adarna, my personal favorite Kaarawan, and Patayan/Pata ‘yan, an adaptation of a Roald Dahl short that in my opinion is better than Alfred Hitchcock’s version. Ramon wrote one-third of the feature film First Time, the best Captain Barbell script I’ve ever read (that was, sadly, never made), and some of my favorite episodes of AXN’s Mad Mad Fun and TV5’s Rakista. He is currently stirring up trouble as a contributing editor for esquire and music video director. After what seems like forever, they’ve made a movie together, and it’s called Ang Nawawala.
Ang Nawawala was a runaway hit at Cinemalaya, winning the audience award. Some critics have dismissed the film as being too burgis or upperclass. This, of course, is utterly ridiculous. I don’t hear the work of Kim Ki Duk being called “too social surrealist for a Korean film” or Amelie being “too entertaining for French cinema”. Art is best when it’s personal, when it’s honest; not when it fits into convenient little boxes of classification. And if you’ve read anything that has come before this paragraph Ang Nawawala oozes with the personal histories and philosophies of its creators. With such inspiring variety including Chris Martinez’s comedies and John Torres’s autobiographical fiction and now movies about the upperclass like The Animals and Ang Nawawala, Philippine cinema has evolved. Maybe it’s time some of the critics caught up.
I started this with the intent of writing another review of the film. Then I realized that
1) there are tons of wonderful insightful reviews about this film already (my favorite)
2) there is no way I can write something objective about this movie. When I see the characters going to gigs I see the times we would go to Mayric’s or Club Dredd, as kids who just loved music. When Gibson dresses up as Agent Dale Cooper I am reminded of the VHS (VHS!) Twin Peaks marathon Ramon, Marie and I went through. All of Enid and Gibson’s conversations about randomness and philosophies in life have some elements of our 4AM talks in parked cars about pop culture and life, which was more or less the same thing for us. There was even a WTF moment where seeing Ramon playing poker in the movie reminded me of… Ramon playing poker.
12 years ago I promised Marie that I would be the first to stand up and applaud, front and center, at the premiere of her first feature film. I sadly couldn’t do that, and instead had Marie show me Ang Nawawala at her house. Midway through the film is a scene where the lead character Gibson goes and gets beers for himself and his romantic interest. Marie decides to shoot this moment in a slow motion walking shot, which is peculiar for a filmmaker as restrained and precise as her. Then I realized why she did it—for Gibson, the simple, tiny act of getting something for someone he’s all kilig over means the world to him.
I turned to Marie, then I started bawling.
What are you doing?!
I’m… I’m so proud of you
Oh my God who has a camera?!
Don’t you dare take a picture of this.
But why are you crying?! It’s the happiest scene in the movie!
It took me a while to realize why, but this is my answer:
All her life Marie has been making beautiful things. Whether it’s her classic music video for Sandwich’s Sugod, a sweet Nikki Gil CloseUp commercial or her short film Quezon City, there is superior craftsmanship. Mostly she’s been making stuff for other people; be it the record label, her professors in Columbia University, or execs from multinational corporations. But in this specific frame, in this specific feature film, this was Marie putting her heart out there for everyone to see. And it really is the most beautiful thing she’s ever made.
Ang Nawawala comes out in theaters today. I can’t promise you that the movie will change your life, or that you’ll even love it like I do. But I can promise you this: this is Marie. And this is Ramon. And despite having met them in uniquely awesome ways, Ang Nawawala is the best introduction you’ll ever get to my two friends.
*Kat Velayo, a mutual friend who was the only other person in the room
much love and thanks to Neva for providing the title of this piece.