Tags: personal

breaking bad, heisenberg

Golden Eagle Film Festival Opening Remarks

Cal State LA recently asked me to make the opening remarks for their Golden Eagle Film Festival (no,I don’t know why either). I was initially going to talk about filmmaking in the third world, but what I did end up writing was something surprisingly more reflective than I’d wanted it to be. Note: when I talk about “The Film Industry” I considered only studio films because “industry” connotes “films made with the purpose of making money”. But really, that’s not the point of this. The last thing I want is for people to misconstrue this as one of those “OPM is dead”-type things. It’s really more of a document of the State I’m in; both literally and figuratively.

So I don’t really know why I’ve been asked to talk to you today. Not only am I not from here, but I’m what some may consider a deserter, or a traitor to the cause. Let me introduce myself—my name is Quark Henares, and I am a filmmaker from the Philippines. I’ve made a bunch of music videos and commercials, a couple of TV shows and four-and-a-half films. I considered myself having the best job in the world, and yet, the day after the premiere of my last movie, I left everything behind to go to business school. There were many reasons behind this, but one of the big ones was our dying industry. In my ten years in the Philippine film industry we went from making more than a hundred movies a year to just around 25. What used to be the third biggest producer of movies in the world, making everything from action to fantasy to romance to protest films just started focusing on two genres: horror and romantic comedies— because they were cheap, and they had mass appeal. The more movies I made, the less soul they had in them, and there are few things more heartbreaking than losing joy in something you love. That’s when I thought to myself that maybe I could help more as a suit, a corporate guy who understands and respects creative people rather than as a single creative individual. And what better place to study the business of entertainment than the center of it all: Hollywood.

But then I came here, and learned that the exact same thing was happening in the US. Things get scary when you see a trailer for the latest film by a master like Terence Malick only to be followed by an announcement that it’ll be available on iTunes the same day it gets released in theaters. People have been saying that TV is a more exciting medium these days, and I’d tend to agree. Most movies currently released by studios are “tentpole” films or “four-quadrant films” and the fact that these terms even exist, that marketers have classified movies into demographics and target markets, does not bode well for the medium we know and love. While it’s the scariest time to enter the entertainment industry, it’s also the most exciting time. All the rules are changing, and the recent successes of House of Cards andArrested Development on Netflix or sites like Funny or Die are simply proving that maybe we don’t need TV networks or traditional media when it comes to consuming or creating quality content. Maybe you’ll upload one of these films tomorrow and they’ll end up having more views than the latest episode of Modern Family. It’s completely possible. I mean, if it happened to Psy it could happen to you.

Today, in a few minutes, you will have one of the happiest moments in your life. Many of you will feel, for the first time ever, what it’s like to experience something you toiled over and worked so hard for with a huge audience. You will laugh with them, you will cry with them. You will hear that silence when something dramatic and poignant comes onscreen. And this very special moment can only happen with cinema. As opposed to a play or a concert, where you’re performing for an audience; or a TV show or book where your audience is experiencing your work in the comfort of privacy, cinema is the only medium where you can experience your work with your audience en masse. I remember experiencing that for the first time during my own short film screening when I was in college, and I have to confess I became addicted to that feeling. And that’s when I realized I wanted to become a filmmaker for the rest of my life.

And yet, with this comes the hard realization—from this point onward, your film is no longer yours. And no matter how hard I try to convince you of this, you will never truly be able to accept it. I know, because I’ve been trying myself for a decade, and I still can’t. This is when you will also start going through that weird phase – a phase that only other artists—ESPECIALLY artists who work in pop culture, go through. Because no matter how much praise or accolades you receive—just one blog entry, one 140-character tweet, could ruin your day. And you will doubt yourself, and you may go so far as to question your value as an artist or the validity of your voice.

So I guess the only advice I can really give you is this: in the end, it comes down to the relationship between you and your work. As counter-intuitive as it may seem, you have to make your work for yourself. You have to be true to your voice. Granted, you’remaking movies for an audience, but if you yourself are not happy then why bother? In ten years you will forget the reviews, good and bad. You will forget the fanfare, and the press, and whatever controversy may have accompanied your movie. All you will have is you and your film. And the question, then, will be “can I stand by my film?” Will I be able to show this to the person I’m in a relationship with ten years in the future and be proud; because it represents me, or at least represents a big part of me at a certain time in my life?

And this is what I wish of you. It will be a struggle: you will work long hours and lose a lot of money and wonder if it was all worth it. You will get your heart broken many, many times. I just hope that once in a blue moon you will make something that is worth it to you, whether critics or audiences think it’s good or bad. Then in the year 2080 your grandkids can show it to your great grandkids and go “you see that? That was your great grandpa.” Good luck, and congratulations on being creators today.

nottodie

Ang Natagpuan (What is Found)

Guilty confession: I was a big New Kids on The Block fan.

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.
sunday grabe sunday
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.
1998. it took me all i had to post this picture
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.
blast ople
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.
ramon marie annicka
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.

MARIE
What are you doing?!

ME
(cries)
I’m… I’m so proud of you

KAT*
Oh my God who has a camera?!

ME
(still crying)
Don’t you dare take a picture of this.

MARIE
(laughs)
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.
ang nawawala
*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.
breaking bad, heisenberg

My Home of NU Rock

“Hey. You shaved,” Trish the DJ tells me as I enter the booth the day before NU107’s closing. I’d had a full beard for about a year, you see, and now I was clean shaven.

“Yeah. I don’t know why. I woke up this morning and I felt I had to do something, anything. To commemorate the passing. You ever feel that? “

“Oh, you mean like this?” I look to the left corner and see Jay, another DJ, seated, leaning forward on his office chair, getting his back tattooed.

This is why I love NU 107.

I’d been part of NU before it was even born. My mother, in her teens, was a big fan of radio stations like 99.5 RT and she would befriend many of the DJs. Before they got married, she told my father Atom Henares that it was her dream to own a radio station. For 6 years nothing was mentioned, and my mother dismissed it as just another one of her pipe dreams. Then one day he came to her and said that he was ready. She contacted one of her DJ friends, Mike Pedero, and with Atom the two built NU107. I remember my father telling me that we were going to have a radio station, and I was quite excited even though I was a 7 year old whose knowledge of music was limited to Menudo. At that age I’d eat anything up without care for labels or genres. We’d listen to the test broadcasts and I instantly had my favorites, among them Sting’s “Englishman in New York” and R.E.M.’s “It’s The End Of The World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine)”. I pride myself in having good taste back then, despite what Erwin Romulo might say. One day Cris Cruise, the station manager finally went on the air. These were his words:

“NU107 is DWNU FM at 107.5 Megahertz in Makati. A member of the KBP, this is NU107. We are signing on.”

The radio station people were wondering about for months finally had a name. Soon after the phone went off the hook, filled with people who had no intention aside from telling the DJs that they were doing a good job.

One of my favorite early memories of NU107 was singing along with my dad and my 4 year old sister Cristalle to her favorite song, The Boomtown Rats’ “I Don’t Like Mondays”. She’d perk up whenever she’d hear the opening piano roll, getting ready to “shoo hoo hoo hoo hoo hoooot the whole day down!” We had a radio station, and for a 7-year old that was the coolest thing in the world. Come to think of it, at the age of 30 I still think it’s the coolest thing in the world.

As I got older I kind of rebelled, spending my allowance on cassette tapes of MC Hammer and Wilson Philips instead of rock n’ roll. My love for rock returned when I was a high school freshman. I’m a bit ashamed to admit this, but it was Soul Asylum and 4 Non-Blondes who turned me back onto rock. At the time NU was focusing more on classic rock, but I soon managed to convince my dad to close in on the new stuff. Soon after NU started playing music by Pearl Jam, Nirvana, The Gin Blossoms, Eraserheads and Rivermaya on a regular basis. At the age of 13 I was helping program a radio station, and I was ecstatic.

The summer after freshman year I started working at NU. I answered phones, took down requests, jotted down votes for the countdown. I’d hack into the playlist program and change the names of songs, turning The Breed’s “Black Mercedes Benz” into “Charlie is a Piggy”. Everyone hated me, and I remember that one of the DJs, Roxy, had to sit me down and give me a piece of her mind.

The people from that batch of NU—Claire, Cris, Francis, Roxy, Janet, Charlie, Wicket, Marcelline, Camille and Myrene, were the ones closest to me. And I feel, in a weird way, that I was raised by the village (or station, to be more apt). When I had my first prom I didn’t look to my parents to get dressed up, I went straight to the lovely ladies of NU. I’d visit Myrene every day to tell her stories about the high school teacher I was stalking, and Wicket scanned her photo and enlarged it for me (I was a weird kid). I even confessed my love to someone once, in NU107. She was a DJ who I’d gotten very close to and would visit every day. Thing is, she was always with her best friend. One day I thought, “screw this. I’m confessing, even if her best friend’s around.” And so I did it -- a major confession by an 18-year old in the DJ booth in between commercial breaks and a 40 minute rockathon. I was rejected, only to find out later that she was actually in a relationship with the aforementioned best friend. Who was a girl.

And then there were the shows. Zach and Joey never failed to make me laugh with their on-air antics. Francis Reyes gave the band I managed, Ciudad, the thrill of our lives when he first played us on “In The Raw”. Myrene changed my life forever with her radio show, “Not Radio”. I remember tuning in because I wanted to hear her debut the new Pearl Jam, and instead I found a wealth of new, different music by bands like the Pixies, Sleater-Kinney, Guided by Voices and Pavement. Until now I call Myrene my unofficial mother, and I dedicated my first movie to her and Diego, thanking them for making me who I am today.

Speaking of Diego, we soon had our own radio show as well, the aptly titled “Let’s Fun”. It was supposed to be a music show, but it ended up being the most insane thing on public radio. We staged a fake interview with Silverchair, where we’d ask Daniel Johns questions like “are you into young boys?” and then play recordings of him saying “yes”. We called up Gami Ogenta’s G Spot, asking the operator if this was all a scam. She answered “hindi naman siguro, sir”, but sure enough a few months later it was exposed as such. We played songs with titles like “Premature Ejaculation”, “Hermaphrodite”, “Gay Bar”, “I Like Bukkakke” and “Detachable Penis”. We had a contest where listeners had to guess whether the singer had a penis or no penis. Our co-host Mikey taped the security guard at his call center having phone sex, and we sent it out for everyone to hear. That time in my life, it was pure joy.

To me NU107 was about the people—these great, crazy characters who thought outside the box and were doing what they loved for a minimum amount of pay. It was also about the music. It is an absolute gift to be a kid growing up in the unreal world that is the Philippine rock scene. I remember coming from C.A.T. (Cadet Army Training) at 16 and heading out to interview Parokya ni Edgar. In the halls of Strata 200 I met Raimund Marasigan for the first time and I was too starstruck to have a conversation with him. Binky Lampano would make fun of me for being the kid who’d just hang around the station. I would sing along to Lisa Loeb for most of my sophomore year of high school and a few months later I was standing three feet away from her in the NU booth. The Philippine rock scene was going through the most major changes it had ever gone through, and I found myself right smack in the middle of it.

If there was anything that measured how deep my relationship with the station was, it was the Rock Awards. I was merely a guest at the first ever Rock Awards in 1994, held in the very tiny Music Hall in Anapolis. Then, in 2000, I actually became the writer. In the years after I’d co-write, present and serve as production assistant. Direk Kokoy had to do work abroad in 2007, and I couldn’t believe that I actually found myself in the role of director. The years that followed I was co-producer, until this year, where I finally found the most enjoyable role – performer. It was for the pre-show, yes, but why complain?

There are so many other things, enough to fill a book. UNTV. Tado and Erning. Strange Brew and Manic Pop Thrill. Our personal vendetta against Vengeance in The Morning. That time there was a major flood and we were all stranded in the station from 7pm until 7am the next day. Alternativity and the most embarrassing moment of my life. Pontri and his Pontri-isms. Going on air for the first time in my life as a ten-year old, my first words being “I’m getting drunk here”. 23 years isn’t easy to fit into 2000 words, and I don’t want to trivialize things that meant the world to me.

For the longest time people were asking me to take over. I was being bullheaded about that because I wanted to prove I could make my own career first. Early this year I finally decided to officially join the station, under the position of creative director. I helped Francis program songs, worked on a new logo with Inksurge, and launched a new DJ search called Jockoff. But it was too late. A few months after I was informed that NU107 would be changing formats.

You only get a Home of New Rock once in a lifetime. What NU107 did can never be duplicated, not even by NU itself if it ever comes back. We’re too different these days, with our iPods and internet radio and music downloading. There was a time, however, when there was a common culture between all of us. There was a time when everyone from the teenage Povedan on her way to school to the taxi driver who grew up on the Juan de la Cruz band would listen to Zach and Joey in the morning. There was a time when we’d press our ‘redial’ button incessantly to 6360099, trying to get our request through. There was a time when we’d sit in front of the radio, fingers ready by the ‘rec’ and ‘play’ buttons, waiting for that new Gin Blossoms song to play on air. It almost feels apt that NU died when it did, because it came with the death of our generation’s radio culture.

The final week of NU107 was the most touching and powerful thing I’ve ever heard on the airwaves. The current roster of DJs, consisting of Trish, Joystick Jay, Roanna, Cyrus the Virus, Shannen, April, Evee, Kim, Francis Brew and, of course, Pontri, was one of the strongest we’ve ever had, and they each said their goodbyes during the week-- many emotional and filled with tears, some strong and unwavering. A number of NU alumni returned, among them Charlie Y, Dylan, Andy Banandy, Roxy and Myrene. Captain Eddie said goodbye to The Crossroads after 17 years. “Ballad of The Times” held a massive New Wave party as everyone drunkenly waved on the webcam. Gang Badoy and Rock Ed Radio, the show that proved FM radio could make a difference, bid a fond farewell. Two tearjerking reunion episodes of Zach and Joey were aired. Since Joey was based in the States, the first time they went on air was the first time the two had spoken in years, and it felt like eavesdropping on the first hour as the two caught up with each other. Bands and artists like Up Dharma Down, Greyhoundz, Out of Body Special, Sugar Free’s Ebe Dancel, Pochoy Labog, Archipelago, Chicosci, Sponge Cola, Twisted Halo and the Itchyworms all came out to play. Some people said that all that was lacking were Zesto and some cheap pastries and it would be a wake. I like to see it more as a reunion.

NU’s last day brought in the most important part of NU107—the listeners. When I arrived at 7:30pm I had to wade through a sea of people, all of them thankful for what NU brought them and sad that it had to go away. Many major rockstars came to pay tribute, but the biggest stars that day were the jocks. On the way to the booth people were asking for autographs and pictures with their favorite DJ’s—those who took them through the music, those who introduced them to their favorite bands. I never left the booth, but I hear thousands of people stood outside, singing along one last time to their favorite songs, lighting candles and celebrating the place that gave them such great music. It was like Empire Records, except a lot better. And real, of course.

Each DJ said their last goodbyes, until finally Cris Cruise, who was the station manager from the very beginning went on to do the final sign off.

“It’s a minute before 12. NU107 is DWNU FM at 107.5 Megahertz in Pasig. Once the loudest and proudest member of the KBP. This has been NU107, the Philippines‘ one and only home of new rock. This is NU107, we are signing off.”

People outside started screaming, some were cheering. Behind me I could hear Andy repeat “oh my God. Oh my God. This is it.” Francis went “wooh!” It finally dawned on me. NU107 was now history, and I started crying.


After that there was a lot of hugging, and thank yous. Pictures were taken, stuff was signed. Listeners asked me what happened and I, in total daze, answered that I had no idea. A major chapter of my life, one that lasted 23 years, had finally come to an end. On the way home I listened to the 107.5 frequency for 30 minutes. I hoped that Francis would suddenly come in saying that this was all a joke, or that U2 would start playing, broadcasting from a phantom transmission,but there was nothing. Only the deafening sound of hiss, static and silence.

mary x

in heaven everything is fine: a personal journey through david lynch

I tell people that I saw my first David Lynch film when I was 11. That is not true. I saw my first David Lynch film when I was 4. It was a movie called Dune. I don’t really remember the film, though I tried watching it ten years later and couldn’t finish it. All I remember is that it had sandworms, and outside the theater, in Quad, there were these mechanical sandworms to help promote the film.

I saw my first David Lynch film when I was 11. My dad brought home a laserdisc of this movie called Eraserhead and asked if I wanted to watch it with him. “it’s a movie by David Lynch,” he said, as if his 11 year old son would know what the fuck a David Lynch film was. Showing it to me was probably tantamount to child abuse. “Daddy, why does David Lynch make movies like that?” I asked him. “I don’t know. I think he’s disturbed.” I was too young to even know what ‘disturbed’ meant.

When I taught independent film at Ateneo I always made it a point to show Eraserhead first, before anything else, and I introduced the film with a question: “are you ready to get fucked up?” Without fail, when the final reflection papers came in after 3 months they all still talked about Eraserhead. Reactions vary, from “I cant understand why anyone would make a film like that, it’s really horrible” to “I can’t believe I’ve never seen a film like that, it’s beautiful”. You can love a Lynch film, you can hate a Lynch film, but you will never forget a Lynch film.


In the same year my father was into a TV show called "Twin Peaks". I was able to see a scene where the detective in question would try and figure out who Laura Palmer’s killer was by throwing stones and seeing if they would correspond to suspects’ names being read aloud. The year after they showed it on Channel 2, right after Beverly Hills 90210 and before the World Tonight. By happenstance, I tuned in on the same scene and decided to finish the episode. The episode ended with this...

I didn’t know what it meant, and everything seemed so strange to me. I didn’t realize that the scene was shot backwards, and the way the little man was speaking and dancing really messed with my head. I couldn’t sleep that night. I was trying to figure out what the little man was saying meant. After that I became obsessed. I’d watch week after week. I’d take notes. Every Friday afternoon, after school I’d tell all my classmates to watch Twin Peaks. Then I made a little comic about all of them called Twin Geeks (which I still have hahaha). It was so bad that looking at my grade school yearbook the only fricking dedication I ever got from people was “Quark! Watch Twin Peaks!” I even joined the “who killed Laura Palmer” contest at Showbiz Lingo hosted by Butch Francisco and Cristy Fermin.

When I turned 13 my mother asked me what I wanted for my birthday, and the only thing I asked her for was to finally allow me to watch Blue Velvet. She and her then-boyfriend had a long discussion on if I would finally be allowed to see the film. I had to see it with her boyfriend. I was disappointed at first, but over the years I’ve seen it maybe 10 more times, and it’s become one of my 5 favorite films of all time.

In the summer of 94 (which, in retrospect, was the most important summer of my life), my sister and I went to Blockbuster Video. It had been 2 years since Twin Peaks ended, but I was still obsessed with it. The clerk said that he had Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me and Cristalle and I started jumping for joy and screaming like kids in the video store. I think Cristalle just did that because I was her idol back then. She watched the movie with me and was too terrified to sleep that night.

I was a Lynch fan before I was a film fan. Those days I didn’t even know that I wanted to be a filmmaker. I just wanted to watch David Lynch films.

This is my favorite David Lynch story-- after 10 years of being a fan of this filmmaker I decide to take my then-classmate Lia out to watch her first Lynch film ever. It was a film called Mulholland Dr, and it was also my first David Lynch film in a movie theater (remember: we never count Dune). It started out pretty corny, then turned into something that I feel Lynch had been trying to achieve his whole life—a piece of cinema that made no sense at all but simply felt right. When the final scene came, of the lady with the blue hair saying “Silencio”, the guy behind me started going “please don’t be the ending please don’t be the ending please don’t be the ending please don’t – fuck. FUUUUUUUCK!” Everyone was silent, and I was in that state of pure bliss Lynch always talks about. Lia walked out of that theater in a daze.

I realize, while writing this, that this is also my favorite experience in a movie theater ever.

In the summer of 2010 I meet the one man I have wanted to meet all my life. It’s short and sweet. I thank him for changing my life, and tell him that I extended my flight just to meet him. He’s surprised, and gives me a big smile, wishing me luck on my career. I greet him a happy 20th anniversary to Twin Peaks and he thanks me for the earnest greeting. He walks away, totally unaware of how much he’s shaped the person he's just spoken with.


endnote: I must thank all of you who sent tweets of of support and threats that he will die and I will regret if I don’t extend my stay. Thanks for knocking some sense into me. Also, special thanks must be given to the generous loving heart of my good friend Jeff Cabal (who later on tells me that all the Lynch films he’s seen are because of me), who took care of a very aggravated man sick w asthma and recurring nosebleeds ready to go home after the traumatic experience of having his wallet stolen and being penniless in America.
nottodie

the evolution of a filipino cinephile

for my friend Alexis, on the day of his funeral.

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.
breaking bad, heisenberg

2008

after the hell that was Super Noypi, Mihk and I decided to make a pact for "Drama-Free 2007". of course, because fate is such a douchebag, 2007 ended up being one of the most dramaful years of my life. so for last year we both decided to trick fate and go for "Penniless 2008", and it worked! take that, you dumb bastard!

2008 was by far one of the best years of my life. i went to great places for the first time, i saw two concerts that will forever be scorched in my mind as not only great gigs but great life experiences, i was able to actually hang out with personal heroes (and one of the hottest women alive), and i did so many things creatively that i was really happy about. what really made the year, though, was you guys. so, to the lovely new friends who i feel like i've known my whole life and the kids i've been proud to call friends for a while now: thank you from the bottom of my heart and the marrow in my bones. there's no other way to put it :)

I usually make a list of my top 10 favorite things about the year. however, there are just too many for 2008, so forgive me if i cheat and expand to 15 :)

15. Prisoner of ABSCBaN! Last year was the first time I really dipped my feet into mainstream television, and it was quite... educating, to say the least. We did a pilot called "Petiks" which might not see the light of day and another show called "Parekoy", premiering Jan 8. The work was hard, but the moments between takes were a blast.

14. The Rock Awards and The QLE. People misunderstand the QLE as being a reaction against the Rock Awards, but I think they perfectly complement each other. The Rock Awards is more about the scene -- it's all these lovely people who make the same kind of music getting together and celebrating , while QLE is really more about celebrating everyone's personal preferences and sharing music you may have missed out on. I never got to thank everyone for the fun, small, intimate party that was the QLE, and it's gotta be said that this year's Rock Awards was one of my favorites.

13. Hello Commercials! this year was my favorite in terms of advertising output! did a lot of spots i was really happy about like PNB, the Belo ads and a hilariously insane insecticide ad. I also got to work with Pilita Corrales for Anlene. that chick is so fine.

12. Us-2 Evil-0: the band that i have to thank for a lot of the Rakista ideas. you have Boga the pickup guru, Mich the mental case (only when it comes to being replaced, Michelle!), Nix the reluctant heartthrob and of course, Wincy, my muse who unbeknownst to him is providing me with enough material for a novel.

11. Rakenrol will have been gestating for 4 years by February, and when it gets released I fear it may be a bit dated. But it's our baby anyway, and we'll always be very proud of it.

10. Asian Hotshots Berlin! the crazy parties. the food. the lovely people. the art. the graffiti. the really hot festival organizers. the kickass tour guides. the sunlight through the hostel window on cold mornings. the food. HAVING THE DIRECTOR OF NEKROMANTIK BUY ME BEER. it does not get any better than that. Ich bin ein Berliner!

9. Death Cab for Ciudad going to watch my favorite foreign band with my favorite local band : priceless. i wasn't a big fan of the last album so i thought i'd just be steady the whole time, then they started playing songs from The Photo Album and We Have The Facts And We're Voting Yes and I started screaming like a girl, hahaha. having mikey being screamed at in Chinese in the middle of a hawker center was lots of fun too.

here: my New Year's gift to you. Death Cab doing "Title and Registration"

8. Goodbye Music Videos! so yeah, after an eye-opening music video project in the middle of the year i've decided to keep my dignity and semi-retire from making music videos. having said that, though, (and because you're all friends so i can say this without being too self-conscious) most of my favorite videos i've ever made were done this year, including Sandwich's "Procrastinator", Pupil's "Disconnection Notice", Urbandub's "Evidence", Sponge Cola's "Pasubali" and especially Taken by Cars' "Shapeshifter". Not a bad way to say goodbye :)

7. Rockeoke, as always, was the ultimate social networking tool. It's better than Facebook, I swear! Lots of lovely performances from you this year guys, and everything from Rockeoke Idol to MOMOL Night is a bit of a blur, but a good blur. Even better than the band Blur.

6. The Eraserheads Reunion just made me very happy to be Filipino. Eraserheads is unquestionably the greatest local band ever, and seeing tens of thousands sing along to their music just proved that. I consider myself immeasurably fortunate to have these people as my friends, but even these days I sometimes freeze up and get starstruck in the middle of conversations with Buddy, Ely or Raimund.

5. Dita Na Me, Wr Na U? From that awkward first dinner in the Japanese resto to the final moments hanging at the house, Dita Von Teese was a hurricane that went by quickly but left us all dazed in the aftermath. Her show was amazing, but hanging with her one realizes that she's also one of those people who are so nice that you start not getting sexually aroused by them. Yeah, she's THAT NICE. Love goes to her manager Melissa (since i am president of Melissa Fan Club Philippine chapter) and her main man Albert, who all my friends say is the most insane party animal they've encountered in their life.

4. Rockband. How can a videogame be better than all the things mentioned above? If you play "That's What You Get", "Monkey Gone to Heaven", "You're No Rock n' Roll Fun", "Kool Thing", "Maps" and "Brass in Pocket" on the Activision game, you just might understand. If you play it with the friends I have, drinking and cheering and tsismising between songs, you WILL understand.

ya see that? two of my favorite things from 2008 come together.

3. I Heart NewYorckelodeon. It should be cool enough driving and bonding with my long lost cousins along the Los Angeles Highways. But then I get to go to the Nickelodeon Kids Choice awards. And then in the middle of the burger, pizza and Sundae buffet I run into Emile Hirsch, Jack Black, Ice T, Jodie Foster, Abigail Breslin and Cameron Diaz. Going to New York to visit my best friend would be enough to put this on the list as well. But then I go to a Wong Kar Wai and Ang Lee talk. And the next day I run into Tiffany Limos and Michel Gondry, and he loans 20 dollars off of me. Then I get to go to his house and stalk his DVD collection. In the middle of all this I get to watch Anathallo, Minus the Bear, Wolf Eyes, Kimya Dawson and Spoon. Dayum.

2. +/- Versus Manila Versus was one of those bands that changed the way I looked at music, and their single "Double Suicide" is one of my favorite songs ever. +/-, on the other hand, is a current fave, and the last two albums have ranked in my yearly top 5. Knowing that, if you ever told me that one day I would be treating them to Sizzling Bulalo and Pares somewhere in Anonas I wouldn't have believed you. They were such wonderful people, with killer senses of humor to boot. If that weren't enough their sets were so tight and heartfelt that they immediately became one of my most memorable concert experiences.

This is +/- ending their set with my favorite song of theirs, Queen of Detroit. They asked us to start dancing onstage, which resulted in either hilarity or a showstopping, poignant moment in rock n' roll history.

1. Rakista was originally meant to be an indirect spinoff of our movie Rakenrol, instead it became an animal all its own. I was always aware that it was a very special thing and a fulfillment of a lifelong dream to a) create my own TV show with one of my best friends (diego), b)do whatever the hell i want with almost no intrusion whatsoever, c)get everyone from my beloved students (like king, zig and mihk) to my personal idols (RA and yvette) to some of my longtime best friends (like erwin, ramon and mikey) to write and direct, d) get two of my favorite songwriters of all time (mikey and diego mapa) to write the music, e)discover my own ramon bautista in wincy, f)work with such a great production team, g)make stories on national TV about very personal things like English teachers i fell in love with and the Eraserheads reunion and most especially h)manage to put in a murder mystery, ninjas and zombies (and cast good friends like JC, Wanggo and Audrey as them as well) into the plot as we went along. I remember telling Sharon and Pong at one point that I was really fulfilled with Rakista, and that I was just relishing every moment because I knew it would be too good to last.

Just like Penniless 2008. Happy New Year, y'all.
wrong

berlin







best q&a ever/having Jorg the director of Nekromantik watch my movie and buy me a beer after/lunch with Kidlat and Nick at the ambassador's/cutest filmfest organizers in history/moshing after 8 years to a swedish punk band/dancing to the mighty moguls and seeing them in normal clothes at the hostel the next day/me khavn john not being able to sleep dahil ang daldal ng roomate namin/dancing to bollywood/video art at hip bars/attempt to stalk hal hartley ending in failure/axel and his mastery of tagalog/kiko soeder, golden emissary of berlin and his taste for the barely legal/videokeing "Ligaya" in english for the germans/schweinshaxe/leberkase/currywurst/doners/pinkel w grunkohl/fantastic graffiti/seeing where run lola run was shot and reenacting...running/reichstag/hamburger banhof/checkpoint charlie/beer now officially in my blood/seeing an original Banksy on the street/almost getting recruited into scientology/cute audiences who wanted to recreate the me+quentin pic/funnest. film festival. ever.

it was a blast, to say the least. can't wait to head on back.
breaking bad, heisenberg

Hello 2008, You Fucking Asshole

I think my shoot yesterday goes down in personal history as “saddest shooting day in my entire life.”

It wasn’t a hellish shoot. In fact, for the most part everyone had fun. It wasn’t stressful, either. I think the sorrow in the air had something to do with that. By the first hour everyone’s frame of mind, including mine, was probably like this: “ah hell. Let’s just take whatever and when our time’s up that’s what we have.” No tempers flared, no mean words were exchanged. Everybody was just – sad.

Why? I’d like to say “the usual reasons”, except whenever “the usual reasons” happen to friends they become the most heartbreaking things in the world. Someone was on the brink of depression because his relationship was on the rocks, someone’s family member was very sick, someone else was just consumed by depression, understanding what happened but just wishing she got over it right away. I’m not a big fan of destiny, but it was so weird that this specific day everyone’s world seemed to be crashing around them.

The painful part of it all was that most of the people involved were in front of the camera, so when we’d shoot it was fun and jumping and “performance level” and all that. Then the playback would stop, and people would let go of their instruments, sit down by themselves and just get lost. Two of the band members were the only ones I ever looked at as an older brother and sister, and I’d seen them go through this eight years ago, and wished to God they’d never have to go through it again.

What was really great, though, was that towards the end of the shoot we all kind of found comfort in the general wretchedness. We made jokes about it. We were at a point where we couldn’t really care less, so we started pretending that we were shooting a music video for Glenn Frey’s classic, “The Heat is On”. We all started showing each other 2 Girls 1 Cup and by the time MTV came to interview us we were all madmen, saying that the website was the main inspiration for the video and that all the kids should check it out. At the end of the night we all told each other, “hey look! We’re all together again, just like the old days! Let’s bring back the radio show!”

Shortly after the shoot I drove Mikey to a meeting he was supposed to have with Ciudad. On the way we were listening to In Rainbows, and I pointed out how I thought U2 was baduy when I was a kid because they were such an old man band, and now Radiohead is as old as U2 was then. Mikey, who’d just turned 27, pointed out that the length of time we were from 40 is the same length of time we were from second year high school, when Ciudad was formed. Quite disturbing.

I decided to sit in at the Ciudad meeting, and as usual it ended up being a non-meeting. We spent most of the time gossiping about our friends. We all cheered about Mikey being the new Mong and encouraged him to romance all the ladehhs. Also, once again, 2 girls 1 cup was brought out for everyone to view. How that horrible piece of cinema can bring people together so much, I don’t know.

It was just as it was, 13 years ago: I’d go practice with Ciudad and then head over to NU and hang with my friends. It was weird because at that most depressing time in our lives I realized that I’d known these people for half my life already. I wasn’t with friends – I was with family. And no matter how much shit we may go through in the coming years, 13 years down the line I still hope I can go home to them.

I remember, during the debacle that was Super Noypi, Mihk and I making a pact that the next year would be “drama-free 2007”. It seems we brought all the demons out by making that pact, because 2007 eventually became one of the most drama-filled years of our (and many other people’s) lives. So we made a pact that 2008 would be drama-full, hoping to pull a fast one on God with reverse psychology. The second week of 2008 has just started, and already we have this. Looks like we jinxed it again.

Except this time, for some weird reason, I have a feeling that everything will be ok.
nottodie

My Life with The Quentin Cult Vol. I

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Me with Cannes Palme d’Or winner Quentin Tarantino. Photo by Short Palm d’Or winner Raymond Red. When I was a high school film geek trekking out to all these film festivals to watch films by my favorite short filmmaker Raymond Red and you told me that one day he would take a picture of me and Quentin Tarantino I would have never believed you.