Feature by: Tiffany Limsico
From Charmaine Peralta
When I was about four or five years old, do you remember when I constantly asked for your permission to watch Back to the Future? We had the boxed set of the trilogy (including the behind the scenes) on VHS! I would watch it every weekend as a reward for doing my homework or attending a mass. The ritual of rewinding and inserting the “VHS” into the player was like a childhood game to me. The thin black strip, the sound of rewinding, the smell of the “amag”, all of them tickled some part of my brain that brought back good times. I clung to the medium even if it was already high noon for the digital format. I thought that ritual would never end until that day you told me that our VHS player was beyond repair (and obsolete, for that matter). I wonder if I had the same feeling Chaplin had when the talkies arrived.
Now, I am two days away from knowing the results of the shifting exam I took weeks before. I have decided to study film, a decision that ruined my plans (and yours) for my life. For that, I am so sorry.
In between those two events, I have lost you or I have lost myself. I don’t know. I became preoccupied in rediscovering cinema, while you are too with work. This is what I have said to a friend one afternoon, “I was so busy trying to be a good student, I forgot how to be a good daughter.” We seldom talk, we were always tired, I guess, but through this letter let me explain my reasons for taking the path never in my life I have thought of pursuing.
I was in first year high school when you introduced me to Charlie Chaplin. “Si Chaplin ‘yan. Pinapanood ko ‘yan noong bata pa ako eh! Doon sa luma naming TV, pero mas gusto ko pa ring panoorin ‘yung The Three Stoogies.” But I guess I was romantic enough to have stayed with Chaplin and not the Stoogies. Ever since that scene (which I have later recognized as the spaghetti scene in City Lights), I have spent a lot of time searching for films made by the ‘ultimate auteur’. I have loved him even more when I stepped into college. I got to read his autobiography, some political allegory on his film, the serenity and pureness of the tramp, the socialism in his films, the humanist in Chaplin. You know, most of what I am today, I owe to his idealism. You should watch Chaplin’s speech in The Great Dictator, and let us pick up where we left off.
It was also because of you that I have a fair share of Tagalog movies on my bank. You are sucker for action and horror films. We spent some of our lazy weekends watching Fernando Poe Jr. films, such as Epimaco Velasco story, Pitong Gatang, Kalibre 45, Roman Rapido, Isang Bala ka Lang and, of course, our all time favorite, Ang Probinsyano and Ang Pagbabalik ng Probinsyano. We scared ourselves to death watching all sorts of evil beings, from aswang to manananggal to tiyanak to kapre, ect. Remember when we bought the VCD of the digitally restored Gabi ng Lagim (was it Gabi ng Lagim)? It was made decades ago but we still enjoyed watching it (with the really young Paquito Diaz, bless his soul). Goodness! I almost forgot about Vilma and Sharon drama films. We laughed at each other when we saw ourselves crying in the scene where Sharon sings ‘Ikaw’ to the dying Ariel Rivera. There was still the comedy films of the 80’s and 90’s but I think what I have said was enough to experience again how it was back then.
In college, I took a film class and, interestingly, I can still remember my first day. It was very cold, literally because of the intolerable air conditioning and figuratively because of my diminutive knowledge of the cinema outside of Hollywood. I never knew that it would be the first of the countless lectures that I would learn to love. It changed everything I knew about cinema. Before it was just a pastime which turned into a hobby, now it is my passion which later in life, I would want to be my cause.
I was introduced to Kieslowski, Van Sant, Von Trier, Antonioni and to Godard, Truffaut, Bazin, Astruc and to Hitchcock, Scorsese, Kubrick, Coppola. I would love to talk about them with you but then you have to watch their films first and read the Cahiers. On second thought, I know you don’t have any interest in these kinds of things so you don’t have to, but at least you know what I have been doing for the past 11 months. Movies can change people, you see. I have changed a lot, Pa.
Having seen films from different place, I have developed this introspective thinking of the Philippine Cinema. I have never seen it so elegant and beautiful before. From Malvarosa and Biyaya ng Lupa, to Kinatay and Engkwentro, everything was breathtaking. Brocka’s Orapronobis, de Leon’s Bayaning Third World, Bernal’s Manila By Night and Kidlat’s Mababangong Bangungot are some of my favorites. I am also enthusiastic with the independent cinema here in the Philippines, we are in the safe hand of talented young directors, though I am still not sure with the producers. No one ever told me that the film-makers here in the Philippines are one of the greatest in the world, I drowned. But like in Run, Lola, Run, love breathe new life to me and there was nothing more we can do with love but to share it. And that is what I plan to do for the rest of my life after college. I am going to pursue film studies and then I am going to teach and write about films. If everything else fails, at least I have my undergrad to save me from hunger. That was the plan and blew it up.
Pa, are you still reading? Good, cause everything gets better from here on.
It was a Sunday, around one in the morning. I was chatting with a friend about the usual stuff people talk about: philosophy, films, dreams, future. Then she introduced me to this person named Alexis Tioseco. I said, “I don’t know him, Who is he?” then he linked me to a wikipedia page about that guy. I knew him, I knew his face. He was everywhere. In magazines, in the news, in posters, but I never gave any thought about who he is. That morning, I read some of the features, reviews and love letters of Criticine. It was rediscovering a new face of the cinema all over again, and just like before, I drowned in my own tears. The waves pushed me to the middle of the sea and the only way to survive is to swim until you reach the other dry land. No, I am not a coward. I may be idealistic, impulsive, impractical, even crazy but I am not a coward. I’m betting all my chips when I said to my friend, “I shall shift to film.” For those who knew better, those who may be saying that this was just a product of my ‘teenager angst’, I say to you ‘Long live Philippine cinema!’
That same morning I told you about my new plan. You had a hard time understanding my reasons, in fact, I can’t even remember if I had stated one. You were so frustrated and I got scared. I went back to my room and said to myself that I won’t shift, you over film. I cried all my dreams, I cried for my passion, I cried because it was all I can do. I cried myself to sleep. I tried and I lost.
When I woke up, you called me. “Ano ba talagang gusto mo?”, you asked sincerely. Thoughts came rushing down my mind, but I brushed them all away and answered your question with all the courage I can muster. You asked for the truth, I gave it you, “Film.” I knew you were disappointed but you let me through anyway. I know you drowned, too, but your love for me saved you. For letting me do this even if it requires loans and shattered dreams of my steady salary, thank you. You will never know how much this means to me. Ma, Pa, thank you.
I am still not sure if I would get a slot in the course. I am nervous, uncertain and at times even afraid, but whatever happens, I have already committed myself to films. I don’t know what will happen to me, studying film could be a wrong decision, writing for film may not give me a big house or a nice car and I could even die of hunger trying to find a producer (hyperbole, don’t react too much) but at least I chose the path that I have always loved.
The paragraph before this was supposed to be my last, but I forgot to say something, the reason why I wrote this letter. I love you, Ma and you, too, Pa. Films will always bring me back to you.