Cinemalaya, now on its ninth year, undoubtedly is the most prestigious independent film festival in the Philippines attracting not only Filipino movie fans but also tourists from different parts of the globe. As years pass, Cinemalaya proves to be going nowhere but towards the top. In a span of nine years, Cinemalaya has produced a handful of internationally acclaimed and award-winning films. No wonder many people long to be a part of this grand festival staged nowhere else but in the elegant and sophisticated Cultural Center of the Philippines.
Last year, I was lucky enough to see Adolfo Alix, Jr.’s Kalayaan on the day before the festival’s closing. That semester, we had a four-hour break during Saturdays so I decided to spend it seeing a good film. A friend came a long and we had so much fun. We were even lucky enough to have our tickets signed by the great director. That first time surely was a good time. So I told myself, “I’ll be coming back.”
This year, I was, again, lucky that the opening fell on a late Friday afternoon. It was just right for our dismissal and we had no school work to finish for the next day. We were dismissed way ahead of time and I arrived at CCP hours early. It’s a good thing another friend lent me a book so I just killed time reading. It was a fun read by the way. The opening night of Cinemalaya involves a short program and an opening film right after. However, I live quite far from the venue and I was hesitant about seeing the film. It was scheduled to start at seven in the evening. It isn’t so safe for a slender-bodied girl to still be at the streets of Metro Manila late in the evening. Days before, I invited my two high school friends who were massive movie fans to go to the opening with me. Sadly, it didn’t happen. Well, the other one went but not because of my invitation but because he was coming with his college buddies. Technically, I went alone. I just happened to see one of my movie friends there.
I can feel the prestige everywhere. Aside form the splendid venue, people were so important-looking. I felt like I was some random Cinderella in a ball where the most affluent people have gathered together. I’ve got no prince charming though. Sad. Cinemalaya really is a big deal. Half of my heart was on its way to regretting why I was so foolishly bold to go alone and the other half was hoping that something nice would soon happen to make me feel that it was all worth it. The hopeful part was right. It all started when my movie friend arrived. His presence made me feel a lot less alone. Then, we saw significant figures in the world of television and filmmaking like Adolfo Alix, Jr., Laurice Guillen, Joseph Morong and Howie Severino. But what I could say to be the best thing about that night was the opening film. It was a documentary following the relationship of Jazz with his German boyfriend. It was called Jazz In Love. It was honest, brilliantly presented, occasionally and naturally funny, and at the same time, it was heartbreaking. It was beautiful. I went home joyously telling myself, “I’m glad I came.”
The next day, I intended to come back but the weather appears to be stopping me. The rain fell too heavily. But then, I let nothing stop me. So, yes, I came back to see two films: Amor y Muerte and Purok 7. Most of the shows already ran out of tickets. Good thing I already bought one on the opening. It was for the erotic and daring Amor y Muerte set in a village in the province during the Spanish regime. It revolved mainly on the disagreeing beliefs of the early Filipinos and the Spanish conquistadors regarding religion, sexuality, and love. I was supposed to see just Amor y Muerte but when I found out that Purok 7’s gala screening fell on this same day, I made sure I could get a ticket. I was so eager to see Purok 7 because it appears to be really simple (and sometimes, the simplest proves to be the most beautiful) and because it has Julian Trono. I like Julian a lot because he looks so much like my current crush. Sadly, Julian Trono was not present during the gala night of his film because of his previous engagements. Purok 7 was centered on the two siblings who started living on their own when their mother decided to try her luck overseas to give them a brighter tomorrow. The film triumphantly reflected the simple and down-at-heel yet cheery district. And I arrived home tired and satisfied. And so I told myself, “Everything was worth it.”
I wasn’t able to see more because of the exceedingly heavy demands of my course (third year Bachelor of Science in Electronics Engineering student here). I would if I could. Really. Why not? I haven’t seen a film for quite a while and Cinemalaya reminded me of why I fell head over heels in love with them. And what did the synergy of my senses whispered to my soul? “Ah, this is what I stay alive for.”