Friday, August 23, 2002

The Ultimate Pinoy Blockbuster

Warning: possible explicit language, exaggerations, untruths, fallacies, lies, parody, and sarcasm ahead, hence the disclaimer

Ambeth Ocampo made our history class watch a documentary on Jose Rizal last week. It was dull and not as informative, considering that there have been several documentaries made about our national hero. We were then required to make a reaction paper and one of the guide question was how I would direct such a documentary. That gave me the idea for the designs of the "Ultimate Pinoy Blockbuster".

Since GMA 7 is so proud of its award-winning movie Jose Rizal, perhaps it's only natural for me to make a film about our national hero as well. I mean that will give our movie some "depth" and "elitism". It will cater to the elite of our society, which actually isn't a lot. It will fool people into thinking that the movie actually makes sense.

Of course since we're so used to the concept that Jose Rizal is a national hero, maybe it'd be better if we change his image and instead make him appear less civil. A "bad boy" image would help, especially since the Baby Ama movies have managed to draw a crowd among the masses. It also would be historically accurate as well because it can be surmised that Rizal got into a lot of fights when he was a kid. To top the bad boy image we want to portray Rizal, casting Robin Padilla as the youthful version of the main character would be perfect.

When you think about it, Robin Padilla as Jose Rizal isn't such a bad idea. I mean Filipinos are too used to the serious-faced Rizal. Rizal had fun during his time and gave people a lot of laughs. I mean have you seen the picture wherein he was wearing a Cleopatra outfit? Or the other array of costumes he donned while posing for Juan Luna? Some humor wouldn't hurt the movie and since Robin Padilla is diving into the foray of comedy, the role would suit him perfectly. Filipinos, after all, must have satire.

Of course action and comedy will never sustain the entire film. I mean people nowadays are watching telenovelas no matter how often or predictable they occur. Rizal's life can be an ample source for some of that drama, especially since he doesn't lack lovers. Richard Gomez's good looks would suit the role of the "mature" Rizal for the film and he can have as many leading ladies he wants. Rizal has spurned a lot of women in his life so you can be sure that the movie can accommodate all the leading ladies he wants.

Speaking of leading ladies, this is probably going to be the only film that will have in its cast all the female bold stars: Asunta, Joyce Jimenez, Ara Mina, etc.... Whenever Rizal fled to a different country, he courted a different woman. This is the perfect plot device to put in all the beautiful women the Philippine movie industry has. Of course since we want the movie to earn money, we shall put in enough naked scenes so that it will warrant an X rating from the MTRCB. It actually wouldn't be too hard.

To show off Rizal's keen intellect, we'll include a game show sequence in the movie. Maybe Cristopher de Leon could host that scene and Rizal would suddenly earn enough money to publish his books. Let's also not forget to include Joleena, Ms. Jologs herself, the queen of the Philippine masses. She could play one of Rizal's nine sisters, or better yet, play them all. I mean Michael V. managed to play several characters all at once in his TV show. Why not Joleena?

GMA herself can play a role in the movie. She has been clamoring to be the "ina ng bayan" (mother of the country) for quite some time now. What better way to promote this than to be Jose Rizal's mother?

Of course a movie would not be complete without a soundtrack. Salbakuta anyone?

Thursday, August 22, 2002

Coincidence or Curse?

Because I am quite arrogant, I like to think that I am the center of the universe. Following that theory, it could perhaps be said that I have inherited a curse that is not as disastrous to me as it is to my employers. Or maybe it's just a series of coincidences that God sent me so that I can write something in my journal.

The first mishap was in 1999. It was my fourth year in high school and I was balancing my two hobbies: anime and Magic: The Gathering (a collectible card game or CCG). I was yearning for a local magazine that would tackle my hobbies. My prayers were answered when Philippine Hobbyist was published. It was a publication spearheaded by Titus Zapanta and it featured articles about a lot of hobbies, mine included: CCGs, collectables like Coke bottles, model kits, comics, paintball, etc.... I bought their first issue and was thrilled to find out that they were going to do a feature on Magic: The Gathering for their next issue. Me being the budding writer (and student in dire need of publicity and finances) that I am, I sent them an email containing some not-so-common info about Magic: The Gathering.

They replied and the writer doing the article on the topic thanked me for it. Actually, he was quite impressed and thought I did a thesis paper on it (which I didn't since I was just a high school student at the time). I offered to write an article for them and they gave me an assignment on the Pokemon card game. I did my research and sent them the email.

The second issue came out a few months later and I saw my name in fine print in the article regarding Magic: The Gathering. I didn't mind, thinking that when the third issue comes out, my name will be seen in the byline.

After a few months of waiting, the third issue never came out. Philippine Hobbyist stopped publication and I presume this is because they did not get enough subscribers. I mean when I look at the ads in the magazine, there are a few sponsors and I suspect some of those who sponsored are relatives of the editorial staff. The only other way for the magazine to profit is if there were enough subscribers.

I was disheartened but I still clung to my dream of being a writer. I would later get an email regarding a comic that would feature articles in it. Again, I offered my expertise. I sent them a short article and they liked it. Unfortunately, the comic never went past the pre-production stage. It didn't even see the light of day. It was then that I started joking about the idea that the publications I write for are doomed to fail.

Since I was a person "in dire need" of money, I worked at Comic Alley during the summer of 1999 and 2000. Learned the tricks of the trade, met new people, got my salary. Nothing too spectacular (I'll write the interesting events that did happen as a separate journal entry) occurred.

During the summer of 2001, I badly wanted a job and I promised myself not to work at Comic Alley again. It's not because I have anything against them. It's just that my summers have been getting stagnant, doing the same things all over again. I need something new, something related to my course (Creative Writing).

I asked mom if she could get me a summer job. Philippine Star was unavailable because according to mother, they had printed several errors in the past and wanted to minimize future mistakes. That also meant not hiring new staff. That left Pulp Magazine. The son of mom's close friend was the editor-in-chief of the publication. She offered it to me the year before except I refused, mainly because I didn't really listen to music so I felt inadequate working for a music magazine. Of course the scenario that year was different. I needed a job that paid so I settled for Pulp.

I went through a screening by the manager, Annie Alejo. I passed it and started working the next day. Working at Pulp enlightened me. Apparently, my mom's close friend was the publisher of Pulp Magazine and Philippines Yearbook, in addition to holding a high position in the Philippine Star. It also turned out that I was not just working for Pulp. I was working for Pulp/Philippines Yearbook/MTV Ink. Oh wow. Wacky exploits and the zany events that happened during that summer will be saved for a future journal entry.

Suffice to say, I got to write an article for MTV Ink, got my name printed on the credits of Pulp, and I was "scanner-boy" for Philippines Yearbook. During that time, I learned that the third floor of Virramall got burned. Among the shops that were consumed in the flames was the Comic Alley branch I used to work with. I was laughing at the coincidence, and crying inside at the unfortunate series of events.

Of course one week after quitting the publication, the Pulp/Philippines Yearbook/MTV Ink workplace burned down. It's not as difficult as it sounds considering the office wasn't really an office but the house of the publisher. A good chunk of the architecture was also made out of wood. It was June 9, 2001, I think, when the house caught on fire. It was a Sunday and when the maids told me about it, I thought they were joking. And then mom and dad came home, carrying with them recovered paintings from the burnt house. I started believing.

It's really strange how my last two work places got swallowed up in flames. My "jobs" before that weren't able to release the issue I was supposed to debut in. It's a great anecdote to tell, especially to prospective hirers. They don't know whether to take the story seriously or not.

Sunday, August 18, 2002

Just Another of Philippine's Eccentricities...

Jeeps as public utility vehicles. Walking sari-sari stores (the peddlers who sell newspapers, cigarettes, mobile phone accessories, and whatever else they can carry). Zagu. These are phenomena that are unique to the Philippines, as far as I know. Let's add one more "uniquely Filipino" to the list, that of the comic shop.

While I whine about the state of bookstores here in the Philippines, perhaps comic aficionados have something more to grumble about. The typical comic shop in the country is similar to a newsstand. Shelves of comics are behind a saleslady (it?s always a saleslady if it?s not the manager... sexist?) and in front of the saleslady is a glass counter displaying more comics. This is basically the essential set-up, bigger comic shops having more glass counters and more salesladies. There's a rift between the customer and the comic. If you want to browse through a comic, you have to ask for the salesladies, who in turn either give you a terrifying stare as if you're a freeloader who has no intention of buying the comic, do it lazily and hand it to you with little enthusiasm, or take several minutes locating the comic you want even when it's right in front of her.

A comic shop is also seldom "just a comic shop". They usually sell other merchandise such as used books, romance novels, old and new magazines, action figures, anime wall scrolls, anime laminated cards, anime videos, anime CDs, Gundam model kits, Mage Knight tabletops, Magic: The Gathering cards, and RPG modules. Comic shops become focal points for other pastimes: Collectible Card Game (CCG) fans, Roleplaying Game (RPG) fans, tabletop gamers, anime enthusiasts, magazine subscribers, book readers, and random passersby. To some, this is a good thing. To others, it's not. For me, at least it's a one stop shop.

There's also the fact that comic shops are known and expected to stock the genre which they became famous for: superheroes. Thus, a lot of shelf space is devoted to that genre. Little is left for Indies like Strangers in Paradise, Blue Monday, and others. Sure, there always seems to be a Sandman in stock but that's only because Gaiman is really popular. You won't see Maus on the Filbars rack and if you're interested in obtaining it, you still have to place an order from Comic Quest. What little shelf space is left that could have housed those comics are filled with binders of Pokemon cards, magazine subscription placards, or rows and rows of DVDs, VCDs, and VHSs.

Comic shops also tend to be crowded since they're seldom larger than your own room. I mean with all the glass counters and the flashy displays, what's left is a small aisle for customers to pass through. Of course some of the larger stores usually hold events like CCG tournaments or hosts an RPG game or two, so even then, space is scarce. Occasionally though, there are artist signings and comic debuts, so the space isn't really wasted.

If you want a lively chat with a person who's familiar with the comics, you have to be fortunate to meet the store owner while he's IN the shop. I mean there are three famous comic book chains here: Filbars, Comic Quest, and CATS. More often than not, the salesladies don't have initiative and don't talk to the customers unless spoken to. Even then, a rare few really know what they're selling. It's only the owner who can tell you the ins and outs of this comic, what to expect in the next shipment and whatnot. Filbars, the most popular of the three, will never be a sociable atmosphere. Comic Quest and CATS has hope as some of the people who manage the place not only know what they're selling but what the customers want. But those are the exceptions rather than the norm.

Let's not get into prices. The fact that we got most of our stuff from the U.S. is already hard as it is. Shipping costs, taxes, etc... all compound to give us one big headache. Don't expect the big time retailers to have the "free comic day" promos the Westerners have simply because shipping it here isn't free anymore.

Yes, comic shops here are vastly different from the comic shops abroad. They're distinctly different, perhaps even distinctly Filipino. I can sympathize with the pains of my friends who love comics. I should, considering I borrow their comics rather than buy them from the store.