philippines · The Daily

The Daily: Life in Film School

Today is the 1st of March 2017, it is Ash Wednesday and even though I was born and raised Catholic for some reason I freaked out seeing people with ash on their forehead. I guess I haven’t been to mass lately. Hahaha. It just made them look like their days were numbered (I must have been reminded of a schoolmate’s short film.)

I woke up on the wrong side of the bed today. Well, I usually do ever since construction work started next door. They hammer on well into the night and they don’t even stop on Sundays. Plus the baby was crying nonstop and the nannies weren’t really that quiet either. I’m not exactly a morning person so you can imagine how grumpy I was. I also had a case of flu early in the week. There have been so many roadwork going on in the neighbourhood too that what once was a garden haven from the rest of the concrete jungle has become a hellhole itself.

Other than my griping, the things that have kept me fairly busy have been my academic life. I’m well on to the 3rd and last semester of my university life and I have yet to write anything about it! My subjects have been pretty interesting and this semester I have 21 units to work with. Most of them are general education subjects that have been left over and two electives, the only major I’m handling right now is my thesis.



My academic life has actually been very colourful. At first I really didn’t have any friends because everyone in my batch was already working but my acting class was the first class where I  found new friends in the Film department. Because our activities were all interactive, we became a pretty close and friendly group, sharing snacks and encouraging each other. We have nicknames based on our monologues. I had a line which had the word “fruit rollups” and they started calling me Fruitloops. Acting class is a required subject for film majors so even if you only intend to work behind the camera, you have to take it. After that semester ended we still keep in touch and help eachother with our productions either as crew or cast.

An outtake from Chester’s short film where I played a minor part. Acting alongside Neil who was also our Acting classmate.
an outtake of Chester for my directing finals.
Francois working as my cinematographer for directing class

Another notable subject during my first semester back in university would be my Sound class because that’s where I met Francois and Keeny. Francois was always so kind to me since I was always clueless. He took me in when I didn’t have a group for the finals! He and Keeny had an editing project and they partnered with our sound group- we shot at a cemetery in Marikina for a combined final project.


Keeny and I went on to be classmates in 3 courses for the next semester: Directing, Film Proposal, and Production Management. Aside from procuring material from our personal lives it’s also interesting to go beyond our own bubble and look for stories. Manila has a lot to offer. We sometimes find ourselves in different neighbourhoods just people watching or soaking in a place’s particular energy.

For a marketing pitch for Production Management Class, we trooped to Malate’s red light district to take some guerilla videos of the area.
Staked out at Ehra’s and had ramen, observed the night life. It burned down a couple of months ago. It’s so exhilarating to explore different neighbourhoods and lifestyle outside of one’s own. We tried to be as inconspicuous as possible but..chunky cameras.
We had a very limited budget for the directing shoot, so we had a rotating crew which was so exhausting. We’d switch roles from assistant director to production manager etc. We also had shooting days scheduled next to eachother. Shoot usually went on for 12 hours.
Aside from doing production management, assistant directing, and being craft service for this particular shoot- I had to jump in as an actor. I snored towards the end of the shoot.
Trying to keep our energy levels up.
Chester as actor and doubling as sound recordist because low budget/no budget
Week before the shoot- we held a pre production meeting and figured out our schedules.

This semester we don’t have classes together so we try to hang out and check on eachother as much as possible. We kind of have a “fitness day” where we go and jog around the academic oval, we also do a peer check to see that we don’t miss our classes, we have “lakwartsa” days where anything goes (like boardgame cafes, bingsoo, kbbq) then we have serious film discourse and such. We have a very highschool barkada feels and I’m savoring my last semester dressing up in jeans, shirt, and sneakers. It’s kind of exciting to think about us here right now as mere students then projecting ourselves working in the industry, making our names as we go.

Can you guess which movie this is staged from?

When I was in Vancouver people would often question my decision to go back to Film school in the Philippines when I was already in “North Hollywood.” Well, that’s the thing exactly. I did not want to immerse myself in an industry when I didn’t even understand or have a good foundation of my own identity as a Filipino. I wanted to have a grounded background of my roots, I wanted to write stories that represented me. I didn’t want to start out in the world looking and working on films that looked at me through the lens of the colonizer, that painted me as the other. I wanted to start out by making Filipino films then move on to Filipino-Canadian films. I still like the Classic Hollywood format, the one which mainstream uses, but the national cinemas of the world have made a way to make classic cinema their own and I wanted to be part of that, the Philippine Cinema. Hollywood can wait. Hollywood, well honestly, wasn’t really the dream. And so I hope that answers your question why, I who had all the pleasures of the first world (LOL AS IF), would go back to the “third world”. There are tough days, days when my privileged self would throw tantrums.We don’t have a lot of equipment or resources, we don’t even look sophisticated while shooting – which TBH would make for instagram worthy photos, I mean we look like kids!- but for some reason that doesn’t stop us from creating.


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