Remembering Lino Brocka

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America’s Euphoria I was a little irritated with my students. Why did they seem distracted and not excited about What I saying? I was, after all, talking about Lino Brocka’s eminent role in the advance of Philippine cinema and nationalism in the arts. I was leading into his participation in people’s struggles before Edsa I. I was also going to point out his contribution to the Philippine Constitutiion, when as a member of the 1987 Constitution Convention he included “freedom of expression” as a right of every Filipino citizen. This has forever insured artistic freedom in this country. Why then did lino seem alien to them? Simple arithmetic made me realize that Lino passed away 12 years ago. If my student were 19 or 20 years old now, they were not even teenagers when Lino epitomized to the general public what a concerned artist should be. On the other hand, I met Lino when he was still Catalino. This was many years before he became better known as Lino Brocka, the Filipino director who impressed international critics in film festivals by the British Film Institute as one of the world’s best directors. It was 1956 when we enrolled at UP as freshman. Life was seemingly easy for teenagers in those days. We empahized with America’s euphoria after the end of the Pacific War. Technicolor film spectacles, Balara, La Mesa Dam, Bucolic Baguio, barn dances, Matorco symbolized the easy and inexpensive good times of that period. We closely identified with Hollywood role models like Parley Granger and Ann Blyth, whose movie roles focused on their search for “the meaning of life.” The more daring ones aped reckless Elvis Presley and oh-so-naughty Marilyn Monroe. The intellectuals read Camus and other existential philisophers. Why, some even advocated socialist concepts and were rumored to be aheists! They discussed usch topics with great fervor at the UP Liberal Arts Basement. The place was thick with cigarette smoke and the combination of constant laughter, fiery arguments, green jokes and simple gossip.

Wilfredo Ma. Guerrero – Those were happy times despite our self-inflicted angst. Nevertheless, Redemptorist priest threatened fire and brimstone during annual retreats. A number of us green freshman had the gall to join older university students who answered the “Audition” call of the UP Dramatic Club, the very prestigious association of thespians at the University of the Philippines, then under the tutelage of the renowned playwright Wilfredo Ma. Guerrero, Freddie to UP-DC and distuinguished alumni. That roster included Celia Diaz Laurel, Joe Viterbo, Mitos Sison, Doy Laurel, Angelita Collas, Joy Gamboa Virata, Marce and Kit Viduya, Jose “Jun” Roy, Tito Gupit and Cherry Santos. Phil Cabanos was designing his sets engineering student Sonny Osmena handled his lights. Could we join that illustrious list of thespians? What an honor to work with such an accomplished director-playwright, we thought. No wonder freshman like Jose Ma. Sison, Pinky Rigor Parolan, Carolina “Bobby” Malay Ocampo, George Moran Sison, Heidi de Peralta, Donnie Montelibano and myself auditioned for the Guerrero production of Thorton Wilder’s “A Happy Journey From Trenton to Camden.” After strenous public auditions, a select few were cast in the play. Also, included was one Catalino Brocka from San Jose, Nueva Ecija. Ishmael Bernal, a year or two ahead of us, was among those who would work backstage later on. Since most of the new members were graduates of “exclusive” schools life Ateneo, La Salle, Assumption, Maryknoll, Holly Ghost, and UP High or UP Prep, we spoke (American) English well. We were therefore excused from doing the tongue-twisting “She sells see shells by the seashore” and “Peter Piper” exercises. Alas, Catalino had to go through them. The Eliot play would be twin-billed with Sartre’s “No Exit,” an existentialist play that had reaped critical praise during its summer run.

Theater “sessions” – The cast of “No Exit” was headed by Jun Roy, Rita Kalaw Ledesma, Phil Cabanos and Kit Viduya. Marita Adolfo Viduya, or Kit ot all her friends at UP, was a spellbinding Estelle. I think “No Exit” was the dramatic turning point in our salad years because, soon after, Lino, Joonee Gamboa, Adul de Leon, and I became a gang of serious theater and movie buffs. We sat attentive and critical, at any and all theater productions in Manila. We even observed theater “sessions” wher more mature actors like Tita Munoz, Nick Agudo and Butch Josue went through Actor’s Studio techniques under a visiting American stage actor. Bert Avellana’s “My Name is Legion” was another awesome productions, along with Daisy Avellana as the sleepwalking lady in “Macbeth In Black.” When we could afford it, we would see the plays of the Manila Theater Guild at the exclusive Army-Navy Club, where expats enjoyed what were then the most polished stage productions in the city. Since we were inveterate moviegoers, we would also regularly see films together and, over ma Mon Luk’s pansit’ siopao, compare insights on productin, acting, directing and scripting. Simone Signoret’s quiet but sething intensity in “Room At The Top” was akin to Kit’s performance in “No Exit,” we thought. She remains one of my favorite stage actress to this day. Lino was her great fan and friend, too. In fact, Lino often slept over in their little bungalow near the LVN compound in San Juan. – Behn Cervantes, Philippine Daily Inquirer, May 31, 2003 (READ MORE)

Von Brocka – Lino quit the UP Dramatic Club production of the Wilder play because during our first rehearsal, he screamed a line that got the whole cast and crew in stitches. He yelled, “Awe, Mudder, Mudder luk ut dat gel weering a batting chute!” (Translated in properfly pronounced English that would be: Oh Mother, Mother, look at that girl wearing a bathing suit.) I didn’t know till much later that he was terribly humiliated by our spontaneous and mindless laughter. He opted to quit the play and kept away from our (to his mind) snobbish company. Instead, he worked backstage. He swept the stage, cleaned the dressing room area and threw away our pee collected in small bottles bockstage after the performances. he also drew and dropped the curtain, and promted the cast when needed. Sometime later, he confided to me that his family name originally Von Brocka but they dropped the royal indicator out of embarrassment. Instead, Catalino erstwhile Von Brocka became Lino to the UP Dramatic Club members. Only Adul insited on calling him Catalino. At some point, Joonee and I “adopted” Lino as our friend and protege. We helped him with his English pronunciation and, when he wasn’t getting cast in UP productions, we transferred to the Arena Theater at Philippine Normal College under Dr. Severino Montano on Taft ave. Joonee and his brother Arthur were alread Arena actors and Montano proteges. We appeared in Montano and Tony Bayot plays. Naty Crame Rogers was another PNC stalwart. In 1957, I resigned from the UP Dramatic Club in protest over its constant use of alumni, while resident UP Dramatic Club members like Lino were not given the chance to act. He was finally cast in “Second Shepherd’s Play,” a medieval morality play with the gorgeous Dee Marquez portraying Mary. She became the first musical star of Philippine television, hosting “The Pacosta Hour” that was later renamed “The Dee Marquez Show.” For years, Lino would describe a woman of great beauty, femininity and grace as “ala-Dee Marquez.”

The Glass Booth – When there was no mony for tuition, Lino would drop out of school. Adul, who had dropped out earlier, helped him land jobs. The first was as a jockey for Muzak, then run by psychiatrist Dr. Paul Hodel. Adul had the day shift while LIno took care of the graveyard hours. They play soothing music for Manil Hotel patrons in a glass-enclosed studio located on the ground floor of the historic hotel. Often, I would keep Lino company during thelonely early morning hours. I would arrive after the last full show at Ideal or Avenue theaters on Rizal ave. From inside the glass booth, Lino and I would gawk at Manila’s 400 going to the Fiesta Pavillion for the Kahirup’s grand balls, or those very elitist fashion shows of yore. Pedigreed beauties like Deana Jean Lopez, Norma Serafica, Bambi Lammoglia, Baby Jereza along with society matrons Chona Kasten, Elvira Manahan, Chito Madrigal and young debutantes Conchita Sevilla and Josie Padilla walked the ramps and executed their dramatic turns fro charity. During those long, lonely hours, we talked of everything under the sun. A few years later, Adul worked for PR Bill Kane. He represented Hollywood productions that then shot films in cheap, sun-rich and English-speaking Philippines, a country that also offered well-trained technical crews. Adul got Lino involved in those productions. The first was “Walls of Hell” or “Intramuros” for the domestic run. It starred Jock Mahoney, a former Tarzan, and the young Fernando Poe Jr, Eddie Romero, who directed the movie, told me later that Lino worked in other co-productions. Lino would often ask me to visit him on the set. He was busy, indeed. I failed to see how much of a turning point that would be in his life. Little did anyone on those sets realize that the 90-pound, 5’3 fellow would become a titan of Philippie cinema! – Behn Cervantes, Philippine Daily Inquirer, June 06, 2003 (READ MORE)

Missionary Work – Lino was converted to the Mormon religion sometime in 1962. How did it happen? One rainy evening, I arrived in our Pasay home to find a couple of Mormon missionaries vainly trying to talk my Protestant parents into accepting the merits of their Utah-based religiion. I made an appointment to see them at some other time. I phone Lino to accompany me to the scheduled religious session. After their lengthy spiels, Lino and I agreed it was a rather amusing experience. But Lino continued to see them for proselytizing sessions – until one day he found himself waist – deep in a big pool! He was baptized by beaming missionaries as one of their first Filipino converts to theChurch of Latter Day Saints! In 1965, he was sent to Honolulu for missionary work. Lino had a mind of his own, so it was not surprising that he soon encountered problems with the superiors of his strict church. As a result of his willfulness, he was “exiled” to far-off Molokai. Albeit that stint, he was sent to San Francisco, where he did more missionary work. While there he befriended a yound actor appearing in the stage play “The Subject Was Roses.” He later became better known as Martin Sheen. Lino came home for a sabbatical and I made him join Peta. It was during that time that we had a falling out. I cast him in “Apollo of Bellac” for a Grey November Wednesday show. Ishmael Bernal wisely used that slow mid-week day for a “happening” to draw the crowd to his cafe. Lino came late for the performance so we had a mini-spat that developed further when I questioned his appointment as the director of a Nestor Torre play for a major Peta production. We didn’t speak to each other for 14 years! In years in between, I had joined the parliament of the street. He had become an acclaimed film director with “Wanted: Perfect Mother.” As they say the rest is history. It was only in May 1983, when we worked together in the Free The Artists, Free The Media Movement, that we started to speak to each other again.

Bulaklak ng City Jail – After the assassination of Aquino in Aug. 21, 1983 we became active in Jaja (Justice for Aquino, Justice for All) and many other organizations. Lino and I were detained in a well-publicized arrest during a transport strike in January 1985. We spent ample time together in the Quezon City Jail and Camp Bonifacio, where we reminisced about our salad years, recalled old friends and reminded ourselves of our spats. All that was now water under the bridge. We had become not only friends but comrades, although some silly fellow referred to us as the “Bulaklak ng City Jail,” a take-off from a movie that starred Nora Aunor. We now centered our efforts on the Concerned Artists of the Philippines and its aims. The essense of theCAP statement was clear: We recognized the fact that we were Filipinos first and foremost. We happened to be artist but we had to concern ourselves with our nation’s needs since these affected our lives as artist. We could and did not separate one from the other. We shared a vision of the work and challenges that confronted dedicated and concerned artsts in a troubled country. We had to confront many national problems. We hope to eliminate some of them through out artistic endeavours. All future work would have to be seen from the point of view of the underprivileged Filipino. The task confronting us was formidable. Lino died 12 years ago. There is still so much to be done! New generations should admire what he stood for, emulate his dedication to truth and integrity; and understand his positin in the struggle for true national liberation. he was not just a great filmmaker but a great Filipino artists, as well. – Behn Cervantes, Philippine Daily Inquirer, June 14, 2003 (READ MORE)

Unforgettable Scenes “…There were three unforgettable scenes in the film: Hilda Koronel’s painful monologue when she and Bembol Roco were in a motel room; Tommy Abuel’s extinguishing a cigarette butt in his palm when he trying to escape from her Chinese employer, and the dramatic final scene when people chased Roco when they saw him kill Koronel’s Chinese boss. And then I remember reading the name of the movie director in the credits – Lino Brocka. I became an instant fan…I remember them all: Gina Alajar’s questioning look in the final scene of “Bayan Ko: Kapit sa Patalim,” a subdued Lolita Rodriguez and a hysterical Charito Solis in the confrontation scene in “Ina, Kapatid, Anak,” Philip Salvador’s lament and hubris when he carried his dead son in “Orapronobis,” Vilma Santos’ rape scene in “Rubia Serbios,” etc. In “Nakaw na Pag-ibig,” (Brocka’s 29th film, loosely based on Theodore Dreiser’s “An American Tragedy,”) in the scene where Philip Salvador was about to push his lover (Nora Aunor) off a cliff, the audience clapped and whistled in admiration when Aunor’s face was shown close up on screen, full of terror, confusion and anger. To this day, I consider that scene as one of Aunor’s best dramatic acting moments. Only a Brocka could make her act like that…” – Ronald G. Mangubat, Philippine Daily Inquirer – May 24, 2003 (READ MORE)

Excessive Sex in Cinema “…Doing a Brocka requires much more than just outsiders and victims, shot in Lino’s signatures squatter locations, with characters mouthing seethingly witty diatribes against the rich and hypocritical, showing up politicians and social climbers for the vainglorious fakes they really are. today’s ersatz Brocka may be able to approximate these key elements, but when they put them together, the finished creation beats with a cold, utilitarian heart. You simply can’t fudge passin, genuine involvement and the readiness to do anything and even give up everything in order to come up with a film that will force viewers to face the worst and the best about themselves. Those, and not the “signature” squatter locales, are what truly distinguish Brocka’s works from other filmmakers’, and they can’t be imitated. Another point: with Brocka, life and film were one – which is why his movies throbbed with his view of life, nobody else’s. That, again, can’t be approxinated with conviction, especially not by many of today’s filmmakers, who have become far too comfortable with compromise. Take this currently “hot” issue of excessive sex in cinema. Brocka made some sexy movies, but none of them ended up as bomba movies even in the ’70s, when super-sexy films were “allowed.” He knew when to stop after he had made his erotic point, and when enough was enough – unlike some directors today, whose “enough” is far too much! So, if there are new filmmakers out ther who want to become “another Lino Brocka,” our best advise is: don’t even try, because you’re sure to fail – and look trying – hard in theprocess, because Lino is a tough act to follow. Brocka became Brocka because he was Brocka, with all of his unique attributes, goals and drives, so it’s futile for the picayune non-Brockas out there to try to approximate his depth and stature…” – Nestor U Torre, Philippine Daily Inquirer, May 11, 2001 (READ MORE)

Santiago – “…Right after “Wanted…,” Lino was contracted to direct other movies one after the other, in the hope that they would also turn out to be winners. The biggest of these productions, by far, was “Santiago,” because it starred no less than the Filipino industry’s “King of Action Films,” Fernando Poe Jr. Never mind that Lino wasn’t an action director, he was given the “honor” of directing King FPJ. He took on that gargantuan task even if it wasn’t really within his ken of interest because, if it clicked it would make him an even more bankable director. With that kind of box office clout, producer would then premit him to direct the much more daring, committed and “dangerous” films he really wanted to make. Well, the inevitable happened: Lino and FPJ clashed. It really couldn’t be avoided because they came from two different cinematic worlds, and never the twain di meet, except with a lot of anger and trauma. Lino was quite unnerved by the experience. He tried to keep his cool as best he could and went on to finish the movie, but the stress told on him in a manner that he couldn’t control: it left a psychological emblem, a white spot on his cheek, for the young director to rememeber his mis-encounter with FPJ by. Years late, Lino would point to that white spot on his cheek and call it his FPJ beauty spot. Truth to tell, however, the experience was far from beautiful. Still, “Santiago” emerged as a must see film, and FPJ did better in it than in most of his other starrers, so both he and Lino were able to prove their thespic points. For his part, however, Lino was criticized for the overly stagy way with which he mounted some scenes in the film, with the townspeople acting like a Greek chorus, in full theatrical froth. But we will always remember “Santiago” for the great way with which it showcased the very young and beautiful Hilda Koronel, in her “introducing” screen appearance: After a fire, a house has been gutted to its foundations, and everything is covered with ash, soot and a few embers. Then, in the midst of all the bleakness, a hand reaches out from beneath the ashes/ There;s a survivor! As the figure crawls out, it turns out to be the lovely Hilda, her beautiful face “blooming” like a brave lily in that landscape of death and destruction. What a great first shot for a new actress! And only LIno Brocka could have thought it up for the luminous young talent who would later become his artistic “daughter” in cinema.” – Nestor U. Torre, Philippine Daily Inquirer, Jul 21, 2001 (READ MORE)

Lino Brocka and Vilma Santos

Brocka gave Vilma one of the most controversial film after Burlesk Queen, her milestone role as a rape victim in 1978′s Rubia Servios. The film failed to secure Vilma the local festival’s best performer award but broke record in terms of revenue.

Rubia Servios (1978) – “…Sa direksiyon ni Brocka, lumitaw ang galing ni Vilma Santos, at nakontrol ang labis na pagpapagalaw ng kanyang labi. Mahusay din ang eksena ng gahasa. Si Philip Salvador naman ay tulad sa isang masunuring estudyante na sinusunod lahat ang direksiyon ng guro. Kitang-kita mo sa kanyang pagganap ang bawat tagubiling pinaghihirapan niyang masunod: kilos ng mata, buntong-hininga, galaw ng daliri, kislot ng kilay. Limitado ang kanyang kakayahan at makikia ito sa kanyang mukha (na limitado rin)…” – Justino M. Dormiendo, Sagisag, February 1979 (READ MORE)

Adultery: Aida Macaraeg (1984) – “…The movie also offers another view of prison life. Sa mga pelikulang lokal na tungkol sa piitan, karaniwan nang nalalagyan ng tattoo ang bida, ginagahasa ng kapwa bilanggo at ginugulpi ng husto. Dito, maayos ang naging kalagayan ni Carding habang nasa bilangguan at wala siyang naenkwentrong mga problema na gaya ng usual na napapanood natin sa prison movies. Maganda talaga ang Aida Macaraeg…” – Mario E. Bautista, Movie Flash May 31, 1983 (READ MORE)

Hahamakin Lahat (1990) – “…Brocka did Hahamakin Lahat for Regal Films. This would be his third team-up with Vilma Santos. The role called for Vilma to be dark, daring, and innovative—something that totally deviated from characters usually portrayed by the sweet-faced actress . It showed a heroine entering into a marriage of convenience with a ruthless, scheming mayor—a character Brocka created to expose the hypocrisy and corruption of society…” – Mario Hernando (READ MORE)

Talent was welling out like spring water – “…So I assumed that, as an actress, she was really just second to Nora. But Vilma takes good care of herself not only physically – there’s always this aura about her – but intellectually too: so she grows and develops tremendously. The second time I worked with her, in Adultery, I realized she had become as good as Nora, or better. And by the time of Hahamakin Lahat there was the complete sensibility already – a difference in the way she expressed pain and hurt. Talent was welling out like spring water, and flowing from her most naturally, no longer courtesy of Vicks or whatever…Possibly her coming of age as a woman. She had become more sure of herself. And this self-confidence grew as her private life became calmer, as she found herself with fewer problems, both financially and emotionally. How a director would feel about her at the moment is that he can do anything with her now. She has become so supple that his tendency would be to challenge her still further, make her come up still higher, open up more doors. She can give you so much more now.” Brocka snorts at the complaint Vilma is currently making: that so utterly has she done all the roles she can do there’s no new role left for her to do. ‘She can do the same role over and over again as long as, with the right direction, she does it always a bit more profoundly than the last time and makes it a bit more complex than the last time. She should have no problem at all with roles. In fact, I would advise her now to play roles that are not glamorous. Yes, she’s too associated with glamour to do that. But maybe in another year or two she can afford to take off her make up and act her age. Then she’ll really be on par with Nora, whose chief concern is seldom her looks. With Nora, it’s not her face that’s on sale. The problem with Vilma is that she feels she has to live up to her image as The Glamour Girl. I’m waiting for the day when glamour will have no truck -walang pakialam! – with the acting…” – Quijano De Manila (Nick Joaquin), Philippine Graphic Magazine 05 November 1990 (READ MORE)

Catalino Ortiz Brocka (April 3, 1939–May 21, 1991), director for film and broadcast arts, espoused the term “freedom of expression” in the Philippine Constitution. Brocka took his social activist spirit to the screen leaving behind 66 films which breathed life and hope for the marginalized sectors of society — slumdwellers, prostitute, construction workers, etc. He also directed for theater with equal zeal and served in organizations that offer alternative visions, like the Philippine Educational Theater Association (PETA) and the Concerned Artists of the Philippines (CAP). At the same time, he garnered awards and recognition from institutions like the CCP, FAMAS, TOYM, and Cannes Film Festival. Brocka has left behind his masterpieces, bequeathing to our country a heritage of cinematic harvest; a bounty of stunning images, memorable conversations that speak volumes on love,betrayal and redemption, pestilence and plenty all pointing towards the recovery and rediscovery of our nation. To name a few, Brocka’s films include the following: “Santiago” (1970), “Wanted: Perfect Mother” (1970), “Tubog sa Ginto” (1971), “Stardoom” (1971), “Tinimbang Ka Ngunit Kulang” (1974), “Maynila: Sa Kuko ng Liwanag” (1975), “Insiang” (1976), “Jaguar” (1979), “Bona” (1980), “Macho Dancer” (1989), “Orapronobis” (1989), “Makiusap Ka sa Diyos” (1991) ( On May 21, 1991 Brocka met an untimely death in a car accident in Quezon City, Metro Manila. In 1997 he was given the posthumous distinction of National Artist for Film.- Wikipedia (READ MORE)

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