I was of course just raring to head to Manila for university, despite joining a college someone else imposed on me. I was crossing my fingers then that eventually my dad would have a change of heart somewhere midway in my studies and allow me to shift to Film.
I tried my best to immerse my self in film while at the university (I honestly couldn't care less for my major subjects). The Film Center had regular screenings of films from Japan, France, Germany, Israel, Italy, etc., that I didn't have access to in Surigao. By watching some of the best works coming from the different parts of the world, I realized how many other ways a story could be told through the language of film-making, a far departure from the formulas of Hollywood that I was more exposed to previously.
Most importantly, my eyes were opened to the amazing heritage that was Filipino movies. Of course I've heard of Brocka and Bernal before that, but I haven't actually seen any of their masterpieces.
The university was generous in showcasing their works, among other movies by brilliant Pinoy film-makers who produced some of the best works of Philippine cinema, particularly those highlighting the political radicalism of the 70s and early 80s. That period was touted as the second golden age of Philippine cinema.
I was struck by the gritty realism of the films of Lino Brocka, such as Tinimbang Ka Ngunit Kulang, Insiang, Bayan Ko Kapit sa Patalim, and Maynila sa mga Kuko ng Liwanag. Marilou Diaz-Abaya's Karnal still remains as one of my most unforgettable Filipino films.
Among the long list of remarkable films that came out in the 80s however, the one that stood out the most for me is Oro, Plata, Mata by Peque Gallaga, a nearly three-hour masterpiece I have seen three times to date. (I had a discussion with Miss Lyka Bergen about Oro, Plata, Mata yesterday, thus, prompting this post.)
Some of the best moments of my university days were spent inside the darkness of the theater. It helped that my dormitory was right across the university's cinema. I even skipped classes sometimes just to catch classics, well, such as the sexually explicit Scorpio Nights, which caused quite a big stir in campus when it was shown (our university had immunity from film censorship).My friends and I attended various film festivals the university regularly organized, such as those featuring films from Japan, which entranced us consistently.
Aside from watching films, I scoured the university libraries to read about cinema, which in the end I found too complicated, especially if one gets into the complex world of film criticism. I certainly felt juvenile in my understanding of what films are and how to relate them to a wider social context. For a time, however, I was satisfied to just sit on the sidelines as a film aficionado, but still hoping to study film eventually.
Not that I had a good idea what career I would have if I took Film. Back then, I just fancied a future in directing
On my second year of coasting through university life and of being enrolled in a degree I was not particularly fond of, I finally dared to ask my dad if I could shift to film, to which he grudgingly agreed (I don't know how I convinced him, honestly).
So I trudged on to finish Public Administration and tried to understand public policy and government instead (however, perhaps as an act of rebellion I refused to go to law school after university, as my dad originally intended).
With a botched career in film (or so I think), I kept my interest in movies, but never actually getting inside it nor comprehending its theories and process. I pretty much remain as an outsider, a dilettante if you may.