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Bencab’s Haven: First Cut

August 4, 2009

“Bencab’s Haven” captures two significant times in the life of Bencab: the inauguration of Bencab Museum in Baguio last February and the conferment on him of Doctor of Humanities Honoris Causa by the University of the Philippines last June 19, 2009.

Two very distinct events but both celebrating peak moments in the life of our National Artist in Visual Arts, Benedicto “Bencab” Cabrera. The footages, shot by Romy Vitug were handed to me last June—with timing good enough for me to be able to find time to look at them and start editing in my mind. That’s the usual process I undergo everytime I edit anything. After watching the footages, cuts automatically position in the timeline of my mind churning an edited version of the film. If they become too much for my head to take, I usually jot down notes on the sequencing being formed which I eventually and normally follow. The rest would be easy. The greatest problem that I have as an editor however is that images follow me until I go to bed—they continue to edit in my head— that I can’t distinguish the sleeping and hours that I am awake anymore.

By the time I received the footages from Kuya Romy my work on “A Blind Architect” was already finishing so I had no problem in sorting and cataloging the footages in my head. As an editor, I have the problem of images flying, doing a montage of its own in my mind everytime I work on a film or a film yet to be done. I finally sat to edit the first cut last month (July).

The cañao ritual was most challenging to edit wherein a pig was shown  sacrificed so that reading of its liver can be done by a “mumbaki” (priest). It was my first time to see one closely and I found it surprising to see a combination of tribal and Christianized ritual practices. A person’s good or bad luck is said to be determined by it. I personally find very, very repulsive what appears to me as a “violent scene”–  the sight of killing the pig as part of the ritual. I finally managed to edit that part intercutting it with other activities going on simultaneously to shorten the actual act of killing the animal with an eye literally “closed” or looking off the frame or the corner of the frame as the action is happening. The ritual lasts a few seconds but the images are so strong a sight they tend to be unforgettable. The ritual is part of the Cordillera people’s culture, and understanding that fact I believed could help us take the sight of it in. But it still proved to be quite difficult for me.

Since Mr. Bencab and Ms. Annie Sarthou could not seemingly stand the sight of it as well, I was asked not to fully show in detail anymore one of the “most important yet gory and bloody part” of the ritual, rendering incomplete the full ethnographic documentation of something vital to their culture. I will keep intact the very first cut anyhow.

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