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Sina JP Rizal at Kingpin Asiong sa Buhay Ko

January 1, 2012

As the year starts, I want to reflect on Jose “Pepe” Rizal and Nicasio “Asiong” Salonga –  ang 2 Astig na kumuha sa oras at panahon ko noong 2011. From the time I started working on the films focused on them, they automatically became part of my subconscious…my being, having been part of the team that helped in resurrecting their acitvities. I am still in fact, still unfinished with my Jose Rizal film.

Salonga, the Manila Kingpin, and Dr. Jose Rizal, the Renaissance Man cannot be compared, SHOULD NOT be compared. But I have reason to compare the two because I got involved in glorifying both…as editor of the DIRECTOR’S CUT of the first, [Tikoy Aguiluz’s version]; and as director-editor of the 50-min medium length film, A mi Patria /Inang-Bayan featuring Rizal’s poems, including Mi Ultimo Adios. The poems were all interpreted for the first time in Filipino Sign Language [The FSL version of Ultimo Adios is the 132nd translation since 1897]. Both were shot in digital format: the first used Alexa, the latest pro-cam; the second used simple DSLR’s, Canon 7D and 5D. The first spent P75M to produce; the latter, less that P1M. Technically, they too should not be compared at all because of that. The first is outright commercial; the latter, purely educational. Should I stop comparing the two??? Of course not! I have just began.

It was in summer 2011 when I started alternately working on Manila Kingpin: The Asiong Salonga Story; and A mi Patria. Why since summer? Because I was asked by Tikoy to join him in the pre-production of the film, that is, from studying the incomplete script, storyboarding the OK’d scenes, and brainstorming with him and the writer, Rey Ventura on the story ideas which Tikoy wanted added to the film. All the new ideas you find in the film— the calesa chase, the fight at the lahar-looking zone they call Magdalena, the prison scenes with Guardame, etc. all came from Tikoy’s fertile mind. Those were his ideas, not the writers nor the producers.

Asiong Salonga was a gangster, a badass; Dr. Jose Rizal was a scholar, a well-educated man. But both are heroes: Asiong Salonga to Tondeños during his lifetime; Rizal to all Filipinos, not only in Manila where Tondo is located but wherever there are Filipinos in the world, during his lifetime until now. Asiong’s life has been filmed four times; Rizal, many times over of course since he lived 150 years ago. The first film on him was made in 1912; the latest and the one that would inarguably be the film that will come out a hundred years hence is what we are doing now, in digital form though.

Both of them lived not too long in this world: Asiong died at the age of 28, some says at the age of 27; Rizal at the age of 35. Both were killed by a bullet: Asiong was assassinated by Erning Toothpick; Rizal by a firing squad consisting of 8 Filipino soldiers working for the Spanish government. Asiong was shot behind the back by Erning; Rizal was ordered to turn his back and face the sea towards Cavite. Rizal died facing the sky; in Kingpin, Asiong fell with his face towards the ceiling since it was shot indoors [Director’s Cut version]. In the film, he died in the morgue. In reality, Asiong was reported to have been killed in front of a store. Both were killed in Manila: Asiong in Tondo; Rizal in Bagumbayan,now Luneta. The GUN was Asiong’s weapon; the PEN was Rizal’s. Asiong used violence to become what he was: feared but said to have a good heart for the poor; Rizal used non-violence, and wasn’t sold to the idea of a revolution without preparations- but feared by the Spanish government because of his mighty pen that sparked the revolution. Both were jailed, and both continue to be models and inspirations to whosoever fancy themselves to be like any of the two. Gov Jeorge Estregan loved Asiong’s character so much that he wanted to remind the present generation of Filipinos about Asiong. He already made one in 1991 but again spent millions with SCI to produce it. I am making a small film that will preserve Rizal’s poems in sign language – the first-ever in Philippine history – to remind all Filipinos of his greatness and nationalism with a budget equivalent to the value of making a day’s sequence [a couple of days at the most] of Manila Kingpin.

In the editing room while watching tons of footages of Asiong Salonga in the making, I couldn’t help but muse on the above thoughts. When told that in editing out a scene, I should consider that P500K will be thrown away so just trim the scene here and there, I couldn’t help but think on how I struggle to  raise that amount to be able to make a decent film that will glorify the thoughts and wisdom of a great, inspiring and learned man. But I did despite odds! And responses, especially of the Rizal descendants are my gauge in shouting to the world that — yes! the Deaf succeeded in getting their message through – that FSL can possibly touch the hearts and minds even of the hearing viewers too, as exemplified by ULTIMO ADIOS; that FSL is indeed beautiful and Deaf Filipino poetry is possible; that FSL should be recognized as medium of instruction to Deaf students because it is their VOICE.

Sino talaga ASTIG: Si Asiong o si Pepe? Interestingly, both were on the front pages of the newspapers when they died…bongga sila nang mamatay! The only difference being the fact that there is not one monument in honor of Asiong in the Philippines. Well, I am not aware of any. Can anyone tell me if there is one so we can post it here? Rizal monuments and markers can be found in almost all places in the Philippines, even abroad. ULTIMO ADIOS and the 50-min FSL film INANG BAYAN / A MI PATRIA are the simple monuments that I built in honor of Dr. Jose Rizal, a great man for all seasons, for all peoples…in celebration of his 150th Birth Anniversary.

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