ALYANA: From Diliman to Silliman
FROM DILIMAN TO SILLIMAN, Part I — July to December 2006
This is a reconstruction of my thoughts from July 2006 to December 2007 regarding the journey of my film “Alyana—A Study of Autism in the Philippines” from UP Film Center in Diliman, Quezon City in Metro-Manila to Silliman University’s Luce Auditorium in Dumaguete City, Negros Oriental.
Premiere in UP Diliman / July 20, 2006
Autism Society Philippines (ASP) sponsored its screening. Alyana was premiered on July 20, 2006 at the UP Film Center in Diliman, Quezon City. Its founder-Director Virginia R. Moreno was our guest speaker. Most of the members of ASP’s Board of Trustees (BOT) were then quite new in their “assignments” as BOTs hence their apprehensions and anxieties with regard holding such a big gathering in a venue as big as the Film Center. Their first time they told me. Oh well! I just had to do it there as I have decided that ALL my films should be premiered nowhere else but there. I happened to be one of the original staff members of the UP Film Center and a witness as to how it grew—from a small classroom at the Arts and Sciences Bldg. in Palma Hall, Rm. 209 to be exact—up to what it has now become. Everytime I would look at the big screen at the then unfinished hall, my mind would fly and would imagine my own work showing there. Alyana was my third film that was premiered there at the time. It turned out nonetheless to be a huge success in terms of audience attendance and response. The over 800-seater venue actually accommodated nearly 1,200 people by adding monoblock chairs. Except for its length (original two-and-a-half-hour version) everybody gave positive remarks. It was a significant night for me as I saw how it affected the audience. I witnessed the power of film! And the fact that it was my film made only possible because of will power and Faith, a film which I very well knew was technically wanting because of very small budget sort of amazed me. It affirmed the truth that content and how you express it more than high-tech and highly-budgeted films with no sense in it are the most important elements to make a good and worthwhile film. Alyana, with her mother (my niece) Eileen Cruz, siblings Ian and Katkat and the rest of our family members were present. When Eileen said (referring to daughter Alyana): “Ipinagmamalaki po namin siya..” (We are proud of her.) thunderous applause followed. And when the film was finally screening, impromptu claps as if an ovation were heard in synergy as Gabby Atienza, CARD in-house artist, Asperger Syndome PWA who was diagnosed at the age of 41 spoke about himself and his condition.
Miriam College / September 5
The first school to request for the showing of Alyana was Miriam College’s Psychology Department. It was shown in September at the mini-auditorium. It also yielded a good number of audience not only from the Psychology Department but from the Education Department as well. At that time, they were planning or have just started with their undergraduate course in Special Education.
Montessori Learning Center / October
ASP Metro-South headed by Elvert Malapad initiated the screening of Alyana in Parañaque City. Due to the typhoon during that time not so many people managed to come though. A few from outside the city who were not able to catch it at the UP Film Center and who very much wanted to see it came however.
SM Bacoor / December 2, 2 pm, SM Cinema 4
Then new chapter ASP Bacoor headed by Jan Peña next took the initiative to show Alyana. It had been quite a successful show. There were some who approached me to tell me that they had seen Alyana in UP but they came back with other family members for them to watch and understand what autism is. Gio, ASP President Dang Koe’s son was also present and he sat down throughout the film show to the astonishment of Dang herself.
Cinemanila International Film Festival at SM Megamall / November 2006
It was a running joke at the CineManila Secretariat that Alyana was the box-office hit at SM Cinema against all other CineManila entries. It was so because when Alyana was shown, it had at least between 90-150 viewers. We were told that other films had fewer, at times had only three people watching other entries which was very sad because foreign films at CineManila are a rarity and should be seen really. Nestor Torre was present in one of the screenings allotted us. After watching the film, he came up with an article entitled: (Pls. click below)
Festival on the Issues Concerning the Mentally Challenged / December 5, 2006 / New Delhi, India
Alyana had a special screening in the above festival. My classmate and best friend at the Film and Television Institute of India, Dipti Bhalla and Kunal Verma, her hubby went to attend the film showing in my behalf.
From DILIMAN to SILLIMAN, Part II — January to December 2007
SM NORTH / January 28, 2007
SM Baguio / February 10, 2007
Our stay in Baguio was very memorable in the sense that we had ghost story tales to tell–as my experience along with the staff of ASP who accompanied me for the film showing—Lanie Casalme, Luche Lamela and Michelle, a volunteer. It’s a long story to tell but it was one those experiences which confirmed my belief in the “Others.” We have had two successful showings under the auspices of ASP Baguio. I remember a group of Mass Comm students from UP Baguio who approached me to consult re the short film they were then working on.
UP Sped Center / February
It was just the second time that the long version of Alyana was shown to the public. They requested for it anyway since the audience were mostly special education students. The hall was fully packed. It was the celebration of UP Sped Week and Alyana showing was one of their main events. It was my first time to meet then Prof. now Dr. Marie Therese Bustos who was so thankful re the fact that I managed to gather almost all the important personalities in autism education. She said that Alyana is the most comprehensive film on autism in the Philippines.
SM Cagayan de Oro City / 2 pm
It was my first time to be in Cagayan de Oro City. I was brought straight to SM which is located near the airport where it was shown. Cynthia Bella was the ASP President at the time. She now resides in Laguna and has joined Riza Cansanay’s ASP Laguna Chapter, one of the most active amongst all ASP groups. Acknowledging Alyana’s importance, she gave me a photo with her son with a note at the back: “Thank you for letting the society accept our children.”
17th International Women’s Film Festival / UP Film Center / March 8
As closing film during the 17th International Women’s Film Festival that year, Alyana was shown for free mostly to the Deaf sector, majority of whom were from De La Salle-College of St. Benilde School of Deaf and Applied Studies where I studied sign language. I cut the shortest version of Alyana (97 min) and fully subtitled it for the Deaf to understand their condition. What prompted me to do it was when I came to know that they had wrong notions regarding children with autism. Their sign which symbolizes Persons with Autism gave the impression that PWA’s are crazy. (Read What Makes Movie Special re details on this experience)
Pio Del Pilar Elementary School, Makati
The screening of Alyana was organized by Busilak ng Pangarap Sped Center led by Teacher Salvacion Calabucal, one of the most inspiring persons I have ever met. Innerwheel of Makati supported the screening. It was shown for free to parents, teachers and students of Pio del Pilar Elementary School. It was where I met Mrs. Cynthia Magdaraog, President of Orphan’s Diseases Association.
UP Los Baños
The screening at UP Los Baños was organized by ASP-Laguna Chapter headed by Riza Cansanay, Chapter President. Brown-outs delayed the showing. Nevertheless, the heat was not strong enough to distract the viewers. I remember a Balikbayan family from California who expressed their hope that it be shown in the USA as well.
Davao City, The Venue / November
See ASAP News [will post later]
Silliman University AVR Room, 10 am and Luce Auditorium, 7 pm / December 6, 2007
It was out of my own initiative that the showing of Alyana was made possible with the help of the introduction made by my good friend Dr. Belen Calingacion, Chairperson of the UP Theater Arts and Speech Communications Dept. I first set foot in SU sometime in July on our way to Siquijor Island to attend the First Artist’s Convention in Olang Arts Park. Belen and I made ambush interviews with SU alumni including their president Ben Malayang for an AVP that their group would show for their Founder’s Day. We even met Michael Dadap who was scheduled then to play at Luce Auditorium. In between that time and November, I made contact with then new Psychology Dept Chairman Rogen Alcantara. The day was set for the showing on December 6. There were two screenings: at AVR Multimedia Center and at Luce Auditorium. I stayed at the SU Alumni Hall to pass the night. It was where I took a few shots of curtains which I have included in my album of favorite photos (See Page “Beauty in the Extraordinary Ordinary”) The audience response was pretty much the same as in UP Diliman, hence I was correct in my line of thinking that if Alyana was welcomed and even shown three times in UP Diliman, why not in Silliman? There was the same level of understanding, with the same response in segments that generates the same reactions. In fact, Alyana had already been shown three times in Silliman University. Twice when I first went there in December ’07, the third time when I was asked to return for a repeat show in February ’08. It was in the first showing of Alyana that I met Analou Suan of GPRehab, an equally energetic and passionate individual working for the welfare of the Disabled. She invited us to her place and it was there that the idea of the First Autism Forum in Dumaguete and the Autism Society Philippines Chapter Dumaguete were hatched. The former was realized the second, is still pending subject to requirements by ASP Main Office.