When Philippine Cinema Loses a Warrior
Doing something that you love is, most of the time, in need of life-changing decisions and sacrifices. Priorities are overhauled. A myriad of issues need to be settled — especially if it entails “geographical commitments” where a “diaspora” or a “semi-diaspora” becomes inevitable. It happens a lot, especially with Filipinos whose families are scattered all over the world: some are immigrants; some have foreign blood and/or with family members and loved ones abroad; some are overseas Filipino workers; and some find themselves traveling back and forth due to work and/or personal reasons.
At some point, we are asked to stay with our families abroad, where the so-called greener pastures seem more apparent. Most of us have to go, and there’s no argument on the fact that we have to economically survive for ourselves and our families. Sad to say, other countries benefit from the skills, talents, and resilience of many Filipinos; while our country generally suffers from brain drain. With that small percentage of people who believe they can financially earn more in due time by enduring the Philippine economic struggle, it is even rarer to find Filipinos who prefer to live a simple, more economically challenging, but perhaps, a more fulfilled life, by contributing to the betterment of the country. Sad to say again, of that small percentage, one precious gem, we just lost so unreasonably.
Alexis Tioseco chose to struggle for Philippine cinema’s development than migrate back to Canada with his family. He believed he can do something for the struggling Philippine film industry. The dream to make it thrive has actually taken its baby steps already. Much things to be done still, but good things are starting to happen. Thanks to a number of brilliant and passionate Filipino talents for making the start of this new wave.
Alexis, that profound mind, an accomplished young man who dedicated a great part of his life for Philippine cinema, is now gone.
That morning of 2009, I was in Rizal, Philippines. It seemed like an ordinary day. I woke up quite early. Given my type of work, it was a rare instance to get up from bed at such time (unless there’s an early call time or any kind of work or meeting requiring me to wake up that early). Breakfast wasn’t even ready, so I took the liberty to open my laptop and go online. It usually felt so good to keep in touch with so many friends and colleagues from all over the world — from a few kilometers to continents away (making the idea of migrating to or working in another country a less burdening concern in terms of keeping constant communication). I’ve been raving about the fact that it’s so easy to communicate with people these days. It’s always easy to express ourselves and be heard through the Internet.
But that morning was different. Going online brought me in a total shock. A shock that never in my life I have ever imagined to happen, perhaps not this too early on, way too early. I thought: I just commented on his Facebook post entitled “Dear Film Development Council of the Philippines” a day before. I was commenting among other filmmakers, writers, and film enthusiasts where we expressed our insights and emotions about the topic. Then a day after that last comment I made on his Facebook post, I saw in the same online venue that he and his girlfriend Nika Bohinc, also a young, well-respected film journalist from Slovenia, were murdered at Alexis’ house in Quezon City. Of course, there was that kind of denial stage and the hope that it was just false news, or even just a bluff, a really bad joke, but definitely not a funny one at all. Perhaps, it was just a mistake or a form of miscommunication. But it’s confirmed. What a shock. What a pain. What a loss. And whoever was responsible for the crime that took away their precious lives, I know that karma will be on its way. Yes, how tiring it is to be positive enough with the justice system in this society, but I know that justice will be there, fairly served, beyond the world of the mundane.
It was normal to meet him during film festivals. We had some chats for brief moments in film events. We were not really friends, but we occasionally get to say hi. I even went to his house some years ago for something film-related. It was a pretty ordinary thing to meet up here and there. But now, we, especially those who knew him, further felt how our mortality can grab us away in a whim.
Even until now, it’s quite hard to let everything sink in. Hearing how his life came to an end was like losing somebody so close that I readily burst into tears after confirming the validity of those Facebook messages I read. It feels so awful. It’s even more painful coming from somebody from the same circle as I know that Philippine cinema has just lost not just a gem, but a warrior.
He had a brilliant mind, and so he wrote. He had profound insights, and so he spoke. He started establishing solid connections and resources through his valuable works, and so he continuously struggled for the betterment of Filipino films. He had the composure of a young and accomplished intellectual, and so he continued to provide a voice not just for the film industry but the whole arts community through his relevant opinions, criticisms, and discussions.
He made himself heard — especially to his fellow supporters of the industry. He reached out until the very last moment he could.
How should we remember Alexis and Nika? Both of them are gems and warriors in the world of film, from the Philippines to Slovenia to the whole world. We all mourn for the loss. It is just but human to feel so much pain with the fact that he and Nika could never write about film again. But their contributions to the film community don’t really end on their writings. We should keep helping our own industries, and by doing so, everybody who sacrificed so much, who are struggling, whether people who are still here or those who are not anymore in our midst, we keep their memories alive. We put energy to make their dreams realized.
All Alexis’ and Nika’s writings, recorded insights — chronicled for all of us now and for the future. They will forever become treasures of ideas, principles, and well-fought battles. As people who work and/or love film, I believe that the best way to remember them is to continue the long-term struggle for Philippine cinema, and the arts as a whole. Their writings shall remain sparks of hope and ideas to fuel our tough fights.
We have our own skills and talents. We have our own turfs. We have our own resources and connections. We have our own dreams and aspirations. Let us all become the best we can be and contribute to our society and our chosen fields in the best way we can.
For Alexis and Nika, you left us with memories, writings, and chronicled moments to really treasure. You will be well-remembered, not just by us, but also Philippine cinema’s years and years to come.
It has been a long struggle for Philippine cinema, and the fight continues.
Let me share Alexis’ post entitled “Dear Film Development Council of the Philippines,” which was also posted on his Facebook Notes:
Dear Film Development Council of the Philippines,
You have the mandate to start the National Film Archive. I have heard that your first priority project in relation to archiving is the digitization of some 70 works into high quality digital copies. While this may be useful, perhaps inquiring into the state of and assisting the various archives in the country (UP Film Center, Mowelfund et al) whose current holdings (which include rare prints if not master negatives of some titles, let alone the entire history of alternative/experimental cinema in the country) are being stored in deplorable conditions, may be even more important. Have you thought about this? Saving the master negatives or prints and storing and caring for them properly will ensure their survival far longer than digital copies (of which we are still uncertain), and in their original state too. Steps need to be made NOW to ensure that we don’t lose more of these films.
I know you would like high quality digital copies of films to be available for public screenings, and its embarrassing when you’re asked for titles, even recent ones, and don’t know where to get them, but to push for this at the expense of the archiving itself, when the situation is clearly a SOS one for many films/archives is a serious mismanagement of priorities.
I saw this poster recently in the National Film Archive of Thailand, an institution that has done so much with so little and continues to do more (I believe you can learn much from them), and thought it would be useful to share it with you: (Please see attached photo on the article).Alexis Tioseco