I live in Manila, the capital of the Philippines, a country whose historical and cultural richness and diversity offer countless stories to its artists. Burdened by centuries of colonial rule and currently by neocolonialism, the Philippines itself — with its thousands of islands, and thousands of traditions — has always been a strong reason for my love of cinema. In every article I write there is an unconscious, yet not unnatural, attachment to this country I call home, and my path as a film critic has been defined by it. Over the years, my purpose has become clearer: to promote our national cinema and develop a better understanding of it.
I am a graduate of Film and Audiovisual Communication from the University of the Philippines — the finest local institution that offers an extensive and intensive study of film, to which I owe the foundation of my writerly pursuits. Like many universities, it is unapologetically filmmaker-centric: you study film to make films. And that’s sad because I belonged to a small group that sees the significance of criticism, especially since this field is often overlooked and under appreciated, financially and professionally. There is a stigma to being a film critic, and one can easily notice the scarcity of people in the past and present who pursued it. Clearly, we don’t have a strong culture of film criticism. Despite the rise in the number of movies produced because of digital technology, not much has improved in terms of film studies — we still have fewer platforms and opportunities for writers and critics.
This is a shame because Philippine cinema has always been a rich source of discussion: from the constant concerns with art and entertainment, as well as mainstream and independent production, the problems with accessibility and distribution, the growing number of local festivals, the proliferation of and fascination with love teams, the development of an audience receptive to bolder narratives, the importance of alternative screening venues, to the stories that come from different parts of the country, forming a complex, multifaceted identity covering not just poverty, survival, nationalism, religion, freedom, and dissent, but also a whole stream of varied personal, cultural, and political issues — all specific to us. As a film critic, providing a well-rounded perspective on Philippine cinema is my priority, and my work for almost ten years as a writer, editor, programmer, lecturer, jury member, and selection committee member has given me knowledge and experience to represent it as best I can.