MANILA — Film auteur Lav Diaz, and National Artists for Film Lino Brocka and Ricky Lee may have been legends who helped push Philippine cinema into greater heights but in the eyes of the common folks, they are relatively unknowns.
There’s a popular story about Brocka during one of his location shoots that had big stars it had to be cordoned off due to the influx of screaming fans.
Coming from outside, Brocka had to pass the gated venue where a security guard was assigned. Surprisingly, Brocka wasn’t allowed entry.
The unassuming filmmaker was reportedly used to wearing simple T-shirt, maong pants and sandals so the guard thought he was just a regular fan.
“I am the director of the film,” Brocka reportedly told the clueless guard.
“There are a lot of people who say they are the director, one of the extras, stuntmen just to get in,” the guard said in Filipino and asked Brocka to show an ID for proof he was indeed the director.
But Brocka can’t produce any ID or any tangible proof, he was requested to move away because he was creating a scene. Finally, one of the lead stars was recognizable from their vantage point and within an earshot, Brocka called the artista. The crowd went wild.
Before hysterical fans could create a stampede, the famous star heard Brocka and in no time, the guard was apologizing to him.
An eyewitness to this incident was scriptwriter Ricky Lee. He told this writer he can’t recall what year and which film but he said it happened to his friend many times that the story has been a favorite anecdote on Brocka.
Despite his stature in theater and the film industry, Brocka was also known for his simple lifestyle, much more his frugality. He was also executive director of the Philippine Educational Theater Association for decades, after its founding artistic director Cecile Guidote-Alvarez left for the United States as political exile in 1972 because of Martial Law and handed him the leadership of PETA.
Fernando “Tata Nanding” Josef, then a member of PETA and who eventually acted in films directed by Brocka, recalled an example of Brocka’s frugality.
“In PETA, we all do other duties besides acting or directing or being stage hands. Walang star. Kahit lead actor ka sa play, on some days, maghuhugas ka naman ng pinggan. At some point, I was doing media relations and publicity. I was with another actor making the rounds of media offices, personally sending press releases,” Josef said.
It was the late 1970s and Brocka has been hailed as an internationally acclaimed film director. “Insiang” at the time was just shown in the Directors’ Fortnight in Cannes Film Festival — the first Filipino director to do that.
Brocka’s apartment had a small garden planted with camote. Josef recalled, “Lino pointed to the camote plants in his garden and told us, ‘Ayan o, mag-pitas kayo ng talbos ng kamote, ilaga niyo, masustansya pa.”
Ricky Lee is undeniably the greatest living Filipino scriptwriter today. A few years ago, despite countless TV interviews and You Tube videos on him, Lee was often addressed as the late newspaper entertainment editor Ricky Lo and vice versa.
When Lo was still alive, they decided to put an end to the issue by guesting live on Boy Abunda’s former talk show on ABS-CBN.
“To prove that Ricky Lo and Ricky Lee are two different persons, we felt we had to appear together in Boy’s talk show,” Lee said.
As we all know, Lee was awarded the Order of National Artist for Film and Broadcast Arts last year. Though honored for his screenplays, Lee has also written novels, short stories and essays and they are being read by lovers of sensible contemporary literature. His latest novel, “Wala Ng B”, has sold 2,000 copies in the first week of January and the orders kept on coming.
Despite his stature, as much as possible even on social media he remains accessible to students, fans and just about anyone who wants to learn about scriptwriting or creative writing in general.
“Para akong carinderia, bukas sa lahat ng gustong kumain at libre pa,” Lee said.
Lav Diaz is often described a “rock star” in prestigious international film festivals like Venice, Cannes, Berlin, Toronto, Rotterdam, among others. He may be one of the much-awarded and acclaimed, credible filmmakers here and abroad but the regular man-on-the-street actually doesn’t recognize him. Since he doesn’t have any social media presence, even millennials won’t stop him at the mall for a selfie.
Diaz has also been known for living with simple means.
Diaz and Josef happen to reside in the same city somewhere up north in Metro Manila. Josef, now artistic director of Tanghalang Pilipino, had a casual meeting with Diaz a few months ago for a film project. They agreed to meet in Josef’s house. It can be recalled Josef won his very first Best Actor trophy from the Urian Awards for his bad-guy role in Diaz’s “Lahi, Hayup” (Genus, Pan).
Diaz continues to make acclaimed, epic art-house films whose themes and narratives he hopes would help open the eyes of the general populace, the masa, and millions of younger generations of Filipinos hooked to social median and blinded by historical distortion, fake news and disinformation. (T.V. de Jesus, abs-cbn)