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What is a Baguio film: A docu in the making
by Abbie Lara

PIONEERING FILMMAKER -- Multi-awarded independent filmmaker and Harvard University Business School master’s degree holder Kidlat Tahimik of Baguio, who is also known as the father of Philippine indie film, plays with his famous bamboo camera to the delight of children visiting his VOCAS center at Session Road. -- Harley Palangchao


Kidlat Tahimik: “Mababa-ngong Bangungot,” “Bakit Yellow ang Gitna ng Rainbow,” “Balikbayan.”

Teddy Co: Commissioner, NCCA Sub-commission on the Arts and head of Cinema Rehiyon

Jo Banasan Kapuno: “Sidewalks,” “Kanana Kanu,” member of Sunflower Collective

Mark Lester Valle and Carla Samantha Pulido Ocam-po: “Walang Rape sa Bontoc; one of the founders of Habi Collective

Some say the first Baguio film is the 1904 St. Louis Expedition in the U.S. where Igorots were among the Philippine delegates and became the main spectacle; earning their own show where they were made to dance, play their gongs, and eat dog meat. Only pictures survived of the Igorot Town but it was like the Igorots were the movie then, with the people from Missouri and other states in America watching their every move, even offering their pet dogs to be eaten.

When movies arrived in the Philippines, indeed the first documentaries were about the Igorots as they wove on their backlooms. Then more dancing and cooking dog meat.

More than a hundred years, nandito pa rin tayo, trying to define Baguio film and ourselves with it. To resolve this, I spent five days interviewing these people and more, transcribing about 25 pages of the exciting conversations.

Kidlat Tahimik: Now, of course, America came in at the time rin, when they conquered the Philippines. It was also the beginning of film as a medium. So maraming mga docus whether by amateurs or by documentarists who were able to catch images or footages of the tribal culture and its material look, ‘no. Mga villages with thatched roofs, ‘no. Mga Bontoc villages, mga Ifugao villages, when it was really predominantly mga naka-bahag ang mga tao. Well, this can also be a part of that archives of Cordilleran films shot by the colonialists seeing the local cultures as objects for research and study. Or, exotic visuals.

Maybe we can insert here footage of home movies now captured in YouTube. There were jerky movements and attempts of rehearsing the “natives” to make the home mo-vies more authentic. Maybe we can also add the music at those times.

Kidlat Tahimik: Well, when movies began to be taken over by Filipinos in this commercial industry, marami nang nagkaroon ng interest to bring up a film team and in those days, it was the usual army of technicians, parang ngayon, marami kayong crew. And it’s a big-time thing. And of course, may stars. So anybody who wants to watch, or may filming anywhere in Baguio, dadami ang mga usisero and the first question is, “Sinong artista?” ‘Di ba? That was the impact of filming crews coming to Baguio and people always thought about it, that Baguio is big-time. “Ay, apo! May shooting sa Baguio!” The word goes around, “Oy, may shooting, punta tayo! Makakakita tayo ng artista!”

Kidlat remembered his childhood when about 80 percent of the movies being shown in Baguio were Hollywood films but he also remembered Dolphy and Nestor de Villa in “Vacacionista” and “Igorota” starring Charito Solis and later, “Banaue” by the great Gerry de Leon in 1975.

Mark Lester Valle: Sino ba ang nagdi-declare kung ang isang film ay isang Baguio film or a Cordillera film? I think it all boils down again to the audience and the Cordillerans in general. Kasi there are a lot of films. Like for example, ‘yung kay Gerry de Leon. ‘Yung “Banawe” pero kasi napa-kasama ng representation ng Cordillerans doon. So parang hindi nagkaroon ng ownership ‘yung Igorot audience, ‘yung Ifugao audience. Kasi may mga ganong mistakes, ‘no, sa representation. So automatically, hindi ‘yun considered as a film for the Cordillerans.

But then we’re getting ahead of the story. Back to Kidlat.

Kidlat Tahimik: Like ‘yung kay Mike de Leon na, “Kung Mangarap Ka’t Magising” with superstars like Nora Aunor and Christopher de Leon, as students. Ay, hindi pala si Nora Aunor ‘yun. Si Hilda Coronel. Mga estudyante sa Baguio. And of course when they filmed in Ifugao, si Nora Aunor at si Christopher de Leon, ‘yung “Banawe,” made by Gerry de Leon. May mara-ming mga romansang mga shot in Baguio dahil…I heard Rogelio dela Rosa was in a film about miners. Fernando Poe, Jr…

Abi De Lara: There’s also Charito Solis in “Igorota.” Topless kasi ‘yun e.

Kidlat Tahimik: Well, that was their come-on. That should be normal in here, for the highlanders. Pero with the naughty colonial frame of, “Wow, boobs!” that was one of the biggest hits shot in Baguio, ‘no.

Teddy Co: The first true Cordillera films that I had seen I think were short ethnographic films made by Joseph Fortin, way back in the early 1980s.  However, Fortin was an anthropologist, and not from Baguio, so maybe these films should not count. 

So what is a Cordillera film nga muna?

Teddy Co: Anything shot or directed by someone who is a native of or a resident of Baguio and the Cordillera is such kind of a film.  Thus, if it is not by a resident, or just someone just passing through like a tourist, that cannot be considered as a Baguio/Cordillera film.  It need not be shot by a native, but it must relate to local stories, and must have a point of view that is not that of an outsider or a visitor.  There have been narratives – full length and shorts, documentaries, some animated shorts, and a handful of experimental ones.

Carla Ocampo: Sa akin, anything na nagre-reflect ng psyche or kung paano mag-isip or mag-make ng decisions ang isang Cordilleran is, automatically, a Cordilleran film or a Baguio film. Not necessarily i-shoot mo sa Baguio or i-shoot mo sa rice terraces. Kung halimbawang sa Manila na-shoot‘yan pero the sensibilities are still very Cordilleran, or ‘yung problem ay kinakaharap ng isang Cordilleran, para sa akin, Cordilleran film ‘yun. Kung ang conflict ng story mo ay naka-ugat sa kung paano mag-isip ang isang Cordilleran. 

Mark Lester Valle: Saka ‘yung karakter mo ay isang Cordilleran. Kumbaga ini-echo ng pelikula ‘yung experiences ng locals dito. Mapunta man sila sa ibang lugar. Let’s say ‘yung central na story, I think it would be…halimbawa, let’s take Baguio as an example. Parang, sikat ‘yung Baguio, eh. Sa location ng maraming pelikula. From the past to the present. Pero does that automatically, make it a Baguio film? Or a Cordillera film? ‘Di ba hindi naman? Kasi bagamat location siya, kung ‘yung karakter mo eh ‘yung outside, parang dumadaan lang. At parang ginawa lang parang…background ‘di ba? Well, debatable ‘yun pero for us, obvious naman siguro ‘yung difference.

Carla Ocampo: Siguro huwag na nating banggitin ‘yung title pero we know of this romantic-comedy film na shinoot sa Baguio at sa Sagada. Pero hindi mo siya matawag na Cordilleran film simply because, kahit ilipat mo sa ibang lokal or ibang location ‘yung kuwento nung pelikula, tatayo pa rin siya (as a story). I mean, ‘pag nilipat mo sa Switzerland ‘yun, tatayo pa rin siya. Compared to, let’s say, “Batad sa Paang Palay” ni Benjie Garcia. Very Cordilleran ‘yung conflict nung pelikula kasi it talks about an Ifugao boy wanting to have a pair of rubber shoes and wanting to go out of Batad, probably, live another life outside the rice terraces. So very Cordilleran ‘yung conflict niya. And warranted ‘yung location na rice terraces kasi doon mo nga naman mai-engkwentro ‘yung mga ganung klaseng conflict.

Teddy Co:   Point of view is more important than location. For instance, I saw a short docu by Kidlat’s niece Erika about an Igorot woodcarver working as an ice sculptor in London.  A Baguio native can also make a film in Manila and bring his native viewpoint to whatever he sees.

Jo Banasan Kapuno: You say it’s a Cordilleran film when it talks about the people of the Cordillera. When it talks about the culture, the place, the environment. The spirits, the skies that belong to the Cordillera. Maybe that is a Cordillera film.

Kidlat Tahimik: Now if you talk about Cordilleran films, or if you’re talking about naka-tema sa Cordi, or directly, literally, naka-bahag ang mga tao. Or is it about any duwende that has nakababad sa Cordillera and its relationship to a modern-day culture, maraming pwedeng purist na kailangan may anthropological look din, o very narrow na ‘yung pagpipilian.  But let’s just say, in general, the Cordillera, the sharing of the Cordillera feelings and experiences, through the medium of film or now video, ano ang madi-define natin na Cordi film, ano?

Jo Banasan Kapuno: But it doesn’t matter if the filmmaker is a foreigner or from the Cordillera. Basta his heart should be showing the real Cordillera. Sa akin, it doesn’t matter if you’re a foreigner or not. Basta, what films do you make? You’re a foreigner. Do you really show my culture? Do you really show the way of the people? Kagaya ng “Abong” ni Koji. It’s one of the good Cordilleran films. It talks about the real people in the Cordillera.

Kidlat Tahimik: Maybe there’s no purist description of what’s that ideal (Cordillera) film. Pero let’s say, in the context of the rules of mainstream, the echo chambers of today, in the midst of that, what kind of a film can still come across na mayron pa siyang personality, unique identity, regional qua-lity. Because it resists the formula and therefore nagigising ‘yung audience. I could combine some really Cordillera-made films like, ‘yung kay Jo Banasan, her first film which is reflecting her reactions and using the camera as an amateur. Pero malakas ‘yung duwende expression doon. Maybe you combine that also with the conscious framing ni Lester and Carla. That they chose to frame a mainstream topic like rape but to bring in from the point of view nung mga elders. It’s a re-framing. It’s not the exploitive, using rape images to sell your film. And combine that with a more general picture of Nepomuceno’s “Igorota.” And while it had those formula elements like barebreast as a come-on ni Charito Solis. That was a bold attempt to question the prudishness of Philippine censorship, which comes from a malicious framing of…because, ‘di ba, the forbidden fruit? Bawal makakita ng (nipples). Kaya, wow, mas exciting. Therefore, you use that as a marketing tool.

Jo Banasan Kapuno: It’s more on personal ‘ata, eh. Cultural…Siyempre, galing ako sa indigenous community. So may touch pa rin siya ng indigenous – Kalinga and all that. That’s why when I made that script, it’s already in the back of my mind. Because it’s an experience. It’s a real story. So when I made the script, it just flowed. I didn’t have to go to the community and research. Because it’s already at the back of my head. 

Abbie: Maybe because you are the community.

Jo Banasan Kapuno: Yeah.

-- Jogin Tamayo

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:: Baguio City moving beyond 109 through culture and creativity
:: Designing a creative city for Baguio’s crafts industry
:: Adding Cordillera culture into Baguio’s cullinary industry
:: Preserving the Ibaloy culture through School of Living Traditions
:: Literature thrives in a city above the clouds
:: Woodcarvers, weavers, & Baguio’s crafts industry
:: Steering policies to sustain Baguio as a creative city
:: Creative Baguio title slips prospects into the creative community’s mind
:: Baguio’s folk and country sounds

PWU Baguio
Technical Education & Skills Development Authority – CAR
University of Baguio

Baguio Central University
Baguio Country Club
Benguet Electric Cooperative Inc.
Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources – CAR
Congressman Ronald M. Cosalan
Department of Health – CAR
John Hay Management Corporation
National Grid Corporation of the Philippines
New Media Services
Pag–IBIG Fund
Pines City Colleges
Sangguniang Panlungsod

Assumption Medical Diagnostic Center
Baguio Center Mall
Baguio Water District
Choobi Choobi
Congressman Mark O. Go
Councilor Leandro B. Yangot Jr.
Curamed Pharmacy
Department of Environment and Natural Resources – CAR
Department of Public Works and Highways – CAR
Department of Science and Technology
Fabulo Beauty and Image Salon
Far East Pacific Commercial
Filipino–Japanese Foundation of Northern Luzon, Inc.
Ganza & Solibao Restaurants
Gen. Benjie B. Magalong
GMS Technology
Governor Crescencio C. Pacalso
Mayor Mauricio G. Domogan
Mayor Romeo K. Salda
Mother Earth Deli Basket
Nagomi Spa
Narda’s / Sunflower Ridge
Northern Luzon School for the Visually Impaired, Inc.
Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Montessori, Inc.
Philex Mining Corporation
Police Regional Office – CAR
Regional Development Council – CAR and National Economic and Development Authority – CAR
Regional Tripartate Wages and Productivity Board – CAR
SN Aboitiz
Tony Boy Tabora
Veterans Bank


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