Peque Gallaga: The Unedited Interview

Palabas ngayon sa Sineng Pambansa ang pelikulang “Sonata” na pinagbibidahan ni Cherie Gil at dinirek ng sikat na tambalang Peque Gallaga at Lore Reyes. Sabi sa isang review na nabasa ko sa internet, ito raw ang pinakamaganda sa lahat ng collaborative projects nina Gallaga at Reyes. Naalala ko tuloy, nung 2007, kinontak ko sa telepono si direk Peque kasi gusto ko syang gawan ng article sa Inquirer. Dahil naka base siya sa Bacolod, nagkasundo kami na email interview na lang ang gagawin namin. Mahaba ang mga sagot ni Direk Peque sa akin at limitado lang ang space ng PDI kaya wala pang 1/4 ng buo niyang sagot ang lumabas sa published version ng PDI. Kanina, na-retrieve ko sa aking yahoomail ang buong electronic file ng aking interview kasama ang sulat at picture na pinadala ni direk Peque sa akin.  I-s-share ko ang unedited version ng aking interview sa kanya dahil kahit na anim na taon na ang nakaplipas, totoong napaka timely at relevant pa rin ng kanyang mga sagotPQforestpoint:

Hi Ronald,

i just sent you my answers… as usual, i know it’s too long but i warned you that i was pretty obsessive-compulsive. i’ll have to trust you to edit it na lang, but to please try to preserve exactly what i was trying to say in the first place. i’ve been a teacher too long, so i’m aware that a lot of my answers are “lecturettes” on cinema but what can i do? i’m sending you some pictures that you might find interesting but NO WAY am i sending you any of my recent pictures since i’m old, fat and completely out of shape. we need to maintain a certain cinematic suspension of belief at all times.

thank you for the attention,


What led you to hibernate in your hometown Bacolod? How long have you been there?

I’ve been living permanently in Bacolod for about seven years now. I’m Artist-in-Residence at the University of St. La Salle. I don’t see it as hibernating because I’ve always lived here and come to Manila for projects when I need cash. And two years ago I spent a year in Manila to do the Production Design for Sugo at GMA. Bacolod keeps me very busy.

 What are you currently busy with?

Theater.  I’ve re-teamed with my original partner in the movies, Butch Perez. I’m helping him out with this amazing project he’s come up with that involves Philippine history, social and class stratifications, languaging and spiritual possession. He’s put the research together and I’m in touch with a group of really talented and trained actors here who work improvisantionally on many levels. We’re attacking this as a work in progress. It’s very exciting.  I’m also involved with Tanghalang Pilipino’s new season of plays on power. I’m working with Chris Millado doing a musical version of Oro for the stage. It’s not an opera but neither is it a Broadway musical… an Ilonggo Zarzuela is the closest I can come to describing it.

Observers say your comeback film “Pinoy Blonde” was too deep and didn’t click with the masa? What’s your reaction to this?

That’s certainly an understatement. Although when we previewed Pinoy Blonde in the provinces we had fully packed houses and they were cheering and applauding. I always expected Pinoy Blonde to go over the heads of many, but I didn’t expect the number of “film buffs” who actually didn’t get it. Many actually thought I was just aping Tarantino. It certainly opened my eyes as to how these people understand movies.

 In your opinion, what changes happened to today’s Pinoy moviegoers?

The masa are still flocking to mga pelikula na may puso whatever that really means; and the major producers are ladling it out as fast as they can verbalize what they think is the latest formula. But there’s another group of moviegoer, the ones who like to seriously discuss movies. They like to think there are real alternatives out there. I don’t think there are any radical changes in them either. But ever since Brocka, there has been what I call Cinema Of Intent. Directors hype their artistic intentions (usually relating to social inequality or the true essence of what is Filipino) when their actual movies don’t reflect these intentions (a lot of the Urian winners are examples of Cinema Of Intent). And they, swallow these hook, line and sinker. They respect and look up to movies that aren’t really that technically, intellectually and artistically realized. So no big changes, just a metastasis of bad teaching of Film App.

Moviegoers will always remember you for “Oro, Plata, Mata.” Is there any chance of directing another film of that grandness and proportion? What do you recall about the making of “Oro?”

I actually have a project “Ligawan Sa Panahon ng Tagsibol At Digmaan”. It’s not a sequel to Oro, but it’s almost a parallel universe to it. I even want to shoot it in the same location. Although the story is totally different, the scope is just as vast; but the big change will be in the director who will be 35 years older, hopefully wiser and gentler. I’ve been trying to sell it for ten years now and all the producers are giving it the same treatment that Oro got when I first tried to pitch it. I’ll have to wait for another Experimental Cinema of thePhilippines to come around. People don’t read scripts anymore, so Lore Reyes and I directed a ten minute “preview” of what the movie encompassed with Dennis Trillo in it who did it for us as a favor. When I showed it to a major producer, she was really quiet. When the lights came on, she said, “Ay Oro!” I asked her what that meant… did she mean: “Ay, corny! Oro na naman!”? Or was it, “Ay ang laki! Parang Oro?” She wouldn’t tell me. So up to now, I don’t know what she thinks. As far as Oro is concerned, it was a project done out of complete inexperience. Only an idiot would have gone out and did it. If I knew what I know now, I wouldn’t have shot it. Just goes to show you that ignorance can be a good thing.

Many people say your collaboration with direk Lore Reyes is one for the books. How would describe your shared artistry?

Mutual respect. Mutual understanding. Most people accept that moviemaking is a collaborative process, but they can’t grasp the fact that people can collaborate on the direction of it as well.

How would you describe yourself as a director?

Intelligent. Funny in an off-beat way. Audacious. Daring. Personal. Honest. May pagka-humanist.

What do your films reveal about you?

Intelligent. Funny in an off-beat way. Audacious. Daring. Personal. Honest. May pagkahumanist.

How did you end up directing?

I think I started out life already directing. House plays, barkada skits, school presentations. That kind of thing. I just ended up professionalizing myself I guess.

How many films have you made?

Around 35 feature films. Most people don’t know that I’ve done a lot of what they now call “experimental” and “indie” films. But that’s what they were, experimental and independent. I only showed it to close friends or ended up as part of the light show in rock concerts. I don’t think that as directors we have the right to consciously bore people.

Which among your films do you consider as the most personal? Why?

I try to make each of my movies as personal as possible – even the industry type of films – if not, I would feel like a hack. So Oro is about growing up in some kind of hybrid subculture; Scorpio Nights is everything I personally knew about sex; Virgin Forest is about being caught in a situation where you don’t understand anything that’s happening around you; Unfaithful Wife is about commitment and betrayal; Magic Temple is about the things you value and wonder at no matter how old you are; and Tiyanak is about the truly alien-ness of the Other… that you can’t really know somebody else.

Who are your film influences?

Ishmael Bernal. Celso Ad Castillo. Jean Renoir. Robert Altman. Akira Kurosawa. Francis Ford Coppola. Terrence Mallick. Actually anybody who shows me something new, I want to try it out for myself.

What kinds of materials excite you?

Most movies try to corroborate or validate what is obvious about life and relationships. Yung “may puso”. Those things bore me. I get excited about scripts that demonstrate totally unexpected behavior and mind sets, that if one is honest, you recognize as something you actually share but don’t dare exhibit. Real alternatives really excite me. Philippine alternative cinema is not a real alternative. Scripts that are so real that they make you wince when reading them (I wonder how often I used the word “real” in this interview). But I don’t like projects that are different only for the sake of being different. Those that go for “shock value”. It’s so easy to be shocking or be obviously perverse. Facile actually.

How would you know if a director is good?

When he actually makes my jaw drop when watching a movie. This happened when I first saw Spielberg’s first dinosaur (I might have given the wrong impression that I only value “serious” films) in “Jurassic Park”. It happened when Jackson took me inside the mines of Moria in “Lord of the Rings”. One of the most powerful weapons cinema has is to instill a sense of wonder in the audience. When he fucks with my mind like Richard Kelly did with “Donnie Darko”. Or Jean Renoir orchestrating his huge characters around in a very intricate and complex choreography in “The Rules of the Game”. When he makes saving the world a noble and a really astig thing to do like John McTiernan in the first “Die Hard” or Kurosawa in “Seven Samurai”. Maybe, the movie isn’t about saving the world at all, but saving one’s own skin and it’s still an astig thing to do like Sam Peckinpah’s “The Wild Bunch”. When he makes me fall in love all over again as Zach Braff did in “Garden State” or William Wyler in “Roman Holiday” or John Madden in “Shakespeare in Love”. When he creates a world that never existed before or a world I could never imagine and makes me believe it like Ridley Scott in “Blade Runner” or Guillermo del Toro’s “Pan’s Labyrinth” and Francis Ford Coppola’s “Apocalypse Now”.

What part of filmmaking do you enjoy most? What part(s) don’t you like? Why?

At first I loved the shooting of it and now I hate it most of all. Why? Because it’s a job for somebody who’s young, physically fit and power mad. Now I love post prod. Working with the editing and then designing the sound. You can only do a good job of that if you’re sitting down, or even better, lying down.

This is the era of digital/indie films. Would you like to direct one?

I’ve worked with digital. And I’ve shot films less expensive budgets than the indies being shot today. I’ve always had an indie mentality. I only depended on the studios for the money. In my last Regal picture, I only agreed to shoot it if I didn’t have to deal with Lily at all. Maybe that’s why she won’t hire me today. Hahaha.

What are your five favorite movies? (Local or foreign)

Only five? Impossible.

How do you motivate your actors?

I read their minds and share their fears.

 What can people expect from Peque Gallaga in the next few months? Years?

I’m doing a lot of training right now. Teaching.  God knows what monsters and mutants, geniuses and audiences we’re developing. Years from now? I don’t know, but in my heart of hearts I believe there’s a sucker out there with lots and lots of money who wants to produce a masterpiece called “Ligawan Sa Panahon Ng Tagsibol At Digmaan”.

 What constitutes a great film?

It can be totally flawed (Apocalypse Now’s ending doesn’t work at all) but if you react to it in a visceral and an intellectual way everytime you see it… if the director keeps talking to you and you keep discovering new things with every repeated showing, then it’s a great film. Look at all these kwela films like 300 and The Matrix. Second viewing pa lang… embarrassing!


About pinoytaipeiboy

Pilipinong nagtatrabaho sa Taipei. Mahilig magbasa, magsulat, kumain, manood ng sine, gumala, maglakbay at matulog. Interesado sa milyon-milyong bagay.
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