Archive for July, 2012

A matter of principle

After debating the RH Bill for about four years now, I think I can honestly say that I have probably heard every single argument, both good and bad, that exist for and against the bill. I’ve heard arguments that rely on principle, and arguments that rely on pragmatic effects. Both sides have their points. Both sides have their fair share of great arguments and terrible ones. It doesn’t matter if we Catholics are on the opposing side; our religious affiliation does not make our stand any less valid. But what all this has taught me, above all else, is that in the end, the side you choose boils down to a matter of principle.

I’d like to think that while reason does play a significant role in the crafting of good arguments, when you’ve heard them all, it really doesn’t matter. What matters more, I have learned, is what principles you hold to be in higher value–whether those be the ones upheld by the proponents or the opponents of the bill. Ultimately, that is what decides which side you take. An argument can be flawlessly constructed; but if you don’t buy the principle that it attempts to forward, then it really won’t matter.

People often ask me what the single strongest argument against the RH Bill is. I don’t really know what to tell them. The reason I think that is so because I doubt there is even such thing as a “strongest argument”. There are only arguments that make sense to you, and arguments that don’t. Recently, however, as I was contemplating the principle of principles, it occurred me that the strongest argument to me wasn’t so much an argument, but rather a personal principle.

I believe that it is fundamentally wrong for the State to blame the poor for having too many children as the cause of poverty to cover up for their own failures as a government to respond to those needs. Simply put, if a family of six can’t afford to feed themselves because the parents were not able to get a job, I don’t think it’s the fault of the parents for having too many kids, but rather the fault of the government for not being able to give the proper opportunities to them. I’m not saying that governments must be perfect; but when you consider the endemic corruption in the Philippines, I think we would be letting the government off too easy by letting them point their fingers at the poor.

The RH Bill is no longer a debate about just facts or arguments. It has evolved into a clash of principles. What do you hold to be more important– economic growth or demographic stabilization? Band-aid solution or sustainable development? Are you willing to risk risk compensation with contraceptive use? Are you amenable to offering dangerous substances as solutions? Are you willing to go through an economic high if it means that someday we’ll be begging for people to have children? When women die of birth complications, is preventing them from getting pregnant the real solution? Is choice an end in itself?

Ultimately, it’s no longer about the arguments. It’s become a matter of principle.


Maraming Salamat, Tito Ipe!

Today I received a terribly painful Facebook message from a stranger. It read, “kuya pumanaw napo si mang ipe o efren elgo. ngayon po ang huling lamay bukas napo ang libing. sana makapunta po kayou .. salamat” (Kuya, Mang Ipe or Efren Elgo passed away. Today is the last day of the wake. The burial is tomorrow. I hope you can come. Thanks.) His children had asked her to inform me about his passing.

While his name will probably not ring a bell, one look at him and you’ll recognize him almost immediately. This former balut vendor with absolutely no acting experience brought tears to the eyes of hundreds of thousands of people all over the world as he played the dedicated, charming old man with a resourceful eye in “Fine Dining”. And although he probably never realized it, he did so much for me in that one day that he agreed to act in my film instead of going out and selling balut. I am forever indebted to the man, which is why it pained me to learn that he had died.

Immediately after receiving that message, I prepared a copy of the film on DVD and had a couple of screenshots of the film printed out. I then drove off to a place that I should have gone back to at least once after that rainy November day back in 2010, but never got to. It was difficult to bear the idea that the next time I would be seeing a man who changed the course of my life, he would be inside his coffin. I regret not being able to drop by even just once after winning in Manhattan, even just to say thank you, and tell him about what happened, or to bring a bilao of pancit for him and his family. Despite the torrential rains, I was determined to pay my respects to Tito Ipe.

I arrived at the Gawad Kalinga Selecta Village where he lived at around 5PM. I was met there by Bon, who had helped me shoot the film. As we walked past the children frolicking in the puddles and the men and women gambling on the streets, I saw the familiar sight of the street where we filmed the first few scenes of the film. I walked into his house, the same house which we filmed Fine Dining in, and it looked the same. Nothing much had changed, save for the fact that there was now a coffin in it. I met his wife, and some of his children, who congratulated me on the award.

I gave his wife, Tita Milet, the DVD, the photos, and a love offering. She looked at the photos fondly, remarking, “Ang payat pa ni Tatay dito.” He had gotten sick throughout the last few months of his life, and had gained a lot of weight. It was hard to tell just by looking at his body, but you could see hints of it in his face. I learned that Tito Ipe had died of a heart attack last Sunday, July 15. I also learned that I’d gotten his name wrong all this time; it was Efren Elgo, not Erpo. I must’ve misread it when he wrote it down for me that day.

I stayed to chat for a while as they offered me a bottle of Mountain Dew which I graciously accepted. As I chatted with Tita Milet, it was easy to see just how much she had loved Tito Ipe, and how painful his death was for her. She was quiet, but very much thankful that I had come to pay my respects.

A few minutes later, I met the stranger who had sent me the Facebook message. Apparently, she wasn’t a stranger. She was the one who played the daughter in the film. She had a different name on Facebook, which is why I didn’t recognize her at first. I greeted her, and chatted with her for a bit. She had seen the film, and had even seen it featured on Bandila. She was now going to use the film for a report in school. After our short chat, I thanked them for their hospitality and went home.

Tito Ipe, I know I never got to see you again, and I know you’ll never get to read this. But I’d like to thank you once again for agreeing to act in my film. I owe you so much more than that one thousand pesos I paid you and the Jollibee meal I fed you for your troubles that day. I owe the success of the film and the impact it has made on my career to you. I hope you enjoy a taste of the real Fine Dining up there in heaven. Maraming salamat, Tito Ipe!

If you haven’t seen the film yet, you can watch it below: