Please Watch Liway
It's been a while since I last felt strongly for a film. Also, if this trailer doesn't make you feel anything, then we have a problem. Or wait. You do.
I'll begin by saying this won't be a movie review, but consider it an invitation to a Filipino cinema experience that's good and food for your soul.
A few weeks ago, I remember being dead-tired from a work-related affair, and while I honestly wanted to go home and rest, I couldn't, lest I be caught stranded in the middle of Manila traffic. Back when I was working in Makati, I consider each time a local film festival was running heaven-sent. It only meant I had something worth spending my money on! I could pass the time marathon-ing the films, as I waited for the rush hour rush to die down.
I am one who watches local festival films (as well as the re-mastered classics) on the cinemas again and again, as I feel this is my little way of supporting the industry. As Derek Ramsey never fails to remind us, "Piracy is stealing. Stealing is a crime." And by transitive property, piracy is a crime. So yes, I do make the effort to see these films in the theater. And not on some commuter bus or someone's downloaded copy.
But another reason I do watch in theaters is because you'll can never really know what can happen in the cinemas! It's full of surprises, as in life!
That time we watched Dagitab for the second time in Promenade, a kindly old man came up front to give us, the youth, nuggets of wisdom on love and life. That time we watched Baka Bukas, we were surprised to see Jasmine Curtis-Smith, who stood up from one of the seats at the far back, semi-sobbing as she thanked everyone for watching.
And finally, that time we watched Liway in Trinoma, and in the end, it was revealed to us that Liway—yes, the one whose story we just saw, was there, in the flesh, and with us. Much to her surprise, she was approached by Perla, and it was an instant reunion. In the film, Perla Bunda is one of rebels who also stayed in the same quarters as Liway. Sigh... In the words of the director, Kip Oebanda, "It was a surreal experience."
When someone in the audience spontaneously chanted "Ang tao, ang bayan!" to which we replied, "Ngayon ay Lumalaban! Huwag matakot! Makibaka!", it reminded me of the time we went to rally at the People Power Monument to protest Marcos' burial at the Libingan Ng Mga Bayani At Isang Magnanakaw. I guess I'm usually a quiet person, but not this time.
Prior to watching, of course the writer in me had to conduct an initial research to help shortlist my picks for this year's Cinemalaya 2018: Wings Of Vision and in the process, I learned that Liway is based on a true story. But it was only after watching the film that I Googled some more and learned that it's actually the director's, and that it has been years since many have been urging him to tell his story. And the reason why he finally do it now? Because it's time.
As I've been saying on my personal Facebook and Twitter accounts, Liway is the film we need now more than ever. The reason why I feel strongly about it is also because of the director's reasons for film-making. Amid the revisionists that threaten, the trolls, and the lousy gimmicks that try to distract us from the real issues we need to pay attention to, the goal primarily is to present the facts and stand by what is true. And on a personal note, it's also why I've been doing what I'm doing on Tita Pacita! But now isn't my time to shine, lol, so back to Liway.
Can I also take this moment to "fangirl" over Glaiza de Castro? If you know me personally, you'd hardly hear me talk about celebrities, but Glaiza is in fact more than a woman to fangirl over. I had good inklings about her personality when I wrote about her style in Cosmo.ph, as well as when I learned that she's a VIP (a Big Bang fan). But this! To play such a crucial part in a martial law film—a film that contributes greatly to our search for truth in this day and age, a film that's both a personal story and every Filipino's, a film that's so relevant, and will be in the coming years.
I've seen a lot of martial law films, from the blatant ones, to the ones that only subtlety reference the era. And the reason why Liway comes off as refreshing to me is because of how quietly powerful its story is. The repression, the abuse of power, its effect on Filipinos, the children especially, are presented only so honestly.
The strong messages are powerful, even without trying. Glaiza singing Pagbabalik and Himig ng Pag-Ibig calms you and at the same time empowers you. It makes you think of the Philippines so fondly, but also angers you enough because of what has been happening. And most of all, the story of Liway, fighting for hope and light, is exactly what the cinema experience left me: hopeful, and headed towards light.
Many of my closest friends know that recently, I've been searching for answers on what I can probably do to save this country from the hands of those who only claim to love it but love themselves more. I often feel that what we are fighting against is so big, especially with power, and tons and tons of money involved. And honestly, what can a little tita from Manila like me do?
I guess I kind of found the answers in this film. It felt to me like a warm hug. A message to keep going, never tire of supporting, going after, and writing about what is right and true. To tell stories that matter. To not create noise. And to keep fighting—with myself as well, to fight being okay with what we shouldn't be okay with.
I am supremely thankful for this film and the experience. Every bit of it, from the nuances of Dakip, to what Liway had to go through as an NPA, a mother, a wife, a teacher of liberation theology—there were scenes you know could be only told by them.
I end this appreciation essay by going back to what transpired after the screening. In the middle of accomodating the crowd who wanted selfies with Liway, I felt a glimmer of hope when she waved at us, smiled, and said, "O, huwag makalimot, ha." (Don't forget).
ALL PHOTOS ARE FROM THE CINEMALAYA WEBSITE.