From stage to streaming

LIFE IN DEATH A scene from Tao Po

How does an artist finally commit to his chosen art? In the Tao Po talkback session on Sept. 21 at the streaming site, Lav Diaz, Brillante Mendoza, and theater activist Mae Paner talked about their journey and commitment as artists.

Lav recalls growing up in Maguindanao in a poor community with no electricity and living with indigenous people as his parents worked as a social worker and teacher respectively.

“Nung nag-aral kami sa eskwelahan na tinayo ng mga magulang ko sa isang liblib na pook, yung mga Maguindanaos the whole year, iisa lang ang damit, walang tsinelas, walang sapatos, naghihiraman ng mga notebook, lapis (When we were studying at a school built by my parents, the Maguindanaos had one set of clothes, no slippers, no shoes, and borrowed notebooks and pencils all year round),” he recalls.

The young Lav would cross rivers to attend school as his father instilled in him the value of education. “Dyan ako nahubog sa isyu ng struggle, ng sacrifice (I was made aware of the issue of struggle and sacrifice),” he said.

EXTRA JUDICIAL MEETING Lav Diaz, Mae Paner, Brillante Mendoza and Baby Ruth Villarama

When Brillante was starting out in the advertising world and moviemaking, he loved the glitz and glamour of showbusiness. It changed everything when he made his film debut, Masahista starring Coco Martin. “Nung pinalabas siya sa Locarno, pinalabas yung pelikula at nanalo ako, walang wala talaga akong alam sa mga festivals noon, walang, wala akong alam (When my film competed and won in Locarno, I knew nothing about festival, nothing at all),” the 62nd Cannes Best Director confesses.

When the foreign audience gave rave reviews and told him they discovered the Philippines and its culture through his film, Brillante was astonished. “Ginawa ko ng misyon ’yun (I made it my mission),” he muses. He committed to show anti-politics and anti-institution themes in his films. “It’s a very powerful tool to change and to touch the mindset of the people and to have critical thinking,” says the Mindanao director.

‘Why are lives being sacrificed in the guise of people doing their job?’

Mae believes that their most important role as artists is to create change. “Ako ang gusto ko gawin na klaseng art, yung art na makapagpapalaya, makakapag angat ng buhay, makakapagbago ng kamalayan (I want to create an art that liberates, uplifts life, and creates an awareness),” asserts the Juana Change actress.

Why did she adapt Tao Po from stage to film? The comedian wanted to research on real stories when “normal ng mga patayan (killings were normal)” and she was becoming indifferent from the everyday news about extra-judicial killings. She worked on four personal narratives with writer Maynard Manansala. “I took it upon myself to give birth to Tao Po,” says the Psychology major from the University of Santo Tomas.

The drive to stream it to more people became evident. “Why are lives being sacrificed in the guise of people doing their job?” she questions. “People deciding na ang mga addict mga walang kwentang tao ng lipunan. Anong nangyari sa atin (People deciding addicts are no good in society. What has happened to us)?”

Lav encourages people to catch the 70-minute film. “Kailangan mapanood, kasama sa responsibildad na maibahagi ‘yung karanasan na ito sa bayan natin (There is a need to see this, coupled with the responsibility to share this experience with our countrymen),” he says. What’s happening to the country is also happening to the rest of the world and some have much worse experiences. Ang dilim, may pandemya na nga, may pasismo, ang daming migrante na walang mapuntahan, nasa border sila, namamatay sa lamig, kabataan namamatay sa gutom (It’s so dark, there’s already a pandemic, but there are also fascism, migrants who have lost jobs, stuck in the borders, dying from the cold and young people dying from hunger).”

Brillante’s wish is for the “thinking” audience to patronize the film. “Makapag-isip . I think that alone is a very big victory kung meron makapag-isip, makita, ‘yun ang importante (Critical thinking. I think that alone is a very big victory if one learns to think critically and sees its importance),” he said.

Tao Po is streaming on with Voyage Studios as producer. For group bookings, email

Source: Manila Bulletin (