Mangkukulam, Aswang, Duwende, Engkanto and Sigbin.
You have surely heard all of these before. And you would probably agree that when these are mentioned, especially to kids, a sudden horrifying atmosphere builds up.
It’s unforgetful how these creatures of Philippine folklore were described to us as grim monsters. There might be childhood memories of you crying when you were told “Sige ka, kunin ka ng Kapre”. But what if these narratives are just connotations carried along by generations to impose fear disguised as disciplinary measures?
This is where the director and writer of one of Cinemalaya Shorts finalists, James Allen Fajardo, is taking us as he turns his ephemerals into a film called “Looking for Rafflesias and Other Fleeting Things”. The film, which centers around a Tikbalang (horse demon) who also lives as a teenage boy, will take a step forward to debunk the killing gossip of Tikbalangs.
Making Tikbalang as the main character is in a way peculiar that it wasn’t portrayed as a villain. “The film was intended for the Filipino audiences--- to change our perspective toward the tikbalang; towards the forbidden love that they have. And in general, towards the mythical creatures who have always been portrayed or represented in film, in prints and in other media forms as the bad creatures or as the villain. I think the film “Looking for Rafflesias” aims to break the stereotype or the judgement towards the mythical creatures.” The interesting approach of Fajardo to the terrifying creatures is a brave act to break social views existing as norm.
Although Fajardo is so ingenious on this film, little did we know that filmmaking was actually not his first choice.
“When I was applying for UPCAT, my first choice was BAA (Business Administration and Accountancy) because that's where you can be rich. We had this perspective during high school that if you are going to business, you will become wealthy in the future.”
Unfortunately, James’ UPCAT grade did not reach the quota for business courses. He even applied for other universities with the same choices but all became a series of failures as if he was being told that ’business is not for you’.
It was indeed frustrating for him. Yet, these turn of events seem to be one of the best twists he had ever experienced.
“At first I was disappointed but behind it, there's somehow a relief because it wasn't really something that I wanted to do. I just wanted to pursue business because of the idea of getting wealthy. I know to myself that it was not what I want to do for the rest of my life.”
James, who finally lives free from the thoughts of profit-making, gladly shares to us that filmmaking is a passion turned into a profession.
For him, everything started when his former academy in high school invited them to attend a Ricky Lee Scriptwriting Workshop for High School students. Eventually, the attendees were encouraged to join film competitions and one of his experience’s highlights is their Metro Manila Film Festival experience. “It's a special category wherein filmmakers will use mobile phones to create a 5 minutes short film… fortunately, we won.”