This is not the typical shooting day for a filmmaker where the filmmaker herself becomes the story.
While it is true that challenges are truly inevitable in film production, what Pauleen Valdez, a 23-year old young filmmaker from Cavite, had experienced is something you’d never want to go through.
Have you ever imagined yourself getting caught in a brawl and you were left with no choice but to beg? You can’t even fight back because the worst might just happen.
It was on their fourth shooting day of “Dalawampung Pisong Pag-asa,” their student film entry to the 2018 Metro Manila Film Festival (MMFF) that changed her life forever. Together with her team of Communication students from St. Dominic College of Asia in Bacoor, they went to Baclaran to shoot. Little did they know, on that very same day, their faith would be tested.
After hours of shooting amidst the uncontrollable crowd, they realized that one of the vital scenes in their short film had to be reshot. Pauleen and the film's cinematographer, Boris, decided to go back to their location. Her boyfriend insisted on joining them just to make sure everything will go smoothly. On their way out of the overcrowded urban street, a group of men assaulted them.
“Yung mga lalaki may mga dalang basag na bote, may dalang panaksak, buti na lang walang dalang baril. Takbo lang kami ng takbo hanggang yung boyfriend ko nakikipagbakbakan. May mga kinakalampag akong bahay, tindahan na bukas pa, nagmamakaawa ako, lumuluhod ako na tulungan kami pero tinataboy nila ako kasi ayaw nilang madamay,” Pauleen shared.
She felt helpless and the only thing she could do in that life-and-death situation was to cry out for God’s help.
“They even taunted us na hindi na kami masisikatan ng araw. Hindi ko alam paano kami nakalabas ng eskinitang ‘yun until we found ourselves near the Baclaran church and a Muslim offered na ipasok yung boyfriend ko sa tindahan niya. Pagod na pagod ako pero pinilit ko siyang itayo at buhatin,” Valdez added.
But it wasn't the end of the horrible experience.
Her boyfriend was already bruised. The five men found them and continued to terrorize them. Pauleen mentioned that while carrying her boyfriend to a safer place, the guys who assaulted them kept on enforcing a fight.
“Umalis ka diyan kundi ikaw ang sasaktan namin. Nagmamakaawa ako sa kanila na tama na. Until siguro naawa na rin talaga ‘yung ibang Muslim na nagtitinda sa area na ‘yun and they helped us. Iniwan nila ang mga tindahan nila and nagpuntahan sila sa harap ko. Whenever I recall that moment, that was really my redemption and finally dumating na rin ang mga tanod kaya nagtakbuhan na ‘yung mga lalaki,” Pauleen said.
Admittedly, she is a living testimony to God’s power and grace -- that no matter what the circumstances are, God is our salvation.
“If I had to share this 3 years ago, I may not have been ready to share this traumatic story. But I want to be a living proof that God listens. He will never forsake us. And at the same time encourage the young filmmakers out there that nothing and no one can stop us from telling a wonderful narrative.”
But we also need to be aware of emergency situations like this and consider it in our future production plan. This will ensure the safety not only of the cast but the entire production team. Despite all the challenges they had to face, they are beyond grateful to finish their film “Dalawampung Pisong Pag-asa.” The story is about the journey of a twenty-peso bill passed on to different people from all walks of life-- from a mother who went to Baclaran church and bought sampaguita flowers, to that young child who had to buy food for his family and so on.
Her vision for her film is to give hope to her audience that everyone can help, big or small, because it will surely go a long way. And while we need to think about how to provide for our personal needs, it is also imperative to give back and share.
True enough, it was a mission accomplished for Pauleen Valdez and her team. Not only because they have successfully produced an inspiring story, but also the fact that they have withstood the obstacles in their journey. They might not have won the top plum in the MMFF 2018 for Best Student Short Film, but being able to share a story of hope was already rewarding.
L-R : Pauleen Valdez, Alyssa Dela Peña, Anna Doroliat, Doroliat's mother, Daryl Ortuoste, Arbie Talam and Deeja Jimoh.
And if you’re wondering what happened to Pauleen and her boyfriend after that unfortunate night of 2018, they are now seven years strong. That night actually made them realize how far they can go for love, together.
PS: This would probably be one of my “sana-all” moments so instead of being envious, I’ll just plan and start filming soon. I might just find ‘the right one.’