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Pride of PUPians: Bradley Jason Pantajo, A Lola’s Boy and A Gifted Filmmaker

Winning the Best Student Short Film at the Metro Manila Film Festival 2019 for his film, “Pamana ni Lola” is a momentous achievement already. But what truly makes the talented Bradley Jason Pantajo a big winner is his self-discovery.

“Before I came out, I watched a lot of LGBTQ-themed films, and watching those films somehow ease my fear of coming out. That’s when I also found out how powerful films are, and the reason why I picked up a camera. Films really played an important part on how I discovered my sexuality,” Pantajo shared.

Growing up, Bradley is obsessed with watching television. As a young boy, he was an introvert and he admits that television became his companion during summer because his parents had to work to provide for their family. Unlike any other kids, he didn’t enjoy playing outside so the television became his best friend. Because of binge-watching, he learned how to cook and surprisingly, one of his favorite TV shows sparked his love in acting and writing stories. Fun-fact: he even recorded himself and edited the material using windows movie maker. Such a throwback! But little did he know, those little steps will actually take him to greater heights.

At a young age of 19, Pantajo, now a second year Performing Arts student at Polytechnic University of the Philippines Sta. Mesa had already ticked off one of the items in his bucket list -- to write, direct and produce a film while being true to his mission to paint a portrait of what it means to grow up. In this fast-paced environment, decision making is a huge responsibility and if that’s the case, Pantajo and his team has achieved their purpose.

His film “Pamana ni Lola,'' which was highly praised at MMFF 2019 was Pantajo’s own fictionalized memoir. The film is a reimagined folktale, a story about a family of manananggal, and a young woman’s decision to save her grandmother from her suffering, accept her inheritance of being a manananggal or choose her future, leaving her family behind.

This young filmmaker from Rodriguez, Rizal shared that he dedicates the 5-minute short film to his grandmother as his letter of gratitude and apology.

“The story came from a memory during my high school days where people would talk about manananggal and how it terrorized a sitio not far from where I live. It came from an urge to write a letter for my grandmother, and how I regret doing nothing to ease her pain during her final days,” Pantajo said.

He also added that he was inspired to create a meaningful piece because of his collection of memories and thoughts. But for this promising filmmaker who also starts crafting stories by listening to music, filmmaking also tested his problem solving skills.

“The main struggle for us was time and budgeting because during the production some of us are working students therefore we are having difficulty aligning our schedules. The film was a passion project, therefore our production team wasn't paid to do the film so we are grateful that we still worked it out, and after almost a month of preparation and scheduling, we are able to shoot and edit the film for almost two weeks,” Pantajo junctured.

He also mentioned that in terms of the budget, they are lucky that they made it to the Metro Manila Student Short Film Festival 2019 that granted them a short film grant amounting to PHP 20,000.

“It was a generous amount of help but we still had troubles with our expenses because we shot the film at two different locations from two different provinces--Rizal and Bulacan. So I had to adjust my vision as a director, but thanks to our production team we were able to pull off the principal photography without making compromises, plus we had a fun time shooting!” Pantajo said.

“Pamana ni Lola'' is not only a product of hard work. It also goes to show that with the right mindset and purpose, everything is attainable. But just like what Pantajo keeps on reiterating, make sure to have fun and know when to ask for help because truth be told, filmmaking is a collaborative effort.

Bradley Jason Pantajo embodies the attitude of a true winner-- both in filmmaking and in life. Brave, determined, courageous and purposeful. In fact, he is now working on his second short film, “Sometimes I Don’t Feel Like Talking." A love story between two young men, separated after one of them contracted a highly stigmatized disease. The dream continues for Jason and he will never stop creating awe-inspiring masterpieces.

“I want to continue creating content for my fellow LGBTQ youths. Now that audiences here in the Philippines are becoming open in terms of this kind of story, I want to be part of this journey of normalization on giving queer characters the representation that they deserve,” Pantajo emphasized.

Fun-fact: He considers Ricky Lee as one of his heroes because he was saved by his book, “Trip to Quiapo.” From the master storyteller, he learned that creating stories is about giving voice to the voiceless.

And that has been the reason why he lives his life exactly how he wants to--- living with a purpose.

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