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There is much to repay |

Young Star

There is much to repay

THE OUTSIDER - Erwin T. Romulo -

They never get it right in movies or on TV. There may be a few exceptions, but really, working in print publishing — whether for a newspaper or a magazine either as a writer or an editor — isn’t like that at all. Well, at least not in my experience. Perhaps to capture all of it in two hours — the long hours, the deadlines, the typos (!), the egos, the frustration, the 3 a.m. epiphanies, the neglect of personal relations outside of work obligations, the sweat and tears (no blood yet, thankfully enough), the brilliance and stupidity, not to mention the petulance and pettiness you have to deal with (often from the same source), and the small acts of empathy and kindness that go a long way toward assuaging the fact that you will barely make a living doing this — may be too much for most filmmakers. There’s also the tedium of waiting for an interview, an article, or even just getting even a page to work that’s sure not to enthrall audiences. Hitchcock once quipped: “Drama is life with all the boring bits taken out.” No wonder then that he only made one (if I’m not mistaken) picture with a journalist as the hero and it was for the war effort at that.

Why, then, would anyone choose to do it? There are a lot of reasons for different people. The best will tell you that it’s because of love or a need to do it. That’s valid even if it is a cliché. But if I’d have to go into specifics — and I really do, to be fair to all of you reading this — it’ll be because of the friendships that come as a result. Contrary to what others might think, I don’t think anyone goes into this job wanting to be hated. Certainly not me. I’ve met the best people doing this. What’s more is that they’ve become my friends. Apart from family, those are the most significant relationships in my life. But if I were to be more specific, then I’d give you a single person who’s made it all worth it.

I first met Alexis Tioseco in late 2001. At that time, it was a love for the movies that brought us together (along with a few others in our circle like Quark Henares, Marie Jamora and Ramon De Veyra). Or rather, what secured the bond between us was the conviction that our cinema was among the greatest in the world.

I don’t recall that there was any serious talk about film journalism as a career. Well, at least none that I can recall now. We were just bananas about movies. Of course, it did lead to some work but that all just happened as a result of seeing too many movies and talking (i.e. arguing) about them too much. The mindset was more like this: Make movies, yes. Appear in them? Erm, yeah, just to support the friends. Write about them — why not? Watch movies? Always.

I made one film and even Alexis said it was bad. (In actuality, he said it was “interesting,” which really meant that it was bad.) At the same time, he was starting to make a name for himself writing reviews and criticism online. His star was on the rise. Eventually, I started editing as well as contributing to magazines. He was one of the first people I asked to write for me.

Our working relationship was a lot like our friendship but only louder (if our friends can imagine that). I have kept five full Gmail accounts and a lot of it is made up of correspondence with Alexis. To get an impression of how much that is, keep in mind that these accounts are mostly filled with word files, not JPGS or MPEGS. A lot of those are drafts of articles that writers would send me. The most number of drafts usually came from Alexis. Not because he didn’t write well, or I was being overly heavy-handed in editing him. Rather, it was that we enjoyed “egging” each other on, cajoling each other to make it better. The comment threads on each e-mail would last to 20 replies back and forth, on the average. The payoff would always be the final draft. Sometimes I’d look back at our e-mail conversation and see how it got to become as great as this. The answer would be, of course, Alexis.

I knew Alexis was uncomfortable with being called a film critic although he became the most important one in the country. It was with that in mind that I asked him to finally write his story. He didn’t like the idea at all but I managed to get him to start writing it. Perhaps to get back at me, he got the idea of doing something similar to an old essay of mine about how I met and then proposed to my wife during a David Bowie concert. After all, he told me he used to read it aloud to his beloved Nika when they first started going out. It eventually would become, “The Letter That I Would Love To Read To You In Person,” which has since become Alexis’ most-read piece. For this experience alone, I’m grateful that I do what I do.

Some time ago, I reread the e-mails we exchanged during the course of the writing of that. At the time, we were both going through a lot in our personal lives — in particular the absences of people we love — and that informed the drafts as well as the comments that we were sending each other. “Are you ok, Mr. Romulo?” he’d write in a couple of e-mails. But other than that, we never said anything explicitly to each other about anything else but the article that we were doing. It was unnecessary. All that was needed was there already in the working

Any editor would be brilliant when you had someone like Alexis writing for you. Anyone blessed to have known him and to call him a friend was lucky just to have had him around, even if for the too short a time that we did.

Now, come to think of it, that’s the kind of guy you only really get to see in movies these days.

* * *

On Sept. 1, two years ago, Alexis and Nika were murdered in their house on Times St. Until now nothing has happened at all in terms of movement on their case. Both his family and his friends have raised a reward of P1 million for anyone with information that will lead to the arrest of those involved in the killing, especially Criselda Gesman Dayag, who has an outstanding warrant for her arrest. Please contact the NBI’s Death Investigation Division (526-3747, 0947-7211901, and 0905-3758861) if you have any information.

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