Interior. Evening. The Real Michiko Yamamoto…
- Juaniyo Arcellana () - October 14, 2007 - 12:00am

... is sitting at the Figaro cafe along Sgt. Esguerra Street in Quezon City, outside the ABS-CBN compound, where she has just turned in her script for the weekly youth-oriented show, “About Ur Luv,” which airs Saturday mornings on Channel 2.

She is waiting for a reporter to come across town on a rainy Thursday evening, for an interview with the scriptwriter of “Magnifico” and “Ang Pagdadalaga ni Maximo Oliveros,” both of them breakthrough films and sort of cult favorites.

 There are other Michiko Yamamotos, for example, the pen name of a Japanese writer of short stories and poetry in the Showa and Hensei period Japan, born 4 December 1936, whose real name is Furuya Michiko.

Then there is the Pennsylvania-based sculptor, printmaker, painter and installation artist, who has held a number of exhibits that have been written up extensively.

Not to mention Michiko Yamamoto, the title of an online anime news network.

But these other Michiko Yamamotos do not concern us, rather the one in Figaro: Fil-Japanese screenwriter, born 1979 and raised in Bulacan, Bulacan and educated in Catholic schools, college in UST for BS Math and Computer Studies, it was the time of the technology boom.

 When the reporter arrives past 10 in the evening in the cafe, he notices an unfinished plate of food on the table on which Michiko has set up her Apple laptop for wi-fi connection, and nearby a consumed cup of coffee her only vice, and a tray of loose change as tip for the waiters.

The real Michiko Yamamoto has recently recovered from a bout with dengue, which she suspects she contracted from a mosquito that nested at her apartment on Marilag Street, UP Village. Of late she has been preparing for a four-month stay in Japan early next year, with a grant from the Asian Cultural Council-Philippines, and at the same time take the opportunity to trace her Japanese roots on her father’s side, Mr. Yamamoto having since relocated to his native land of the rising sun.

At any rate, the real Michiko Yamamoto attended the Film Development Council scriptwriting workshop in 1999, when it was not yet known as the FDCP, under Nestor U. Torre. It was there where one might say she was “discovered,” and placed in the top 10 of the yearly contest.

It was in such a contest where the concept of “Magnifico” was hatched, drafted, written, rewritten and revised into its final form. In a belated email, since the reporter inadvertently forgot to ask about “Magnifico” at the actual interview, Michiko says the story was inspired by her lola, and that a week after her lola died she learned that “Magnifico” won first place in a scriptwriting contest.

In the same email she says that she has lost touch with Violet Films’ Violet Sevilla, who produced “Magnifico,” but that she still has contact with direk Maryo delos Reyes.

It was “Maximo Oliveros” however that earned for the real Michiko her spurs, and proved that she was– how do they put it in showbiz? – a “bankable” writer, especially with the team-up with Auraeus Solito, as the digital film became the toast of the first Cinemalaya Film Festival in 2005, where it won the Jury Prize, which meant that as far the festival jurors were concerned it was second only to Best Picture winner “Pepot Artista.”

“Maximo” was a brainchild of the fledgling UFO Pictures Inc., founded by Michiko, producer Raymond Lee, Jade Castro who would later write and direct “Endo” for this year’s Cinemalaya, Eman dela Cruz, and Ned Trespesses, the collective sonorously enough forgiving the trespasses of the mainstream film industry.

“Maximo,” the tale of the blossoming of a fairy in a slum area family, soon did the rounds of festivals abroad, both gay and straight, eliciting plaudits, kudos, felicitations of all kinds and colors, from Sundance in snow-bound Utah to Australia and Taiwan, where Solito and the UFO gang blazed a trail for the new Philippine independent cinema.

I didn’t take an entrance test in the other universities, only UST, because I learned that it was on España where it floods often and so classes are easily suspended,” she says now, the disclosure real enough to merit keen understanding on the reporter’s part, but BS Math?

This has come in handy, now that she is in charge of the UFO books, trying to balance all those numbers and keep them in the black.

Then there is the unusual case of “Endo,” a love affair between contractuals, on which script Michiko and Raymond helped out Jade Castro. Though the film had a made-for-TV texture, the subject was fresh and the acting compelling enough to win it the Jury Prize, and unforgettable too was the dance sequence of Ina Feleo in the open air under the neon of mall and city, before a lovestruck Jason Abalos, no relation to the capo di tutti of Pinagtipunan.

There’s another script the real Michiko has on the drawing boards, this one co-written with Eman dela Cruz who had directed “Sarong Banggi” and the short film “Gabon,” which seems to be tailor-made for Dolphy King of Comedy, the title being “Father si Godfather.”

When asked whether the script inspired the motif for Dolphy’s lat- est birthday, where the whole clan came dressed Mafiosi style, she says not that she knew of, maybe it was just coincidence, anyway all the while she thought Unitel had already bought the rights to “Father si Godfather.”

Speaking of fathers, Michiko says she has been to Japan before, under the Development Action for Women Network, where the delegation searched the prefectures for Japanese men who had sired Filipino children. According to Michiko, only one of the group was able to trace her father.

I worked in Viva for two years, doing post-prod work, then to ABS in 2001, where I’ve been since,” the real Michiko says, back to Figaro’s interiors.

In Bulacan, Bulacan she grew up with sisters Mariko and Noriko, and early on developed a penchant for writing poems and stories, mostly in English. Her mother has since remarried, and she now has a half-sister named Stephanie Jane. She says she has read all the Harry Potter books, and watched their movies too, though she has never bought a Potter book, just borrowed, read and returned them to friends and fellow Hogwarts lovers.

“Pwede bang ganito lang?” she says, putting her hands over her eyes, when told that the magazine needs a picture of her.

But the real Michiko does not put her hands over her eyes when she watches the DVDs of Neil Jordan, a personal favorite, e.g., “The Butcher Boy” and”“Breakfast on Pluto,” which she herself describes as black comedies. A friend had ordered them for her on ebay.

The reporter and Michiko say their goodbyes, there’s already enough material for an article. Final shot is exterior, night, Sgt. Esguerra, outside Figaro cafe, and the scriptwriter hails a taxi to take her home to Marilag, and the reporter crosses the street to his old reliable for the drive back home to Mandaluyong, exterior not interior.

BULACAN JADE CASTRO MICHIKO MICHIKO YAMAMOTO
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