wanderlust: rome

rome. magnificent rome. bella italia. where do i start?


ive been to rome and venice in 2006, joining brillante mendoza in presenting his 2nd film, KALELDO, to that year’s rome international film festival. it would be my first time outside asia, having only travelled to hong kong the year before because of mendoza’s first film as well, MASAHISTA, which was screened there.  we travelled with producer, ferdie lapuz, and actress, cherry pie picache. staying for around 4 days, we were in rome for 3 days, saw the vatican, and a day in venice plus visiting murano island. needless to say it was a very short stay and we were just skimming over what we could discover and see in italy.


this year, carlo and i worked on production design for bradley liew’s first feature film, SINGING IN GRAVEYARDS. a gorgeous portrait of an aging impersonator, joey “pepe” smith, who performs in bars as aging rockstar, joey “pepe” smith. i say gorgeous because the range of emotions we got from pepe smith’s non-acting acting is sublime and the environment (including our design work on the sets) captured on anamorphic lenses on a 2.39:1 aspect ratio is breathtaking. char. bradley claims he did not grade larry manda’s camera work. this film was included in the critic’s week section of the 73rd venice international film festival this year, which was why bradley, bianca balbuena (brad’s co-writer, producer, & girlfriend), mickey (sound design), tracy, (executive producer), and carlo and myself (production designers) plus pepe smith flew to italy to attend the festival.


we finally got our screening schedules and the film was gonna be premiering towards the latter half of the festival. our visas granted us around 15 days to be in italy so carlo and i decided to max out that opportunity and see more of italy so we flew to rome and milan first before heading to venice for the festival.

after 10 years, im finally back in rome!


rome was monumental and grand and delicate and massive and really the superpower history books said it was during the age of empires and gladiators and eating off grapes from the hands of slaves. while we stayed 2.5 days in rome and saw a lot of stuff, we still missed out on other sights and exhibits in the city. our milan hosts reckon we needed maybe 7 days to explore more of rome and i think i agree with him.


the altar of the fatherland. only got to see this from afar before. it’s sooooo big. everything is big in rome. you can imagine what the great caesars wanted to impose on humanity back in the day for what rome represented.


im loving the landscape of rome. those trees in the far distance evoke memories from childhood storybooks and pictures from encyclopedia, now real and alive and tangible. no wonder artists drew like that. id probably say the same when i get to visit japan. lol. walking around laurel trees, it was strangely amusing to smell them and be reminded of home and adobo. i think i will plant laurel trees in my home. and cypress. and this pine thing. and olive trees if i can find it in mindanao. awesome to see them mixed with calachuchi and calamansi bushes and talisay. i think i need a bigger piece of land.


umm, this painting was gorgeous. hi kuya 😉 we probably followed this guy from here in the vatican museum all the way to the sistine chapel. then we lost him. then he passed by us again while we were having dinner near the pantheon. choz. he nodded at us and we would have invited him over for pasta had he not walked so fast. see, we’re not stalkers. lol


a detail of a wall painting of raphael (one of the ninja turles) in the vatican museum. that’s him in the black hat looking at us from the corner.


every inch in the vatican museum is art. the church is the biggest patron of the arts, evident here in every room of the museum. i do wonder how nudity got to be so taboo when a lot of the depictions in art in the most holy of places are in the nude. paintings and sculpture of men and women all naked, loved by popes and the clergy. on display.

no pics of the sistine chapel, pinagbabawal. there were a few who defied and stole some photos but carlo and i felt we were too enthralled by michelangelo’s frescoes to bother taking photos. a lot of times, we felt photos do not give justice to the masterpieces on display, esp the frescoes in the sistine chapel. we stayed maybe an hour just looking up. gorgeous gorgeous gorgeous.


the tapestries in this room is grabe na! dako kaayu!


mosaic detail on the floor.


a marble sculpture of laocoon and his sons, excavated in rome and now on permanent display at the vatican museum. gorgeous! according to google/wikipedia, this is in the hellenistic baroque style. char.


wandered into a music shop near our airbnb in rome. always fascinated by shops in europe, they carry a lot of items despite its size. sa pilipinas, it would have to be some big franchise shop to carry this much varied merchandise in good condition. even the 2nd hand shops in cubao dont carry this kind of working, usable condition of merch.



this time i got to see the colosseo up close and personal. chos. ancient rome is crazy, i tell you, to build such a massive building where people battled and died all in the name of entertainment. bloody thirsty masses watching and deciding the lives of slaves and warriors. hmmm, how very pilipinas lang now. never knew we became so blood thirsty, thrilled of the numbers of dead people popping up in the streets of manila. and how we ridicule and humiliate and curse at people on social media. wow. like the ancient romans? in my lifetime? but going back, maganda. pero masakit. the church with its riches despite the massive poor struggling to make ends meet. the relics of a mighty stadium reminds us of a brutal past. and we dont really learn from it.


the oculus at the pantheon. i wasnt able to visit this in 2006 and this turned out to be absolutely one of my favorites in rome. i was surprised with the interiors, with the different colored marble sculptures and niches and that impressive hole in the ceiling.


ang olive oil sa italy. bow. i heard a little about the olive oil mafia in italy, where the version we have commercially available isnt pure olive oil anymore. and only one family is supposedly controlling the olive oil industry. while in florence, our host told us not to use the cheap olive oil and instead use his stock of a slightly higher priced olive oil for our pasta. granted masarap nga. pero yung sinasabi niyang cheap oil ay isa na sa mahaling brand available sa pinas (bertolli). so ano nalang kaya yung mahalin sa kanila? wohoo. coconut oil nalang.

IMG_6280.jpg#gwapulis. in the vatican museum.


local art in the neighborhood. diba kalorks. instant beauty everywhere. ingani ilang street art. atoa kay struggling but getting there. nothing wrong with mmda art really and sometimes i like that, ako ay engineer ako ay nurse thing. we need more subversive art though. lol.


one cannot be in italia without eating gelato. the difference is that gelatos in italy are not as sweet as we have in manila. big difference for me kay dili kaayu ko tig-kaon ug ice cream. a bit cheaper also in italy. 150 to 200 pesos up per cone. mahal diay gihapon. haha


thankfully they finished renovating/fixing the trevi fountain, one of the most gorgeous sights in rome, made more famous because making wishes at this fountain is 86% more effective than in other fountains. i made that up.

i did throw my coins back in 2006 (not in 2005 as i originally thought). and here i am back in italy. dreams come true, especially when you work for it and aim for it and save up for it and everything else in between.


for more pics, check out my facebook photodump album for rome. cheers and leave me a comment here in my blog if you like this sort of thing. char.

up next: milan, dahlin’, milan.

art & design, filmmaking, musings, travel

wanderlust: rome



had a grand time in karlovy vary celebrating its 51st international film festival and especially because our film was part of the festival. aside from kapatiran (brotherhood), lav diaz’s 8-hour opus, hele sa hiwagang hapis, and brillante mendoza’s cannes entry, ma’rosa (which won jaclyn jose her biggest international acting award), were also screened in karlovy vary.

but more than anything, i particularly love the paparazzi theme of the festival. and with that, we staged our own.

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producer, bianca balbuena

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production designer, benjamin padero

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production designer, carlo tabije

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director, pepe diokno

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director, pepe diokno, and associate producer, royd santiago

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production designers, benjamin padero and carlo tabije

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thug life editor, benjamin tolentino

filmmaking, laundry therapy, musings, travel

evading the paparazzi

art & design, filmmaking, movies, musings

i would like to thank the academy…

the oscars show is fast approaching. and on the eve that we arrived in cambodia, i learned that my friend, jerrold tarog, was nominated for his musical score and editing work in chito rono’s the healing. as i was about to congratulate him, i decided to see who was nominated for best production design this year. i expected el presidente and thy womb in the category but i was pleasantly surprised to find my name in the list.

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id like to thank the academy for this. it’s such an honor to be nominated amongst this awesome pool of talents in both indie and mainstream movie categories for production design (as to why there should be a divide in categories, i guess there’s just more love to share –such an optimistic remark).

practice lang sa thank you speech ko sa oscars. chos! hahaha 😉


cheers to films and friends nominated and recognized: the guys behind tiktik: the aswang chronicles– direk erik matti, co-nominee peter collias, producers dondon monteverde and dingdong dantes, artdep adrian espanola and dunn ledesma, kitch napigkit and cherry fortes, buboy crauz and his team. dop dix buhay, janice de belen; to thy womb with direk brillante mendoza, larry, tanya, tito odie flores, ms nora, sir katz; alagwa with bianca balbuena, bwakaw with ferdie lapuz and tonee acejo, adolf alix jr and ben tolentino in mater dolorosa, my friend coco martin for sta nina (chos!), slumber party with rk bagatsing, harley alcasid, carlo mendoza for bwakaw and el presidente, shayne sarte for a mother’s story. and jerrold tarog of course 😉 congrats sa lahat and thank you pmpc

full list of nominees at

art & design, costume design, filmmaking, set design

movies coming up

excited that i have two movies to be screened in local theaters in the coming months. first is CAPTIVE by cannes winning director brillante mendoza. we shot this movie in january of last year but it took a long time for post work to finish in europe. after that, we had to wait until after the berlin film festival’s premiere before it could come home 😉

isabelle huppert, legendary french actress, stars as a missionary abducted along with a group of bakasyonistas by extremist group abu sayyaf in palawan in 2001. the story is based on the kidnappings that year, which included gracia burnham and her late husband, martin. the rest of the cast include raymond bagatsing, ronnie lazaro, angel aquino and sid lucero. here’s our facebook page.


the movie will be showing in local theaters on september 5, 2012 under star cinema.

next is erik matti’s TIKTIK: THE ASWANG CHRONICLES, which was shot june last year and is going through more than a year of post-work because of the heavy cg requirements. the movie is slated to open in october this year, under GMA films in cooperation with reality entertainment.

i worked on the production design with australian pd peter colias (scenic designer for moulin rouge, dark city). first time for me to build a whole house in a studio. during the shoot, strawdog’s adrian espanol and dunn ledesma art directed for the film and cherry fortes and kitch napigkit were in-charge of wardrobe. setmen were buboy crauz’s boys and the guys from strawdogs. follow us on facebook here. here’s the teaser trailer:


major awesome! long live pinoy movies! 😉

art & design, costume design, filmmaking

CAPTIVE The Movie (formerly titled PREY)

dec 23 2011
since the announcement of brillante mendoza’s new film (formerly titled PREY) CAPTIVE’s inclusion in the 2012 berlin international film festival main competition and having my photos properly credited on the local news (thanks, tv patrol), i reckon it safe to repost and make public this blog article on the film, posted february 15, 2011  😉 merry christmas and enjoy!


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here’s explaining my busy schedule for the last few months.  carlo and i worked on brillante mendoza’s new opus PREY (international title CAPTURED), shot in january 2011.  preparations took months and since november 2010 we’ve been going around the locations and meeting a lot with the director for this film. i had to stop doing tv commercials by december so i could focus on pre-production for the movie.

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mon confiado evoking shawshank redemption in mauban quezon

i had to forgo a good amount of my christmas vacation and pretty much the new year’s celebration as well to work on the film. we started to shoot PREY by january 11, starting in calatagan batangas (which ive no photos of) then moved to mauban quezon.

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the pensive tado

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timothy mabalot

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mon confiado

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neil ryan sese

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the gorgeous angel aquino

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art & design, filmmaking, food trip, laundry therapy, movies, musings

i was once a filmmaker

before all these pd work on tv commercials, before regal films and centerstage, revolver and abracadabra, before doing design for brillante mendoza and jerrold tarog and chito rono and tikoy aguiluz, before getting the urian and a ycc, before graduating and all the bills, i was once a filmmaker. i wouldnt go as far as say i was great, but i was a friggin filmmaker.

and i got reminded of that by eating my instant pancit canton.

and watching the trailer of amorres perros.

in high school and college i got interested in a lot of movies. i read about some highly-praised films that i would never get my hands on. being in the province with no access to obscure movies and art house films, plus technology would not be pirate friendly for another 10 years, i was cinema-starved.

in 2000 i transferred to the college of fine arts and met kindred spirits who were also hungry for good movies. we fed on films by fincher, lynch, inarritu, mike de leon, lav diaz, tornatorre and of course on lucky me pancit canton and red horse beer. after a few years, pirated dvds and players started popping up in quiapo and it was the motherload. we continued feeding on more world cinema along with our unsatiated appetite for pancit canton and moud halal’s roasted chicken and kabsa rice.

back then we dreamed of films, ate films, breathed films. ive been lucky to have shot, produced and directed a few short films. we were living the dream, quite frankly.

before i graduated, my choices of meals were cheap or cheaper. when i started working (with then PD dante mendoza), i could afford to watch more movies on the wide screen and eat in a variety of restaurants. more when i started to do my own PD work in tv commercials and films. now it was a choice of whether we’d eat japanese, italian, pinoy or whatnot, no matter the price.

today i stayed home and waited for the rain. by the time the roofs started their staccato beat, i got hungry and cooked a batch of pancit canton. who’d have thought this bowl got me reminiscing and find enlightenment?

before all these pd work on tv commercials, before regal films and centerstage, revolver and abracadabra, before doing design for brillante mendoza and jerrold tarog and chito rono and tikoy aguiluz, before getting the urian and a ycc, before graduating and all the bills, i was once a filmmaker. i wouldnt go as far as say i was great, but i was a friggin filmmaker.

and i got reminded of that by eating my instant pancit canton.  and now maybe it’s time to go back and make my own films.

art & design, movies

urian 2008

By Bayani San Diego Jr.
Philippine Daily Inquirer

MANILA, Philippines—For the fourth straight year, independent movies dominate the Urian awards, given by the Manunuri ng Pelikulang Pilipino, the country’s oldest critics’ group.

The Manunuri, now in its 31st year, nominated only five mainstream works: Jinggoy Estrada in “Katas ng Saudi” for Best Actor; Judy Ann Santos in “Sakal, Sakali, Saklolo” and Lorna Tolentino in “Katas” for Best Actress; Jose Javier Reyes’ “Katas ng Saudi” for Best Screenplay; and Liza Lorena in “Katas” for Supporting Actress.

Clean sweep

Since 2003, the Manunuri has picked indie movies for Best Film.

This year, all six nominees for Best Film are indies: Jerrold Tarog and Ruel Dahis Antipuesto’s “Confessional,” Jade Castro’s “Endo,” Dante Mendoza’s “Foster Child” and “Tirador,” Lav Diaz’s “Death in the Land of Encantos” and Jim Libiran’s “Tribu.”

“It’s the first time for indies to have a clean sweep of the Best Film category,” says Lito Zulueta, Manunuri member. Adds National Artist Bienvenido Lumbera, founding member and former chair: “It’s an indication of the enthusiasm of indie directors. It’s a good sign… that the film industry is being revived by new filmmakers.”

Although it can be argued that “Foster Child,” produced by Seiko Films, can fall under the mainstream category, it is directed by Mendoza, known mainly for indie films.

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“Foster” received the most nominations, along with “Tribu” and Adolf Alix Jr.’s “Tambolista” which each got 10 nods. (But “Tambolista” is not in the Best Film race.) “Tirador” got 9 noms; while “Endo” and “Confessional” each has 7.

Mendoza isn’t the only one who scored double nods, for Best Director and Film (“Tirador” and “Foster”). Jiro Manio is nominated for Actor (“Tambolista”) and Supporting Actor (“Foster”); and Sid Lucero is in the race for Actor (“Selda”) and Supporting Actor (“Tambolista”).

Tarog has the most nominations for an individual—six (Sound, Editing, Screenplay, Actor, Director and Film) for a single movie, “Confessional.”

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serbis lashing

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wow. the reviews for serbis are hot! scalding hot! except for a few, all the reviews are negative! hahaha one even went on to write, “What’s the worst so far? That’s easy. It’s Philippine director Brillante Mendoza’s “Serbis.” another wrote “overall thumbs down to Serbis, a shambolic picture of life in a Filipino porn cinema.” and my last post on serbis is filled with comments berating on bing lao being a brocka relic and dante’s supposed unoriginality. carlo and i were involved in the making of serbis (design part, not the writing) and this doesnt discount the fact that we are part and parcel of it. rather unfortunate for dante though that this film is getting worldwide lashing from critics and audiences mainly because since it’s on cannes, most everybody gets to see it and comment. otherwise, indie movies like this would have only generated curses from a few horny curious movie patrons at some sleazy cinema in recto who are just waiting to get serviced. how ironic haha


The UP Film Institute is most proud to hold the Philippine gala premiere of Brillante Mendoza’s Tirador (international title: Slingshot) this Monday, 3 December 2007, at 7 p.m. as the opening film of Cine Veritas Human Rights Film Festival.


The film is the sixth feature in three years from Brillante as practically all of his previous works have grabbed major international prizes. Tirador had its world premiere at Toronto (Canada, 6-15 September 2007); was exhibited for the Dragons and Tigers Out-of-Competition at Vancouver (Canada, 27 September-12 October, 2007) and got its Asian premiere no less at Pusan, South Korea (Window on Asian Cinema, 4-12 October 2007). It is slated to date for further showcase across the globe till middle of next year in prestigious filmfests foremost of which are the Marrakech (Morocco, 7-15 December 2007) where it vies in main competition for the Golden Star Grand Prize and the 58th Berlin (Germany, 7-17 February 2008) for the International Forum of New Cinema.

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brillante mendoza topbills up film institute’s human rights film festival

filmmaking, movies

TIRADOR Philippine Premiere!


For those who miss out on films by Mendoza, take note of his latest masterwork, Tirador (Slingshot) an intimate glimpse into the lives of criminals who have to deal with police raids and other hardships on the gritty streets of Manila. The film has already been picking up speed in film festivals, including Toronto, Dubai and the US. Filipino viewers will have their day as TIRADOR premieres at the UP Film Institute on Dec 3, 2007. The film stars Jiro Manio, Nathan Lopez, Kristoffer King, Coco Martin and veteran stars Julio Diaz and Jaclyn Jose.


Slingshot (Tirador) dir. Brillante Mendoza; Philippines, 2007. 86 minutes
Opens December 3, 2007 UP Film Institute

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