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Kubrador (The Bet Collector)

Seeing Kubrador with a theater full of non-Filipinos made me realize that some things I've always taken for granted aren't really as common as I thought they were.

Take jueteng, for instance. I used to just shrug it off as a fact of life. But when the introductory titles began to roll, and I was reminded that a former president was impeached—and subsequently deposed—on jueteng charges, and that the current president's husband and son have been implicated in jueteng, too, I began to wonder what the people in the audience thought. Most of them probably knew, at the very least, about Imelda Marcos and her shoes. What conclusions could they have formed regarding the electoral choices of Filipinos?

Then there was the opening sequence. I couldn't help but think of Spider Man and how different its rooftop chase sequences were from the one presented in Kubrador. There were the rusting iron sheets that practically flowed into one another, so that it was not really necessary to jump from one roof to another. There was the fact that the chaser and the chased were very human beings, neither super nor heroes. And finally, the chase ended not when the chaser caught the chased, but when the chased fell through a roof—into a "bathroom," where the woman taking a bath called him a pervert.

The film was so authentic that I was not quite surprised when the lead character passed through very tight alleys, encountered lots of children and adults in those alleys, and even stepped on some dog poop. It must have looked like a very different world to the audience, whose subway trains at peak times are not even half as packed as LRT/MRT trains in Metro Manila. And they have laws penalizing the owners of dogs whose poop is not picked up right away.

There was probably a lot that the audience missed, too. Because, one, the film did not make a big deal out of the facts of Filipino life (e.g., the Nazareno, Sto. Nino and Virgin Mary side by side), but presented them as, well, facts of life; and two, the subtitles weren't very good. The first was most likely intentional, but the second is something that I've noticed in a lot of subtitled Filipino films. There were some very good translations (e.g., "Your cock has a birthday?" in reference to a man preparing for a cockfight), but some were just plain bad, and in some cases, no translations were provided at all.

But one thing that got highlighted in the Q&A after the screening was how difficult it was to shoot in the squatters' area. Not because it was tight, but because Filipinos just love cameras. Jeffrey Jeturian, the director, talked about doing so many takes because someone in the scene looked at the camera. Contrast this with my experiences with Canadians who do not bring cameras to social gatherings and, when asked if it's okay to take group photos, say "no."

Anyway, below are some photos that I took of Jeturian and Gina Pareno, the lead, after the screening. It took a while before I could take the photos because there were so many people who came up to them to congratulate them... and have photos taken with them. Guess who the latter were? =)

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The photo captioned "Souvenirs" includes my ticket and autographed photos that the talented, but very down-to-earth Pareno gave me. Read more about her in "Gina PareƱo hits the jackpot" by Eric S. Caruncho (Philippine Daily Inquirer, 2 August 2006).

By the way, the ticket for Kubrador, at Can $21 (945 pesos), is the most expensive one I've ever bought. But it was worth it =)

Category: Books and Movies

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