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Exploiting Sex

The films I have written were accused by several people to be sexually exploitative.

Fortunately, I never had any issues regarding sexual exploitation. Or using sex as a selling point of a particular material.

Sex is just like food. It is a physiological need. It’s just like clothing and fashion. It is part of our identity. And aside from these, many great things can be borne out of sex — relationship, love or even another human being.

Hence, I don’t see why it is wrong for anyone to use sex for commercial purposes unless a minor or an ignorant adult has been deceived in the whole process.

On the other hand, I do understand where these critics are coming from. They come from their religious perspective on sex: Sex is only for procreation. And sex should only be practiced between married people. That’s why using sex for commercial purposes is a violation of religious moral codes per se.

But then, the big question is, what right do these people have to impose their religious beliefs and its permutations on me or to my audience?

We own our sexuality and we have the right to purchase and consume anything that makes us enjoy it as long as we do not step on the rights of anyone.

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Kambyo: My Third Screenplay

I wrote the screenplay of “Kambyo” as a requirement from my producer (Viva) to make a follow up film after the commercial success of “Ang Lihim ni Antonio” (Antonio’s Secret) and “Ang Lalake sa Parola” (The Man in the Lighthouse).

I wrote this film during my stay in Sagada (Mountain Province). And our vision for this project was to come up with a light, fun and entertaining film for the Filipino gay community. I think “Kambyo” is my most accessible and my most “mainstream” work so far.

Here’s the synopsis of the film:

From the makers of “Ang Lihim ni Antonio” (Antonio’s Secret) comes a heartwarming story of four men, their friendship and a road trip that will change their lives forever. 

It’s the last summer of their university life. Cousins Macky (Rayan Dulay, Bathhouse) and Manuel (Kenjie Garcia, Ang Lihim ni Antonio) start on a road trip to look for the Macky’s long lost friend Philip (Johnron Tanada). They bring along with them their fun loving friend Xavier (Harold Macasero), who tags along a hunky guy named Aldo (Gabz del Rosario), whom he just met right before their trip.

As the engine of Macky’s old van begins to accelerate, their relationships start on a new journey. Love blooms. Secrets unfold. Insecurities collide. And hidden desires set in.

As they drive their way up north of Manila, this unrestrained group of three friends and a stranger explore the boundaries of their friendships, their sexualities, their dreams and the future that lies ahead of them.

KAMBYO

Screenplay: Lex Bonife

Production: Viva Digital and Beyond the Box Production

Direction: Joselito Altarejos

 

 

 

Praised by the Mentor

In the Philippine film industry, there is one screenwriter whom I have always looked up to, his name is Armando “Bing” Lao.

I have always admired the sophistication of his narrative technique as a screenwriter in his films (Pila Balde, Tuhog and Sana Pag-Ibig na). His screenplays were rich like a novel. At the beginning of this century, he helped re-define Philippine cinema with his real time approach as he mentored the screenplays of “Foster Child”, “Tribu”, “Kubrador” and the Cannes Film Festival Entry “Serbis”. For me, Bing Lao, is the new creative force in Philippine Cinema.

Whenever I talk to him, I do not dare mention any of my screenplays and works. But last Friday (June 6), in my conversation with him in Tree House grill in Quezon City, he managed to mention watchin “Ang Lihim ni Antonio”. And he just said “Nagustuhan ko siya ha! Totoong totoo ang kuwento. Tapos kitang kita mo ang mga narrative objects. Kahit si Dante (director Brillante Mendoza) nagustuhan siya” (I liked it. The story is genuine. You could read the narrative objects in the film. Even Dante (director Brillante Mendoza) liked it)

And I almost fell off my seat. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. I was able to write something that was appreciated by Bing Lao and the great filmmaker Brillante Mendoza (also, one of my most admired).

And it certainly made my week.

Why I Write Gay Stories

“Thank you for speaking for us. For bringing to memory the fondest and darkest moments in my life…helping me understand myself… (and realize) that it’s ok to be me…” (Jeffrey, 25 years old)

 

This is a part of a letter from a viewer after watching the film that I wrote “Ang Lihim ni Antonio” (Antonio’s Secret). And receiving such letter is a confirmation on why I have long wanted to write stories about gay men.

 

When I was young, way back in the 80’s, the images of gay men in mainstream cinema were comic and slapstick. They were best represented by Roderick Paulate’s characterization of “Petrang Kabayo” and Dolphy’s iconic “Facifica Falayfay”. These film characters were certainly far from who I was and who I want to be as a gay man.

 

It was only before the end of the century that Filipino gay men were more accurately represented in film through “Ang Lalake sa Buhay ni Selya” (by Carlitos Siguion-Reyna) and Pusong Mamon (by Joel Lamangan). And it was just in 2002, that films started to honestly represent the angst of the urban gay men through Crisaldo Pablo’s “Duda” and “Bath house”.

 

Writing the screenplay of “Ang Lalake sa Parola” (The Man in the Lighthouse) and “Ang Lihim ni Antonio” (Antonio’s Secret) represents my sincere effort to connect to other gay men out there, to share their voice and to continuously remind our society about who we really are and why we deserve acceptance and not just tolerance. And if you’ll allow me to qualify further, what I personally demand is acceptance without compromises.

 

Sad Stories

I have been receiving comments from people asking me to stop writing sad stories.

My first two screenplays were categorically sad, the first one “Ang Lalake sa Parola” (The Man in the Lighthouse) was bittersweet. The second one “Ang Lihim ni Antonio” (Antonio’s Secret) was outright tragic.

It makes me want to ask myself, am I a sad person? Do I see the glass half empty?

I think it takes a lot of courage to look pain in the eye.

To accept the fragility of our lives demands rationality and wisdom from us.

One must first accept the real state of his life and the world that he lives in before one can begin a true journey towards happiness.

Awit Para kay Antonio

Lyrics of the theme song from the film “Ang Lihim ni Antonio”

 

Awit para kay Antonio

Words  by Lex Bonife; Music by Ajit Hardasani

 

Kung may tanong ka, sabihin mo

Isigaw mo, huwag kang matakot

Bakit ka narito, ano ba ang pakay mo

Sa buhay na ito

 

Bakit ka patuloy pa sa paghinga?

Bakit ka patuloy pa

Sa paghuhukay ng pag-asa?

 

Kahulugan, Kaguluhan

Kabuluhan at Kawalan

Kaya mo bang alamin?

Kaya mo bang unawain…

 

Ang Kahulugan, Kaguluhan

Kabuluhan at Kawalan

Kaya mo bang alamin?

Kaya mo bang unawain

 

Sa paggising mo sa umaga

Sa pagmulat mo sa iyong mata

Isama mo ang iyong diwa

 

Kaya mong lumilkha

Magtanong at mamangha

Ikaw ang bahala

 

Bakit ka patuloy pa sa paghinga?

Bakit ka patuloy pa

Sa paghuhukay ng pag-asa?

 

Kahulugan, Kaguluhan

Kabuluhan at Kawalan

Kaya mo bang alamin?

Kaya mo bang unawain

 

Ang Lalake sa Parola (The Man in the Lighthouse)

poster2.jpg

“Ang Lalake sa Parola (The Man in the Lighthouse)” is my first screenplay directed by Joselito Altarejos.

 It received a “Grade B” from the Cinema Evaluation Board and was cited by the Manila Tribune as one of the best Filipino films of 2007. It was also the highest grossing digital film released for that year.

 SYNOPSIS:

After meeting Mateo (Harry Laurel), a lighthouse caretaker, Jerome (Justin de Leon), a gay man from the city finds himself deeply attracted to this simple yet seductive man.  Soon, Mateo finds himself entering a subtle homoerotic journey with his newfound friend, while Suzet (Jennifer Lee), Mateo’s girlfriend, continues to struggle for his love and attention.

Will Mateo bravely cross the thin line between being straight and being gay in the midst of his conservative rural community? This story is a search for oneself as seen through the lens of rural homosexuality, legends and fairies and the lies that men create to escape the bitter realities of this world.