Biliran is Beautiful (47 Peso Art Department and XZiBiT didn’t show)

Hello. I have just returned from Biliran where I represented the studio to do some production design work for the Cinema One Originals entry: ‘Ms. Bulalacao’ by award-winning director Ara Chawdhury.

The experience was an interesting insight into the whole Philippine independent filmmaking scenario. Firstly, what I can say is our up-and-coming filmmakers – whether they are directors, writers, production designers and such – are perhaps fuelled, foremost, by passion for making movies. Not money but pure passion to tell stories through movies.

Yes it is true that Cinema One funds the movies that it selects – between PHP 1-2 million per movie but after it all trickles down the budget for each facet of a film can be quite tight. While we have been in pre-production for the past 7 weeks – making props, posters, making sketches of how we intend to design the sets all in a do-it-yourself fashion. Our budget for the all set building was 60k. This last week was a true eye-opener: we had to live on 47 pesos a day, per person which was allotted to us for food, accommodation AND transportation. Whuut. Right? We joked about it and thought of all the scenarios where if we ever really ran out of money we could sell some of the props or dance in the streets (not that anyone would pay for that, on second thought). We ended up not doing any of those as one of the art department team members, Karl, happened to be from Biliran and he asked his mother to feed us home-cooked meals and they were kind enough to let us sleep in their house free of charge. That was g-r-e-a-t as we would have never been able to make it work within those constraints.

Now even with these obstacles it was cool to see the art department not getting down over it. Everyone’s spirits were up and did all the hard work and there was a lot of laughing and just enjoying every day. In the past week we managed to do a bunch of things including painting a blue barrio

making way for a river

and putting up the wooden signs that were hand-made

On the flipside, being in the Biliran was a welcome change of pace for me. Sitting in the back of Karl’s multicab going through the countryside was like meditation. It would have been perfect if Xzibit showed up and said, ‘YO DAWG, I’ma pimp yo ride. Pimp yo set. Give you food. Pimp yo house. PIMP YA LIFE!’ but yeah, that didn’t happen.

I have many stories I would like to tell you, but not today as we have a big presentation later (it is 3AM as I write this). I will however leave you with a photo of the province’s countryside. Biliran is beautiful:


Best of luck to my homies in the art department, wish I could have stayed longer. Thank you Karl and your mom. Goodluck to Ara, Xtian and everyone.