(This is the second of five installments of the five grand winners in the just concluded 1 st FAP Screenplay/Storyline Contest. Last week, our Fapweb printed Mariit 3. For the next three Fridays, we will be reprinting the three other grand winners —editor)
By Jose Abelardo A. Tam
Goa is a sleepy island town. Though not entirely isolated, it keeps to itself, content with its little industry of making coco sweets and dried fish.Mr. Biboy Gallardo arrives. The townspepople notice his flamboyant, cosmopolitan air, manner and dress—he must be a big shot. Soon, word has it that he plans to bring a huge investment into the job-hungry town. Everybody meets him and applies for a job. He announces his project: constructing the town’s first movie theater. In a town that doesn’t even have a single central edifice, it is a big project indeed. Construction follows—all on credit, including labor.
At first, the people refuse to work without immediate pay. But through promises, sweet talk, and a confusingly complicated but convincing payment scheme that he concocts, Mr. Gallardo convinces the town to go along with his plan.
His sole possessions—a video camera and a laptop for editing. Video is the new film, he says as he instructs the 14-year-old Mateo how to use it and tells him to document everything. He coordinates the supplies—coconut trees are cut to be used as wood for the foundations, the walls. For roofing, he wants GI sheets but when asked for the money to get it, he shrugs and urges the people to think of other ways instead. Perhaps a thatched roof? Too traditional, Mr. Gallardo says, until someone volunteers his tarpaulin. But it is for sale. Biboy Gallardo agrees and promises to pay later after the opening, reasoning out that money is still in transit.
For the projector and player, he is able to get a creditor to initially finance equipment, though at spurious rates. By now, there are many people he already owes. Sensing that he might soon lose his hold on the town, he announces that Ms. Vilma, the movie star, has agreed to visit the town to grace the opening of her new big film. The whole town is agog, thinking of ways to prepare for the big event.
Biboy starts to edit Mateo’s footages of the town and construction. He gives Mateo tips in shooting, holding the camera, etc. Asking Mateo what kind of ‘feeling’ the film should have when watched, the boy answers how it would be nice to have it a bit fast, a bit frenzied, like nail being hammered into wood, the way the town’s carpenters would pound on nails as they build the new theater—rhythmically at first, then suddenly a burst of energy to drive the nails in. Biboy tells Mateo that is the ‘look’/style their documentation would have—as Biboy continues to edit the material.
In the next town, Biboy fields a call to Manila where he finds how big the fees are for everything—the movie, the event, the accommodations for Miss Vilma—but the boy Mateo has followed him.
Back in Goa, everyone is already anxious to get their pay. Mr. Gallardo offers signed ticket passes for the event—as insurance in the meantime that his big check hasn’t cleared yet. But the townspeople are angry, demanding to be paid. Mr. Gallardo pacifies the crowd with his announcement—Ms. Vilma is arriving the next day to grace the premiere.
In another town, Mr. Gallardo arranges for a woman he earlier befriended to pose by the wharf come midday the next day. He also manages to contract, also on credit, a musical band to play. The next day, the townspeople witness the event of ‘Ms. Vilma’s’ arrival honors—but from afar… on another island town where a woman, seemingly Ms. Vilma, waves at them along with a lively music band, creating a fiesta atmosphere, which is playing. And though they have their doubts, they are happy enough to see even just a glimpse from afar of their movie idol.
The boy Mateo confronts Biboy Gallardo. He tells him of everything he has learned about him–that nothing is true–Biboy corrects him that the truth is already there, it’s already real, now it exists: the finished Cinema Goa.
He explains to Mateo that sometimes, lies and falsehoods are needed to arrive at the truth. Even movies, they only re-create reality—it is not reality itself. He tells Mateo to look at the bright side of things. Now they have a Cinema that even before he came into town, nobody thought of constructing. Now, they have something to use—as a school or a church or a hospital. It can double for anything they might need. He is ‘donating’ everything to the town. He only asks one thing—that Mateo does not tell anyone of the truth he has learned. At least until after he’s gone. Mateo reluctantly agrees. Biboy Gallardo hands him a copy of the video he has edited in his laptop. He tells Mateo that though this film was made on a lie—it is a document of that lie that has now, with it being on film, become the truth. Mateo, though sad knowing that his ‘mentor’ is now leaving him, accepts it.
The premiere arrives—everyone was promised that they will be paid on the premiere night but Mr. Gallardo is nowhere to be found. Pandemonium is about to ensue. Mateo steps in to explain everything. Yes, they’ve been had. But look, now they have a new town cinema—and even if they don’t have movies to show, it can always double for other things they need—like a town hall or a school or sometimes a church. The important thing is, now they have a central place to convene. But they are still owed their pay, they insist. Mateo tells them– it already is their pay– think of it as something you have built for yourselves– for the town. And so grudgingly, they accept what’s happened and agree that they will all co-own it.
The projector financier, the tarpaulin-owner, the primary workers—the foreman, the carpenters—are elected as officers. And they all agree to etch all the workers’ and contributors’ names on the Cinema walls. Why, even the woman food server wants her name etched as well to serve as testament that they all collectively own it. They manage to draft a loan payment scheme to pay those owed with money and labor costs.
Although there’s a tinge of sadness in the knowledge that they have been conned—they now agree to make the best of what they now have. It’s a new Cinema after all. It is a place of happiness, of entertainment. They are happy again and begin to celebrate—then the lights dim and all is hushed as the first images of an opus is seen. It is Mateo’s document of the town constructing Cinema Goa– as everyone laughs, cries and marvels at their own lives depicted onscreen.
Meanwhile, in another faraway town, a bigtime entrepreneur has arrived– he is an impresario, film producer par excellence, Mr. Mateo de Goa (Biboy Gallardo to others)—flamboyant, cosmopolitan, toting his laptop and video camera bag, he offers the town’s cinema a kind of entertainment he considers original and rare—a small movie gem entitled– the Cinema Goa.