Dec 13
SO THIS IS CHRISTMAS by Alex J. Socorro  |  Posted in Articles  |  on Wed, Dec 13, 2006

The Film Academy is entering its 25th year with a bang that reverberated all around the FAP office. Due to budgetary constraints, the FAP Board of Governors came up with a resolution to drastically cut down to size the overhead. And that resolution adversely affected the plantilla.

“Kawawa naman ang secretariat,” exclaims a former guild president who had requested anonimity by cloaking his identity with the moniker Darth Vader. The staff of the FAP secretariat will be jobless at the onset of the coming New Year and Darth Vader is having great difficulty in coming to terms with the consequence. The white flag was already waved by FAP Director General Leo Martinez and Chairman Atty. Laxa as regards
the needed emergency funding. And since no help is in sight, the said board resolution is a sheer act of desperation to avoid closing shop.

As a backgrounder, FAP gets its annual budget from the proceeds of the MMFF (Metro Manila Film Festival). The previous 30% share of FAP was shaved to 10% starting the year 2006. Aside from the Luna awards, FAP is also the home of all the working guilds of the movie industry where FAP provides a cubicle for an office and a monthly subsidy for the upkeep of the guilds. According to DG Leo Martinez, in the light of the financial constraint the present operation of the Film Academy is not viable anymore hence the downsizing.

“So, wala palang nangyari sa appeal ni Leo para maibalik ang budget?” Darth Vader asks with apparent sadness in his voice. He has reasons to throw his ten-cent worth because he once occupied a seat in the FAP Board by virtue of his position as president of a guild.

“Pero kung aalisin nga ang secretariat eh sino ang gagawa ng trabaho? Syempre kukuha rin sila ng kapalit, di ba?” Angst is evident in Darth Vader’s tone, failing to hide his concern for the soon-to-be-terminated staff of the Film Academy. Darth Vader feels that it is improper for FAP to scrimp on the salaries of long-time employees. Lea Bernardez, the Cashier/Bookkeeper had spent 25 years of her professional life with FAP while Rolly Calanog, the Liaison Officer, has been with FAP for 23 years. Ana Fajardo and Nonoy Vivero had both logged 13 years of faithful service while driver Sonny Francisco has 9 years to his credit.

From Left: Rolly Calanog, Lea Bernardez, Ana Fajardo

Due to unforeseen developments, the said employees have already endured salary cuts early this year but they remained steadfast in their commitment to the Film Academy. Hope springs eternal that celebrities in the government, particularly the three showbiz senators, would lend a helping hand. But although there were promises and pledges, nothing had materialized. “Yan nga ang hirap sa pulitika, matapos kang tumulong eh hindi ka na kilala. Puwede bang wala silang magawa eh mga senador sila? O kaya wala ba silang konting perang maibigay pansamantala? Just to tide over lang.” Darth Vader enumerates a long list of people in the position to provide assistance but he shakes his head with a matching smirk.

“Dapat naman sana bigyan nila ng priority ang mga employees. Hanapbuhay nila ang pag-empleyo sa FAP, di ba? Disenteng trabaho, di ba? Nagtiyaga sila, nagtiis siguro dahil akala nila na makakaraos din pero sinibak silang lahat ngayon.” Darth Vader clears his throat then shakes his head again before continuing. “Yan naman ang hirap sa FAP, pagdating sa ganyang mga desisyon eh laging inuuna ang mga sarili nila.” The policy-making body of the Film Academy is composed of the guild presidents, two advisers and heads of affiliate organizations like Mowelfund. Also sitting in the board are the officers headed by Chairman Espiridion Laxa, Director General Leo Martinez, Deputy DG Jesse Ejercito, Secretary John Suarez and Treasurer Manny Morfe.

From Left: Vina Morales, Jennifer Sevillia, Nonoy Vivero and Sonny Francisco

“In fairness to the Academy, kulang talaga ang budget pero hindi pa rin dahilan na tanggalin ang mga tao. Yung office space puwedeng liitan, alisin na siguro ang mga cubicles ng mga guilds. Teka, ano ba ang silbi ng mga guilds sa FAP? Eh lahat ng guild president dyan puro sarili lang ang iniintindi. Take note, sarili lang nila at hindi ang guild nila, ha?” Darth Vader is now showing his fearless fighting stance as if he wants to launch a crusade for the sake of the FAP secretariat. But he waves a hand to profess helplessness in the situation.

“Yan nga lang ang accomplishment ng FAP ngayon,” Darth Vader replies with a changed tone when asked if the FAP website should be part of the retrenchment. His face glows upon learning that the interview would result in an article for the website. “Talaga? Eh baka may censors dyan? Puwede bang no-holds-barred, ha? Mamaya, sige marami akong sasabihin, pero tapusin muna natin itong subject matter for now.”

“Hindi ko talaga ma-take ang nangyayari. Biruin mo, magpa-Pasko tapos mawawalan ng trabaho ang mga tao. Siguro walang bonus, walang Christmas party. Daig pa nila ang tinamaan ng sabay na Milenyo at Reming nyan.” Darth Vader pulls out his hanky to dramatize his sympathy to the FAP secretariat. His informal oratorical piece which ran around like circles was focused on the sad plight of the employees. “Me pinagsamahan din kami kahit paano. Si Lea, mahigpit yan kaya minsan nakakainis pero tama lang yun dahil kung maluwag ang cashier eh sige-sige lang ang labas ng pera. Si Rolly super sipag na tao at tahimik, walang reklamo. All the rest, puro okey sila, walang problema dahil pag may trabaho eh trabaho lang.”

The FAP secretariat practically handles the voting process by rote. There’s no guidelines, no instructions whatsoever. Year after year, the FAP voting had never experienced a snafu when it comes to the operations. Likewise, the Luna awards, although directly handled by the producer, was given full assistance by the FAP secretariat. “Parang walang credit na naibigay sa FAP secretariat eh kung tutuusin naman maayos nilang napatakbo ang trabaho.” Darth Vader adds that FAP officers never encountered difficulty in events owing to the efficiency of the FAP secretariat. (After the last Luna Awards, DG Leo Martinez had posted a thank-you note on the bulletin board in praising the efforts of the FAP secretariat.)

“Sana may magawa pa silang remedyo,” Darth Vader regains his composure. He is hoping against hope that the FAP officers could still do something about the sad situation regarding the impending retrenchment. “Matagal akong hindi nakapunta sa FAP at sana pagpasyal ko roon makikita ko pa ang mga tao.” He pulls out his hanky again and relates incidents and anecdotes involving the FAP secretariat. No doubt that they are persevering employees and respectful of their bosses although sometimes they go out of bounds in the fulfillment of their duties. But credit is due to the FAP secretariat for the loyalty they have shown to the Film Academy.

“Lastly, eto ang iparating mo sa FAP officers o kahit sa BOG pa,” Darth Vader puts on a formal face as if to wage a last stand for the benefit of the FAP secretariat. “Bigyan nila ng Christmas bonus ang mga tao tapos gawin nilang one month for every year of service ang separation pay. Yun lang para naman kahit paano hindi masyadong masakit sa mga matatanggal.”

This writer agrees with Darth Vader. Indeed, the Film Academy owes something to the FAP secretariat who had spent a substantial part of their professional life in serving the needs of the movie industry people who would have been lost, especially the senior citizens, without the personal assistance of the FAP secretariat who, in one way or another, sometimes go out of their way just to aid those who are in need of information. Since the secretariat is the data bank of the Film Academy, it is a big question mark how FAP would function next year. I shudder to think of a prediction.

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