Normally the music doesn’t get talked about at Cinemalaya. There have been a few films explicitly dealing with it, the most notable being Mike Sandejas’s film about The Dawn, Tulad ng Dati, from 2005. More recently, 2011 saw both Quark Henares premiering his long-awaited Rakenrol before heading off to business school, and in-competition film Mayohan featuring a new version of Up Dharma Down’s “Hiwaga” from their Fragmented album. Recently I learned that Dan Villegas had to fight for the song’s inclusion in the film’s soundtrack, and he earns the gratitude of this Up Dharma Down fan for that.
Of course, 2012 saw the film Ang Nawawala premiere with its award-winning soundtrack, which was as much a function of its music supervision as it was of its actual score. Inevitably comparisons were made to Rakenrol, but Henares later admitted that he was quite moved by his old friend Marie Jamora’s effort.
This year we saw UDD back in the festival with the Capacities song “Indak” appearing in the Director’s Showcase best film, Sana Dati. But this was a year I noticed that there were more people from the current music scene as usual. A note though: Mon Espia, a musician/composer who has been around for a while now, won the same prize for Transit as Ang Nawawala did last time.
It was in the short films program that we saw a couple of names I recognized. The name Ean Aguila may ring a bell for those who have also heard of this group named Ang Bandang Shirley. He is also credited for two films this year, Para Kay Ama and Katapusang Labok. His work on the former can be more subtly heard, including a loop remix of an unknown Chinese tune that can be heard inside the funeral parlor. This appropriately matched the film’s subtle dramatic tone. But his score for the latter features a strong melodic theme towards the end that gave the story the gravitas it otherwise did not have.
While Bakaw was one of those films about child poverty that have become a staple of social realist filmmaking, what raised it to my notice was Aman de la Cruz’s music score. He works with Jean-Paul Zialcita’s Bakunawa experimental percussion ensemble, but he is better known for being with the post-rock ensemble, Wilderness. It is thus tempting to hear his film work in that light, but I won’t. What he does bring to this film, though, is a gift for establishing excitement through the use of energetic beats and rhythms when needed. This will not surprise those more familiar with his indie music work.
While I knew of Pepe Manikad (and prolific composer Teresa Barozzo, who is turning out to be the festival’s Randy Newman) through his incidental music for a certain local theater troupe, he is also with one of local progressive music’s pioneering bands, Eternal Now. His work appears most notably in the coming-of-age story Purok 7. This feature-length film highlights for me how capable he could be as a writer of incidental music, but I recently came across another review of the film that found the same music somewhat distracting.
We go full circle here to one of the younger Terno ensembles, because my last mention is of Hidden Nikki’s keyboard player Denise Santos. She has done music for a couple of unreleased feature films, but it was in last year’s Cinema One Originals film, Palitan where I first heard her work. Her score for that film was commendable enough that its director passed along her name to a friend, the son of a recently departed film director.
The film she scored for this year’s Cinemalaya, her first, was unfortunately the recipient of critical thrashing, with at least two people calling it the worst in the festival’s history. And not a few people wondered whether it was more comedic than terrifying. But I do hope her fortunes improve in getting projects–her work on that film was not as bad as I feared.
So that is all for now from Cinemalaya’s musical universe. On a final note: I do wish the use of “Indak” could have incorporated elements of its live performance, with its somewhat extended intro. Then again, Jerrold Tarog incorporated it elsewhere in his award-winning score, a tantalizing hint for those who listen well.
The Smashed Pumpkin is a writer based in Metro Manila. Follow this column for more of his adventures and misadventures in the gig scene.