What I've Learned
Lav Diaz
"I still have faith in cinema."
IMAGE Jason Quibilan

I still have faith in cinema.

Poetry is best achieved in solitude. Solitude is not about being alone, but a state of deep confinement of beauty within the soul. This is aesthetics.

If I’m not making sense at all, then I am collaborating in life’s total disarray.

Encapsulating life is one of art’s greatest objectives. The greatest works of art mirror the struggle to understand life, the meaning of existence, the battle against time, the value of space. But can we ever really understand suffering, sorrow, melancholia? Can we ever fathom sacrifice, orgasm, evil? Where is God?

I’m still waiting for God to show up. The coffee is eternally ready as I keep it perpetually hot and pure, no sugar, no milk, just black, from the wild banks of Mount Apo, or the dried ipot ng Musang from Batangas; or, yes, Starbucks is just around the corner. O, kung gusto niya ng beer, sige, sa Cubao. And if he is vegan like me, then I’ll serve him nilagang talbos ng kamote dipped in soy and kalamansi. I shall sing to him the greatest hymns of our Malay ancestors. I shall recite to him the greatest poems of Filipino makatas. We shall view together my future 40-hour cinema with the working title Muli Ako Den. I have so many questions, so many things to say to him. If he shows up at all, then maybe, just maybe, just fucking maybe, just fucking maybe, life would be sublime.

I’ve seen evil face to face. His name is Ferdinand E. Marcos, all caps. I remember well the paranoia, the blood. I’d seen bodies after massacres in my Maguindanao. I’d seen burnt villages. They still haunt me; I still see them in my dreams, the smoke, the stench, the wails, those blanked eyes, those numbed gazes.

If I could meet Marcos I would ask him, “Why did you do that to our country?” Of course, we know he was a fascist and a megalomaniac but still I would want to tell him straight: “Man, you fucked us up hardcore. Hayup ka.”

I would also want to meet Emilio Aguinaldo and ask him: “Why did you murder Andres Bonifacio?” We know that it was a power struggle or some envy that sparked it, but I want to talk to him about it and would tell him straight: “Man, you fucked us up hardcore.”


The riskiest thing I ever did was shooting Ebolusyon ng Isang Pamilyang Pilipino for 10 years.

The best thing I ever did with money was buying food for my family.

My father uttered just a few words but he was the most intelligent and humble person I’d known. He knew he had that gift and he used it to the fullest, for those who needed it. I’d always see him walking tirelessly through the forest, crossing the raging rivers, the dangerous trails to reach the remotest villages of Cotabato to educate the Maguindanaons, Bilaans, and Christian settlers. He showed me altruism; how to destroy this thing called ego.

I regret not being able to thank my father for all the wisdom he shared; not being able to be with my children every day; not being able to be with my grandson every day; not being able to do more for humanity. Life is so, so short.

Friendship balances life’s voids. Sadness, yearning, longing, belonging, the need for love, for some footing, for assurances, the walk to the coffee shop, a beer in the bar, a chat and a cigarette and a load of Boy Bawang at Aling Maring’s sari-sari store, or pautang muna dyan, tol.

Death is both corporal and spiritual. One of the greatest struggles of existence is the battle against time.

If you measure life with the destruction of the body, then death is the victory of time.

Art is man’s victory against time.

Music has taught me that despite of all the madness, life is beautiful.

What has growing older taught me? Not to take life for granted.

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Erwin Romulo
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