ESQ&A

Jerrold Tarog

The director of the biopic Heneral Luna talks to colleague Monster Jimenez about heroes and career pegs, his preoccupation with the issue of regionalism, and why he might take off the filmmaker's hat in the near future.
IMAGE Geric Cruz
Comments

This was originally published in the November 2015 issue of Esquire Philippines. 

ESQUIRE: When I was about to watch Heneral Luna, sabi ko “Oh my god, I’m gonna watch a historical film!” And then, in the last 20 minutes of the film, I knew he was gonna get killed—I’m not spoiling it for anybody…

JERROLD TAROG: Oh yeah well, nasa historical books naman.

ESQ: Pero naka-ganun talaga ako (covers mouth). “Oh my god, don’t be stupid!” So how did you build that suspense? And what version of Luna’s killing do you believe? Is it the version in the film?

JT: Well, yung first question tungkol sa creative process, yun yung nahihirapan ako sagutin. 'Di ko alam! (laughs) Kasi it's a combination of editing, fading, my horror background siguro. 'Di ko masagot yung mga ganitong, "Paano kaya naisip?" Yung number two, karamihan naman kasi nung film nakabase siya dun sa libro ni Dr. Vivencio Jose, which is The Rise and Fall of Antonio Luna. Binase ko dun yung fact na he had more than 30 bullet wounds, tapos nung patay na siya pagta-taga pa rin siya. 

ESQ: So, just knowing this bit of history actually... it just adds to the frustration of being a Filipino and being caught in this cycle of betrayal. Was that how it felt when you were writing?

JT: Yun naman yung point eh na parang cycle siya, na paulit-ulit, na kahit nung pre-colonial times pa, meron na tayong history of betrayal.

ESQ: Do you consider this a big departure from your other films?

JT: Hindi naman, kasi as much as possible gusto ko iba-iba talaga yung ginagawa ko. Career peg ko si Steven Soderbergh, so iba-iba sana.

ESQ: Kung siya yung career peg mo, sino yung life peg mo?

Feeling ko lang dapat mas may pakinabang pa yung ginagawa ko, hindi lang para sa’kin. ‘Pag film, I’m trying to at least contribute to “cultural growth.”

JT: ’Di ko alam. (laughs) Life peg? ‘Di ko alam, basta ang balak ko lang ano, make enough movies and get out.

ADVERTISEMENT - CONTINUE READING BELOW

ESQ: To where?

JT: Ewan ko. Maybe balik sa pagiging musician.

ESQ: Like early retirement? What’s this?!

JT: ‘Di ko alam, basta make enough movies tapos at some point, ayoko na.

ESQ: Can you see it? Can you see the saturation point?

JT: ‘Di ko lang mabilang kung ilan pa. Pero nararamdaman ko na.

ESQ: Oh my gosh!

JT: Darating yun. Ever since naman pagtingin ko lang sa sarili ko parang musician na na-sideline sa pelikula. Kaya nga pag palaging pinapa-explain sa’kin yung filmmaking process, palagi kong ginagamit na analogy yung music. Kasi medyo frustrated ako na hindi ko natuloy yung musical aspirations ko. Di ako pumupunta ng mga gig kasi naiinggit ako sa mga banda.

ESQ: You have a band?

JT: Wala na. Palipat-lipat ako dati ng mga banda. Meron ako dating band from high school hanggang college ‘ata. As in heavy metal.

ESQ: What? You? Heavy metal?

JT: Yes. (laughs) As in mosh pit and whatever. Kinareer ko yan, may double pedal ako, ripped jeans. Hanggang ngayon heroes ko pa rin ang Pantera saka Nine Inch Nails.

ESQ: So that’s still your favorite music?

JT: Well, comfort music ko Nine Inch Nails.

ESQ: Comfort music? So what stopped you from being a musician?

JT: Ewan ko, nung mid-college naisip ko na kaya kong gumawa ng pelikula. Although nung gru-madweyt naman ako trabaho ko talaga composer, arranger.

ESQ: But would that have sufficed, yung pa-compose-compose lang, pa-arrange-arrange, if you truly loved music?

JT: Well, minsan oo, kasi pag tine-treat ko nga yung filmmaking as music, hindi ako na-fu-frustrate masyado. Kasi halimbawa pag nagsusulat ako, para siyang composing sakin. Nung pinlot ko yung structure ng Luna, naka-musical staff siya. Yung high emotional point corresponds to a high note. Okay, dito boring na ‘to so kailangang taasan, taasan. Kahit yung mga sinusulat ko ngayon ganun pa rin ako mag-plot, para siyang staff.

ADVERTISEMENT - CONTINUE READING BELOW

ESQ: Amazing. And would it also have a beat? Because Hitchcock would also talk about his movies in that way.

JT: Sa editing yun lumalabas. Or minsan, may mga certain scenes dun sa Luna na nung shinushoot namin, parang alam ko na yung music na ilalagay ko. So parang sinasabi ko, “Oops, teka, bagalan niyo pa yung camera kasi yung music na tumatakbo sa utak ko di pa tapos.” Kung pwede ko lang kantahin... May isang scene si Mon Confiado na naka-ilang takes kami kasi hindi pa natatapos yung music sa utak ko.

ESQ: Galing! So again, what’s stopping you from being a full-time musician?

JT: Kasi pag nag-music ako, sobrang enjoy lang siya na... sobrang selfish. Nung nag-college ako, hindi Music yung first course ko, Agribusiness Management, for two years. Tapos wala ‘kong ginawa nung two years na yun kundi ibagsak lahat ng mga subjects. As in bagsak lahat halos. And then nung lumipat ako ng Music, bigla ‘kong naging scholar. As in uno lahat ng mga subjects ko. Dun ako na-guilty, kasi sobrang nag-e-enjoy lang naman ako, parang feeling ko hindi ako nag-aaral. As in, wala lang, fun lang siya. Tapos wala ‘kong binabayad na tuition, so parang nakaka-guilty siya.

ESQ: Oh my god ikaw yung rejection junkie or something? What’s going on?! (laughs)

JT: Hindi naman. (laughs) Feeling ko lang dapat mas may pakinabang pa yung ginagawa ko, hindi lang para sa’kin. ‘Pag film, I’m trying to at least contribute to “cultural growth.”


Ang tendency nga ng Filipinos is to build things, group together, and then pagdating dun sa peak mag-fo-fall apart.

ESQ: It sounds like the same thing. I mean, making music and making movies.

JT: Mas primal kasi yung music e, ang tao sa loob ng kuwento mas madali silang nag-e-evolve, not in music.

ESQ: That doesn’t take away the fact that it’s still art, and it’s a language... it’s still a story.

ADVERTISEMENT - CONTINUE READING BELOW

JT: Pero para sa’kin, mas may na-co-contribute ako ‘pag nag-stay ako sa pelikula.

ESQ: It also sounds like you’re just not allowing yourself to be happy.

JT: Masaya naman ako. Kasi the fact na nakakapag-contribute ako, dun ako masaya. At least ‘di lang ako pa-banda-banda and whatever... That’s not to say na lahat ng mga nag-babandaAng tingin ko lang ‘pag ako mismo personally na nag-focus ako sa music, medyo selfish siya.

ESQ: Because you feel happy.

JT: Siguro, ewan ko.

ESQ: Is that why you’re still single?

JT: (laughs) Masyado akong nag-e-enjoy sa pagiging single, promise. Masyado akong masaya.

ESQ: Okay, let’s run this by really fast. I just want to know what’s on top of your head. Favorite movie?

JT: Hindi ako nagsasawang balikan ang Se7en, Taxi Driver, saka Silence of the Lambs.

ESQ: Career peg?

JT: Well, nasabi ko kanina, si Soderbergh, and then pwede rin si Woody Allen, na one film every year... kung kaya. So far napanindigan ko naman.

ESQ: Favorite Woody Allen movie?

JT: Bullets Over Broadway.

ESQ: Soderbergh movie?

JT: Kailangan ko pang pag-isipan. Ang dami e. Hindi movie e, gustong-gusto ko yung The Knick.

ESQ: Actually masyado akong stressed dun, so di ko siya matapos-tapos.

JT: Sobrang nagustuhan ko.

ESQ: Favorite TV show?

JT: The Wire. Nasa altar na siya e. Parang wala ka nang ibang magagawa.

ESQ: Actually. Is there anything better than The Wire?

JT: Muntikan nang umabot yung Breaking Bad.

ESQ: I was wondering, when I finished watching Luna, I just felt so bad. I love Paglilitis ni Bonifacio, and then this, and then Bayaning Third World. Bakit lahat ganito? Laging may takeaway. Is there a consciousness to always impart something?

JT: Usually sa mga pelikula ko, tinatry kong mag-insert ng some observation about Filipino culture. Kaya ko siya ginagawa kasi I always believe na yung pelikula, para siyang cultural healing, and the first step toward healing is identifying the disease. So yun yung tinatry ko, parang i-identify mo yung disease ng kultura ng Pinoy. Sana hindi siya pretentious pero ayun... So sa Luna, ang dami niyang in-identify na sakit. Sa Confessional, na-tackle ko na dun yung regionalism. And sa Mangatyanan yung pag-commodify ng kultura. Sa Senior Year, medyo ganun din, regionalism. I think that’s my main preoccupation, na kanya-kanya tayo dahil by default, geographically speaking, watak-watak talaga ang Pilipinas e. So yung logistics pa lang of forming a country based on 7,000 islands, mahirap na siya in the first place.

ADVERTISEMENT - CONTINUE READING BELOW

ESQ: The issue of regionalism is something that you’re so successful portraying.

JT: Hangga’t may avenue, ipapasok ko siya. And kaya ‘ko na-excite sa Luna kasi based siya dun sa libro ni Dr. Jose and also sa libro ni Nick Joaquin, A Question of Heroes, tapos meron siyang sinabi dun na ang tendency nga ng Filipinos is to build things, group together, and then pag-dating dun sa peak, mag-fo-fall apart. Ganyan yung feeling ko rin, so natuwa ako kasi finally sobrang solid yung source material, sobrang swak siya sa agenda ko.

ESQ: So apart from this psycho horror movie you’re writing, what else are you doing?

JT: Tina-try naming i-adapt yung Mythology Class ni Arnold Arre. Si Jade Castro yung co-writer. So sana matuloy siya. And then meron akong mga ibang nasa agenda ko na hopefully magawa ko siya.

ESQ: Yeah, don’t stop making movies.

JT: Hindi pa. Pero kasi nakikita ko sarili ko na parang mapapagod ako dito eventually. Hindi ko alam kung mayaman na’ko by that time, pero kung mauna yung pagod... whatever.

Comments
View More Articles About:
About The Author
Jerome Gomez
View Other Articles From Jerome
Comments
Latest Feed
 
Share
See the winner of the 2018 Grand Prix d'Horlogerie de Genève grand prize.
 
Share
An exchange of ideas between chefs from two very different restaurants results in an unforgettable dinner.
 
Share
Tyler, The Creator's Golf le Fleur Burlap collection is in Manila.
 
Share
Get a bottle for your dad (or for yourself).
 
Share
The big Harry Potter wardrobe took us all by surprise.
 
Share
 
Share
The agency says that it will eventually replace the need for a physical card
 
Share
Hufflepuffs should rejoice at the representation of the oddball hero of the story.
 
Share
It is possible to feel good and look smart at the same time.
 
Share
Scandinavian-made furniture and home accessories at affordable prices coming very soon.
Load More Articles
Connect With Us