Brillante Mendoza: What I've Learned

"I’m not rich, but I’m very fulfilled."
IMAGE Cyrus Panganiban

When I started doing films I realized na ang Hollywood, pelikula yon e. Ang gusto kong gawin hindi pelikula. Ang gusto kong gawin ay yung katotohanan—na dadalhin ko sa pelikula

When I was watching these kinds of Hollywood films, I’m just there as a mere spectator. And there’s nothing wrong if you get entertained for two hours. But there are films where you would go inside the cinema because you want to be affected, you want to learn, you want to feel something different beyond entertainment. 

I wanted to do a lot of things after college and filmmaking was one of them. I loved watching directors. You have a star, there’s glamour involved, the whole show biz thing. That was your impression if you’re an outsider. The actors are all beautiful and they’re all so rich. 

I was with my producer, nasa ibang bansa kami. Tapos sasabihin niya, “Kumain muna kayo.” Bibigyan niya kami ng 50 euro tapos kakain kami. Tawa lang kami nang tawa. We’d say, “Si Ang Lee or si ganyan, magkano kaya sila kumain? Binibigyan kaya sila ng 50 euro para kumain?” Palagay ko hindi. 

I’m not rich, but I’m very fulfilled. 

How do I deal with heartbreak? Typical. You suffer, you cry, you mourn. And then you move on. And then you love yourself.

Pag advertising, maamo ka. Wala ka talagang total freedom. You did your best tapos ipapa-approve mo pa sa ibang tao tapos hindi niya aaprubahan—walang katapusang apruban. It’s not that you’re not good. It’s just that somebody has to have a say somehow. 

The film closest to me is Tirador. If you were to describe me as a filmmaker, that’s me. It’s guerilla, it’s narrative, it’s not restorative. It’s just a presentation of life, a hard life.


Nagsangla ako ng bahay, nagsangla ako ng sasakyan. Nangutang ako just to finish that movie. Nagshu-shooting kami, nasa set yung magpapautang sa akin dahil dala-dala niya yung pera. Filmmaking is like an addiction. When you get attached hindi ka na makaalis. 

You just choose, in the life span of one person, saan ka magko-concentrate. Isang araw lang sa buhay niya that would describe his entire life. Kasi sa buhay di naman lahat yan high points e. Sa mainstream kasi lahat high—pinatay, sinaksak, nagpakasal, kinulong, nagbigti tapos nasagasaan, nag-away tapos nag-honeymoon sa America, bumalik. Hindi ganon ang buhay, di ba?

Palagi akong tinatanong, Are you a pessimist? Because my movies all end in either life-goes-on or wala siyang solusyon. I’m just realistic. This is how life is: hindi ka magbibigay ng tuldok sa buhay. There are problems that will be solved but another problem will come. Maybe not as big but there’s still another problem. 

How do I deal with heartbreak? Typical. You suffer, you cry, you mourn. And then you move on. And then you love yourself. 

In Masahista, that’s the world in a small cubicle. And then as much as they are alive and have beautiful bodies, parang buhay ka pa, patay ka na. You only exist because you have a beautiful body, a beautiful face. But inside you are dead because you don’t have morality. 

What drives him to become a masseur? Is it always nakakaawa? Hindi rin naman. Most of these masahistas are Kapampangan. Why, because mahirap sila? Hindi. Basically they’re vain people. Kapampangan ako e. I know. Ayaw nila ng hirap. Kung puwede akong magmasahe at humiga diyan, why not? So what was I trying to say in the film? Because of your vanity, because of your culture, you’re willing to let go of your morality. 

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People say, Hindi ka ba nauubusan ng mga ideas? Sabi ko, No. For as long as there’s life and you see people around, there will always be issues.

People say, Hindi ka ba nauubusan ng mga ideas? Sabi ko, No. For as long as there’s life and you see people around, there will always be issues. ‘Yung ibang mga tao they only focus on mga imagined stories. Mauubusan ka kapag mga imagined stories because there will always be people more imaginative than you. 

I think for you to commit to it, for you to feel what you want to say, you should start with an issue. Ang issue mo ba is corruption? Prostitution? Is it poverty? Is it about injustice? You should start with what makes you attracted to the idea of doing this film. 

With my film Captive, I realized that despite the huge production, it doesn’t really count here. Nobody knew Isabel Huppert. They don’t care about heroism. They don’t care about Abu Sayyaf. They’re more interested in affairs, marital affairs, infidelity. We find joy kapag nakikita natin that others are as immoral as we are. 

I wanted Nora Aunor for Thy Womb. Unang-una, akala ko mahirap siya ka-trabaho. Baka bigyan niya ako ng sakit ng ulo. Sa umpisa pa lang, pinakita ko na kung gaano ako ka-commited sa isang project.

Kung anong klaseng filmmaker ako. Kung anong mga klase ang ginagawa ko. I think nakita niya yun. Binalik lang niya. 

She’s an artist by heart. Instinctive siya e. Nanggagaling sa puso lahat ng ginagawa niya. And you can never go wrong in film if you use your heart. Kahit ano pang gawin mo. Kahit na nakatalikod ka. 


You know there’s no such thing as a perfect film. You commit mistakes but hopefully you won’t do it again. 

I don’t regret anything. I just wish my parents are still around to witness all these. 

My father gave it to me and I don’t know why. I asked him. Sabi niya, “Wala. Gusto ko Brillante ka.

This article was originally published in the December 2012 to January 2013 issue of Esquire Philippines.

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Jerome Gomez
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