Monday March 30, 2015

Peter Lat

The elevator stopped with a ping and we walked through the familiar corridor of Legaspi Suites towards what is probably the most recognized room in the whole Metro Davao – Room 300.

Wearing his usual tennis shirt, signature Sperrys, and with sass comparable to that of Tony Stark’s, the man of the moment lounged on the couch and greeted us in a nonchalant demeanor that unmistakably hints of a reputable bloodline. Heir to a quaint-hotel and realty enterprise, he is a man of different personas to many. In the business world, he is the Vice President of Legaspi Suites; in the sports community, the Corporate Communications Director of Maharlika Football; in politics, he is known for his last work at the Film Development Council of the Philippines as the Davao Coordinator since the inception of the regional office. Although he has long vacated that post he certainly has not left the front row seat in everything related to the world of cinema. These days, “Sir Pete” is still the go-to-guy when one wants to have a tête-à-tête about the art and politics of filmmaking.

A BUDDING CINEPHILE
Back in the ’60s when there was no other entertainment besides movies; a bold Peter would ditch class with friends and lose himself in Hollywood classics particularly Bruce Lee’s films, which are personal favorites.

“During our time, all the theater owners were my friends so we got to enter the theaters for free”, Peter shares. “One thing that enticed me in film is when you convert magic to reality. You can do so many things with films which is very impossible in real life. You can fantasize and the story can be told.” From here thereon, his love for films flourished.

FROM REAL TO REEL
The relationship finally gained direction during his regular rove at Legaspi when FDCP Chairman Briccio Santos, eldest son of Davao’s former mayor Louis Santos, spotted him and invited him to sit over for breakfast. Minutes later, Peter was the FDCP Coordinator.

“Well siguro [he offered me the position] because we were friends, number one. And because I came from the old family here in Davao, number two. He knew I was interested in movies because I grew up with his younger brothers, I think those are the reasons why.”

But it wasn’t at all a smooth ride for Peter. The sudden shift from business to government took its toll and the once very idealistic Peter realized he doesn’t have enough knowledge on the protocols to suffice and chose to resign.
A year later, FDCP invited him again for the position. This time, a wiser Peter came back and accepted the offer after his conditions were approved.

“Like number one, I would like to school the development of film in various schools in Davao City”, he explained. “Number two, that FDCP will support other film projects of schools. And number three, that there will be continuous education.”

Sharing FDCP’s vision to bring Philippine and foreign films to the people, he advances on the best potential audience- the schools. With the advent of SLR cameras and phones, he believes that it is easy for the new generation to contribute subsequently to the film industry. True to his words, FDCP Davao has launched a city-wide campaign that primarily involves acting and filmmaking workshops for students.

After deliberately explaining their visions to the deans of colleges, the ultimate challenge of penetrating schools became easy. Film viewing activities that consist of multi-awarded films from internationally acclaimed directors are held from time to time at various colleges and universities including UP Mindanao, University of Mindanao, Philippine Women’s College, and just recently, the University of the Immaculate Conception.

During his term, the region became one of the hot spots for filming and other activities with which renowned filmmakers-the likes of Brillante Mendoza- constantly returns to.

THE BIGGEST CHALLENGE
In the unduly presence of commercial films, Peter maintains that the biggest challenge that still has the film sector struggling is competing with big production companies.

“Although it’s painful but it’s true, Filipinos were not educated to appreciate art films because the focus was on commercial films. So when the genre of art films came in, it was big in Europe, in the United States and other parts of Asia except in the Philippines because we are bombarded with Hollywood films. Even our Filipino films are copies or copycats of foreign films”, he remarked.

A dismayed Peter describes today’s films as slapstick versions of foreign films – a canned plot with similar story lines and maneuvered only to seemingly differ in time.

“The Filipino filmmakers have not learned to tell a new story. So if you noticed from teleserye to movies, it’s all the same story. Somebody is inapi, galing sa pulubi… naging mayaman.”, he exclaimed. “So what we need now are new filmmakers who would tell a new story”.

In terms of patronage, he admits that encouraging people to watch locally produced films is a hard task. Although FDCP is providing free theater for the public in the form of Cinematheque Davao, it is difficult to gather an audience.

FILM LIFE HACKS
More than the enjoyment from movie marathons, Peter believes we all can get a lesson or two from films. For one, the best films are not canned. “You’re the one who will interpret the ending,” he added. The end would depend on one’s preference and comprehension; prompting to think logically and creatively.

On a personal note, the man of the moment lives by the standard film lesson of becoming whatever you want to be, “Because life is just like acting. Di ba you act out a character? You can be a pulubi, you can be rich, you can be happy, you can be sad, you can be brokenhearted, you can be angry. It’s your role and if you go out there you will see all walks of life. It’s like a big movie, it’s like a big film. So as I go through life, I say na you can be whatever you want to be. It’s up to you.”

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The writer Jessa Antonette Lumangtad is a Communication Arts graduate from the University of the Immaculate Conception. She is one of the founding members of the FinD (Film in Davao) website. Today, Jessa is a segment producer for GMA Davao’s Una Ka Bai.

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