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Home Art and Culture On Jay Altarejos’ “Revolution Knows No Gender ” and His Other Narratives About the Lives and Struggles of the Filipino Masses

On Jay Altarejos’ “Revolution Knows No Gender ” and His Other Narratives About the Lives and Struggles of the Filipino Masses

On Jay Altarejos’ “Revolution Knows No Gender ” and His Other Narratives About the Lives and Struggles of the Filipino Masses
One of Jay Altarejos’ recent works, “Revolution Knows No Gender” (Walang Kasarian ang Rebolusyon), although highlighting still the LBQT theme, particularly, their social roles and functions, takes the analysis to a higher level, as current and real conditions and issues of society are brought to the fore.

I first heard of film director Joselito “Jay” Altarejos when I took part in an online workshop led by award-winning fiction and screenplay writer Ricky Lee. I was in Batch 24, and he was in Batch 22. In one of his interviews, Director Jay was asked how his time at Ricky Lee’s workshop helped him as a filmmaker. He said that it helped him not only as a writer and filmmaker, but also as a person with a big heart who cared about and tried to learn more about the lives and struggles of the poor and disadvantaged among our masses.

The young filmmaker from Masbate, Jay Altarejos has worked for Philippine television, and been part of the long-running series, “Legacy,” on GMA Network. He has received several awards, previously, both in the Philippines and abroad,  for his own gay-themed film works, including, The Man in the Lighthouse ( Ang Lalake sa Parola), Antonio’s Secret ( Ang Lihim ni Antonio), Kambyo, The Game of Juan’s Life (Ang Laro ng Buhay ni Juan ), Pink Halo-Halo, Unfriend, The Commitment (Kasal),  Tale of the Lost Boys, and others, all of which shown at various LGBT film festivals.

“Revolution Knows No Gender” (Walang Kasarian ang Rebolusyon) is one of Jay Altarejos’s most recent works. It still focuses on the LBQT theme, especially their social roles and functions, but it takes the analysis to a higher level by focusing on real issues and conditions in society. “Revolution…” tells the story of how the government’s war on drugs changed the lives of a Filipino family. The main character, Paolo, is a gay filmmaker whose nephew Kian was killed by a police officer during Operation Tokhang. This makes Paolo decide to join the movement. Even though Paolo is gay, he is accepted and given tasks in the fight for national liberation.

In another interview, Altarejos says that “Revolution Knows No Gender” came to him while he was working on Part 2 of his film “Kasal”: “When I was studying the characters, especially Paolo, who was played by Oliver Aquino, I imagined him suffering an injustice because of  the anti-drug war. That’s where the idea for the whole movie came from.”  

Altarejos said, “People’s struggles don’t care about gender, and neither does fighting for and with them.” Sabi nga sa pelikula, “Walang pinipiling kasarian ang rebolusyon. Walang pinipiling kasarian ang baril. Every Filipino who cares about freedom has a place in the ongoing revolution. Altarejos said that even LGBTQ people have only good things to say about his film. In fact, at the end of the film, a gay couple got married in front of the cadres. This shows that the movement is open to anyone, regardless of gender, who sees the revolution as the answer to oppression and injustice.   

Some people have said that the film might just seem like the movement’s propaganda, but Altarejos says that propaganda isn’t bad and could even become an art form or genre that shows the contradictions and flaws in the system’s political and ideological line. We are also reminded here of similar works by great film artists, directors, and writers like Lino Brocka, Behn Cervantes, Ishmael Bernal, Joel Lamangan, Marilou Diaz Abaya, and others.

The movie is brave and consistent in showing the problems of inequality, oppression, injustice, and discrimination, as well as the inadequacy and incompetence of the system as a whole and of the people in power who are supposed to protect the poor and disadvantaged. One scene, for example, shows how the people (maralitang tagalunsod) are attacked by the state police for trying to keep their homes from being demolished. This may be something we’ve seen before in other stories about the urban poor. Altarejos proudly said when asked if he would keep making movies with these kinds of plots. “We should realize that what’s political is also personal. So, all the problems in our country affect our lives, the decisions we make, and our day-to-day lives. I’ll keep making movies that answer the question, “For whom and for what?”

Jay Altarejos, a young filmmaker from Masbate, has done work for Philippine television and has contributed to the ongoing series “Legacy” on GMA Network.

Without a doubt, when it comes to the question of “for whom” a cultural production should be made, Altarejos will stick with the stories of the masses and make them the “protagonists” of his film, just like Brocka and Bernal did before him. As shown in “Walang kasarian ang Rebolusyon,” his movie will be about their lives. 

Altarejos simply said that the masses are the “main bida” and that their fights for social justice are what he wants to show in his films. He also wants other filmmakers to do the same, i.e., show the problems and stories of the masses in their own films. “I hope we’ll look at our lot, our lives, outside of our own little worlds. And once we know what’s going on, we should realise that what we’re doing isn’t enough to solve the problems we’re facing as a country. Kailangan nating mamulat, magpamulat, makilahok, at makibaka.”

Meantime, the next film project that he has in mind to complete soon, tackles how red-tagging abruptly ends in romance, a storyline that would surely stir interests and excitement, among film buffs in the Philippines and abroad.

“Walang Kasarian ang Digmang Bayan” premiered last year as part of the Anakbayan Toronto Bonifacio event in Toronto, Canada.