BACOLOD, PHILIPPINES — Grief is a curious thing. As a deep sorrow that comes in waves, it reminds us of the weight of something, or someone, that we lost. However, it doesn’t just steal or take away— it also gives. Like a wounded hand held open, grief offers the gift of a new perspective, or the chance to honor someone’s memory the way they would have wanted.
Enter Kurt Soberano, a promising director who was in disbelief after learning of Peque Gallaga’s passing last year. The whole artist community was devastated by the news, with many turning to the online space to share how the esteemed filmmaker transformed their lives. To navigate his own grief, Soberano decided to take everything he learned from Gallaga and make something out of it.
“In less than twenty-four hours after Peque’s death, I decided to make a film about him because I couldn’t accept the fact that he was truly gone,” Soberano explains. “He was like a grand master to me, at the helm of almost everything I learned in film and theater here in Negros. All that he said or would say was wisdom waiting to be heard by men full of passion and desire for the arts.”
Less than a month later, the script for “Sa Balay ni Papang” or “In My Father’s House” was finished. Set in Negros Occidental, the film follows a young movie fanatic who comes from an underprivileged family. In 1982, he coincidentally witnesses the production shoot of Oro, Plata, Mata in his hometown. Full of determination, he approaches the director, Peque Gallaga, in the hopes of landing a job that would help in providing for his family, while feeding his passion at the same time.
“Bacolod City and the province of Negros has a community of artists, and if we put our differences aside and work together, we can make beautiful and remarkable art for the world to see,” Soberano shares. “Because a community that nourishes its culture, nourishes its soul.”
“Sa Balay ni Papang” is Soberano’s thank you and farewell to a lifelong mentor. The cast and crew also shared the same passion and sentiments, as most of them were able to work with Gallaga in the past, in one way or another.
Take Rene Hinojales, who spent decades as Gallaga’s student and friend. He was given a role in Soberano’s film, and he remarks, “Peque taught me to be a professional experiencer—to be totally in the moment!”
Meanwhile, Chuckie Sibug, who plays the role of Young Peque in the film, says, “When Direk Kurt told me about this role. I was in utter disbelief, yet deeply honored. It’s not every day that a person is given an opportunity to play someone highly revered in the film industry.
Having no acting background, I wanted to give a credible performance by doing extensive research– watching Sir Peque’s interviews, keenly observing his acting demeanor and manner of speaking, and studying his films.”
Sibug adds, “There were actually scenes during the shoot where it was like I could feel his presence. To have portrayed Sir Peque in a film dedicated to his legacy not only as one of the greatest Filipino directors of all time but more importantly as a teacher and mentor to his well-loved students is truly a momentous experience.”
It’s been a year after Gallaga’s passing, and the community continues to feel his loss—but there are still the tributes, testimonies, and films like Soberano’s to honor him by. Especially for the community that the late director built, the work continues.
It’s as he said in a speech once—teaching is more than telling students what to do. “We show you windows, we show you the doors to go out and discover the world. It’s you who teaches you. And in the end, we go beyond teacher and student. We become fellow artists.”
As part of Sine Halaga, otherwise known as the NCCA Filipino Values Film Festival, “Sa Balay ni Papang” will premiere on August 25, 2021 on their official Facebook page.