YR 47 Issue 1 2011
The radical mind of an Artlets filmmaker
“Most people do not know what they want or feel, and for everyone, myself included, It is very difficult to say what you mean when what you mean is painful. The most difficult thing in the world is to reveal yourself, to express what you have to… As an artist, I feel that we must try many things, but above all, we must dare to fail. You must have the courage to be bad–to be willing to risk everything–to really express it all.” – John Cassavetes

UNLIKE many students who have grown apathetic to the societal issues that confront the nation, acclaimed film director Jim Libiran has courageously stepped out of what is conventional, making use of his diverse talent in the field of multimedia arts to voice out his generation’s clamor for change.

Despite the contradicting opinion expressed by his professors and other superiors, Libiran and his colleagues focused their attention in pushing for change that made great difference in the Faculty of Arts and Letters (Artlets) during the period of martial law. Armed with the different experiences he went through in life, various opportunities opened up for him, giving him the chance to do what he really want in life—shoot films that voice out socially relevant messages to Filipinos.

Student activist

A graduate of AB Sociology in 1987, Libiran entered the doors of the Faculty with a strong will. He eventually became a student activist during the dictatorship of the late president Ferdinand Marcos.

Noong panahon namin, sabi namin kailangan maging militant yung mga estudyante ng Sociology. So lahat ng mga aktibista, pumasok,” Libiran said, recalling that the active participation of students flourished and reached its peak when former Senator Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino, Jr. died. Being part of the activist movement during one of the most momentous events in Philippine history gave him a chance to speak out his mind.

Kristyano ka, naniniwala ka sa langit, pero bakit parang mas handa pang magpakamatay para sa bayan yung mga hindi naniniwala sa langit?” he asked.

Libiran added that their group was unaware of the dangers entailed by activism during that period. They were caught off-guard when two of their friends were killed.

“Whistle bombs were even placed inside comfort rooms. Because of that, no one dared to use the facility, and most students were encouraged to join the strike assembly outside our building,” he said.

Libiran added that the things they fought for and the classmates they lost during the period fueled their activism to burn even brighter. Adding to this, he noted that the program of Sociology itself became radicalized during his time. The usual strikes and rallies prohibited by the University became rampant as a sign of protest against the injustices committed by those in power.

Init ng ulo kami noon ni Dean Villaba,” he said, further sharing that they were even threatened to be kicked out of the University because most of the advocacies they were pushing for were against the ideals of the Faculty.

At that time, he was the Filipino Editor of the
Flame. Together with the other staff, they produced an issue that contained articles and photos prohibited by the administration. In his words, he described the old Faculty as “Rock and Roll na Rock and Roll.”

There were instances when he and his colleagues debated with their professors due to disagreements in certain matters. According to him, his firm and courageous attitude helped him win as president of the Sociological Society.

However, he started to question the educational curriculum for Sociology implemented by the University. “
Parang sabi namin, Sociology ito, bakit palagi kaming nasa loob lamang ng classroom?” he said.

This led to their “Rural Urban Sociology” course wherein some stayed in the mountains, lived with farmers, and spent the night in rallies. The experiences they gathered in their immersions were then reported in their respective classes.

After finishing his degree, Libiran continued to fight for his advocacies, but now in the field where he later on became known and successful—the mass media.

Media career

Fresh from graduation, Libiran worked under Abante, one of the leading tabloids in the country, from June 1987 to August 1989. He served as its managing editor and editorial writer.

He later on worked as the world news writer of Dyaryo Filipino, followed by a stint at
Bandera and The Manila Times. Alongside his job as a writer, he also became part of the non-governmental organization Labor Education and Research Network (LEARN).

With the encouragement of his professor Josephine Placido-Aguilar, Libiran taught Journalism in Filipino and Sociology of Mass Media in Artlets back in 2002.

After his teaching job, he focused himself on his broadcast journalism career and entered ABSCBN-2 as a reporter. Brought by his hard work and persistence, he was appointed manager of the network’s News and Public Affairs Division.

He later on transferred to ABC-5 where he was assigned as Head of Production for News and Public Affairs.

Passion for film

In 2005, he gratified his interest in filmmaking when he enrolled at the University of the Philippines (UP) Film Institute. “Pumasok ako sa film para makakita ng mga taong [nasa film],” Libiran said.

Upon pursuing his desire to share his ideas to the public, he wrote
Tribu in 2006 and won second place in the Dulang Pampelikula category of the Don Carlos Palanca Memorial Awards. He later on translated it into film, eventually winning as the Cinemalaya 2007 best full-length feature. Its story revolved around the tale of teenage Filipino gangsters.

It was his first project as a filmmaker, and at the same time, his thesis for his Masters Degree. He was one of the few MA students who were able to produce a 97-minute full-length film as his thesis. The film bagged eight international awards including Best Film and Best Director. The success of
Tribu paved the way for Libiran to create his second film, Happyland.

Yung risk, laging nandoon,” he said. The challenge of creating another film that would surpass the success of Tribu was one of the risks he took as a film director. Lourd de Veyra, one of his closest colleagues, once asked him what he could still offer after writing something as big as Tribu.

Kung gusto niyong maging astig, you have to go beyond,” he said. But he noted that threat will always be part of the whole game.

Lagi kong sinasabing kapag walang danger, corny ‘yun. Walang thrill. Wala kang matutunan,” he said.
Despite the awards and recognitions under his belt, Libiran noted that he is still in the process of learning the ins and outs of filmmaking. He added that learning needs ingestion of fresh knowledge and ideas to become effective.

Continuous path

The journey he took in college and the path he continues to walk on reflect his unending perseverance to fulfill his passion. He added that the memories he gained as an Artlets student will forever be part of his identity.

a lahat ng dinanas ko, the greatest tribute I can give to my alma mater is who I have become at present,” he said. Currently, he is finishing his MA degree in Media Studies in Film at UP. He is also working on various film and television projects. Together with Lourd de Veyra and Disc Jockey Jay Gapasin, Libiran hosts a weekly radio show, Chillax Radio at 92.3 FM Radyo 5. F
Year 47 |  Issue 3 |  2011
Jim Libiran
Year 47 |  Issue 4 |  2012