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As we approach the nearing one-year anniversary of our mandated isolation, a stark difference between the 'then' and the 'now' stands out among all the truths presented since the entire global fiasco has begun. The former, one that is afraid and uncertain, and the latter, one wholly determined to set things back to place, or to the place it should have been in all along. In this issue of The Feed, we take a look into the magic carpet ride that's urging us over, sideways, and under in our journey into the fearsome new world, trying to put brave, hopeful faces on.

/ 26 February 2021

A step-by-step guide to surviving a pandemic as a nation: Step one, make the urgent calls on what to do in order to lessen the damage already spreading. Step two, identify the integral parts of our identity and humanity that demands preservation—and do everything to preserve them. Step three, scrap everything we once thought were our limitations and restrictions, and reset the way our very mindset as a society works. And step four, move forward, innovate, and take action towards pushing society to whatever lies ahead.

In what looks to be the last stretch of this seemingly unending period of pause, reset, and recalibration, society is finally armored with the technologies and ideologies needed to venture onwards. The key, however, lies in ensuring that these ideologies stay firm while technology empowers us towards the future. Truly, the key lies in our determination as a nation to make change—real, transformative, ‘for the better’ change—happen, without sacrificing the very bits of humanity we have fought so hard to protect.

We’ve somewhat successfully preserved the most integral parts of our identity as Filipinos despite the army of forces determined to take it apart, and we’ve somehow triumphantly adapted into the new age of digital-everything. Now what?

As we revel on the mountain of lies, schemes, corruption, and blatant disregard of life unearthed amidst all the chaos of this pandemic, the question is: what are we going to do about it?

After months of picking ourselves up from the rubble of pre-COVID thinking-slash-living, now it’s time to take our first steps in making sure no fight lost was endured in vain. And if you listen closely, observe intently, and look beyond the haze of social media hate and real-life abhorrence, you’ll see the roots starting to take hold among the depths of Filipino society.

It’s in the buzz of feverous energy and raw courage among the youth to fight for what is right, and protect those who so desperately need saving. It’s in the innovation of enterprises and businesses to radicalize consumerism in the name of saving the planet, and putting ‘humanity’ back in its core. It’s in the small conversations and discussions within families intended to open minds, and to learn the ways of the new world while unlearning the old.

Beneath all this, it’s in the unceasing commitment of media personalities and content creators to plant these seeds in the first place, and water it with a persistent shower of relevant, useful information, dialogue, and pieces of storytelling that are designed to make people feel, think, realize and question.

In this quest, one of the most unwavering sectors in this regard is film and entertainment. Especially in most recent years, more and more Filipino films have been coming out with gritty and creative ways to convey some of the most pressing issues of our time, packed within romance, suspense, comedy, or direct documentary. All of which have underlying—and sometimes blatant—messages urging Filipinos to reflect, ponder, and sit in discomfort.

One of these pieces of storytelling that puts the spotlight on a serious societal issue often disregarded is Excuse Me, Miss Miss Miss, a 15-minute comedy short film looking into the harsh reality of contractual workers in the Philippines. The satirical movie is the first Filipino short film entry to be accepted and shown in the prestigious Sundance International Film festival.

In this issue, we catch up with Director Sonny Calvento, who opens up about the story’s true-to-life origins, and the importance of telling these types of Filipino stories to the world and to the Filipino people, themselves. He touches on the fact that this particular labor issue has been publicly occurring for decades, but not much has changed from then to now. And somehow, it took a short, satirical film for people, here and overseas to take notice, and possibly heed the call.

Calvento shares a powerful sentiment regarding storytelling and real life, and how the viewers’ demands for happy endings should reflect in the real world in which these stories were inspired by. In his words, “the truth will always be the storyteller’s strongest argument.”

“‘Yun yung totoo kasi eh. Na parang no matter how dark it is, no matter na it ended on a negative light… Parang ako I wanted to insist na—yun yung truth natin ngayon eh. Hindi naman dapat filmmaker yung bumabale nung truth, dapat mga tao. Dapat totoong buhay yung bumabale dun sa truth. Na kung gusto nila ng better ending, then everyone should do their part in addressing the issue.

(“But that’s the truth. That no matter how dark it is, no matter if it ended on a negative light.. For me I wanted to insist that—that’s the reality now. It shouldn’t be the filmmaker who changes this truth, it should be the people. It should be real life that changes this truth. If they want a better ending, then everyone should do their part in addressing the issue.”)

He added, “Films definitely can’t change the world. But it can, at least, raise awareness about what’s happening, especially in our country.”

This awareness, as small and unimportant as it may sound, is the first thing we need to pay attention to in moving forward. As it plants the necessary seeds of realization, empathy, discomfort, anger, and the purpose we need to make the changes we want to see.

So, in asking “what now” and “what are we going to do,” perhaps we should look to film and the issues presented to us there, as reflected from the ruthless realities of life, and start there. Watch, listen, and understand.

In following these pieces of storytelling—no, pieces of truth—it may just be the map we need in venturing to the unknown corners and crevices of tomorrow. There, lies the matters we have to address, the problems we have to solve, and the conditions we need to change in order for this “post-pandemic” world to truly be a better, brighter, and more promising version of yesterday. For this to truly be, a shining, shimmering, and blindingly splendid brave new world.