Portrait of the Filipino as Kidlat Tahimik

Manila Bulletin, July 19, 2009 | Go to article overview

Portrait of the Filipino as Kidlat Tahimik


Who does not know Kidlat Tahimik? Who is Kidlat Tahimik?   Kidlat Tahimik, to put him in the words of E.M.Forster, stands at a slight angle to the universe. We see him look at it askance, imbibe what his eye perceives, refine what he gets, in the cauldron of his poetic imaginative fire.We watch him take his stance, finding the country in the culture gulch, in the crossroads of change always about to begin and never begins, being in the grip of what we deem—Japayuki Culture.In him, the eye, mind, camera, are integral to his cinematographic art; for they function as one entity; for to him the camera is the film’s soul; more than its being the all-seeing eye. However…As plain Eric de Guia, with that name born, he was only an impersonator to the true, soon-to-be Kidlat Tahimik, the camera’s artist-poet. Eric de Guia was a mundane success; in his U.P. student years he was student council chairman; he enrolled later at the University of Pennsylvania’s ivy league Wharton School of Business where he earned a master ‘s degree in business administration; and worked as researcher for the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) in Paris, from 1968 to 1972. He was set for the prestigious technocrat’s life. But this was never to be.Though he was still kowtowing to the idea of a technocrat’s life; economics as his love-life was an imposture; and in his mind to create films was seething in his blood. It kept on wooing him like a distraught lover. Thus, filmmaking he still held at bay. Still, how like a gunster-gunslinger he was, him being the artistic version, always armed with his handheld camera. But fate was to intervene; he was one day to cast away his social gladrags, the social glamour, and take upon himself the mantle of the artist-poet. His artistic inclination set him world’s apart from his fellowmen.His Filipinism, let’s call it that, his being Pilipino (Pili, Lipi, Pino), early on was already ingrained in him; heart, mind, soul, spirit. The artistic life entails great courage: he knew it. His Filipinism need not be noisy and noisome (we imagine protest rallies). It has to be quick, silent like unsheathed lightning, but without the thundering clap; the camera eye it must be; with its biting satire and rebellious wit, and more; for it must expose the fraudulent influence of American and Spanish colonial cultures. His camera must tell all; like the poet conjuring lyricism out of trivial things.Choose a name he was to resound to, resonate with his own brand of Filipinism. Kidlat Tahimik, therefore. In those syllables contained in this name, rebound so spiritually strong with his character; always quick on the Go; here, there, everywhere and nowhere.In himself, he knows the Buddhism of his heart, best to interact with his reverence for all living things; like his love of nature. Eric de Guia: Eric so Germanic meaning ruler; de Guia so Spanish meaning guide; so: Kidlat Tahimik It Is; this No nom de guerre. But true, as real as his flesh and blood. His truest identity and name will be part and parcel of his vision and art. Being Baguio-grown, he inclined himself to follow the cultures of the Igorots, Ifugaos (like reverencing in their cultural rituals aspects of nature). Adopted as Igorot bagani, he sired The Balik Bahag Movement; if the situation calls him, he dons the bahag without affectation, embarrassment, trepidation. He can look the Igorot brave.No matter what the talent of the filmmaker is, he shoots always from the framework of reality; no matter if he’s fantasizing or experimenting. For Kidlat Tahimik, his teaching documentaries rely on the “indigenius” (a coinage he loves; “indigenous” is self-defeating) in our overwhelmed culture due to the impact of the American cultural colonization. If you know how, as he knows it, you can conjure from visual images—the sound of words to the poet—biting satiric lyrical tidbits of our present era (the colonial mentality is just around the corner).

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