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Mario Bautista, has been with the entertainment industry for more than 4 decades. He writes regular columns for People's Journal and Malaya.

Mar 24, 2022



JOSELITO ALTAREJOS did not just come out of nowhere. He did not just wake up, go to school, and become a filmmaker the next day. He lived his life fully as a kid from Ticao Island who lost his doting army dad. 

His family did everything to survive and eventually uprooted themselves to the uncertainties of Manila during the Martial Law years. While his mother Yvonne tirelessly worked to give them the best education– the young Joselito tended to his siblings as he started dreaming of a bright future ahead. 

He found himself as an apprentice to the then-fledgling Philippine Educational Theater Association and from there on he got connected to the right people to mentor him and put him to work. He became a production assistant, writing assistant, and later on as one of the most dependable assistant directors on television and film. 

He silently absorbed the working methods of the Bernals and the like. And to this tune, he became fully aware of his surroundings and society, in general. He knew right then what kind of films he would create when his perfect time and golden opportunity come. But just like everyone else, Altarejos had to contend with whatever project he was given. 

When the Digital Age of modern filmmaking dawned upon, the ever diligent and talented Altarejos was one of the first picks to enter the new threshold. He directed the highly erotic and artistic Ang Lalake Sa Parola, which would become one of the highest-grossing independent Filipino films for many years.  

Not so long after, he would smash his own record with the iconic coming-of-age film Ang Lihim ni Antonio. Not only did he draw a multitude of crowds to see his films, but he had also permanently cemented his name to the strata of award-winning filmmakers in the country. He would win awards here and abroad for his LGBTQ films, such as Unfriend and Kasal. 

Altarejos came to realize that as a filmmaker, one should be able to call all the shots. He could not be content with being only hired to direct secondary materials. He wanted to pursue the concept from germ to open market. And as his political consciousness becomes full-circle, he defied any factor that would hinder his continued growth as a filmmaker and as a person of convictions and advocacies. 

To the detriment of his resources, he started rolling out his own brand of Cinema of Consciousness. He would only make films if he could produce them himself. And by “produce” – he meant, 100% from frame 1 to 100.  Looking for enlightened investors to share his visions is such a tall task, that to unceasingly create, he would shell out and deplete his own funds just to project the passion films, however tiny they must be, that he thought should be immediately seen. 

In fact, last year’s Memories of Forgetting was just produced out of some loose change and a few nights to spare – and yet, it would become one of the most highly-applauded films created during the onslaught of the pandemic.  Moreso, this quasi-autobiographical film is his most critically acclaimed. The rawness of emotions, the passionate melding of practical lights, editing, and the timely use of all the elements accurately relevant to the social conditions would be surely analyzed by scholars and experts in years to come.  

This came, after the completion of his most ambitious project to date, the political protest film aptly called Walang Kasarian ang Digmang Bayan. The film was so honest, bold, angry, and courageous to a fault - that the last two words of the title would even dwarf Lino Brocka’s most audacious and arguably the greatest of his works – the controversially-banned Ora Pro Nobis. 

“My films are created to express not just ideals but truth even when it’s inconvenient. A free space for art for all. When we can champion for open discussion of other ideologies instead of being comfortable with liberal ideas,”Altarejos stated. 

Known very well in the circle as the filmmaker who doesn’t mince words to spare even the least sensitive ones, Altarejos has recently become more accessible to his audiences. He would be more generous to share the mastery of his craft with his students and followers. And very more recently, he started unwrapping his process to the social media public with his incoming film FINDING DADDY BLAKE. 

A film that is realized out of the resets and symptoms of the new normal brought upon by the economic devastation of the pandemic to the younger people whose only living capital is the internet. 

Very well encapsulated into the mold, Altarejos does not only refuse to be stopped by censorship, global health crises, and economic downfall – he also continues to reinvent himself as a filmmaker and maintains his integrity as a socio-political provocateur. 

He offers his time and status to social causes, helps rebuild our inherent consciousness to self-preservation, and intends to offer his wisdom to freely question and protest any threats to our rights to live decently and devoid of institutional harms.  

Walang Kasarian ang Digmang Bayan is Cinema Rehiyon’s closing film. As such, Altarejos’ 2076 Kolektib is launching The Revolution will be Online  which is a simultaneous free screening of the film on March 31 from 6-9 pm across different platforms, Cinema Rehiyon, KTX, Concerned Artists of the Philippines, Cinema Centenario, Karapatan, Cinemabravo, Savage Mind, and North Luzon Cinema Guild. Live screenings are happening at Café Gener in Kamuning, Q.C. and Savage Mind in Naga City.