Wednesday, September 20, 2006

[INQ7] Patricio Ginelsa speaks up on ‘Bebot’ controversy

Patricio Ginelsa speaks up on ‘Bebot’ controversy
By Joseph De Veyra
Last updated 02:03pm (Mla time) 09/13/2006

LOS ANGELES—Get ready Hollywood, another Filipino has arrived. In three years, Patricio Ginelsa has helped create three landmark film projects that highlight the Filipino experience in America and knocked at the door of mainstream success.

In 2003, he wrote and directed “Lumpia” which was featured in the 2003 Hawaii International Film Festival and the 2004 Toronto Reel World. Patricio Ginelsa was also one of the young Filipino Americans behind “The Debut,” an award-winning film that peers into the realities of a Filipino American Family and its three generations of males, played by Eddie Garcia, Tirso Cruz III and Dante Basco.

In 2004, Ginelsa unreeled “The Apl Song” video that explored another, more tragic strand of those realities—the Filipino American World War II veteran.

Three successful projects with mature themes by this Filipino American director in his 20s, makes him one of his community’s most promising tastemakers.

Dream school

His parents hail from Cebu, but Patricio was born in San Francisco and was raised by his mother. He says the environment he grew up in felt like the Philippines because he practiced the values of his homeland and was raised a Catholic.

Patricio began filmmaking at 13. “Being a kid who grew in Daly City, making films with my friends became my hobby and my mom thought it was just a fad that will later go away.” She always wanted him to be doctor.

“By my junior year in high school, I figured out my career,” he continued. “I wanted to be a filmmaker and study in my dream school, USC Film School where many great directors went (Steven Spielberg among them,),” he revealed. His mom gave him a dose of reality: “Even if you pass there is no way you could afford it and so I applied in USC without her knowing,” Ginelsa recalled.

He was considering the prospect of city college as a fallback until one faithful day. “I received a letter from USC saying that I was accepted in film school and the feeling was unimaginable,” he recalled. “After that, I told my mom that getting accepted was fulfilling enough” and he was willing to go to city college.

But Mercedes Ginelsa had seen the light. “The next thing I know, my mom hustled and lobbied with (USC) school officials. I don’t know what she did but she came away with a big financial aid package for me,” he shared. Today, Mercedes is her son’s number one fan.

Four years later, Ginelsa graduated from USC with a BA in cinema production. He worked part-time as a segment writer for an American-based Filipino show, “Pinoy Pa Rin,”featuring Filipino community leaders and entertainers.

By 2002, he became the associate producer of “The Debut.”
“This movie opened my eyes to the Filipino community,” says Patricio. He would drive cross-country to distribute the film, from L.A. to Houston, New York and even Washington DC. “It was there that I met Filipino community leaders and was exposed to every [Filipino American] pocket in the [United States],” he said.

By 2004, he was directing music videos for Filipino independent musicians like the Pacifics, Inner Voices and 6th Day. Then came his first big project—the Black Eyed Peas’ “The Apl Song,” written by Peas member Allan Pineda Lindo (a.k.a. Apl de Ap), a musical love letter to his uncle, Marlon, a Filipino war veteran.

“We shot the video at the nursing home [in Los Angeles] where he stayed so I decided to cast him as the main actor, who played a World War II veteran in the video.” Patricio’s uncle died soon after the video was shot.

“At his funeral, I found out that it he was a veteran himself and he was one of the guerillas who fought during the war,” Patricio recalled, with emotion in his voice. He was happy to have been able to edify his uncle’s memory through his work. To this day, this director still finds it hard to watch the video of the “The Apl Song.”

Meanwhile, both song and video resonated strongly on both sides of the Pacific, getting heavy rotation in Manila radio and TV stations, and almost making it to the MTV top sweeps in America—the first song with Filipino lyrics.

Opening with a haunting, heraldic refrain—sampled from “Balita,” by the influential Philippine folk-rock group Asin—this song is Allan Pineda Lindo’s tough and tender ode to the old country of his childhood. Lindo, the son of an American serviceman, was raised by his mother up in a dusty, impoverished town in Pampanga. In his teens, he was adopted by an American couple who brought him to the U.S.

“Bebot” controversy

Two years later, the Ginelsa-Lindo team-up is attempting to break through with another Filipino song —“Bebot” from the Black Eyed Peas’ latest album “Monkey Business.” “Bebot” the video is actually two videos—Generation 1 and Generation 2 that’s generating even more airplay than The Apl Song. “Because of its beat, a lot of people in America love it even if they don’t understand the lyrics,” Ginelsa explained.

How was it directing the two videos instead of the usual one? “It was not easy,” he said. It took a year to get the project off the ground.
While both videos continue to do well both in the States and in Manila, Generation 2 featuring scantily clad women dancing, struck a nerve among Filipino feminists and scholars They say “Bebot”-
Tagalog slang and the Filipino equivalent of “chick”—exploits women.

Open letter

An open letter critical of the video was released last week, signed by several scholars and educators in the Filipino American community. This letter was spread electronically. This bothered Patricio all the more because the letter was drafted by colleagues he respects, who didn’t even bother to communicate with him directly before going public with their concerns.

“I feel hurt that they put all this out in the open without speaking to me or Apl,” he said. It was like being invited to a party at the last-minute, he said. He was shut out of the discussion and, it seems, was the last person to know about it. People assumed that it is very hard to get hold of him, he said. He also asserts that it was never his intention to present women as “exploited.”

“They have to realize that in this business, it’s very hard to make a video that will make the band and label happy—especially the label,” he said. Since the video isn’t owned by the label, he said, Lindo and he shelled out their own money to realize it.

There’s some good dialogue happening as a result, he says, but would like to say that was he was hoping for was really “to bring out a sense of pride” in Philippine culture. He also acknowledges that the success of “Bebot” and his past projects have put him under a microscope.

If this is the price of achieving something bigger, like unifying the Filipino American community, he appears to be ready to submit to scrutiny. As for the other achievement of getting Filipino material to Hollywood’s doorstep, he says, “It is hard to say that four-minute videos will spark the entertainment industry’s awareness of Filipinos but I can say that we should take it day by day, like taking baby steps,” he said. “Nothing comes easy in this business and I am still struggling.”

“Unpredictable,” says Ginelsa, is the best description of his projects. “If somebody came up to me five years ago and told me I would be directing videos for a very popular band like the Black Eyed Peas, I wouldn’t have believed it.”

But seeing people enjoy his work keeps his passion for his craft burning brightly “It shows that I’m doing something right,” he said. Would he ever stop directing? “I will only stop making films when I ran out of stories to tell.”

You can watch both “Bebot” music videos at

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Blogger uhuh said...

How about an Open Letter to Fergie (flanked by two Pinays in androgynous drag). C'mon.

9/28/2006 9:53 PM  

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