Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Thug Devils of Tondo Visit Baguio

The Tondo gangstas, who recently won the Best Award at the Cinemalaya Awards for their portrayal of their hot and explosive lives, were mere spectators as the Baguio artists banged their drums and beat their gongs.
"Ang lamig dito," was all Lloyd Labastida can say.
Then they warmed up to the pattong, dancing and beating the gongs with the artists, and a few moments later, they were doing freestyle rapping. "O ang lamig dito sa Baguio, nanginginig na ako," Labastida rapped. Labastida is one of the fastest Filipino rapper, made more impressive when they are done extemporaneously. In the movie, Tribu, he rapped in the funeral of one of the slain members.
Shielbert Manuel, who plays Macoy in the movie, was wearing his bling-blings, blue sweatshirt and black bonnet, something he could not do in sweltering Tondo. "There are more than a hundred gangs in Tondo. These were strongest in the 1990s. Things are more quieter now," said Manuel in Filipino. But he was quick to add that it is still a dangerous life back home. "People still die there,' he said.
The Tribu guys are going all over the country and they are meeting other gangmembers all over the country. Manuel's advice to them is: Stay at school. Don't be like us.
Manuel and most of the Tribu actors are school drop-outs. Only Labastida was going to school but he, too, stopped to promote the movie. "Iba ang Tondo," Manuel said.
"Tribu" is a tragic movie, which according to director Jim Libiran, is the point.
At the start of the movie, the squalor of Tondo was already pointed out, apparently to show that gangs there were formed not to emulate Tupac Shakur and other American rappers but as a way for the youth to prove their authority amidst the culture of poverty, violence and hopelessness.
"The happy ending is not yet done. At the end of the production, two of them (the gangsters in the movie) are in jail. This is the truth," said Libiran. "It's a sad thing but here in Baguio, you have a curfew precisely because of this," he said.
Baguio enforced a 7 pm curfew for minors to curb rising cases of crimes mostly caused by these youth gangs. There is also a plan in Baguio for the barangays to list all names of gang and fraternity members to help curb criminality in the areas.
Libiran said that he had been to Davao, Cagayan de Oro and Cebu and he'd been told that gangsterism is also a problem there. "We want to reach out to these gangsters and want to discuss their problems with us," he said.
In Baguio, the local gang members came to them after the third screening and had a discussion. "They want to tell us how to have a successful peace pact because theirs failed. They want to know how we set up our own peace pact," said Manuel, who is a leader of one of the biggest gangs in Tondo.
Libiran, who is from Tondo, said that he sent out flyers in Tondo because he can not afford professional actors. "Those who auditioned came from six rival gangs. During the first day of our acting workshop, all of them brought their weapons," said Libiran. "In fact, if there is a happy ending. It is how the actors became close up to now," he said.
The actors said that their lives changed a little because they can now go to some places in Tondo which used to be forbidden because they have become friends with the rival gangs, Labastida said that they have to behave like role models now that their movie is becoming popular. "Naging idolo na kami ng bata," said one of them during the forum at the John Hay CAP Center.
He said that in one of their screenings in Manila, he was approached by Gawad Kalinga leader Tony Meloto who told him that GK, which is now into building homes for the poor, was originally into helping Tondo gangsters.
Meloto said that GK was then helping eleven of these gangmembers go to school. "He told me, we had eleven gangmembers and I buried nine of them. They may have changed but their enemies didn't know that. Maybe that's why Gawad Kalinga is into changing communities," said Libiran.

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