It was a scene straight from, well, a Lav Diaz film.
When filmmaker-producer Joey Gosiengfiao passed away five years ago, his maid Luz gave Diaz four boxes of Betamax, Betacam and VHS tapes.
Diaz turned over half of the collection to the late critic Alexis Tioseco, “for safekeeping and archiving.”
A few of the tapes wound up in the drawers of Diaz’s editing table at home.
Two weeks after filmmaker Mario O’Hara’s death last June, Diaz decided to clean his house. “Suddenly, the drawers gave way and the tapes crashed, scattering on the floor,” Diaz recounted.
Among those tapes was the “lost” TV-movie directed by O’Hara, “Pusang Gala,” along with another unreleased telesine, “Motel,” directed by Jeffrey Jeturian.
“I was ecstatic,” he recalled upon realizing the importance of the find. “Wow! Ayaw pang paawat ni Mang Mario (Mario didn’t want to be stopped).”
Diaz looks up to O’Hara as one of the “greats.”
“Mario is a Filipino master,” he asserted. “His contributions as writer, actor, director are vast. He wrote Lino Brocka’s ‘Insiang.’ He acted in Brocka’s ‘Tinimbang Ka Ngunit Kulang.’ He directed ‘Tatlong Taong Walang Diyos.’”
He conceded that “Pusang Gala” may not rank among his best, since it was made for TV, “but it’s part of his oeuvre … the so-called O’Hara vérité. His touch and his great handling of actors were very evident in the TV movie.”
More than a filmmaker, he has deep respect for O’Hara the man.
“He was very simple.” Instead of taking cabs, he would rather “walk the streets, carrying an umbrella. He didn’t mind standing in a bus,” Diaz noted. “He was a friend. We were part of the last pito-pito pack of Regal.”
In the late 1990s, mainstream film company Regal/Good Harvest, under the supervision of Gosiengfiao, produced low-budget films that turned out to be screen gems—including Jeturian’s “Sana Pag-Ibig Na,” Diaz’s “Serafin Geronimo: Ang Kriminal ng Baryo Concepcion” and O’Hara’s “Babae sa Bubungang Lata.”
Hanging out with Nora
“Years ago, we worked on an aborted Nora Aunor movie, ‘Semana Santa.’ He was the director and I was part of the writers’ pool, along with Frank Rivera and Henry Nadong,” he recalled. “We would hang out in Nora’s house, while Mario would patiently apprise Nora about the project. In the early morning hours, Nora would treat us to coffee at the Manila Peninsula. Mario and Frank were very concerned about Nora’s career then.”
When Diaz started directing his own films, he would often ask O’Hara to act for him. “Mario would decline, but every time the film was done, he would chide me for not casting him. Every time, I would invite him to the screenings of my films, he would always chuckle: ‘Wala akong panahon sa mahahaba mong pelikula.’ (I have no time for your long movies.)”
Both “Pusang Gala” and “Motel” were produced by Tony Veloria, who suddenly died in an accident last month.
“Tony had a lot of plans,” Diaz said. “I don’t know what will happen now that he’s gone. Some concerned people have expressed interest in distributing ‘Pusang Gala’ as a tribute to Mario and Tony.”
Diaz feels strongly about premiering “Pusang Gala” at the Cinemanila, to pay homage to O’Hara. The film will be screened Friday at 7 p.m., and on Dec. 8, 1:45 p.m., at Market! Market!, Taguig.