Joseph Estrada, diamond dude
Now that Joseph Estrada is celebrating his 75th birthday, we’d like to pay tribute to him by way of this appreciative piece: We first got to know Erap soon after we got our MA in Radio-TV-Film from Northwestern University in the States on a Rotary International grant. We already had the advanced book knowledge, but we wanted to work in the industry, not end up as one of those hoity-toity theoreticians in the musty halls of academe.
So, when director Chat Gallardo, already a big director at the time, tapped us to write some scripts for him and Joseph’s Emar Productions, we grabbed at the chance.
Chat introduced us to Erap, who was a top actor-producer, movie industry leader and mayor of San Juan. We still recall that first meeting, how well it went, and how different the “real” Joseph Estrada was from his screen image. He looked us in the eye, sizing us up, and he must have liked what he saw, because he got us to write, not just one movie script, but around 10 of them!
Even better, he made us part of his “close-in” group, trusted guys who regularly went out with him at night after work, shoot the breeze, plan projects—and drink. We quickly learned how to hold our liquor and think clearly despite our copious consumption of readily available libation! It was also through Erap that we met other film greats like his best buddy, Fernando Poe Jr.—but that’s another story.
From our nights out with Erap, we got the hands-on practical filmmaking education we yearned for. It was like we had gotten our MA at Northwestern, and our PhD at Erap U!
He was that good a teacher – only, with him, it wasn’t teaching, it was imbibing (in more ways than one)!
But, the end product was the same: Hands-on, proven knowledge, handed down by the voice of experience that was veteran hit actor-producer and movie icon Erap.
In addition to writing all those scripts for him, we learned a lot from Joseph, because he got us to do some special projects for him, like the Manila Film Festival he put up with Manila Mayor Antonio Villegas, and Mowelfund, the movie industry’s welfare arm, which continues to serve hundreds of needy film workers and their families to this day.
To raise seed capital for Mowelfund, Erap thought up a really huge benefit concert at Araneta Coliseum that involved no less than 100 glittering movie luminaries, and tapped us to codirect the big shebang with no less than the Lamberto Avellana – what an honor!
Over and above those perks and other plus points, however, what we value most from the decade-long “Erap chapter” in our life are his friendship and the “informal education” we got from him, which we continue to share with our students and workshoppers to this day.
Perhaps that’s why some of them have become so successful and even acclaimed, because they got, not airy theory, but the right and real stuff – the Erap way!
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