For better or for worse, movies are essentially a recording of history.
Regardless of how good or how bad they’re written and directed, they do reflect the sign and mood of the times they capture on film—be it Charlie Chaplin’s silent classics, Charlton Heston’s biblical depictions or the sci-fi craze began by either “Star Trek” or “Star Wars” depending on which generation you belong.
Documentaries are even better, as they often go back to a specific period of history that is of particular significance to the filmmaker concerned.
For independent filmmaker Chuck Escasa, whose new indie release, “Jingle Lang Ang Pahina” will premiere in the 1st Sineng Pambansa National Film Festival in Davao City, that significant period was the ’70s and ’80s.
That was the time when the Creative Writing major in UP, who went on to work as an advertising copywriter before becoming a screenwriter and later a director for TV and film, became hooked on a pioneering music publication called Jingle Chordbook magazine.
“For me, this documentary is part tribute to the magazine and part cultural history,” Escasa declared.
But how many still remember Jingle magazine, let alone are aware of its social relevance and impact on pop culture? For the uninitiated, a brief history lesson.
Founded by publisher Gilbert Guillermo, Jingle provided an invaluable service to music fans by printing lyrics of current and past hits long before anyone ever heard of the internet.
As its name also suggests, it also featured chords on top of song lyrics an added welcome treat for budding guitar players.
“Like many others from my generation, I learned to play the guitar through Jingle,” Escasa revealed. “Thanks to its centerfold chord chart, plus specific instructions of its music editor, Hexel Hernando, that made the more difficult finger-bending chords a whole lot easier. Jingle also shaped my taste for music with its informed record reviews as I was also an avid record collector back then.”
Over three decades beginning with its first issue, referred to as Chapter 1 in 1970, Jingle evolved from being a mere oversized “songhits” (that’s how magazines specializing in song lyrics were called back then) into a full-featured music magazine that contained news and articles about the local and foreign music scenes.
Its sections also included record reviews, cartoons and a much ballyhooed letters section called “Bongga & Boquilla”, which as the title suggested contained colorful rants and raves not only about certain published articles and reviews but also on just about anything under the sun, even totally unrelated subjects.
“It was fun, it was attuned to the times, it was irreverent and wacky, it poked fun at the establishment, and it answered young people’s clamor for better entertainment,” wrote blogger Alex Castro in a December 2010 blog entry.
“Each chapter was always packed with good stuff,” added Nonoy Banzon, administrator of the Jingle Music Magazine Facebook page.
“The earlier issues had the obligatory Beatles songs and articles, teeny bopper items. the joke page, grin songs, poetry and record reviews. Eventually during the middle chapters there were ‘special issues’ focusing on OPM, stereo gear, broadcasting, the state of Philippine radio programming, journalism, campus radicalism, even sex, among many other subjects. Everything was reported as ‘in-depth’ as possible.”
In making his film shot in full HD video with a total running time of one hour and 10 minutes, Escasa had to scan and re-read almost all issues of the magazine he could get his hands on, including those outside of his personal collection that friends still have.
For financing, the director was fortunate enough to get a film grant for the project from the Film Development Council of the Philippines, thanks also in part to his well-earned reputation dating back from his first short film in 1997 that won Best Experimental Film at the Gawad CCP Awards.
Filming of “Jingle Lang Ang Pahina” took place within a three month period covering 10 shooting days.
“For this documentary, I interviewed writers, directors and cartoonists that were associated with Jingle at one point or another,” Chuck revealed.
“They included Dinky Aguilar, Ces Rodriguez, Edwin Sallan, Tony Maghirang, Lav Diaz, Roxlee, Romy Buen, Pocholo Concepcion, Juaniyo Arcellana, Pennie Azarcon, Mike Jamir and Nerissa Mata-Guillermo.
“The staff on Jingle magazine was always evolving, but even if your designation was editor, writer, artist, layout or chord finder, it was just a label since everybody was doing what they could to beat deadlines. A lot of names in the Jingle staff box are still names you could read in certain publications today,” Banzon added in describing the people behind the magazine.
In addition to members of Jingle’s editorial staff, Escasa also interviewed siblings Eric, Raul and Emelyn Guillermo, who represented the family that owned and operated Jingle Clan Publications.
He also managed to squeeze in the thoughts of musicians Chickoy Pura, Gary Perez and Raimund Marasigan of Sandwich whose big hit, “Betamax”, mentioned the magazine in its lyrics.
So what exactly did Escasa learn from making his film?
“It was like reading a psychological profile of the Pinoy in the 1970s as the film includes archive footage and photos from the era, plus lots of pages from the magazine,” he admitted.
Along with around 20 other new indie films, “Jingle Lang Ang Pahina” will premiere at the 1st Sineng Pambansa National Film Festival to be held in Davao City from June 29 to July 3.
For more details, visit the official website of the Film Development Council of the Philippines at www.fdcp.ph.