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Creative celebration of a hundred years

THERE are many ways a company can celebrate its 100th anniversary. It could throw a huge bash, complete with glitzy entertainment numbers. It could build a monument to its achievements. Or it could launch a series of public-service projects.

To mark the 100th year of its presence in the country, Nestlé Philippines Inc. decided to go down another road. With the theme “Kasambuhay Habambuhay” or “Companion in Life, for Life,” the food company first produced a TV ad, acknowledged as one of the most memorable and touching ads to be seen on TV these days. It traces a love story that begins with childhood friendship and endures through good and bad times, until the couple beholds a beloved grandchild who promises to start the circle of love anew. And discreetly featured throughout are the various Nestlé products that prove how, indeed, for a century now, Nestlé has been part of Filipino family life.

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During the Centennial Gala Night last Sunday at the Resorts World complex, the centerpiece was a “short film anthology,” consisting of 10 10-minute films created by nine directors who had all helmed TV ads for different Nestlé products. Though asked to focus on at least one product in their films, the directors were given a free hand to decide on their theme or approach, as could be gleaned during a viewing of the 100-minute showcase.

And right there is a lesson on discreet “product placement,” the practice of featuring commercial products from soda to cars to designer duds in TV shows and movies. In one local film, for instance, the product placements were so numerous and blatant that they distracted from one’s enjoyment of the otherwise hilarious goings-on. Despite being produced by a company celebrating its centennial, the short films are the very models of subtlety, and spotting the featured product instead became a game of discovery.

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THE film showing followed a lavish cocktail reception attended by Nestlé executives and staff, clients, suppliers and partners, and prominent figures in the worlds of advertising, media and entertainment.

But once everyone was directed to the theater and the house lights went down, the focus fell on the short films, many of which were the first such attempts at filmmaking of the advertising directors, with most of them writing their own scripts.

It’s difficult to point out a “favorite” among the films featured, but among the more memorable for me were “The (H)owl and the Fussyket” by Chris Martinez, “Unplugged” by Raul Jarolan, “Isang Tasang Pangarap” by Sid Maderazo, “Tingala sa Baba” by Henry Frejas, and “Sign Seeker” by Carlos Directo.

Created by a veteran scriptwriter and film director, “The (H)owl and the Fussyket” tells the story of a boy who dreams of winning oratorical contest glory despite his rather obvious shortcomings. It’s a spoof on Filipino English pronunciation, particularly the tendency to confuse “p” and “f,” but also pays homage to Filipino family values and unity.

“Unplugged,” on the other hand, illustrates the need to “disconnect to connect again,” to wean ourselves away from digital gadgets to discover nature and human connections. The coach of a high-school football team (Marvin Agustin) brings his young wards to the home of his grandfather (Eddie Garcia), and in the old man’s company, they rediscover the joys of communing with nature and with each other. I particularly loved this film for its cinematography and the way it celebrates nature without becoming sappy.

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“ISANG Tasang Pangarap,” or “Hope in a Mug,” was meant as a comedic homage to Ishmael Bernal’s “Himala,” but instead of Nora Aunor, it features the homely Ramon Bautista whose only dream is to have a cup of hot coffee to start his day. Somehow the man attains the gift of prophecy and is hailed by his townmates as a savior and seer. In time, he rejects his new status, rallying instead his friends and neighbors to believe in themselves and create their own miracles. I had a good laugh when the reluctant prophet finally declares: “Walang himala! (There are no miracles!)”

“Tingala sa Baba” is a simple, charming story about two boys on opposite sides of the social divide who forge a friendship on a playground see-saw. It has many things to say about social and economic inequity, but the two boys’ central dilemma is how to get the rather hefty rich boy to rise on the see-saw when the poor boy is too scrawny to provide a proper counter-weight. How they solve their problem and reach a proper compromise brought the audience to spontaneous applause and delight.

Matinee idol John Lloyd Cruz stars as Bien in “Sign Seeker.” Attracted to a female workmate (Solenn Heussaff) but leery of rejection, he asks for “signs” from the universe that will guarantee a successful result. In the end, he realizes that the “signs” had been around him all along, if only he had opened his heart to possibilities.

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THE other films in the anthology are: “Silup” by Jun Reyes, “Sali-Salita” by A/F Benaza, “Oh! Pa Ra Sa Ta U Wa Yeah!” by Jeorge Agcaoili, “Downtown” by Stephen Ngo, and “Cooking Mo, Cooking Ko,” Martinez’s second entry.

The 10 short movies run the gamut from outright spoof to gritty urban drama, personal reflection to social commentary, but still manage to return to the theme of family and human connections. The anthology also displays the wealth of Filipino cinematic creativity, and what Filipino filmmakers and advertising creatives could achieve with corporate support and guidance.

Indeed, congratulations are due all around, especially to the minds and hearts behind the project who decided to mark Nestlé’s milestone with another milestone: a collection of short films that speak to us as Filipinos, as families and as a nation.

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TAGS: Anniversaries, commercials, Film, Nestlé Philippines
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