Thursday, September 22, 2005

Reinventing heroes

These are stories about real people who are heroes in their own right. Let me tell you why. I can not tell you what their names are because real heroes that they are, they prefer anonymity. But I assure you they are there, and their lives and what they do is a composite of those of many others like them who continue to do what they can in many seemingly insignificant but valuable ways.

The first friend is someone who works in the local capital markets – known among laymen as the stockmarket. There was a time (which seems like long, long ago) when working in the stockmarket was something one wore like a badge of honor and prestige. Then, being a stockbroker conjured images of someone who made tons of money both for himself and for his clients, someone who drove fast cars and lived The Life. Today, being a stockbroker is almost tantamount to being irrelevant. With the local stockmarket stuck in the ICU ward, most stockbrokers have abandoned their portfolios and their clients and have found other career paths.
But there are some, like my friend, who are still there. During trading in the stockmarket, the figures in the electronic boards that represent the value of shares being traded are color-coded. An increase in the value of a share is colored green while a decline in its value makes it a red. Most days, it is a massacre – the boards are predominantly red with some splashes of an occasional green. And everyday the brokers who continue to believe in the market, and by extension, in the country, come to work and suffer the heartbreak of watching the bloodbath occur.

Why do they do it? The answer is simple. The stockmarket is an important barometer of the economic performance and promise of the country. The market performs and moves in relation to perceptions about the viability of the country. The stockmarket functions almost like the litmus test of the country’s situation. Thus, it is the first one to suffer the blow when a negative event in the political front happens, such as when our elected legislators act like delinquent juveniles which is often these days.

Most of the foreign stockbrokerages have closed their offices in the country. The task of sustaining the market has been left to the care of some local stockbroker houses that continue to prop up the market. They are still there, barely surviving but making do because if they leave too, like the foreigners, what will happen to this country? In the words of my friend, if we can not have faith in this country, who else will?

The second friend is a cinematographer. He works in the movie industry. If the stockmarket is in the ICU, the local film industry is in the morgue. A number of factors have caused the demise of the industry: heavy taxation, greed, government apathy, piracy, etc. For sure, the industry has its own share of the blame and not just because they have and continue to insist on putting one of their own phonies in Malacanang.

But my friend, like many others, are still there working under very intolerable conditions. To them, Philippine cinema is not just about movies – it is about strengthening the very soul of this country. What is a country without art?

What is sad though is that the real story of the local movie industry is not acknowledged and appreciated. And it is a story of heroism. Yes, the industry is a veritable garbage can festering in its very own often-trashy output. But it can not be said that people like my friend are lacking in spirit and grit. For where else in the world can you find people who will make do with very little support and money and yet still continue to plod on and produce movies?

I asked my friend why he continues to hang on when he could make more in another job. He says the industry needs more committed people now more than ever.

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