Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Companions in life, for life

This was my column on the date indicated above. This post is antedated.

The success of a brand can be measured in many ways. From a marketing point of view, a brand is successful when it becomes institutionalized as the generic name of the product. This is certainly true in the case of a particular brand of toothpaste, film, photocopying machine, and even refrigerators. From a sociological point of view, a brand is successful if it becomes ingrained in the lives of people to the point that people use the brand as some kind of bookmark for the various milestones in their personal lives.

Thus, certain brands of products become ubiquitous parts of our daily lives. The chocolate drink that our mothers always packed in our lunch bags, which ultimately became comfort food for the times when we needed temporary relief from rainy days, heartaches, and all other kinds of letdowns. The brand of milk that substituted for breakfast every day because there was always no time to sit down to eat before the school bus arrived. The brand of chocolate we took pains to buy from our meager allowance and surreptitiously sent to a crush in high school. The brand of coffee that our parents bought all through the years and which became a regular fixture on a side table at the dining room because there was always someone hankering for a cup of coffee in the house.

I grew up in a family that was big, very big on loyalty towards certain brands. I can honestly and truthfully say that there was only one brand of milk that accompanied my growing up years: Bear Brand sterilized milk. Up until I was in college, I would still drink milk the way I did when I was still wearing short pants, which was straight from the can. I learned the routine from an uncle —get a can from the cupboard, wipe the top of the can with a clean rag, put the can in the freezer for 30 minutes, punch holes in the can, guzzle the whole thing straight up, and wipe mouth with the back of one’s hand. I don’t drink milk anymore today—at least not regularly—but the brand of milk in the house has remained the same.

Certain brands are a major part of our lives. They are companions in life, for life. This, in fact, is the message that Nestle Philippines wants to convey to the world as it celebrates its centennial this year, poetically expressed in the theme Kasambuhay, Habambuhay.

A hundred years is a long, long time indeed so the occasion deserves a grand celebration. But how does one celebrate 100 years of trust, loyalty, partnership? How does one commemorate special relationships built through many years between people and Nestle products? How does one preserve the poignancy of the heartache momentarily soothed by a cup of coffee or a glass of milk, or of a triumph made more joyous by a vat of ice cream or a carafe of iced tea?

Nestle came up with a unique and innovative idea: Ten short films about partnerships, each one showcasing a Nestle product.

The result is a remarkable collection of films that break new grounds in Philippine cinema. Sure, there have been many outstanding short Filipino films made before. But here we have films that successfully straddle the divide between art and commercialism; here we have a veritable cornucopia of films that attempt to celebrate the many ways in which advertising can transcend commercialism.

Each of the ten films showcase a particular genre. There’s drama, musical, fantasy, satire, romantic-comedy, even a Shakespearean parody. The common thread that pulls the ten films together is that they all celebrate partnerships, nurturing, and yes, the often tangential but strategic role of a particular Nestle product such as milk, seasoning, chocolate drink, instant coffee, etc.

The Howl and the Fussyket is dubbed as a family comedy of manners about a boy’s struggle to win a declamation contest in school.

Unplugged is supposed to be a feel-good adventure (which ends up as a lecture), on how people can detach themselves from modern-day gadgets and discover a new way to bond and reconnect.

Silup (Pulis or police spelled backwards) is a psychological drama about the special relationship between a cop and his grandmother.

Isang Tasang Pangarap (Hope in a mug) is a comedy that pays homage to Himala (Miracle), widely regarded as one of the best Filipino films ever made.

Sali-Salita (Wordplay) is a fantasy drama about the power of imagination and the factors that nourish a child’s capability to dream.

Oh! Pa Ra Sa T U Wa Yeah is a musical comedy about courtship and family support.

Downtown is a love story featuring two older people and the search for meaning outside of a long-lasting relationship.

Tingala Sa Baba (Look up below) is a coming-of-age film about two kids on separate sides of the economic divide.

Cooking Mo, Cooking Ko (Your cooking, my cooking) is a Shakespearean parody; basically a modern-day take on Romeo and Juliet involving two households at war with each other over culinary dominance.

Sign Seeker is a romantic comedy about how a man’s inordinate need for certainty results in hilarious situations.

It is obvious that a lot of resources were poured into the project and this is evident in the lavish productions. Each of the films is technically polished. Yet the strengths of the films are the stories, yet another proof that thinking is the foundation of all artistic efforts including and perhaps most especially, films.

My personal favorites are The Howl and the Fussyket, Downtown, and Tingala sa Baba. The Howl and the Fussyket has a very simple premise yet hits the viewer at various dimensions. Downtown is a masterpiece in quiet story-telling; it’s a film that reminds one of the brilliance of Mike de Leon as a director. Tingala sa Baba is unforgettable for the sheer profundity of its message and the innocence of the child actors.

I am told the films will be shown for free in various cinemas and will also be shown on television in the next few months. Truly, commendations are in order for Nestle and everyone who was part of the effort.


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