The ‘Kalam’ Pampanga Campus Tour
Where Showbiz is Educational
Jason Paul Laxamana
Central Luzon Daily
Budget constraints, never-heard-of actors and staff, lack of equipment, and other nightmares an ambitious director could have… given all these conditions, what kind of TV drama could possibly come out?
This has been the regular question of the ‘Kalam’ team, with yours truly as the main speaker, to the student audiences before showing the pilot episode of ‘Kalam’ in their recent Pampanga Campus Tour, which has so far covered the University of the Philippines Diliman (with the aid of UP Aguman), University of the Philippines Extension Program in Pampanga (through Dr. Juliet Mallari), Angeles University Foundation (through the Institute of Kapampangan Studies), Asian College of Science and Technology (through Mr. Jim Jimenez), Chevalier School (through its Social Science Club), Pampanga High School (through Fe Cailao), and Holy Angel University (through Prof. Ed Sibug).
“Gúnútan, mipanampaling, drama,” some would answer. A few would say that they expect it to be unique because of its being Kapampangan. Some predict it to be funny, not because of the witty script, but because to them, speaking in Kapampangan is naturally hilarious.
‘Kalam’ and Language Issues
Last August, the ‘Kalam’ team—composed of Kalalangan Kamaru, a creative group of Kapampangan youth behind productions such as the RocKapampangan album and GVFM 99.1's weekly youth-oriented Kapampangan show Frequency K; and Infomax 8, the sole Kapampangan cable channel existing in the province, visited UP Diliman to deliver a lecture, in line with the school's occasional Alternative Classroom Learning Experience or ACLE, where regular classes are suspended in order to give way to various workshops and symposia.
UP Aguman, an organization of Kapampangans in UP, decided to invite the people behind the first Kapampanganovela (Kapampangan telenovela), to discuss about the emergence and challenges of regional broadcast media, particularly those of Kapampangan.
Knowing UP as a center of aggressive nationalism, I, writer and director of ‘Kalam,’ tried to speak about the ideology of uniting the Philippines through respect for its cultural diversity (not uniting the country by imposing one culture or language over another). I expected violent reactions from the typical nationalists of UP, who insinuate, in my opinion, that the regions are less important than the Philippine nation—which is more often than not, Tagalog-centric—these nationalists are trying to build.
On the other hand, Mau Aquino, General Manager of Infomax 8, together with Marketing Director Jomel Cruz, told the story of how and why their station decided to package themselves as a Kapampangan channel employing the use of the Kapampangan language.
Present also were Diego Marx Dobles, Asst. Director of Kalam; Nhoel Austria, Set Designer; Aries Yap, Reachel Mucho, and Peter Danganan, main actors; and the technical team of Infomax, who covered the lecture for its daily news program, ‘I-Max News.’ Approximately 60 members of the academe, Kapampangans and non-Kapampangans, attended the lecture, including fellow Kapampangan Prof. Nilo Ocampo, a Filipino teacher in UP Diliman.
The issue of language preservation and development versus nationalism through the Filipino language—which I, using the mutual intelligibility test of Linguistics, called just a mere dialect of Tagalog—was raised and the issue, as usual, like in language advocacy e-groups, was left unresolved.
As Ms. Aquino and I kept stressing, people should learn as much languages as they can. Kapampangans and non-Tagalogs alike are not asked to un-learn Tagalog (after all, trilingualism is their advantage over Tagalogs who are mostly only bilingual); they are asked to master their native languages—to love them with pride—and not feel inferior upon using them. What should be battled is the phenomenon of language shift, when people abandon their native languages in favor of the national language or the English language.
The Extra-Entertainment Magic of ‘Kalam’
In spite of the heat of the argument, after the English-subtitled screening of the first episode of ‘Kalam,’ which prides itself for being culturally rooted and for being in the Kapampangan language, not one person in the UP Diliman screening was left dissatisfied, to the point of some even claiming they prefer to patronize it over the mainstream Pinoy TV dramas.
’Kalam’ tackles the life and adventures of a new generation of witches and healers (gifted people, or in Kapampangan, ding ating kalam) born in urban Pampanga and how they struggle to fit in a skeptical, discriminating, and fearful society. It’s an exciting mix of urban fantasy, action, romantic comedy, drama, and social relevance, while using Kapampangan culture—both past and present, folk and modern, rural and urban—as canvass.
Prof. Nilo Ocampo said that the folk Kapampangan elements and modern culture were smartly fused, thereby creating a beautiful synthesis that makes the Kapampanganovela interesting. A Waray Mass Communication student, on the other hand, disclosed his wish that hopefully, someday, he could start something like ‘Kalam’ in his province. Kapampangan students were amazed, too, saying that ‘Kalam’ not only makes them prouder to be Kapampangan, but inspires them to love their Amanung Sisuan.
The audiences in other schools involved in the Pampanga Campus Tour have not been disappointed as well. While they admit that ‘Kalam’ has still a lot of flaws, especially on the technical side, they still see it as at par with what they see on national media.
To high school students, the character portrayed by Alex Tiotuico (Kulubasa Kularyut or Kool), is most entertaining. Not only could they relate with his punk-emo character, they also find his punchlines comical, such as when, amidst the seemingly folk, gegege Kapampangan he uses, he suddenly says, “Makanyan na ka man; ala kang… appreciation (in American accent).”
When we do a screening in one school, we always ask for feedbacks written on paper before adjournment. What melts my heart often is when I read reactions such as “Kapampangan ku, pagmaragul ku!”
Which is exactly one of our main reasons for creating ‘Kalam.’ To bring honor to our kabalen, especially the urban youth, who are beginning to think that Kapampangan is hopeless in contending in the savage realm of pop culture in a modern world.
[Some comments have been delivered to us anonymously]
“Masanting ya, lalu na patye pelage de king TV. Alben keng pasibayu at abangan ke iyan!” –email@example.com
“Ang galing nung emo [Kool], pati si Aries [Yubs], kaso parang bitin. Ituloy pa sana ang Kalam, ur the best!” –Lady Ann Vino
“Nuko, mebitin kami! Pero kesantingan ku, interesting ya ing patutungkulan na. Gamitan tamu ing kalam tamu king mayap!” –Evalyn Suarez, PHS
“Keep up the good work! Masanting ya. Keng sobrang santing, ala kung asabi nung ali ASTIG. Mebitin ku. Ante ing next episode!” –PHS student
“It is very creative and fun, at kailangan talagang mapanood ito sa buong Pampanga at sa buong Pilipinas.” –Angelita Juico
“Fantasy yet interesting. Great! I like the ambiance and the sense! Keep it up!.”
“Masanting ya ing kuentu. Para kaku, istung-istu ya at king lawe ku, pumatuk ya ini. Proud to be Kapampangan!”
“Wow, the best! Bitin ku! Galing! Bisa ku rin mika-Kalam, wahahahaha!” –Marvin
“Galing, sobra. Now I’m proud to be Kapampangan. Keep up the good work at sana mipalage ne king TV ing Kalam. Mebitin ku. Cute ya mu rin i Aries [Yubs].” –Jhane Lapira
“Kalam is a very interesting teleserye. I like the story (fantasy) and it proves that Kapampangans can produce a beautiful teleserye. The use of our language makes it interesting, too. Bitin ke pu! Ituluy ye pu, please!” –Chevalier School student
“OMG! Cool! Kagaling yu naman! Cute la ring cast yu lalu na i Yubs! Sana mibalik kayu kening school mi, agyang graduating na kami! Keep it up!” –Jerra Lee, CS
“Ing asabi ku mu, sana ayari yo ring 13 episodes… Masanting ya kasi para kekaming Kapampangan a maibug nang sumuku keng pamagtaguyud king Kapampangan.” –Mr. Sotto, UP Pampanga
“Kalam is a must-see TV show! Grabe! Ang ganda ng production kahit hindi pa masyadong kilala yung mga gumaganap. Bilib ako! Kung susuriing mabuti, tila mga professional na yung lumikha ng Kalam.”
“Masanting ya, dakal ku abalu tungkul keng kultura tamu. Pogi ya itang magkukulam.” –CS student
“Napakaganda ng theme song. Gwapo yung bida, hehe. Magaling silang umarte. May aral. Sana maging hit ang Kalam. Makatula ya! Migkasuelu kung menalbe, ike ngan mikakaklasi.”
“Makayagnan ya king agus ning biye/panlawe ring kayanakan. Ikua na ing ‘kirot ng damdamin’ da ring manalbe. Makasake ku king pulayi ning istorya. Masanting ya, promise.” –ACSAT student
“Masanting ya, kayi makapagpalaganap ya pang Kapampangan. Atin yang purpose.” –CS student
“Effect ya ing kuentu! Amazing! Makabitin! Wish namin mapanood namin lahat ng gawa ninyo! Mabiye ya ing Kapampangan! Ang ganda ng music video ninyo, yung Oras. Dian nang copy!” –Tanya, Teatro Artist, PHS
“Whoo! Astig ya itang emo! Comedian. Atin yang future. Yubs, atin yang talent. Nice one!” –Cecilia Therese Patawaran
“Regarding the opening music video [Alang Anggang Sugat], I didn’t expect that you guys can produce something that is outrageous! Closing [Oras], I like the song. Very catchy. Ayus ya ing episode 1, par! Abangan ke pa.” –Pea, UP Clark
“Cheers to the project and to the people behind it. Keep upholding the Kapampangan culture! Is the song ‘Oras’ in Imeem? I want it on my player. God bless sa mabuting hangarin!” –Charlotte Salunga, UP Clark
“Kudos! Sana mipalage ne. Good story. Galing ning idea na ayisip yu to capture the attention of the youth.” –UP Clark student
“Salamat a dakal king pamamunta yu keni, at ngeni, uli yu, melino kekami o kaku na dapat ipagmaragul ta ya ing salitang Kapampangan. Ing kanta, sobra ya santing, dakal ya kabaldugan. Sana maging successful ya ing project.” –Kath, ACSAT
“It was nice. Okay yung characters, hindi boring. Sana meron din madistribute sa Manila since okay naman ang show. I think ma-e-enjoy ng ibang mga tao, di lang mga Kapampangan.” –UP Clark student
“Very surprising kasi parang dun sa main topic, hindi akalain na maipapakita ang kalagayan ng kabataan ngayon sa ganoong ka-imaginative na context.”
“E ku isipang agawa yu ing makanyan agyang kapus king budget. The music is awesome, a-appreciate ke ing meaning na. Go go go!” –ACSAT student
“Para king 1st time a Kapampangan telenovela, masanting ya. Maghit ya ini kareng kayanakan. E ya karaniwang Pinoy telenovela. E ya heavy drama. E ya baduy!” –ACSAT student
“Meg-enjoy ku. E ya boring. I’m sure metung ya ini kareng apagmaragul tamu bilang Kapampangan.” –ACSAT student
If you wish to invite us for a forum/screening in your campus, please get in touch with me.
Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org