Sunday, November 07, 2004

An Underground Addiction

The underground is teeming with addicts, their eyes all aglow in pregnant expectation. They peruse the goods on display in barely contained excitement. They know, they KNOW they are within minutes of finding the perfect fix from among the abundant choices. And within the hour or two, to be consumed in complete nirvana in the privacy of their homes. The air is electric, an organized chaos, as bodies move in purposeful harmony among the many stalls of the underground.

They flock to the underground in select hordes, enthusiasts from among different walks of life. But owing to the priceyness of such addiction, minimum wage-earners would find it hard to make frequent visits. Yesterday I noticed young men, in their mid-twenties, looking for a particular joint. There were some older folks, middle-aged couples, perhaps looking for some spark back in their lives. There were two Frenchmen wanting some Asian flavor. A bit shocking was an Spokening-Dollar kid, certainly not older than ten, greedily pointing out his favorites to his accomodating parents. Then there was me and my boyfriend. What utter fiends we
were. Oh, and what a delight offered by the pirates in a certain Makati tower.

It never ceases to amaze me how tasteful film pirates have become in the last year or so. In the early days (roughly two years ago?) there were only the mainstream Hollywood flicks that came out before the commercial screening in cinemas. But these days the choices are so astoundingly varied you will find yourself lost in many underground delights for hours on end. And since there are also concerts by varied artists, including many foreign orchestras, I am told people from the Philharmonic are also among the regular patrons. High brow, low brow, they all flock to the underground.

People know their stuff, they ask for certain films or documentaries by name. They will shell out 6,000 pesos to have the complete 10-seasons of Friends. This country (and probably the whole Southeast Asian region) has become the mecca of illegaly traded films. Illicit business is booming because it is feeding this country's film-starved people who are sick with the usual stale American crap and the even more stale local versions.

Really, the films on offer are just astounding. My boyfriend's collection of Kurosawas, Hitchcocks and many other art house films has probably hit 100. My collection of French films is close to a dozen now. Without this illicit trade these films would never have found their way on Philippine shores. And since piracy seems to be good business, this obviously means there is demand. Filipinos want to see good movies, and they are willing to shell out at least 80 pesos to see them. And we wonder why the local film industry is dead and dying some more?

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